Westminster’s influence over the Scots
In 1707 Scotland had more than 20% of the population of what is now the UK – In the 300 years since, Westminster’s love of the Scots included, the Highland clearances and banishment to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Americas. Scotland’s population is now less than 10% of the UK total.
Labour MP’s and their SpAd’s profess to be admirers of Keir Hardie. But one is left to ponder just what Hardie would have thought about private school educated labour MP’s telling the Scottish people they are better off being governed by a bunch of millionaire Tory toffs than a parliament with real power in Edinburgh.
Blair McDougall’s political career 2000-2015
Blair McDougall attended the University of Glasgow, where as chair of the Labour Club he also served as chair of Scottish Labour Students 2001-2003.
2000-2006. Worked for Labour MP Jim Murphy: Became active in the Labour party, supporting Jim Murphy in his campaign for office in Eastwood. Whilst still at University assisted Murphy in the early months in his new role as an MP before taking on the post of Chair of the Scottish Labour Party Students.
2006-2007. Whilst still at University he was elected to the post of Youth Representative on the UK National Executive Committee (NEC). Members of the committee are seated alphabetically and it was no surprise when McDougall was appointed to the post of Special Adviser (SPAD) to Ian McCartney, Minister for Trade, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Fortuitous indeed.
2007-2008. Ever ambitious McDougall transferred his loyalty to James Purnell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport (including control of the BBC). He didn’t waste any time making his mark on BBC Scotland, issuing diktats ensuring the policy for Scottish broadcasting of news and current affairs would be as the Blairite government wished:
10 November 2007: Blair McDougall blocks Scottish focused news on BBC
One of the key figures behind the Better Together campaign opposed the creation of a Scottish based news programme that would have brought jobs and skills to Scotland, because it had the support of the SNP Scottish Government, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Blair McDougall, Campaign Director of the cross-party pro-Union alliance, was a senior Labour Party Advisor (SpAd) when he called for a Scottish Six evening news programme to be blocked by party officials, labelling existing BBC Scotland programmes “parochial”.
In November 2007 McDougall sent an internal memo to the then Secretary of State for Scotland Des Browne warning against allowing BBC Scotland to create an evening news programme that would have presented events home and abroad from a Scottish perspective.
He wrote: “We also need to be clear about what he [Salmond] means by the ‘Scottish Six’. They [Scottish Govt] do not mean Scottish news first followed by UK news (as STV does at present). They want a totally separate programme where the world and some UK news is covered but by (sic) a Scottish perspective.
The Better Together Chief added: “The argument against it is best made by anybody who ever watches News-night Scotland – that in a TV and internet age people access news in a range of different ways and plenty of people will find what they want without having a parochial and expensive duplication of what they have already with some stories cut out.”
McDougall was also critical of the flagship radio news programme ‘Good Morning Scotland’ calling it a radio programme that “rehashed” stories initially broadcast by the Today programme.
The revelation coincides with an intervention into the independence debate of former BBC director-general John Birt, who today claimed independence would have a devastating impact on the BBC. http://newsnet.scot/?p=112335
2008-2009. Purnell transferred to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) taking up the post of Secretary of State. McDougall went with him. In June 2009 following a disastrous European election campaign, Purnell resigned from the government and wrote to Gordon Brown advising that he also should resign as Prime Minister providing space for David Miliband to take up leadership of the party. Brown refused and Miliband was feart to make his challenge. Purnell was cast aside.
Purnell left politics at the 2010 general election and worked for a variety of pseudo political organisations until 2013 before taking up employment with the BBC as Director of Strategy. He is still employed by the BBC and undoubtedly had opportunity to bring influence to bear upon BBC Scotland at the time of the referendum. McDougall, surplus to requirements was found employment with Tony Blair.
2009–2010. Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative. Governance Adviser (Rwanda). Just what role he discharged is unclear but the Rwanda regime was corruption personified.
2010-2010. When David Miliband made his challenge for the leadership of the labour Party McDougall saw an opportunity to return to front-line politics, albeit in an unelected role of SPad. Miliband lost and left politics for a job in the USA paying a six figure salary. McDougall was without employment yet again. But not for long.
2010–2012. Ed Miliband the new Labour Party Leader was persuaded by his brother David to agree to the setting up of, “Movement for Change” a project which identified and trained potential labour candidates for office. McDougall was appointed chief executive. He lost the protection of David Miliband and support for the project waned. Time for McDougall to call in some favours.
