500 days to go and time for us all to raise our game

I’m not sure that being told by every political commentator and Sunday newspaper – in suitably sonorous tones, of course – that there are 500 days to go to the referendum is a cause for celebration or to reach for alcoholic anaesthetic.  Groan or cheer, there are indeed 500 days to go and we can only hope that things will get better, to coin a phrase.

For the referendum is managing to unite folk in the most curious of ways.  I found myself taking part in a Stirling University on-air and on-line debate last Tuesday and nodding vigorously in agreement with Murdo Fraser MSP.  Now that doesn’t happen everyday.  But asked to comment on the tone and the content of the debate so far, he opined that the current slanging match of “he says, she says” proportions was boring – even he was bored – and it was doing nothing to switch people on.  Yep, we are all bored.  Bored united that’s us.

That’s because every time one side releases an analysis or an evidence paper on one of the “big” economic issues, the other side whacks it from all sides and declares there is nothing to see here worth discussing.  And because it’s all on big, esoteric, intangible economic concepts, given that most of us fail even to apply a degree of rigour to our own daily finances, this is just too scary to pay proper attention to.  If we cannot be bothered to reconcile our own household income and expenditure on a monthly basis, then we’re hardly likely to seize upon a paper discussing billions and trillions in its balance sheets.  We don’t really understand the currency thing either, other than wishing to be assured that the money we have to spend in real form in our wallets and purses will still be worth something somewhere.

it will be interesting, therefore, to see if either side can get the debate on to issues of daily meaning to us all and in terms which we can grasp.  There will be two cheers if forthcoming papers – from either side – on things like mortgages, savings, wages and pensions actually talk in a language which sparks proper scrutiny and interest by the voter at large.  I’m not holding my breath though.

So if we’re all bored united, a good number of us are scunnered united too.  Apparently, difference is not wanted nor welcome.  I listened to a number of young people at Stirling University who felt they had to explain, regularly, that despite an English accent and itinerant childhoods, they considered themselves to be Scottish, having lived here for most of their lives.  The fact that they felt the need to lay out their antecedents to justify their involvement and entitlement in this debate shocked me.

Identity is a complex political issue and it’s one which the SNP has worked hard over the years to dispel as a divisive factor in the constitutional debate.  Its re-emergence for many who cannot cut themselves metaphorically and show tartan blood flows in their veins is troubling.  And it is undoubtedly fuelled by the baiting by supporters on both sides of people’s legitimacy to engage in the debate.

Heaven forfend anyone deemed not to be “Scottish” or to be Scottish but not living here should voice an opinion one way or the other.  Worst of all, should anyone try to inject comedy into the proceedings. Susan Calman dared to poke a little fun at her ain country and folk and was roundly abused for her trouble.  Behind her quip that at least she hasn’t become Scotland’s Salman Rushdie – yet – lies a dark truth that some who refuse to toe a line, imagined and set by a largely invisible and anonymous group of social media fans, might find themselves being hounded out and hunted down. Shocking.

The other lot can do what they like, though I’d prefer they too behaved themselves.  But I care only for a yes vote and to all those independence supporters who spend far too many hours commenting on online news pieces and blog articles, and wading into people’s timelines on twitter and jumping into debates on Facebook pages, think on this.

If Stephen Noon – whose credentials surely need no introduction – is blogging calling on folk to “be respectful of the views expressed by others” and Andrew Wilson – former MSP and all round sharp cookie – uses his Sunday column to affirm that “any independence supporter who engages in destructive abuse of anyone is destroying votes for Yes”, then the game’s up.  Both these men are close to the leadership, as they say, and be in no doubt that these messages have the support of the very top in both Yes and the SNP.

We can all think on how we behave online and ensure that we are not being intemperate, intolerant or inappropriate in our discourses – I hold my hands up here as much as the next person for occasional lapses.  It’s time for us all to raise our game. And as we enter the next 500 days, let us resolve to make the debate both interesting and pleasant, for those at the heart of it, those on the sidelines and everyone in between.  This is a once in a generation opportunity, so let’s deliver the kind of debate the Scottish people deserve and which is worthy of the epithet.


