Politics - Policy & Ideas - Scotland

2007 - 2021

Better Together’s dismal campaign will weaken the UK in the long-run


Alex Salmond’s belief that independence will be achieved on the back of a “rising tide of expectations” is drawn from recent Scottish political history. It’s no coincidence that support for the SNP boomed in the 1970s following the discovery of oil and gas in the North Sea then slumped in the 1980s as the UK economy entered a severe downturn.

The near doubling of Scottish rates of poverty and unemployment during the Thatcher era sapped Scotland’s economic confidence, reinforcing the defensive and conservative instincts of the Scottish electorate. No doubt last week’s news that British output has begun to recover after the worst recession in living memory was greeted with the same sense of relief in Bute House as it was at the Treasury.

Combined with the continued narrowing of Labour’s Westminster poll lead and an increase in English anti-European sentiment, a period of sustained growth (however modest) could help swing things in Salmond’s favour over the coming 13 months. The launch in November of the SNP’s heavily trailed White Paper on Independence might have a similar effect, particularly if it succeeds in restoring the party’s credibility on a range of key policy issues, not least the currency

Some senior nationalists think their prospects have already begun to improve. They are convinced Better Together, the official vehicle of unionism, has made a strategic error in trying to flood the media with – as the first minister puts it – “a diet of unremitting negativity”. There could be some truth to this. Even Downing Street was embarrassed by the MoD’s ludicrous suggestion that London might try to designate Faslane nuclear base sovereign UK territory if Scotland becomes independent.

Better Together’s reliance on casual dishonesty as a campaigning technique represents another potential weakness in its approach. A few months ago, it claimed a leaked Scottish government memo contained an admission from SNP finance secretary John Swinney that monetary union would mean a Westminster veto over Scottish budgets. In reality, the document did little more than acknowledge some form of fiscal agreement would be necessary to anchor any prospective post-UK “sterlingzone”. Shortly after, a Better Together press release alleged, quite baselessly, that abuse aimed at unionist politicians by pro-independence activists had been co-ordinated by the SNP leadership.

As well as lowering the tone of debate, incidents such as these highlight a serious and far-reaching problem for supporters of the Union: even if a steady flow of misinformation and innuendo is enough to win the immediate referendum battle, it is insufficient as a long-term response to the challenge of nationalism.

Read the full article at New Statesman here …

Comments (2)

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  1. Douglas says:

    When are the SNP going to work out that the cosy relationship with the institutions of the British state they are proposing threatens apathy in large swathes of the left in Scotland? And if the SNP are reluctant to make moves in that direction, and I can see why that might be necessary, why is the YES campaign not making a case for a more radical change?

    This can be seen in things like land reform, as highlighted by Andy Wightman, in culture, where they continue to bend the knee to English arts administrators, and on the monarchy.

    There is a job at Creative Scotland going as head of literature which pays 37,000 pounds a year. How many writers earn 37,000 a year? It’s a disgrace! The model of Creative Scotland is a disgrace, and Fiona Hyslop can make all the speeches she wants in arts galleries, she can quote the lines of poets on the Scottish parliament, but the reality is the SNP government and Creative Scotland are betraying artists, betraying them and leeching the arts money which should legitimately be going to them with a thicket of bureaucracy and form filling.

    I was at the Creative Scotland consultation day on film the other day in Edinburgh; the cake was excellent. There were three of Scotland’s best film producers, all women, pleading for a stand alone film agency. The total budget for film is 3 million pounds. Three million pounds for the country whose writers have created universal characters like Peter Pan, Jeckyll and Hyde, and Sherlock Holmes. Three million pounds is a joke!!!! I made a film in Spain the budget of which was close to the total allocated to Scottish film. It was a coproduction with the Comunidad de Galicia. Galicia has put more money into film than Scotland ever has!!!

    The whole of the world is bending over backwards to shoot films in English, we are English speakers and we put a paltry three million pounds into film? It’s totally provincial and backward thinking.

    I would call on the Scottish government to give serious consideration to allocating a large chunk of the oil revenues into Scottish culture. A Scottish oil film fund. A pipeline from Aberdeen to the arts.

    As for Creative Scotland, it should be abolished. What has changed since Andrew Dixon left? As I say, the cake was excellent.

  2. Douglas says:

    That’s right, Scottish filmmakers…let them eat cake!!!! Why? Cause there’s no bread!!!

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