2012–2014. Jim Murphy, his long time friend arranged his appointment as Campaign Director of Better Together Ltd. Ecstatic to be away from Westminster McDougall sold his house in London and moved back to Scotland where he fully intends to remain, perhaps in a role at Holyrood.
9 May 2012: Scottish Referendum – Ultra Blairite – Blair McDougall – Takes on job of running the pro-union campaign
McDougall was retained by the Labour Party taking on the role of chief executive of “Movement for Change”, an umbrella group tasked with grooming the next generation of Blairite clones in the parliamentary Labour Party. Funded by Lord Sainsbury, it is well financed having received £225,000 in it’s first year of existence in addition to funds channelled through the David Miliband leadership campaign.
McDougall had friends in high places and when the opportunity to lead the Better Together campaign arose his old mucker’s, Jim Murphy and Alistair Darling recommended the ultra-Blairite to Downing Street through the cross-party “No” umbrella group. As one Labour insider put it: “Well, they certainly cleared the “get a bloke with a Scottish name’ hurdle.” He was soon to make his all pervading presence known in Scotland.
Not long after launching the campaign in Scotland McDougall’s team boldly stated that the Yes vote would need to be pushed under 40% in order to answer the independence question for “a generation”.
The campaign would mirror that used 300 years before, (the successful 1707 strategy). It would be structured entirely on the blanket spread of disinformation through a compliant Scottish Press and UK government controlled broadcast Media. The theme was simple the operative word was “Fear”. Scotland could not survive without England, for long as an independent country. Too small, Poor, lacking a currency, pensioners would suffer great hardship and many other lies.
The Scottish press reported that “influential Better Together insiders” (referring to the negative spin being placed upon any aspect of separation) spoke with an amount of pride of their organisation being given the title “Project Fear” by management. McDougall, when questioned was unrepentant about the tactics.
During the 2012 Olympics in London, Better Together used the games as political propaganda, in particular the participation of Scottish athletes in Team GB which was taken to imply that supporters of independence weren’t interested in the Olympics.
In November 2012 Alistair Darling suggested Scottish independence would threaten the continuation of British culture in Scotland.
In September 2013 during a Labour Party Conference, the party’s Scottish Leader Johann Lamont described Scottish nationalism as “a virus.”
McDougall voiced in public, the view that Scottish people, and many thousands of Poles, Latvians, Estonians living in Scotland and presently citizens of Europe would be thrown out of the European community with no automatic right of entry.” Scotland would need to re-apply for membership and wait in the queue.
“Scotland should be aware that Westminster owns sterling and it is the sworn declaration of the Chancellor of the exchequer that an independent Scotland will not be allowed to share it. A nation without a currency cannot survive.” This wheeze was dreamt up by one of Thatcher’ inner circle Andrew Dunlop, a scot from Sussex never elected to office, but known to be the brains behind Cameron and Osborne’s dastardly deeds. This set the scene for the campaign. There would be no love for a fellow member of the EU in the hearts of the Westminster elite should Scotland elect to go it alone. This placed the “badguy-goodguy lovebombs” well into the realms of fantasy
Comment: Stuff and nonsense. Former European Commission (EC) director dismissed suggestions that Scots would be deprived of their European Union (EU) citizenship if they vote for independence from the UK. Speaking at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the UK’s membership of the EU in Edinburgh, Mr Lawrence said it is “hard to envisage” Scots’ EU citizenship being revoked.
20 November 2012: Scottish Affairs Committee —The Referendum on Separation for Scotland – Committee: Mr Ian Davidson (Chair) (The guy that is committed to putting any remaining SNP supporters to the Bayonet) Mike Crockart, Jim McGovern, Pamela Nash, Lindsay Roy
Discussion Point 1: Any government seen to have fixed the outcome will be punished by the electorate
Blair McDougall: I think the Scottish Government was elected on a mandate to have this referendum. They have been given the right to do that, and that is correct. With that right comes the responsibility to exercise that power fairly and to be seen to exercise that power fairly for the reasons I have given.
Lindsay Roy: So you think there are enough checks and balances in the setup that has been agreed?
