On the verge of a Scottish Spring? Social sentiment says Yes will walk the #IndyRef.

“The best way to see the future is to observe the present…”

Carmin Medina

B Kliban

B Kliban’s cartoon..

I’ve an English friend who spent the last week of August on their regular family holiday in the highlands. He doesn’t have a vote but if he did he’d be a certain NO. One of things he found disturbing was having to decode the YES signs. At first he felt drawn towards it, only to feel a shudder of recognition when he thought about what it meant.

There’s a feeling south of the border that this is one (of several) tactical mistakes that’s been made by David Cameron. In fact the message is so appealing to picture editors that the front pages of the Daily Telegraph are often festooned with pictures saying Yes, even when the accompanying stories have an anti Yes bias.

Over the weekend I saw several pieces of sentiment analysis of content online all of different levels of sophistication but all which put the Yes campaign in the driving seat. Right now, the polls are all over the place. Professor Patrick McGhee rhetorically quotes from Tolkien

“And it is also said,” answered Frodo: “Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.”

“Is it indeed?” laughed Gildor. “Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.”

It’s not just online and in the papers that Yes is more attractive. On the streets Yes have it too. And by a long way. In his column for the Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Matthew d’Ancona closes with an interesting description..

Scotland dithers over its destiny, caught in a fugue state of anger, resentment and indecision. It is as though the sheer scale of the question – the enormity of what is at stake – has not sunk in. History has crept up on the Scots, demanding a one-word answer. All we can predict with certainty is that nothing will be the same again.

Well it isn’t just the Scots who’re in a fugue state. And it isn’t just the Labour party who’ve been withering the ties which now so very tenuously bind

…wherever I go I find people who instinctively understand the absurdity that Tony Blair is set to transfer power to Gordon Brown – with all the democratic accountability of the transition from Claudius to Nero – and that Gordon Brown, a Scottish MP, will be able to impose very controversial measures on English constituencies, when English MPs have no corresponding say over those questions in Scotland, and when (the crowning absurdity) he, Gordon, will have no say over those questions in so far as they affect his own constituents.

This was written eight years ago. In his finish, Boris Johnson delivered his coup de grace

Tony has pledged to fly the [England] flag. Will Gordon have the nerve to do the same? Will Gordon have the nerve to resist? Yes, my friends, such will be the hysteria over the next few days that I predict that we will eventually see the hilarious and pitiful spectacle of the England flag being raised over No 11 as well. Gordon will put his ambition before his national feeling, to the derision of his fellow Scotsmen.

The Labour classes will finally bow to the masses and in the matter of the flag the masses are right. The prevalence and success of this cross shows how wrong and how misguided the multiculturalists have been, in the past 30 years, to try to suppress national symbols, and how powerful a flag can be in uniting a country rather than [and] dividing it. [ironic edits added]

Not sure the boul’ BoJo saw this state of affairs coming so soon and under his own party’s Premiership.

Whatever the masses have to say, they will say it on Thursday clearly enough for the rest of us to hear. In the meantime, it’s the renewed sense of agency that many Scots have found appealing that’s made this poll so impossible to call.

As John Kellden puts it:

What is happening in the dimension of people rediscovering autonomy and their own voices when participating in movements, is at least as important as the relative achievement of external activism objectives.

Ah objectives. So far as I can see neither the Union or indy Scotland side have much in the way of concrete plans for the future. In truth it’s not easy for large, heavy and slow moving governments to respond convincingly to the mercurial wants of a demos buffeted by the forces of globalisation.

To borrow from Chrystia Freeland and the North American experience...

Part of the problem is that no one has yet come up with a fully convincing answer to the question of how you harness the power of the technology revolution and globalization without hollowing out middle-class jobs. Liberal nanny-state paternalism, as it has been brilliantly described and practiced by Cass R. Sunstein and like-minded thinkers, can help, as can shoring up the welfare state.

But neither is enough, and voters are smart enough to appreciate that. Even multiple nudges won’t make 21st-century capitalism work for everyone. Plutocrats, as well as the rest of us, need to rise to this larger challenge, to find solutions that work on the global scale at which business already operates.

