Category Archives: Yes campaign

Giving up on mainstream media

BBC Scotland
BBC Scotland, a photo by Kasia!! on Flickr.
All independence campaigners have been aware of a varying degree of bias in mainstream media (MSM) for a long time.

I think many have thought that this was a temporary situation, that things would change once the Yes campaign had assembled enough facts to feed to the waiting journalists.

However, there’s no sign that things are changing. Just in the past few days, there have been three stories that showed the bias:

  1. An academic at the University of the West of Scotland published research that demonstrated bias in how the BBC and STV deal with independence stories. (Newsnet Scotland has the full story.)
  2. Another academic at the University of Stirling demonstrated that a Scandinavian-style welfare state can’t be constructed purely through the tax system. In other words, extended devolution is not enough — only independence will make it possible for Scotland to achieve this laudable aim. This research article wasn’t ignored, but the MSM tried to describe it as a blow for the Yes side. (See Wings over Scotland for details.)
  3. The Daily Mail has launched a campaign against cybernats, completely ignoring the vile abuse that No campaigners write every day. (Lallands Peat Worrier has written an excellent blog post about this.)

To make matters even worse, it now turns out that the BBC have not been ignoring the first story at all. They have instead been trying to undermine the researcher who created it. Derek Bateman has the full story.

What this means is that Yes campaigners can’t wait for the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media to drop their bias. Their recent aggressive reactions make me think it’s quite likely the bias will get stronger, not weaker, as the referendum gets closer.

Many voters are getting the vast majority of their information from MSM, so it’s an almost impossible struggle to convince them of the merits of voting Yes if they don’t get information from other sources, too.

I know there have been numerous small-scale attempts to make people aware of some of the pro-independence blogs (such as Newsnet Scotland, Wings over Scotland, Bella Caledonia, National Collective, Business for Scotland, etc.); however, I think this has to become a focus in the next six months.

Whenever we speak to undecided voters, we should give them a list of URLs, and somebody should seriously consider raising money to advertise these websites on buses and in Glasgow’s subway.

We know for a fact that informed voters tend to become Yes voters. We just need to ensure they get enough information to enable them to make up their own minds.

Not nationalists, separatists or secessionists, but sovereigntists

québec libre
québec libre, a photo by faustineclavert on Flickr.
Members of the SNP are routinely called nationalists, and the same word is often applied to everybody in the wider pro-independence movement, although Westminster Unionists also like to call us separatists, and international (mainly American) observers occasionally describe us as secessionists.

Of course we’re nationalists, but civic ones, which isn’t really the primary meaning of “nationalist” in most other countries. This sometimes confuses No campaigners, who at times say things like “I can’t vote Yes because I’m an internationalist”, although most Yes people have a very international outlook. (In fact I’m often surprised by the number of people in the SNP and in Yes Scotland who have either got family abroad or have lived outwith Scotland for a long time).

Of course we’re separatists, insomuch as we want to be ruled by a parliament that is separate from Westminster rather than subordinate to it, but we’re very happy to share a lot of laws and institutions with the rUK, with Europe and with the wider world.

Of course we’re secessionists to a certain extent, given that it’s to be expected the rUK will be more similar to the UK than Scotland will, simply because Scotland is so small in comparison, and because most of the shared institutions are located in London. However, we tend to think of Scottish independence as putting an end to the 1707 Act of Union, which was a treaty uniting two sovereign countries, so we believe we’re dissolving a union rather than seceding from it.

Sometimes I just wish people on both sides would agree to call the Yes side sovereigntists, which seems to be the preferred term in Quebec, because that’s exactly what we are. The Yes side is united by the belief that Scotland should be a sovereign nation again.

Addendum (11/04/14): Wee Ginger Dug wrote this today: “By the way, it’s far easier to express some political concepts in Spanish than in English. In Spanish you don’t constantly have to have annoying arguments about all independence supporters being nationalists and just the same as Hitler. Spanish has the useful word independentista – which means a person who supports the right to self determination, and nationalism doesn’t come into it. English just has the word “nationalist”. Unfortunately the English version, independentist, makes you sound like a tooth puller for independence, or someone who does freelance fillings.”

