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Wings Over Scotland

The shifting goalposts

Posted on October 22, 2012 by

The Herald, 25th January 2012 (“SNP ‘will not use new-found wealth for campaign'”):

“The cash-rich SNP will resist the temptation to flaunt its new-found wealth by raising the limits for campaign spending in the referendum, The Herald understands.

The consultation document being laid out by Alex Salmond today is expected to say that the main campaign on each side should be limited to spending £750,000 – as set out in a consultation paper on a draft referendum Bill two years ago.

There will be a similar section in today’s consultation paper and the SNP’s opponents were looking to cast a keen eye on it, given that the Nationalists have received two huge donations in recent months.

If today’s paper had raised spending limits, opponents could have been expected to cry foul. However, The Herald understands the Government is not planning to go down that road”

The Herald, 22nd October 2012 (“SNP threatens to defy watchdog on vote spend”):

“SNP ministers have been accused of trying to rig the independence referendum by imposing tough spending limits on the pro-UK parties. The SNP Government has proposed the two main campaign organisations, Yes Scotland and Better Together, should be allowed to spend no more than £750,000 in the crucial last 16 weeks of the campaign.

Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Margaret Curran, said: “It didn’t last even a week before the SNP decided to move the goal posts.

“No Government has ever gone against the Electoral Commission’s recommendations and if the SNP doesn’t accept its decision on spending limits in the referendum, then it will be an insult to Scottish democracy.””

Hang on a minute, our heads are spinning.

Let’s just recap. In February 2010 the SNP wanted a spending limit of £750,000 per side. They reiterated that intention at the start of 2012 – despite having received two whopping £1m donations in the intervening period – and have an identical position now. So they’ve had the exact same policy for almost three years. A furious Margaret Curran describes this absolutely rigid consistency as “moving the goalposts”.

Furthermore, in 2010 and January 2012, the Unionist parties were angry at the thought of the SNP seeking to increase the limit – they would, the Herald suggested, “cry foul” should the SNP attempt to let both sides spend more money. Now, however, it suddenly seems they’re enraged at the idea that the limits WON’T be raised.

(Indeed, such a notion has somehow become “an insult to Scottish democracy”, despite the initial consultation proposals being published long before the 2011 election and not detectably infuriating the electorate into voting against the nationalists.)

Someone’s goalposts have certainly shifted, but it doesn’t seem to be the SNP’s. Can the anti-independence parties and their friendly hacks (regular readers will be astounded to discover Magnus Gardham’s byline on today’s piece) honestly think the Scottish people are so stupid as to not notice this sort of thing? That’s a genuine question, although dismayingly we suspect we already know the answer.

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54 to “The shifting goalposts”

  1. Mike McQuaid says:

    Argh, this just makes me furious. The sad thing is I worry this type of spin will actually work and the referendum will be lost as a result. The only thing that keeps me positive is that the Scottish electorate whole-heartedly rejected negative spin like this in the last Holyrood elections. We can hope.

  2. Andrew says:

    Seems like the Electoral Commission are trying to rig the referendum.

  3. Silverytay says:

    I cant talk about the tory,s or the lib/dems but labour are having a laugh if they are making out that they know how democracy works .  Labour and their union paymasters fix everything the way that they want it without worrying about democracy . Labour and the unions must be the two must undemocratic institutions in britain after the house of lords .

  4. Steven of Songnam says:

    We’re through the looking glass, my friends. Soon, things are going to start getting weird.

  5. Training Day says:

    Of course, the context for Gardham’s mendacity is the fact that the pro-Union parties will have two years free campaigning, primarily courtesy of the BBC.

  6. panda paws says:

    “honestly think the Scottish people are so stupid as to not notice this sort of thing? That’s a genuine question, although dismayingly we suspect we already know the answer.”
    I think they believe some are stupid enough not to notice. However they believe  even more are too busy, too concerned with surviving if they’ve no job/a low paid job or just not interested enough in politics to notice. Headlines matter when you’ve only a passing interest. How many reading 22 October’s page are going to check back ten months to see if the spin has changed? Folk here are interested in politics, lot of folk out there unfortunately aren’t.

  7. steven luby says:

    Please do correct me if my i’m way off the mark and I have completely misunderstood.I’ll be very happy if i’m wrong in this.

    The Electoral Commission oversees the amount to be spent by the Yes & No Campaigns and this in turn encourages an agreement between both to stick to the total amount spent during the 16 week campaign. So far so good?

    I’m sure that I read from somewhere that individual political party’s will also be given a set amount outside of the official Yes/No Campaigns,is this correct?

