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Better to opt for a positive campaign

Prepare for the love-bombs.

In other words, prepare to be told by high-profile people, including television and sports stars, why they would like Scotland to remain in the Union. The message from the famous will be: we love you, please do not leave us.

On the face of it, there are dangers in such a celebrity-laden approach for Better Together. In May 2012, the launch of the Yes campaign drew criticism when they used famous Scots in their line-up, particularly those who spend most of their time out of Scotland, and the use by the No campaign of celebrities who live in England runs the risk of encountering similar criticism.

However, there may also be some merit in the love-bomb approach for Better Together, particularly as it appears to be partly inspired by a successful anti-independence strategy used in the 1995 referendum in Quebec. In that vote, the people of Quebec were asked if they wished to break away from Canada and for much of the time it was thought to be going the way of the secessionists. According to some observers, it was when Canadians from other parts of the country emphasised how much they wanted Quebec to stay that the campaign then swung in the No direction.

There are no guarantees the same would happen in the UK, but a similar campaign could help overcome the persistent criticism that the No strategists have been overly negative. Of course, those who run Better Together could point out that their tactics appear to be working so far and it is certainly true that they have been consistently ahead in the polls since the start of the campaign.

Even so, there are dangers in voters becoming tired of a negative tone - and then rebelling against it - so the No campaign must do all it can to set out a positive agenda, and create an upbeat atmosphere.

In this, they could learn from the Yes side. Whatever the drawbacks of the SNP's White Paper - and there were many unanswered questions - the party deserves credit for positively setting out its case for independence as well as some ideas of what Scotland might be like after a Yes vote.

In the months ahead, Better Together will need to do something similar and lay out its positive case for the Union and it may be the so-called love-bombs will help. They could also help to put the emotional case for the Union, which is based on the many links that exist between millions of friends and relatives in Scotland and England with connections across the border. The SNP has succeeded in appealing to the emotional reasons for voting Yes; Better Together must do the same on the No side.

Whether they can do this using the tactics that worked in Quebec remains to be seen but Better Together will also be aware of the outcome of that 1995 vote. The No campaign won, but it was by the narrowest of margins, and the same could happen here as many voters have yet to make up their minds. In the end, the No campaign may win over most of those voters but they are most likely to do so with a positive campaign and an upbeat, detailed and positive list of reasons to stay in the UK.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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