By G.A.Ponsonby
The independence white paper is now one week old and it’s almost as though it was never launched.  It was supposed to place the pro-Union parties on the back-foot … it would be the game changer we were told.
It did change the debate dynamic I suppose, for a day, and then came the planned counter attack in the shape of the EU and the pound.

Spanish President Mariano Rajoy’s EU attack was always going to be headlined in Scotland, after all it’s what the media here do.  The currency threat was the other pincer claw and between them they squeezed the life out of the White Paper.

Remember childcare?  It was the issue that caught everyone’s attention on launch day and was supposed to help engage women in the independence debate.  If it did we haven’t heard much evidence of it.

In the Scotsman, Lesley Riddoch wrote:

“Where is the enthusiastic, critical or detailed response to the free childcare system pledged in the Scottish Government’s white paper?  After decades campaigning for overstressed mums and under-engaged toddlers you’d think child welfare charities, academics and women’s organisations would be ecstatic.  You’d think a policy advanced explicitly in terms of economic benefit might excite comment from money experts and think tanks.  And since better childcare is now linked to a Yes vote, political commentators might even opine about its likely impact on the independence gender gap.”

We’re effectively back to the same scare stories the media have been promoting for over a year, and it looks like they’ll run with them right up until the day of the referendum.  I’ve said before that there won’t be any debate – Unionists are not interested.

For anyone who doubts this, just take a look at what happened when the First Minister highlighted an official email that undermined Unionist EU claims.  The media panicked and a coordinated smear campaign kicked in.  BBC Scotland managed to make false claims sound believable when they told viewers that Salmond had lifted the communication from the internet.

Iain Macwhirter in his own Sunday opinion piece criticised the SNP for not challenging yet another tidal wave of propaganda.

“The Nationalists were kicked royally across the front pages last week by everyone from the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, to the former Conservative PM, John Major.  Alex Salmond was left at First Minister’s Questions apparently defending his case for continued membership of the European Union with a letter downloaded from the internet.”

When even the respected Herald journalist falls for the lie that the EC email was “downloaded from the internet”, you know the traditional media is now the dead zone as far as the Yes campaign is concerned.  Salmond could find a cure for cancer and the media would still find a way to attack him.

Sadly the penny has yet to drop for many of our more respected commentators.  They appear to believe that rationally constructed articles buried beneath a landslide of anti-independence headlines will make a difference.  They won’t, and as long as they restrict their dancing to the pro-Union media tune, that’s how it will stay.

There will be no debate because the Unionist media cannot risk one.  If we wait on the BBC, Herald, Record, Scotsman and even STV producing a genuine mature debate then we are going to be disappointed.

But is this a lost cause?

Not by a long chalk, for the traditional media is only one strand of what I believe is now a very clear three pronged campaign.

Strand 1 – Traditional Media.

Sewn up for the Unionists and that’s how it will stay.  The influence newspapers once wielded is long gone and circulation figures are dropping fast.  But they retain some power and when tag-teaming with the BBC, as they did over the EU and pound, they present a formidable opponent.

Notwithstanding Nicola Sturgeon’s shredding of Alistair Carmichael on STV, the Yes campaign cannot win any long term debate in the media and the best they can hope for is a holding game.  The Yes team have formidable media performers and Salmond, Sturgeon, Harvie, Canavan and Jenkins can help stem the tide of negativity and doom.

As an example of how skewed the media is, even when they are the victims of a criminal act, Blair Jenkins still found himself being attacked by Gary Robertson over the Yes Scotland email hacking story.  Note that the No campaign had just been found to have broken the law over the sending of unsolicited texts, but Robertson was not interested.

Can the media hold out for another nine and a half months?  Unless the Scotsman or the Herald are bought over by a pro-indy consortium then absolutely nothing will change.  They’ll still be talking about the pound and the EU and how the Yes campaign are struggling until the last ballot paper has been filled in.

Strand 2 – Online Media

Cyber space is where it’s at.  Comments, blogs Newsnet, Wings, Bella – the nats have it sewn up.

Over at the Herald the Unionists take a daily pounding.  One post from the OBE fella attracts twenty or thirty responses – sometimes more.  BBC Scotlandshire provides the laughs – the Yes campaign is kicking cyber-ass.

But does cyber space really influence debate?  How many undecided voters have actually heard of these sites?  How many get their news online?  How many trawl through the sometimes hundreds of ‘comments’ posted beneath articles?

