Scotland. A historic and generational engagement.

I recently spent ten days in Glasgow. My intention was to pick up the vibe on the YES side in my native city with particular emphasis on the Fifth Estate and the unofficial YES campaign.

I found that there was plenty of it and on day one of my trip I was pulled into a voter registration stall in Buchanan Street in the city centre. It had been set up by some university students and they were all YES voters.

This voter registration effort was entirely unofficial and impromptu. They just wanted to do something.

I had not expected this groundswell and, according to Robin McAlpine of the Commonweal I had arrived “just as it started to get interesting”.

The 41 year old political strategist grew up in an SNP household, but was once the Press Officer of George Robertson MP who went on to be the head of NATO.

Sitting in the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Glasgow McAlpine calmly stated to me during a lengthy interview that the YES side would win. Well of course he would say that.

The YES and NO sides had been slugging it out with the Unionist side in the lead in every poll until today.

I met Ivan McKee of ‘Business for Scotland’ at my first presser, which was live streamed , and  it launched a leaflet warning of the bad stuff that might happen if people voted NO.

I put to them that this could be seen as the YES campaign going negative. Of course they demurred, but then they would.

Ivan and I discussed that for some people in Northern Ireland someone called Ivan wanting to break up the United Kingdom was a difficult one for them to grasp.

He stated that if such a Garden Centre visiting person lived in Scotland then they would almost certainly vote YES. The interesting thing about the Yes side of the campaign is the lack of an ethnic edge.

There is no blood and soil. The only tribal buttons that are being pushed are on the No side.

Wartime memories of “beating Hitler” were recently referenced by David Cameron and the Orange Order is marching the week end before the referendum takes place.

For the brethren this IS about blood and soil. The constitutional issue in Scotland will be settled if the No campaign wins a crushing victory.

At time of writing that seems unlikely. The Yes side think they can win, but of course they have to say that. When I was in Scotland I sensed that the NO side were not behaving like they believed in their lead or that it would hold.

Today the YouGov Poll put the YES side in the lead. Not by much, but it could be a psychological tipping point.

Women had been polling as being heavily on the NO side. However a massive PR own goal was scored when I was there when this TV advert, created by a London agency, was mocked and parodied on social media.

The advert went viral, but not in the way that the Better Together would have wished for. Robbie Dinwoodie, a veteran Scottish political correspondent with the Herald, told me unequivocally that “something is happening”.

That something seems to be the engagement of sections of Scottish society that had heretofore been disenfranchised either for legal reasons or by way of social exclusion. The poor and the young have become engaged in the political process.

Sean O’Connor of Generation Yes told me that 16 and 17 year olds-voting for the first time-were heavily in favour of independence.

Complete with his Palestinian wrist band I thought of anyone called Sean O’Connor from my generation (I was born in the 1950s) would have a very different view of Scotland becoming independent.

People don’t change much, but generations do. Change just might be coming to Scotland. There are actually many YES campaigns and together, according to McAlpine, they’ve knitted into a movement that will endure and continue even if there is a NO victory.

Perhaps he is right. If he is then change will come to Scotland. Only the timescale is debatable.

I am back in Scotland on the week of IndyRef and I will be one of Slugger’s guys in the count centre at Ingleston.

This could get historic…

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  • classieview

    AKA Tom Gallagher…

    There is no blood and soil. The only tribal buttons that are being pushed are on the No side.

    Phil MacGiolla Bhain ABOVE

    But a different perspective from Mark Ferguson, writing on 5 September on Labour List

    Yesterday in Blantyre, Lanarkshire – the birthplace of Keir Hardie – I
    saw the ugly face of the independence campaign and the snapping,
    snarling xenophobia and blind hatred of some nationalists. Ed Miliband’s
    speech in the local Miner’s Welfare Centre had only just finished when a
    group of Yes supporters arrived, intent on causing disruption. At first
    things seemed good natured. A man waved a Saltire, and Scottish Labour
    Leader Johann Lamont joined Shadow Scotland Secretary Margaret Curran in
    posing with him, saying “It’s our flag too”.

