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The problem with positivity

Posted on May 06, 2013 by

There’s more to the campaign for independence than merely putting forward a good case for independence. People in general are afraid of change – they avoid it if possible and need not only good reasons to change, but also reasons why what they have at present isn’t working.


If a salesperson were to try to sell you a car, would they succeed if you already owned a car that you liked and felt performed the function it needed to perform? They might try to highlight the increased fuel efficiency, smooth ride, warranty and additional extra features that your current vehicle doesn’t have. They could offer options on financing to show that you can afford it.

But what if in addition to pointing out the positive benefits of a new car, they also begin to highlight where your own car was serving its purpose poorly? The fortune you’re paying in petrol, the discomfort you suffer as you drive, the constant breakdowns and repair fees, and so on. Would you start to be more interested in changing then?

It’s now common to find supporters of the Union chastising independence supporters who highlight the failings of Westminster as being “negative”. The tactic is simple – stop the independence campaign from capitalising on the negative consequences of Westminster governance, whether it’s the bedroom tax, welfare “reform”, the economy or any other area currently reserved to London.

In January the Guardian published an article entitled “Scottish nationalists don’t have a monopoly on Scottishness” written by Blair McDougall (director of “Better Together”, a fact the Guardian curiously left out of the article).

The straw-man attack – has anyone ever said they do? – was the first real attempt to pin down the Yes campaign and prevent them from using negative arguments, and it hammered the point time and time again throughout the article.

“In Scotland increasingly those who question their government’s plan to dissolve the 300-year-old political, economic and social union between Scotland and the rest of the UK are under attack. They stand accused as being unpatriotic, anti-Scottish, and above all, of being negative. Business figures complain of a culture of fear, threats and boycotts from nationalists…”

“The irony is that the nationalist campaign is deeply negative. Their campaign exists to break the solidarity and unity that exists across the United Kingdom. The very heart of their proposition is inherently negative: that the people of our island are too different from each other to share political institutions…”

“The narrative of division and difference has no logic but it is the only strategy they have. They need to divide Scots from Geordies, Scousers, Brummies, Mancunians and Liverpudlians. They must make familiar family members into abnormal strangers…”

“Devolution is, in the words of John Smith, the settled will of the Scottish people. For the negative nationalists it is a ‘half measure’ or ‘messy fudge’.”

“If it is a bribe, it is strange one. In a recent opinion poll options for further tax raising powers or fiscal autonomy were far less popular than the current devolution arrangements.”

In essence, then, McDougall is saying that the independence campaign is deeply negative because it questions the motivations and arguments of the No campaign. Extraordinarily, he even claims that a family member in the rUK will become some sort of “abnormal stranger”. (As opposed to normal ones?)


McDougall insinuates that the idea of independence is interfering with the “settled will of the Scottish people” – meaning devolution. (A highly debatable point in any event, as the Scottish people’s will has never been tested with a full range of options, including independence, in over 300 years.) But what about that poll cited to back up his assertion? It actually said:

19% said they would back independence… with 38% preferring to continue with the status quo, and 33% admitting they would be content to remain within the UK as long as there were extra powers offered, such as Devo Max.”

So in fact that’s 52% of voters NOT content with the status quo and in search “further tax raising powers or fiscal autonomy”, either through greater devolution or independence. McDougall’s description wasn’t quite an absolute lie, though it came extremely close to one (even if we discount independence, a 5% gap between the status quo and devo-max isn’t “much less popular”).

But the attempted killer blow was in his final paragraph:

“Positive Scottishness contrasts with the inward looking negative narrative of grievance and division. The SNP, on ceremonial occasions, wear a white rose in reference to a work by nationalist poet Hugh MacDiarmid. “The rose of all the world is not for me”, he wrote, “I want for my part only the little white rose of Scotland.” How closed-minded. How parochial. How un-Scottish. How negative.”

It’s a clear attempt not only to put the independence campaign in a bad light, but also to say to Scots that we are part of the UK and it would be terribly selfish, parochial and inward-looking to start putting our own interests before that of the group. The main purpose of the tactic, though, is to make sure the ‘Yes’ campaign avoids any “negative” arguments for fear of being labelled as seeking “grievance and division” every time they point out a failing of Westminster.

The ball was picked up more recently by Margaret Curran, one of the campaign directors of ‘Better Together’ and Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary. She accused the SNP (rather than Yes Scotland – part of a consistent and deliberate strategy on the part of the Unionist parties aimed at making the referendum a party-political issue) of fighting a negative campaign by portraying the referendum as a choice between independence or a Conservative government at Westminster.

“It should stand as a challenge to the SNP against their negative campaign that says all we can ever expect from a UK Government are actions that damage Scotland…”

“The SNP’s suggestion that being Scottish is enough to guarantee social democratic ends just isn’t true. Scots know that ‘getting rid of the Tories’ is too simplistic an answer for a decision that will last forever.”

But the Yes campaign is NOT founded on a notion that independence will secure left-wing governments for all eternity. Rather, it points out that we’d get whatever government we voted for, all the time, rather than approximately 45% of the time as we have in the years since World War 2 (and only then by coincidence, when we happened to want the same thing as the voters of England).


Ms Curran appears to be suggesting that it’s unacceptable to Labour politicians for the problems of society to be highlighted and confronted, and that negative attacks on other politicians and parties are no longer acceptable. But if that’s the case, what are the oppositions in Westminster and Holyrood actually going to do all day? There would be no need for an opposition, since ANY criticism can be construed as negative. And that would put Margaret Curran, and every other Labour MP and MSP, out of a job.

(Perhaps we’re already seeing this philosophy unfold as the Labour Party maintain a policy of abstaining on almost any contentious issue rather than frighten the voters of Middle England with anything that might seem left-wing. It’s almost as if they’re living up to the old maxim “If you’ve got nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.)

This all seems something of a moot point, as Yes Scotland is absolutely focused on positive campaigning anyway. Their belief is that a positive campaign always wins against a negative campaign, and in elections that’s nearly always true. Normal elections are part of the familiar cycle of governance. They hold little fear for voters, because we know that once the vote is counted and the next government elected, you still have the same passport, talk to the same government agencies, and pay your taxes the same way. The trappings and machinations of government carry on regardless even if the policies they implement change radically.

But the referendum isn’t an election, despite the relentless attempts of those on the No side to depict it as one by endlessly demanding “answers” on specific policies. It’s a vote on the very existence of our country, and more to the point it’s above all a vote for change far beyond that provided in an election.

Change is inevitable, it’s always with us, yet there are many people who are genuinely troubled by the prospect of changing something that’s been notionally “the same” for centuries. (It hasn’t, of course – the United Kingdom of 2013 is similar to the one of 1713 only in geography, but it’s an easy enough illusion to put forward.)

And as the AV referendum of 2011 showed, the fear of change, even when the thing being changed is hopelessly broken, is powerful. An overwhelmingly negative campaign killed AV dead, and showed that it’s not wise to cut out half your arguments because they happen to focus on negative aspects. If you row a boat with only one oar, after all, you just wind up going in circles.


These are people the Yes campaign need to reach, but to convince people who have no motivation to change they need to be told what’s wrong with the way things are as well as merely how they could be better. Pointing out that something isn’t working isn’t negativity – criticism is only negative if you don’t offer a solution, and Yes Scotland is doing that in spades.

Constructing a negative argument is not the same as being negative. When we think of negativity in politics we immediately conjure up images of attack ads, personal abuse and spin. What has to be remembered however; is that arguing negatively is not the same as negative campaigning.

Negative campaigning involves mudslinging – attacking an opponent’s personality, record, or opinion; leaking damaging information to the media; using outside ‘impartial’ organisations such as think-tanks to launch attacks; other attacks conducted by proxy, such as via a compliant media; and “push polls” that are really propaganda disguised as an opinion survey, created by asking questions arranged or worded in such a way as to give the pollster the answer desired.

(All of these are, of course, standard-issue tactics for “Better Together”.)

In contrast, a negative argument doesn’t deploy abuse or propaganda, but requires instead that you advance a position which contradicts one of your opponent’s premises, either by denying that the criteria used by your opponent is rational or by proving that their facts are wrong. A negative argument undermines an opposing conclusion by attacking the premise or veracity of the argument. An effective negative argument forensically questions the soundness of your opponent’s position, as opposed to just contradicting their conclusion.