The other task is to fully engage in retail, bottom-up politics — not just to sell those carefully thought-through, data-based technocratic solutions but to figure out what they should be in the first place.

Al Pacino bikeBottom up politics is hard to manage. And in Scotland we are seeing the network v hierarchy effect in full force, some of it bordering on the racist and ugly.  The Butterfly Rebellion as Robin McAlpine of Common Weal calls it, borrowing a phrase from Paul Mason of Channel Four News.

Those relying on the polls should take note of Anthony Nardelli’s warning in the Guardian that “historic data in this case is scarce”. The polling in Scotland is as untested as social media analysis for predicting outcomes.

On the other hand it remains to be seen what effect the Yes side’s darker uses of the mob will have on the final outcome. They are not stopping to ask for permission and certainly not playing by any pre-ordained rules of fairplay (see Pacino quote).

Yesterday there were thousands calling for the head of the BBC’s Nick Robinson for not only daring to ask Scotland’s First Minister a ‘stupid’ question about the unintended consequences of his exit plan, but for reporting (truthfully imho) afterwards that Salmond hadn’t answered it.

Gandhi’s famous phrase ‘be the change you want to see in the world‘ has become the watchword for digital change advocates. We’ll know a lot more about how that works by the wee small hours of Friday morning.

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  • terence patrick hewett

    I have to say the quote from Chrystia Freeland gave me a bit of a chuckle

    Part of the problem is that no one has yet come up with a fully
    convincing answer to the question of how you harness the power of the
    technology revolution and globalization without hollowing out
    middle-class jobs.

    When we automation engineers were busy putting millions of manual workers
    out of work and deleting whole areas of activity, not a peep from the chatterati did we hear. But now we are targeting those further up the pecking order we get all the hand-wringing. To us it’s just the proto-machines of the third industrial revolution and we will adapt to them as we adapted before.

    What actually makes me laugh out loud is that they think that their fear and pain is of a higher order than a factory worker replaced by a machine.

    What is certain is that the coming technological revolution will change society as profoundly as the micro-processor has changed it.

  • mickfealty

    Interesting. One day there may be no work for anyone but you automation engineers. The rest of us can then get on with the real business of the world which is to complain about it? 😉

  • Morpheus

    Couldn’t agree more – if this video doesn’t scare parents into getting their kids into getting into IT or engineering then I don’t know what will 🙂

  • Michael Henry

    ” on the other hand it remains to be seen what effect the Yes side’s uses of the mob will have on the final outcome ”

    The only mob I seen in Scotland was the Orange Order march on Saturday -( the only side that as said that they will use violence if they don’t get a NO vote – very democratic of them )-never mind ISIS- keep a eye on the Orange Orders foot soldiers-

    ” Gandhi’s famous phrase “- Gandhi sat and watched India being divided into Three countries at the end- the last hurrah from the Brits- at least Michael Collins only fell for Ireland being divided into two-( the twit )-

    I think that a lot of people will be watching the TV / internet on Friday morning- but who will be cheering and who will be cursing is to close to call-

  • dougthedug

    Yesterday there were thousands calling for the head of the BBC’s Nick Robinson for not only daring to ask Scotland’s First Minister a ‘stupid’ question about the unintended consequences of his exit plan, but for reporting (truthfully imho) afterwards that Salmond hadn’t answered it.

    The stupid question was, “Why should a Scottish voter believe you, a politician against men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits?”.

    Salmond did answer it. RBS are moving no jobs and Standard Life was old, old news recycled by the BBC because their reporters from London have no clue about the referendum.

    You’ve got a link in there to the full question and answer session between Robinson and Salmond. Why don’t your readers do a comparison between that and what was actually broadcast?

    So criticising the state broadcaster for very, very selective editing is not permitted now?

  • mickfealty

    Nothing if not thorough Doug!! 😉

    Calling for the man’s job is not now nor will it ever in a month of Sundays be classifiable as media criticism. It’s plain old intimidation.

