Monthly Archives: April 2014

THEY SAY ‘FOREIGNERS’ – WE SAY BEST FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS

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If one thing can sum up the difference in approach between the Yes and No camps it is in our respective visions of future relationships across these isles following an independent Scotland. Where we see independence as an opportunity to recalibrate our relationship and build upon our fantastic social ties with our best friends and neighbours they see nothing other than ‘foreigners’ and ‘border posts’. Like most of the No’s agenda it a self defeating, negative view that simply won’t work because the Scottish people don’t share their shallow, restrictive world view. For most Scots our ties across these islands are deep, multi-faceted and have absolutely nothing to do about how we are governed. But where it won’t work, this agenda can do untold long term damage to our future relationships, and I for one, just wish they would stop it.

Following the collapse of large parts of their campaign it looks like the Nos are upping this part of their agenda and painting an even more vivid and chilling world of future ‘foreigners’ with scary ‘families ripped apart’ rhetoric. Presenting an almost apocalyptic vision of a physical border skewering our island with border guard patrols. Just watch the Nos almost spit out the word ‘Foreigner’ like some sort of contorted Nigel Farage whose use and context of the word they almost seem to have exactly copied.

Out of all the divisions of Project Fear this then is possibly the most potentially destructive in the long term. The more they go on about ‘borders’ and foreigners’ the more the people of the rest of the United Kingdom will start to think about future relationships couched in such terms. Remember the rest of the UK are particularly sensitive to this debate just now with the closing down of large parts of the UK with the rise of UKIP and their poisonous debate about immigration. It is particularly unfortunate that the Nos resort to trying to enlist the people of the UK in their negative campaign against an independent Scotland. We see this when they pose questions such as ‘why would the rest of the UK share anything with Scotland when we’ve just ‘rejected’ them’? They suggest to the rest of the UK that this is all about us ‘leaving’ them, and if we are indeed ‘leaving’ then we take absolutely nothing with us. We see this starting to creep into the debate about shared UK institutions such as the currency and the BBC. It is singularly unpleasant and I think we in Yes can only apologise to the people of the rest of the UK for the way the Nos have tried to cynically engage them.

The simple fact is that we will not be leaving far less rejecting anybody and most people in the rest of the UK know that. We will instead be deciding that we want to govern ourselves pursuing the agenda decided by the people who live and work in Scotland. Our fantastic relationships with the people of these islands won’t be compromised by independence instead they will be enhanced as we approach our shared institutions from a perspective of equality and mutual respect. Our cultural bonds and shared history will remain a feature of exactly who we are on both sides of the border. They will inform and lay the foundations of the new institutions that we will create. We will still be best friends and neighbours only we won’t be sharing the same Prime Minister.

So can I ask the Nos to stick to the lovebombing and stay of the division building? By all means bring up Eddie Izzard, Fergie, Bowie, John Barrowman and the rest of them to tell us how much they love us and why we should work together. Leave the world of the ‘foreigner’ and otherliness to the likes of Farage and his ilk. The ‘lovebombing’ is perhaps one of the few things that is positive in the No campaign and maybe they can make the debate a bit more about this ‘love’ rather than the usual fear.

Maybe we can perhaps start our own lovebombing in return by telling the rest of the UK how much we similarly ‘love’ them with our family ties, shared history and fantastic joint British culture? That for us there will never be a border in our heart when it comes to our relationship with the rest of the people of these islands. Maybe this can counter the damage the Nos have thus far done with this unfortunate ‘foreigners’ agenda.

And at the end of all of this we can all be in a better place, working together in a new and innovative way, governing ourselves and looking forward to the next chapter in the story of these remarkable islands.

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SEND FOR DAVE

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What does the No campaign do now? It’s next move may well determine the outcome of the referendum and you can almost feel the competing tensions and sense the absolute paralysis and indecision at the highest levels of this the most bizarre and expedient of political alliances.

Its messaging has gone haywire and its long term strategy falling to pieces. The ‘uncertainty’ campaign is in danger of being totally washed away. Do they up the fear or look for a more ‘positive’ case? People are even starting to laugh at them as they descend into the language of ‘cataclysmic’ and warn us of alien invasions. The hectoring, threatening tone also just does not work with a Scottish people who won’t be told by London. They are in deep, deep trouble.

Can I be so brave as to offer them some advice, absolutely certain in the knowledge that they will never, for a minute, take it up? The biggest problem for the Nos is their leadership and it is this that they must (but won’t) address. Political campaigns can be re-calibrated and reinvented, and there are always clever young things with new ideas, but in politics it is leadership that matters most.

I don’t know the No campaign director, Blair McDougall. He seems a decent enough guy and In his few media appearances he comes across as competent, if uninspiring, but clearly way out of his depth. He has never led a political campaign or large organisation before, yet he has been tasked to lead a fractious cross party organisation with competing and converging interests. He is the engine room of a campaign that is singularly failing, squandering a huge lead that had them so far ahead only a few months ago. It also seems like he is on his own unlike the Yes team equipped with an army of Stephen Noons.

I also don’t even know Alistair Darling, the face of the No leadership. He and I have shared the same work place for the past 13 years but he has never spoken to me in all that time – I think I’m too much of an inconsequential oiky Nat for him to bother about. So all I have are my observations of him as a fellow politician and leader. To me he comes across as a diffident, aloof, even shy sort, and I have to say that there could be nobody more awkward and self conscious in this role. His media appearances have become increasingly argumentative and approaching disastrous. This was someone who regularly won the contest for the most boring politician of the year. To be reinvented as this angry and agitated campaign leader just does not work and he now looks almost frightening to most neutrals.

That is why they have to send for Dave. Yes. I know he’s a Tory, and I know we loathe the Tories to the bottom of our ballot boxes in Scotland, but this is not a Parliamentary election, and Dave is by far the best and most convincing advocate the Nos have. He also comes with the office and has authority that no other No has. He is one of the few Nos who can almost put a passionate case for the Union and because he is not Scottish Labour he is spared from that almost tribal hatred of the SNP that comes across in practically every Labour spokesperson. The, “How do we deploy Dave?” stuff is just nonsensical. He is the Prime Minister of the Union they’re hoping to save! No-one can argue for his right to do that better than the man that currently inhabits that role, and If this referendum is about anything it is about who should ultimately run Scotland – is it the UK Prime Minister or the Scottish First Minister? The fact that it is now clear that he would have to resign if the Union is lost would only further encourage him to put everything into these debates.

Yes, he should debate, but that’s only part of it. The Tories supply the ‘intellectual’ case for the Union with their analysis papers and they supply most of the funding. The Tories in Scotland are also the most engaged supporters of the Union and having their leader at the front would only further energise them. Bringing Cameron on board now would signal an escalation in the UK’s response and would suggest that the UK are taking the referendum seriously. It would also signal that they are properly addressing their many campaign difficulties with renewed leadership. Keeping him semi-engaged just looks they have something to fear and emphasises their clear leadership difficulties.

Now, I know that the Nos won’t listen to me or any other ‘Nat’ but surely the longer the Nos hold Dave back the worse it will be for them when they will forced to eventually unleash him?