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The No camp is losing out in this carnival of democracy

If you had the good fortune to be Blair McDougall, director of Better Together, what kind of referendum campaign would you really like to run?

If the choice was yours alone, free and without impediment, how would you put across your deeply felt message?

As things stand, Mr McDougall isn't short of backing. The Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are with him. Every last department of the British Government is on his side. Foreign politicians, whether admired Americans or unpleasant Australians, stand ready to lend a hand.

The print media don't cause Mr McDougall distress. On the Union, the London press are unequivocally as one. Here, only the Sunday Herald has declared for Yes. The broadcasters, north and south, cause no loss of slumber in the Better Together camp.

The business community are, by and large, keen on a No vote. The worst friendly bankers can manage is a pledge of no interference while reporting, dutifully, that independence looks awfully risky. Mr McDougall also has the support of those he might not invite to a cheese-and-wine do: Ukip, the Grand Orange Order, George Galloway... As to endorsements, the campaign director is spoiled for choice. So-called celebrities arrive in hosts. Comedians, soap stars, pop singers, sports types: Britons who can really make you think are Mr McDougall's, it seems, to command. He has it all. Apart, that is, from the reviews.

It has become a truism. Yesterday, Yes announced that better than one million have signed a declaration for independence. Those allied to Better Together duly mocked the effort, pointing out that it has taken 30 months to gather signatories and call in The Proclaimers. But would Mr McDougall have turned up his nose at one million names for No? The question is hypothetical: he doesn't have the option.

Yes, the world knows, has all the best tunes. It has the best jokes, the best slogans, the best speeches. Of Scots, it has the best writers, historians, actors, lawyers, painters, doctors, farmers, politicians, constitutional theorists, political thinkers, and more. It has a buzz, a sense of commitment and belief, a work rate. Above all, it has a grassroots campaign that Better Together, wedded to cynicism and a template from a box stamped "Quebec", cannot match.

I would say that. Full disclosure isn't required. I "declared for independence" before some of those who've signed the Yes Declaration were born, but that's no big deal. Had this been an argument over the hopes of the SNP, I would still be noting differences with Alex Salmond and his party. It isn't like that.

Yes has been a sight - several thousand sights - to see. It has been a campaign without precedent in these islands. It has been infused with an optimism and a belief that ought to bounce from my calloused hide like most of the "inspirational" noise summoned up by paid campaign directors. The reality, as Mr McDougall knows perfectly well, is different.

For the most part, Yes groups are self-directed and self-organising. They are, if you like, self-determined. Regiments of reporters from London or beyond, trooping around the village halls, witnessing an electorate determined to be informed and involved, have vouched for that. Those reporters, too, have seen nothing like it. They wonder over the phenomenon. Can politics still be done in this way? Isn't this just the converted preaching to the converted? Who's in charge? How can it be that Nicola Sturgeon or Jim Sillars pull crowds in and find that the crowds, persuaded or unpersuaded, noisy or polite, are deeply attentive?

Enthusiasm alone doesn't win a vote. All concerned understand that Scotland's majority remains silent. There is the tantalising knowledge that three-quarters of a million potential voters, give or take, call themselves undecided. A mass of people who have never voted or registered to vote are an unknown quantity. You can stage a fine carnival of democracy, but a lot of folk don't enjoy that kind of show. If they don't turn up, you know nothing about them.

A popular movement permeates a society; a manufactured campaign buys software, consultants and "volunteers" as required. The campaign planted on astroturf feeds on received wisdom. So when the Radical Independence group stages a couple of mass canvass events, with 600 people in the field, the professional campaigners dismiss evidence of a big Yes vote in working-class areas. That's what professionals do, after all.

What is also missed is the ability to get 600 people to give up their time to go door to door. It's a conspicuous effort, but within the Yes campaign it is not treated as the kind of effort requiring a subsidy from a handful of rich Tory donors. That, though they would not advertise the fact, is one of Better Together's problems.

Another difficulty is plain. Building a campaign around the word No isn't the best way to engender sunny optimism. If Better Together's message came with one of those emoticon things, the little image would look sullen, resentful and tight-lipped. To put it simply: not happy.

The words below would dismiss the hopeful as fools, dupes, or - what would be the calibrated phrase? - ethnic separatists. While a coalition government inflicts austerity with an ideological purpose on working Scotland, the text would attempt a Panglossian proposition: the best of all possible worlds.

Better Together hasn't earned many reviews for artistic interpretation. It has been marked down as relentlessly negative. What's harder to state, despite jolly celebs, is why repeated promises of "a positive case for the Union" have not been met. They try and try, yet somehow it doesn't come off. Mr McDougall is the bloke who's always in the kitchen at parties.

This week National Collective promoted the Twitter hashtag #YesBecause. It counted as another kind of canvassing. Among other things, it was a way to encourage people to declare themselves for independence in a way that can't be achieved on a ballot paper. Better than 100,000 tweets were recorded. Soon the notion was "trending", as they say, globally. I had a go.

None of it was statistically significant. None of it foretold the referendum result. Some tweeted more often than was wise. It made for a spectacle, nevertheless, as people spoke their slogans or their minds, hour after hour. On Mr McDougall's side of the fence, attempts at #NoBecause were half-hearted.

My little tweet said, "I'll vote #YesBecause it's best for the people, their children, and the children to come. I'll vote #YesBecause, for the first time, we can". Nothing special, that one, and only one of many. Better Together, with its dismally passionate believers in the big No, seems unable, perhaps unwilling, to contend with a human reality.

You are not awarded extra votes in proportion to your commitment. Those who don't care have rights equal to those who care. But if the issue is a country's future, hope and optimism are relevant. Unless, of course, it is your only task to eradicate those things.

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