The fact is that the online media is having little influence over the people both sides need to engage with.  Newsnet Scotland attracted 127,000 unique visitors last month but we’re realistic enough to know that our influence is small amongst those yet to decide.

We can never hope to challenge the power of the traditional media but we can increase our impact.  One of the great untapped resources remains the online community in the shape of people who post comments.  I estimate that there must be around two hundred or so such cyber (wo)men – who step into the fray daily.

Some time ago Newsnet Scotland took the decision to restrict comments in an effort at preventing less than helpful messages from appearing and also to make it easier to catch nuggets of research or links to stories of interest.

There was the hope that people would then see the comment facility as a way to help, and instead of posting mostly anodyne messages borne of frustration, posters would have instead re-directed their energy to become the research arm of the site.

If citizen journalism is to make a significant impact in the independence debate then those who engage online need to start organising into small teams.  Work together, co-ordinate, research, collate and assist and then contribute effectively and constructively.

Strand 3 – Face to Face

Online media has a role to play but there’s no substitute for talking face to face with someone.  The undecided voter will grow increasingly thirsty for knowledge as we near our date with destiny.

Yes Scotland has a greater pool at its disposal than its Better Together opponent does.  There is already anecdotal evidence that Unionists are trying to prevent Yes Scotland activists from canvassing at local events. 

This shows two things – first, that Better Together cannot compete with the army of Yes Scotland volunteers and second that they are aware of the effectiveness of face-to-face canvassing.

Every person who believes in an independent Scotland must, at some point, enlist with their local Yes group.

This referendum will see people – who have never before voted – step into a booth and place a cross on the ballot paper.  The historically disenfranchised will likely make up one quarter of those casting their vote.  They have never been factored into surveys by pollsters who continue to over-estimate the lead the No campaign has.

Many of our fellow Scots have little expectation of life and have nothing to lose, but they need hope.  They don’t care about the EU, NATO or Sterling.  Some have never worked, others have had a lifetime of casual low paid jobs and will never receive a pension.  Others may have drink or drug problems and many endure poor-health.

These people all have a vote and will respond to a message of hope.  The Yes campaign has just such a message and it has the people who can deliver it.  The street campaign is where Yes can make significant inroads and it’s all to play for as we get ready for 2014.

[Newsnet Scotland will now begin the process of slowing down as we approach Christmas.  Visitors may notice fewer news stories and reduced turnover over the coming days.

However we can reveal that this week will see the third instalment of Duggy Dug, this time looking at the pound – a timely subject for our animated character and a belter of an animation.

As we approach Christmas look out also for our ‘Dirty Dozen’ feature article that will list the twelve worst examples of questionable broadcasts from BBC Scotland.  If you have someone who believes the BBC is impartial then this article will open their eyes.

This coming week will also see the BBC Trust reveal its decision on the BBC’s handling of the Lucinda Creighton episode. 

Newsnet Scotland, despite being in festive slowdown, will bring you the decision first and will also reveal all of the evidence as submitted by the BBC.  We are sure it will prove fascinating reading.  Please feel free to donate to our crowd funding appeal, which can be seen in the top right hand side of the site.]


2013-12-04 09:06

The white paper is a game changer, in that now those of us online and those who doorstep have the proposition to hand. Links to archived pdfs for those online and at least printed copies of the summary version for the door steppers. It may be a good idea for the various sites to supply links to either the document or relevant sections. Perhaps even serialise the document over the coming months so that we could link back from other sites?
2013-12-04 13:24

Agreed. The White Paper is a game changer – it is also a slow burner that the Unionists have no effective answer to – and they can’t keep it buried and the populace ignorant of what it really says up until Referendum day.

What struck me about the immediate response to the White Paper was how desperate it was – the same recycled scare stories. If you saw Question Time from Falkirk last week, you could tell that only the Unionist panelists thought the EU question and ‘uncertainty’ over Sterling were important – I don’t think the audience were muich bothered.

So the ball is in the Unionists’ court to come up with their ideas for a post-NO Scotland. I reckon we’ll still be waiting for something coherent from them long after the Referendum has passed.
2013-12-04 21:10

It was the shear speed of the rebuttals. We had commentators queuing up same day to attack a document they couldn’t possibly have read, let alone absorbed or understood. They blew their own arguments and gravity out of the water.

But also agreed, the WP is a slow burner and they have no way of stopping it getting across those doorsteps. Bit by bit we’ll all have a hand in getting it out there and no counter proposal to muddy the waters.

Rope a dope.

