The two pronged approach

subordinateandsilencedOver the weekend the SNP’s former Westminster leader Angus Robertson announced the launch of a new think tank, Progress Scotland, which aims to build the case for independence by examining the arguments most persuasive to those who previously voted No. The initiative was backed by Murray Foote, the former editor of the Record responsible for the infamous Vow, and Sir David Edward, the former UK judge on the European Court of Justice, who says he is now leaning toward the idea of independence although he confesses to some fears and reservations.

Naturally the usual suspects were not pleased. The SiU’s green ink brigade were out in force and infesting the comments section of online editions with their usual nastiness, deflection, whataboutery, and general biliousness. They are a perfect summation of the character of the British state they effect to defend, nasty, nit-picking, jealous, and totally bereft of anything positive. How dare a pro-independence initiative crowd fund eh? Why, they should just do what pro-UK organisations do, and secretly suck at the teat of the very rich and well connected, because that’s so much more morally superior.

But not all the critics were supporters of the British state. There’s been a bit of harrumphage and sniffy disdain in certain quarters of the more self-righteous wing of the Scottish independence movement about some newcomers to the cause who spoke up in support of Progress Scotland. Some were suspicious of the motives of those who are fresh to the cause. Others can’t get over the hurt that they felt because of the actions of prominent supporters of the No campaign in 2014 who are now supporting Yes. Yet others simply don’t believe that the change of heart and mind is genuine.

However the reality is that unless we persuade soft Noes to come over to Yes, we’re not going to win independence. That means that in order to build a majority, we need to attract the support of people who supported the No cause in 2014. The more prominent that person was in their support for No in 2014, the greater the influence that they are able to have on other soft Noes who are now wavering in their support for the British state because of the mess of Brexit. If you are a committed supporter of independence and have been for years, that’s great, but you’re not the target audience here.

When you read the reasons that these prominent No voters give for coming over to the cause of independence, it is striking that they don’t talk so much about the positive reasons for independence, but rather more about their disenchantment and loss of faith in the institutions of the British state and the ability of the UK to represent Scotland and defend Scottish interests.

So for example David Edwards speaks about the choice he now feels he is confronted with between the “undoubted uncertainties of independence and on the other exit from the EU, and being ruled by people in London who don’t understand or believe in the constitutional implications of the devolution settlement.”

Murray Foote writes, “With mounting anger I’ve watched the Westminster Government choose to inflict vindictive policies across Britain. And, despite overwhelming evidence, they continue to deny the damage their policies cause.
Now we teeter on the brink of Brexit, an act of self-harm for which future generations will pay a heavy price. Again, Brexit is a choice. But it’s not Scotland’s choice. Throughout this unfolding calamity, the Westminster Government has treated Scotland’s democratic preferences with shameful contempt.”

What is striking is that for both men, their movement towards Yes does not seem to have been driven primarily by a positive belief in the advantages of independence, but rather more because of a loss of faith and disenchantment with the British state. Other prominent No supporters who have come over to Yes and who write about their change of heart on the Progress Scotland page likewise talk mainly about their loss of trust and belief in the institutions of the British state more than they talk about their positive belief in the opportunities of an independent Scotland.

So clearly we need a two pronged approach in order to ensure that we convert as many wavering No voters as possible. That’s the best way to skewer the arguments of opponents of independence. A two pronged attack is twice as effective. A battery zaps because it has both a positive and a negative pole. We need to reassure them about the advantages of independence, and also reinforce their concerns about the failures of the UK.

Yes, it is vitally important that we continue to talk up the positives of independence. The moral and democratic arguments for independence are unassailable and hugely important. We have a convincing economic case too, albeit one that struggles to get through the fog of distraction blown out by the Scottish media. It remains extremely important that we have the answers to questions about independence that wavering voters are likely to demand of us.

But what an examination of the words of those who have come over to Yes teaches us is that it is also important that we talk more about the negatives, disadvantages, and damage created for Scotland by the British state. That was something that we didn’t do much in 2014, concerned as we were to present a positive and happy clappy case for independence. We conceded the negative arguments entirely to our opponents. The next time we must not make the same mistake. We must be loud and vocal about the downsides and disadvantages to Scotland if it remains a subordinate and sidelined part of the British state.