    As the cameras moved in to grab the shot though, the mood turned
    unpleasant. Yes placards were brandished, leading to pushing and
    jostling for position. Then the heckling began. Labour was an “English
    party” and any Scot who backed Labour should be “ashamed”. One man,
    arriving on the scene wielding a motorcycle helmet began loudly shouting
    that Scotland was “for the Scottish” – a sentiment that drips with

    This was getting ugly, and quickly.

    Yet this was far from the nadir.In an attempt to soothe tensions,
    Curran and Scottish Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar approached the protesters
    and attempted to talk with them. Curran asked one man to shake her hand.
    He refused. She told him that she was proud to be a Scot. He told her it
    was “disgusting” that she was a Scot.

    and lastly, on twitter, George galloway MP, this morning
    George Galloway ‏@georgegalloway 7 September

    ‘never in my dreams expected the level of newly tartan bedecked foul obscene
    abuse from Celtic supporters as I’m now getting. Shock’


    George Galloway
    ‏@georgegalloway 7 9 14 3h

    ‘Sean, I am responding to vicious attacks from Celtic supporters club tweets.
    And on behalf of Billy McNeill who can’t/won’t’

    One legendary Glasgow soccer club has been laid low by disastrous ownership. But could a repeat performance now be in the offing for its great rival, the perpetrators this time being a sizable number of depraved fans who trash their own finest traditions in pursuit of a deeply misguided cause?

  • mickfealty

    I think Tom, this is one of the advantages of running the campaign as a distributed movement. There’s no one cleaner, more gentlemanly, good natured and civil than Blair Jenkins the CEO of Yes Scotland. I also think Phil’s piece usefully highlights the power and utility of distributed effort.

    But a movement also facilitates the kind of deniable role that historically the British Housewife League played for the Tories during the 45-51 Labour government, setting fire a bunch issues that which helped undermine the authority and credibility of that government.

    I do agree with Tom that there is blood and soil out there, although much of it is unorganised. And, outnumbering the No canvassers by conservative estimates of around 9/1 in terms of pure visibility has not stopped some Yessers going out of their way to get those few unionists who do venture out to haud their wheesht.

    But then again, this is a vigorous struggle to sever some pretty deep (but lately some very untended) common bonds, primarily with London. That takes the sort of brute force that’s obvious in some of the pop culture matterial designed to appeal to Scotland’s younger demographic.

  • dougthedug

    Strangely enough none this “confrontation” has appeared in the mainstream press or broadcast news even though the Guardian’s Severin Carrell and Ben Quinn were at the event in Blantyre.

  • dougthedug

    How do you know the man shouting in this video is a Yes voter and that it’s to do with the referendum? The only person in shot in the bottom right appears to be either black or indian ethnicity.

  • dougthedug

    Here’s the FT’s take on the events. Not quite so shock horror as Mark Ferguson.

    As the Labour leader left the Blantyre miners’ centre to meet voters, a small group of Yes campaigners crowded into every camera shot, a saltire the backdrop to every television image. “What are you doing in Blantyre?” heckled a man who arrived on the scene on a motorcycle.

    After meeting a total of five voters – three of them in a passing car – Mr Miliband’s minders directed him on to a bus and he was gone.

  • Michael Henry

    The no campaign just had to walk it another few yards without effort but it looks like they have stumbled -and next weekend just before the elections the No Orange brethren will put it another step backwards if they were to make it onto the news with protests or God forbid another row with the Police- Will Cameroon march with them-No- will Labour walk with them- No- anyone Political apart from UKIP BNP -No-

    Taking the Union flag down from Belfast City Council for a few days will seem like a blessing to the Orange-men compared with removing all their Union Jacks to make room for the new version if Scotland decides to leave the Union-a new flag could see new rules for a new dawn-

    Even the mountain in Belfast says for Scotland to vote Yes- it’s looking well-

  • mickfealty

    He’s plausibly deniable, of course. Not all of the matter linked can be put down to black ops by the No side. They’re barely organised and by common consent, barely visible on the ground.