The anti-independence campaign is on extremly shaky ground in this regard. As 2013 draws on, the impact of the Westminster austerity program of benefit cuts and punitive measures on the poor, sick, disabled, unemployed, families, the young and also the elderly will continue to bite.


Allowing the Yes campaign to capitalise on the misery being created by the UK government would be disastrous for the Unionist side, particularly if it looks increasingly unlikely that Labour might offer any hope of a change of direction. (Either by being unelectable, or by adopting Conservative policies wholesale with only minor tweaks around the edges.)

The unpalatable truth for Yes Scotland is that at some point negative arguments might represent the best chance of getting people who aren’t necessarily interested in the constitutional debate as such to think about how it could directly affect the issues they do care about. Some steps have been made in that direction recently, highlighting the imposition on Scotland of unpopular policies like Trident and the bedroom tax by Westminster despite large majorities of opposition from Scottish MPs of all parties.

The independence campaign must walk a fine line between pointing out that fundamental democratic deficit and being dragged into the specific policy debates which demonstrate it. But it does seem – perhaps a little belatedly – to have realised that to paddle Scotland out of a creek, it’ll need to use both oars.

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95 to “The problem with positivity”

  1. Dan

    100%-38%=62% not 52%

  2. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    Presumably the rest were Don’t Knows?

  3. Craig Gallagher

    Interesting piece. I’m mulling over a more detailed response as we speak, but for the moment, the UK’s geography in 1713 actually didn’t include Northern Ireland. The isle of Ireland was only incorporated into the UK in 1800, prior to that Ireland was a seperate (wholly contiguous) kingdom.

  4. G. Campbell

    Just look at Jesus. Where did positivity get him?

  5. G. Campbell

    On the other hand, Positivity was the best track on Lovesexy.

  6. Indy

    I will put the case for a positive campaign as I see it (though Stephen Noon does it better on his blog). It is not actually about the arguments – it’s about the way they are put, it’s about the tone as well as the content.
    Start by imagining how most voters perceive a campaign – whether it be an election or referendum as in this case. Partially. We who are involved follow every twist and turn, every claim and counter claim, every speech, every report and so on. Most people don’t.
    The best way I can express it is to imagine you are sitting behind two people on a bus having a conversation. You don’t know the background to this conversation – you won’t even hear the whole conversation but nevertheless you will form an impression on the basis of what you do hear. I do believe this is how most people experience political debate.
    We have probably all sat behind someone who has been slagging someone off to a friend on the bus. And instinctively, if we feel anything, most of us probably feel rather more sympathetic towards the person who is being slagged off rather than the person doing the slagging – and the more vituperative the slagging off is, the more sympathetic we feel. This is the case even if we know absolutely nothing about the back story.
    So if on our imaginary political bus a voter happens to find themselves behind someone comprehensively slagging off a unionist – it could be a politician, a journalist, anyone really, they are probably instinctively going to feel sympathetic towards the unionist even if the slagging off is totally justified. They will never know if it is justified or not because they don’t get the whole story. They form their impression from what they hear – not from what they don’t hear.
    The lesson there is obvious, to me anyway.
    This does not translate into saying everything has to be happy happy happy and there can be no anger or negative emotions at all. Far from it – but it is the way that is expressed that matters.
    If we go back onto our bus and now the voter is sitting behind someone who is talking about something or someone they are unhappy with but this time instead of slagging them off they are concentrating on what is wrong. They may say that something is unfair, that it shows a lack of understanding, that people should be entitled to more respect etc. Again even if we know nothing about the situation under discussion, most of us would instinctively feel sympathetic towards the person talking because we can all empathise with what they are saying.
    That – to me – is the key point. Whatever we say, whatever arguments we are engaged in, we need to make them in a way that people can empathise with. Better Together don’t. Their main aim is to scare people into voting No and their main political strategy is to shut down debate by making it so unpleasant that normal people don’t even want to listen to it.
    We absolutely must not fall into that trap. Even at this relatively early stage we are seeing them come out with outrageous, quite mad accusations such as racism etc. They are doing this because they want us to stop talking about independence and the opportunities it holds for everyone in Scotland. If this degenerates still further and it means in the end that we simply ignore most of what Better Together says and does than that will just have to be the way it is. We have to concentrate on getting our message over and doing it in a way that people will respond to.
    (The whole bus thing is probably a rubbish metaphor but it’s the best way I could think of to describe what I mean).

  7. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “Interesting piece. I’m mulling over a more detailed response as we speak, but for the moment, the UK’s geography in 1713 actually didn’t include Northern Ireland. The isle of Ireland was only incorporated into the UK in 1800, prior to that Ireland was a seperate (wholly contiguous) kingdom.”


  8. Iain More

    Well I dont like the Tory Model that I have at the moment, it is a horrible dangerous drive with limited views of teh road ahead, it is not just a car crash waiting to happen it is a high speed train crash waiting to happen. Mass carnage promised yet come, high death rates from illegal wars and so on.
    The dodgy Westmidden manufacturers of the Tory Thatcherite Model and the oily salesmen and women of the Tory, Fib Doom and Labour franchises (all the same company under Better Together UK PLC) are now telling me that the Thatcherite Model might be superceded soon by the Model originaly intended and that is the Farage Model designers who are thinking of removing the Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont Models as they dont cause anywhere near enough carnage and the potential for making dirty profits are reduced. The potential of the Farage Model for even higher death rates, destruction of the welfare system, the removal of all Employment rights, the obliteration of Health and Safety legislation and the eradication of the Health and Education Services totally is unlimited!
    Who needs Trident when you have the UKIP Model driving around unchecked?

  9. Albalha

    I think there’s a danger, however, that people feel limited in their expression.
    Those of us who believe in a YES vote should not be fearful of our opinions, and I agree with the article, policy issues clearly will form part of the debate and questions need to be addressed. 
    For me the Noon article was rather pointy fingered, there will always be people who get ‘shouty’ in the face of wilful ignorance and downright lying.
    How many people does he really think don’t realise it’s not a great idea to be abusive when debating? Eggs, grannies, rockets and science come to mind.

  10. The Man in the Jar

    Excellent article Rev. Stu one of your best yet.
    When I read stuff from the likes of Jenkins and Curran it makes me wonder just how much of what they are saying do they actually believe. Have they so indoctrinated themselves that they actually believe it is the truth? Surely there must be a wee voice in the back of their heads saying; “I smell shite”
    The attempt to portray the Yes argument as negative dose not appear to be working as well as I think they hoped it would. Reading through most opinion sources, and it is only a casual observation I have noticed that there are a lot of ordinary punters being turned right off by Bitter Togethers negative approach.
    Like you put it “time for Yes to use both paddles” Oddly enough just this morning I was recalling the famous election poster that Satchi and Satchi did when Thatcher came to power. Most old enough will remember it. Three words “Labour isn’t working” a white background with a photo of a long queue (the natural assumption being that it was a dole queue) I can imagine a similar poster for Yes Scotland. A white background with a queue of people in wheelchairs queuing for a foodbank and the words “United Kingdom isn’t working” I wonder if such things are copyrighted?

  11. Keith Gilchrist

    to anybody with eyes, it should be easy to see the union is a “clown car”

  12. Taranaich

    I think looking at Greece could be instructive: I’ve seen people comparing an independent Scotland to Greece, insinuating that we’d fall into the same economic meltdown. But I think comparisons between the Greek government’s austerity mantra and the current UK government are revealing:

    So not only could the benefits & welfare cuts already constitute a decline in mental and physical well-being, they could exacerbate the problems significantly.  It really isn’t hyperbole to say that the current UK government is destroying the country.

  13. Morag

    Er, TMITJ, Scott wrote it, not Stu.  I’ll leave Stu to cry into his whisky now.

  14. Craig Gallagher

    My historical pedantry has driven better men than you to desperation, Stu!

  15. The Man in the Jar

    So Sorry Scott and Stu!
    Serves me right for not reading the credit. I think this is the second time I have done this.

  16. G. Campbell

    Indy says:
    “The best way I can express it is to imagine you are sitting behind two people on a bus having a conversation.”

    What happens when the bus is full of very shouty journalists and the other passengers can’t hear themselves think?