Brexit makes that task so much easier, as it has destroyed many of the perceived advantages of the UK. The contempt with which Scotland has been treated by Westminster since 2014 makes that task easier still, as we can now contrast the promises made by the Westminster establishment in 2014 with what has actually transpired, and in every case they come up wanting. The Brexit process has taught us that there is a country in the British Isles which is a valued and equal partner in a family of nations. That country is Ireland within the EU. Ireland had partners which respect it and who listen to its concerns. Scotland within the UK is subordinate and silenced.

However what remains most important of all if we are to win is that when previous opponents do come over to our side, we must welcome them with open arms and warm hearts, no matter what damage they did to the independence movement in 2014. There is a simple equation, the more damage that they did to Scottish nationalism in 2014, the more damage they are able to do to British nationalism now, and that’s why the SiU online trolls have been out in force. We’ve got them rattled.



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34 comments on “The two pronged approach

  1. J Galt says:

    The thing is what happens if the interests of Ireland and Volkswagen AG start to diverge?

    The working people of Greece were thrown under a bus, why not Ireland?

    • weegingerdug says:

      It’s pretty obvious that Ireland is listened to by other EU members in a way that Scotland is not listened to by the UK government.

      And the Greeks still want to remain a part of the EU.

    • jeans-jacques says:

      The Greek sovereign debt crisis was caused by the Greek political and financial elite (ably assisted by the city of London). The EU bailed Greece out and to preserve moneytary union sure it was necessary to exact a heavy price . But if Greece was’nt in the Euro or the EU it would have had to throw itself on the tender mercies of the IMF. Check out Argentina or UK 1976 fror that scenario . Same applies to Ireland, the lender of last resort is the ECB and that averts disaster.

  2. Tol says:

    Just as with your own family, you can bitch all you want but nobody else gets to trash talk them.

    So it is with YES> Just pointing out the failures of people’s past beliefs will shut their minds…and cast you as a problem….

    It must always be a 1…2. Scotland’s positives are an answer to Westminster’s disasters. YES must weaponise its points so it cuts like a rapier through the misinformation and reveals Westminster’s nostalgia rhetoric for the emptiness it always was.

  3. Jon in Chicago says:

    We need to reassure them about the advantages of independence, and also reinforce their concerns about the failures of the UK.

    Etch this sentence into your brains. There’s your winning formula.

  4. Alex mackie says:

    Too late for that, just tell the people the disadvantages of not being independent, it’s easierror to swallow for the unbelievers and with Brexit to help you it should do the trick a lot quicker. Maybe fast enough to stop Westminster’s destruction of Scotland…….

  5. Alasdair Macdonald. says:

    And, the great supporter of the rights of people across the world, Mr Jeremy Corbyn has said, no referendum for Scotland. It is more important to sort out BRITAIN>

  6. Diane says:

    I’m the manager of a charity shop in Edinburgh and Sir David Edwards wife is one of my volunteers. This is a lady who had No posters in her window and wore a No badge for weeks before the referendum. I didn’t even try to convince her otherwise given the strength of her conviction. Their son, John Edward, was the spokesperson for one of the Remain groups in Scotland. As soon as that Leave vote came through I sensed a change in her stance. She, like her husband is now swaying to Yes with reservations. I’ll get working on it!

  7. Andy Anderson says:

    100% agree with what you say Paul.

  8. Robert Graham says:

    Let’s hope Paul gets a wider audience because a wonderful speaker and writer deserves recognition and not just from independence supporters .

    First and foremost has to be media coverage every single opportunity must be used to the fullest ,

    The dereliction of duty shown by this BBC in Scotland again reared its unionist head by failing to cover the first ministers visit to the USA & Canada this follows their inability to cover a previous visit to the Irish republic , it appears staff from Pacific heights are adverse to Travel when it involves anything remotely close to promoting anything to do with Scotland ,

    This scabby union is in its death throes they know it ,and they know that we know it as well , heaven and earth will be moved to suppress any news that lets scots know what is going on , and the steps taken to make sure people here don’t find out what’s being done to them , but it can’t last, the dam will break its just a matter of time , even people with wee hammers can break the biggest dam ,we just have to keep chipping away, it’s working if it wasn’t they wouldn’t be so excited .

