The No Slogan Slogan Paradox

westminsterrulenothanksBetter Together has unveiled its new campaigning slogan because “better together” just wasn’t working for them. It’s difficult to make the claim that you’re better together when your own campaign team refuses to appear in the same room, Labour and the Tories hate one another, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown hate one another, everyone hates Danny Alexander, and John Reid hates everyone. They want us to hold fast to the Union, but they themselves are only able to hold fast to their grudges.

Worried that Scottish voters have begun to ruminate on the philosophical contradictions of a better together campaign composed of separate pieces which are not only independent of one another but have declared open warfare, and which is nominally led by a man whose grasp of the campaign is as reality based as Colonel Walter E Kurtz, panicking party leaders have decided on a change in tactics.

Better Together vehemently deny that they’re in any difficulties, not at all, the No campaign has been going as swimmingly as a drowning man. They’ve changed their slogan because they’re doing so incredibly well that they only want to experience the minty freshness of a newly coined slogan all over again.

So now they’re saying No Thanks instead. Contrary to the rumour that the new slogan is based upon the answer received every time someone in Better Together suggests that Gordie and Alistair ought to kiss and make up, it was instead a product of the No campaign’s very own branding new grassroots movement, Saatchi and Saatchi – famous for advertising standards greats such as “Labour isn’t working” illustrated by a dole queue the length of the billboard. The slogan won Thatcher the 1979 General Election whereupon she proceeded to lengthen the dole queue off the billboard, down the street, and right up the M6 taking in a scenic tour of job centres in every industrial community all the way to Wick. Saatchi and Saatchi, no thanks.

In keeping with the 1980s post-industrial wasteland vibe, the new slogan looks like it was ripped it off from another famous campaigning slogan of the 80s, Nuclear Power No Thanks. Only that doesn’t really work for Westminster either does it. Trident missiles, no thanks. Tory governments, no thanks. ATOS disability interviews, no thanks. Patronising Guardian editorials, no thanks. Nicolas Witchell, no thanks. BBC weather map, no thanks. Or to give it its correct technical meteorological designation, fuckin BBC never heard of Equal Area Projection ya cartographically illiterate designwanks weather seen from London diarrhoea coloured map, no thanks. Although admittedly that last one is not such a snappy Yes slogan.

Other possible No slogans were ruled out by Saatchi and Saatchi as they didn’t play well in focus groups. Naw no noo nae need was briefly considered, but that sounded uncomfortably like an ambulance was arriving and was thought likely to cause needless upset amongst elderly Tories with angina. This threatened to obliterate half the No campaign’s grassroots membership, leaving them with only Labour cooncillors and people who want to be Labour cooncillors to rely on. However some of those were uncomfortable with the proposed new slogan too, as it brought on incidences of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after some mistook it for the sound of a polis car on its way to investigate some dodgy property deals. The only enthusiastic support it got was from George Foulkes, who said it reminded him of a dance invitation.

After ruling out the sound of an ambulance, the Saatchi team thought it might be just as well to go the whole hog and adopt the catch phrase from Mork and Mindy. Naw noo naw noo. Which might have worked, although it does bring up the uncomfortable reminder that the comedic pratfalls of naive spacecadets from another planet is quite a good description of the No campaign. But then other catchphrases from the programme were considered, and Naw noo naw noo Shazbut just didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the Westminster Parliamentary system.

Better Together has a tin ear for language. The English language – that’s supposed to be a Union benefits lads and lassies, and they cannae even use that right. Irony is meant to be such a British value too. For shame. They’re making Michael Gove upset, and that’s supposed to be Al-Iqsammin’s job. But you require a tin ear for words when the words you utter are at such variance with truth that even the most shameless liar would cringe internally when they opened their gob, at least if they weren’t comedically clueless aliens from planet Nawnoo Nawnoo.

As a lover of words and snappy slogans, it’s immensely puzzling to me why the No campaign persist in choosing slogans that are so easy to subvert. This is all the more puzzling since these campaigning slogans are supposed to appeal to the inhabitants of a country which is famous for its verbal subversion. Scotland even invented an entire genre of poetry devoted to slag offs in verse, the fine art of flyting. And we also gifted the English language with the word fuck. It’s a Scottish word, first attested in the poetry of Dunbar – makar, versificator, flyter and piss taker for the Scottish crown – in 1503. So it’s not like we don’t have previous for taking the piss and swearing a lot.