    Because if it is,would it then be possible that we are going to see Northern Irish,English and possibly Welsh political party’s throwing their weight and cash allocation behind the No Campaign.

    Please,if someone could reassure me that I have got this so very wrong,I really would be very grateful! 

  8. Clarinda says:

    As Ms Curran appears to have some difficulty in moving her neurons – she therefore assumes the world around her is out of kilter with her cognitive doldrums. She is by default correct in that the goalposts for Independence are gradually widening while the pro – dependence team are still looking for their balls.

  9. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Because if it is,would it then be possible that we are going to see Northern Irish,English and possibly Welsh political party’s throwing their weight and cash allocation behind the No Campaign.”

    Mm. I’m intrigued about the party limits, because there’s no way “Scottish Labour” has £1.2m of its own money to spend on the campaign. So it’ll actually be funded with UK Labour money, which is surely technically foreign interference in a referendum, which the UN expressly forbids.

  10. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “However they believe  even more are too busy, too concerned with surviving if they’ve no job/a low paid job or just not interested enough in politics to notice.”

    True, of course. On the upside, pretty much nobody buys the Herald or Scotsman any more anyway.

  11. Luigi says:

    I think that transparency is equally as important as the actual amounts spent. Both sides should be required to disclose where exactly the money is coming from. Let’s keep it all open and fair.

  12. Kenny Campbell says:

    Well when I used to buy the Herald it was just for the houses on Wednesday and jobs on a Friday….that’s all on the Internet now.

  13. Albamac says:

    Might be a good idea for anyone who is registered to comment on the Herald site to get over there and use the Herald’s own reports to shoot this lie and its author down.

    I’d do it myself but it takes too long for new subscribers to be ‘approved’.

  14. Andrew says:

    So it’ll actually be funded with UK Labour money, which is surely technically foreign interference in a referendum, which the UN expressly forbids.
    Surely the referendum bill will outlaw foreign donations anyway.

  15. Turnip_Ghost says:

    Curran says no government has ever ignored the advice of the EC. I’m sure I heard somebody on TV say that they had been ignored ONCE by the UK govt…alas trying to find out on my phone is difficult…

    Or perhaps I misheard the telly box in the first place! 

  16. Andrew says:

    Perhaps the referendum bill should restrict spending to Scottish-registered political parties. Just a thought.

  17. mato21 says:


    You heard correctly Prof Curtice was the one who said that a precedent had been set but he did not, nor was he asked to elaborate as to who or when or in what context 

  18. BillDunblane says:

    Albamac – Aye, I’ve been a ‘new subscriber’ for about three years according to the Herald.   Anything between several hours and several days, or more commonly not at all, before they ever showed any posts I made.   I just make sure I never use a link to any Herald article on the FB, Twitter and websites I control.  Speeds up their demise a wee bit I hope.

    Never had a post refused anywhere else – well, apart from the BBC for being O/T, but I think that’s a medal to wear with pride. 😉

  19. mato21 says:

    Further to my post above here is a link to a recent recomendation made by the E.C which was ignored I have to idea if this was what Prof Curtice was alludung to

  20. muttley79 says:

    This just helps to illustrate further the new situation we are in, and how some are finding it increasingly difficult to adapt to it.  The panic in unionist ranks is clearly growing.  It is not hard to see the hypocrisy in the comments by Curran.  Effectively she is saying that she thinks it is an insult to democracy if both campaigns spend the same amount in the run in to the referendum.  In other words a level playing field is anti-democratic!  This is a stunning remark, even for her own Glasgow Labour standards.  The rules of the game changed in May last year Margaret.  It seems she still has not figured this out, let alone accepted the result of the election.  This confirms that the Scottish Labour unionist mindset lives on.  Their sense of entitlement to rule Scotland is undiminished.  Unfortunately for them reality is showing this to be false.  They are on the sidelines, are increasingly impotent to shape events, and hardly anyone is even paying attention to what they say anymore.  Someone from the media said last week that they were the only party not to have played any role in the agreement made on the referendum.  This would have been unthinkable even ten years ago, almost impossible to imagine 20 years ago.   Now it is the reality.

  21. mato21 says:

    Excuse the spelling errors above I  have lost the ability to edit for some reason 

  22. G H Graham says:

    Regrettably all of us who pay the License fee are funding the Unionist argument care of the free propaganda broadcast on their behalf by the BBC.

    If it were not for my wife (She’s American and likes watching US stuff on satellite), I would have cancelled the fee long ago and done away with the telly but for using it for replays of DVD’s etc which whatever way the BBC argues is definitely not against the law. In fact, they have to prove that one is receiving broadcasts in order to prosecute.  I digress of course; it is an emotive subject.