Blair McDougall: That remains to be seen, if I am honest. The fact that we are having this process of scrutiny is really important. My honest sense is that we have seen a lot of media and parliamentary scrutiny of this. The thing that will keep the Scottish Government honest on this is that the Scottish people wouldn’t stomach a fix. If one side or the other was seen to be trying to fix the playing field in their favour, it would backfire on them.
Lindsay Roy: So manipulation would backfire?
Blair McDougall: I think it would.
Discussion point 2: Use of public money in the campaigns – particularly in the Period of Purdah
Pamela Nash: I would like to discuss public funding. It is in the Scottish Government’s proposals that they would not want any public funding of the campaigns. Is that the position of the yes campaign as a whole?
Blair Jenkins: We haven’t taken a view on it. I know that is what is proposed. I understand where that is coming from. When public money is tight in a referendum where one would have to assume that both campaigns are capable of generating quite a reasonable level of revenue, a case can be made for not using public funds when there are great demands being made on them, but it is not something on which I have a strong view.
Blair McDougall: My understanding was that the Electoral Commission had backed away from public funding around referendums. I think there will be sufficient interest between our two campaigns to make sure that certainly over the long period, notwithstanding my concerns about the short period, money can be raised to save the taxpayer having to fork out for this sort of thing. My concern is about the wider use of public money within this. If there was some sort of information leaflet, it would make sense for the Electoral Commission as an independent arbiter to oversee it. For three quarters of that 16-week period, the Scottish Government will still be able to operate and make the case through public money for independence. Only in the last 28 days will they not be able to do that. There won’t be another body in Scotland that is able to balance that out, because within that 16-week period I feel that the limits have been designed to handcuff us and other groups in society from being able to make that counter-argument.
Pamela Nash: Do you think the period of purdah should be extended?
Blair McDougall: That is up to the Scottish Government to decide. Again, were the period of purdah to remain as it is and the Scottish Government were actually or were perceived to have used public money to persuade people during that period in an overt way, I think they would suffer for it.
Pamela Nash: In that case, could public funding not be used to even up the goalposts? Mr Jenkins, you said that you would want each campaign to be seen to be evenly funded and that no one should be at a disadvantage because of funding.
Blair McDougall: I don’t see the need for taxpayers’ money to be spent in any way on this campaign. There will be a sufficient level of interest that people will want to support it.
Blair Jenkins: As to people’s concern about Scottish Government announcements before we get to the 28-day control period that might be intended to have a bearing on the outcome of the referendum, I am going to hazard a wild guess here. I suspect that there might be one or two UK Government announcements before we get to the 28-day period that might be intended to have a bearing on the referendum outcome as well. It’s a long shot, I know, but I suspect there might be one or two.
Chair: So that is a yes. You expect the Scottish Government to be doing that.
Blair Jenkins: I would expect both Governments to be setting out their stalls in as attractive a way as they can for the electorate in Scotland before we get to that 28 day period, when you are not allowed to say or announce anything that has a bearing. As you know, I spent quite a lot of time in journalism and I am always willing to be surprised, but I am sure that people in Edinburgh and London will be thinking about what they can announce that would be well received by the people of Scotland.
Chair: Is that not an argument for saying that the Governments should be both extremely active in clarifying what should be done and what the results of negotiations might be and so on, but the period of purdah should be extended to stop the cynical practice that you have already admitted the Scottish Government will be prone to and to which you are expecting that the UK Government might retaliate?
Blair Jenkins: That is a very interesting interpretation of my remarks. Again, realism is always a healthy thing to have. All Governments when they get close to any electoral event try to position themselves in a good light in relation to the electorate. Will that happen this time? Well, you know, I think it might. I suspect that, even now, there are people in this city, let alone Edinburgh, thinking, “What could we say in 2013 and 2014 that might demonstrate our love to the people of Scotland?”
Comment: The period of Purdah was abused by the Better Together campaign, in particular the UK government and the three main UK political parties. The referendum should have been declared void by the electoral commission.
Scottish Media and BBC Bias
Chair: Addressing Blair Jenkins. Can I come to the point you are touching on about the media? How are we going to make sure that there is a media that transmits information as distinct from solely gossip and opinion? It is not so much a problem, in my view, in terms of the press, because everybody knows the press is biased, as it were, one way or the other. You go through all the papers and identify whose side they are on. It is perhaps more of a difficulty for the broadcast media where there is the appearance of impartiality but, particularly in the case of the BBC, a degree of bias. How do you think that is to be regulated and covered?