    • Cubby says:

      The union is the dirty fag end of the Brutish Empire and we all know what we do with fag ends – throw them in the gutter.

  9. bringiton says:

    I think many of us came to independence with the realisation that no matter which administration was in charge at Westminster,the British state was never going to deliver the sort of Scotland we want to see.
    Their determination since 2014 to erradicate all things Scottish simply reinforces that idea.

  10. Douglas says:

    Excellent article Paul,

    A few of those who voted NO last time will never change their minds. However, many of those who voted NO last time are more forgiving and trusting people than me. They wanted to believe that Britain was fair and just. It was a trusting wistful hope that has been blown away by events. Things they thought were certainties have turned out to be false. They have lost something that they thought was real -and understandably will feel a bit lost. We can help them.

    They need to be welcomed by giving space and respect to reconsider i.e. no crowing or rebuke.

    They are better people than me because they gave Britishness one last chance to show some good. Britain blew it.

    Anything that we can learn from them about their motivation to change is gold dust.

    We have so much to learn from them about what makes folks change to YES.

  11. mary mackenzie says:

    I am very happy to read your latest blog, Wee Ginger Dug.
    I thought last time that we lost the referendum for two reasons.
    One, that people can be divided into two schools of thought: those who go towards and those who go away from. The Yes campaign catered for the go to people very well, but not at all for the go away from folk, who, in my experience are half the population. These ones will only change their position when they feel that anything would be better than where they are, and so they move away. If we had had an honest media, we might have reached these people, but we didn’t so there was no chance to have them see that their Union to which they were clinging wasn’t fit for purpose. Now, with the National, and the obvious mess we are in with Brexit and the daily insults to our MPs, there is a better chance to let the go- from people see why they should move.
    The other reason was that then people liked to vote Labour and think of themselves as decent,i.e. Labour- voting people. They had a home in Labour for Independence, who made a very impressive stand for better and honest socialist values, but were trashed at every opportunity by the Scottish media and totally unsupported by the Yes headquarters in Hope Street. I went there twice and pleaded with them to display the pamphlets and tee-shirts of Labour for Independence, but they seemed disinterested.
    So I rushed off to Labour For Independence headquarters and collected large boxes of their pamphlets, and when our group in Maryhill Road campaigned and leafletted outside Tescos and we saw people swerve not to go near us, I rushed after them with the Lfor Indy material which they took with some interest, (after they finished running down the SNP!)
    We need a dedicated group of pamphleteers telling it like it is about the Union and making sure that every pensioner and school get copies. Maybe even a Pub quiz. And refute the lies at every turn, making sure the writing is out there, and in the letter boxes!

  12. Theatani says:

    Ultimately, all 2014softNOs need to be convinced of is “how would we ever survive?!” Do that and a YES majority is in the bag. This also applies to softYES who might say “there would be a deficit – so we would be f****d”. An educational program of information will swell the tide and sweep away the union as it currently stands.

  13. Tol says:

    YES has a problem.

    YES and “Unionists” are no longer speaking the same language…or at least no longer using the same logical underpinnings. They are walking away from the “Age of Reason”.

    Brexit media (even politicians) reveal that UNION now no longer rely on reasoning and demonstrable evidence (i.e. facts ) instead they have replaced it with “belief” and hierarchy.

    Its like we are watching the forgetting of perspective painting and are now stepping back into the dark ages.

    In the middle ages – people were not shown relative to each other is space…they are sized by importance and status. I.e. no lowly person can ever be a high status person even if they are next to each other….that would be against the moral order.

  14. Luigi says:

    A significant number of people voted NO in 2014 because they were not sure. BT played a blinder and hoovered all those waverers up by aggressively pushing the “If you are not sure, just say No” slogan at the end of the campaign. Very different now however – with Brexit there are no certainties and the soft NOs of 2014 have to be made very aware of the dangers of remaining in the UK Post Brexit.