  17. FreddieThreepwood

    I’m with the happy, shiny people on this. A positive campaign WILL win.
    But …
    That doesn’t mean to say we (and by that I mean the SNP and Yes Campaign) shouldn’t be pointing out the arrant nonsense in much of the No Campaign’s outpourings. And it also most definitely doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be refuting at each and every opportunity the lies and distortions in the MSM. To fail to do so is to appear to have no argument with it.
    There’s no need to moan and whine or to make these injustices and lies the main focus of our argument. That is just falling into the trap being laid for us and the Scottish public – “Don’t bother about the wood, look at all these jolly important trees.” But a quick rebuttal and then moving on, I think is vital. Of course, if said rebuttal can be done in the most withering, pitying fashion then all the better!
    PS – @Jar man … check the byline.

  18. HoraceSaysYes

    The probably I have with the UK-model car is it keeps pulling to the right, even if I want it to turn left.
    Excellent article, by the way, Scott.

  19. Braco

    This whole positive/negative campaign schtic is starting to annoy me.
    The better NO camp seem intent on treating the general public like very, very slow children. If we start engaging with your ‘normal’ people by only being positive then we will, in my opinion, be committing the same crime. This just simply is not the way adult conversations are held, let alone political ones.
    The YES campaigns over riding strength is that it is grassroots. That is that the folk driving the message home are not politicos with media training that have spent their youth analyzing campaigning methods. The electorate can smell that kind of bullshit a mile off.
    We are not trying to find a simple way to talk to the electorate in order to get them to vote YES. We are the electorate talking to the electorate and talking to them in all the complex and varied ways that a subject of this magnitude deserves.
    My discussions are tailored to the person or group that I am talking to. I try to address their concerns and put forward my concepts of solutions. That by it’s very nature entails hammering home (and in most cases now simply sympathising with) the difficulties we face and that only Scots Independence can and will address.
    That is very different to pushing a ‘party’ line in a certain fashion (even a positive one).

  20. HandandShrimp

    When proposing change people are naturally caution. The No campaign is relying on resistance to change and tries to reinforce that with non-stop negativity.
    However, people will also hanker after the better. With continuing difficulties in the UK economy and the impact of the various austerity cuts only just kicking in there will be increasing opportunities to demonstrate that independence is the better option. Then it will not be a matter of sentiment but rather what makes long term economic sense.
    The sub-text of Labour led Better Together is that they will oust the Tories but as 2015 looms just around the corner of the September 2014 vote I am not convinced that the Scottish and English electorate will be heading in the same direction. Already there are Tories that would like a EU referendum early next year to head off UKIP. 2014 could be a testing year for the Better Together coalition.
    There will be an chance to market a very attractive vehicle of political change that will do the job better and be a lot less fraught in the maintenance stakes.

  21. Braco

    Yes, I thought the recent Noon article did overstep the mark a wee bit too.
    All this ‘a good big un will always beat a bad big un’ election campaign stuff seems a little simplistic. I had heard Salmond pushing that line a few times in recent interviews, but seeing it written down as part of a considered political analysis did seem to jar.

  22. AnneDon

    I understand the points being made;  however, the Yes Campaign’s focus on positivity continues on the path the SNP used to win the 2011 Scottish elections.
    What those of us campaigning in the streets are saying to our friends and neighbours when we debate the brass tacks with them is far more based on what is happening at a Westminster level.
    The best thing Yes can do is to give us the information to counter their arguments, which they are doing already.
    However . . . . they should also set up a rapid rebuttal unit against the claims made by the Bitters at every opportunity. Stating that attacks on Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are attacks on the democratically elected government of Scotland, when they are made; issuing press releases when other aspects of the campaign are attacked.
    I think they can do that without going down the negative route.

  23. velofello

     “if you don’t have access to a private income or pension it will only take about a year or so following a No outcome in the referendum for you to be feeling very sorry for yourself’. That usually brings about a “Why?” response.
     Scotland exports oil, gas, electrical generated power, food and beverages. And rUK imports.
    There is another Scottish export, the income of all these Scottish exports to the London Treasury. And in return?
    People don’t like to be suckered. Pointing it out to them isn’t being negative.

  24. Doug Daniel

    I reckon folk get too caught up in the arguments on the internet. The reality is most of this is definite Yes voters arguing with definite No voters. It’s white heat. Your average undecided voter isn’t going on Twitter and saying “hmm, I wonder what’s going down on the #IndyRef hashtag today? Oh my GOD, this is APPALLING! I’m not voting now.”
    In the main, this will be won on the streets, in people’s homes and in the pub. It’ll be face to face discussions that persuade the final folk who decide which side wins. Anyone who is converted purely online will be getting converted by  their friends sharing articles, not from randomly stumbling across a big argument caused by one of the usual unionist suspects winding up indy supporters. The kind of arguments that many of us get sucked into don’t really matter – if anything, they serve as good batting practice for when you’re faced with someone who truly could be converted into a Yes.
    But face to face, the positive stuff certainly seems to work. I was at a Yes Ambassadors workshop at the weekend, and we did a bit of role-play (ooh matron!) As a pretend undecided, I found it difficult to fault the positive arguments I was getting. As a campaigner, I found it difficult to avoid straying into negative stuff, but it felt better as a result. But even then, you can make a negative point in the right way – just make sure it’s a criticism and not just a moan!

  25. douglas clark

    I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the Yes campaign is starting to argue that the status quo will not be an option, whichever way we vote. If we vote no then the largesse (hah!) of Westminster will roll up and any aspirations that we do have for travelling a different road will be completely crushed. If it continues to exist at all, Holyrood’s powers will be reduced dramatically.
    I think that this is true. We are getting a one shot chance at independence. We either take it or become North Briton with the nuclear bombs and the greasy bastards running our NHS and all the rest of it.
    We will be reduced to remaining second class members of a British State that has won a victory. We are – almost – the last people they can exploit, and they are very good at that. Vote no in 2014 and duck for the next hundred years!


    Vastly off topic, but I mentioned other folk that are being exploited. The peoples of Diego Garcia come to mind. I would not want Westminster to be left with a final say on that. And that dod of Antartica now called Queen Elizabeth Land, why not rename it Lionel Messi Land?

  26. Macart

    Cracking post Scott and love the car sales analogy.
    Positive/negative, truth is truth whether BT like it or not. This IS a hugely undemocratic union. The choices of the Scottish voter are stifled by the sheer electoral weight and wishes of the next door neighbour. Right wing and further right wing governments servicing the electorate of the south east are all that await a no vote in the referendum. The one already in power is enacting bills which would have made Maggie take pause and all with the aid of an abstaining Labour party desperate to win over that same south eastern vote. Yes I know that’s pointing out the flamin’ obvious and preaching to the converted, but it is important to point out as often as possible why the old banger needs binned in favour of a newer more eco friendly, fuel efficient model.
    We’re up against a campaign which doesn’t hesitate to lie about or misrepresent their opposition. A campaign quite happy to accept donations from ‘questionable’ sources  and who are quite comfy with using both government and media to intimidate and mislead the electorate. Make no mistake, not one of them will lose a moments sleep over their actions. Pointing out these outrages perpetrated in their name isn’t negative campaigning, its doing the public a solid service.

  27. YesYesYes

    Has anyone seen this? Apparently, Scotland’s fossil fuels could be worth anything between £2.25-4 trillion:

    Since we’re being ‘positive’, let’s take the upper range of this estimate.  I wonder if Scott or the Rev could do a piece on what £4 trillion would buy us. I’m happy to get the ball rolling. £4 trillion is the equivalent of giving every man, woman and child in Scotland £1,000 every single year for the next 800 years

  28. a supporter

    I thought the recent Noon article on positive campaigning was unconvincing pap. And I responded in that vein on his site. But alas he refused to publish my response  notwithstanding his brave words that he would post all responses as long as they were not insulting; mine wasn’t.
    Anyway to the point. Scott Minto is right it is OK being positive in the campaign but not all the time. Sometimes a large amount of negativity is necessary to counteract your opponents ideas and current policies. In my view the YES campaign and the SNP are wrongly believing that it was positive campaigning which won the 2011 election. That no doubt contributed, but I’ll bet the main reason for the landslide was due to Labour voters not turning out on the day because many thought it was going to be a walkover. Turnout is very, very important. The Bitter people won’t make that mistake again.
    Another reason why positivity doesn’t always work, is the media. They are always willing to print news stories about doom and gloom because such stories sell newspapers. Positive stories on the other hand while being ‘feel good’ are not really what the Public want and don’t sell papers.  Now the YES side are always complaining about bias in the MSM, and yes there is bias, but maybe it appears worse because we don’t produce the type of doom and gloom negative stories that the media are looking for. 