Blair Jenkins:I agree with you that the press in this country is to a very large extent unregulated. We wait to see what Lord Justice Leveson has to propose in terms of whether there should be a different system of regulation, but at the moment there is an unregulated press, which largely reports as it sees fit and without any need to demonstrate impartiality or objectivity. As someone once said, that is the sea in which we swim. That is just the landscape in which we operate.
Blair McDougall: I don’t have much more to add on top of the guy who wrote the book on this stuff. The difference between, for example, the BBC and a print journalist is that there is a rule book written somewhere to which you can hold people accountable. We have already had those meetings with management. I am sure the BBC have had them, or are about to have them, as well. They will have clear guidance on language, the balance of panels and all that sort of stuff. The confidence we take from the BBC, given that the director general resigned, is that someone will always eventually take responsibility for something within the BBC.
The flip-side of it is that, from our market research of what the Scottish people want from this debate, the importance of the BBC cannot be overstated on this; it is an incredibly trusted message carrier, and people will take their opinions from the BBC much more than they will from other sources. It is incredibly important that that process is there and there is that process of engagement. Like you, I think that most times when there is a big debate people on either side take to Twitter and call the BBC hopelessly biased one way or another, which probably means they are roughly in the right place. There needs to be that process of engagement when those mistakes happen or that guidance and policy is not picking up an important point in the debate.
Chair: Addressing Blair Jenkins. I recall an outrageously deferential interview that you had with the BBC, and then it transferred over to some poor Labour spokesman, who got a proper hammering. It was the contrast between those two that struck me at the time as being reflective of bias. Neither of the interviews could be seen in themselves to be particularly wrong; it was just the juxtaposition. There is still an issue about what is seen as bias, in particular the use of presenters who are identified publicly as partisan and yet are presented as if they were impartial experts. These are issues that both sides will probably want to pursue with the broadcasters. It distorts the position quite considerably if people are being given somebody as a talking head with the impression that they are impartial and yet they are coming from a particular background.
Blair McDougall: I suspect people in Blair’s office were watching the same interview and thinking the exact opposite.
Chair: Oh, no. It couldn’t possibly be the one I am thinking of.
13 January 2013: Scottish press reaction to Blair McDougall and Project Fear
Journalist Joyce McMillan wrote in the Scotsman: “The truth is that the tone of the No camp’s response to the independence debate has – in too many cases – been so reactionary, so negative, and so fundamentally disrespectful of the Scottish Parliament as an institution, that I now find it hard to think of voting with them, no matter what my views on the constitution. And this, for me, is a new experience in politics – to enter a debate with a strongish view on one side of the argument, and to find myself so repelled by the tone and attitudes of those who should be my allies that I am gradually forced into the other camp.”
An editorial column in the Sunday Mail said “The No campaign needs to start explaining why the Union can make Scotland better not why independence will be a terrible thing as Scots, mired in a swamp of endless negotiations, wander between our mud huts borrowing cups of woad. If, as their campaign claims, we will be better together, they need to start telling us why.”
A column in the Observer by Scottish Daily Mail executive editor Kevin McKenna, said: “In one respect, 18 months is a very long time for a political campaign. For surely there is a limit on how long otherwise proud Scots, night after night, can stomach [Better Together’s] own narrative: that Scotland is too wee to go it alone; that we can’t make our economy work; that we must have a babysitter sometimes; that at other times we must be back before midnight. Months of telling people that, unlike Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg, Scotland is simply not strong enough may exact a toll on Better Together volunteers well before it takes a toll on the voters.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Better_Together_%28campaign%29
7 August 2013: Blair McDougall – Scottish Steelworkers support “Better together”
Steelworkers union statement in support of rejecting independence: “We stand together in solidarity whether we are from Glasgow, Grimsby or Glamorgan working together we can achieve so much more than we could alone.”
27 October 2015: The axe falls on the steel industry in Scotland
So much for solidarity. here’s what the Convener of Shop Stewards at Ravenscraig, Tommy Brennan, said “I have worked in the steel industry all my life. We must ask ourselves Would the decline and death of such a successful industry have happened in an independent Scotland? The obvious answer must be: it would not.”