Spreading the word

Catch Up
Catch Up, a photo by sheilaz413 on Flickr.
Wings over Scotland recently commissioned a Panelbase poll and today published the results for the media questions. Here’s what the poll found with regard to knowledge of some of the main websites dedicated to Scottish politics:

Which of these Scottish political websites have you heard of? Tick as many as apply.

  • ThinkScotland: 19%
  • Labour For Independence: 10%
  • The Jimmy Reid Foundation: 10%
  • Newsnet Scotland: 9%
  • Wings Over Scotland: 7%
  • Bella Caledonia: 6%
  • National Collective: 6%
  • Labour Hame: 4%
  • Five Million Questions: 2%
  • Open Unionism: <1%
  • None of the above: 68%

This is a massive problem. It means 68% of the population are likely to get their knowledge mainly from newspapers and TV (and the associated websites) and don’t know any independent websites that are likely to write about Scottish independence.

My guess is that the 68% includes the vast majority of those voters who haven’t made up their mind yet, so the implication is that most waverers get their news exclusively from mainstream media. (It would be good to get this confirmed from the crosstabs once they’re published.)

However, I’m sure the status quo can be changed.

Perhaps Yes Scotland (or the local groups) could select a small number of articles from a few blogs (Bella Caledonia, Newsnet Scotland, Wings over Scotland, National Collective etc.) and with the websites’ permissions print them in a small leaflet and hand it out to all households in Scotland. Each article would also list the URL of the blog it’s from, and the leaflet would of course have to state that Yes Scotland didn’t endorse the blogs but that those particular articles seemed to be of interest to many people.

I lots of people would actually sit down and read the articles and start thinking, and then go and explore the websites themselves. If it would make waverers more likely to read the leaflet, it could even include articles from neutral and anti-independence blogs — the main aim would be to get people to start accessing more news sources.

I’m sure a greater awareness of political websites would lead to an increase in support for Scottish independence.

Quis persuadebit ipsos persuasores?

Las manos
Las manos, a photo by tutescin on Flickr.

There was an interesting wee exchange of opinions on Twitter today:

Susan Stewart (ex-director of communications for Yes Scotland): Step away from your keyboards and talk to people! […]

Wings Over Scotland: Y’know, whenever people say that I take it personally 🙁

Susan Stewart: don’t. But winning the online debate won’t win the referendum. Necessary but not sufficient. #yesscot #indyref

Wings Over Scotland: Of course it won’t. But it’s still invariably worded in an incredibly dispiriting way. Wish folk would take more care.

National Collective: Truth is we need both. 🙂

I’m reluctant to criticise Yes Scotland, because they do a lot of great work, but I don’t think they’re being helpful when they criticise those of us who are engaged in the on-line debate.

It might well be the case that most people on-line who can be persuaded have already been so, and that it’s the off-line population that need convincing now. However, I think it’s naive to think that persuasion is a one-off process, as this seems to imply.

The army of Yes foot soldiers aiming to knock every door in Scotland over the next 14 months needs constant encouragement, information about new questions raised in the debate, as well as an opportunity to talk to like-minded people, all of which is best done on-line.

After reading an informative article on Wings over Scotland, National Collective or Business for Scotland, I just feel much more energised than before — I really don’t think I would do more or better door-knocking if I stopped reading those articles. I also tend to write blog postings when I need to get something off my chest, or when I’m in a pensive mood, and in neither situation would I be likely to go out canvassing instead.

Also, many people who have been convinced of the merits of a Yes still don’t feel ready to answer the potential questions that might arise on the doorstep, and where will they find the answers if not on-line?

When people criticise the time spent on-line, they need to ask themselves this question: Who will persuade the persuaders? (Or in Latin, Quis persuadebit ipsos persuasores?)

The Yes campaign is a genuine grassroots campaign because new ideas often originate on a blog, get disseminated on Twitter or on Facebook, and only eventually become official Yes Scotland policies. I think this is an immense strength, and it would be very harmful to the Yes side if somebody insisted that grassroots were only good for knocking doors, and ideas had to come from the top or from the (often biased) media.

I haven’t met a single person on-line who has called for a stop to doorstep canvassing. All we’re asking is that our on-line campaigning gets some respect, too. We’re all doing all we can, and there’s more than one way to do it!