#IndyRef Elephant trap #2: Don’t ask me about policy, ask a unionist (we haven’t got a clue)

So here’s another Elephant trap from last week. This one appears overtly to have far less public valence than the George Robertson faux pas. But then again Steve McQueen’s not quite jumped the fence and into Swiss freedom yet!

In part that’s because the Yes campaign has signally failed to make policy an issue.

So, to the trap. It’s the moment in last weeks debate when the deployment of actress Elaine C Smith a celebrity ringer for Yes was put on the spot to name one policy that would make the working class better off…

Her plea for the presenter to get her opponent Labour MSP Kexia Dugdale to answer first opens up one of the so far under exploited weakness of the Yes campaign: the poor sense of detail of the material effects of the decision to go independent.

In Smith’s case, she’s not a politician and not used to covering it as a professional might. Put in to play to the hearts of the audience (and perhaps try to narrow that stubborn gender gap), she inadvertently reminds the audience of a key weakness.

In addition, as Dr Matt Qvortrup notes

Political scientists in America have found that celebrity endorsements fail because the pop-stars and celebrities do not share the plight of ordinary folks. In the eyes of the voters, Bowie, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Meat Loaf are simply wealthy celebrities who have no need to fret about the mortgage, fuel prices and such like.

Yeah, well Elaine is heaven sent for the heart message. But this episode also betrays a weakness: ie that Yes is only a constitutional promise of independence, it comes with very little in the way of political content.

Set aside the likely effect on Sterling (we already have indications that markets are preparing to abandon the Pound), the tough fiscal challenges facing a newly independent Scotland cost of set up, potentially higher cost of borrowing and fiscal restructuring of the current Scottish fiscal deficit.

None of these things are insurmountable. Severe weather in the short term is no block to long term prosperity. But in the long haul of negotiations, as there is likely to be precious little mind, space or resources for social policy.

As James Stafford notes:

…it does not follow that Scottish statehood is likely to improve matters. On the contrary. The ease with which its advocates deny the risks that confront them suggests a dangerous combination of chauvinism with naivety.

In other words, if you want social justice in a newly independent Scotland, you may have to pester a defeated former Unionist for some practical answers as to what to do about it…

If you spot an elephant trap for Yes or No, ping us an email to editor@sluggerotoole.com?


  • Neil

    Don’t ask me about policy, ask a unionist

    Well, the Unionists always have a much easier way to answer don’t they.

    “Explain the policies of British Unionism”
    “No change, same old, plus ca change, meet the new boss etc.”

    The question is do Scots people want the same old same old, or something new? The NHS is being privatised. Welfare reform is attacking the poor and weak while the well off make out like bandits. There has been no recession for the rich, the bankers are still bringing home the bacon while the poor pay off the banker’s gambling bills. If I were asked do I want the same policies that have led to this situation or some new, vague policies I would choose new. Especially when it’s backed by the promise that if you don’t like your government you can elect a new one.

  • dougthedug

    Yes is only a constitutional promise of independence, it comes with very little in the way of political content.

    That’s no revelation that’s the way it’s always been. In fact that’s what Yes has been saying, this is a decision on whether we want to run ourselves not a decision on a party political manifesto.

    It’s easy to point out how Scotland controlling its own economy and resources will result in a fairer and richer country but it is up to the parties who run it after independence to ensure that it happens that way

  • Séamus

    If only the Scottish government had released a 700-page white paper on independence, maybe called Scotland’s Future, that would have been of help to them.

  • Mister_Joe

    But isn’t that part of the problem; the banksters not only make out like bandits but they will also make off south of the border where they can continue to do so? I can understand the problem but governments worldwide have bent the knee and I don’t think that an independent Scotland will do any better. The big financial corporations seem to have seized control and no government seems willing to face them down. It’s disgraceful that they didn’t allow many more of them to fail. They’re still paying themselves outrageous bonuses and all that the governments do is say “Tut Tut”.

  • kensei

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh *bangs head* Independence is not about policy. There is no policy set at independence. The SNP can promise the Earth and Labour can get voted in and its worth squat.

    That said, there is the White Paper and several policies that would benefit the working class – child care was the lead if I remember right. That was of course rubbished by the Unionists as a impractical. Which is exactly why they want policy.

    The truth is that tomorrow will be very much like today. It will be the cumulative impact of a lot of different policies over the medium and long term that will make a major difference to the country. The SNP is right to focus where they are, on the direction of the country.

  • Reader

    Um yes. Because every potential ‘No’ voter should have read this 700 page pamphlet, while it’s utterly unreasonable to expect a celebrity ‘Yes’ campaigner to know anything about it.

