Many voices! One message!

While I’m delighted to find Robin McAlpine acknowledging that the core message of the Yes movement in the first referendum was, and remains, “the most coherent we have”, I am somewhat concerned about the intense concentration (I’m trying to avoid the word ‘obsession’) on ever more fine-grained demographic detail. I have to ask, what’s the point? While it’s always better to know more rather than less and I would never underestimate the importance of being informed, I have to wonder what it’s all for.

All this data doesn’t seem to have much practical use – unless the suggestion is that we run lots of separate campaigns with messages carefully tailored to each and every one of numerous narrowly defined demographic groups. And that would be precisely the wrong thing to do.

I have always maintained that we didn’t do much wrong in the first independence referendum campaign. There was nothing wrong with our core message. The problem was that the core message was not conveyed effectively enough. There were a number of reasons for this. Not the least of these was the proliferation of subsidiary or alternative messages. Every party, organisation and group had its own version. This resulted in a dulling and a blurring of that message. Voters couldn’t see the central constitutional question for all the policy options that were crowded around it.

The situation was aggravated by the tendency for large parts of the Yes movement to be preoccupied with ‘critiquing’ the agendas of other parts of the Yes movement to the point where they neglected the core message and failed to properly address the opposition’s arguments. The anti-independence campaign’s job was made easier by the fact that, when attacking some aspect of the Yes case, they could always point to somebody on the Yes side who ‘agreed’ with them.

Diversity was turned to division by the masters of divide-and-conquer.

In a political campaign the power of a message is relative. The No campaign benefited both from the dilution of the Yes ‘brand’ and the banal simplicity of its own message. To put it simply, the No campaign was one voice and one message while the Yes campaign was many voices and many messages. The key to success is many voices and one message.

We have the many voices. We have the one message. We win if we concentrate on that message and sell it as hard as we can. One unified campaign backing one agenda. The entire Yes campaign working to the same plan and reading from the same script. The very opposite of the diffused (defused?) effort that Robin appears to envisage.

Achieving the necessary focus and discipline will not be easy. It is patently obvious that, to have any hope of success, the entire Yes movement must get behind the First Minister and the Scottish Government. A sense of the difficulties we face can be gained from a recent article on, you guessed it, Bella Caledonia ( in which Colin Fox indulges in just the kind of pointless sniping at Nicola Sturgeon that damages the independence movement for no gain other than to his non-SNP credentlials.

Interestingly, Colin’s ‘criticism’ bears absolutely no relation to Robin’s definition of what is ‘true’. Or, for that matter, any other definition of the term. What he offers in his remarks is, not rational assessment, but rhetorical posturing for the benefit of his followers.

I don’t expect the left to love the SNP. I just wish they could find the self-discipline to suspend the party political skirmishing for the duration of a referendum campaign which will only succeed if we all accept the crucial role of the SNP as the de facto political arm of the independence movement.

Solidarity! Focus! Discipline! Many voices – one message! We get that right and it won’t matter a damn what the polls say now.

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16 thoughts on “Many voices! One message!

  1. Graham McMillan

    Very good point, well made.

    Can I sum it up by saying let’s keep the discussion on whether the People’s Front of Judea is better than the Judean Peoples Front (or vice Verda) until after independence is won.

  2. bringiton

    I am afraid that it will again come down to one question.
    Can Scotland survive independently of England’s munificence?

    1. Willie John

      Can we turn that on its head? Can England survive without Scotlands munificence?

      Whisky is worth £11.6 million a day to the Uk….. Or to an independent Scotland.

      1. Bibbit

        I hear in the papers that Scotland makes more gin now than whisky. How much does that contribute also to UK economy. But well said. We have to burst these Better Together myths all the time including the myth of being forced to use the Euro. ONly 19 countries out of the 28 EU members use the Euro, the 9 countries which don’t use the Euro are: UK, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia & Bulgaria.

        Also there are 6 countries NOT EU members which choose to use the Euro: Vatican City, Kosovo, Montenegro, Andorra, San Marino & Monaco.

