David Maddox: The unionist camp will discover that energy comes from positives and negatives
ALEX Salmond yesterday made his third trip to London since being re-elected as First Minister, ahead of what will be a strange day in British politics today when MPs from his party refuse to back a referendum on independence.
The amendment to the Scotland Bill by the Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg, which if successful would bring in an immediate referendum, underlines the confusion that still dogs the unionist parties on how to deal with Mr Salmond and the referendum issue.
But one area where clear thinking is beginning to break through is over the tactics that will need to be used.
After the SNP's thumping victory last month all the unionist parties, but Labour in particular, were not surprisingly rather cowed and swallowed the myth created by Mr Salmond that his party had won because of its "positive campaigning".
The dogma from the Prime Minister and Labour leader downwards almost immediately became that the positive case for the union needed to be made and negativity banned from the debate.
There seemed to be a collective amnesia over the fact that some of the most successful political campaigns have been negative. The recent No to AV was unashamedly negative and crushed the Yes campaign. John Major's 1992 victory was based on the "double whammy" campaign on tax against Labour.
Labour temporarily turned the tide on the SNP at Glenrothes by-election in 2008 with a negative campaign about the Nationalist candidate Peter Grant's record as council leader.
Meanwhile, in 2010, Labour walked to victory in Scotland in the Westminster campaigns by focusing on the prospect of the Tories returning, while David Cameron's push for a majority failed despite a healthy lead in the polls as he tried an altogether positive campaign.
Now those who would like to focus on the negatives of Scotland leaving the UK have found their voices again and that is largely thanks to Mr Salmond and his rant about the Supreme Court and eminent Scottish judge, Lord Hope.
What the episode has done is remind the First Minister's opponents that his great strengths and enormous self confidence can easily turn into a weakness of arrogance and hubris when he overstretches himself.
But the discussion in Westminster at least has also focused on the issue of what nationalism can be, even so-called positive nationalism.
There is serious talk now of using the Supreme Court business as part of a narrative that says the SNP's view of a nation comes ahead of individual rights.
While that is not in itself going to save the union, it shows that the dogma of positivism is beginning to be displaced by a much more street-wise attitude.
The Yes campaign in the AV referendum complained that their opponents fought dirty, we can probably expect more of the same in the battle to save the UK.
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