Why No’s video appeal to undecided women won’t work

Normally in my house, a pot of lentil soup is made every week. It’s been a staple of both boys’ lives, all their lives, and they love it. I make better lentil soup than anyone they know. I learned how to from my Gran.

It’s been a rarity in recent times so on Monday, I decided to fix that. A pot was duly made. I burnt it. I burnt lentil soup. Boy Wonder, somewhat in awe at my spectacular fail, is now seriously questioning what has happened to his mammy. So am I.

And I’m writing this, surveying the wreckage that is my house.  I hoovered at the weekend but not that you’d notice.  Since then, there have been so many folk piling in and out with deliveries and the like that it looks like I’ve not hoovered for months. There are piles of clothes everywhere, dried, en route eventually to bedrooms (wardrobes and drawers might be stretching it a bit).  

There are bits of paper. Hunners of them. In strategically placed piles on every surface.  And boxes.  Of leaflets, materials, and other campaign paraphernalia.  I try heroically several times a week to clear the dining table only for it to fill up again with campaign flotsam and jetsam almost immediately.  We eat in whatever corner happens to be bare at the time.

But I know this is not a normal woman’s house.  Women everyday open their doors to me and their houses gleam and sparkle. There is order. There is not a speck of dust to be seen.  Women – even busy working women – still take pride in their home. They might grumble about the division of labour, that even though they too work full time, sorting school bags and shopping and washing and ironing still largely falls to them. But they do it, even grudgingly, Because home is where the heart is, in all senses.  

And what will these women – the undecided women still making their minds up how to vote on 18 September – take from the No camp’s video?  

Forget the words, it’s the images that will stay.  Here’s a woman who sits down with a cup of coffee in amongst the crumbs and debris of the morning rush hour.  And then gets up to go to work without shifting a dish or wiping a surface.  She might be a woman I can identify with, but not them.  hey’d never dream of leaving their homes in that state. They’ve missed their target audience completely, probably because the video was made by men. 

For they’ve also managed to patronise these women. Suggesting they don’t really like their husbands and partners, and worst of all, think poorly of their children – all the women I engage with speak with pride and love when asked about their families. That the reason they’ve not yet made up their minds is because they’re bored with the referendum dominating all conversations – not my experience – or because they don’t know enough about everyday politics to come to an informed decision – well wide of the mark, I’m afraid.

Many who have yet to make up their minds are indeed waiting for a quiet moment, to sit down with all the information and go through it, and decide. They know there are only a few weeks left but that’s enough time.  Until then, they carry on, carrying on.  Absorbing the mood music all around them, chatting with friends and family, raising queries, listening to those they trust.  But also engaging with folk – like me – who bother to pitch up on their doorstep, who don’t evangelise, who empathise with the big decision they have to make, and who listen to them and try to offer a factual account of the ifs, buts and maybes. I explain I come from a Yes position but I try to be honest and acknowledge that there are unknowns.  

But I also set out the bit No don’t want them to hear. That a No vote might not offer the best of both worlds actually. That women haven’t had a fair deal from Westminster. That there are known risks from voting No – £5 billion cuts in the next two years to the block grant will put spending on public services they care about under strain like never before. 

None of that subtlety was evident in their video. In fact, it contained downright lies. There is no uncertainty over pensions: the DWP itself has said that folks’ pensions are safe. Just as if they chose to go and live in Spain now, as ex-pats in an independent Scotland, the state pension will still be paid.  Private pension providers based in England already pay out pensions to people living in other countries, why would they not for Scots in the future?

Many women I’ve listened and chatted to are worried about their children’s future. So I give them the astonishing fact, supported by independent research, that this generation of teenagers and twenty-somethings is likely to be the first generation ever to be worse off than their parents. Thanks to austerity and the running up of huge levels of government debt, there’s very little left for them.  They will be paying for it all, all of their adult lives. They are hurting already and that’s why so many of them – and the polls now show that a majority of voters in their twenties are now likely to vote yes – are choosing the one opportunity offered by independence for a better, different future.  I encourage these women to talk to their sons and daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and find out why they are voting yes and to think about that when they come to make up their own minds. 

I also encourage them to listen to and read other women’s stories, of women who didn’t start out yes but arrived there. To see if there is anything they can identify with from what they say.

Everyone on the Yes side is having a lot of fun with this No video. David Greig came up with a brilliant mini-play/pastiche on twitter last night. Robert Florence’s take on the messaging is laugh out loud funny (but also hits hard at its inherent sexism). 

But the most powerful counter to it comes from women themselves.  If you do one thing today, encourage undecided women you know to watch Women for Independence‘s video.  It’s a simple, direct appeal to women of all ages, from all parts of and communities in Scotland to make their voices heard. There’s no insulting of women’s intelligence, no misleading on the issues, there’s not even any crumbs needing cleaned up,  



An easy way to bury good news

So, the Sabbatical has begun and officially entered day two.  Time to get down to some serious blogging then.

