Some in the press have yet to grasp the more basic dynamics of the Scottish referendum campaign, one of which is that those leaning to a Yes vote are not likely to be persuaded by hyperbolic excess, especially when it is underpinned by a false premise. Moreover, deploying someone with a track record for shameless dishonesty is equally prone to engendering an adverse reaction.
The Sunday paper not getting a handle on these basics today is the Telegraph, which goes completely OTT with its main headline: “Scottish soldiers lost their lives trying to preserve the United Kingdom. What will their families say now: ‘Well, it no longer matters’?” They may, for starters, ask the Tel to show a little respect for their ability to make an informed choice of their own volition.
Moreover, “trying to preserve the United Kingdom” is plain flat wrong. What conflict has the UK joined since 1945 that threatened the integrity of the Union? Well, we haven’t. More correctly, this should read “serving their country”, which right now is that same United Kingdom. If Scotland votes Yes, then “serving their country” may in future have a different meaning. That is all.
Sadly, the Tel has doubled down in its disrespect of Scots voters – not a wise move when the current level of interest in next Thursday’s vote makes that electorate one of the best-informed ever – by engaging the services of Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan to patronise them in his own inimitable style, or lack thereof. Gilligan has form when it comes to honesty, and his form is that he is woefully short of it.
“One of the key themes of the Yes independence campaign – I saw it scrawled on a No poster in Edinburgh only last night – is that a ‘free Scotland’ will no longer be tricked into illegal wars based on lies” he tells, before proudly declaring “as the BBC reporter who first exposed those lies”. The Hutton Inquiry found differently, and Gilligan hasn’t been a BBC reporter since. They won’t have him back.
“One of their largest donors ran a campaign to keep the anti-gay Section 28” he protests. That was a reference to Brian Souter of Stagecoach. That company, along with First Group, is headquartered in Scotland. The two of them control a significant part of the UK’s public transport. From Scotland. And will still be making money for Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. Think about that.
Gilligan does not wish to do that, instead asking “How on earth has a famously rational, unemotional, cautious place like Scotland – birthplace of the Enlightenment – come so close to being swept into this land of the unknown by a last-minute wave of shallow populism, emotion and fairy-tale lies”? He manages not to realise that he was part of something similar with his pal Bozza in London.
Scotland will make its own decision. And patronising its voters will not work.