2013-12-04 09:21

Growing information that the message going to pupils in some schools is being ‘flavoured’ by teaching staff and that this is being given the blind-eye by education authorities is not only worrying but damned offensive.

If the SG cannot ensure even-handedness within its own establishments it suggests a state of anarchy which simply beggars belief which has to be tackled head-on very soon.

The White Paper is an ideal text book for senior pupils and even in summary format it contains factual information, so why is a determined effort not getting made to supply and test every coming-of-age voter with a copy as a matter of policy and see that its use is properly engaged – under the nearest thing involving ‘pain of death’!

Tales abound of BT influence in schools and teachers going off-piste to influence our kids – is that what we pay them for – no matter the side of the coin they push?
2013-12-04 20:46

This may be true, but to be honest the SNP are in a difficult position here. Look at how hard they have had to fight just to get a little more Scottish history and literature into schools, despite absurd claims that this is an attempt at political propaganda – as if reading some Crichton-Smith is going to turn you into a nationalist!

The problem is the SNP ensuring that the referendum is discussed with our school children in an informed and impartial way is all too easily spun by the pro-union press into a tale of mass political indoctrination.

It is strange how once they are off to University young people become much more pre-YES. I think our children are very much aware of the Scottish cringe factor, they aren’t just not convinced about independence, they are brought up not to value Scottish distinctiveness and culture. This group seems to be the hardest to persuade.

Johnny come lately
2013-12-04 09:29

It would appear that the message is getting through. It is very difficult to see the real picture because of the smoke and mirrors of the unionists and their attack dogs in the British media, but something is getting the unionists rattled.
In the space of a week 2 national newspapers in England have run articles confessing that they are losing the argument. The first (in the Telegraph) said that Cameron’s strategists have informed him that Scottish independence isn’t longer a possibility but a probability and that it would be wise to begin preparing for succession. And now today.…/…
Sites like this do not have the big and immediate impact the traditional media has, but rather they have a slow and corrosive effect on the message of the traditional media which undermines the propaganda and scare tactics.
2013-12-04 09:45

Mr Ponsonby is correct when he says “Salmond could find a cure for cancer and the media would still find a way to attack him.” The MSM would spin it as SNP lead Scottish Government finds cure for cancer – McMillan Nurses face redundancy. I really disppair at the BBC and MSM that they cannot report factually and non-judgementally especially in the crucial referendum on Scotlands future.
2013-12-04 09:59

I have believed for some time that the only way for the Yes campaign to get their message out to everyone is by contacting them directly by post. I have no idea of the cost, but I would like an information card with the most important facts about an Independent Scotland sent to every home in Scotland, with an explanation that the card has been sent to ensure everyone knows the key points of Independence before they vote.
2013-12-04 10:15

I think you are right about co-operation. This site is an example of the benefits of this, and the various strands on here, wings, wee ginger dug (subsequently re-posted on wings), and derek bateman, which laid bare the EU nonsense, show that the independence message does have a strong intellectual force with a committed band of followers.

Social media is won, the ground war is probably won. The traditional media is the last great intellectual bastion of the Union. Perhaps what we need is a community buy-out of the The Herald or Scotsman. Take them over and force an independence message, there will be an appetite for it.

I suppose if we believe the idea that in Scotland sovereignty rests with the people (a historically dubious notion at best), there would be a sort of elegance in securing victory, not through the media, but by mobilising and engaging with the people, the normally disenfranchised  . Making the large turnout (probably 80-90%) the decisive factor.
2013-12-04 10:49

I see that some of the Tories are getting worried about Darling and his performance and wonder if they should get “no more boom and bust” Brown to head up the BT crowd,maybe Darling is to busy doing this.

After-dinner star Alistair Darling makes £170,000 from private events
2013-12-04 11:55

We need big exposure for a start I would suggest that Alex Salmond take on Darling in debate, reason being, it will be televised and widely reported on, but the real issue is that the MSM while trying to make up lies about will be caught out by a viewing public.

Darling WILL be taken apart, as he is nervous and I do not think he has taken part in such a debate, he is there for the taking.
Then people will clamour for a Cameron v Salmond debate, and will think little of Cameron when he inevitably refuses.

That would be a start that would bring out truths into the open.
call me dave
2013-12-04 12:08

Why is Brown being touted, because he’s the best err! only other ‘labour’ patsy left in the locker.

Pity he has been out of work for a while and has lots of negative baggage to drag into the spotlight.

Can he be bothered?

