By Greg Richards
Alex Salmond is to ramp up the referendum debate this month by painting the opposition as “anti-independence parties”, as part of a combative new SNP strategy.
Sources close to the SNP leadership say they are keen to tag Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems as being psychologically against their “positive” plans for independence.
They also plan to round upon former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Forsyth – who is said by many to be the politician favoured to lead the Unionist debate but was ousted from office during the 1997 General Election.
The move comes just days after Scottish Secretary Michael Moore joined senior Labour MSPs in demanding the First Minister announces a date for the referendum in 2012.
A source told the Sunday Express: “Between now and the referendum, the SNP will hammer home the message that the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems are the ‘anti-independence’ parties – they are against something rather than for anything.
“Labour and the Lib Dems look set to fall into a trap of their own making by campaigning with the Tories against any more powers for Scotland – the ultimate losing position in Scottish politics.
“At this stage, the effective leader of the ‘No campaign’ is Michael Forsyth – that is who Labour are lining up behind, the man who scaremongered against a Scottish Parliament in the 1990s and lost every single Tory seat in Scotland.
“The lesson of 2011 is that a positive campaign on Scotland’s future beats a negative one – and the Westminster parties have already characterised themselves as the negative voice in the referendum.”
Experts yesterday said it was an “obvious tactic” for Alex Salmond and warned counter-argument from opposition parties could work against them.
John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said: “We shouldn’t be surprised. The SNP will try to paint opposition parties as being negative towards independence. They will form the campaign as, you are either for or against independence and not for or against the union or separation. It is not going to determine the outcome of the referendum, but it is the obvious thing for them to do.
“The big question is what should opposition parties do. They have to avoid the argument and not try to denigrate the independence campaign. Instead they should paint a positive picture of Scotland’s future under the union.”
Dr Peter Lynch, a lecturer in history and politics at Stirling University, said it would be “hard to judge the impact” of the SNP’s plan but said the Nationalists were in the driving seat.
He said: “The Nationalists know how to use language, and they do it well, whereas Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems struggle. The SNP are quite happy to lump them together as parties talking against change.”
Courtesy of the Scottish Sunday Express