  3. clachangowk

    I could not agree more with the article. I have attended local Common Weal meetings where agenda is invariably good but always the undercurrent is there that the SNP got it wrong; how much better it would be if the SNP would simply adopt more radical arguments. Sometimes I get the feeling that some on the left while wanting Independence feel it would be much better if the SNP weren’t there.

    The core argument has to be developed but in my mind it must be that Scotland is more than capable of going it alone – we have the resources, an educated population, a stable society and an independent Scotland is the only way to mobilise these advantages for the benefit of everyone. All the rest can follow after Independence is won

  4. Martin

    I too get frustrated with confused messages and “detail’. We need one, “emotionally resonant” message. The one thing we cannot do is ‘manage’ our way to independence. The brexit campaign was successful because it had a simple (if wrong & meaningless) message that nonetheless chimed emotionally with people. An Indyref2 will only be successful if the Yes campaign can find a similarly appealing message that we can campaign behind. Sadly, at the moment this looks to be beyond us.

  5. fermerfaefife

    Fraid I don’t agree. The differentiation was yeses strength. Ric in the schemes, snp in their heartlands, business for scotland, wfi,lawyers, farmers for yes etc etc. All could speak to their section of electorate . One message for all those areas is impossible.
    However there should be a constitutional core message of nuts and bolts of indy (eg currency, constitution,transition) which then for example greens , Ric , tories for yes could all bolt on their possibilities in an independent scotland.
    Diversity is strength.

    1. East Neuker

      There’s definitely nothing wrong with diversity if it enables people to see more clearly the value of independence to them and such as them, which I think is what you are describing.

      Where it has gone wrong at times is that some factions, if I can describe them as that, seem to spend more time and effort sniping and carping at other parts of the independence movement than on either reaching their natural audiences or on attacking unionist arguments.

      That’s got to stop, or we will lose again.

    2. Heidstaethefire

      I agree. I my opinion, e problem with this artle is that it reads as if it was written by a spin doctor who regards the essence of politics as avertising and focussed on an easily repeatable simple message. While that might, or might not, have a certain truth in some elections the Indyref is a binary situation on a foundational proposition. The more reasons to vote “Yes, ” the bettter.

  6. Joyce Drysdale

    Many people that I spoke to on their doorsteps, so at length, were focused on their own interests!for example, those who had or were still working at Rosyth Dockyard believed their job security was dependent on Westminster. Some who had served in the armed forces, many former sailors, believed in the Union as an anti invasion package! Some long term SLab families believed that with Scotland’s support, Labour could win at Westminster some time soon! One size does not fit all when minds are fixed and self interest is paramount!

    1. Bibbit

      Ha, well the chickens have come home to roost for Better Together since 2014! E have to hammer home in Indy2 the big con and the big lies of Better Together! Number 1 lie of course that only by voting No could Scotland remain in EU. That’s gone.

      No 2, vote No for Devomax! That’s another lie gone.

      No 3. Vote No to keep your job! That’s gone.

      No 4. Vote No for 13 frigates built on Clyde. That’s gone.

      No 5. banks will flee Scotland. Now banks are fleeing the UK. With independence these banks will flee from London to Edinburgh!

      No 6 Oil is running out in North Sea. A lie. More oil & gas fields found!

      No 7 Oil prices plummeting in 2014. Now oil prices rising again.

      No 8 Hard border for Scotland exposed as a lie when UK will keep soft border with Eire even when out of EU!

      No 9 Don’t leave Scotland, lead us said Better Together then at 7 am on 19 Sept 2014 David Cameron skipped out of No 10 to announce EVEL, making Scots MPs 2nd class ensuring no Scots MP with Scottish Constituency can ever be the UK Prime Minister again!

      That’s just off the top of my head! many many more Better Together lies all exposed!
      Read The Wee Black Book for the many more lies including the ‘VOW’ all exposed.

      Better Together is a busted flush and they know it.

  7. ScotsCanuck

    All the “high brow” politics and political theology ain’t worth a two-penny damn if we don’t achieve Independence.

    It’s as if some o’ them folk believe we’ve achieved Independence and they’re now moulding this new political landscape.

    They’ve read the prologue …… skipped the ten chapters of the plot …. and are now arguing about what the epilogue means.

    Independence first …….. then the Scottish electorate will mould Scotland into the political entity they wish it to be.

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