  29. Liz Quinn

    Doug @7.08pm
    You are right. I did a bit of doorknocking/canvassing yesterday. Most of the people we spoke to were very civil and interested. Even those who started by saying they were going to vote No were prepared to talk about it. Some were even open to changing to Yes after a bit of polite discussion.

  30. Stevie

    Correct – now would somebody please tell this to the YES campaign.

  31. Jim Mitchell

    There is one thing above all that I and ALL fellow yessers are afraid of and it’s fair enough to ask anyone about, especially those who as yet are uncommitted.
    My only fear is what happens to Scotland if a NO vote should come to pass, we have every right to ask our fellow countrymen and women that question,although all would expect change, (me too), i doubt if any would predict a pleasant outcome.
    That in fact is the question that pollsters should be putting especially following today’s revelation that a majority of scots who  just recently said Holyrood should have more powers, are now saying they don’t believe that Westminster would deliver them in the event of a NO vote.
    In fact i would now go further and ask them to be specific about what they think would be Westminste’rs attitude to Scotland after a NO vote,
    Let’s ask it NOW and put Westminster and the Better together lot on the spot!
    That’s making a positive out of a negative, besides sometimes you have to make folk face up to things that they actually know or fear.

  32. Braco

    This all seems to come down to an argument over definitions. The SNP has been very successful in defining the Unionist parties oppositionalist behaviour during the last minority parliament as ‘negative’. Largely because it was.
    Better NO are also being successfully defined as negative by the YES campaign (as they have no positive case for the Union) and they really don’t like it!
    They are reacting by trying to accuse their opponents of negativity, surprise surprise. This will not work as the YES campaign have and are pushing a generally positive case for an Independent Scotland.
    These definitions may have value as general observations and judgements of the campaigns as they unfold but certainly not as some strategic, or even more ridiculously tactical, argument winning technique to be rolled out by either campaign.
    We are positive because we want change and to take control of change. Not because we are going to somehow construct an argument for change without criticising and ridiculing the status quo.
    They are negative because they are against. They can and do say, for example, Scotland would succeed as an Independent country. This in no way makes their campaign positive. They in fact sound hollow, just as our criticism comes across as positive in the context of our overall argument.
    This stuff is simple and folk are not daft. They will collect all the information that they need by the time of the vote and they will decide. Our job is simply to make ourselves heard with as strong a case for an independent Scotland as possible, in as many ways as is possible without artificially restricting ourselves for the sake of some lame sound bite.
    I think Indy has it right with the idea that the YES campaign should in the most part not even bother interacting with the better NO campaign. Our strategies and tactics are really that different.

  33. douglas clark

    I think Indy has it right with the idea that the YES campaign should in the most part not even bother interacting with the better NO campaign. Our strategies and tactics are really that different.
    ^ This is interesting. Dunno. What does Scott Minto make of it?

    I tend to find Scott’s opinions become mine. Sad, I know, but there you go.

  34. Braco

    douglas clark,
    that’s because he makes himself heard to you with as strong a case for an independent Scotland as possible, in as many ways as is possible without artificially restricting himself for the sake of some lame political sound bite. (winkysmile)

  35. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy)

    To be clear here, I’m NOT talking about being negative…
    I’m talking about using negative arguments to undermine our opponents and highlight the failures of our current system while SIMULTANEOUSLY offering the positive vision that YES is working towards.
    In my opinion it would be a mistake not to challenge ‘Better Together’ on their scaremongering…
    A lie unchallenged is a lie believed!
    We need to continue to undermine their arguments using FACTS and backing up our case with evidence. The more of this we do the better.
    It all comes down to the change cycle… people are either in denial or are sceptical of change and we need to get them to think about it as an alternative solution to very real and present problems.
    Of course once you have managed to get someone to question the status quo, you need to be able to offer them something better, a solution to the problems we face. It has to be credible and it has to be well articulated.
    If you don’t do that then you run the risk of putting people off the subject altogether with a sort of “whats the point?” response.

  36. Christian Wright

    AnneDon says: I understand the points being made;  however, the Yes Campaign’s focus on positivity continues on the path the SNP used to win the 2011 Scottish elections.
    Yes,  keep reading that and hearing it.
    The SNP won an historic parliamentary mandate in 2011 on the basis of a demonstrable record of sound governance. No amount of negative campaigning from a patently incompetent opposition could alter that reality. 
    The problem with this campaign is pro-indy advocates have no such concrete, unassailable evidence, to support their claims. Voting for independence WILL ABSOLUTELY REQUIRE a leap of faith by the electorate.
    We now face a formidable foe – the serried ranks of the entire British establishment are arrayed against us, spearheaded by the Fourth Estate, and they are bent of our destruction.

    Election after election in country after country has demonstrated that negative campaigning almost always prevails WHEN A PROTAGONIST ENJOYS A NEAR MONOPOLY OF THE CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION TO THE VOTER. 
    The NO campaign’s only hope of success was, is, and will remain the, their near total control of the messaging reaching the low-information voter.
    Had the independence-deniers not had the fulsome support of the mainstream media, it is likely their campaign would already be dead in the water.
    What needs to be prioritized is not offering counterpoint to every dingbat charge the opposition dreams up, or challenging false or misleading data it presents, but neutralizing the effectiveness of the conduit through which the lies and “inaccuracies” are disseminated.
    We have no megaphone big enough to be well heard over the din of the daily diet of “Salmond Accused!” propaganda articles in the Scotsman and Herald, or the latest invented fracas caused by the mistreatment of a news story by the Beeb.
    The opposition cannot possibly hope to achieve their ends without the complicity of the press and broadcast media, united in common cause.
    The 800lb gorilla of that unholy alliance is the state broadcasting system – the BBC. It is omnipresent in the lives of virtually every voter vital to the success of our campaign. 
     The state broadcasting network has tremendous power to influence opinion in Scotland.
    That power is derived from the public’s perception that it’s news and analyses are fair and impartial, and that it’s output is a truthful representation of the facts.
    It should be a priority of the Independence Movement to disabuse the electorate of that notion.
    We cannot hope to unstick the Beeb and force change in its institutional position on independence, but we can go far to ameliorating its toxic influence on the outcome of the plebiscite on independence, by hammering home the message of its political corruption.
    Now many Nationalists have argued that seriously raising the issue of media propaganda in this way distracts from the positive message of independence.
    What positive message? We are not getting much in the way of messages positive or otherwise out to the people who matter – the opposition are eating our lunch.
    We need achieve two goals.

    Minimize the effectiveness the propaganda by denying the BBC the fiction of its impartiality


    curtail its current unrestrained Unionist bias by openly calling them to account when they seriously transgress, and to do so in real time if possible. 

    This should be presented as an issue of fairness in the dissemination of information about the most important decision and choice to confront the people of Scotland, not in 300 years, but in the entire history of the nation since its founding.
    Our forebears, the common people, had no say in the 1707 treaty nor in the associated enabling acts of parliaments of 1708 – this will be their decedents first (and quite possibly, last) chance to decide if they will be masters in their own house.
    Now you would think a choice of that import would require absolute impartiality on the part of the BBC to be SEEN to be done. 
    There should be no reasonable doubt in anyone’s mind, but that the BBC is in compliance with both the letter and the spirit of its charter as it is required to be.
    The BBC itself should show zero tolerance of manifest bias in the conduct of its reporters, its producers, and its presenters.
    We all have biases, but there is no excuse for indulging personal political prejudice when you are supposed to be impartially reporting the news, interviewing the principals in the campaign, or offering considered analyses.
    The BBC and the print press have gotten away with murder in respect of their antipathy toward the SNP and Salmond, and their utter disdain for the inalienable right of people of Scotland to decide their own destiny.
    Enough is enough. It is time to act!

  37. Braco

    Jim Mitchell,
    Yes, this is becoming a much more relevant and hard hitting approach as time goes by and will only become more effective as the policies emanating from Westminster start to bite.
    Asking the question ‘what will happen to Scotland after a NO vote’ also often elicits specific concerns or worries that the person has and that a YES campaigner can suggest possible solutions to via the powers available only to an independent country.
    In this way the discussion becomes personalised really quite quickly and the thoughts of change are incorporated into the possibility of either outcome, YES or NO.  But as Scott Minto says it is important that some answers or possible solutions are forth coming.