  • mickfealty

    Spot on ken. They are two completely different things. They are form and content. The problem with Referendums is that they tend to mash all these problems into one question (see Paul Evans’s blog on this problem).

    So, NHS becomes a talking point when, strictly speaking, it has nothing to do with the core question. Ditto currency. The electorate are not being asked about these things, but these things are affected by the decision and therefore leech back into the pure proposition.

    Over the next week or so, expect Project Fear to ramp all the way up to 11.

  • kensei

    I think its okay to talk about them in the abstract. “We can stop privatisation in the NHS”, “We can / cant keep using the pound”. That indicates use of powers and direction of travel. Its when you start biting down to the wee details like give me a policy to help the working class I want to bite through glass.

    Project everything is going through the roof. The Westminster parties look as spooked as I’ve ever seen, and Yes has momentum.

  • Reader

    Would you be inclined to wonder why, at this very late stage, the only things still on offer were “some new, vague policies”?
    The SNP and ‘Labour for Independence’ teams must have some firm ideas. Even if they don’t agree with each other.

  • Scots Anorak

    Not sure that it’s awfully fair to show a 25-second excerpt of Elaine out of a two-hour debate and pretend that it’s indisputable evidence of celebrity endorsements failing. Why not post the whole thing and allow people to make up their own minds about whether she or Kezia made the best impression? As for the question, is it not pretty obvious that independence will allow Scots ALL the levers and that it should be up to the No Better campaign to enumerate its own rather paltry selection?

  • mickfealty

    Its certainly not fair if you look at in the round, either to Robertson or Smith. The point though is to pick out kinks in the fabric of the debate. One on each side.

  • Bryan Magee

    So little is known.

    I can only assume that the EU or we in Britain will not be particularly generous post yes: neither will want to establish a precedent for departure being on attractive terms.

    pour encourager les outres

  • Zeno1

    I remember seeing something a few months ago where if the Scots thought they would be a miserable £500 quid a year better off they would vote Yes. So it’s fair to assume money has superseded national pride. That being the case the No vote will win and win by a somewhere between 66/33 and 60/40 of those that actually bother voting.

  • Neil

    I believe a lot will depend on the negotiations. Pound or no pound. Debt or no debt. North Sea oil. All they can know for certain is one side offers jam tomorrow, while the other offers jam for the wealthy and pain for the poor. A two tier health service and a government that doesn’t need your votes. And having the abuility to choose one’s own government mean the current policies of the SNP might not count for much if they drop the ball they can be replaced. Unlike the Westminster govt.

  • gunterprien

    How is 60/40 a “win” for Unionism?
    It is a Strategic defeat.
    Just like German Navy Won the Battle of Jutland in 1916 in terms of tonnage sank versus tonnage lost. It was a tactical victory for the German Navy but a Strategic defeat as the German Navy surface fleet never ventured out into the North Sea in any major fleet action.
    So goes your 60/40 “victory”
    At the first instance it gives Nationalists a very strong base to work from…for the second vote ( Which there will be one)
    Secondly..With England wanting out of the EU and the Tories promising a vote in 2017. It means that Scotland will demand/get a second vote on Independence.
    Add the 40% base AND a Brexit..And Voila ..I give you Scottish Independence.
    Fait Accompli..No argument ..no debate..No questions.
    EXCEPT for A) Whether the British are allowed a vote on the Eu in 2017
    and B)That an actual Brexit occurs.
    Once those things happen ( And they are very much in play )
    Then your rejoicing is going to be short lived.
    The UK is heading for meltdown.
    And all that is based on your 60/40 coming through.YES can still win outright.
    The only “real” victory for Unionists ( like you) would be 80/20 or 70/30 at most.
    Anything less is strategic failure.

  • gunterprien

    Well the E.U. is witnessing UK try to throw it’s toys out of the Pram.
    With Brexit and Euro Sceptics.
    Who knows what Brussels may try punish Westminster.
    As for Spain.
    Didn’t they get an EU bailout? Yes. They’ll do what their told.And I hear they like fishing in Scotland.
    How can they do that.If Scotland isn’t a member?
    Maybe the EU will “encourager les outres” by letting Scotland in and letting people know what happens when you make noises over Brexits..referendums over Brexits. Eurosceptism. cutting EU budgets. etc.
    Swings both ways this “encouragers les outres”
    Now..Let the games commence.

  • Zeno1

    I don’t really understand what you’re saying. I don’t care if Scotland leave the Union. I am simply predicting that they will not.

  • Morpheus

    Based on…?

