PR Musings

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

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4 October 2013 - 2:39pm | posted by | 3 comments

Negative tone still ruling Scottish Independence debate

Click to enlarge: indy media mentions over 12 monthsClick 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.


5 Oct 2013 - 12:51
langf10411's picture

What have the Romans ever done for us? Well 300 years of Union have not been so bad for this island - which is a successful economic and social partnership of 4 national identities - but history is a dull political platform and it is hard to get people excited about the benefits of something we take for granted. It's easy for nationalism to paint a exciting picture for those inclined to believe their problems are solved by borders, but the Union? Well its never easy to make continuity sound sexy and its supporters are left pointing out the truth that you only realise what a brilliant thing you had, once you've lost it.

5 Oct 2013 - 13:27
duckf12029's picture

Yes your right. Clearly. Every country that had become independent from the UK has come back kicking and screaming to rejoin. We won't look back when Independence comes, A new forward thinking nation.

6 Oct 2013 - 09:34
langf10411's picture

Yes, you are also right. Insofar as the only relevant example of a country leaving the UK is Ireland. It is misleading to compare the position of Scotland which has spent 300+ years as a voluntary and equal member of the UK with overseas territories who were (mainly but not wholly) under the control of the empire as was. It is part of the mythology of the nationalist camp that Scotland is a colonial territory forcibly kept under English subjugation. This is not the case. Scotland never ceased being Scotland, the union is a co-operative club rather like an early version of the EU (and set up for many of the same reasons). Nobody in the rest of the UK will stop the people of Scotland revoking their membership. It may make some people feel very happy regardless of the social or economic outcome, but the weight of evidence is that the majority want more devolution, not a border building separatism built on hotch potch of rather questionable green/anti-Tory/grievance agendas.

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