Saturday, 26 May 2012

And so it begins

A broad-based campaign
We've had the big media launch of the referendum campaign and, let's be honest, it wasn't all it might have been. Don't get me wrong! I'm not about to resort to the kind of sneering, carping, pantomime-cynical negativity that pervades the press. The general response of the mainstream media to yesterday's event has been as pitifully puerile as it was tiresomely predictable.

You could pretty much pick an article at random in order to illustrate the point. But David Torrance's bitter little diatribe in The Scotsman is fairly typical. (Amateur hour at Yes campaign launch). This is a man who is rapidly becoming almost a caricature of the bilious, bleating British nationalist naysayer. Alan "Poor Old Cockers" Cochrane had better look to his laurels. There's a potential new self-appointed anti-independence ranter-in-chief loitering in the wings.

It was always going to be thus. If the launch had been a perfectly staged and flawlessly choreographed piece of political showmanship then Torrance and his sulphurous ilk in the cold sick school of journalism would have just as assiduously earned their fees by denigrating and deriding it for what they would doubtless have called excessive theatricality. (What's the betting Torrance had that piece pre-written just in case?)

In the event, of course, the launch fell a bit short of being a full-blown showbiz spectacular. Fine actor though he may be, the presenter, Martin Compston, was certainly no Billy Crystal. And I could go on. There is much that I could say about the presentation strictly by way of constructive criticism. I shall refrain from doing so, in part because I'm certain the organisers will hold their own review, but also because I'd be seriously concerned lest I sound even remotely as negative, nasty and nit-picking as David Torrance.

I will confine myself to asking a question that would surely have occurred to a competent professional political analyst were they not entirely, obsessively focused on their own narrow agenda. A question that, as far as I am aware, has not been asked by any of the mangy pooches and establishment lap-dogs that pass for press hounds in the fifth-rate, flea-infested, turd-strewn dog-show of Scotland's media.


Why, when we know what the SNP's party machine is capable of, did the launch event fail to sparkle quite as much as it might have?

I think there are two possible explanations - apart from the trivially obvious one of failings arising from the inherent organisational difficulties of staging such an event. Firstly, I think there was a conscious decision to try and tone it down. My suspicion is that the organisers were concerned about the risk of alienating the Greens and others with the kind of extravagant display that could only be mounted by the SNP. The event had to look more home-spun than it otherwise might in order to better accord with the expectations of smaller parties and their supporters. Not to mention a sizeable chunk of the SNP's own support.

I also suspect that the SNP tried very hard to step back a pace or several from the practicalities of running the event. The aim would be to encourage the greatest possible involvement of non-SNP people such as it is hoped and intended will characterise the entire YES campaign going forward.

Some have commented that Alex Salmond seemed a little edgy. Not quite his usual self. I reckon this was the edginess of a man who had relinquished the kind of control he has grown accustomed to exercising. I reckon he was not his usual self because his usual self would have dominated the stage to an extent that he was all too aware would be inappropriate and potentially counter-productive. What we witnessed in that cinema was the rare spectacle of Alex Salmond trying to perform in a supporting role. Playing second fiddle is not something that comes easily to such a man, and I say he is to be applauded for making the effort for the good of the campaign as a whole, as well as for having the political nous to recognise what was required of him. Once again, Salmond has shown signs of admirable statesmanship as well as keen political acuity.

Whatever may be said of the presentation, the content was not at all bad. There were worthy people on that stage. And there was real substance in what they had to say. Watching and listening to the likes of Colin Fox, Elaine C Smith, Tommy Brennan and Patrick Harvie I was moved to wonder how long it has been since Labour was able to field such a cast of principled socialists and genuine progressives.

Then there were the celebrities. As there always must be at such events. But Alan Cumming and Brian Cox (among others) were not there merely to serve as a snappable buffet for the gathered paparazzi. They both contributed far more to the occasion than just the cachet of their names. Cox in particular made a keynote speech which I have not the slightest doubt resonated with a huge swathe of Scotland's population. A speech which, as might have been expected, has been quite maliciously misrepresented in the media.

What was very noticeable also was that each speaker had a different message. This was not some trooping of the party faithful as they stepped up to the microphone to mouth snippets of the party line in sound-bites meticulously scripted by media professionals. This was people from different walks of life, with different experiences and different perspectives, each and every one of them speaking from the heart and on behalf of their natural constituency.

In terms of providing a glimpse of the breadth of support for independence, the Yes Scotland launch was a considerable success. It was a good start. But it was just the start.


  1. Thanks Peter - first unbiased words I've read on this!

  2. 'mangy pooches and establishment lap-dogs that pass for press hounds in the fifth-rate, flea-infested, turd-strewn dog-show of Scotland's meda.'

