With two weeks left before Scotland decides whether to leave the UK and decide it’s own fate, or remain and be governed by Westminster governments, the debate is getting incredibly heated as polls show a narrowing of the once though unassailable lead the No vote had. As a Scot living in England what’s amazed me is how badly the debate has been reported down here, and also how identical much of the reporting is as if the media are being briefed to say the same thing. This is especially apparent when you read the broadsheets like the Telegraph, Independent and the Guardian which all sound like they’ve all been well briefed in the day’s talking points. Even the international press sound like the London based press. Right now, the talking point is that it’s a Scottish government that decides whether the NHS is privatised and not Westminster. More on this later.
Today I was idly reading through various parts of the internet and stumbled across this article on Vice. It’s an interview with Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem lacky of George Osborne, and it’s a far, far more interesting read than I though it’d be because of this part at the start of the piece.
A short while ago VICE got a call from the Cabinet Office telling us they’d seen our article about a stupid video by “Let’s Stay Together”, the government’s campaign to stop Scotland leaving the UK. They were under the impression that we had taken an editorial stance staunchly in favour of independence, rather than simply against early 2000s English celebrities with crap opinions getting involved in important debates.
They said if we wanted to discuss the “real issues” (whichwealreadyhave, butwhatever), rather than just laugh at Tony Robinson, they could help us out by giving me an interview with Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who – as the Cabinet’s foremost Scot – is heading up the government’s Let’s Stay Together Campaign.
The insinuation here is that the UK government are looking at the media and trying to get them on message, including the likes of Vice. This frankly is quite extraordinary when we’re to believe the likes of the Guardian who have maintained they’re running a ‘balanced view’ on the debate, but clearly aren’t.
The fact is the entire No/Better Together/No Thanks campaign has been run exactly like an election campaign with Downing Street clearly briefing the London media, and anyone falling out of line is contacted to get them in line as seen here. One of the reasons why the Unionist campaign has failed to gain support is they’re not presenting any positive vision, but seeing as all they’ve got is to say ‘the status quo is fine‘ when in fact, it’s perfectly clear it’s not (unless you’re one of the few benefiting from the system) and something needs to be done. Faced with a grass roots campaign which has roused people who’ve never voted, and a large amount of working class voters registering while informing themselves of the debate in a way I’ve not seen happen in any bit of mass democracy in the UK probably at least since the 1980’s.The Yes campaign has striven on the whole to present an inclusive campaign based on solid arguments rather than spin the same old tired politicians talking points and this is what’s connected.
A case in point is Jeane Freeman of Women for Independence’s interview with Andrew Neil about the NHS in Scotland on the BBC today. It’s simply wonderful to see an old lag like Neil being shot down in flames so comprehensively.
Neil’s points are tired, and not just that, they’re easily proven wrong to anyone with a passing knowledge of the Barnett Formula, but the assumption is that people are stupid and they’ll do what they’re told. In fact the entire Better Together campaign has based itself upon disinformation, which isn’t to say that the Yes campaign hasn’t also indulged in some wee white lies. They have, but the Unionist campaign sums up everything wrong with how democracy is seen by those in positions of power. Do as you’re told because we’re right.
This has seen the UK government scramble for a Plan B as if Scotland does vote Yes in two weeks then they have made no plans for it, such is the arrogance of those in power. The only thing they’ve planned for is a No vote, so hence we’ve got the coalition panicking and Ed Milliband desperately telling Scottish voters that ‘this time things will change’ even though they’ve not. There’s the problem with the establishment telling you that the flavour of shit you’ve been eating will be really good next time, honest. They’ve thrown everything at the Unionist side of things and although the No vote is still in the lead, the Yes vote is rapidly catching up,even though the weight of the media (backed by the government and Westminster) is against it and that, in the UK in 2014, is bloody extraordinary.