  • gunterprien

    Well. If you don’t care. Then yeah that puts a different gloss on things.
    What i was saying is two things. The 40% you allocate to Nationalism would be a defeat in this vote. But would be a magnifient base to build on.
    And secondly if there is a NO vote, as you predict. It would only be a temporary setback as it is events which will give Scottish Nationalism all it needs.
    If or when England leaves the EU Scottish Nationalists will seize on this and win.
    The opinion polls in the uK idicate a vote in favour of EU exit. When you consider that If a vote is called the Murdoch press. The Sun, times etc. and the Daily Mail and the Express will ramp up the anti Eu hysteria into fever pitch it’s pretty much the “forgone conclusion”
    The only “IF” in the debate is whether any UK party has the guts to call a vote.
    Coz mark my words. a Brexit will certainly lead to a breakup of the UK.
    Including 17% Ireland.
    And this boy can’t wait.

  • Neil

    Sorry Joe I replied to this earlier but Slugger ate my post.

  • Zeno1

    Oh right, I’ll add that to the list of reasons Ireland will be United. It’s much better than the last one which stated that the SF Euro MP’s were going to meet with the EU and have the Border deleted.

    There is a problem though.


    Then there is the other problem that even if the UK did leave the EU a break up of the union isn’t exactly guaranteed.

  • gunterprien

    Dear Poll meister.
    You are losing the run of yourself.
    Now take a deep breath. When the campaign started in Sctland No was ahead by 20 points in the polls.
    Now they are neck and neck in the polls.
    You don’t get it do you?
    First an election has to be called.
    Then a campaign starts.
    Then polls are taken..And then they CHANGE>
    You have ONE poll which says English favour the EU.
    I can find one that says they don’t.
    AND to top it off..You have IGNORED the point that the MEDIA of THE SUN the DAILY MAIL will be highly influencal when they start PROJECT FEAR.
    So auld cahp..Thanks for the link.
    But don’t be in any doubt. IF a vote is called it’s forgone conclusion.
    Your only defence is A) a Vote Will NOT happen.
    or B) you don’t believe a BREXIT will affect the Union.

  • gunterprien

    From the Garduian.

    A pro EU paper BTW.

    56% of Britons want out of EU.


  • Zeno1

    That was one poll in 2012, so my one poll from 2014 trumps that.

  • Zeno1

    Scotland will not leave the Union on the result of this poll.
    That’s clear to me. I would like the UK to leave the EU, but there is nothing to say that would lead to a break up of the union. I’m sure plenty of Scots would like to leave the EU. You are just doing a bit of wishful thinking there Gunther.

  • gunterprien

    LOL. Maybe so. I am not worried..I am more worried about whether they get a vote. I am surprised you didn’t seize on that.

  • Mister_Joe

    I’m not sure that 40% is necessarily a strong base to work from. In the most recent referendum in Canada, the separatists got 49%+ of the vote (although there were shady things going on at the count) and now they languish at about 30% which is their core base.

  • gunterprien

    Ok let me explain then.
    Firstly we have to ignore whether the Uk gets a vote and then the vote to leave.
    So. right it’s 2017 and Uk has voted to leave the EU.
    Uk includes Scotland at this point.
    OK. Fair enuff so far.
    Scotland , first. The nationalists have lost the vote 60/40.
    They say they accept defeat but that the people who voted No.
    Voted No only to a UK in the EU.
    This is no longer so.
    They re-run the vote.
    At this point I say more Scots are in favour of the EU. and want Independence to join the EU.
    I suspect the Yes Scotland win this time round. The EU won’t put up barriers to Scotland entry. They will let it be known that the EU will welcome Scotland..After all Brussels doesn’t have to worry about Westminster.
    Also, I blame the EU in part over Ukraine. The EU wants Ukraine to join this has caused problems.
    My reason for dragging in Ukraine into this post? It’s evidence of the expansionary nature of the EU. And why they will woo Scotland.
    Next 17% Ireland.
    Uk is agianst the CAP. ( Common Agricultural policy. )
    This CAP provides something like 75% of Ulster farmers income AFAIK.
    The UK bailed out the banks They never bailed out British Leyland, for example.
    Ya think they’ll give the farmers money?
    Not a chance..It’ll be Laissez faire- Let the market decide.
    So the farmers will want back in the EU..That’s DUBLIN.
    And they will take the post office clerk.The Co-op market. The auction houses..The Publican and the Car dealer..
    The WHOLE entire Rural population.
    Ergo add in the traditional Nationalist vote and these huge Rural areas.
    Game over 32 Counties One and all.