    It has to be a carrot And stick approach this time. No messing. There is too much to lose.

    • Millsy says:

      Anyone wavering about staying in the Union should be made to watch any week’s PM’s questions from Westminster .
      If they choose to be ruled by that motley crew of demented misfits – then they deserve everything that is coming to them !

  15. Daisy Walker says:

    Again, such a good, well reasoned blog. Thank you.

    With the benefit of hindsight in the run up to 2014, several people who I now know to be tories – attempted to sway me by pretending to be Labouresque in their thoughts;)

    Perhaps time we borrowed that hat from them and pretend to at least see things from a slightly right of centre point of view.

    Better Together admit running a campaign of 2 parts fear, 1 part good news – which for them meant rose tinted, union jack bedecked, black and white footage of Great British nostalgia and cloth capped wearing labour workers, cheering for Churchill.

    I firmly believe that no efforts are ever wasted, and the positive Yes campaign has left its legacy.

    We are now facing a different beast with Brexit, and can afford to change tactics a wee bit.

    And on the positive side, if we can persuade our former No Voters to believe and support Independence for Scotland, to have a stake in the running of their own country, instead of being a country with very sizeable chunk of its own population feeling disgruntled, we would have them with their shoulders to the same wheel.

    And while I am not a Tory, there are some of that inclination, across all walks of life and professions, who have skills, contacts, abilities and wealth, and even a different way of looking at things. A country needs diversity, and that includes a diversity of political outlooks (though hopefully not too many of the right wing kind).

    If we can persuade them to Indy – Scotland will be a much stronger and secure country as a result.

    Many of those Unionists are very firmly in favour of Devolution. Many are pro European, Most are pro Business, and they all believed in a benevolent, Greater Britain.

    They put their hearts on their sleeves, believing in something bigger than Scotland… And they have been well and truly humiliated and betrayed by Westminster. Right just now they are very frightened and confused.

    Right just now they need reassured and comforted and made to feel welcomed and that they also have a stake in Scotland.

    Through their eyes, an independent Scotland was going to be a socialist nightmare, with lots of people laying about, claiming benefits willynilly and ruining the country. There is over 30 years of propaganda telling them that.

    It does not mean, that they do not appreciate or value the NHS, or education, or our other social services, they just want to be reassured that there are checks and balances in place, so the system is not abused.

    Re Scotland trades 4 x as much with England as it does with EU.

    3 quick responses…

    1/ aye, but a great big chunk of that is electricity… what are they going to do, sit round a candle.

    2/ aye, but they will be doing some form of trade deal with the EU eventually and Scotland will be a part of the EU, so they will not be allowed to discriminate.

    3/ the figures gathered for that are extremely dubious and incomplete, gathered by Westminster – just look how good they are at that sort of thing with Brexit.


    • Dave says:

      “Scotland trades 4 x as much with England as it does with EU” – you might want to refer to this link in your reply:

      • Daisy Walker says:

        OK, thanks. Not so easy to remember these stats, or rattle them off quickly, but I take your point.

        Your article does not quantify the difference in volume of trade to England compared to EU – which potentially leaves a door open for them to keep using.

        e.g.. they talk of trade between England and Scotland and they talk of exports to EU. These are not the same and have different measurements. Very easy for the media to rattle of large numbers and confuse the issue.

        The ‘Scotland trade 4 x as much’ schtick needs all the rebuttals it can get, at every opportunity. The more methods the better.

        Kind regards.

    • Alex K says:

      “Perhaps time we borrowed that hat from them and pretend to at least see things from a slightly right of centre point of view.”

      A conservative case for independence? Would be a nice twist.

      And we do, as you say, need to reassure the frightened unionists, give them something else to believe in.

  16. Anne says:

    I invariably find the WGD posts informative and insightful. This is one of the best. Thank you. Recently I have been reading The Jewel In the Crown, which describes how people in India were asked to support Britain during the first world war, on the promise of much more resourcing and autonomy. Of course this promise was quickly forgotten and by 1942, to year in which the book is set, there was widespread disenchantment. The Jewel in the title is from Disraeli, who described India in these terms to Queen Victoria – a reflection of the net export of resources from the sub-continent. Albion’s perfidy is longstanding.