16 thoughts on “500 days to go and time for us all to raise our game

  1. I think Peter’s point is valid. The Yes campaign is winning the online debate. This scares the British media who attack Yes campaigners as Cybernats. Yes bloggers should all realise that the Calman ‘story’ was groundless garbage so why is anyone using it to justify some kind of ‘don’t offend anyone!’ crack down?

    Some Yes campaigners now think pretending people can still be British post indy will win us votes. If there are some British feeling people who support indy then that’s fine (and by all means publicise those views to the right audience) but reaching out towards them and saying ‘you can still be geographically British!’ just makes us look like cynical opportunistic fools.

    When I see Alex Neil pretending he’s proud to be British I think ‘eh?’ When he was calling Lord Robertson Lord Haw Haw, at least he meant it! When I see Alan Cumming saying ‘oh you [English] can still keep your Union Jacks!’ it actually shows contempt for Scots.

    Our flag is part of the Union Jack. If we leave the Union, Britain does not exist. England might pretend to be Britain post-indy but we shouldn’t be saying it’s a great idea! We really should not be giving our opponents a stick like this to whack us on the head with.

    We need to let all indy supporters make their case, their way.

    I’m sorry to admit it but the official Yes campaign ran like a rabbit (immediately issuing a statement condemning it) when the Farage story arose.

    Alex Salmond however showed a lot more sense. Yet Yes should be supporting ALL pro indy groups and should not be following a media agenda.* Hopefully they will have learned from this incident but we need Yes Scotland to be a bit more robust in this area in future.

    We won’t bore our way to victory!

    * Similarly the Princes Street march/rally organisers suddenly banned the participation of the SRSP due to media pressure yet republucans are a legitimate part of the larger independence movement.

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  3. I see Ian Smart has raised his game.

    Should we all raise our game likewise?

  4. At least having a debate about economic esoterica is marginally less boring than a debate about Scottish nationalism vs. UK nationalism, which is possibly still the subject matter of the referendum.

  5. So it is now official that ‘Chinese Whispers’ are true and are accepted as the whole truth and nothing but the truth without any corroborating evidence, how far has democracy sunk when an alleged ‘comedian’ can say something and it is irrefutable.

    The media needs to be seriously questioned and we don’t have to go on bended knee to get a hearing as that is only giving them far more creditability than they deserve.

    Independence will not be won by pandering to the media biased rules we have to show them for what they are as complete charlatans.

  6. What a mess

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  8. One thing the referendum debate certainly isn’t short of and that’s self-appointed moderators. There seems to be no end of pundits pompously pontificating about how the rest of us are doing it all wrong. I referred to the phenomenon yesterday as the “Hassan/Riddoch Refrain”. The endless interjections declaring that, whatever it is we are talking about and however we might be expressing ourselves, we are talking about the wrong thing, and in entirely the wrong way!

    Kate Higgins may be weary of the real debate – and presumptuous enough to suppose she speaks for the generality of people in this. I, for one, am weary of self-proclaimed arbiters of what is fit and proper offering, all unasked, their high-minded lectures on the error of our ways.

    Who the hell are these people? On what authority do they presume to set the rules by which the public participate in a public debate? Who are they to demand that debate must be conducted in terms contrived and constrained to avoid offending the purse-lipped tutters who make it their daily business to be offended?

    Why should we pander to those with such a need to vent their excess of puffed-up, faux self-righteous indignation that they spend their days rooting around looking for excuses to mount their pulpit and proclaim their profound displeasure?

    The debate on Scotland’s constitutional future is the most important debate most of us will ever be involved in. It is a debate that should be – MUST BE – as wide-ranging and inclusive as possible. A pox on ALL those who would seek to impose arbitrary limits on that debate. Let the people speak! And if that means our ears are occasionally assaulted with intemperate language and distasteful views, let’s try to be grown-up about it.

