So, with social media already stirred up with forthcoming Council elections, the possibility of another Scottish independence campaign had moved social media activists in Scotland into overdrive.
Scottish Indy supporters seem to be generally in good spirits, but in a determined way. Circumstances in the last three years had them feel distraught, angry, frustrated, conned and a few other feelings I could mention, but on the whole there seems to be a collective resolve to learn from all this and apply it again to another referendum, and win it.
GERS DENIER! GERS DENIER! GERS DENIER!
On the other side, Unionists seem to be angry at the prospect of going through another referendum but are also showing resolve. This anger is simmering underneath and is occasionally shrill and provocative. Some indy supporters are also simmering under the surface so some exchanges can be unpleasant, but on the whole, the virtual world remains bloodless.
Argument wise, unionists are concentrating on the validity of another referendum, on the notional Scottish deficit, as per GERS, and attacking Nicola Sturgeon in any way possible. It has been noticeable that there seems to be a co-ordinated effort to try and provoke Indy supporters with trolling, of twisting events and statements to mean something other than intended. I have no doubt that this is in order to drum up “Cybernat” claims again.
There were frankly pathetic and ongoing attempts to claim that Nicola Sturgeon had threatened the status of EU migrants (already dealt with in the past quite suitably here), which had arisen again because of Theresa May’s somewhat comparable situation with EU citizens and Brexit. One particular troll attempted on multiple occasions to rephrase what was actually said by Sturgeon, as well as change the context under which the comments were made, in order to try and convince someone (God knows who) that what Sturgeon said was a threat. I proceeded to happily waste a lot of their time, essentialy batting back their claims with a simple truth: It wasn’t a threat.
Update: The tweets below did show the tweets that they were in response to, which appear now to have been deleted by the person concerned, out of embarrassment.
And anyone fair minded would agree.
The fact that Unionists are stooping to this level demonstrates that they are actually quite desperate in terms of arguing coherently for staying in the UK. Their argument is essentially about process, about the vote three years ago, and what GERS says about Scottish finances, as well as occasionally trying to twist things to suit, like this guy above. Rather than promoting the Union in any meaningful way, they attack independence.
That GERS argument is, right now, their lynchpin, but it is weak and some Unionists don’t seem to realise this. Whilst Unionists are showing a more focused and perhaps more organised social media presence, Indy supporters are better informed and have a wider and better range of arguments for independence.
When it comes to GERS though, Indy supporters have to be careful. Unionists on this subject can be like a pack of wolves. Some may know what they are talking about, and some may not. What I have noticed however is that few, if any, seem to have explored the possibility of Indy giving rise to a significantly different budget for Scotland and how it could be made up.
Whilst Common Weal/ Common Space has provided excellent ammunition for tackling the financial argument of Indy with its Beyond Gers report, and it’s White Paper Project, any mis-step (and even then, the mere mention may do it – see below) with GERS may result in Unionists pouncing on you and labelling you a GERS denier.
I can handle trolls and keep my cool, so I’m happy to waste their time, but are you? Eventually, I will mute or block, and Unionists that realise I am wasting their time will eventually do the same to me, so unless you’re willing to spend time wasting their time, and are confident of your ability to do so, then mute and block are your friend and I recommend using them instead.
Now I mention that Indy supporters are less organised and focused on social media, and this is down to two things. One is that Indy supporters have a lot of different arguments for independence than unionists have for sticking, so lots of people are going on about lots of things.
The other reason is that there is no official campaign yet. Without this, some of the centre points of the argument are missing (and the more unreasonable Unionists keep demanding that you have a complete, ongoing case for indy, right down to how many paperclips Scotland will need). This also means that there is no leadership.
Perhaps some of the ‘big guns’ of Independence are keeping their powder dry and their strategy cards close to their chest for when The Phoney War starts getting real, but Indy supporters could do with some focus and leadership on these things now. Whether the political parties or the larger campaign groups like it or not, the grass root foot soldiers are already taking and returning fire.
One final thing to bear in mind, and may come as little surprise, but there are few if any apparently open or undecided voters posting or engaging, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reading. You may have a great argument for indy but if your behaviour and tone is off, then people will not want to listen or pay attention to what you have to say.
Common Space and social media
I have mixed feelings about Common Space. This Common Weal site does have a lot to admire about it and it has produced well-researched documents and information pertaining to Scotland, Scots and independence. It is an excellent resource.
That said, I am finding it to be a bit of a clique, perhaps also making it a bit of an ivory tower (that could be very harsh criticism, as I am aware that these folk are getting out and about – but I’m not convinced that they are talking to enough people). There seems to be an air of elitism (again, that could be harsh but it does reflect my impression), which in turn leads me to wonder if it is getting the message out to the ‘intelligentsia’ of the Indy movement, rather than the masses.