  38. muttley79

    Good post Christian.  When you say it is time to act what do you have in mind?

    P.S. Rev Stu: I have just been reading WoS Twitter. Have you been drinking or inhaling something (Re: 500 questions)? 😀 😀

  39. Wayne Brown

    The problem with the UK parliament is not that we get Tory when we vote Labour or even vice versa – the problem is that it is the UK parliament and the MPs are UK MPs – and rightly so, they are elected as such. But the UK parliament must look to the interests of the UK as a whole and therefore cannot have the government and needs of Scotland as its primary interest.
    To state this is not negative, it is a straightforward fact – and one that we should be hammering all the way to the referendum

  40. Morag

    Good grief, what’s he on?  And can I have some?

  41. Christian Wright

    “muttley79 says: Good post Christian.  When you say it is time to act what do you have in mind?”
    Hi Muttley,
    As noted in my original post, we must look to minimize the effectiveness of this unrelenting media assault by exposing its corrupting influence. We must also make it crystal clear what the likely outcome of a NO vote will mean to for our people and the continued existence of our nation.
    Let me deal with the first can of worms though . . .
    The issue of the media’s extreme partisanship should be addressed in every interview and debate. The BBC cannot maintain credibility without the tacit cooperation and complicity of Nationalists. We are accepting of the inequity, so why should they bother to change their behaviour?.
    Why a we are providing the Beeb with a veneer of impartiality?
    Why are we still agreeing to participate in debates and interviews where Nationalist representatives are outnumbered three or four to one?
    Why do we remain mute when interviewers are demonstrably hostile to the nationalist side, yet throw the Unionist representatives softballs?
    For goodness sake, when are the Nationalist political elite in Holyrood and Morningside responsible for the management of this campaign going to seriously address this issue?
    There should be zero tolerance of procedural inequity in the BBC.  
    If the broadcaster’s institutional bias is raised in a respectful but firm manner by the interviewee/participant in a BBC interview/talk-show/televised debate, the BBC will have no choice but to air that criticism, and address it, since is has become a major component of the debate.
    What is the state broadcaster going to do – stop inviting representatives of the YES campaign onto programs about the campaign? Of course not – at least not if they want to preserve a semblance of credibility.
    Among the first things the YES campaign should do is issue a statement that the Campaign policy shall be to refuse interviews or debates where the NO campaign representatives and/or other Unionist proxies, outnumber the representatives of the YES campaign. That kind of ganging-up is getting old.
    There must be an insistence on fairness and transparency in the structuring and application of the rules and procedures governing interviews and debates. That can be formalized and codified in a memorandum of understanding.
    Now the BBC’s Question Time producers among others have argued that their panels discuss a range of topics and that therefore any gross inequity with respect to representation on the topic of independence is a mere bagatelle – a local matter of little import. What arrogant nonsense.
    During that period when the QT panel (or any other BBC panel) discusses issues of Scottish independence, there should be parity in representation. Why is it that the YES side or the SNP are seemingly always the ones outnumbered?
    It should be emphasized that this is not a party political election campaign, but a plebiscite, with a binary outcome, and there there can be but two and only two sides equally represented in any interview or debate.
    Every BBC invitation refused because of a demonstrable procedural inequity can and should become an issue.
    Surrogates culled from the Good and the Great of whatever political hue, who believe in equality of access to the market place of ideas, should be prevailed upon to call for a public enquiry citing BBC violations of its charter. This should be augmented by promotion of a groundswell of popular support for the same (we can astroturf this is necessary).
    The goal is not actually to hold an enquiry but to make it an issue in the public space, so that the focus on BBC bias is legitimized in the voter’s mind and becomes a real factor in the debate.
    I’ll address the issue of presenting to the voter the reality of the likely dire the consequences of a NO vote in a separate post.

  42. tartanfever

    Interesting post Christian. You are absolutely correct in your assessment of the BBC and the huge influence they hold over the population. I would like to think that Blair Jenkins (being an ex-BBC man) will have some ideas to counteracting current reporting trends.
    My questions to others are:
    Who goes on the attack ? Yes campaign or SNP.
    When does it happen ? Now or leave it until the beginning of the 16 week period before the referendum when the BBC have to go in to full impartial election mode.

  43. tartanfever

    Morag – 
    Do we have to start naming all the songs that he’s quoting lyrics from ? 
    Is this a ‘I’ll be asking questions later’ scenario ?

  44. Christian Wright

    Well twice in answer to our esteemed colleague muttley I’ve tried to post an incisive 650 word treatise detailing how we surely all might be saved, and twice it has failed to post to this thread.
    Anyone know why that might be. Unionist plot? Spam filter? 

  45. Braco

    Christian Wright,

    Good luck with that!

    We have no megaphone it’s true, but we can whisper in our family’s, friends and colleagues ears. That kind of whisper gets heard no matter the din outside.
    That is a conduit of sorts and the best one.
    Do you really believe that the BBC and MSM will still be trusted in the manner they were, after the populations experience of their neutrality during this, as you say, most important referendum campaign?
    I know where you are coming from with this and I am sympathetic to your wish for a level playing field (who wouldn’t be from our side?) but as it seems an all but impossible dream, I find your post’s more in the form of a council of despair rather than the inspirational call to arms in order to hold the BBC & MSM to account that you hope them to be.
    Perhaps you could suggest some simple and effective tactics to achieve what, as far as I can see from the reading of history, has never been achieved in Britain. That is the neutrality of the Press, BBC and other organs of state in the face of a threat to the existence of that very State. (And all to be achieved in the remaining 15 months)
    Let’s concentrate on what we can change, change it the way we have been changing it and change it completely!

  46. douglas clark

    You say:
    Good grief, what’s he on?  And can I have some?

  47. AmadeusMinkowski

    @Christian Wright 
    Insightful and brilliantly argued.
    I not only agree with the two goals you identify regarding the BBC, but would go further by going after an easier target; namely, undermining the propaganda pushed out directly by the UK state. 
    It is my experience that today’s low-information (non-)voters in Scotland are not only blissfully unaware of current events, but have limited if no awareness of Scotland political history.  Now an oft heard line from such disengaged types would be
    “ah dinnae beleev ony O yon lyin ********” in WasteMonster”.
    Their disengagment from the Political Process is compounded by this Universal Scepticism. The alienation that Jimmy Reid spoke of permeates such souls.
    So, how does YeS break through this alienation, and stir hope and courage?
    I have some thoughts but would like to hear your views. 

  48. douglas clark

    Christian Wright @ 9:19,
    I doubt, very much, that you are banned on here. It is probably. situation normal, all fucked up.

  49. cynicalHighlander

    You will wear yourself out on twitter Rev.

  50. Indion

    Christian Wright @ 8:38pm
    Yes.  If we are seen to be putting up with shite, that’s what we’ll continue to be  spoon fed on.

  51. scottish_skier

    Good grief, what’s he on?  And can I have some?

    No woman no cry in an independent Scotland.


    Oh no, wait a minute, surely that’s misogynistic…

  52. sneddon

    Dear Rev- Just get out of my record collection please 🙂

  53. Christian Wright

    There are two strategic goals I’d like to suggest we pursue but as noted, for some reason the detail wont post. We should look to:-

    Undermine the BBC’s reputation as an impartial bringer of truth, and thereby minimize the most toxic effects of its corruption of the democratic process


    Make it graphically clear to the voter what will likely happen to them and to their country, short term and long term, if they decline to become masters in their own house.

    Since they wont post here, I’ll offer a link to another version of the first and hope I’m not violating TOS protocol in doing so.


  54. AmadeusMinkowski

    O/T Parody of Bitter Together’s 500 questions stunt is taking off on twitter right now; search for #500Questions
    It turns out that its sometimes hard to distinguish between the parody and the official list. For example, the office BitterTogether Q350 has to be seen to be believed.

    “How much would a first class stamp cost in an independent Scotland?” Self-parody or what!! 🙂

  55. The Man in the Jar

    @Christian Wright
    At 8; 38pm.
    An excellent comment. I agree with just about every word that you have written. One question remains. How? I have thought about it and I can not think of an acceptable and / or legal method of going about this.

  56. douglas clark

    Scottish skier

    You could have this one, played loud.

    Just saying…..

