I’m perplexed! Audrey Birt refers to the Cycle of Change model by Prochaska and Diclemente, then goes on to ignore its most important element – contemplation. The stage where the individual becomes aware of the problem is crucial to the whole process. Yet, when it comes to the constitutional issue, this stage tends to be disregarded. Largely due to the obsession with ‘positivity’ that was so thoroughly inculcated in the Yes movement during the first referendum campaign.
It isn’t independence that needs to be explained. People don’t need help understanding the concept of independence. Independence is normal. It is the default status of all nations. The benefits are inherent and comprehensible at an intuitive level. If you want to persuade No voters to change their minds about independence then you have to intervene at the stage of contemplation.
The task is, not to persuade No voters to change their minds about independence, but to persuade them to change their minds about the Union.
In the context of Scotland’s constitutional debate, the Cycle of Change, begins with becoming aware that a problem exists and identifying the Union as that problem. The journey from No to Yes begins, not with an epiphany about the nature of independence, but with a questioning of the nature of the Union. Remove the ‘Contemplation’ stage from the Cycle of Change and the cycle is broken. Nothing happens. Nothing changes.
How can an individual move on to the ‘Preparation’ stage and develop an intent to address the problem unless the problem has been identified?
Extolling the advantages of bringing Scotland’s government home is easy. And it’s fun. For the already persuaded, there is great satisfaction to be derived from talking about the virtues of the choice that has been made. The committed Yes supporter needs little prompting to explore the promise and potential of an independent Scotland. But the likelihood is that the equally committed No voter isn’t even listening. They are not intellectually equipped or attitudinally prepared to move on to ‘active modification of behaviour’, for the simple reason that they have been given no reason to question existing prejudices and preconceptions.
The first task is to overcome the inertia which prevents or hinders ‘Contemplation’. This won’t always be possible. A Unionist is someone who has yet to question the Union. A British Nationalist is someone who insist that the Union must never be questioned. For the most part, this latter category must be regarded as a lost cause. At the extreme, British Nationalism is a rigid and unyielding ideology with many of the characteristics of fundamentalist religion. The former category, however, is at least approachable. what matters is the nature of that approach.
In most instances, it will first be necessary to breach the armour of the individual’s resistance. Which means undermining their unthinking conviction that the existing arrangements are something close to ideal. Or the ingrained belief that ‘British is best!’. It means seeking out every weakness in the concept of the Union and exploiting it to the full; inserting a wedge which, if hammered in the appropriate way, may eventually open up a crack in that shell of mindless certainty.
We need to take a lesson from the anti-independence campaign. Not to emulate the unprincipled methods of Better Together/Project Fear, but to adopt and adapt the approach which worked so well for them. The key weapon in the British establishment’s propaganda armoury was doubt. They never argued for the Union. They never attempted to address the case for independence. What they did, with evident success, was create doubt. They made the people of Scotland doubt themselves, and each other, with a pernicious, insidious campaign of brazen lies, vicious smears, increasingly risible scares and, ultimately, empty promises.
We must rid ourselves of the notion that we have somehow failed to make the case for independence. On sober reflection, we realise that this would hardly be possible. Independence is, after all, perfectly normal.
We must, instead, resolve to make the case against the Union. With what we know, that should be easy. And without resort to the despicable methods deployed on behalf of the British state.
Audrey Birt’s intentions are beyond reproach. And I do not for one moment doubt her expertise. But the Yes campaign needs fewer motivational speakers intent on reassuring No voters of the validity of their attitudes and more political orators ready vigorously to challenge those attitudes.Views: 1898
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