By Bandy Aowdenek
It was always going to happen. The smarter among the Unionist camp – like Henry McLeish – knew that the massive leads for the UK in the polls post-Olympics and the Jubilee simply weren’t sustainable. After Cameron’s EU referendum pledge, the triple recession, downgrading of the UK’s credit rating and introduction of the bedroom tax, the NO campaign’s assertion that staying in the UK provides us with some sort of security is becoming more and more fantastical.
This has been reflected in (most) of the recent polls, which have shown a narrowing of the gap between supporters of Yes and No, with support for independence increasing at the expense of No voters. Despite a claim to be making the positive case for the Union the NO campaign’s strategy has been almost entirely negative (more on this later) with the aim of making the Union look like motherhood and apple pie and Independence supporters crazed extremists hell bent on removing Scotland from a successful partnership out of extremist political ideology.
This strategy means the NO campaign have done everything possible to paint the Yes camp as duplicitous and irresponsible, even when it verges on the extremely pathetic. One such example was their releasing of their list of donors to the Sunday Herald. It was portrayed as “stealing a march on Yes Scotland” by the Unionist press and their official twitter account retweeted questions for when Yes Scotland would release their list of donors. This is despite the fact that Blair Jenkins, chief of Yes Scotland earlier called for a joint statement of donors between the two organisations at the same time.
It’s almost like a small child running to their parents with a Christmas present, knocking a sibling to the side and saying “See him? He doesn’t love you as much as I DO, THE MAD CYBERNAT”. The NO campaign probably thought this would just be another comfortable courting of the Scottish media, alongside a chance to claim their campaign was more “grassroots” because it had more independent donors (of over £500) than Yes Scotland.
Unfortunately for the NO campaign it was not to be. Probably around the same time Scotsman journalists had stopped farting around with MS paint and the Saltire, a bit of real investigative journalism was about to be held into the background of Better Together’s largest donor Ian Taylor. The NO campaign probably thought they had that angle covered – Taylor is a Tory donor and non-resident in Scotland. All we’ll get is cybernats shouting TORY QUISLING etc, no big deal.
However a bit of well placed digging by the pro-independence group of artists and writers, National Collective, found claims made by (non-Scottish) news services about Vitol, the oil and gas company Ian Taylor is currently CEO of. For legal reasons we cannot make comments about Vitol’s involvement or Ian Taylor but will instead link to the articles here and here.
The reason we cannot express an opinion or go into detail is that Ian Taylor is currently suing National Collective for libel. It remains to be seen why he has chosen to sue this relatively small group today and not the Observer ten years ago. The cynical among you may take the view that Ian is trying to head off criticism now, lest it impact upon his ability to play a major role in Scotland’s constitutional future but we certainly wouldn’t be able to comment.
Pitting the millionaire CEO of an oil company vs a small group of non-profit making pro-independence artists and writers may, to the outside observer, look like somewhat of an underdog struggle that the mainstream NO campaign would do well to stay independent of. Not the thoughts of Better Together HQ however. Far from maintaining a comfortable distance from a CEO accused of complicity with funding war criminals the NO campaign issued a statement against “Dirty Tricks and Smears”.
In what is probably not helpful for my wellbeing or mental health, I follow and regularly check Better Together’s updates, press releases and graphic design on twitter, facebook as well as their website. “Dirty Tricks and Smears” stands not just as the most insane and unstable item on their website but in fact one of the least coherent press releases of any Scottish political campaign, organisation or party in recent history. It begins by defending Ian Taylor, immediately linking the NO campaign to a libel case. It does not offer any rebuttal of the specific accusations around Saddam’s regime, or Arkan etc. Then it goes on to a series of claims that point to a Waco/Peoples Temple situation developing in Better Together HQ. Lets take the points one by one,
“Journalists who expose holes in the nationalist case come under sustained attacks from every level, from SNP ministers to anonymous cybernats.”
This is at least fairly sensible – many ‘cybernats’ end up descending into bile when arguing with journalists. It is hardly something intrinsic to either the Independence referendum or even Yes Scotland though, it’s a pretty predictable and inevitable consequence of faceless internet debate. When’s the last time you read comments on a news article and came back refreshed with humanity’s ability to rationally debate and search for truth? Exactly.
“Depressingly the Scotsman Newspaper building was yesterday spray-painted with the word ‘Traitors’. We hope the SNP politicians who attacked the Scotsman so vehemently will join us in condemning this.”
Unless we’ve entered the Gladio phase of black false flag operations (which I doubt) this act was probably committed by a dafty cybernat in “retaliation” for the Scotsman’s ill judged swastika saltire combo. Had the NO campaign ran a press release with just this, they could have continued with the “Nationalists are deranged nutters who want to make your children into haggis for the EU” theme. Instead they continued with this, which is where we go into slightly off kilter territory,
“Business people complain of a culture of fear created by the nationalists to prevent them from speaking out.”
At first I did not speak for the Tory multimillionaire oil barons, as I was not a multimillionaire Tory oil baron…
The idea rich and powerful businessmen are intimidated out of involvement in politics is ridiculous to the extreme. There is practically no area of British politics free from the influence of corporate lobbying. If by “culture of fear” the No campaign mean “putting up news reports of investigations into the corporate backgrounds of their donors” then they need to accept neither side of the debate is going to accept millionaires bunging money at the campaigns without a consideration of what their interests may be. The real culture of fear is one that threatens small independent blogs with crushing libel writs.
“Better Together events are disrupted by militant nationalists.”
