Scotland Essays: Proud declaration of lack of vision is the hallmark of a failing No campaign

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Just a week after John McTernan tried mightily to sound upbeat about about the No campaign’s relentless negativity and it’s almost universal condemnation by campaign analysts and the Scotsman writes:

Alex Salmond is on the brink of securing a historic victory in the referendum, according to an exclusive poll suggesting Yes Scotland needs a swing of just over 2 per cent to win independence.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. In fact none of this was supposed to happen, not the SNP victory in 2007 or 2011, not votes for under 16s, not the referendum itself.

McTernan is locked into a Blairite orthodoxy, and a cultural cul de sac marked by the essential, immutable laws of this world:

  • opinion polls don’t change in Scotland (ever);
  • there is no support for progressive politics in Scotland (or anywhere);
  • and there is no difference between Scotland and England (at all).

John is what we might call ‘evidence resistant’. His commitment to campaign miserabilism is admirable: ‘You have to beat an untruth to death. It’s not pretty, but it is effective in the long run’ may already be collapsing before him.

The reality is that the trajectory of the opinion polls is clear and momentum is with the Yes campaign. Despite McTernan’s assertions to the opposite, there’s substantial support for re-nationalisation of the Post Office and the railways and massive support for the moves the SNP government have taken to defend the NHS.

There’s evidence too that the real problem with Ed Miliband’s leadership lies with his inability to break cleanly with the Blairite past and create an alternative narrative beyond the discredited New Labour project.

Support for public ownership is higher than anywhere else in the UK. 87% of people polled support public ownership of the NHS, 75% of the Post Office, 69% of the railways and a huge 71% of energy (Source YouGov Nov 2013).

McTernan’s blithe optimism (if we can call it that) is supported by his fellow traveller Brian Wilson who has written “Vision is a word beloved of those with nothing much to say.” This proud declaration of lack of vision is a hallmark of the failing No campaign, which can be reduced neatly to a four letter evocation: ‘UK:OK’. In other word’s: ‘Everything’s fine’.

It’s a shrink’s fantasy, a paean to denialism and a manifesto for inertia. Such deep-seated conservatism can win elections if it can be backed up by a reassuring patrician voice, a dream of a better tomorrow or a shrill scare story to put the fear of god into people.

Several problems emerge for those backing this approach.

First, this isn’t an election. Turnout is likely to be in the high 80% low 90%. It’s not the self-satisfied No campaign that’s out in Easterhouse registering voters.

Secondly, all of the fear factor tactics have been tried, and failed. If anything they now make the No campaign just look ridiculous, undermining legitimate issues they might want to present.

Thirdly, the No campaign lacks leadership and seems incapable of articulating a story about a future Britain. If Wilson is to be believed even to attempt to do so is somehow a bad thing in itself.

As the policy merger between the three main parties at Westminster becomes complete under a hand-stitched banner that could read plainly ‘Austerity Unionism’ there is a real difficulty for the Better Together’s cheerleaders infused with hubris, dead certainty and a grand sense of self-entitlement.

In the absence of any real alternative or prospects from Labour, a progressive movement is emerging across Scotland to create a better future. People are realising that we have a parliament, now we need a democracy.

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  • zep

    “Alex Salmond is on the brink of securing a historic victory in the referendum, according to an exclusive poll suggesting Yes Scotland needs a swing of just over 2 per cent to win independence.” – Doesn’t this put the No side just as much (if not slightly more) ‘on the brink’ of victory? Terrible abuse of the word ‘historic’ by the by, this is a common trait of journalism these days.

    “His commitment to campaign miserabilism is admirable: ‘You have to beat an untruth to death. It’s not pretty, but it is effective in the long run’…” You say campaign miserabilism, I say honesty. I’m sure you wouldn’t expect the Yes campaign to allow inaccurate claims by their opponents to go unchallenged, for the sake of appearing cheery?

    ‘UK:OK’. In other word’s: ‘Everything’s fine’.
    It’s a shrink’s fantasy, a paean to denialism and a manifesto for inertia. Such deep-seated conservatism can win elections if it can be backed up by a reassuring patrician voice, a dream of a better tomorrow or a shrill scare story to put the fear of god into people.” – Well, of course ‘everything’s fine’ is the message – the pro-Union people aren’t the people who want change. If they thought it wasn’t fine, they would probably be voting for independence… You know, it is just possible that some people in Scotland are fairly happy with their lot!