  • gunterprien

    Well. I will go on record on saying that If there was a border poll in 2016. I would take 40% for UI. Just my view of course and I would much rather win 51% and win the vote..
    But I’d be happy with 40%.
    I must say. I never did ny reading about Quebec. I guess Irish nationalist..Serious ones. i.e people who are actually working at the coalface will have to study it and the Scottish vote.
    I am glad I am only giving my opinion and have zero responsibilty beyond that.

  • Mister_Joe

    If Scotland votes “No” and the UK subsequently leaves the EU, I think that would be sufficient ground for a second Scottish referendum.

  • Zeno1

    So all you think need is the UK to leave the EU, and Scotland to leave the union and the people of NI to vote to join Ireland.

  • gunterprien

    that’s the size of it.
    And leaving the Eu is no small thing. So I wouldn’t say all.
    I believe I explained the economics ans politics that would play out.
    Irish farm lobby are to Ireland 32 Counties what the Israeli and US defence lobby is to the USA.
    It’s all there in black and white.
    And you haven’t been able to pin any holes in it.
    So much so that I suspect the proof of the pudding is that in the next few months/years you will change your arguments into Pro-EU anti Brexit arguments. to save your Union.
    Because you suspect my analysis might just have something in it.
    What’s the problem. Zeno.
    Are those Belfast Telegraph Polls not providing comfort anymore?
    They don’t ask voters what they do post Brexit do they?
    and are therefore worthless.

  • Zeno1

    Not only will Scotland not leave the union. The UK will not leave the EU. So that seems to be your theory dead in the water.

  • gunterprien

    Ok. You have stamped your foot down..
    So this won’t happen.
    I get you..Aye…Aye. Over and out.:)
    Only one thing. A few posts ago you were in favour of leaving the EU.
    Now you are saying it won’t happen.
    May I ask a question?
    Do you believe it won’t happen because Britain won’t get a vote on it? Or do you believe that they’ll just vote NO.Or Do you think that since the USA has said Britain should not leave that Britain will listen to HMV.
    Of course the joy for me in all this is that the vote is pencilled in for 2017.
    So not long to wait and find out.

  • Zeno1

    I’m still in favour of leaving the EU, but that doesn’t mean I believe it will happen. I believe it for the same reason I believe Scotland won’t leave the union. People are naturally risk averse and will stick with the devil they know.

  • gunterprien

    There is no risk. England can leave the EU and enter into a Free trade area with the EU>
    Just like Norway and Switzerland. They will have to pay for it..But they are paying now.
    The only “risk” involved is that they will have to follow the rules of that free trade area. But these rules are nothing really for the average joe soap to understand let alone get excited about.
    You under estimate the english desire to leave the EU. Badly.
    The English have never been Europeans. They fought against the Spanish, Napoleon. Adolf..Purely for reasons that they couldn’t stand a strong European continental figure.
    History teaches us so many things.
    Yes there are middle class Guardinistas who have a favourite little French village and call themselves European. But they are the minority.
    No. I disagree with you. The mood of the British public is Brexit.
    Even the BBC is anti EU. And wait until a campaign starts.
    You will see a Tsunami of negative press spoken about the EU.
    The Sun newspaper was instrumental in getting a Landslide for Tony bLIAR in 1997. Without the Murdoch press Victory would have been less sure.
    The Daily Mail is the most influencal paper in England.
    Did you see Cameroon and his family “friendly” policies?
    Guess who he is aiming at?
    If you say well families..Fair enuff..But I say Daily Fail readers.
    Why have the English police no films in their speed cameras?
    You guessed it a Daily Mail campaign.
    Tony bliar was hated by the Daily Mail..He still bowed down to their campaigns.
    Sorry Zeno..You are living in Orange free State bunker Ulcer.
    Moving your phantom regiments of unionist foot soldiers about.
    The English will dump Scotland and Ireland to “free” themselves of the EU.
    You need to visit England.
    Or at very least.Plug yourself in the the British media (including the comment sections ) of the English press.
    The only uncertainty is whether Cameroon wins in 2015..and If he does Whether he’l stick to his promise of a referendum in 2017.
    To look into my crystal ball..It wouldn’t surprise me if the Labour party pledge a vote also before the next General election about the EU.
    I am predicting Brexit and UK breakup.
    Now, I wonder what odds I can get from a bookies?
    I don’t believe a UK Brexit possible..I believe it is very likely to happen.

  • Zeno1

    “Moving your phantom regiments of unionist foot soldiers about.
    The English will dump Scotland and I reland t o “free” themselves of the EU.
    You need to visit England.”

    I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, but I will be in London around 6 or 7 days a month until May if you want me to pick something up for you.

  • gunterprien

    You don’t remember a German corporal in Berlin 1945 moving imaginery regiments about?
    Pick up a copy of the Daily Mail.