    Perhaps it’s not of the sort we see in Northern Ireland where real danger is present enough to dispense with the need of a mob to back it up, but it is intimidation nonetheless.

    If you also pick through the links you will find some pretty hefty actual criticism of the quality of Nick’s question.

    As for the request for his head the proper response by the BBC (or any putative SBC) should be to tell the mob, as politely as possible perhaps, to feck away aff.

  • Neil

    We all saw the exchange, to suggest he didn’t answer the question is nonsense. The Guardian said the same last night – Nick may not have liked the answer, but he got one. He probably didn’t like the answer, as he was being laughed at by the majority of the people in the hall. He did heckle Salmond in a boorish fashion, and if we were to delve a little deeper and consider how likely the BBC are to be unbiased at the loss of 10% of their license fee we might think that the BBC has a dog in this fight, and couldn’t be unbiased if it tried.
    They underreported the number of protestors outside the BBC in Glasgow to the tune of 4,000 (1,000 turned out apparantly, though not according to anyone else). Nick got his backside handed to him on a plate, and it was great to see, much like the laughter at the claim of BBC impartiality.

  • mickfealty

    So give us a brief synopsis of the actual answer then boys?

    If there is thing more irritating that Paxman telling a politician s/he’s useless it is the sight of a politician lecturing him/her on what s/he can cannot ask.

    Six minutes Salmond took to answer that question, and I heard very little correspondence between the material in the q and the a.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I am afraid automation engineers aren’t safe either: I think the oldest profession will be the last!

  • Gerry Lynch

    One problem with using social media sentiment as a predictor of election outcomes: many older people don’t use social media. In Scotland, the oldest generation is heavily No. If the election outcome were to be 50:50, we’d expect social media sentiment to be heavily Yes, because not many 85 year-olds have Twitter accounts. But they do have votes.

  • gunterprien

    Arms dealing?

  • leoinlisbon

    The YES campaign has very successfully mobilized two particular groups; those alienated from politics, who would – long time ago – have been natural Labour supporters; lower middle class people who see no likelihood of economic improvement in the foreseeable future. The latter group’s alienation is a fairly direct result of the economic crisis of 2008.
    Personally, I find it hard to see how an independent Scotland would be able – in the next few years – to generate the wealth necessary to make the significant improvement that these groups are looking for.
    Obvious saving made by scrapping Trident would be probably be balanced by decreased oil revenues and a reduced financial services industry.
    If, as most pundits are saying, the NO side wins, it will be the losers who have to deal with the expectations they raised.

  • dougthedug

    The only thing is is that the “mob” is paying a direct tax via the license fee to pay Nick Robinsons’ wages.

  • dougthedug

    Full question from Nick Robinson.

    “On a more general point, John Lewis’s boss says prices could go up, Standard life’s boss says money will move out of Scotland, BP’s boss says oil will run out. Why should a Scottish voter believe you, a politician against men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits?”

    Full Answer from Alex Salmond at 1:54 on the clip you link to after he’s answered the RBS question:

    “Let’s go into the generality, I think the people of Scotland have moved beyond these warnings and scaremongerings particularly when there is a clear evidence that while the PM was busy telling us what a wonderful nation we are his business adviser was busy trying to get any business he could to say something negative about independence. I thought it was quite interesting yesterday and I know this might be news to some of the metropolitan media that the warnings which were released yesterday were actually a recycling of things released months ago Bob Dudley for example if I remember correctly made exactly the same statement in February and Standard Life made exactly the same statement three months ago. I know it was news to some people but certainly it wasn’t news to the people of Scotland.”

    Maybe it wasn’t the answer that Robinson wanted but it was an answer and Robinson should be sacked.

  • terence patrick hewett

    The quote from Tolkien is interesting. Tolkien was thrust into the trenches of the Great War and lost most of his friends. He remarked that the inspiration for the Bagginses came from his contact for the first time, with those lower down the social spectrum and admired their courage and tenacity in extremis: an experience that nearly all of the post war generation of politicians had in common: the understanding of the extraordinariness of the ordinary.