  57. Boorach

    @ Christian Wright
    Getting the message out is a problem I’m forever wrestling with. 
    I’m slowly covering my van with appropriate slogans (as and when I can afford it) and by ‘R’ day it will be a bilboard parked outside the polling station.
    I’ve considered A4 posters for the windows but don’t have access to a printer.
    Am currently cinsidering a cheap ‘n cheerful moving LED display. There’s one on ebay for £13 at
    Maybe silly/stupid but how else do we get the message out.
    One other thought, Macart is I believe, in the print industry perhaps he may have some ideas.

  58. AmadeusMinkowski

    @Christian Wright 
    I’ve had that problem too, and have resorted to typing all responses into a separate editor, copying-and-pasting into the submit-comment box and then submitting. That way, when it doesn’t fly, nothing is lost and one can try again. I’ve not sure what causes the bug, but I’ve found that restarting a browser generally resolves the issue.

  59. Christian Wright

    Tried to post a link to a similar version I wrote some while ago to that which I could not post here . . . that would not post here either, unfortunately.  
    Perhaps you might care to visit my website and look for “it’s the BBC Stupid Part 2” (or something close to that title) and “The Consequences of Saying NO to Independence”?
    Therein lies revelation . . 

  60. Braco

    Christian Wright,
    Will do.

  61. Indion

    deleted entry

  62. Indion

    Two things stood out for me from yesterday’s blogpost from Stephen Noon. Titled  “Keep it calm, your country needs you”, it can be found and worth reading in full here:
    The one I wish to highlight in Scott’s ‘Positivity’ post is from Stephen’s last 3 paragraphs. The added emphasis is mine (as are any mistakes in my triple-checked transcript).
    We are extremely fortunate in Scotland to have a truly sophisticated electorate, one that, when it tunes in, sees the bigger picture in a way many of us caught up in the fog of war don’t always appreciate. What sways them is very different from what sways a newspaper headline writer. This is why those of us on the Yes side must always take a step back. We must ask, what is it that is really important to the person or people we are engaging with? What is it that the people of Scotland want to see and hear over these next 16 months? And that must be our singl-minded focus.
    Have no doubt they will be turned off by the slightest whiff of the sort of poisonous anger that can drip out in Parliament or from a computer key board. They can smell anger rooted rooted in animosity, hatred and fear a mile away. It will turn them off, just as night follows day. And that goes for both sides. If there is to be anger in this debate, don’t make it personal, let it be an indignation, an outrage based on the belief that there is a better way.
    I should add that these rules or lessons (read Stephen’s whole post) have been learnt by me in their breaking as well as in their keeping. But, as we look forward to the crucial next 500 days. I know that success depends on all of us getting it right.
    Channeling anger thro’ indignation – based on the belief there is a better way – sounds both fair and by no means a wet way of getting it right. But it also implies the juxtoposition of problem v solution is needed to have the full effect of not like that …. like this … / freedom from …. is freedom for …. forms of argument, in iterative course to be distilled to a pointedly sharp, short and oft repeated NO won’t v YES would deal.
    Further, those arguments need to be couched in the everyday language of folk’s lives as they know them, as well as being made available in the manner that allows their consideration as and when they have time to. My list on the previous post does not. Whereas getting out the YES Declaration’s meaning of being a sovereign nation in practice did and does.
    That the elected YES team continues to shape the political battlefield so that for the unelected YES team have space to get out and about to gather hearts and minds to build on the groundswell of support is understood.
    But what I’m sensing is that the thoughtfully active YES folk in the blogoshere generally think the irrational and scaremongering stuff from the NO hopers has been cut far too much rope a dope slack. And that their perception is the top cover should be seen to be punching their weight alongside them to keep NO backfooted on the ropes, rather than appearing to be biding their time to land later blows when the fight may have been lost on points already.
    Whether that perception is real or imagined is beside the point of demonstrating that it is not / no longer the case.
    Moreover, we ain’t seen nothing yet from the London MSM once it takes it’s gloves off and enters the ring raining blows from all sides as part of the tag team. So ground advantage risks being lost if the fight at home is not won before NO’s away team arrives mob handed. The home front needs to be secured by autumn’s prospectus being a culminating act, not an opening one.
    To bring in Stephen’s “don’t make it personal”, not playing the man but the ball is no good if there are not enough players on our pitch scoring goals before the foregoing invasion. So let’s get Clyde on our side and go for every which way but a losing loose.
    That means everyone recognising that the ‘What’ as in “ What is it that the people of Scotland want to see and hear over these next 16 months? is the mutually shared benefits of independence and union for optimal autonomy.
    The inescapable corollary is getting folk to appreciate that voting YES is the only assured way to do it: ie that one of the outcomes of independence will be a best by far union.
    Q  What do we want?
    A  Independence and Union.
    Q  How are we going to get it?
    A  By voting YES
    That’s the NO brainer!
    And it goes hand in hand with the counterpunching outlined by Christian Wright @ 8:28pm that has for some reason yet to appear in full. 

  63. The Man in the Jar

    Frankly I don’t give a rats arse what the populations experience of the neutrality of the BBC MSM is after the referendum.
    I think we all agree with Christian Wrights comment but we are all equally flummoxed as to what to do about it. I can think of a few things but none that would be acceptable. Direct action is out of the question but I remember the farmer down south many years ago that took direct action against his local bank. It was caught on CCTV. He got his tractor and muck spreader and literally plastered his bank with cow shit. That caught the public’s attention. Like I said out of the question, but “IF Only!

  64. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “Well twice in answer to our esteemed colleague muttley I’ve tried to post an incisive 650 word treatise detailing how we surely all might be saved, and twice it has failed to post to this thread.

    Anyone know why that might be. Unionist plot? Spam filter? “

    Yep (the latter, that is), no idea why. Approved now.

  65. douglas clark

    Christian Wright,
    I am puzzled. I write the most enorrmous shite all day long on the Rev Stu’s site. As far as I know, no-one listens to me and the Rev Stu does not delete me.
    I would find it completely strange that you would be barred unless you were being completely daft.
    Were you?

  66. Morag

    Behind you!  😀

  67. muttley79

    @Christian Wright
    For goodness sake, when are the Nationalist political elite in Holyrood and Morningside responsible for the management of this campaign going to seriously address this issue?
    I think the answer is they are not going to complain.  They want to win by being nice.  Whether it will work is open to question…
    Do we have to start naming all the songs that he’s quoting lyrics from ? 
    Is this a ‘I’ll be asking questions later’ scenario ?  
    There has been from Rev Stu these songs or variations of:
    Pulp-Common People, Carpenters-Close to You, Tom Jones-What’s New Pussycat, Bros-When Will I be Famous :D, and the song from the Wonder Years among many…That has got the ball rolling.  Name WoS Twitter songs competition. 😀


  68. Indion

    Having retrieved Christian Wright’s post from the spam filter, Rev Stu @ 10:11pm said: Yep (the latter, that is), no idea why. Approved now.

    Good. Please point this idiot to where and when timed at.

  69. Braco

    Man in a Jar and Christian Wright,
    I am completely in agreement with your aims, it’s just that I don’t believe it’s possible to achieve (and if it is necessary in order for us to win this referendum then we are fucked). Luckily I don’t believe that it is. (Smily)

    My point about the electorate’s perception of BBC neutrality was not intended to be for after the referendum but after the evidence of the referendum campaign and just before the vote.
    My point being that during the face to face grass roots campaign strategy of YES, the NO campaign lies will be countered and by association the BBC and MSM reputations will simply be co lateral damage.
    Much like after the recent Thatcherfest and wholesale re writing of a history by the BBC, history that folk actually experienced first hand. My friends and family have certainly been more open to seeing the BBC for the propagandists that they are after discussions on that particular coverage.

    This is how the BBC will become less and less effective, by their own obviousness.

  70. douglas clark

    Oh ta, morag.

  71. Alex Taylor

    @Christian Wright
    Great post, Christian. You inspired me to come out of lurking here and also to send a complaint of bias to the BBC. Doubt much will come of it but we can’t let them continue in this vain with impunity.
    I also cancelled my TV licence direct debit, so I’m going to starve them of the thing they value most. It’s a start!

  72. Braco

    Sorry The Man In the Jar, for renaming you there. (oops)

  73. The Man in the Jar

    No worries.
    Hopefully we will be assisted by “Events dear boy events”
    Let’s face it Westminsters capacity to shock us with their troughing and other “activities” is boundless. And with things going the way they are what about the inevitable riots? Hopefully we can keep a lid on them in Scotland like we did the last time. As for the BBC we can but live in hope.

