In Scotland’s capital, ‘Better Together’ are fighting words

September 17, 2014

RTR46HWU.jpg

Every major road in Scotland is now festooned with signs and billboards saying either “Yes” or the more genteel “No thanks” – but the big difference is that most of the “No thanks” signs have been vandalized.

It’s a small taster of how aggressive and punchy the Scottish independence referendum has become – and why, perhaps, so many “No” voters aren’t daring to raise their heads above the parapet.

Many people outside the UK believe that because the Independence vote is now split right down the middle, both camps must be matching each other shout for shout. They think it’s like a U.S. presidential election, where both Democrats and Republicans spend millions on trying to make the most noise.

This is not the case in Scotland. The Scots who want independence are far more strident, more assertive, more generally in your face. They relish the fight and lick their lips at the prospect of setting people right on why independence would be the best thing ever to happen to Scotland.

The Unionists, meanwhile, are a much more timorous beast, quietly skulking in the corners as they await Thursday’s vote.

According to all the latest polls, there is now not a cigarette paper’s difference in it. Thanks to a late surge from the Scottish Nationalists and an all-pervading sense of panic that is sweeping through the Better Together campaign, it would seem that Scotland is now split right down the middle.

You would have no inkling of that on the streets; or in the pubs; or on the internet, where the Scots Nats have completely routed all before them. They have put the Better Together campaign to the sword. They have complete possession of the battlefield.

In the pubs, you are very unlikely to hear a Scotsman sticking up for the Union. If he did, it would take about one minute before he’d be was embroiled in a shouting match.

Hundreds of houses and flats now have “Yes” signs in their windows; very few “Nos.” Not that the “No thanks” owners would – necessarily – have their windows smashed. But there is a sense that it’s just not worth the hassle. Keep your head down. What’s the point in getting involved in a fight, when they’re not even listening?

For well over two years now, the Scots Nats have had a very slick, very well organized campaign. This was most immediately obvious on the Internet, where a rapid response unit of “Cybernats” would shoot down any and all opposition. The very moment that a Better Together message popped up on the ‘Net, the Cybernats would be onto it like a pack of hunting dogs. [Morning, chaps.]

In this way, anyone famous who publicly joined the Better Together ranks – whether it was Harry Potter author JK Rowling, or David Bowie – was instantly trolled and vilified.

Of course there were a few Better Together trolls too… just not nearly so many of them, and not nearly so menacing.

What defines the Indy voters is that they are not shy about coming forward. They’re singing it from the roof-tops and they are eager to convert any waverer to the cause. Every weekend, there they are in Edinburgh, setting up their stalls on the street corners, with magic and passion and total self-belief. For many of them, it seems to be like a religion. They will brook no nay-sayers.

In contrast, I have seen just one stall for the “No thanks” campaign. I don’t expect it was a very pleasant experience working there, the equivalent of being trolled on the Internet, though actually in your face.

A plucky few have put up Union Jacks in their windows and placards outside their homes, if only to show that the Scots Nats aren’t having it all their own way. The placards generally do not last more than a day before they’re defaced.

The Better Together campaign now seems to be banking everything on the “shy Unionists”.

Many voters – they hope/believe – are so wary of declaring themselves as a Unionist that they automatically sit on the fence. They say they are as yet undecided. They say they “don’t know.” (And, I might ask, why not? It’s nobody’s business but their own who they vote for.)

Who knows if this silent army of voters actually exists – or whether it is in fact some phantom army that Better Together is hoping to conjure up from the dead. All will be revealed on Thursday when the shouting stops and when finally, at long last, all those shy Unionists will be alone in the quiet of the polling station with nothing but their pencil and their ballot paper.

3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

The aggressive and intimidating attitude of the individuals I’ve seen portrayed who are supporters of the “Yes” campaign is one reason I will not be visiting Scotland anytime soon, especially should they gain independence.

Posted by HudsonColumbian | Report as abusive

If this in’t a classic fight between romantic (and violent) emotion on the yes side – and understated (yet compelling) reason on the no side – I don’t know what is.

Posted by DonD1977 | Report as abusive

And the foot said to the body, “I don’t need You. I’ll walk on my own!”

Posted by Trichiurus | Report as abusive