But to be fair, it’s very difficult to come up with a decent no slogan. Just say no makes you sound like the kids from Grange Hill channelling Nancy Reagan. However the real reason for the difficulty may be explained by the very word slogan itself. It’s a loanword into English from Scottish Gaelic, a mangling of the phrase sluagh ghairm which means “shout of the host”. This is not how to say “last orders” in Gaelic, host in this instance is a more polite and twee Walter Scotty type word for “uncontrolled horde of very pissed off Scottish people”. In Gaelic the term referred to the battle cries of the clans.

Since a whole horde of shouty uncontrollable Scottish people is the philosophical opposite of all that Better Together stands for, you can appreciate their sluagh ghairm difficulty. Westminster prefers its Scottish people silenced and under control, and it’s difficult to come up with a good popular and catchy rallying call to action for a message whose essence is “Shut up and sit down”. It’s the No Slogan Slogan Paradox, coming soon to the collected works of a Scottish philosopher that Dougie Alexander can misunderstand.

Independence, yes please.


Update:  I did a wee graphic.  Click on the image for a large high resolution version you can download and print off.



59 comments on “The No Slogan Slogan Paradox

  1. innerbearsdenurchin says:

    Al-Iqsammin’s Job

    Won’t be long until we that one leveled at him.


    Hope the wine was good.

  2. Eilean says:

    A big problem for the No campaign is that they have no campaign.

  3. Stoops says:

    We gave the world the word ‘fuck’? I never knew that! That is something else that makes me immensely proud to be a Scot.

  4. majormacbloodnok says:

    Thanks for this brilliant analysis – it has brightened my day. (The Horror!!)

  5. macart763 says:

    It doesn’t matter how politely you dress up the word NO. Its a negative in any shape or form and suitably sums up the opposition’s campaign top to bottom. A negative word for a negative campaign and a negative system of government.

    • davidmccann24 says:

      I just put this suggestion on my FB page.

      Bitter of Fibley’s new slogan!!

      “No, no, no,no YES!

      • macart763 says:

        So much fun t’be had wi this David. God, if they’d come to us, we could’ve come up with a few constructive ideas.😀

        But naw, they’ve got to go all upmarket and use the feng shui/kung fu of Acanchi or the city slicker smarts of Such n’ Such. I mean what do some boonies printers and designers know about the dark arts of marketing?

        Well on the strength of No Thanks, we know they’ve just pished JK’s million up against a wa’.🙂

  6. Eilean says:

    “Nuclear Power No Thanks!”

    Ah memories of numerous German hippies driving around in VW camper-vans with “Atomkraft? Nein Danke” stickers plastered everywhere.

  7. See your blog? It’s dead educational. Never knew that about slogan or the f-word. Yes thanks, more please.

  8. JGedd says:

    You mean they paid Saatchi & Saatchi for that? Let’s hope they waste more money.

    I hear that JK Rowling, that doyenne of struggling single mothers, has gifted a small part of her immense fortune to the No campaign. Apparently she wants to keep the Union so that she can become even more obscenely rich while the poor become poorer and food banks proliferate. Not to mention illegal wars and Trident and preserving the last of Empire with all its royal flummery.

    Never mind, they can rejoice in being part of the Union which ensures she remains filthy rich, doling out a little charity to salve her conscience. Recipients of that charity can now be confident that she wishes them to vote No, so that charity is all that they’ll have to rely on, while the future Lady Voldemort and her ilk will be able to preside over who are worthy recipients. They will just have to hope that they are on her “favourite” list of charities and be content to come out and curtsey as Ma’am goes by in her golden coach.

    Sorry to go on, but her type just makes me so angry. At least she could have kept quietly and decently out of the way but she has decided to weigh in with her promotion of the Unionist cause which is simply to keep things the way she, and others like her, want them. Look at the way the Weirs were treated over their donation and yet they did not trumpet their political opinions publicly. Ms Rowling obviously wants to become part of the debate so perhaps we should make it so?