    Most of this stuff has no chance of getting into the papers since its low grade highly localised and nothing to do with the official campaign.

  • mickfealty

    And there’s the Rock Bar to take into account Mickey…

  • classieview

    This is an even-handed appraisal Mick.
    But just as some militants in peaceful Ulster agitation in the 1968-70 years later rued what they had helped to start, I suspect that the mild-mannered Blair Jenkins may yet shudder over the Pandora’s Box that has been opened in these fateful months.
    People who acquire a taste for political intimidation don’t lose it even if they realise some of their objectives. they often turn on those in their own ranks who make compromises deemed unacceptable.

    I would like to think that Phil MacGiolla Bhain will assess why the supporters who were so alienated by the SNP’s 2012 law to outlaw songs dating from before the last troubles have now swung in huge numbers to the architects of that law and why a champion of Celtic in all seasons like George Galloway is now getting it in the neck from some of them.

  • classieview

    I’m sure if you were to compare the reactions of different media titles to unruly scenes in the Ulster troubles, accounts would vary just as widely.

    I would call this a ‘MacAskill’ interpretation: Mr Kenny Macaskill, the justice minister, attended an Old Firm match in 2011 which he deemed to be well-behaved even though the next day journalists were able to write articles with graphic reports of sectarian chants and insults.

  • dougthedug

    So both the FT and the Guardian are wrong in their lack of “confrontation” reporting?

  • Phil MacGiollaBhain

    “The yes surge is not being driven by blood-and-soil nationalism…”

  • Tacapall
  • leoinlisbon

    What is missing from this analysis is the fact that, though there are many strands in the YES campaign, there are two dominant ones.
    First, the Salmond/SNP campaign. The referendum is 100% their achievement.
    Second, the radical campaigners such as Robin McAlpine.
    Ultimately, these two have very different views of Scotland’s future. For Salmond, the future is copying the R o I as a low tax country, attractive to foreign multinationals.
    The radicals are themselves divided. Some want to copy Scandinavia; others hanker after a socialist future. It is very unlikely that the ‘movement’ will endure – as Robin McAlpine suggests – because it contains too many divergent opinions.
    Regardless, of the result, the pre-vote euphoria may be as good as it gets.

  • classieview

    I’ve just come from hearing Jim Murphy MP speak in Musselburgh, East Lothian,
    There was a swelling crowd of people with the genuinely intersted thankfully outnumbering hecklers and disrupters.
    He enjoyed the cut-and -thurst and at one point a car wet by with an occupant shouting over to him: ‘Vote Yes you Wanker’ .

    The prominent television journalist Laura Kunesberg was even closer to the kerb than I was.

    I supect she won’t report this not due to any bias but because this kind of intervention is too frequent ebven to mention.

    Mr Murphy was quickfire as ever: ‘ language from Yes people isn’t elegant. In fact I wouldn’t teach my weans that’.

  • classieview

    Hearing Jim Murphy MP speak in Musselburgh, East Lothian today one persistent heckler shouted about Alistair Darling that he ‘isnae f**** fae here; he was born in England’.
    Phil MacGiolla Bhain can look through the wrong end of the telescope until hell freezes over but crude ethnocentrism is flourishing in this campaign. It’s something that he will be increasingly questioned about and will (I suspect) be hard-pressed to laugh off.

  • Robert Allan

    I was the guy shouting in the video, and quite rightly so, labour let us down badly, and now they come and spout their lies and expect us to trust them again. What, another new labour, or a new new labour. Come on guys, the labour man Mark Ferguson is incredibly biased. My point was that those living in Scotland should determine what happens in Scotland, whatever nationality, colour, creed, gender or sex. Come on, Scotland is a warm welcoming place, especially to strangers and foreigners. We are not anti-english, we are anti-westminster. The sooner England gain freedom from their Westminster oppressors the better too.

  • Phil MacGiollaBhain