I’ve been meaning to write about the referendum result for a while, but I haven’t had the time or the inclination: unfortunately for me it coincided with a particularly nasty bout of depression and some major work stress, so blogging has been fairly low down the list of priorities. I’ve cheered up now.
With hindsight, I of all people should have realised that the online Yes campaign was existing in an echo chamber: when you’re surrounded by people on one side of a campaign, it’s easy to assume that you’re in a majority. Of course it turned out that we weren’t.
I understand the anger and the desire for someone to blame, but allegations of vote rigging are nonsense and claims that No voters were tricked are nonsense too. I’m quite sure very many No voters were just as well informed as their Yes equivalents; they just reached different conclusions because the Yes campaign didn’t answer their questions satisfactorily.
Of course there are headbangers on the No side, as we saw in George Square the night after the referendum. But there are plenty of headbangers on the Yes side too. I think they balance one another out.
That doesn’t mean it was a fair fight, though. I tend to take claims of media bias with a pinch of salt – if the media’s doing its job properly, it’ll piss off somebody – but in the run up to the referendum, the claims had merit. The Yes campaign I encountered online, in the streets and in mass rallies was generous, cheerful, inclusive and multi-racial. The Yes campaign I read about and saw on TV was a bunch of “vile cybernats” and angry men with beards.
While some broadcasters were scrupulously fair – broadcasters such as John Beattie on Radio Scotland and James Cook on BBC TV – others really weren’t. It was particularly noticeable in news programmes and phone-ins, where the former routinely reported scare stories that didn’t add up, personalised the news (“Blow for Alex Salmond”) and continued to give the impression that the Yes campaign and the SNP were the same thing, just like the No campaign wanted them to. The latter treated Yes callers with aggressive contempt while No callers were given more airtime and weren’t challenged on even the daftest claims.
Incidentally, I know many of the people involved in producing those programmes and they’re all good people; the issues I noticed were with particular presenters, not the production teams.
Between that and every single daily newspaper taking the No side, it’s hardly surprising that the Yes campaign didn’t win. What is surprising is that despite having the entire weight of the establishment ranged against it, it still got 45% of the vote. That’s amazing.
I wonder if it would have been higher still if some Yessers hadn’t played into the No campaign’s hands. Calling the Yes campaign “team Scotland” and demonstrating outside the BBC demanding the silencing of a journalist doesn’t play well among undecideds. I suspect current talk of “the 45” as a movement to take Yes’s place is equally divisive.
Incidentally, I wonder if some of the most passionate pro-independence campaigners were the biggest liabilities. My wife got talking to a local Yes canvasser, and during the conversation the canvasser worked herself into a foam-flecked fury talking about No voters. When a householder told her they were No, she said, she informed them that they were traitors and Quislings. This, in an area of fairly affluent elderly people who don’t use social media and buy the Daily Mail. You can be certain that every single person she said that to told all of their friends about the crazed SNP woman who’d been at their door. My constituency voted overwhelmingly for No.
Anyway, it happened, and now we’re bombing Iraq for the third time at a predicted cost of £3 billion (money we don’t have for the health service or to alleviate poverty, but it’s fine if we want to chuck £27K laser-guided missiles at brown people), the oil isn’t running out after all, more austerity is coming down the pipe irrespective of who wins the 2015 election and the Central Belt of Scotland is going to be fracked for fun and profit. If only there was some way we could have prevented that.
We can’t go back in time, and calls for another referendum are daft. What we can do, though, is try to maintain the energy. I don’t feel like I can go back to numb acceptance now the referendum’s over: if the fight was to have a better, fairer country then that’s something we can still try and achieve. Some of the powers to make that happen are already in the Scottish government’s remit; others should be. I think one of the best ways to influence those issues is to join a political party. In my case that means I’ve joined the SNP; many of my friends have joined the Scottish Green Party. I’ve also found myself joining in crowdfunding projects such as the plans for a Scottish news programme from the people behind the excellent Dateline Scotland.
I suspect that’s going to be more helpful than my other plan, which was to buy loads of badges saying “don’t blame me. I voted Yes.”