We’ve had seperatist. We’ve had cybernat. But “militant nationalists”? Has the NO campaign taken on the IDF to do their PR work? I must have missed my Friday Blairmail from the Yes Campaign authorising car bombing campaigns or the formation of an armed wing. What kind of disruption are we talking here? Folk breaking up meetings, shouting at chairs or just asking difficult questions etc? Funny that this hasn’t been mentioned before or that there isn’t footage from a mobile phone of Yes supporters acting abusively.
“And our campaign HQ comes under attack with almost daily attempts of sabotage from SNP activists.”
This is the piece de resistance. What kind of “sabotage” are we talking here? Undercover SNP moles cutting about in black berets and stripey tops planting bombs for the resistance? Or maybe a bit more down to earth – office centred sabotage perhaps? Hiding of post it’s, theft of paperclips, stealing Alistair Darling’s BEST DAD mug etc? Daily attempts of sabotage are generally one of the sexier parts of Independence movement, if you’ve heard of any planned please inform us at A Thousand Flowers.
When will Yes supporters STOP PUTTING BLAIR MCDOUGALLS THINGS IN JELLY
The No campaign thinks this kind of stuff is a tactical masterstroke, forcing a blog to suspend itself in the wake of a legal threat. It’s a perfect example of the Streissand effect – if you try and suppress something online, it will go viral. Many many more people will read it than they would have if you just left it alone.
It’s not like this is the first time the No campaign have had to deal with this either. In their launch video they featured a young man called Ryan who made “wee dogs and sausage rolls” a key part of his contribution in defence of the Union. Naturally Yes supporters keen to let the other side of the debate be heard shared this daft little gobshite’s haverings, only for the No campaign to make a copyright claim….against it’s own material being shared.
Naturally this succeeded into making “wee dogs and sausage rolls” up there with Ian Gray’s tactical retreat into a subway sandwich shop as part of pro-Indy folk mythology. It’s not the only time Better Together have tried to have their own material pulled from you tube either. Notorious militant-nationalists National Collective produced a video exposing the NO campaign’s flimsy case. When it used footage of NO supporters in it’s riposte, the NO campaign had it removed from you tube. This had the predictable effect of ensuring every pro-Indy blogger, twitter and facebook user shared it everywhere.
The fundamental problem for the NO campaign is that they do not understand how the internet works. Their strategy is linked to a decaying print media, largely the Scotsman and the Daily Record who can be counted on to run anti-Independence propaganda no matter how spurious or ridiculous. They simply don’t have the army of pro-indy tweeters, bloggers and artists the Yes campaign has. Why? Because support for Independence is much more widespread amongst young people who are more likely to be adept at such technology.
The nature of the pro-Indy camp is also different – it’s fighting for something positive. It can mobilise more people than defence of the status quo, even if it’s still behind in the polls it has many more activists. It is much easier to mobilise people to change something that to retain society as it is today – especially when said status quo is so nauseous.
The No campaign is fundamentally conservative, simply unable to raise the same issues of social justice and fairness that Yes can because everyone knows what the real record is of the British state in the past 30 years. The NO campaign have even ended up producing briefing papers in defence of the Trident Nuclear weapons programme, despite the opposition of 80% of the Scottish people.
It’s embracing this conservative ideology that has led the NO campaign to become the most consistently politically dishonest campaign that Scotland has seen in decades. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at pro-Independence arguments. When Salmond makes an error with figures – he is a liar, who has calculated to do so deliberately. When Salmond says “Yes we have sought legal advice, in terms of the general debate” he has not made an ambiguous statement over the course of a half hour interview (even when he was cleared) – he has deliberately lied.
While No campaigners may believe it is possible for the UK to negotiate with the rest of the EU to renegotiate a settlement giving Britain exceptions on everything it wants, when Scotland wants to keep the status quo in Europe it is dismissed as ridiculous. The idea that Scotland can sit down and negotiate with other countries is attacked viciously – even to the point of denying an Independent Scotland could share consular facilities abroad. The fact that the UK is doing this with other countries is ignored – Scotland is unique in the world as being incapable of finding arrangements. When the NO campaign says an Independent Scotland will have to negotiate it does so with the implicit assumption Scotland will just be laughed away.
Even on the issue of the referendum itself, the NO campaign alleged the Government were trying to “rig” the vote on the basis of the question and campaign funding arrangements. This was based on the question being “Do you agree that Scotland should be an Independent country?” and funding limits being set as lower than they wanted. There are legitimate discussions to be held around the wording and the funding (as both were changed) but the idea it constitutes the “rigging” of a referendum is offensive to people who actually suffer from police states.
We’ve copied a lot of ideas from the USA over the years – low pay, privatisation, insane nationalism – but now the NO campaign has gone a step further and is stealing the vicious mentality of US politics and bringing it to Scotland. A politics in which there is no room for any leeway for an Independent Scotland, any negotiations must mean they will automatically lose even when there is no sensible reason for it. Nobody from the NO camp has even said why the EU would expel Scotland or force it to use the Euro when it has happily lived with a British (and Danish) formal opt out for years.
We can expect the NO campaign to get more negative, because there are no positive examples for the Union. They’ve already tied themselves to Ian Taylor, because ultimately it’s wealthy businessmen with questionable arrangements that the British State defends. Recent polling shows the majority of business leaders in Scotland know what state defends their interests, with the overwhelming majority backing the Union. Ian Taylors questionable libel case is a golden opportunity for the Yes campaign to set out the terrain for the Independence debate – in the Yes camp independent journalists and bloggers doing a job the Scottish press frequently ignores, in challenging the corporate influence in politics. In the No camp is the repeated use of legal challenge and copyright claim to silence debate.
The fight for Independence is becoming a straight left-right battle and we should do everything we can to bring together Yes supporters, independent journalists, artists and human rights campaigners to defend National Collective and our right to freedom of speech – frequently impinged upon in the Union which could be much better defended through a constitution in an Independent Scotland.