Here is some really good news.
Defection from labour.…/…
2013-12-04 14:34

I believe I owe newsnetscotland    .com an apology.
I have on occasion accidentally left behind the odd piece of card in a bus,train,pub etc,bearing the website address of Newsnetscotland    .com,wingsoversc,bellacaledo,etc.
Silly of me,I know,but I’m not getting any younger and I suffer bouts of forgetfulness.
2013-12-04 14:39

neoloon, it’s ok, I found some of them and thought oh dear, somebody must have lost them, so I stuck them around in some prominent places so whoever lost them can easily spot them.

And Gordon Brown? Really? Now forgive me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t he the sitting member for Rosyth when Westminster fiddled the books to give the Trident refits to Portsmouth? He’s not the man to save Scotland from the Tories, but is he the man to save Scotland for the Tories?

2013-12-04 15:10

Yes – that Gordon Brown who, when asked on a visit to the US where he came from, replied…. (wait for it) ….

North Britain

Please Lord … let it be him 🙂
2013-12-04 15:45

It must be Broon – if he takes over from Flipper we are guaranteed a ‘YES’ of over 60%. I cannot wait for all the North British bullshit. What a cracker of a selection for the ‘NO’ parties. We are definitely Too Wee, Too Stupid, Too Poor etc. Bring it on Broon.

2013-12-04 16:38

I have to admit that I like the NO camp’s white paper better.
Labelled Top Secret for over 3 decades and still relevant.

The McCrone Report.

And you wonder why they won’t bring out another?
Maybe they could just update the original.
2013-12-04 17:04

I don’t think the penny has dropped yet with the Tories as far as the referendum goes.
They continue to view it as a party political election where it is Westminster vs the SNP and all that they need is a media campaign fronted by a friendly native in order to stop a Yes vote.
The fact is that they are up against a broad civic movement,simila  r to the human rights campaign in the USA and simply changing their messenger just won’t cut it.
We have yet to hear their case for denying Scots the right to full democratic representation and somehow,I don’t think we ever will.
All they can do is recycle the same old scare stories over and over in the hope that sufficient numbers will fall for it.
Ian Davidson might be sufficiently robust for the Tories liking but tends to create too much collateral damage but if robustness is what they want,he’s the man.
That would give all of us much to talk about.
2013-12-04 18:18


It seems, following recent decisions by Westminster, that energy prices will after all be cheaper in an independent Scotland!…/…
2013-12-04 18:54

I think the white paper is a game changer in that bettertogether can no longer ask endless questions and claim there are no answers. They have now been contained. There are only a few topics left which they can still quibble over because negotiations are required, and for anyone saying they don’t have enough information, well, there is more than enough information out there now, detailed or summarised, to satisfy any enquiring mind.

Secondly, the problem for bettertogether is they are up against genuine passion and inspiration. What do they have to get excited about? They will never have the same number of footsoldiers with the dedication we have, so they have to rely on the media and the problem with that is that if they crank the negativity up too much people will not like it and start to see through it.
2013-12-04 19:09

I’m off to the local Yes group planning meeting tonight. Time for everyone to get involved at the grassroots.
2013-12-04 19:19

In the Daily Record, they stated that Gordon Brown was the man who saved the nation. Be careful what you wish for.
I think a lot more should be done to challenged the incorrect articles and scare stories in the media. Going round the doors one finds there are often references to ‘this or that was in such and such paper’.
I have been spending my time writing to the various unionist politicians who have been making these scaremongering stories. The Clyde shipbuilding one,no reply from Labour MP’s as to when they changed their stance from the defence and strategy document which states there are no absolute requirement to build warships in the UK.nothing from Ian Davidson or the others.
Nothing from Charmicael on why he stated on ITV during the debate in which he was gubbed that the UK has never had a warship built in a foreign country….no reply there either but we will keep on trying.
2013-12-05 12:36

Good to read this and important to keep the momentum going and up the game from the YES side. I wonder if the white paper is available in braille or audio? Blind or dyslexic people need to have this available to them, at least in summary form. My son is keen to be a foot soldier, so we will be working on that soon as xmas is over. I like the cards idea accidently being lost…talking of which, do libraries have info on where people can get hold of the white paper? Looking forward to getting more involved in the new year and 3 friends of mine were at a debate at Edinburgh Uni last week, the theme being what might Scotland look like if its a yes vote, there is another one early next year on what Scotland might look like if its a no vote. Apparently they were disrupted by an unexplained fire alarm which went on for some time. They said the debate was reasonably balanced!

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