Revealing some dirty tricks by the Yes side in the Scottish Independence debate
There has been much made of positivity and negativity with regards to campaigning in the Scottish independence referendum. Hardly a news cycle goes by without accusations of negativity being fired from the respective camps, albeit more one way than the other, while both campaigns are focussing much of their efforts on being positive, also more one way than the other.
This is not necessarily a bad thing – the world could use a little more Reagan-style sunny optimism: but this commentator worries that it might cause campaigners on both sides to skip over the genuinely concerning elements of the separatist agenda, out of fear of being branded ‘negative’. Thus far, both campaigns have avoided disaster as far as this acid test is concerned, but it seems that the first real stumble has occurred and the Yes Campaign are the not-so proud stumblers.
This week it emerged that the much-touted Labour For Independence sect within the nationalist camp, which has received a considerable amount of television and print media coverage is, in the words of Scottish Labour’s own deputy-leader Anas Sarwar, ‘a front’ for the SNP. Suspicions were first aroused by the presence of many SNP members at Labour For Independence events, and even SNP councillors acting as members of LFI in official photographs. The response from the group’s leadership effectively admitted to using SNP activists in Labour Party guise, but they maintained that this shows the breadth and depth of their campaign. This is, of course, not true.
If the SNP feel that they require a phantom running-mate organisation to give their campaign the appearance of being anything other than the SNP Show with the Greens as a supporting act, then they really must be in trouble. The Nationalists are fully aware that Scottish Labour are the largest contingent of their opposition campaign, so have at least chosen their target well, even if they have shot themselves in the foot afterwards.
By imagining that a significant number of those in the Scottish Labour Party are pro-independence, and having this fantasy covered in a disproportionate manner by the media, it is evident that the Nationalists are struggling and have resorted to a clumsy attempt to sabotage their main opponents. Perhaps if the YeSNP were a bit more focussed on their own case, and less with what the constituent parts of Better Together are doing, then they might see a poll go their way once in a while.
In addition to how badly such a stitch-up makes the state of the Yes campaign seem, there is an even deeper problem with this situation. When a referendum is about to occur the Yes side automatically have the linguistic benefit of positivity; yes is more positive than no. However, in this campaign with its obsession with positivity, the Yes side have lost this axiomatic advantage.
They concern themselves with opposition activities and bellow ‘scaremongering’ whenever their words of milk and honey are questioned, much like an involuntary tick. The unmasking of LFI as a nationalist shop window will do little to help this problem. They have been caught in the cynical act of inventing a fake organisation, presumably in an attempt to convince the public of disunity within Scottish Labour and the broader Better Together campaign. Dirty tricks of this kind are precisely the kind of tactics of which the Yes side frequently accuse the Better Together campaign, but this incident has shown how much respect the nationalists have for the people of Scotland.
This column has never made any secret of how I intend to vote come September 2014: such are the advantages of writing for a blog which values freedom of speech, so the reader may be curious as to why I am so dismayed at the Scooby-Doo style reveal of LFI as an extension of the SNP.
The reason is that such deceptive tactics rot away at the core of a country’s political culture and inevitably turn people away from Scottish politics: but one of the core values which we all ought to share in modern politics is a desire to see maximum, high-quality democratic participation. The work of the commentator becomes ever more useless as people become less engaged in the processes which directly impact their lives. I want a healthy Scottish politics and an end to such depressing cynicism; I sincerely hope I’m not alone.