    The present crop of Westminster politicians have never had this experience and seem to regard everyone else with contempt. The article by Matthew Parris, dismissing the people of Clacton and the article by the author Toby Young concerning Wales seem to encapsulate a total incomprehension of humanity. It was the sheer casual lack of charity which shocked even me; whom I thought un-shockable.

    They are being taught a lesson which they will never forget.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Arms have something to do with it.

  • Neil

    The BBC said the answer given by Salmond was so long it couldn’t be used in the segment.
    To say ‘no answer given’ is nonsense. Nick didn’t like the answer. He didn’t like being (accurately) accused of heckling. And he didn’t like being made to feel like a knob in front of the (amused) ranks of the press.

  • mickfealty

    Trans is ‘Scottish people don’t want to here the answer to that question, move on…’

  • dougthedug

    The sticking point with Robinson isn’t that he didn’t get the answer he wanted or thought he deserved but that he lied and said he got no answer at all and cut his video to back up his lie.

  • mac tire

    Mick, my problem with Nick’s editing and voice over gave the impression that Salmond gave no reply at all, which we know he did (even if it were evasive – anything new to a politician? or many others, for that matter, in this media savvy age?).

    It’s my view that Nick was being disingenuous. It’s not the first time he has been accused of bias (2010 General Election, for example – but perhaps that was more to do with his well known previous Conservative links).

  • Morpheus

    They have devices for that these days as well

  • terence patrick hewett

    So the Engineer told me before he died.

  • Morpheus

    Died a happy man from all accounts

  • mickfealty

    Quite so Gerry. But the SNP have been well ahead of the curve on all of this stuff. The 2011 Parliamentary election say them leapfrog the other parties by some considerable margin on a much lower spend than the losers.

    Even if they lose this referendum their GOTV mapping of soft nationalist votes should be second to none by now. And if they lose you can be sure that the next term or two will be built around framing play 2 of the neverendum.

  • dougthedug

    I’ve an English friend who spent the last week of August on their regular family holiday in the highlands. He doesn’t have a vote but if he did he’d be a certain NO. One of things he found disturbing was having to decode the YES signs. At first he felt drawn towards it, only to feel a shudder of recognition when he thought about what it meant.

    So someone who you identify as English not Scottish and who I presume isn’t living here and therefore who can’t vote shudders when he thinks that Scots might become independent.

    Does he shudder when he visits Ireland and sees the Tricolour and recognises what it means or is it only the thought of Scots independence he finds abhorrent?

  • Scots Anorak

    I think that you may be missing the point. It is a commonplace that politicians do sometimes answer the question that they wish they had been asked. Usual journalistic practice is to suggest that only during an interview and even then only in order to elicit an alternative response.

    To state it as incontrovertible fact after the event rather than let viewers decide for themselves is unusual to say the least, particularly during a debate of such moment. In this case, observers have ample grounds to be suspicious, since the answer given a) highlighted the fact that Nick Robinson was ignorant about key aspects of Lloyd’s business structure as well as, more egregiously, how corporation tax works and b) alleged the criminal leak of market-sensitive information by the Treasury — for which, it now transpires, Robinson himself, a former President of Oxford University Conservative Association, appears to have been the witting or unwitting conduit.

    That the BBC thought that they could get away with this, blissfully unaware that the clip had been viewed by so many many people online (now 400,000 and counting), speaks volumes about the insularity, bias, arrogance and sheer cack-handedness of the mainstream metropolitan media in their approach to the independence debate. However, as it’s a wee local difficulty that only concerns Scotland, I fully expect Nick Robinson to remain in post. After all, it’s Labour and the Tories who write and renew the BBC charter.

  • dougthedug

    That the BBC thought that they could get away with this, blissfully unaware that the clip had been viewed by so many many people online (now 400,000 and counting), speaks volumes about the insularity, bias, arrogance and sheer cack-handedness of the mainstream metropolitan media in their approach to the independence debate.