19 October 2013: Blair McDougall – Commenting on the SNP Conference
But the shortcoming isn’t within the hearts and minds of Scots, it is with the SNP’s independence offer. None of us feels any less proudly Scottish today just because we are part of something bigger. Our sense of being Scottish does not depend on agreeing with Salmond. Belief in Scotland does not equal political nationalism. In fact, over the course of the campaign it has become clear that those things that make Scotland special and distinctive are better nurtured as part of the UK. We can be more strongly Scottish within the Union. There are roles we play within the UK, Scottish specialisms we bring to a collective ten times our size that simply cannot be replicated if we were to go it alone.
Comment: Not the least of these is the surreal notion that we can somehow be “more Scottish” within the union. What the hell does “more Scottish” mean? How does one measure “Scottishness”? Why would one want to? The very idea of some people being “more Scottish” necessarily implies that others are “less Scottish”. Just as Better Together’s concept of “Real Scots” necessitates the alternative category of “False Scots”. In McDougall’s warped estimation, that means anybody whose first loyalty is to Scotland and not the British state. That is not only surreal, it is perverse.
And if it seems distasteful in the context of the referendum debate, that’s undoubtedly because the British nationalist obsession with identity and ethnicity is so totally contrary to the spirit of Scotland’s civic nationalism.
Everybody who is entitled to vote in the referendum is as Scottish as they need to be. And each is every bit as Scottish as all the others. We do not need, and should not tolerate, Project Fear’s efforts to divide our people on the basis of their own spurious notions of ethnic validity.
Blair McDougall’s toxic language of discrimination between “better” and “lesser” Scots has no place in the debate on our nation’s constitutional future. It has no place in our nation.
19 October 2013: Blair McDougall – Scotland leads the UK in the growth of green energy financially supported by UK taxpayers -Separation would remove this crucial source of finance
Today Scotland is leading the UK’s green-energy growth. We offer untapped renewable potential and in return the rest of the UK invests in the wind and wave projects sustaining thousands of highly skilled jobs across Scotland. The source of that investment is the energy bills of more than 20 million homes across Britain, with around a third of that British green energy investment going to Scottish projects. In the current debate on energy costs we would do well to consider the choice leaving the UK would present here: higher energy bills for Scots or fewer green energy jobs. http://www.scotsman.com/news/blair-mcdougall-snp-conference-and-independence-1-3148965
20 October 2015: Fast Forward 2 years – Tory government withdraws financial support to renewable energy Energy bills to soar in Scotland
A prominent UN environment scientist has slammed the UK government’s “perverse” cuts to the renewable energy sector ahead of a key global climate change summit in Paris.
Jacqueline McGlade said Britain’s decision to reverse support for wind and solar power is at odds with pledges made by nearly 150 countries for the Paris summit, where they are seeking to announce a deal on climate change in December.
McGlade, a former head of the European Environment Agency and chief scientist at the UN environment program, said fossil fuels are being supported, while government actions are discouraging investment in renewable s. “What I’m seeing worldwide is a move very much towards investment in renewable energy. To counterbalance that, you see the withdrawal of subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels,”
McGlade told the BBC. “What’s disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going – we see subsidies being withdrawn and fossil fuel industry being enhanced.” https://www.rt.com/uk/319165-uk-renewables-cuts-climate/
20 October 2013: Comment: Confirmation of BBC bias so evident in the course of the referendum. (Video)
The BBC has come under fire for breaking with convention allowing Blair McDougall, a senior figure from the anti-independence campaign to attack the SNP on air in the middle of the Party’s Perth conference. Yesterday BBC News broadcast an apparent ‘interview’ with McDougall, who is the campaign director for Better Together in which the No campaigner launched a series of unchallenged attacks on the SNP and Alex Salmond. In the broadcast, on the BBC’s national UK wide news, the No campaigner made a series of assertions, some erroneous, regarding the Scottish Government’s post-independence stance on areas affecting welfare and businesses. http://newsnet.scot/?p=110970
23 October 2013: Clyde shipbuilding exists only because of contracts awarded by the Ministry of Defence
Blair McDougall: As part of the UK we continue our heritage as highly skilled engineers. Thousands of shipbuilders produce world-class vessels for the Royal Navy. Each Type 45 destroyer launched from the slipway at Glasgow represented a £650 million investment in Scottish engineering that simply couldn’t be matched by a separate navy with a total budget predicted to be £651 million.