    I would encourage everyone with the will & the means to ditch the fee. Current means of protesting is a waste of time; the BBC is immune from political critisism because its charter permits the opinions of individuals even when they are biased.

    A pro independence print edition would be nice but print media is in steep decline. The only other alternative is to click your way from one page to the other, leaving as many links/trails/recommendations to sites like this as frequently as possible.

  23. Doug Daniel says:

    On the subject of UK Labour possibly funding the NO campaign to make up for Scottish Labour’s lack of money, I’m just wondering how much of a toss the NO campaign will give about remaining within the limits.

    This is “Armagideon Time” for unionists, as Willie Williams might say. They have to win this referendum at all costs. We’ve already seen from various scandals from all three unionist parties that they’re not above breaking the rules if they think they can get away with it. Since the spending will likely be scrutinised AFTER the referendum, all they need to do is win it by any means necessary, and then if it gets found out something dodgy happened in regards to campaign funding, who cares? It’ll be a minor media story for a few weeks, and then forgotten about. It wouldn’t be enough to cause a re-run of the referendum, and nationalists demanding one would be accused of being unable to take the loss.

    Anyone who thinks I’m being paranoid need only look at the Union Terrace Gardens referendum, where it was later found out the pro-CGP campaign (essentially all the big business leaders) had massively overspent, while the pro-UTG camp had stayed within the limits. Just remember which side is going to have the more unscrupulous rich men on their side…

    (Although obviously the SNP were in favour of the Shitty Garden Project and Labour were against, but the point remains the same.)

  24. CJCairns says:

    Jonathan Russell has just been given the bullet as Herald editor. Don’t hold your breath for this being the first signal in a radical shift in it’s politics – not with Gardham still lying for Britain from the newsroom.

  25. Cuphook says:

    Agree with you, Doug. Didn’t the NO side overspend in the last referendum in Quebec? Oops! But it was what the people wanted anyway.

    There needs to be more scrutiny of where the money is coming from. Why won’t Darling tell us who his paymasters are?

    Individuals and smaller groups will also have a spending limit on them. Perhaps Wings should have a whip round so that we can have a few left field billboards in the country.      


  26. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    Regarding funding, the Referendum Bill to be introduced by the Scottish Government will provide for the spending limits in the regulated period for the independence referendum. Both governments have agreed that the rules and standards set out in PPERA (Political Parties, Elections and Referendums) provide the basis for setting the limits. 

    For UK wide referendums the UK Government is not statutorily required to accept the Commission’s recommendations, it regards the guidance of the Electoral Commission as a key consideration and has so far always followed the advice of the Electoral Commission when setting spending limits for referendums held under the PPERA framework. If the Secretary of State does not accept the views of the Commission on the appropriate limits, he or she is statutorily obliged to lay a statement before both Houses of Parliament explaining his or her reasons for departing from its recommendations.

    I don’t know if a similar power is now held by the Scottish government, or if they are beholden to the Electoral Commission on spending limits.

    Donations to registered political parties are already subject to a regulatory regime established in Part 4 of PPERA. As such there won’t be an additional set of rules regulating donations to registered political parties solely for the purposes of the referendum.

    Political parties will not be the only bodies wishing to campaign for a particular outcome at the referendum. The Referendum Bill to be introduced by the Scottish Government will deal with controls of donations to permitted participants that are not registered parties or are minor parties. 

    Under PPERA, permitted participants will not be able to accept certain anonymous donations or certain donations from individuals or organisations from outside the UK.

    It is customary for there to be a period before elections in the UK, during which Ministers and other public bodies refrain from publishing material that would have a bearing on the election. Section 125 of PPERA sets out the restrictions that apply to Ministers and public bodies in the 28 days preceding referendums held under that Act.

    So in other words, the Unionists can use their Westminster departments and the Scottish office to disseminate anti-independence propaganda right up until 28 days before the referendum.

  27. redcliffe62 says:

    Presumably London will be funding the NO campaign as there is little tangible money support for labour in Scotland and as for the Coalition ……
    So…. can it be agreed that monies must come from solely Scottish sources as per UN rules in referendums? The complaints would be massive from the M25 lobbyists but this is an internal Scottish matter for Scottish parties and their funding alone surely?
    If the Electoral Commission demnds funding from England should also be allowed it would then look bad for the No camapaign. 

  28. cath says:

    “Surely the referendum bill will outlaw foreign donations anyway.”

    Surely everything there will hinge on what is considered “foreign”? The unionsts will argue that the UK is not “foreign” hence all donations from within the UK are fair. Can the Scottish government find some way of ensuring donations are only able to come from within Scotland?

