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Yes Please, not No Thanks

Friday, September 12th, 2014

I’m feeling deeply ashamed of the British media. I’m worried because I’m reasonably well-informed and spending too much time on the whole Yes/No Scottish Referendum question, and what I’m reading, seeing and hearing makes me sad and slightly angry. I was trained in 1970-71 as a journalist, a ‘junior reporter’ at first, followed by three years on the staff of the Sheffield Star culminating in the 1974 NUJ lockout and the fist-fights witnessed in the newsroom between largely left-wing team on the evening paper and the right-wing staffers of the morning Sheffield Telegraph.

Despite these battles between individuals worse for the traditional journo’s liquid lunch, and extreme debate between the rest of us who stayed sober during working hours, standards of journalism in print never slipped. If you reported a speech or a conference, your words were limited to those spoken at the event. You did not, like the Daily Mail, editorialise in a news report by providing your own adjectives (‘petulant’ used to describe Alex Salmond’s perfectly calm, complete, measured and accurate response to BBC questions, in the Daily Mail).

Here is an analysis of how the BBC itself used heavy editorial biasing to spin a reverse of what actually happened when Salmond held a press conference for international media:

And this, now well-known via social media but probably ONLY to Yes supporters, is how the Daily Mail ‘reported’ the event:

I appreciate that UK newspapers have always been partisan, always been easily bought, and that falling sales make them extremely vulnerable to withdrawal of tenuous trading partnerships. This, between the BBC and the Mail, is something different. It seems that we have a government and media marching in step into an Orwellian future – not of course the future Orwell would have wanted to see, but the worst outcome of his satirical and cynical imaginings. Orwell wrote about a future deception of all people by all governments, the transition from the party line to the party lie, to the government lie, the continental lie and ultimately the global lie.

Some would argue that we already see the global lie at work, that there’s nothing but one great conspiracy orchestrating false flag attacks, provoking wars, engineering plagues and enslaving humanity. Personally I think we’re at least a generation away from that and it’s all nonsense. But these recent days of the Better Together campaign to apply blunt instruments with force to the will of Scotland’s people show that we have a United Kingdom government prepared to lie, to conceal, to misrepresent, to coerce, to bribe, to undermine. This is worse than disheartening. It’s not a country I want to live in. I need to be able to trust government, or to be armed with knowledge to deal with deceptions pragmatically – not to be duped myself, but to accept the need for duplicity.

When I became a journalist it was driven home to me that my job was to expose this, not to become a propaganda vehicle, and to base all reports on verifiable facts or literal quotations fully attributed. I might use an emotive word in a headline, as a sub-editor, but if you studied the story below you would find it was not MY word. It had been said by someone, noted down, quoted in the story and was legitimately borrowed (sometimes even with quotation marks) for headline impact.

I could only call someone angry if they were clearly angry, said they were angry, or were accused of being angry. I could not describe a measured and polite, quiet speech as a ‘rant’ let alone ‘extraordinary’. I could not make up ‘facts’ on one hand and call actual facts ‘lies’. We didn’t see this kind of thing even in the Winter of Discontent or in Thatcher’s assault on the economic power of industrial labour.

Something is terribly wrong here, standards have fallen. Time, then, to raise a new standard – a blue one with a white cross – in a new country with old values still at its heart. Scotland as an independent nation will have its mismanagement, its scandals, its financial predators, its successes and its failures but at least it will start on higher moral ground won by defeating this barrage of orchestrated mendacity.

One day England may be lucky enough to make a fresh start too. Please don’t oppose Scottish independence because you envy it, and should Scotland achieve it in the face of this assault, don’t feel guilty just because you live in a country which tried its utmost to avoid this tiresome change. Scotland won’t abandon you. We will leave footsteps in the snow, markers across the quicksands of the future, for the time when change is the only option for the rest of Britain. And there won’t be border guards or a Travelex branch at Carter Bar.

– David Kilpatrick

Don’t turn ‘don’t know’ into ‘no’ – be honest!

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Are there ever circumstances where you should forfeit your vote – don’t use that polling card, stay at home?

Yes. The Scottish Independence Referendum presents exactly that situation.

A normal multi-party, or even two-party, election is an occasion which demands as many people use their vote as possible. For one thing, each ward or constituency is electing just one one member of a larger representative body. The fairest distribution of opinions may be achieved by a high turnout – by everyone weighing up the various candidates or parties, and making a choice. In Scotland, of course, that can mean making multiple choices and it’s even fairer than the old Westminster first past the post system. This is one reason why Scotland has such an effective parliament.

But this is NOT an election. This is a train heading for a set of points in the track, and it’s a tug of war between two sides to switch the points to Independence or hold them set straight ahead as before down the rails of Dependence.

Despite this, Scottish voters are being told it must be Yes, or No.

What about those who really can’t work out the pros and cons, who don’t know what to believe, and who can’t do the research or previsualise the possible outcomes?

Would they ever do the logical thing and flip and coin to see whether to vote Yes or No? Unlikely. Would they decide to switch the points, to vote Yes, as the default action best taken if uncertain? Even more unlikely.

In practice, the undecided voter in this bipolar referendum will vote No. Their vote may not be a real ‘No!’ at all. It may simply be a vote of ‘Not Yes’ and this is a major flaw in the voting process. There is no third box on the ballot paper with:


written down to be checked with a cross as the most accurate choice for that voter.

This means that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of genuinely undecided and neutral voters will vote No because they mistakenly see this as representing a neutral position.

So please, when discussing the vote with people you know are intending to vote No because they ‘have doubts’, suggest that the most honest action to take is NOT TO VOTE AT ALL. A No vote should only be cast if you are actively anti-independence and actively support ultimate government from London via a subordinate Scottish Parliament.

Think hard whether your intended ‘No’ vote should instead be simply no voting at all.

My feeling is that if you are undecided, doubtful, and uncertain about the future of Scotland you already accept that a majoirty No vote will place that future in the hands of others for generations to come. It will forfeit many key powers to Westminster when these powers could be held, forever, by Scotland. If you are willing to accept this, and understand the limits of Scotland’s influence in future over these powers and decisions, then you should be equally willing to accept the referendum decision made by your neighbours who have done their research, reached their conclusions and have firm positive reasons to vote Yes or No.

Do not add your indecision to one side of the referendum only. Do not make your own neutral position turn into a vote. If you are voting with a partner or spouse and you are both equally undecided and unconvinced by either side, do not distort the outcome by donating your vote to ‘Better Together’ by default – at the very least, agree for one to vote Yes, the other No, to reflect your neutrality. Or abstain, like members of a committee who can not agree to support or oppose a motion because they don’t really think the motion is necessary.

You have been deprived of the neutral or middle position, Devo Max, by decree of Westminster because they have understood from the outset that an undecided position still held by polling day would normally translate to a No vote and rarely if ever to Yes.

If you really do not know, do not vote No. Do not vote at all.

This is the one kind of polling where an abstention can actually count. Forget your conditioning that voting is a good thing. It is not a good thing if you vote for one choice simply because it looks like not voting, like ‘no change’. Change is now certain, either way. You can not vote for ‘No Change’ by voting ‘No’.

– David Kilpatrick