    Thats the most accurate description of a large section of the scottish media i have ever seen. Not seen what has been said about Brian cox yet tho, did see a couple of 'Cox' in embarrasing rants' but thats it. Personally I found it a very passionate speech, that actually reduced me to tears.

    Tis a very long way to go and it is going to be alot tougher for our yes campaign than the No campaign. We have to work against a biased media, over 300 years of brainwashing and apathetic public that are rightly more concerned about making ends meet, while trying to maintain a cohesive group of people that are from all walks of life with very differing views.

  3. Mr Torrance is an excellent journalist. If he was a nationalist you would be extolling his virtues. Because he is not, he is subjected to vitriolic abuse. Especially on Twitter.

  4. The event was a car crash from start to finish. Dragging in a few B list non-dom actors to do El Presidente's bidding was never going to be anything but a disaster.

    The separatists decided to hold the event in a cinema running parralell to the Union Canal (seriously) and had Wee Eck photographed beside a picture advertising "The Dictator"

    If this is indeed the best that El Presidente and his merry band of our of touch separatists can come up with then those of us involved in the NO campaign have less to worry about than I thought.

    Bring on the referendum so we can put this silly independence fairy take to bed once and for all! Scotland neither needs it nor wants it as evidenced by Friday's poll showing support for separatism at less than a third.

    Perhaps that's why Salmond seemed a little edgy!

  5. Why do you think the SNP thought it would be a good idea to parade some z list celebrities who live Scotland so much, they live abroad?

  6. Has the thought occurred to Mr Bell, and his followers: if the Scottish media is a "fifth-rate, flea-infested, turd-strewn dog-show" as things stand, what would it be like if the promised land of independence were reached?

    Many, I think, would agree that the level of journalistic scrutiny of Scottish politicians is sorely lacking as things stand; and that the Scottish media is certainly less active, and critical, than the UK media. Would The Times, The Guardian, The Independent or The Telegraph continue to publish Scottish editions after independence? Many of the commonalities which allow them to do so at the moment would have been removed. Logically, only the foreign news pages would remain the same.

    Of course, it may be - indeed, the tone of his post rather suggests it - that Mr Bell is not interested in hearing a plurality of views. But if others are, we might like to ponder: on whom, in an independent Scotland, would we rely for serious, critical journalism to inform public debate and allow us better to hold our elected representatives to account? More broadly, what form would Scottish civic society take? From where would spring the Scottish equivalents of the many think tanks, NGOs and pressure groups which assist in holding the UK Government to account?

    One of the many issues which will no doubt be considered in the coming two year period of introspection.

    1. There is no Scottish media. At least as far as the mainstream media is concerned, there is only British media with the word "Scottish" appended.

      I find it difficult to comment on the notion that, because I express one view - my own - I must therefore necessarily be opposed to the airing of other views. It's just to much of a stretch for me to get down to that level of stupidity.

      Just as stupid is the idea that Scotland reverts to some sort of "year zero" state on independence day. I just can't summon the irrationality required to foster the delusion that everything in Scotland would simply disappear like that.

    2. No Scottish media...? Hmmm, well the Scotsman, Herald, Sunday Post, Daily Record, Dundee Courier, P&J, etc, etc had best just pack up and go home. Your blog seems an odd mix of abuse (David Torrance) and mild criticism of wee Eck. Torrance is a writer of some skill and having read two of his books, I would certainly rate him more highly than your good self. But of course he dares criticise the idea that an independent Scotland might just not be as rosy a world as wee Eck would have us all believe and you therefore hate him. Good to see you and your ilk are sticking to the point and answering criticism of the very many SNP contradictions and worrying lack of detail - NATO, Trident, Sterling, etc etc etc etc etc....

  7. Jesus Peter, you seem to be doing your best to make us non-mental pro-indy types look bad. You sure you're not a unionist plant?

    1. Note the name at the top of the page. I speak only for myself.

  8. The Scotsman and The Herald are British papers? Radio Scotland a British radio station?

  9. For a thinker and listener that's a pretty over-sensitive and touchy point of view.

    If the written media are all such ghastly, downbeat, small minded, anti-Scots, why do you waste your valuable listening and thinking time reading their output? Or is it just possible that had the coverage been a little more positive of what was a pretty dopey and old-fashioned event you would have been scouting the pages for juicy words of support and encouragement?

    If you really think you can conduct the campaign in sterile criticism-free environment without and media interest at all, you are supporting a more lost cause than it first appeared.

    1. Your only point seems to be that if the coverage of the event had been different then my response to it might also have been different. Hardly a devastating insight.

      If you have another point at all it might be that the only analysis of the launch event which you will accept as legitimate as one which doesn't challenge your own rather shallow perspective. This is the world of grown-up politics. Should you venture there, it's inevitable that you will encounter views which don't wholly concur with your own. That's just the way it is.