    • innerbearsdenurchin says:

      Years back J K made a small fortune loaning her money to some currency speculators just before the £ tanked, remember George Soros made mega millions that day,?

      Nice lady, and a personal friend and neighbour of AD, in one of his houses anyway.

      • andygm1 says:

        The best thing we can do for J K Rowling is to ignore her. So some rich wummin gave Blair McDougall a load of dosh? He’ll only waste it anyway on leaflets for which there arenae enough grassroots supporters to distribute.

        Anyway, the Weirs gave Yes a load of dosh, so let’s not get uptight about it. At least she’ll be paying her taxes to the Scottish government after a Yes vote so let’s all go out and buy her books.

        • Anon says:

          only *after* independence, not before.

          And they’re crappy books anyway, seriously, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” handled so much of what she tried, so much better, years before.

  9. Eilean says:

    In Glasgow Jakey Rolling is a pastime!🙂

  10. You could polish up on your twitter skils Paul @ADarling #no thanks
    How’s that going anyway?

  11. innerbearsdenurchin says:

    I used to work with some Norwegian engineers when they were installing a waste cereal drying plant at a distillery in Scotland. In terms of education they were entirely educated, engineering wise, in Scotland or Newcastle.

    They used to swear using a word pronounced to my ear as fog, which I thought was fuck in Norwegian.

    Just maybe they picked it up from the Viking forebears as we bade them a cheery farewell after the Battle of Largs?

    • setondene says:

      I worked in Norway with guys who swore a lot saying something like feefahn feefahn. Which I took to be Norwegian for fuck it.

    • weegingerdug says:

      There are some Scandinavian and German words which look like they’re related to the English word fuck, but the exact nature of the connection is obscure. It’s because fuck was a taboo word and so wasn’t written in many texts, which makes it difficult to trace its history. All that can be said for certain is that it’s “Northern”, probably of Norse origin, and its first reliable attestations are in Scots literature.

      Some Norwegian and Swedish dialects have the verb fokka / focka, with much the same meaning as fuck. Swedish dialects also have the word fock “penis”. There’s also Middle Dutch fokken and German ficken which originally meant “to move back and forwards”, or “to itch”. My German neighbour in Spain said “fick dich” for “fuck you”. There’s also a word attested in Middle English, fyke or fike “to flirt, to dally”, which may be related.

  12. WRH2 says:

    Nothing love better than sitting down with a hanky and a mug of boiling hot tea to read the Dug. I use the hanky to mop the tears caused by laughter then when I’ve stopped rolling about in hysterics, my tea is just the right temperature to drink comfortably. Always a great read and cheers up my day no end. Thanks Paul.

  13. […] The No Slogan Slogan Paradox […]

  14. mac1005 says:

    Surely the reply from Better Together to the Saatchi & Saatchi slogan would have been, “No Thanks? …………….. No Thanks!”

  15. smiling vulture says:

    kids from Grange Hill channelling Nancy Reagan——SV–so good

  16. I have only a basic knowledge of J K Rowling’s output. I understand it is full of magic, wizards, flying dragons etc. Pretty poor in terms of imagination compared to the idea that we’d be better together, Naw or No Thanks ( depending on which slogan they’re using this week ).

    Please though, no negativity around her donation. It’s simply not worthy of note or concern.

    The entire forces of England’s establishment are against us ( they have to be as a Yes vote fucks them royally ) so running out of money was never going to be an issue for the No’s.

    Instead of writing a cheque she might have been better trying to come up with some sensible, non fiction, arguments for them…… like eh, um.

  17. Lady Alba will need to add ‘thanks’ to her insistence that she’s voting naw.

  18. Must admit just a bit proud that Sloan also derives from Gaelic term that referred to the battle cries of the clans!
    Great piece – good to see the dug at Yes in the Park!

  19. YESGUY says:

    Thanks again WGD for a wee laugh and an education. Wow we invented fuck, We invented almost everything else so it should be no surprise .

