Cruddas, consultations and rigging – surely we can do better

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By Alex Robertson

Welcome to the world of Realpolitik.  Mr Cruddas, ex Tory Treasurer, let it be known that the Tory Party were hedging their bets and don’t really expect to win a pro-Union vote in the referendum on Scottish independence.

It has been a question for some time now, as to why the Tories were battling the obvious sea-change in Scottish opinion and digging themselves into ever-deepening trenches, and paying little or no regard as to what they were going to do if independence was indeed what the Scottish people voted for in 2014.

Now we know the answer.  The Tories, at least, are casting their minds forward to the post-referendum period, where things really start to get interesting.  Who knows where Labour minds are focused these days, especially after the Bradford beating, but they have much more to lose from independence than anyone.

Actually I think it is right to focus on the post referendum stage of the road to independence.  According to Mr Cruddas, the Tory strategy is to vigourously oppose independence now so that, when it comes to negotiations, they will be in a stronger position to drive a hard bargain with the Scottish government.

I think that is pretty unrealistic, from my long negotiating experience, given that an independence mandate will have just been given to the Scottish government, and anyone who thinks that such a strategy would likely succeed with the characters in the Scottish government, needs to grow up.  But the pro-independence side needs too to start thinking about the immediate post-referendum phase, and clarify where the red lines are.

The most amazing aspect of the whole sorry story is the reaction of the BBC in Scotland.  The Politics Scotland show led with the sensational nonsense of the Labour party trying to make out that the anonymous responses to the Scottish government consultation was somehow “rigging” something.

Since there was no question of anybody voting for anything, and since, as Stewart Hosie pointed out, the responses to the consultation would be independently analysed, and duplicate inputs addressed, it was glaringly obvious that there was no story at all.  Besides, Mr Hosie also threw in the information that the procedure for the consultation followed exactly the same rules as had applied to consultations carried out under the previous, Labour, government.

The Labour chap butted in, several, times, to deny that exactly the same rules were being used. But the good old BBC did nothing to ask exactly which way the rules now were different.  The unmistakable desire not to embarrass Labour by asking difficult questions was very clear.

We now know that both UK and Scottish Government consultations operated similar systems in that anonymous submissions were allowed.  It also appears as though the UK process suffered from multiple responses from individuals when the Scottish Government process did not.

So the question now is: since there was no story, and since Labour was caught out not telling the truth, why should anyone ever believe the BBC again on anything?

Newsnet Scotland has proved that, although not quite there yet, it is very possible to outgun the Herald and the Scotsman newspapers in numbers of readers/hits.  But what can we do to mount a challenge to the BBC and STV by way of broadcast channels?  Anyone up for starting an internet based TV or radio channel?