Lessons From A Positive Campaign

In The article “EU referendum: Brexit makes winning a Scottish independence referendum more difficult” published on 7th January 2016 Bernard Jenkin makes the completely unfounded proclamation that “the 2014 referendum saw bitter division in workplaces, families, villages and communities across Scotland. The idea of opening up another Scottish political civil war is unappealing to most Scottish voters” when what actually happened was the electorate of Scotland engaged in a wide ranging political discussion centred around our countries identity as a small Northern European nation of the 21st century.

Sometimes the discussions were heated and voices may have been raised and there may even have been some unpleasantness but nothing worse than I hear in the House of Commons day in day out.

The idea that this was “a civil war” is preposterous. Undaunted Bernard goes on to state that the SNP leadership don’t want another referendum they cannot win. Not exactly earth shattering. Why would they? He then rubbishes the pro-independence campaign and points out, as if he needs to, that despite amongst other things a “blind surge of support” that the pro-independence YES campaign lost.

Let’s look at that “blind surge of support”. The YES campaign came from 29% (YouGov August 2013) to 45% because the citizens of Scotland read, listened, questioned and educated themselves. And, as is their right, changed their minds from NO to YES. This was quite an achievement bearing in mind that this was against a backdrop of mainstream media bias and civil service interference, both supporting the NO campaign.

I wonder if during the upcoming EU referendum Bernard will describe a progressive move towards a vote to leave the EU as “blind”. Will he be so disingenuous of those that agree with him? He then identifies two reasons why the YES campaign failed. Currency, we could kick that around all day and not agree but I shall concede that it could have been handled differently and the UK government could have handled it more honestly but to declare that Scotland “relies on a massive subsidy from England” is outrageous.

During the referendum GERS (government expenditure and revenue Scotland) showed that on average, Scotland paid £400 more in tax per person to the UK Treasury than elsewhere in the UK last year (2013 / 2014). That was the 34th year in which Scotland had contributed more than the rest of the UK and is a testament to the inherent strengths of the Scottish economy.

And then Bernard throws all reason out the window and instead goes for cheap jibes. The usual lazy braveheart reference, which we have all come to expect, clumsily paired with a glib and rather forced “fakeheart” once again disrespecting the sincerity of the informed free will of the citizens of Scotland.

But the maligning rhetoric is then overtaken by inaccuracies. The assertions that; “the SNP took all but two Scottish seats in the 2015 general election”, “Westminster has devolved the new powers on the Scottish Parliament.” “most of the SNP’s 100,000 new members comprise the new Corbynista-type, anti-English radicals.” Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

To then state that another referendum is to “placate the anti-English rage in their own party” is to completely misrepresent the SNP memberships feeling towards England and the English. I think of all the inaccuracies that is the one that grates most with me. Bernard falls into the trap of portraying the members of the pro-independence movement as face painted radicals, devoid of the intellect to weigh up the pros and cons, driven by dislike and grievances.

I have no idea how he came to those conclusions or what his input to the Better Together campaign was but he should have spent more time conversing with the wider Scottish electorate to gain a more rounded view.

I don’t agree with Bernard on a number of things but maybe when we discuss this article, as we will, he will agree that his article of the 7th of January 2016 was not his finest and that to convince the pro EU voters to change their minds he shall need to be less dismissive of their views and be more prepared to engage in a respectful dialogue.

Picture from Alf Melin