Yesterday, I published on this blog a reply to the video made by celebrities based in England under the new “Let’s stay together” banner. I was critical of their appeal to emotion based on general opinions without factual support. I went on to criticise their appeal to get us English (Welsh and Northern Irish too) involved in persuading Scots to vote “No”, by tugging the heart-strings.
Today, I started to get a bit worried about the prospect of legions of my compatriots plunging into conversations with Scottish voters about the referendum issues without proper preparation. So I am going to put my money where my mouth is and give some ideas and guidelines on how to prepare for these conversations more thoroughly. Here we go:
1. Don’t be upset if your friend or relative won’t talk to you about it. I’ve done some election canvassing in my time and some people just won’t engage with you as they feel politics is a private affair.
2. If they are willing to talk, be very respectful. It’s a delicate issue, you’re an outsider in the debate and you’re from the neighbouring big nation.
3. Listen to their views and be prepared to re-consider your views in the light of what you hear. No-one wants a marketing-style phone call from a friend or relative.
4. If you have strong feelings which you know you won’t be able to contain, leave the phone call to another time, and sort through your feelings first. Scottish voters have the prerogative of going into the polling booth on 18 September and voting on the basis of emotions and gut instinct. It’s their emotions that count on this one, not yours.
5. Be well-informed on both campaigns’ positions on the key issues. The Scottish Government’s official position in favour of independence is set out in the document “Scotland’s referendum on 18 September 2014 is a choice between two futures.”
The UK Government’s official position in favour of continued union is set out in 12 detailed policy papers. See : https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/informing-the-debate-on-scotlands-constitutional-future
6. It’s worth also researching some websites that analyse and try to make sense of the conflicting views. For example, see this non-partisan blog from Edinburgh University academic, Michael Rosie : http://blog.whatscotlandthinks.org/2014/07/a-critical-look-at-scotlands-referendum-special-issue-of-scottish-affairs/
7. You might also want to refer to the different proposals for further devolution that the three main Westminster parties say they want to implement in the event of a “no” vote. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-25626977 Be aware however of the SNP’s scepticism of these plans. See : http://www.snp.org/media-centre/news/2013/aug/no-campaign-must-answer-further-devolution
8. Be ready to back up your opinions with relevant facts drawn from your research. Scots can easily read up on the issues themselves so add some value to the standard debating positions based on your own background e.g. if you’re a businessman, what could be the impact on trade between Scotland and the UK?
9. The “No” campaign sometimes uses soundbites like “we are better together” and “we will have the best of both worlds”. Also common are jargon words like “separation”, “severance”, and “family of nations”. If you use such expressions, be prepared to explain what you mean by them and follow your opinions through to their logical conclusions. Again, make reference to some facts or research.
10. Finally, good luck and let me know how it goes. Rather you than me!