How to lose the referendum

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By Alex Robertson
 
For a quiet news period, the so-called ‘silly season’ it ain’t half been noisy.  Both sides of the referendum campaign seem to have succumbed to a bout of malaise designed to lose the referendum.
 
Let’s start with the SNP.  The party leadership has quite sensibly said it wants, at the upcoming Party Conference, to have a debate on whether to change existing party policy which calls for an independent Scotland to leave NATO, when, as a successor state, it ‘inherits’ membership on achieving independence.

So far so good, given the inevitable round of window-dressing which will go on from both sides for the referendum.  Not all that edifying, I grant you, but that’s politics.

But some within the party seem determined to turn this move into a major split, and probably causing collateral damage as well, including hurting support for the YES Scotland campaign.

Two things occur to me: First is that the decision on whether to stay in or leave NATO is one which will be one for the next government and parliament in Edinburgh, after the 2016 General Election, and no doubt it will be a subject of debate in the preceding election campaign.

It is not an issue with any effect today or indeed for the next two and a half years.  And it is a decision which will be put fairly and squarely, I have no doubt, before the Scottish electorate to decide.

Second is that it is a particular Scottish ailment, well recorded in history, for Scots to split and divide amongst themselves, losing sight of major objectives to fight self-indulgent wars and battles at the cost of the main goal and strength: unity.

It is a fight we should turn our faces against and eschew.  Especially when it is a battle to be fought only at the next election, and to be decided democratically at the next general election. 

And let’s face it, no matter what our position on the political spectrum might be, as far as getting independence for Scotland is concerned, there really is only one show in town.  So get behind them and stop bickering until the referendum is won.

Now let’s look at the pro-Union supporters.

They have failed to gain any traction or leverage from the London Olympics, and the broadsheet press has jumped aboard any passing bandwagon.

This includes trying to depict an email from a First Ministerial aide to a public organisation pointing out a report which might interest them, as some secret, devious act.  The report, already in the public domain, concerned the inclusion of a second referendum question on the ballot paper.

Then there is the absurd attempt by the egregious Ian Davidson to tell Scots they can’t hold a referendum without Westminster permission and to characterise BBC Scotland as anti-Union.  It reminded me of Dr Goebbels and his advice on telling lies, to make it a big one, the bigger the better.  What was that about neo-fascists, Mr Davidson?

The net result of all this bashing of the cause of independence has been a narrowing of the gap between both camps in the polls, indicating now a need for a 4.5% swing by the pro-independence to win outright the referendum major question.

Both sides need to keep their eyes firmly fixed on the main issue, forget the distractions and temptations to split, avoid silly smears and scare stories and just argue the facts of their side.  And stop frightening the horses.