  17. Cubby says:

    Tell the no voters about Clair Ridge and then tell them again and again.

  18. Oor Hana says:

    Paul , , I don’t agree with all of your assessment of the latest idea from Holyrood,Except I,m pleased Angus will be with us, too good a man to loose. The others seem to have been on a walk on the Demascus road, their input will be welcome and interesting.Do you know what it’s about? Enough said. What I need to know is if you have been approached by any of these people, asked for your opinion, or advice. You of all, and there are others, know the the situation in detail, the state of the independence movement. I wouldn’t like to think all the hours and years of work you and others have put in will be brushed aside. You especially have been there to pick us up when we were down, and above all, stopped us from becoming a rabble

  19. Clive Scott says:

    The Dug is acknowledging that negative campaigning is what works. The 2014 Yes campaign relentlessly tried to stay positive whereas Better Together concentrated on generating fear with negatives, many downright lies. To win Indyref2 we need to get down and dirty – Michelle Obama said when they go low, we go high. The democrats lost!

    • Alex K says:

      Emotion trumps reason. Fear Trumps hope. We need to make people scared of remaining in the Union and hopeful independence will be better.

  20. Bill Hume says:

    In 2014, no owned project fear…… it’s our turn.

  21. Kate says:

    Excellent piece again, Paul. And I concur with pretty much everything you’ve said. In fact I’ve been saying that since 2014. And been called negative. And all these different groups that have popped up to lead us to Indy continue to tell me I’m wrong – that positivity works better. I understand and indeed I agree that positivity was needed. But I’m a realist. We’re talking about the minds of human nature here… and as such, we have to recognise what it is we are up against and what we have to deal with.

    Half of Scotland sees the pro’s of an independent Scotland and so will vote indy. So we’re good there. But a good many of the other half of the population see only what affects them personally. I DO NOT mean that in a selfish way. I mean, they’re not into politics. In fact the whole subject bores them because they see no actual relevance of it to their own lives. (That’s okay – we all have our own preferences for what interests us. We don’t all have to find the same thing fascinating!), never realising EVERY SINGLE FACET of their lives are controlled by politics. Life is comfortable enough, they keep a nice wee house, they have food to eat, the kids are at school or in a free Uni, the car is running smoothly &doesn’t need any work done to it, the dog/cat is healthy and they’ve a few pennies left at the end of the month to go to the football or go on a radge night out. Life is GOOD. Why worry about politics? Whatever happens, nothing much REALLY changes their lives & they continue in much the same vein.

    But this is a VERY DIFFERENT game now. And that lovely little life of theirs is about to be turned UPSIDE DOWN.They have to understand there is NO ‘safe space’, no middle ground, NO status quo this time. They will HAVE TO make a decision, one way and another. And because it’s human nature we’re talking about, we have to show them how BADLY their beautiful life is about to be affected – how brexit will tear that tranquil life down, no food, no medicines, very possibly no job! THEN we talk about the lifeboat – independence. Scotland will have better services, we’ll have FOOD, an NHS & MEDICINES, we’ll still have free tuition for the kids’ Uni years, and they will likely STILL HAVE A JOB. we have to put the fear of losing these things, into them. Then hand them back – with independence.

    But they NEED to know, that if they don’t vote FOR those things, they are effectively voting AGAINST them. And they’re going to LOSE EVERY SINGLE ONE of those things.It’s just how we, as human beings are. We don’t know what we’ve got till we lose it. We MUST make these folks understand – there will be NO STATUS QUO. They have to vote ‘YES LET’S KEEP THESE THINGS’. Or ‘NO, WE PREFER TO LOSE THEM’. It’s that straightforward this time.

