Negative tone still ruling Scottish Independence debate

Billy leads Grayling’s PR offering in Scotland and is also a member of Grayling UK's team of specialist crisis and issues management consultants. He has devised and implemented many award-winning consumer and corporate PR campaigns and specialises in media strategy and strategic planning. Billy is also a ‘digital ambassador’ for Grayling and has responsibility for ensuring digital strategies are effectively executed in the agency’s network of offices. Follow Billy on Twitter: @billypartridge

Click to enlarge: indy media mentions over 12 months

The independence debate in Scotland has been playing out for over a year now, with every twist and turn carefully scrutinised by the media.

But where is the debate heading? Has either campaign claimed a firm position yet? Can voters honestly say what each camp really stands for?

For some time now the popular rhetoric has been that Better Together has to overcome the label of scaremongerer, while Yes Scotland needs to provide greater detail about some of the key questions facing the nation.

That is only going to wash for so long, and serves the needs of a commentariat keen to stir debate more than it does voters, who want plain talking and a simple decision.

For some time I have thought that the vote will be a vote of the heart, not the head. So I have tried to follow the tone of the campaigns, because that might serve to illustrate the direction the debate is headed.

Initially the debate was very negative - too many unanswered questions created too many opportunities for various contributors to explain why independence would be complicated, expensive, difficult or, well, whatever negative adjective you care to choose. At the time I thought both campaigns could do wtih more positivity - after all, surely a positive choice is more convincing than a cautious one? If I am to vote for independence, surely I want to do so with a spring in my step and a vision in my heart; and if I am to vote for the union, surely my hope is to retain something brilliant, something positive and lasting?

So what does the data suggest? The graph at the top of this article shows media mentions in the last 12 months for a variety of comparable terms associated with Scottish independence. Naturally these are heavily caveated statistics - no filtering of the articles has been done; no analysis of the specific use of the keywords has taken place - it's an arbitrary review of the volume of articles using these words. So, it's just a guide.

What the graph shows is that negativity is winning. Don't confuse that with a 'no' vote - both campaigns can use a negative tone. But it remains a disappointment of mine, as a resident of Scotland, that we don't read or hear more about the great things the country and the union is doing for us here. I am an inherently positive person and that's where my vote will go - to the campaign that persuades me of all the good reasons why I should tick their box.

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