    I like the idea above of only allowing registered Scottish parties to participate and have funding levels.

  29. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    I don’t think the majority of the scottish public care less about funding for the referendum. Both sides can introduce measures. We’ll have to wait and see.

    In my opinion the timing of the article is all about the SNP vote on NATO. Don’t underestimate that decision. Whether you agree with it or not, I firmly believe it’s a huge game changer. The MSM know this and they have been trying desperately (without success ) to promote an SNP rebellion  as a consequence. Why they rationally think it would make any difference is beyond me, considering all of the unionist parties are in favour of NATO membership.

    By accident, I listened to the last couple of minutes of a radio scotland programme last night.  It was hosted by Douglas (Salmonds a dictator) Fraser. He asked the question to his two guests Magnus and Brian Taylor.  To my surprise they both said no, as the big prize is Independence. Therefore, the SNP will move on together. I thought Fraser was going to throw up. He sounded shattered by their response.    

  30. Crachan says:

    Rev. Stuart Campbell says:
    October 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    “However they believe  even more are too busy, too concerned with surviving if they’ve no job/a low paid job or just not interested enough in politics to notice.”
    True, of course. On the upside, pretty much nobody buys the Herald or Scotsman any more anyway.

    That is quite true Rev, (and doesn’t WOS get more hits than the Scotsman have sales?).  However, the BBC Scotland TV and Radio current affairs and news programmes regularly, and at length, report on “what the papers say”, therefore the unionist have many more media bangs for their buck for any given headline. 

  31. megabreath says:

    Desperate guff from Gardham and Curran.he doesnt seem much concerned about The Heralds declining readership if this is the standard he sets.Risible and of questionable influence.

  32. MajorBloodnok says:

    The Section 30 order will transfer the powers under the PPERA to the Scottish Parliament for the purposes of the Referendum, so the way the Electoral Commission’s views will be responded to will be similiar to the way you point out above.

    Whilst I was skimming through the Memorandum of Agreement, I was quite taken with this clause:

    Ensuring impartiality of broadcasters
    21. The governments agree that it will be important to ensure that broadcast coverage of the Referendum is impartial. Broadcasters, Ofcom and the Electoral Commission will discuss the best way to achieve this.

    I wasn’t entirely clear whether this applied to just the 16 week Referendum Campaign period or whether it was meant to be a general warning to the BBC to sort itself out.  You’d have thought with Tory interest in the outcome of the referendum, as a way of knobbling Labour, that some pressure could be applied to the Labour fiefdoms in the BBC to ‘play fair’.  I live in hope.

  33. Breastplate says:

    I wonder if we could do feedback on an idea that may or may not have been floated before. Some people have suggested boycotting the unionist newspapers and websites, which is fine but I get the impression from reading a fair amount of pro indepedence blogs and comments that people can’t help themselves from having a peak now and again at different ones. Do you think there maybe merit in boycotting a particular scottish newspaper and website (preferably one of the weaker ones to optimise effect) and having a definite no go zone. A precision strike, so to speak. Worth organising?

  34. panda paws says:

    I think Crachan’s point is well made. It only takes the BBC to report the Herald’s headline without any context for some to start thinking badly of the SNP. As vile as the Jimmy Savile scandal is, I wonder whether the cover-up allegations will result in people being a little less trusting of what Auntie Beeb says and question “her” integrity.

  35. muttley79 says:

    I honestly don’t know why anyone want to buy the Scotsman, unless out of habit or such like, because it is now no better than the Daily Mail, it is a horrible rag.  The involvement of people, such as Andrew Neil and the Barclay brothers, with it has had a disastrous effect on the paper.

  36. Wallace Bruce says:

    Is it just me or is it the case that you never see oor Johann and Margrit at the same time, let alone working together.  My theory is that they share a very limited politcal brain between them and can only use it one at a time!  Anybody got a better theory for their stupidity? 

  37. Arbroath 1320 says:

    And so it begins.
    Who is up for a wee bit o a rumble then?

    I wonder how uneven the audience will be for this one then?
    Apparently Lamont and Curran were out and about on Saturday, unfortunately she was to quick for the photographer. 😀

  38. Stuart M says:

    The biggest insult I know of to Scottish democracy, is the fact that Margaret Curran ever got elected.

  39. Macart says:

    Just out of curiosity mind, in terms of getting the message across what’s the best bang for our buck? Bearing in mind that not everyone is on facebook or twitter.

    Scottish blogs and sites or London media sites? 

