Jennifer Dempsie: Hope must replace Fear in vote

WHEN the No campaign was searching for a campaign HQ before they launched a year ago I don’t think they could find a suitably named street for their campaign. I simply couldn’t locate Fear Street on the Glasgow map.

Douglas Alexander, who wrote of 'engendering fear' in SNP voters, according to Jennifer Dempsie. Picture: TSPL
Douglas Alexander, who wrote of 'engendering fear' in SNP voters, according to Jennifer Dempsie. Picture: TSPL
Douglas Alexander, who wrote of 'engendering fear' in SNP voters, according to Jennifer Dempsie. Picture: TSPL

By way of contrast, neatly settled into their Hope Street premises 13 months into their existence, Yes Scotland’s address matches the rhetoric. And long may it continue.

But after hearing last week that No campaign staffers refer to their work as “Project Fear” I literally felt nauseous. Are they seriously going to argue the case for the Union on the basis of scaring the bejesus out of the public? It’s not a new tactic but one I’m sad to see repeated so vigorously.

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The infamous memo from the 1999 Holy­rood campaign, thought to be penned by Douglas Alexander, MP, instructed Lab­our’s rank and file to “engender fear in the SNP” after they were winning ground on the economic case for independence. You would think, looking at the political results in Scotland in recent years, they would know it doesn’t work. Even the communications theorists state that positive election messages are more accepted than negative ones. The ever-wise commentator Joyce McMillan said in The Scotsman on Friday, “when it comes to building a society worth living in… fear-based politics is worse than useless”.

Don’t the people of Scotland expect and deserve more from their political leaders? Independence is a big issue and a big decision. The case should be made with care and consideration not scare.

One year into the campaign, with both teams firmly established, the battle lines are drawn with the strategies clear for all to see. On one side of the ring we have the No campaign under the banner of Project Fear defending the status quo, and on the other side of the ring Yes, championing Project Hope with a big task on their hands.

Project Hope’s core task is to inspire each individual in Scotland that with one tick of the ballot box, they are taking pro-active action to nation-build a better Scotland and stake a claim in deciding what kind of society we want to be. Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands, some might say.

Project Fear want to stop us imagining a new Scotland, to think we can’t do it because it’s too complicated or too costly and it’s too much. Apparently we are better off together.

The facts are Scotland can well afford it; we are capable and yes, it may be difficult at times, but for me and for many others, the positives far outweigh any negatives. With responsibility comes opportunity.

Project Fear’s Sunday name, Better Together, bills itself on the basis that we are better off together. But there in lies the rub. The current set-up isn’t actually equal, so how are we actually together when Westminster politicians we didn’t vote for hold all the cards?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Is it fair that 91% of Scottish MPs voted against the bedroom tax but it’s now costing thousands of families in Scotland an average of £11 a week?

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Is it equal that in each and every one of the past 30 years we’ve generated more tax revenues per person than elsewhere in the UK but not seen the benefit under a fixed Barnett formula?

Is it equal that Scotland has approximately just half of the BBC license fee raised in Scotland spent in Scotland?

Or that Scottish farmers receive the fourth lowest farm payments in the EU, yet in the EU the UK is arguing to end direct support for Scottish farmers who have 85% Less Favoured Area?

I think you can catch my drift.

The case that we are currently together doesn’t stack up. We are not together as we are not partners in this relationship, we are playing second fiddle.

It’s Project Hope that provides the platform for Scotland’s equal relationship in the British Isles. A new relationship where Scotland stands as an equal partner with the rest of the UK. Where we have a government in Scotland responsible for Scotland voted in by the people of Scotland.

I had the privilege of working with the late Professor Sir Neil MacCormick as a special adviser in the SNP’s first term. We are a lesser nation without his great brain and spirit, but thankfully he has left us with lots to remember him by. He said: “The goal of a ‘free Scotland’ in the fav­oured sense must be taken as prescribing the freedom and equality of all citizens regardless of creed, class or ethnic origins, and the free participation of them all as equals in the process of self-government. In a word, democracy.”

The equality of all citizens is a democratic journey that we are on in Scotland. A normal nation taking our place in the world, and together as equal partners in the British Isles as friends and allies.

Now that’s the kind of together I am interested in.

• Jennifer Dempsie is a PR adviser for the Yes campaign and a former special adviser to the First Minister