Sunday 27 April 2014

Why the Scottish independence campaign looks increasingly like a winner

The Scottish campaign for independence is gaining ground rapidly and is now just a few points behind the unionists. Needles to say, a lot of people are blaming the unionist team for this, but with the best will in the world, there probably just isn't much that the Better Together outfit can do at this late stage. They are fighting a campaign from the last century, whereas Yes Scotland has moved into the new one with a vengeance.

Better Together is a traditional elite coalition of the three main national parties, some trades unions and until yesterday the Scottish Confederation of British Industry. That body announced that it would no longer campaign for the union when many of its member bodies were forced to resign from it under pressure from public opinion. However, that does not mean that individual companies are not campaigning to keep the link with London, and many of them are even reported to pressuring their workers to vote against Scotland in September.

The unionists are stuck in the past where meetings were held with the audience as consumers of the message being put out by a member of the great and good. Better Together announcements are usually made by a similar representative of greatness and goodness, usually in the form of a threat that something nasty will happen to Scotland if she votes yes in September. That is basically it, with Better Together's elite telling the proles just what is good for them and expecting the great unwashed to consume that message and vote accordingly.

Of course, Yes Scotland is also an elite group, but the advantage that the nationalist campaign has overall is that most sympathisers do not look to Yes Scotland to tell them what to do. Instead, they get out and do it themselves, with the result that there isn't just one campaign, but quite a few, and they are all autonomous.

What many people outside Scotland do not realise is that the nationalists are running a version of the old Liberal pavement politics shtick, but with no central control. They have an army of people in every area who just talk to people. It is not about knocking on doors, it really is about your daughter's boyfriend's cousin who invites the couple to a meeting held at your local church hall. She comes home all worked up and talks to her mum over coffee and biscuits. Then mum talks to you and you and her go along to some other meeting held in a back room at the local pub, where you are every Friday night, anyway. The Unionists cannot compete with that as they do not have the numbers.

The nationalists can do this, partly because they are greater in numbers, but mainly, I suspect, because they are just a lot younger and a lot more on the ball technologically speaking. Paul Mason, the former BBC economic editor, put forward twenty reasons why its all kicking off everywhere, and those reasons apply to Scotland, just as much as they do to Spain, Greece or Egypt.

In the first place, we have "a new sociological type: the graduate with no future." This person has a laptop, tablet and smartphone and is wired into Facebook, Twitter and the rest of social media. They are all connected to one another, usually in the virtual world that they all inhabit, which means that the connections are horizontal, not vertical.

You really do need to be half my age, which is to say 30 or under, to fully comprehend the level of connections that these young people have with one another, but it works for them, and it is being used to push the campaign for Scottish independence forward.

Let's look at how it all works in practise for the benefit of my fellow oldies. On Saturday 26th April a group called Yes Edinburgh North and Leith decided to meet up at the Foot of the Walk, which is the centre of Leith. They spoke to people on the street and tried to generally jolly people into voting yes. As far as I am aware, Yes Edinburgh North and Leith is little more than a Facebook page, with no physical presence in the sense of a campaign headquarters or the like. Yet it can organise a well attended event that should have persuaded some people to vote yes in September. The only commitment that anybody is asked to make to this group is to hit the like button on Facebook, which I did, as I did not attend the event in person.

However, I did notice that the page links to a man named Simon Barrow, who is a fellow Englishman and near neighbour of mine. I clicked on the link and found a page where he sets out his reasons for voting yes for Scotland, so now I have two virtual connections in this campaign, all without having to get off my lardy backside and forcing my aching legs and wheezy lungs to work.

What motivates the "graduate with no future" who is at the heart of this peaceful insurgency, is the knowledge that although his future in an independent Scotland is a gamble, his life in a continuing United Kingdom is likely to be as awful as his present. Positive change is possible with independence, but highly unlikely if the union is maintained.

There is a massive consensus within the yes camp as to the type of Scotland that they want to see emerging, and it will be a social-democratic country, with a high level of public services and possibly high taxation. Beyond the young graduates that we mentioned earlier is the army of working class people, over half of whom are now committed to the yes campaign. Like the graduates, they have less to lose than the established middle class, only about a quarter of whom have come down on the side of independence.

By way of contrast, the unionists are a fairly heterogeneous bunch who are united only by a desire to keep things as they are. They run the range from the old aristocracy, via big business and its middle class supporters, to thuggish fans of Glasgow Rangers:

Looked at in this light, the wonder is not that the independence campaign is now running the unionists a close race, but that the nationalists are not rocketing into an unbeatable lead.


  1. that little film, you have shown is manna to the YES campaign. I just love to see some of my "fellow scots" explaining to me, the benefits of having an English Queen she apparently brings in £20m pounds in tourism and without that, we are in the poo poo. love it.

    1. They are a delight, aren't they? God knows why the Orangemen are so opposed to independence, because Scotland would keep The Queen as you say. There is talk of having a referendum on the monarchy, but I don't think that idea is a goer. Queen Elizabeth is popular and I sense no real feeling that Scotland should become a republic.

  2. I used to think Saldcoats would be a boring place, but this lad and his mates look as if they might liven up Wales/England if a YES vote happens. some of them look as if they will fill the old music halls around those two countries, and one in particular if he drops the idea of wearing an England football strip, will go down a bomb in Aberistyff

    1. Naah, Scotland is their home. I oppose this idea of banning Orange marches, by the way, since the whole Orange movement is an integral part of many people's identity, especially in the West.


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