These are investments rather than subsidies. They are a result of Scottish confidence inside the UK and of the UK’s confidence in Scotland. But they are part of a deal, a benefit of UK membership and it is dishonest to pretend they would continue after we left the club.
25 June 2011: Scottish firms squeezed out of defence contracts.
Comment: Less than 1% of all defence contracts are awarded to Scotland, which doesn’t take up much capacity. Skilled workers are sidelined for long periods relying on the state handouts to survive. The pitiful share of contracts is blatantly unfair. Scots pay taxes to the UK treasury but any reward is pitiful. The Scotsman.com/news/scots-firms-squeezed-out-of-defence-cash-1-1701894?
31 October 2013: Independence Referendum campaign chiefs battle at Dundee University
Blair Jenkins: A shared currency would suit the remainder of the UK as much as Scotland, which is why it has not been ruled out by those in favour of the union.
Blair McDougall: “UK Ministers are not going to fall into the trap of acting against Scotland until Scotland decides to stay in the UK.”
There it is Jock vote Yes at your peril. Westminster has a long memory and they will get you.!!!
Comment: McDougall wrong footed by George Osborne on this one. Osborne and his supposedly impartial civil servants later pulled a policy out of the hat, “acting against Scotland” by insisting there would never be a currency share arrangement.
5 August 2014: Better Together campaign breeches Referendum protocol
A joint declaration promising more powers for Holyrood will be issued today by the leaders of the Scottish and UK Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have added their signatures to the pledge made earlier this year by the three opposition leaders north of the border. The trio made their move on the eve of a televised referendum debate in First Minister Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, head of the pro-UK Better Together campaign, will go head-to-head.
The joint declaration is intended as a response to the independence campaign’s argument that only a Yes vote will deliver more powers for Scotland. Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “This statement of common endeavour signed by all the main UK party leaders makes clear our unshakeable commitment to building a stronger Scotland in the UK. “People can be confident that more powers are guaranteed.
12 September 2014: Rigging the Scottish Referendum?
The Westminster-led campaign against independence described itself as Project Fear. Its “New Labour” chief strategist, Blair McDougall, admitted after the vote that it was the fear factor that led to a No.
An incident involving BBC News editor Nick Robinson illustrates why the BBC has been accused of doing the No campaign’s “dirty work.” Robinson leaked Treasury claims that RBS Bank would leave Scotland, and falsely reported that Scottish First Minster Alex Salmond refused to answer questions on the subject.
In a similar manner to pushing UKIP, the BBC has been complicit pedalling the fear agenda. A BBC overview article about the referendum stresses how independence could mean volatile oil revenues and an unstable currency – both key messages of Project Fear.
But it omits the potential alternatives offered by the Yes campaign, such as how a Yes vote could rid Scotland of nuclear weapons and engender a fairer, greener democratic nation.
12 September 2014: Scotland’s future is hanging in the balance, as a poll shows a gap of only two percentage points between the Yes and No camps.
Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said the “fight for the future of Scotland” would “go right down to the wire”. He said: “The interventions of the last few days from the likes of Standard Life, Asda and Tesco Bank brought home the huge risks of separation.
There is no room for a protest vote in the referendum. The jobs and pensions of millions of Scots are at risk. The money we have to spend on our NHS is at risk, and it’s clear that prices would have to rise if we go it alone.That’s not our campaign saying these things it’s the experts and employers at some of Scotland’s biggest companies.”
The latest gauge of public opinion came as more business leaders and economists added their voices to a growing band of high-profile organisations opposed to independence. http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-small-no-lead-in-new-poll-1-3540534
12 September 2014: Retailers under extreme pressure from David Cameron to back no vote in Scottish referendum
The UK’s biggest retailers were ruthlessly pressurized in an early morning meeting at Downing Street by David Cameron forcing them to intervene in the Scottish referendum debate, pushing the baseless message that a, Yes” vote will result in higher prices.
He invoked Britain’s defeat of Hitler as part of a plea to around 200 business leaders aimed at preventing Scotland voting for independence. The Prime Minister said that it was as a United Kingdom that the Second World War had been fought and won, and that it was crucial that the country remained undivided.
