Leaders: Yes Scotland launch targets hearts first, heads later
IT WAS slick, professional and polished, with an added thin sprinkling of Holyrood stardust.
Against a carefully chosen blue sky backdrop, Alex Salmond formally launched the campaign to win a “yes” vote in the referendum on independence due to be held in 2014. Distilled down to a soundbite his message was simple: only by reclaiming her sovereignty could Scotland become greener, fairer and more prosperous nation. He is setting out to win Scots’ hearts and minds.
Typically for the First Minister he set his sights high, claiming the Yes Scotland campaign was united behind “a declaration of self-evident truth”, which was that the people who live in Scotland were best-placed to make the decisions that affect the country – an obvious reference to the Declaration of Independence by the then American colonies.
If you aspire to independence, aspiring to the values outlined in one of the greatest pieces of political prose ever written is a noble aim. Few would question the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, as the Americans declared, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights (even if many do not now believe they come from the Creator), and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet the problem for Mr Salmond was his declared ambitions for the future of an independent Scotland do not have quite the same portentous ring to them.
Perhaps the message is, as yet, not as inspirational as the one crafted by those American revolutionaries. That might explain the lack yesterday of a significant weight of endorsements. The launch did have Hollywood stars in the in the shape of Brian Cox and Alan Cumming, with a message from Sir Sean Connery, but overall the big backers did not materialise.
All three actors do not live in Scotland and may not be able to vote in the referendum and there were few senior business figures present – no Sir Brian Soutar for example – though Sir George Mathewson gave a yes vote his blessing. There is, of course, a long way to go and the yes campaign yesterday stressed it was a broad church, endorsed by the Green’s Patrick Harvie, Scottish Socialist Colin Fox and former left-wing Labour MP Dennis Canavan.
Yet for all this talk of consensus, the reality is this campaign is run by the SNP, which will provide most of the money, staff and ideas. Yesterday there was a lot of grandiloquence and glitz but little of the detail the Scottish people need before they make the most important decision the country has faced in the more than 300 years. Campaign organisers say that detail will come and yesterday was not about that.
Mr Salmond is out to win hearts and minds, but yesterday was an emotionally-charged day aimed squarely at the hearts of the Scots.In some ways that is the easier pitch, the harder one will be the detail of policy needed to allow people to make a rational choice.
Mr Salmond has to avoid the easy option.
Ill, lonely old people our look-out
Something has gone badly wrong in British society if our old people are lonelier and poorer than their European equivalents, as a study commissioned by the WRVS charity suggest.
Based on research in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, the report disturbingly discovered that loneliness and lacking somebody to confide in were a major problem in this country compared to the others.
Furthermore, compared to their European cousins, it found older people in the UK and were the less likely to socialise as much as other people their age, had the most number of life-limiting illness and the lowest score for “feeling active and vigorous”.
What has led us to this sad state of affairs? David McCullough, WRVS chief executive, described the findings as a “wake-up call” to government at all levels, a message which suggests the state should do more for our elderly.
Yet, Mr McCullough also pointed out his organisation’s experience that increased social interaction and more socialising between generations are “hugely beneficial” in combating not only loneliness, but also health problems. For anyone who is elderly, or who has elderly relatives, such a statement will ring true.
But is more government action the answer? In Scotland we have free care for the elderly, free bus passes and much more. Yet problems of isolation and ill health persist.
While the state has a role to play, there is no doubt that a significant difference between the UK and some European and Scandinavian countries is the role that families play in including the elderly. Perhaps we should look to ourselves rather than the state for happier, healthier pensioners.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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