Linguists have established various rules for how people interact with each another, the so-called Gricean Maxims. These rules can be broken, but they still underpin the way people interpret what they hear.
One of these rules is the Maxim of Relation, which is often described as “Be relevant!”
The consequence of this is that when Better Together ask questions of the Yes campaign, such as their lenghty 500 questions, there is an assumption that they are relevant, that they aren’t just scaremongering by asking pointless questions.
In other words, Better Together are saying between the lines that they would support a Yes vote if somebody would just answer all their questions satisfactorily.
I don’t believe for a second that any prominent No campaigners will change side if they get enough answers, but my point is that people interpret their questions as if they would.
Better Together are basically saying that they’d love to see an independent Scotland, but that they are concerned whether it’s feasible and need some reassurances in order to recommend a Yes.
This is possibly an excellent strategy, given that this is probably quite representative of how many Scots currently feel.
It strikes me as somewhat odd, however, that Better Together don’t tell us that Scottish independence is a fundamentally bad idea. If even they don’t believe in the Union deep down, why do they bother?
A No campaign fundamentally opposed to Scottish independence would presumably run a completely different campaign. They would say things like “Who would make a better job at running the country — Westminster or Holyrood?” “Would you rather your pension was in the hands of Salmond or Cameron?” “Why give real powers to a mere region?” “Don’t risk losing the protection of British nuclear weapons!” “The House of Lords is a superior way to curtail the powers of a democratically elected parliament!” “Vote with your heart, vote for Britain!”
In short, Better Together have decided to run a negative “Yes, but ….” campaign instead of a positive “No” campaign. I wonder whether this was a conscious decision, or whether they just are fearties who deep down want to see an independent Scotland as much as the rest of us?