    Love the comments too keep up the good work folks

  20. Jack Spain says:

    Brilliant once again Paul,

    Bitter Together and Westminster…..definitely NO THANKS

  21. Helena Brown says:

    All a very good read and boy I second the education. My Husband says they should have gone with Aye Right, well it is the Scottish words for NO, but then the BT campaign wouldn’t know that being British.

  22. Angus MacRuary says:

    Can we not just combine their 2 slogans into:

    Better Together? No Thanks!

  23. Cag-does-thinking says:

    I think somebody should subvert the No thanks badge into one which says No thing…. Nice to see the BBC website managed to call her JK Rowing in one of their stories.. Freudian slip or what?

    Another very funny tonic of a piece, thanks.

  24. Can we have a counter-slogan. I’d suggest “fuck that”.
    Better together? Fuck that. No thanks? Fuck that too.

  25. Arthur Thomson says:

    Another brilliant piece. Thank you for keeping me and no doubt many others inspired. I have just heard that A.J.Rowling has given a million to the NOT campaign, A drop in the ocean of their bottomless pit. This may just open up the debate and the more it opens up the more the truth will out. Let’s smile, take a deep breath and welcome the challenge of this turn of events. YES.

  26. Arthur Thomson says:

    Sorry, it seems I got the initials wrong but my thoughts are unchanged.

  27. Rosa Alba Macdonald says:

    I am commenting to say, “Westminster Rule, No Thanks!” while true may … well may lead the numpties that voted for the Kippers, gin they change their mind (and some actually that I know off have Yes badges while spouting KipperishJibberish) and the likes into voting No when they mean yes. I think the YES campaign should avoid anything with a No in it, also because of the idea/mentality that Yes is positive and easier to aspire to than a negative No. Sorry to be Cantankerous and Unhelpful Wifie, well versed in the ways of numptidom.

  28. Another fine ramble..ta Wee Dug and all the above companions.

  29. Jon says:

    Much enjoying the blog, thanks.

    I should be interested to read your thoughts on the JK Rowling article coming out in favour of the union. FWIW, I’m English and in favour of Scottish independence, and I have to say Rowling’s position – expressed in a very thoughtful post – has surprised me.

    She’s clearly no Tory, nor a fan of Cameron, justifiably criticising “what is being done to health and education south of the border”. This is probably a good idea, so that unionists of a more reactionary hue cannot hitch their wagon too firmly to her statement.

    What has puzzled me is not that Rowling criticises elements of the independence campaign that judges people on their ‘Scottishness’ – I’ve not really seen that, but then I’ve not been following it from Scotland, and not perhaps all that closely. I’m sure that unpleasantly held views are possible on both sides of the argument.

    What has raised my eyebrows is that Rowling doesn’t acknowledge much awareness of how the British media (in particular the BBC) and ‘neutral’ organs of the state have exhibited substantial bias in favour of the status quo. Thus she seems to have taken notice of disagreeable strains of nationalism on one side, and not the propaganda machine on the other.

    Indeed, I wonder where her money will now go, other than feeding more of the same propaganda. I’m a big fan of her work, and she strikes me as a decent and humane individual, but I wonder whether signing up to the relentless negativity and democratic vacuum of the status quo is not her finest philanthropic choice.

    • macart763 says:

      I have to say I don’t know much about Ms Rowling other than her Hollywood movies. I’m sure the lady has her own reasons for support of Westminster governance and that her entitlement to have this opinion should be respected. How and ever if the lady is humane and reasonable I would hope she looks very carefully at the media coverage of this stooshie and has a good hard think on whether she has just been used as a stick to beat others with.

      Being no stranger to the ins and outs of marketing and media on a Hollywood scale Ms Rowling certainly should be able to separate fact from fiction, spin from actuality. If not then not and certainly no more weight should be placed on her words than yours or mine. I’m no real fan of the use of celebrity in politics at the best of times, but most especially in this constitutional issue, the weight of every citizen’s vote and opinion should be equal. Its far too important an issue for others to be allowed to do our thinking for us.

      • I wonder if she reads any newspapers, unless they are the Scotsman/Mail/Telegraph.