  74. a supporter

    I’ve just read Christian Wright’s piece on his blog site and I fully agree with what he says.  Frankly the YES campaign people are living in dreamland if they think their campaign is effective. Stephen Noone’s piece the other day is pure la la land stuff. I advocated some months ago that the YES side should refuse to co-operate with the BBC on interviews or whatever, unless there is equal representation of Y and N. And the reason for such refusals should be disseminated widely. The rest of the MSM will definitely publish stuff like that.  In addition YES reps should make it clear before they appear on TV that they will walk off if interviewers become over aggressive and do not treat both sides fairly. Alex Ferguson and Ally McCoist soon brought them to heel using such tactics.

  75. Rod Macfarlane

    I have been fairly quiet over recent months on my site, but I have got going again recently, and have been firing on all cylinders, thanks to all the Better Together and media nonsense over the past week.
    But the BBC really have been pissing me off, and rather than just write about it, I will be speaking at the BARD2014 rally In Glasgow on the 18th of May.

    I hope as many of you as possible can make it along on that day, and help get our voices heard! Enough is enough.

  76. ianbrotherhood

    @Christian Wright-
    Have been thinking about your posts, and the call for action.
    Very tricky, whilst keeping it ‘legal’.
    Refusing to pay the licence fee is a personal protest, but is easily ignored. As mentioned on a past thread, Catholic communities across NI refused to pay during the ‘Troubles’, but that fact has only become widely known fairly recently. The BBC could safely avoid any acknowledgement of such action in Scotland, and it’s unlikely the financial hit would concern them sufficiently to make a big issue of it.
    Participation in TV/Radio debates:
    If SNP/Yes simply boycott BBC broadcasts, they’ll be painted as churlish, evasive malcontents. Of course, the  BBC has already made it clear that they intend to wait until the four-month countdown to Sep 18th before observing ‘impartiality’. In the meantime, those representing the Yes platform could agree to peaceful protest i.e. accept all invitations to appear on panels, interviews etc, but refuse to participate if the usual 3/1 ratio appears to be in place:
    The Yes rep takes his/her seat, waits to be introduced along with the others, and if there’s clear bias then the rep simply reads the agreed statement about protesting BBC bias, then gets up and walks out. If this was agreed and adhered-to then all referendum-related BBC staged ‘debates’ would quickly become more obviously farcical than they are at the moment.

    The undecided/uninterested would certainly ‘notice’ such action, and perhaps be moved to work out what the protest was about, and the Yes rep would be fairly representing those whose patience with the BBC has long since expired.

  77. Bobby Mckail

    I think Stephen Noon and Scott Minto has it bang on when they argue that too question and highlight why Westminster politics isn’t working for Scots While at the same time spending twice as long explaining the solutions or the possibilities of a Yes Vote.

  78. ianbrotherhood

    Christian et al –
    Kay(e) Adams just had a serious ear-bashing from a caller demanding to know why the BBC is ignoring the Ian Smart tweets while merrily chatting about footballers’ alleged bad behaviour. A brilliant call – the man would not back down, challenged her repeatedly despite being faded out and spoken over. She got extremely rattled. Well worth a listen when it gets on the website – happened about 9.15.

  79. Bill McLean

    With respect to all the commentators on the BBC problem is it not too early for the Scottish Government or the YES Campaign to take some of the actions (which I agree with)? Some who post one here write about the unionist/no better together campaign running out of steam eventually. We must get the timing right. I have faith in the SNP Government and the Yes team. Timing and perception are everything!

  80. a supporter

    “Some who post on here write about the unionist/no better together campaign running out of steam eventually”
    That has been a cosy mantra which some YES supporters use to convince themselves that it will be allright on the night. The other cosy mantra is that the YES campaign is busily working away at ‘the grass roots’ building up support.
    Firstly it is VERY unlikely that the NO campaign will run out of steam. It is clear from its campaign so far that it has a detailed action plan for the next 500 days to bring up new uncertainties and regurgitate the old ones, like the EU three times already, the currency issue twice so far, etc ……. Secondly the YES campaign’s efforts at the grass roots do not appear to be much good since the polls have not shifted in the year they have been doing it.
    The YES campaign needs to get its finger out, become more aggressive and front up. The Independence Referendum is not going to be won with the current complacency and ‘nice’ approach. As I wrote earlier the media whether supportive or not is not interested in ‘nice’ positive stories. They want blood and thunder. And so do I and many others in the YES camp.

  81. Braco

    Ian brotherhood, The Man in the Jar and Christian Wright
    My problem with all the options that you put forward there (and all the thoughts that I can come up with or read concerning action against the BBC bias) is that I really don’t think that it will work. At all!
    It will instead draw us into a useless bun fight with the BBC which can then easily be spun as (the SNP being) anti free speech/running scared from debate etc. etc…  Totally counter productive.
    As I have said before, we have won every recent election since 2007 inspite of BBC and MSM bias against our cause. We have done that using the tried and tested face to face method of debate at grass roots level.
    We now have many many more activists than ever before, we are much more active on the internet and social media than ever before, our activist base is demonstrably politically much wider than it has ever been and we have access to the kind of serious funding that before we could have only dreamed of. 
    If we get our arguments out there we will win because our arguments are rooted in the facts. We have a population wanting to listen and aware of the importance of their decision. That will only grow as we get closer to polling day and the official (regulated for neutrality) campaigning period.
    As the facts become common knowledge and the arguments begin to be accepted (as they already are becoming) then the behaviour of the BBC  and MSM will be exposed naturally in the process and their reputations will suffer co lateral damage. (They are defending the indefensible with made up stories FFS!) So this in turn will, day by day, lessen their effectiveness in influencing the electorate if not the reporting of the debate. That cycle will continue up until the 18th of September and beyond.
    We will win by convincing the electorate that independence is the best way forward for them their families and Scots society in general. One of our greatest strengths is that they actually do want to be convinced! We have shown before (but with less equipment, less money, fewer activists and a less receptive audience) that we can achieve this in the face of a bias MSM and BBC. They have already failed to stem our popular rise, what has changed?
    Let’s ignore what we can’t change and concentrate on what we can, change it the way we have been changing it already but this time change it completely!

  82. Braco

    A Supporter,
    and are those arguments convincing you? No me neither, so why so scared?

    As far as the polls are concerned, they will change when people take the decision. They will take the decision seriously in the way that they take all other political decisions, in the official campaigning period in the run up to the vote.

    Look what happened in 2011. In this respect the status quo always has a built in advantage in polling a year or so out from the vote. I am quite surprised we are polling so well at the moment.

    Let’s not buy their propaganda and start fighting their fight. Do you not sense their fear?

  83. Bill McLean

    “supporter” – you may have missed my point, forgive me if you haven’t. The NO campaign have far more assetts than the YES to keep up a sustained attack. It is, in my opinion, better that the YES campaign hold off with all out attack until they know they can sustain it until the end. When I write of the “no better/unionist” campaign “running out of steam” I mean that literally “steam” – hot air. Their other resources such as media support and money will be ensured right to the end. I understan the frustration of those who advocate more forthright action by the YES side – it worries me that we would run out of resources way before the referendum. Like it or not i’m of the “slowly, slowly catchee monkey” opinion. They (the monkeys) are doing themselves much harm at the moment. I agree with “Braco” about polls and reflect what I read and hear that many previous “NOs” and  “Don’t knows” are softening their positions. Since there is a long way to go this may also be wishful thinking but I still feel we shouldn’t leave ourselves vulnerable when there appears to be no need! Thank you.

  84. Indy

    I would just like to say that I have rarely seen a better example of positive campaigning than the reaction to #500questions on twitter last night. It was genuinely funny to the extent that some people on the No side ended up joining in as well. It made the point that a lot of the questions – eg how much would a first class stamp cost – were just silly but in such a way that no-one could have been seriously offended. Extremely effective -and undermined the Better Together launch more than a thousand attacks could have.

  85. Morag

    It was absolutely priceless, and I’m not even on Twitter!

