Monday, 15 September 2014

The YES Campaign: Plot for the Next Series of 'House of Cards'?

by William Dry

House of Cards' Frank Underwood
The Yes campaign is not a fresh bowl of fruit tarnished by a few bad apples; it’s a black hole scattered with the occasional shining light. While it has been well funded and presents impressive arguments, some of its most important arguments are built on foundations of lies; many of its supporters are unnecessarily intimidating and, if the North Koreans weren’t opposed to the concept of media, their best tacticians would have them broadcast the behaviour of the SNP as an advert for the failings of democracy.

As an aperitif, an example of the efficiency of the Independence campaign: the dominance of the Yes campaign on social media. Despite the No campaign having generally more support in the polls, across the tenure of the campaign, it has had nearly 30% fwer “likes” on Facebook. Admittedly this could be because the Yes campaign has a high proportion of 18-24 year olds among its supporters, and this is also the type of demographic that has the greatest presence on social media. However, it could also be vice versa: the online propaganda made the users of Facebook and Twitter more inclined to support Scottish independence.

A reason touted as responsible for the Yes campaign’s recent resurgence in the polls is its focus on positive and emotional campaigning techniques. While a definite weakness of the No campaign is its lack of energy and enthusiasm for the future of the union, mainly focusing on the problems Scotland will face if it chooses to go alone, it is hard to argue that the Yes campaign was actually any better. A disproportionately large chunk of the independence campaign has been centred on the here and now, focusing on releasing Scotland from the evil chains of Westminster, and, in particular, the Tories. In Salmond’s press conferences recently, he has dismissed the efforts of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband - a group he dubbed ‘Team Westminster’. He also criticised the BBC and the Treasury for being biased. It cannot be a good idea to abolish a union which has been successful for the past 300 years just because there are some minor issues at the present.  

Another grubby achievement of Salmond’s is that he managed to set the rules for the referendum. He set the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” rather than a possibly more accurate question “Should Scotland leave the United Kingdom?” He also pushed for 16 year olds to have the vote, on the basis that it is their future that will be deeply affected by the referendum – a fair argument, in principle. However, the success of a decision made by a referendum is normally determined by how well informed the voters are, and, while admiring the concept of 16 year olds determining their own future, you have to question whether 16 year olds have the political maturity to make a rational decision, especially considering how many lies are allowed to infect the debate.

Another criticism of Salmond’s referendum rules was that Scottish people living in the UK were not allowed to vote. Obviously, Scots who have moved to the United Kingdom would be much more likely to vote No, so it is an apt political move from Salmond. However, one of the most chilling things about this debate was how these rules were agreed to by Westminster - the fact these rules were quite clearly tilted in favour of Yes indicates a level of na├»ve complacency on Westminster’s behalf: something they may live to regret.

The next tumour in this referendum is the constant stream of lies and deceit flowing from the Yes campaign in particular. The most chilling example of this is how Salmond claims that in order to stop Tory privatisation of the NHS, Scottish people need to vote Yes. One of the powers of Holyrood (the Scottish version of Westminster) is that it determines the health policy north of the border. What makes this more shocking is that the NHS scare stories have been credited as one of the leading reasons why the Yes campaign had a resurgence in the polls. Just consider that a union of 300 years, that has survived two world wars, would split apart due to a blatant, inexcusable lie? It is remarkable that proper procedures to invigilate the content of the debate have not been put in place in order to prevent these falsities unfairly swaying public opinion. Other horrific examples include Salmond’s lack of explanation regarding the Scottish currency and a denial that unprecedented spending cuts and higher taxes, (the figure put forward by Carney was £18,000 more pp), would have to be put in place in Scotland if it wanted to use the pound without an official deal with Westminster.

The SNP’s lack of desire for a fair debate seems to have filtered down the ranks to its supporters. Jim Murphy, a Labour MP, had to suspend his tour of 100 towns in 100 days due to ‘escalating intimidation’ from an anti-English racist group.  The actions of this group included pelting Murphy with eggs and creating an aggressive atmosphere in which No or undecided voters were put off asking questions to Murphy. It is one thing for a campaign to not be in control of a bunch of lunatics; it is another to coordinate them to prevent the No campaign gathering support across Scotland. The Yes Campaign is not averse to threats either. Jim Sillars, a former deputy leader of the SNP and a man who shared a stage with Salmond a few days ago, argued that companies such as BP (a country which has openly spoken about the difficulties Scotland would face as an independent country) would be nationalised, John Lewis and Asda (shops that warned an independent Scotland may see higher food prices) would be boycotted, and this serves to highlight how poorly thought through the SNP’s vision is. The Yes campaign is rife with malicious behaviour ranging from those in the limelight to those lurking in the shadows.

I am amazed at how enthusiastic the general Scottish population have been leading up to this referendum. It has gripped the nation. But it’s the nation that the lies broadcast by the yes campaign will affect: the Scottish themselves will be the victims of Salmond's debacle if he and his poorly disciplined band of nationalists succeed: the financial burdens may sting the English, but they will crush a vulnerable, independent Scotland.  

In desperately trying to highlight the problems in the union, most of which, conveniently, are the fault of the English, the Yes camp have unwittingly revealed their true colours. To find, if you should be feel so inclined, another political tarantula spinning such a devious web of lies, you have two options: smuggle yourself into NK to find K.J.U himself; or – if you can afford the monthly subscription- sign up to Netflix, and watch Frank Underwood – the only performer who’s trickery surpasses that of AS. 


  1. I would not agree at all with the article. It highlights the English attitude we have to deal with to break free from the shackles of Westminster.

  2. That was Ross Watkins by the way. He thinks he is funny.


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