We hear much of how the ‘vile cybernats’ are putting some folk off switching their allegiance from No to Yes. We’ve even seen the bizarre though revealing site of senior SNP politicians turning on their own online campaigners because they have become too confrontational, too direct, too aggressive. There is no reliable research on this but after a lifetime evaluating unpublished and published research, I’d put money on the so-called cybernats such as Wings over Scotland and it’s products such as the two ‘wee books’, having had much more impact in attracting votes and little on losing them compared to that achieved by some soft, navel-gazing, conditional elements. The Yes movement is diverse and contains, within it, many who are let’s say, more down-to-earth than some of our more genteel ‘leaders’ in the parties, than their professional staff and among some self-appointed expert commentators. Much more likely to be responsible for the recent flatlining of support and only modest recent increases despite Brexit chaos, are these factors.
- ‘Passengers and Careerists’
All democratic radical movements, unless they have an early victory, tend toward comfort. Political leaders, without meaning to, lose their edge and desire to attack, as their personal circumstances improve, as they get used to rule-bound ‘civilised debate’, as their mortgages get bigger, and as they grow to like and to respect their opponents as human beings, especially when they seem more civilised than some of their more impatient supporters who don’t seem to realise how difficult things are. Though prepared to deny it vehemently, they have come to identify primarily with other politicians, prepared to praise them, and to prefer the journey to the arrival because that is now their career and they have too much to lose by arriving. They become ‘passengers.’ Then, they get special advisers who are oh so educated but who, in many cases, are just careerists and have come to them on a path which could just as easily have led to advising any of the parties. Over time, this turns a perhaps more amateurish anti-establishment movement which might have succeeded, into one which thinks itself so sophisticated, but which is no longer so ambitious. People are not stupid. This loss of commitment to the cause is visible and can only be driving support away, to the more radical Greens, or to apathetic despair.
- ‘Celebratory Republicans’
Though I left school uneducated in this respect, I now know of the full horrors of the British Empire in Ireland. Ireland is my other team in every competition. I wish them well in everything. If they want re-unification, they should have it. However, SNP politicians raving about their love for Celtic FC, getting into petty squabbles with Rangers fans or vacillating over condemnation of the Catholic Church and boys’ clubs connected to Celtic FC and the disproportionate abuse of children in both, can only offend potential supporters. Share every defeat for Rangers FC, identified as someone committed to the Yes cause, and you may well be weakening it. Some Rangers fans support independence and some are open to persuasion but waving the tricolour in their faces, as a self-identified Yes-supporter, and you drive them away. By all means cheer on Ireland and Celtic and by all means embrace your faith but remember these are not relevant to our purpose and flaunting them may damage our chances.
There have been a few notable recent examples of prominent leaders of the independence-supporting parties who have made clear their strong feelings of support for a former presidential candidate, for a retiring PM and for a retiring former leader of an opposition party. All were women and sadly that might be why they have attracted such uncritical expressions of support, but one is clearly a psychopathic war criminal, one is a full-blown hypocrite and two of them are openly vehement opponents of Scottish independence. To feel able to praise these people is to place a sense of shared sisterhood above all else including your primary political purpose.
- ‘Gender identifiers’
As an older man, I might be confused here but I mean to say those identifying as Yes supporters who then devote disproportionate amounts of their media time to matters of sexuality and gender identification and may be driving away potential supporters who disagree or who, like me, do not understand the issues fully. Once more, debate and campaign for what you believe in but do not confuse or dilute the Yes campaign’s main narrative with matters which are not really part of it.