Mr Cameron’s remarks at the private gathering represent some of his most impassioned comments so far ahead of a referendum which is more finely balanced than at any stage since campaigning got underway. “He (Cameron) emphasized the need for us to do everything we can over the next few days to keep the union together,” said one of those present. “He wants us to highlight the dangers of a Scottish exit in any way we can.”
The so called, “initiative” will take the form of a letter to be released to the UK media in the next day or so. It is being led by Sir Ian Cheshire, the Chief Executive of Kingfisher, the business behind B&Q, the DIY chain.
Other retailers understood to have agreed to back the initiative, so far include Marc Bolland, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, and Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Group. Andy Clarke, the chief executive of Asda, and John Timpson, boss of the Timpson shoe repair business, also support it.
Cheshire confirmed his involvement: “Business leaders need to speak out and get the facts in front of Scottish voters who need to make a decision. It’s not scaremongering. There are costs and consequences of separation and I think the current system works better. Independence is possible but people have to decide if it is better. There needs to be measured debate.”
So far, it is understood that Morrisons has refused to add its name and that several other leading retailers are holding back, fearing it would alienate vast numbers of Scottish shoppers. News of the move will fuel concerns in Scotland that a dirty tricks campaign is being co-ordinated through Downing Street. https://caltonjock.com/2014/09/12/dirty-tricks-campaign-organised-co-ordinated-by-david-cameron/
22 September 2014: Blair McDougall, head of the successful Better Together campaign
Scotland might have voted for independence in last week’s referendum if his campaign had made a positive case for the union, rather than “scaremongering” about economic risks.
24 September 2014: The Inside Story – How Better Together nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of Victory
So how did Cameron come so close to presiding over the break-up of the United Kingdom, and to what extent was it his fault?
Cameron has always had a deep affection for Scotland — though his Scotland is one of hunting lodges and grouse moors. He knew the Scots didn’t warm to his ‘posh’ English accent and education. It was for this reason that he agreed not to play a starring role in the No campaign.
The cross-party Better Together group was formed in spring 2012. Among its members were ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling, former International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander and Cameron’s pollster, Andrew Cooper.
But there were simmering tensions from the start, which developed into constant rivalry and infighting. Nor did it help that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown — who harboured a bitter grudge against Alistair Darling — was often bad-tempered and uncooperative.
There was one particularly exasperating telephone exchange between campaign director McDougall, a Blairite Labour activist with no love for anyone on the left of the party — and Gordon Brown. While they were still speaking, McDougall scrawled the word ‘loon’ (lunatic) on a piece of paper and held it aloft for his colleagues to see. They struggled to hide their mirth.
For months, Cameron was content to leave everything to the Better Together team. But it was steeped in complacency — and, at times, could barely hold itself together, never mind protect the Union. Darling, who privately admitted that he had never run a big campaign before and didn’t know what he was doing, was persistently undermined by both Brown and an increasingly frustrated Douglas Alexander. No one seemed to have a clue what they wanted on campaign billboards. and it was evident professional marketing was required.
The first agency contracted was, London based Blue State Digital a subsidiary of WPP plc, (Wire and Plastic Products) a British multinational advertising and public relations company with its executive office in Dublin, Ireland. The world’s largest advertising company by revenues, it employed around 179,000 people.
It is reported that WPP goes to great lengths to lower its corporate tax bill, paying only 1.6% of total revenue in taxes in 2010. The Guardian also reported that between 2003 and 2009 the company paid £27m in UK corporation tax, compared to what the newspaper “might expect” based on reports of the firm making 15% of its profit in the UK, of around £126m.
Blue State Digital, (Political Director, Gregor Poynton,) was recruited to the team — but without a proper pitch or brief — The expensive contract was terminated after a series of poor leaflet and media campaigns coupled with the production and expensive write off of tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of adverts that were never used.
Poynton, a former Labour party election strategy manager and Scottish Labour party organiser is married to the MP Gemma Doyle. He hails from and has aspirations to hold political office in Falkirk.
The second company, picked primarily because it was Scottish, created an advert based on the acclaimed American TV series Breaking Bad (about a chemistry teacher who launches a new career cooking methamphetamine — the destructive drug also called crystal meth). Not only was this a copyright infringement, but it bombed with focus groups: people either didn’t get it or thought it was snide English insinuation that Scotland had a drugs problem.