  9. Why has Calman become the poster child for supposed Internet abuse when there was previous little evidence to support it ? It was a classic she-said he-said she-said of the type Kate refers to at the start of the article.

    At the same time there’s endless viewable examples of on-line half-wits wanting to kill, stab, punch, kick Salmond, or wishing him an imminent and terminal heart-attack. Media focus on that ? Zero. The Calman spat has been little else than another media spun politicised attack on the on-line indyref/Yes community. I’ve yet to see any of them urge violence or death on their opponents. All of *that* is coming from the on-line supporters of the unionist position.

  10. If Yes Scotland wants its supporters to stop griping at and dissing other people then it’s about time it got its act together and came up with a positive narrative for its supporters to engage in.

    Stephen Noon – Chief Strategist at Yes Scotland the last I heard – has to take his share of responsibility for the debate descending into the gutter as it has. Campaigners want to campaign, politicos want to politic, and they want to do it with passion. If the leadership does not do its job by providing the required platform, activists will spend their energy trying to tear down their opponent’s platform.

    Stephen’s article of yesterday is full of contradictions and the same style of unsubstantiated assertion that is starting to characterise the Yes campaign. A positive campaign will always beat a negative campaign? If that is really what he believes then Yes Scotland is in big, big trouble. There is simply no evidence to support this assertion and plenty to suggest it is completely wrong.

    Resonance is what matters. The negative Labour campaign in 2011 did not work because nobody believed it – not because it was negative. And anyone who thinks that the SNP 2011 campaign was positive need only browse back-copies of the Sun to have their tartan-tinged memories set straight. The character assassination of Iain Gray worked a treat because it reflected back in spades the impression that people had already formed of him.

    It is simply not good enough to just tell people to desist. The passion has to be channeled into positive activity and, at the moment, there is nothing coming from Yes Scotland for these activists to promote other than the campaign itself. Expecting people to alter their style of defensive engagement is pie in the sky – it’s like telling someone not to scratch an itch. Their energy needs to be channeled into engagement on our terms and that, in the end, is what leadership is about.

    Its no good blaming the campaigners for their style of campaigning anymore than blaming voters for how they vote. Leaders need to lead. If they don’t, followers will find another path.

    • I think all should have a look and see if there is room for criticism from one side to the other.I have found that if I ask a question on a better together site I get barred,so much for debate,I have also had abuse directed at me me but being an understanding adult,I know that only those who have nothing positive to say just do name-calling like the media does in general.

  11. To me the calman affair – if we can call it that was another in a long line of what was ulitmately a non-story. In the same week we were treated to acutal evidence of bile and hatred directed at Alex Salmond, and reminded that Nicola Sturgeon faces regular abuse and death threats. We could see these tweets, posts and opinions in newspapers, but of Calman, we saw nothing.

    To me this period is nothing but a phony war – a lot of bluster & a lot of threats and endless negativity, the latter largley from the No camp.

    When the campaigns begin in earnest, it will be interesting to see if the No campaign can get out of the hole they have dug themselves into. I find it interesting that in contrast to the tactics of the No campaign, the SNP has never risen to the endless baiting or got in the mud with them.

  12. Afraid I can’t agree with the Susan Calman remark, there is no proof whatever that she received any abuse. but yes we all would like to see good honest and calm debate however this is not something which I expect will happen,

  13. “Susan Calman dared to poke a little fun at her ain country and folk and was roundly abused for her trouble.”

    Was she? I’m surprised to see you joining in with a media witch-hunt that remains based on no evidence whatsoever.

    • Did anybody else see the postings? I think she just needed the publicity,for I have seen no evidence to back up her claims.Maybe she is aligned with a political party Eh!.I have heard her on a few occasions and comedienne she is struggling to get a laugh although some do but out of sympathy,to me she is as funny as earache.

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