        I know, if I wrote books like she does, I wouldn’t need to so, and just let someone from my publisher screen out what I don’t need to read.

        Alternatively, I would be a bit wary of asking my next door (ish) neighbour, Alistair Darling, to me be my political advisor.

        • macart763 says:

          I don’t think it would matter much what Ms Rowling’s title of choice would be these days. I think they’ve all had a fair pop at YES support and an independent Scotland. The Scotsman/Mail/Telegraph just happen to be the worst of a pretty on narrative industry.

          Mind you, you’d think that would be a heads up all on its own.🙂

      • Jon says:

        > I’m no real fan of the use of celebrity in politics at the best of times

        I’m torn on this one. I’d start by saying that whilst I disagree with her, I don’t think she’s been recruited, and I suspect right-wing unionists would have been reluctant about asking her to make a statement. In the main I believe she’s pretty savvy, and she’s unlikely to want to be seen supporting the same folks destroying “health and education” in England, despite sharing their views on independence.

        However, I know that if I had several million pounds knocking about, I’d consider giving it to causes that are poorly represented in the mainstream media. It’s unfair, really – the case for union is already very well funded, by most of the English press, and most of big business. Thus, if we demand that donations should be limited to one side, we’d have to apply that to the other out of fairness.

        > Its far too important an issue for others to be allowed to do our thinking for us.

        If only propaganda didn’t work!

        • macart763 says:

          Propaganda works if we let it.

          The most amazing thing has occurred in this campaign. The underdog is holding its own through the largest grass roots movement Scotland has ever seen. The engagement of the public has been truly awesome and quite humbling. This really should have been a cakewalk for the establishment. They have all the big guns on their side in the form of the wealthy elite, the Westminster government machine, the entirety of the media, three main unionist parties and three hundred odd years of manipulating public perception.

          And yet the polls are at almost parity. There’s a reason for this and its this simple, people WANT and NEED to be independent both personally and politically. Propaganda works primarily through group think and intimidation. It relies on ignorance, apathy and fear. The unionist establishment have, in my opinion underestimated both the public and their need to control their own future, their own lives. You can feel a palpable change in the air, an excitement I can honestly say I’ve never seen in my lifetime.

          The ordinary person in the street is performing extraordinary feats and its they who will decide this referendum, not the millionaires, however well intentioned or misguided.

          • Jon says:

            > Propaganda works if we let it.

            Well, it depends what you mean. You also say that it works through group-think and intimidation, and I agree with that analysis – unfortunately people are susceptible to these things.

            Thus, it is hard to “let” propaganda either work or fail to – we cannot control the airwaves and the newspapers, and it wouldn’t be democratic to do so anyway. Neither can we change the nature of the corporate news system, which will embed its own values (profit and power) into most of its output (though not all, as it would then be obvious who is pulling the strings – a small amount of dissent makes it look like a free press).

            Certainly, we can attempt to resist propaganda within ourselves, by learning about it, and seeking out alternative explanations of the world from as many viewpoints as we can. But for the masses who are (sadly) easily influenced, their change can only come from education, such as civics classes in schools, the promotion of the web as a source of news, and social movements like the boycott in Liverpool. Unfortunately these are long term strategies for progressive thinkers, and in the meantime there are a lot of people relying on tabloids and trash TV for their view of the world.

            All that said, I hold out some optimism for the campaign, and it may now be powerful enough to wrench that section of the Scottish populace from the hold the media has had them in. Previously the propaganda was about how small a percentage of people would vote yes, and that the whole thing was going to blow up in Salmond’s face. But more recently, thas has become so false (even if it was ever true) the stats have had to change to reflect a much bigger proportion of folks interested in independence. That might be enough to sway people who would otherwise be manipulated by the fear machine, as you point out.

  30. be my political advisor.


  31. Wee Copey says:

    Newly arrived at Wee Ginger Dug and am seriously enjoying all the posts I have read, will take the Jakey Rolling comment from a commenter and use it mercilessly at any opportunity, still chuckling now.

  32. I always thought the “F”-word a legal term:
    Knowledge!Written on the cell doors of the Dublin court houses,for ladies of the night,so to say.

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