    “the No campaign lacks leadership and seems incapable of articulating a story about a future Britain” – Well, you’re living in it at the moment aren’t you, the evidence is all around. And Alex Salmond seems rather keen on keeping a lot of it on in the event of ‘independence’ – for example, he’s a big fan of the Bank of England all of a sudden. He’s also quite keen to continue the UK’s membership of Europe, and I imagine he will want to keep the UK’s military bases and hardware (can’t imagine that happening).

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    All this ‘on the brink’ stuff. Months to the vote yet. Always easier to make change sound exciting over something with which most have a comfortable familiarity.

  • Fortlands

    I wouldn’t begin to pretend I know much/anything about politics; but if the Yes campaign is now within a couple of percentage points of the No campaign, the tide does look as if it’s moving in one clear direction. But what do I know?

  • Fortlands

    PS I should have said ‘much/anything about Scottish politics’; I do of course know an ENORMOUS amount about Irish politics….

  • Greenflag

    Fortland’s

    Scotland is much more to the left than Ireland ever was . I believe the Tories may have one MP in Scotland but I may be wrong . Scottish politics is NOT Irish politics despite close cultural and familial relations between both countries and despite the large second , third and fourth or more generation Scots who ‘s ancestors would have been Irish . We won’t mention the reverse movement back in the 17th century nor the earlier Ireland to Scotland mass migrations in the 5th century AD nor the much earlier first settlers in Ireland after the Ice Age who apparently crossed a much narrower sea hop to Antrim circa 7,000 BC .

  • http://www.oldfaith.wordpress.com truthfinder

    Much of this independence campaign is full of the inconsistencies of the Irish national one. The Scottish nationalists want to break the ties with the UK so that Scotland can exercise its own unfettered self-governance powers yet favours deeper integration into the EU. Can anyone explain that logic? The SDLP and SF adopt essentially the same position on Irish Unity – we must get rid of the hated English and replace them with those wonderful Europeans to rule over us.

    The whole thing is an exercise of political suicide. The Irish experiment across the water in the failed Southern sectarian state is not one that the Scots should look with any degree of envy. It is effectively a vassal state of the EU, Bank of England and the IMF. The chiefest export has been its people for the last 90 years. However, the flag waving must continue and the mythical Irish nation must be toasted in the NY bars to drunken yanks who believe there are leprechauns running around the streets of Ireland and love the old country so much that they never set foot in it!

  • Mc Slaggart

    truthfinder

    “hated English”

    Who hates the English????

    “deeper integration into the EU”

    The Scottish (I am open to being corrected) are European.

    They like and trust the other European countries and think they are “better together”.

    An excellent resource on the topic can be found here: (UK = united kingdoms of Europe)

    http://bettertogether.net/pages/about

  • grandimarkey

    The Scottish nationalists want to break the ties with the UK so that Scotland can exercise its own unfettered self-governance powers yet favours deeper integration into the EU. Can anyone explain that logic?

    It’s actually remarkably simple, truthfinder. An ever increasing amount of Scottish people are seeing that the future of their nation would be better served as an independent country within Europe than being misruled by Westminster.

    we must get rid of the hated English and replace them with those wonderful Europeans to rule over us.

    The debate in Scotland is infinitely more mature than that. Nice straw man though, you could have a career come harvest time…

  • megatron

    “failed Southern sectarian state”

    Good one.

  • Barnshee

    The “English” (who mostly live south of a line between the Mersey and the Wash) don`t care about Scotland or Ireland (N&S) –they cost too much.

    The only people concerned are those who depend on Scotland in the UK for their sinecures.

  • grandimarkey

    The “English” (who mostly live south of a line between the Mersey and the Wash) don`t care about Scotland or Ireland (N&S) –they cost too much.

    *Yawn*

    Take head. Put in sand. Push.

  • Barnshee

    “The “English” (who mostly live south of a line between the Mersey and the Wash) don`t care about Scotland or Ireland (N&S) –they cost too much.

    *Yawn*

    Take head. Put in sand. Push.”

    Ah –I see most of the English DON`t live south of “the line” and they DO care about Scotland and Ireland –

    Must get the maps redrawn and WTF in “England” cares where the jocks and the paddies go.?

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I just ask Mike about this turnout figure:

    “Turnout is likely to be in the high 80% low 90%.”

    Highest for an Irish Referendum was in 1972 70.9%, although the Plebiscite on the Draft Constitution in 1937 was 75.8% (http://goo.gl/dSXXTa).

    Clearly independence is a bigger deal than either of those two subjects… but at 90% you’ll be pulling in large percentage on both sides of the coin..

    How’s that estimate figured?