  40. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Just out of curiosity mind, in terms of getting the message across what’s the best bang for our buck? Bearing in mind that not everyone is on facebook or twitter. Scottish blogs and sites or London media sites?”

    As far as UK places go, links in Guardian and Telegraph comments tend to bring in the most hits.

  41. Ronald Henderson. says:

    Stuart M.
    It’s not really an insult to democracy. What it shows is that democracy has its faults in that if you have an uneducated populace (or a brainwashed populace) then the results of whatever vote takes place are meaningless; the results don’t reflect the thoughts of the intelligent sections of the populace.
    Democracy is a wonderful system, but it only works if everyone is up to speed and educated, and able to think for themselves. We have two years to educate our people.

  42. McHaggis says:

    “SNP Discover cure for all Illness”
    A lone Tory spokestoff said, “this is a sad day for our hard working NHS as they will all be out of a job”
    Labour leader Johann Lamont was unavailable for comment, but Margaret Curran confirmed “this is a terrible day for the many doctors and nurses who we were leading to a better path on privatisation”
    Willie Rennie said “its a real shame that the SNP chose today to discover the cure for every illness, particularly when they’ve still not released the advice on joining the EU”.
    Resident “Herald” contributor Gordon Robson stated he was agreeing with everybody but the SNP and Cllr Terry Kelly gibbered in the background before somebody wiped away the spittle from his mouth and led him carefully back to the Ian Smart care home for the terminally bewildered.

  43. Macart says:

    I tend to spend a chunk of time on the Guardian’s Scottish section Rev. Definitely feels most days like pushing a pea uphill with your nose. Still myself and a number of others punt the Scottish sites as often as we can, dropping in alternative takes on whatever articles are relevant.

    I just ccccccccouldn’t force mmmmmasel’ onto the Telegraph not withoot a bumper prescription of Seroxat tae hand. 🙂 

  44. scottish_skier says:

    McHaggis. Funny you should mention the EU thingy.

    Better together had the results of a Yougov survey (treat with extreme caution if you know anything about polling in Scotland… no in fact ignore it unless you understand its failings) with people wanting to know about EU legal advice/status came out as a biggie.

    They seemed all pleased by this. Not sure why, as in good time this info will be released, confirming no Scotland chucked out. Can they not see that people are not angry at the SNP for this, but just actually want to know EU status so they will be more confident voting yes? It seems not. 

  45. Appleby says:

    I’d agree that the internet is a powerful tool, but a great many still follow what they read in the papers and watch on TV. Some sort of counter to this is needed, even if it is as basic as a paper or leaflets.

  46. Bill C says:

    Evening all, sorry to go o/t Rev but I think this is really important. I have just watched a YouTube video of Blair Jenkins addressing the SNP Conference over on Munguin’s Republic. It is titled “Well seriously would you vote for what we have in Britain today”. It is brilliant and I think we should get it out to as many people as possible. Sorry I can’t produce a link (limited IT skills). Have a look over on Munguin’s, I think you’ll agree that if everyone in Scotland see this, a YES vote is in the bag!

  47. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Here’s the link from You Tube Bill.

    A very simple set of points with an even simpler question. 😀

  48. Bill C says:

    Thanks Morag, how did you do that?

  49. Bill C says:

    Thanks Arbroath and same question to you. How did you do that?

  50. Oldnat says:

    Bill C

    At the top of your screen you should see a line which reads 

    If you click on it, it will appear with a blue background. If you then copy that and paste it into a post (which is what I did – though it puts in an http// prefix) then it becomes a link to this site as

    Personally, I think this is controlled by magic, since I have no idea how it works! 🙂 

  51. Bill C says:

    Cheers Oldnat

  52. Cuphook says:


    I sometimes post on the Telegraph when I have no recourse to drink or drugs. It’s a cheap way of perceiving the world differently. Yesterday I learnt that the lack of proof regarding the SNP’s racism is proof both of it’s racism and of my naivety in believing that it would be reported in the press. It was suggested that I’m probably one of those damnable young people.

    It can be fun winding them up – and most things do. I think that it’s a lack of sleep as they’re kept awake listening for the sound of Europe getting closer.    


  53. Macart says:


    Yup that’s the other biggie Nationalist, Nat, Natz, Nazi…………. OMG you’re all nazis. Word association, what a bugger. 😀

    I did spend some time on the Telegraph site, last posting was about March or April. The posters were so deranged, so way out there in their beliefs, I swear I spent half the time  either laughing or looking perpetually puzzled that people actually believed these things. Nah, for the sake of sanity I jumped ship to the Guardian where you meet a better class of comedy relief.

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