I had intended to add my tuppence worth of perspective to the Gunn show or Lallygate – why has no one named it yet?  But frankly it’s all been said.  I’m on the Sillars’ side of things here, right down to believing in the conspiracy theories of infiltration: I am nothing if not my mother’s daughter.  We oldies in this campaign might induce eye-rolling from younger activists as a result but to dismiss the role that we can and do play is pushing it a little. But then that was always the arrogance of youth and long may it continue.

Hugh Wallace makes some fair points in his riposte but he is wrong on the idea that the “leadership” should be urging us over the barricades on the flotsam and jetsam of this campaign.  The media was always going to be biased against independence: it is an entirely conservative institution which is part of the problem not the solution to Scotland’s democratic deficit.  To pour resources into fighting it would be futile and counter-intuitive. As the last week has shown, everyone trying to do this on the Yes campaign’s behalf sucks up energy, people and time – crucially, time when the clock is ticking down to 18 September – of those left to clear up the mess.

And as to others’ involvement in it all, well Edinburgh Eye does a majestic take down which is both comprehensive and brave.  Because of anyone has been guilty of creating a climate in which critics are to be silenced (after being abused and insulted of course) it is that blog.  Those wordles are mighty interesting and worth a look, if only to determine which blogsites are spending more of their time talking about the cause, the campaign and reasons to vote yes and which are not.

There are three things to add to it all.  First, an oldie but a goodie: when the storymaker becomes the story or the messenger becomes the message, it is time for those individuals to go and find something more interesting and useful to do instead. The First Minister’s loyalty was admirable but misplaced. He should have allowed Campbell Gunn to resign and accepted it with the usual equanimity which accompanies such setpieces.  Now, the thing plays on.  How can a media advisor advise if he can no longer engage with everyone he is expected to advise without having the credibility of his advice questioned?  The same rule of thumb applies for Wings over Scotland.

Secondly, a much wiser burd than me suggested a litmus test for any engagement on any issue in the run up to September. Does what you are about to say, write, tweet, post, share, ask, posit or pronounce help deliver a Yes vote in September?  Will it help those who are currently undecided but interested edge towards voting yes?  Go on, try it yourself.  Look at anything written about Clare Lally or J K Rowling by some supporters on the Yes side in the last week and then ask yourself how those utterings might convince someone to vote Yes.  And then go and read Andrew Wilson’s brilliant piece on J K Rowling and contrast and compare.

Thirdly, morale counts in this campaign more than any other, just as impressions do in all campaigns.  Thankfully, few beyond the anoraks tune in every week to First Minister’s Questions but it is a key arena in the battle for morale. The First Minister last Thursday was in the trenches, on the backfoot, being made to defend a situation not of his own making nor choosing, having to answer issues that weren’t in the script for the week.  And every week, he is seen to be rocking and reeling not only drains his energy and saps life from the narrative arc around him and his leadership role, but it puts a spring in the step of the No camp.  He is pivotal to this campaign and it is one reason why the other side is so keen, week in week out, to make the campaign about him and not about the issue. We really shouldn’t be helping them do so.

Finally, every time the Scottish Government and the Yes campaign are having to rebut, the good news, the news we want people in Scotland and especially, the undecideds, to hear and take on board, is buried. Yes, the media would try to do it anyway but why would we want to make that job an easier one to achieve?  If we are all talking about stushies – and we are – then no one is talking about the positives.

Which allows us at last to arrive at the point of this blogpost.  To shine a light on good news stories wiped off the headlines and the schedules last week, which No and the media are happy to bury but which we should all be shouting from the rooftops.

Drilling is about to begin in a new North Sea oil field with potential to produce 96 million barrels of oil.  And no, the story isn’t that the UK Energy Minister misappropriates the term country but that here is evidence that there is plenty more oil in the sea yet and that is good news for the future economic prosperity of an independent Scotland.

Statistics show that there are now more women than ever in Scotland in employment. There are 1.2 million now employed, the highest since records began in 1992 and an increase of 35,000 since last year.  Now there might well be issues with pay, with job security and even the nature of these jobs if we scratch below the headline figures. Yet, some of the levers we need to address these things currently sit with Westminster.  Look at what we have achieved – are achieving – for the women of Scotland with the powers we currently have and think about what more we could do with independence.

It’s not every day the Daily Record would describe a poll as a bombshell but that is indeed what happened this week. Its latest Survation poll found that the gap between Yes and No continues to narrow, with Yes up to 39% (up 2 points on the previous month) and No down to 44% (down 3 points). Better still, the survey findings suggest the gender gap is also narrowing and also that young people are now more likely to vote yes than no.  That in itself is a major turnaround. The poll also shows that the SNP and Yes’s instincts right at the start of this long campaign were right – the risk of more Tory governments Scotland did not vote for in the current constitutional set-up is a key consideration for many.  A majority would vote yes (44 to 38%) if they thought the Conservatives would win the 2015 General Election and form the next UK Government.

So, if you want to be saying anything negative at all or having swipe at anyone anytime soon, feel free to unleash your worst on the Tories and the fact that the Union gives us governments we neither vote for nor want.  I find highlighting the devastating impact of austerity on the incomes and quality of life of women and children goes down well.