    PS: I don’t think we can blame some folks for distrust, suspicion or even disdain for some of those folks who have come over to the YES side. The majority are welcomed with open arms & most Yessers understand that that is necessary and are very welcoming. But – trust is like respect. It has to be earned. You can’t do something like be a part of a very nasty campaign to deny half the country their fundamental right to independence, propagate lies & swindling – then expect it to be forgiven and forgotten because they’ve now decided they don’t like the brexit deal. Let’s be frank – for some it isn’t about loving the positive side of Scotland & particularly wanting Indy. It’s simply about not liking the brexit negative side of UK.They have only gone to ‘yes’ to get what they want out of it and so in many ways, it isn’t that they’re ‘converting’ – simply voting for what they themselves don’t want to lose. It’s that ‘human nature’ thing again. Let’s be quite plain. They wouldn’t vote for Indy in other circumstances. Those ‘no to yes’ folks have to expect a certain amount of disbelief of their true intentions and if that disbelief & possible suspicion or disdain bothers them at all, then they could try earning the respect & trust they want, back again. If they aren’t willing to do that, then they just have to accept they won’t get it. We have to recognise though – it ISN’T usually the ‘no’ viewpoint of last time that is making this difficult. Its the LIES & DECEIT that folks are having trouble getting past…

    I HAVE seen some people say an apology would be nice. Perhaps it’s the way I was brought up. My Mom taught me if I hurt someone, I should apologise for doing so, whether the hurt was intentional or not. And its something I’ve learned just has to be done in the circumstances. Well…it CAN be difficult to spit the words out sometimes, but if its due and warranted, I do it. It’s the grown up thing to do, is part of the trust & respect thing… I don’t need Murry Foote’s apologies. If he has changed his mind & is voting yes, then – I appreciate the one more vote and I’ve said so to him (in his Twitter announcement, I mean). And I certainly won’t be giving him a hard time about his past ‘no’ life. Others are finding it more difficult to get past it. But gosh, it just seems so daft that he’d refuse to apologise if he feels he’s doing the hard trot at the moment. If apologies aren’t forthcoming to those that DO feel its warranted, that’s okay. But don’t expect trust & respect, either… It takes two to tango.

  22. well said, Kate.
    Last time it was more or less left to Blair Jenkins to put the non political case for Independence, and the Glenn Campbells and Toodle Oo The Noo’s and Hang On A Minute Brewers(remember the ‘shedloads of new powers’ Scotland was going to get according to the Brewdog) to spout the Brit Nat lies threats and warnings fed to their pet propaganda wing by Darling Brown Davidson Cameron Milliband and Clegg about not being allowed to use ‘England’s’ Pound, the Oil is running out, the prices would skyrocket in the supermarkets and we’d have to go to the back of a ten year queue to get back into the EU and be forced to use the Euro, and would be an economic basket case because nobody would lend us any money because we have £15 billion annual deficit.
    Wee Wullie loved reminding everybody that Scotland was shite. (sorry, I’m feckin’ ragin’ at my recall of all of this.)
    Remember Brewer chairing a ‘debate’ with Davidson Murray the Egg man and Rennie which was a set up by BBC Pacific Quay stockade to shout down and threaten Scotland if we dared to take back our country.
    Well, not this time.
    We have street smarts now.
    In the next campaign, I’d expect all 35 SNP MPs to be involved at grass roots level in their constituencies, and a Rainbow Alliance of green SNP and Labour to come out for Independent Scotland in Europe.
    We are about to lose everything.
    Our publicly owned and funded NHS, our Education system, our freedom of movement in our own Continent, our jobs, our pensions, our house, and food from our table.
    It is small wonder that Ross Thomson is feeling the stress of it all. aye, right.
    No more Mr and Mrs Nice Guy.
    We fight, we attack, we ridicule as is deemed fit.
    This is a war in every sense of the word.
    They are taking food from our table, and the roof from over our heads.
    They are trying to fence Scots in behind barbed wire patrolled by Brit Border Guards.
    We did not vote for this.
    Now is the time, now, now, now.
    May’s had her wee visit to Brussels. The answer is the same. No, so we are staring down the barrel of the worst recession since the Depression.

    We must be unrelenting in pursuit of Truth over lies. The best form of defence is attack.
    Our Plan A is to drive Brit Nat Unionism out of Scotland.

  23. Noirin Blackie says:

    Excellent as always

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