You’re all doing it wrong!

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the independence movement or the SNP says or does, Gerry Hassan will insist that it’s wrong. It’s what he does.

He’s not the only one, of course. During the first independence referendum campaign I identified something I called the Riddoch-Hassan Syndrome. Everybody who was involved in the Yes movement will doubtless recall the endless pontificating of self-appointed moderators lecturing us about how we were doing it all wrong. We were talking to the wrong people, about the wrong things, at the wrong times, in the wrong places and in the wrong way. Whatever we were doing, it was wrong.

It never seems to occur to these droning moaners that doubling support for independence in the course of the campaign against a background of one of the biggest and most unprincipled propaganda efforts ever mounted by the British state in peace-time suggests something considerably less than the total failure their hyper-criticism implies.

And it didn’t matter anyway. Because we were all doing it wrong all the time regardless of what we were doing. Apparently, there was no right way to campaign. Because no matter what was said or done, or how it was said, or by whom it was done, there was always some Gerry Hassan or Lesley Riddoch ready to shoot it down with a salvo of haughty tut-tutting.

Were these people not quite so obsessed with their supposed intellectual superiority, they might have considered the possibility that they were part of the problem. Had they not been so busy wagging a disapproving finger at the rest of us, they might have reflected on the effect of parroting the anti-independence line from within the independence movement.

Had they not been quite so taken with the rhetorical resonance of their remonstrating, it might have occurred to them that this constant carping was what was actually undermining the Yes campaign rather than the honest efforts they were at such pains to denounce and denigrate.

If we are looking for a simplified explanation of why we failed to secure a Yes vote in 2014, we could do a lot worse than light upon the fact that, at any given time, up to a third of the Yes campaign was picking up cues from the unionist media and running with the Better Together/Project Fear narrative.

There was nothing wrong with the Yes message. To the extent that the Yes campaign failed, it was a failure of communication, not content. Our positive, aspirational message was overwhelmed by the cacophony of negativity issuing from the British establishment. A situation significantly aggravated by the tendency of parts of the Yes movement to add its voice to that cacophony of grinding negativity.

Let’s be clear! We’re not talking here about constructive criticism. We’re talking about uncritical acceptance of whatever line was being peddled by the anti-independence campaign. The currency issue is an illustrative example. Rather than challenging and scrutinising the British establishment’s threat to unilaterally abolish the currency union in retaliation for a Yes vote, a large part of the independence campaign turned on Alex Salmond, attacking him and the Scottish Government’s position using language and arguments lifted straight out of the British media.

And they’re still at it! No lessons have been learned. The very best that can be said of the nit-picking complaints about the SNP is that they represent a misguided effort to appear even-handed and non-partisan. But misguided they certainly are. There is a total failure to recognise that the SNP must first and foremost be concerned with the process of becoming independent. The Hassans and the Riddochs and the rest, meanwhile, have the great luxury of skipping that part altogether as they talk about being independent.

It would be perfectly possible to go through this article picking apart the complaints. But what would be the point? Just as Gerry Hassan borrows the unionist caricature of the SNP in order to give himself an easy target, so he would surely latch on to the standard British nationalist ‘blind allegiance’ straw-man in order to avoid addressing the actual argument.

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11 thoughts on “You’re all doing it wrong!

  1. Me Bungo Pony

    Turning on each other isn’t the answer either.

    Mr Hassan and Ms Riddoch are entitiled to their views. I don’t doubt their pro-indie credentials and I’m sure their intent is not to undermine the indie cause but to strengthen it. I too would sometimes wonder which side some indie commentators were on as their contributions were often critical of the tactics of Yes Scotland. I concluded they were attempting to show their support for independence wasn’t a blind allegiance to a Party and an unthinking desire for indie at any cost. Perhaps attempting to woo No voters with their even handed reasonableness and as a foil to the media caracature of the swivel-eyed Nat.

    And perhaps they were right to do so. Maybe they did help convert some No’s to Yes. Maybe even loads of them. Whatever the case, they have a right to their views and the Yes campaign is not helped by demonising them. That’s my view anyway.

  2. David Howdle

    “There was nothing wrong with the Yes message. To the extent that the Yes campaign failed, it was a failure of communication, not content”. I’m afraid I don’t agree. I think that there was possibly a failure of both. We need to explain to people why an independent Scotland is economically viable. I think that is one of the biggest fears older No voters have. The positive side has to be properly communicated, but it also has to have substance.

  3. Bill McLean

    Read Hassan’s article in the National this morning. His long winded, rambling prose makes him read, to me anyway, like a concern troll!

  4. Mungo

    David, there were plenty of sound counter arguments to the NO propaganda. Trouble was and will be next time, getting the message across. When the people we need to change from NO to YES get their info from the MSM it makes it very difficult. I don’t know how we combat that? It was the BBC wot won it !

  5. Andy McKirdy

    “Even handed reasonableness”, “being sensitive to older no voters”, not wanting to appear TOO nationalist, “having to always prove every economic argument( like independence is like getting a bargain on a new telly).
    Get fekin real. It’s like we have to be the good guy in a western when he finally gets the evil, murdering, no principled bad guy on the ground without his gun and your shouting “shoot the bastard now and do us all a favour cause if you don’t he will shoot you without thinking about it first chance he gets”
    F**k being reasonable and sensitive, the enemy isn’t and never will be!!
    As Sean Connery in the Untouchables says ” don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”

  6. Gerry Parker

    Good article Peter.
    I often heard the MSM and Unionist politicians repeating the lie ” you won’t be allowed to use the pound”
    Never once did they explain how this would work, nor were they ever robustly challenged on it to expose it for the nonsense that it was.

    What would happen to all the pounds lying in Scottish bank accounts?
    Would the supermarkets refuse to accept payments in pounds from their Scottish customers?
    If Scots weren’t to use the pound would it then no longer be an internationally tradable currency?

    just a few of the questions which would have shot their assertion to bits.

  7. James Douglas

    Hassan’s position used to be quite bluntly ‘everything will be fine if we all just vote Labour again’ but that of course has become unsellable, a dead horse that will respond to no more flogging. His position now does not reach much beyond dark resentment at the success of the SNP.

    It’s also a little sad that he considers himself an academic. He would not like to hear what academics of my acquaintance think of him.

  8. Clydebuilt

    Once bumped into GH at the start of the first Indy Ref. I found fault in some recent public pronouncement of his…… Immediately his “pal jumped in like a guard dog…… All snarling and unpleasant.

    G. H. Never makes a point spends all his time beating around the bushes……

    Think it’s the State Broadcaster who want to label him as an “Academic”. Thinking it gives gravitas to his opinion….

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