Another proposed advert showed a tiny figure at the edge of a giant cliff. It was junked for being in bad taste after insiders pointed out that it looked like someone about to jump off Beachy Head.
Meanwhile, Bank of England governor Mark Carney was privately beginning to worry there would be a run on the banks if Scotland went its own way. Insiders say that, although he was careful not to show it, he was frustrated by Cameron’s low-key approach and felt he could be more proactive.
Slowly, however, the Prime Minister started waking up to the potential for catastrophe. What followed was a co-ordinated attempt by the Treasury and the Bank of England to ramp up the economic risks of an independent Scotland by ruling out a currency union. This was arguably the single biggest Westminster intervention of the whole campaign.
To Cameron’s critics, Scotland is the ultimate example of ‘essay-crisis’ leadership (like a student who leaves his work until the night before): a last-minute victory secured only when Downing Street panicked and started making desperate promises for ever more ‘devo max’ (maximum devolution of powers).
But it’s easier to accuse Cameron of complacency than to find any concrete evidence for it. ‘David was very active in ensuring that the Government side of the campaign delivered what was needed,’ says Cooper. ‘At any point where somebody asked him to put a call in to X, Y, Z, he just did it . . .‘I don’t think it’s fair to fault him, given how incredibly weak the stock of the Tories in Scotland is.
It was very disciplined of him to acknowledge that — to be willing to be guided. ‘He deferred to the advice of the Scots, he deferred to the people on the campaign and he deferred to the Labour people. He did exactly what he was advised to do when he was advised to do it.’ Blue Labour Ran the campaign.
Nevertheless, in the final three weeks of the campaign, Better Together descended into panic. Until then, Brown had been aloof — contenting himself, in the words of one insider, with ‘just throwing grenades at the campaign’. He was never seen in the Better Together offices and refused to work with Tories. ‘He’d just sit on his own and come up with his ideas without any consultation,’ one senior member of the No team recalls. ‘The man was just awful.’
In the final fortnight, however, Brown threw himself into the campaign, delivering a series of barnstorming speeches across Scotland. His final speech, the day before the vote, ‘was just the most powerful 15-minute speech I’ve ever heard in my life’, says a Tory member of the No team.
As old divisions healed, Brown even started working closely with Cameron. Indeed, after the Prime Minister’s depressing weekend at Balmoral, the two men actually spoke on the phone to each other every day.
Cameron’s final speech was even sent to Brown for approval. According to a No 10 insider, the Prime Minister had to bite his tongue as his predecessor lectured him on how he should have run the campaign. ‘Gordon Brown couldn’t resist saying: “I’m the saviour of the world, and you take my advice,” ’ the source revealed.
Cameron’s view, he says, was indulgent. ‘That’s Gordon,’ said the Prime Minister, wisely refusing to rise to the bait.
25 September 2014: Better Together accused of breaking electoral laws
Scottish police are looking into allegations that pro-union campaigners broke electoral law by looking at postal ballot results to see how well the No campaign was doing before the main independence poll had taken place. They apparently arose from comments made by Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader and a prominent supporter of the No camp. She said that Better Together campaigners had been “taking tallies” at sample postal ballot openings in the weeks before to the closely-fought referendum. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/referendum/article4217728.ece
14 October 2014: McDougall knew the outcome of the referendum before the result was announced
Not long after the polls closed at 10pm Blair McDougall relaxed with his team. He and his inner-circle at the Better Together campaign had known for some time that Scotland would reject independence, but there was still a sense of impotence as Scots cast their votes. He said “I knew we had won before ballot boxes started to be opened.
Comment. So the postal vote had been compromised by the “spooks” after all.
16 December 2015: McDougall – Finding fault where it doesn’t exist – an indication of madness
Blair McDougall misrepresented the OECD report on education by cherry-picking every criticism but omitting every accolade. This type of knuckle-dragging politics has been the hallmark of Labour for years and epitomised their indyref campaign yet they’ve learned nothing.
McDougall’s only approach was to whip in the Union support and frighten waverers. It was never to appeal to the Nationalist-minded to win them over. That would require strategy and nuance – with something clever and optimistic.
He is a one-trick pony able to make a dog whistle appeal to the already committed yet unaware of how to reach out beyond a shrinking base to recover the voters Labour need. Why, after he came close to losing the referendum, is he still in place? http://derekbateman.co.uk/category/uncategorized/
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