  86. Braco


  87. a supporter

    Braco says:7 May, 2013 at 10:56 am

    “”A Supporter,
    and are those arguments convincing you? No me neither, so why so scared?”
    I am not ‘scared’. That is a silly expression to use. Of course the arguments don’t convince me or you because we are ‘converts’. But they sure as hell must be convincing or scaring others since the polls are static, notwithstanding all the ‘grass roots’ activity which the YES campaign is doing. I know that the polls will make a bounce towards YES as we near Referendum day, that is normal, but we need a good level of support before then to get over the 50% to win, and preferably well over that.
    I know what happened in 2011. And even the SNP was astonished. In my view much of the result for the SNP then was down to poor turnout of Labour supporters who thought it was already in the bag. The NO mob won’t make that mistake this time.And your comment … “I am quite surprised we are polling so well at the moment.” is wrong. We are NOT polling well at the moment we are static at what we have been for months.
    And stop kidding yourself that the NO camp is afraid it is losing. I sense that it thinks it is winning and at the moment so do I.


  88. Braco

    A Supporter,
    sorry for using the word ‘scared’. I was just projecting, as if I truly believed what you obviously do I certainly would be scared. 
    The YES/NO polls may appear static, but the ground work of changing peoples opinion is definitely showing in our favour when the attitude polls are considered.
    You know those ones where people say that they want all powers transferred to Holyrood and that they trust Holyrood more than twice as much as Westminster and the ones where only a third believe the Unionists and Westminster have any intention of transferring more powers to Scotland in the event of a no vote.
    Your idea that the 2011 result was due to Labour voters not turning up is interesting but I don’t remember the turnout being significantly down on previous Holyrood elections and so the electorate must have been of a similar over all scale, but just divied up differently. I am not sure about that though and would have to do some more checking.
    With the referendum we don’t need 50% +1 of the electorate, we need 50% + 1 of the electorate that votes. So even if your explanation of 2011 holds water, a similar demoralized voter effect on the Unionist side would see us easily over the line (please god!).
    I am not kidding myself that the whole NO camp on block fears defeat, I am simply picking up on the articles in the pro NO camp press and MSM, complaining of their own sides negativity and their lack of producing the definitive positive case for the Union.
    And then we have these tweeting slur campaigns that eventually are now starting to be reported around the MSM. You don’t feel Ian Smart’s outbursts reveal some sort of anxiety?
    I have already said that I agree with your concerns over the bias in the BBC and MSM. I just can think of no way of solving that problem.
    On the other hand, we have a movement that has formed a very successful political party, grown it over a long period during which it has developed winning electoral techniques designed for success in just that very same biased British media and constitutional environment we are discussing here. All I am proposing is that we keep the faith and continue using those methods to their fullest.
    I do believe it’s working and I have tried to list some of my evidence for that belief. Where is the evidence that your alternative, more aggressive, proposed strategy would work ? Has it ever before? If so, how do you put it into practice effectively in our specific Scots context?

  89. a supporter

    Braco says: 7 May, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I have spoken out because I believe there is far too much complacency in the YES camp particularly at the top and that needs to change in order to win.
    The total turnout in 2011 may have been similar to those before but it would be interesting to know what the percentages for each side were bearing in mind that small swings in voters’ intentions in the turnout can lead to big changes in the results.
    And your final comment … “Where is the evidence that your alternative, more aggressive, proposed strategy would work? Has it ever before?”. I don’t have any evidence but it seems to me that the current YES campaign’s approach isn’t working anyway, so what’s to lose? There is not much we can do about the bias in newspapers but Christian Wright, myself and others have produced ideas in many posts about how we could deal with the BBC (and STV) and if you haven’t read them you should. But to be successful it would need that the YES campaign became more proactive and aggressive.




  90. Albert Herring

    “In the meantime, those representing the Yes platform could agree to peaceful protest i.e. accept all invitations to appear on panels, interviews etc, but refuse to participate if the usual 3/1 ratio appears to be in place”
    I think this would be counter-productive. Refusing to participate, staging walkouts, etc. would just come across as petty and childish. Better to point out such imbalances and differences in treatment during the discussion.
    I think the referendum will be won on the ground, however we should also be using the broadcast media to put our case, as far as they will allow us.

  91. BillyBigbaws

    There’s no doubt that the BBC is openly biased against the Yes side, and this will continue to be the case (it won’t stop during the 16 week run-up to the vote either). 

    But an even bigger problem is that when Yes campaign spokespeople do get air time, particularly spokespeople from the SNP, they often fail to make their case, or else they allow goals left open by the unionist camp to go unexploited.  This is not always down to interruptions from biased presenters.  Quite often it seems to me that many official Yes campaign spokespeople simply have a lesser grasp on the facts than the cybernats that they now like to chastise.
    A good example would be when both Fiona Hyslop and Margo MacDonald let Margaret Curran get away with saying that: “In 2010 the benefits bill in Scotland was three times the revenue from oil and gas.”  Would it really have been negative to contradict such nonsense, and explain why it wasn’t the case?  Or would it just have been sensible?  Curran’s assertion was allowed to go unchallenged on a nationally broadcast debate by a senior SNP figure, while no cybernat worth their salt would’ve let it pass.

    I’ve seen the same thing happen a few times now.  And why waste incredibly valuable party-political broadcast time simply replaying that song about sticking together?  Would it have been negative to, like, put forward an argument of some kind instead?  This is supposed to be a debate after all, abour our future, which is important.

    The last thing we need is a wedge being driven through the Yes camp, dividing “nice” from “nasty” independence supporters, or wets from drys, since this would undoubtedly hand an advantage to Better Together (who, let’s not forget, currently have UKIP, the Orange Order, Vitol, and sundry extreme right and loyalist groups supporting their cause).

  92. Braco

    A Supporter,
    I have read many of Christian Wright’s and some of your suggestions. I just feel that they, in the end (and with the short time we have left to operate in), would be counter productive and sap energies better utilized in the less glamorous activities of direct and sincere face to face interaction with the electorate and their concerns and aspirations.
    My own concern is that not enough energy is being spent on voter registration drives focusing on the disenchanted individuals and groups who have long since been alienated by the way status quo politics has been practiced in Scotland. These people make up a significant group who are already alienated from the status quo and so, if we can find a way of motivating their participation in the referendum, should produce a large YES return.
    It would also have the added advantage of working well beneath the radar of current polling systems which, through their voter weighting techniques, go out their way to try and eradicate such respondents from their results. I think this was a trick Obama pulled during his first campaign.
    Anyway Supporter, I think we just have a different take on the best way forward for the campaign but luckily everyone who campaigns for the YES vote will make an impact and I am more and more confident that this wide and varied effort will bring us sweet sweet fruit.(bigsmile)
    Good talking and
    Vote YES in September 2014!

  93. Braco

    you are bang on there. So many interviews that I watch or listen too, do seem to leave easily disprovable assertions by the better NO spokesperson unchallenged. I have no idea why that is but it is definitely a recurring phenomena and very annoying.
    Better to sharpen up on the opportunities that we do get on the BBC and STV etc than to start some futile protest that will inevitably just end up being spun against us. I do think the ‘professional’ side of the YES campaign has to be asking themselves some serious questions about how they are using the opportunities that they are being afforded by the media though.
    This is separate from the more important activist role and work of disseminating the facts and figures of independence among the electorate face to face.

  94. Scarlett

    The lies and other inacuracies from the No camp should not go unchallenged, or in the minds of the electorate they take root and become ‘facts’. Like this one about 9/11 – ‘A poll reported in the The Washington Post in September 2003 found that nearly 70 percent of respondents believed Saddam Husseinwas probably personally involved in the attacks.’
    During the 1997 GE campaign Labour famously used the excalibur computer for rapid rebuttal. Something akin to this is needed. The Murdoch empire was hostile towards Labour then, but the campaign made it a priority to woo them. Could this at least be tried here? There must be hundreds of unemployed bright graduates who would volunteer to set up and run a rapid rebuttal unit?

  95. Braco

    for me the problem is not finding the willing talent or workforce for such a rebuttal unit but more in who would actually report their rebuttal!

    Labour, Mandelson and Excalibur had a range of friendly and supportive newspapers, proprietors and editors to call on back in the 90s. Who do we have? And there in lies the problem. BetterNO have, at the moment, a monopoly (except for the odd article etc.) of the MSM, BBC and broadcasters.

    It would be really nice and incredibly important if that situation some how changed (step up The Scottish Sun?) but in the mean time, I think we still have a very strong (but hard work) achievable route to a YES vote. With or without that media help.

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