I am not seeing any social media strategy at all from any one on the Indy side. Indeed, from a few articles on Common Space, I sense a reluctance to engage via Social Media, possibly because of being afraid of the “Cybernat” label and Reporting Scotland headlines.
The following clip should demonstrate all on its own why a social media campaign is vital.
I could be reading this wrong and the absence of a visible social media campaign at this time may be down to people waiting for the right time to announce their campaigns and strategy. But as I say, the foot soldiers are already in the fight whilst the generals seem to be locked away in the war room, planning ahead at the expense of the here and now.
One thing I would like to see organised is some sort of online whiteboard/blackboard, like a dynamic kind of Reddit page (or pages), where the Indy arguments can be laid out for all to see, as a campaigning guide. It will be somewhat interactive, so that campaigners (or moderators) can post Unionist counter-arguments so that people can be aware of them, and also then provide responses to those counters.
This entire thing is a monumental cock-up of extraordinary proportions. It is utterly ridiculous that the UK Government split on this and allowed the “Leave” vote any air, especially after how it handled indyref.
Now the Government is going down a road that leaves the EU, where the UK has, in the past, badgered its way into having some unique conditions of membership so that it can be part of a monumental trade block and not have to negotiate trade deals on its own.
And it didn’t have to. It could have turned around and said, “Thanks for voting and letting us know your views, but the vote was quite close and two of the four countries voted to Remain. As there are clear financial implications from leaving the EU, and the countries within the UK are equally split on remaining or leaving, we have decided that in the absence of a clear mandate to leave, that the UK shall remain a member of the EU.”
Instead, Theresa May (who campaigned to Remain) and her Tory Government have ignored the voting results of Scotland and Northern Ireland and any lobbying from the devolved Governments over the matter. They have arrogantly and belligerently steered ahead, away from the EU and towards a lesser place, where trade will cost more. But already the EU is asserting its position and May et al are looking like idiots, as within days of triggering brexit, their claims and negotiating positions have been shown for what they are: hot air.
(I would love to see a cartoon of a Titanic size liner, with Theresa May’s face as its bow, sailing over a giant waterfall and heading down towards the bottom, whilst parachutes made of Scotland and Northern Ireland flags float safely away. Sorry Wales, you voted Leave…)
Let there be no doubt that the UK will be financially worse off because of Brexit. The notion that the UK could come away from the EU with a deal that would make it better off than staying in, is ludicrous. The point of the EU is for its members to negotiate international trade and benefit from partnership. If you are not a member, why on earth should you derive membership benefits?
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council
So what will happen? Well, there will be some sort of a deal done by the Brexit deadline in just under two years, but it will be little more than a framework. The EU is painfully aware that it too will suffer because of brexit and will mitigate that with a reasonable deal in the end, that leaves the UK somewhat worse off, but not in a punitive way. As Donald Tusk said, Brexit will be punitive enough.
Whatever the deal is, and whenever it happens, the financial fallout from Brexit will still be enormous. Companies and banks are relocating away from the UK already in order to stay in the EU. Brexit means the UK is going to be on the decline for years and we must get out whilst we can. This argument for independence is enormous and we need to use it (especially seeing as per at least one report, the UK Government has been hiding reports on the impacts of Brexit – for the reverse of the reasons for burying the McCrone Report). The Unionists can argue that Scotland would trade a lot more with rUK, as things stand, but will that remain the case with Brexit? I think, worst case scenario, Brexit could destroy the UK.
The big questions are going to be how long will it take to achieve this less than punitive deal, how bad will it be and how bad will things get before the deal is made.
That brings us full circle to the request for a referendum and the “Now is not the time” response, because of Brexit.
May can’t procrastinate for ever. If she wants to delay it and hope that a strategy can be found to either win the referendum or prevent it from happening, then I think this is what she will go for – but she will have to set a date. She can’t blithely put the matter off indefinitely or have it based on an event that has no timetable, which, for example, Brexit may have, but an EU trade deal doesn’t.
She can’t really say no because then she’s going against the democratic political will of the Scottish Government. We could then be talking legal case and perhaps going to the UN.
Contrary to some reports (or the understanding of some reports), Sturgeon did not rule out legal action.
I don’t think there is any need, nor is there any intention, to see a matter that should be settled politically end up in the courts. – Nicola Sturgeon
That’s not ruling out anything. That’s saying that she wants and expects a political agreement – which may not occur. Then what?
The Scottish Government wants a “constitutional” agreement over an independence referendum in order to satisfy any concerns EU countries could potentially have about Scotland applying to join the EU. But the UK has no written constitution. It has laws and conventions.
Essentially, if Scotland can arrange an independence referendum through legal means, even if side-stepping Westminster in the process, then that should satisfy any ‘constitutional’ concerns.