Sunday, 30 June 2013

Project Fear

I like a bit of black humour so I was actually quite amused by the suggestion that an internal nickname for the Better Together campaign was "project fear". What appears not to be a joke is the suggestion that Yes Scotland is now describing itself as "project hope" as if that becomes an argument.

Sometimes it is perfectly logical to be afraid. Of, for example, poisonous snakes or axe murderers. The only way hope is any useful counter weapon is in the sense that you hope not to encounter either peril.  If you are unlucky enough to have that initial hope defeated then no amount of "I'm not afraid" rhetoric is then of much use to you. Indeed you would be an idiot not to be afraid.

Nothing wrong with a bit of fearmongering.  The whole logic of a criminal justice system is that for some people at least the deterrence of  crime requires the fear of getting the jail. Health education campaigns, for good reason, aim to make people fearful of smoking or excessive drinking. Children are kept safe by parents teaching them to be fearful of certain places or situations.

And equally to respond to any of these well intentioned pieces of fearmongering by insisting there is nothing to be afraid of would just be silly.

There's beginning to be a bit of a trend emerging from the Yes Scotland campaign which is not to complain about the United Kingdom and promote the advantages of Independence but rather to complain about the tactics being used by their opponents while at the same time insisting they are doomed to failure.Stephen Noon was at it mid-week and given the opportunity of a guest spot in today's Scotland on Sunday, Jennifer Dempsie chooses to do the same.

There is, apart  from anything else, no logic to such behaviour. Both Mr Noon and Ms Dempsie presumably want to win the Referendum so if they truly thought their opponents were making a strategic error then the last thing they would want to do would be to point this out. Analysing campaign tactics is, frankly, very much a minority sport but, for the interested minority, complaining about the other sides approach just sounds like a losers lament.

All the more so because accusing everything being said by Better Together as "scaremongering" plays to nobody except the already converted. Where a point has no alleged foundation it should be refuted by argument. More importantly however, at some points there ARE downsides to Independence privately acknowledged even by its strongest supporters. Why not just admit that? It surely increases rather than undermines the credibility of a central argument that the pros outweigh the cons?

There was a perfect example of this today with the advance coverage of next week's Westminster publication dealing with Posts and Telecommunications. There were two points at issue. The first., relating to mobile phone charges seemed, even to me, to be pretty pish. Cross border tariffs operate elsewhere because there are different providers in each country. Nobody, as far as I know, is proposing that here and, even if they were, the EU is in the process of abolishing cross border charges. So that could have been easily dealt with. The problem was that the strength of the refutation on that was undermined  by the decision to go on to denounce the issue of increased postal charges as similar "scaremongering". No it's not. Simple logic dictates that providing a universal service to a country with a population density of 67 people per square kilometre  will be more expensive than providing it to a country with a population density of 257 people per square kilometre. That's not political argument, it's an arithmetical one. So why can't the Nationalists just concede that? Even I can see that a few pence on a postage stamp is likely to put off very few of the current faithful or even deter many of the undecided. "I was persuaded of the merits of Independence until I realised what it would mean for the price of postage stamps" hardly sounds a likely train of thought.

Now, I know I myself am falling into the trap of giving the "other side" advice but the difficulty they are getting into with this constant "there will be no downside at all" argument is that it fatally undermines their credibility. All taxes will be lower  or at worse the same. All public services will be the same or better. I was going to say nobody believes that, but that's untrue because some of the more deranged cybernats clearly do. So I'll say no thinking person believes that. Including the leadership of the SNP.

The making of any big decision involves the weighing of  positive and negative factors. That's what those yet undecided will do on 18th September next year. Who they are more likely to afford credibility to in that process is surely the only relevant question for either campaign.


  1. Sweden has a population density of only 23 people per square kilometre. Around a third the figure for Scotland. And yet Sweden's postal service is both cheaper AND more efficient than that in the UK. (

    That's not political argument, it's an arithmetical one.

  2. Did postal prices not rocket in the UK last year ? How can that happen without threat of a referendum....