By Ken Ferguson
Two years into their relentlessly negative campaign – codenamed, in best Biggles style, as Operation Fear – early signs of a change of tone if not message are emerging from the bowels of Better Together.
Indeed those self same bowels are becoming increasingly uneasy as the gap between Yes and No narrows and the contrast grows between the genuinely mass nature of the Scotland-wide Yes campaign and the cunningly concealed No campaign ground-level activity.
So rare is the existence of any non-PR driven No activity that the ever willingly gullible Scottish press leapt on the supposedly rank and file unionist ‘No Borders’ campaign only to see it exposed by citizen’s journalism as a London-based, rich person’s, Tory-driven PR front.
Nothing can more clearly illustrate the willingness of the Scottish media – including the license fee-funded BBC – to happily gobble up spoon-fed unionist propaganda with apparently minimal journalistic fact checking.
Yet despite the almost blanket support – with the honourable exception of the Sunday Herald – for No from the print and electronic media, there is a growing realisation that ‘negative, negative, negative’ just isn’t delivering for them.
Additionally, of course, there is the reality that a growing number of Labour activists realise that being in the same organisation as the loathed Tories and their austerity mongering Lib Dem pals, Better Together, is now and will remain a disaster for them.
Hence the appearance of the so-called ‘United with Labour’ No breakaway, fronted by grumpy failed Prime Minister Gordon Brown, reflecting particularly the revulsion with the Tories amongst No inclined trade unionists.
The fact that Brown and No chieftain Alistair Darling are, let us say, not chums, simply adds personal spite to the political confusion.
The latest example of this reality to break was the remarkable news that Better Together’s Labour co-ordinator in east Edinburgh, Gary Wilson, had quit his post, joined Labour for Independence and endorsed a Yes vote.
The reasons given by Mr Wilson for his decision majored on his lifelong rejection of the Tory values of greed-and-grab, and a growing revulsion at sitting with them in Better Together while they and their Lib Dem soulmates continue to assault the poor.
Even in the closed world of Scottish Labour, the penny is beginning to drop that scares and smears – even when delivered by so called Labour “big beasts” such as Brown, former war minister Reid or NATO groupie Robertson – aren’t doing the job.
Into this melee then enter Scottish Labour’s key thinker Douglas Alexander apparently offering a pipe of peace to Yes campaigners, urging them, if they lose, to work with him to deliver more devolved power to Edinburgh.
The reality of course is somewhat different. When the Scottish Parliament held its first modern session just 15 years ago, Labour was the dominant party, the Tories reduced to a rump and the Lib Dems large enough to form a coalition with Labour. The SNP looked defeated.
The first sign that this was changing was the election of an SNP minority government followed by the humbling of Labour in the SNP landslide in 2011 which comprehensively trashed any illusions that Labour was the leading force in Scottish politics.
There can be no doubt that the Alexander intervention is both an attempt to soften the unremittingly negative No message and a rather clumsy attempt to pretend that Labour – in opposition in London and Edinburgh – is still dominant in Scotland.
It was probably a coincidence that Alexander’s supposed olive branch came hard on the heels of a Church of Scotland offer to host a “service of reconciliation” after the referendum, as if the two camps had exchanged gunfire rather than arguments, but for Labour it is a calculated move.
The nightmare scenario – apart from a Yes vote – for Scottish Labour is that they deliver a No vote then lose the 2015 Westminster poll.
The Tories would then step up and slash and burn in what they would see as a defeated Scotland leaving Labour to face the consequences of having persuaded supporters to face a further five years of austerity with cuts which would hobble Holyrood without further devolution.
Hard cop Darling or soft cop Alexander, remaining inside the increasingly rightward moving UK is a colossal risk for Scottish voters and it is imperative that a mass Yes campaign ensures that it does not happen.
Courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice