‘Better Together’ a Doomed Astroturf Campaign


  By Mark McNaught
As the independence referendum campaign enters the final stretch, ‘yes’ activism is reaching fever pitch.  There is canvassing in some of the most deprived areas in Scotland, encouraging people who often have never been asked their political opinion to vote ‘yes’ for a better future.  Scots’ ‘cringe’ is melting away and are increasingly realising that they can govern themselves better than Westminster ever did or will.

At the same time, the last of the gargantuan scare stories have been demolished.  David Cameron himself has said that he would help Scotland gain EU membership after a ‘yes’ vote, and an anonymous government minister has stated the obvious that Scotland could enter into a currency union after a ‘yes’ vote.

As we observe the wheels coming off the ‘Better Together’ bandwagon and slamming into a brick wall, it has become much clearer exactly what the ‘no’ campaign is; an Astroturf campaign, run by Westminster, utterly bereft of enthusiastic popular support, and relying entirely on threats and bluster to cower Scots into voting ‘no’.

It was never a ‘bandwagon’ to begin with.  They have been running on the fumes of a one sided media.  They have nothing else.

For those of you unfamiliar with astroturf campaigns, they are well-financed top-down campaigns intended to create the illusion of popular support, carried out by hired employees because no one would volunteer time for such a bleak cause.  Notable examples in the US include the National Smokers Alliance, created by a PR firm and funded by tobacco giants to create the illusion of widespread opposition to anti-tobacco regulation.

While pro-independence rallies, meetings, and canvassing are capturing the imaginations of Scots and exploring how much better things can be after a ‘yes’ vote, ‘Better Together’ has no way to counter the growing enthusiasm.  All they can do is issue threats, and blundering ones at that.

Where are the mass ‘Better Together’ rallies, which feature inspirational speeches imploring Scots to remain mired in Westminster? Where are the hordes of enthusiastic ‘Better Together’ volunteers knocking on doors in Shettleston, convincing the residents that they can keep the bedroom tax if they vote ‘no’? I really wonder, do they have any non-paid workers at all?

It’s pretty clear that Westminster has no experience running positive campaigns, nor even national campaigns.  No UK politician has even been elected on a nationwide ballot, certainly not the head of state, and it shows. The typical strategy employed for general elections, slicing and dicing the electorate and making targeted appeals to various constituencies, hoping to eke out a majority in a first-past-the-post system, is simply inapplicable to the Scottish independence referendum.

‘Better Together’ has virtually no popular support.  That is not to say that a ‘yes’ vote will be unanimous, but there is no entity capable of making a positive case for continued union, and no convincing case because there is not one to make.

Instead, the campaign is being vicariously led through Alistair Darling by the ‘quad’ consisting of David Cameron, George Osborne, Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg, aided by Thatcherite corporate lobbyist Andrew Dunlop.  However, the sociopathic characteristics required to climb the UK political ladder are ineffective in cowering Scots into voting ‘no’.

Alistair Darling has complained that the ‘yes’ campaign is better financed, to explain their inexorable slippage in the polls.  However, this understates the advantages they still maintain.

They do have the corporate-owned press and the dismal BBC who dutifully peddle the ‘warnings’ of the UK government and corporations about the innumerable calamities which would befall Scotland if they exercise self-determination.  Given that privatisation since Thatcher has sold most of the UK state to corporations, they have become one in the same.  Who cares what some random business says about Scottish independence? If they want to deprive themselves of Scottish customers, they can.

In any case, the ‘no’ advantage in the increasingly irrelevant corporate media is wiped out by the online pro-independence activity. ‘Better Together’ has nothing approaching Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland or Newsnet Scotland for truly free journalism which can effectively advocate independence.  If we don’t who will? 

Now that the curtain has been lifted, we can see the paucity of the ‘no’ case.  It consists of nothing more than a few Westminster plutocrats clinging to oil revenue and a parking place for their nukes.  They never had broad popular support, just a compliant media, nothing else.  Their case is crumbling.  Their scare stories have been demolished.

Lights out UK.  It’s on to an independent Scotland.