    Robinson has just trashed the reputation of the BBC across the world. He attended a high profile political press conference and then lied that he had received no answer to a question when the video evidence is quite clear that he had. He’s also involved in the difficulty of who leaked the RBS information before RBS announced it.

    If the BBC do nothing their reputation for integrity and unbiased reporting goes down the pan along with Mr. Robinson. Robinson lied about this and the BBC have done nothing. If they are happy for their chief political correspondent to lie about this what else do they lie about?

  • Scots Anorak

    Here’s a link to the view of a former BBC insider. I’ll not summarise it, lest I inadvertently become like the object of our criticism.

    http://derekbateman.co.uk/2014/09/15/oh-not-again/

    I don’t personally think it’s intimidation to question whether a man who may have committed a crime should keep his job. At the very least he should be suspended pending the police investigation or redirected away from the referendum campaign; it’s only common sense from a BBC perspective, given the recurrent criticism of the corporation’s coverage. I’m not sure if people in Northern Ireland are aware that Sunday’s demonstration was not the first. There has been a whole series of rallies at Pacific Quay, some of them attended by my brother. All of them, as far as I know, have been good-natured. They have grown in size because the bias has if anything become more brazen. In fact, the BBC refused to change when confronted with incontrovertible statistical evidence of bias, for which see below. It couldn’t even bring itself to report the actual size of the latest and biggest demonstration against it, instead calling it a “large crowd”.

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/john-robertson/bbc-bias-and-scots-referendum-new-report

  • Az

    That quote is absolute proof that the author of this is neither in Scotland, nor has he spent time with Yes campaigners. Describing those who actively seek radical change as a ‘mob’ is establishment behaviour, ungrounded in any reality.

    You’re quite right Michael – a simple comparison of videos from the events of Saturday make it very simple to work out who the ‘mob’ really are and whose preferred option is intimidation. In fact, a simple look at the campaign messages is enough to work this out.

  • gunterprien

    “As for the request for his head the proper response by the BBC (or any putative SBC) should be to tell the mob, as politely as possible perhaps, tofeck away aff…”

    ++++++++++++++++++++

    Is that what happened to Andrew Gilligan of the BBC over the Iraq Dossier claims??

    I recall a labour Government MOB wanted his Job.
    I don’t recall the BBC telling that MOB to “feck off”.

    Ohhhh!!!! To be a Unionist apologist.!!!

    You just have to ignore history.

  • LighterSide…

    Personally, I am looking forward to my next incarnation being into a nice, sturdy robot body. These human bodies are too friggin frail. Praise the Lord for A.I.
    Humans no longer needed.

  • Morpheus

    How’s this for an excellent point…

    If #indyref "yes" is so cataclysmic for the economy; so dangerous for defence; and so plain stupid – why did David Cameron allow #indyref ?— Jim Fitzpatrick (@jimfitzbiz) September 14, 2014

  • mickfealty

    The BBC’s problem is that it generally does not do that.

    It tends to buckle under pressure. Personally, I don’t like embedded journalism (BBC and the Lobby generally) or journalism of attachment (C4). Whichever end they come from journalists SHOULD be fierce!

    I could write reams about BBC bias. It’s real enough. Some of the stuff on BBCNI gets copied and pasted straight from the political party’s presser, heading and all, even when it is utter balls.

    Not to put too fine a point about it, the claim is nonsense. Robinson asked a stupid question (my thoughts on that here: http://goo.gl/f2AOnl) and got a lecture about the BBC! It always happens when someone puts the FM on the spot over the awkward transition period.

    Derek Bateman’s piece, though partisan, calls some of it dead right. Journalists at the BBC are often victims of micromanagement and risk aversion of their outputs. In particular he illustrates the only point I’ve made on the matter:

    I don’t hold with campaigns to have people lose their jobs. I don’t agree with banners calling individuals liars and I don’t think Nick Robinson is one.

    PS, on the cheap shot above about who you think I am, read the rules! On Slugger, you play the ball, or you kindly leave the pitch.

  • mickfealty

    Excellent piece Anorak. See my reply to ‘gunter’ below…

  • mickfealty

    So bleedin’ obvious you would think someone would have asked him by now, wouldn’t you?

