Thursday, 18 September 2014

10 reasons how Scotland got power before the vote




From tomorrow morning Scotland will negotiate for more power.  Power that has been promised, even if they vote NO.  So how did Scotland’s referendum turn around from No Chance (22% in 2012) to Too Close to Call (48% or more today) ? I go through 10 reasons why.

1.      The Power of Yes – The Yes Campaign managed to negotiate the right word – people are more likely to vote for a positive than a negative

       2.    The initial Negotiation – at the Initial negotiation Alex Salmond – with the polls at 22% wanted Devo Max – increased powers to Scotland on the ballot paper.  David Cameron refused from his confident position.  I wonder how he feels about that now – with Devo Max being offered as the alternative to Yes!

       3.     Never saying Never.  Galvanizing the disenchanted.  Allegedly the No campaign concentrated on the usual voters.  The Yes campaign went out to find new voters – again at the negotiation this tactic was set – with the guarantee that 16 year olds would be able to vote for their country’s future. But the Yes campaign didn’t stop there – they went out to find the dis-enfranchised.  Those who had never voted before and got them engaged in the debate.  It is for this reason that on 18th September, as all the residents of Scotland go to vote, no pollster is confident of the outcome. Because there is nothing to compare it to. No-one can even guess how these voters think. 

       4.     Lethargy and complacency are not as powerful as humility and passion. Some people say they don’t’ like Alex Salmond because he’s arrogant.  However the passion of the Yes campaign cannot be denied.  I would argue because he was so far back in the polls to start with – most of the rest of the country thought “there’s no way they’ll win” That arrogance could lose the United Kingdom Scotland

       5.     Know your opponent.  As a Scot living in England this is where I believe the No campaign underestimated the other side.  I know a lot of Scots were part of the No campaign, but there seemed a misinterpretation of how Scots’ culture translates itself.  A lot of it, is in it’s humour.  If you are patronizing to a Scot – beware the wrath! You will be pulled up immediately.  We don’t like being told how to do things.

If you tell us you will give us something, we will tell you that we can take it ourselves.  So when NO politicians said “We will give you a voice” the YES campaigners said “No thanks, we’ve got one already.  It’s not for you to give”   The NO campaigners didn’t understand the stubborn, confident Scot they saw before them.  Numerous linguistic gaffe’s were made throughout the campaign.

      6.     Get your messages right. Consistency of messaging is key in any campaign.  The Yes has been consistent – the only thing that changed at the end was an extension of the message: “Yes, it’s in your hands”. The No campaign became Better Together, then No Thanks then Lets Stick together.  There were too many messages – hence the reduction of social media effectiveness I believe.

Getting your message right is also about making sure the message can’t be tarnished.  Another gaffe of the No campaign was the advert setting up a “wee wumman” who “didnae know any better”.  A huge backlash came and the Better Together ad then became a translation of the NO Campaigns subconscious – or at least the YES’s translation of that subconscious.  The YES campaign took control of their brand.

For a while in London I wasn’t sure who’s brand NO THANKS was.  I heard it used by both camps. “ Westminster – no thanks”.  The Saltire with NO thanks written on it. The message was muddied. It didn’t work.

The YES campaign however was slick.  The video using short sentences, said with the UK Flag in the back and then said backwards, turning the NO message into a YES was brilliant on so many levels.  First of all it turned their message round from NO to YES shockingly and cleverly, Secondly it went from a negative to a positive. Thirdly it connected to our Scottish heritage of Poetry, music and creativity – a place where Scots feel strong. 

       7.     Get your delivery right.  I like Alistair Darling. However despite his huge career success, his ability to present powerfully is not as technically crafted as Alex Salmonds’
a.    Darling points, Alex Salmond smiles
b.    Darling gets het up, Alex Salmond stays calm
c.     Darling stays attached to his notes and the podium, Salmond comes out from behind the podium confidently – he opens up to the audience
d.    Darling forgets the names of the questioners, Salmond uses them pointedly but sparingly
e.    Darling sticks to a few points, Salmond has constructed arguments for all. 
f.      In the first debate Darling’s reputation of being a bit too serious and boring stood to his favour when he  came out impassioned.  The reason the pundits gave him the win was their shock at his energetic delivery. 
g.     In the second debate, Salmond slightly increased his passion but still remained stately and in his calmness got Darling to make a gaff about the currency.  Darling admitted Scotland could use it. Alex Salmond in fact simply delivered the way he had done in the first debate but his time there was no shock value.

      8.     Don’t look desperate.  In the last week the main campaigner Darling has been replaced by Gordon Brown. It reeks of desperation. Or people believing they can do a better job. It’s not working together.  They are not living their brand. Where before the message changed, this time the messenger has changed.

 Also seeing the normally dour Gordon Brown with his new fervor, doesn’t seem authentic.  I do believe Gordon Brown is an empassionted man but we’re not used to seeing it.

Salmond and Sturgeon however seem closer and more together than ever. 

       9.     Never underestimate the power of the people.  No-one knows what the “never voted” will vote.  They are the secret weapon.  But of which side, we’ll only know tomorrow. What we do know is the YES camp won in the social media stakes

As reported in the London Metro (Thursday 18th Sept 14) 500,000 more #VoteYes and #YesScotland have been posted on Twitter than the #BetterTogether  No campaign tag. 

The independence campaign has 258,000 likes on facebook with the Unionists on 182,000

      10.  The tide of change, the tipping point, the law of social proof and the law of scarcity, the zeitgeist is a powerful tide, best caught early. The law of social proof is where people are more likely to go with the majority vote – if they see other people doing it they are more likely to do it.  Especially if it’s by people they like.  The law of scarcity is when people are likely to buy because they think the ‘deal’ may run out.  Because the vote is so tight, everyone knows their vote could be the one that tips the balance so the momentum to vote is high.

With momentum for political engagement this high, it is an exciting time for politician’s to re-engage with voters.

Tomorrow we may well see the political debates in Ireland, England and Wales heating up. They have been simmering the last couple of days. 

But this is only the first step for Scotland.  Now the really hard work begins.  Because now the negotiations start.  No matter what the vote.

How the two sides have positioned themselves will have to be seen through.  This political tide has just started to flow. Who has caught the wave early and positioned themselves well for those negotiations, time will tell.


What we do know,  as well as negotiations for Scotland’s future, we are also in a campaign for the next government, to be voted in a short 8 months. We are entering a political revival and as a Londoner I’m excited to see how we all re-engage in politics on all sides of the present United Kingdom’s borders.

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