THERE’S less than a month until the referendum, and the postal votes are about to be sent out. We can all see the finishing line for the big vote, and I can just about see the end of my 100 Towns in 100 Days tour for Better Together.
I’ve just read a news report about the Scottish Nationalists going ‘negative’ during this last sprint for the line. Part of me thinks this a bit cheeky, given the same Nationalist moans about negativity.
But the bigger part of me understands this change in Nationalist strategy. After a week which has seen their economic case taken apart by Scotland’s foremost business leader Sir Ian Wood, they are running out of options.
So negativity it is, then.
There has been a different kind of negativity around in the Yes camp from the outset, of course. The 100 Day tour means I am out there in the streets. It’s very likely that I’ve seen more of the Nationalist shock troops face-to-face than any other politician – or, indeed, any media reporter or commentator – in the country.
I saw them last week. I’d had a really enjoyable street meeting and debate in a sunshine-flooded Lanark high street just an hour or so before.
But in Motherwell, there they were. The infamous cybernats, come out of the shadows and come to life. Not interested in questions or even answers, not with any intent to debate.
Only there to shout and to intimidate. Screams of ‘traitor’ and ‘terrorist’ greeted my arrival as all the material from our campaign stall was thrown to the ground.
It’s not by accident. The intimidation and aggression are co-ordinated. I don’t know what part of the Nationalist camp does the co-ordinating, but I’ve been around politics enough to know an organised operation when I see one. It’s happened in Glasgow, Tain and Wishaw in recent weeks.
We are making a huge decision about the future of Scotland very soon. It is right that people hold passionate opinions. But there is a line between passion and outright aggression. A minority of Nationalists have crossed that line.
These people shame decent Yes supporters. Their aggression is, in my opinion, a huge turn-off for undecided voters, and only strengthens the resolve of No voters. After each meeting there’s always someone, usually a woman, who approaches me to say the nationalist aggression has persuaded them out of the ‘undecided’ column into a ‘No Thanks’ voter.
They must not be allowed to succeed in their intimidation, and I don’t believe they will. I’m not concerned about my own thick skin, but for others who turn up looking to have genuine open-air discussions about the referendum.
I wrote a couple of weeks about Charlie Kennedy and I together detected the growth of a quiet, patriotic majority at our meetings. That majority is still there. It is growing. And it will not be deterred by a noisy Nationalist minority. Roll on the rest of my 100 Streets tour.