  • dougthedug

    Not to put too fine a point about it, the claim is nonsense. Robinson asked a stupid question (my thoughts on that here: http://goo.gl/f2AOnl) and got a lecture about the BBC!

    Nick Robinson asked a question. He got an answer which was nothing to do with the BBC and then lied and said he got none.

    It’s on the video. I even transcribed the audio in another comment on this very thread.

    Didn’t you read my transcript Mick? Didn’t you listen to the video?

    Robinson got an answer and then lied that he didn’t.

  • dougthedug

    David Cameron allowed an #indyref for two reasons. One a myth, the other a political miscalculation.

    1. He thought that the SNP had been bounced into an independence referendum by their surprise win and what they actually wanted was more powers for Scotland within the UK and by agreeing to a referendum which was in-out only he’d pulled a fast one on Alex Salmond.

    2. He believed that by agreeing to this in-out referendum the SNP/Yes would lose badly, more powers would disappear and the whole disagreeable Scottish business would go away.

  • mickfealty

    Yes, I did. And, from your transcript, Salmond did not answer the question. He attacked the question (which is fine, it was crap), but did not answer it. He never answers anything on ‘the business plan’.

    You won’t get an argument out of me on the poor journalism aspect of this. But the manoeuvre afterwards is pure policking. You are perfectly entitled to call for him to be sacked, all I am saying is that it doesn’t (or it shouldn’t) work like that.

  • dougthedug

    Robinson asked a question and Salmond gave him an answer.

    It’s not about whether it was good answer or a bad answer or whether it was one Robinson liked or disliked but whether he answered.

    He answered the question and in fact addressed it directly with his reference to Robinson’s “General point” but Robinson stated Salmond didn’t answer on national news.

    If the BBC think it’s just fine for their Chief Political Correspondent to lie then every claim of unbiased BBC reporting crashes and burns around that central little fact.

  • mickfealty

    I’ve said my piece. I’ll let you parse away to your hearts content. We see referendums come and go every year. I know ref barging when I see it.

  • dougthedug

    I don’t need to say my piece. The video says it for me.

  • mickfealty

    Our job here is done then… 😉

  • Starviking

    The question is, how many of those votes will be stolen. A regular poster on a forum I frequent has just reported his grandmother-in-law’s postal vote marked down as Yes by her caregiver, and she a No voter.

  • Abucs

    Those automation engineer jobs are being

    outsourced to India at lower wages.

    The real question is who will own the mechanical economy that is coming?

    and who don’t they need / want to be part of such a world?

  • gunterprien

    “cheap shots”?
    You can read the riot act ALL you want Mr Fealty.
    But HoW easy was it for you to use the word Mob in connection to Nationalism (of any sort)?
    Are those who sing the “famine song” a Mob?
    Or urinate against churches a Mob?
    Very easy to use demonising talk against the other isn’t it?
    So , Fancy yourself impartial?

  • Reader

    It wasn’t an answer. It was so tangential it barely qualified as a response.
    And if there had been a good answer available, Salmond would surely have supplied it, wouldn’t he?

  • Scots Anorak

    I had been hoping to avoid selective quotes from Derek Bateman’s post. However, here’s my own.

    “If it is true he connived with Number 10 to leak market sensitive information about RBS, I’m afraid his reputation will be rightly damaged. He might even be convicted! What I don’t like is what seems to be a rush to broadcast political propaganda to frighten the Scots – that is not the BBC’s job and we need to tell them so.”

  • Scots Anorak

    And here’s a video of that threatening anti-BBC demo.

    https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=593167974125086

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Actually, sorry to be pedantic, but the score between Gandhi and Mick Collins was equal:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partition_of_India

    India was only partitioned into two countries, and the cesession of Bengal as the People’s Republic of Bangaladesh from the Dominion of Pakistan had to wait until 1971. And rather than sitting and watching he was tireless in the months betwen partition and his assassination when he “personally visited the most riot-prone areas to stop the massacres” (Wikipedia).