Analysis: Positive versus negative – opposing sides all charged up, with two years to go
IT WAS not just the same Big Country song that linked yesterday’s “Better Together” campaign launch to its “Yes Scotland” rival from four weeks ago. The music was the same; so was the tone.
Alex Salmond has spent the last year telling everyone he meets that a positive campaign will always beat a negative one – and was at it again yesterday.
Last year, Labour allowed itself to fall on the wrong side of Mr Salmond’s equation. Having been bitten, the pro-Union launch yesterday showed it was twice shy, oozing feel-goodness. The press release alone used the word “positive” no fewer than six times. Message understood.
The focus on positivity was not hard to understand. With a still-popular SNP government at Holyrood, and devolution having given the country a new self-confidence, a negative campaign warning of plague and pestilence under independence would play into its opponents’ hands.
The pro-Union campaign has made it clear it isn’t going to shy away from spelling out what it sees as the downsides of independence, but campaigners know they must come across as standing up for Scotland just as much as those who support independence.
The campaign turned to “ordinary people” to set that authentic tone yesterday, as speaker after speaker was given the floor to talk about how they would prefer Scotland to stay put. Last year, Mr Salmond had described the SNP as the country’s national party. As one organiser noted yesterday, the decision to give the floor to pro-Union members of the public was an attempt to show that, when it comes to independence, the nation currently thinks otherwise.
One after another conveyed the message that, while proudly Scottish (a former beauty queen spoke of how she wanted to “smash” England at rugby) they felt comfortable living within the UK.
Mr Salmond noted how Mr Darling had used words such as “borders”, “division” and “upheaval” in his speech. The former chancellor, he added, was “a frontman for a Tory-led campaign of relentless negativity towards Scotland”.
Meanwhile, Margo MacDonald calls Mr Darling and his friends “the abominable ‘No’ men”. Pinning the pro-Union campaign to the mast of negativity in this way will be vital for the independence cause.
The pro-Union side is, however, confident it is working with the grain of Scottish sentiment; that a Scotland within Britain is the natural reality of most of the people who live here. It hopes that the kind of positive tone set yesterday will give Scots permission to say “no”. During this summer of pageantry, the polls suggest it is working. Only two and half years to go.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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