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Scottish Border. Picture: Amanda Slater
Scottish Border. Picture: Amanda Slater

The Border Picture: Amanda Slater

In two days’ time, Alex Salmond will launch the Yes campaign for independence. This will be a game-changer as far as Scottish politics is concerned – but probably not, however, in all the ways that the First Minister would like.

Having such a long campaign will bring benefits to the nationalist cause. of that there is no question. But it also represents a considerable gamble.

By launching a cross-party campaign for independence – and, in doing so, inviting assorted political fringe parties and oddballs into his tent – Mr Salmond risks losing at least some of the control that he can exercise over the SNP at the moment.

There is also the unanswered question of what the launch of the Yes campaign will do for the opposition. It might actually galvanise the unionists into action for the first time.

So while the launch of the Yes campaign has been carefully planned by nationalist strategists to use the time between now and the referendum to their maximum advantage, launching so early is nothing if not risky.

Let’s just look at that timetable for a second. Here we are, 817 days (or two-and-a-half years) away from the likely referendum date of 18 October 2014. Despite that long lead-in time, Mr Salmond is launching the campaign now.

Political strategists are acutely aware of electoral burnout, and rarely like campaigns that go on for more than a month or more. So why such a long campaign?

Primarily, this is about long-term persuasion. Independence is behind in the polls, many Scots are cautious about it and the nationalists need all the time they can get to convince as many as possible to back their dream.

That will take time – and, while SNP strategists are aware of the potential for this to backfire as the voters switch off, they believe the advantage in bringing more over to their side outweighs this.

Secondly, this is about money. The Yes campaign has £2 million in its coffers already. That cannot be spent just by the SNP on party matters: it should be spent on a formal Yes campaign.

So starting a proper campaign allows the SNP to start spending the money donated by the Weirs, the lottery winners, and gifted to them in the estate of the late Makar, Edwin Morgan.

It also allows them to set up a proper donating structure outside the SNP’s control and to bring in donations from those who want independence but are not supporters of the SNP.

Thirdly, by launching first, the SNP have kept hold of the momentum and forced the unionists to play catch-up. Mr Salmond is continuing to set the timetable, the agenda and the pace of this debate, and this is vital in giving the impression that he is in control of the whole thing.

For all these reasons, launching this week is an astute move. But there will be other, less advantageous, side-effects too.

Mr Salmond will want to give the impression that the Yes campaign is a broad church and that it is not something controlled and run entirely by the SNP. This means that there should be scope for the Greens to play a prominent part in Friday’s events. But if the Greens are there, what about Tommy Sheridan and Solidarity? What about the Scottish Socialist Party?

And, if they want to show they really do represent all shades of the political spectrum, then why not make sure there is at least one right-winger on the platform? Michael Fry, the libertarian former Tory historian and columnist who now seems to believe in independence, for example?

Such an array would certainly give the impression of a broad church – as long as they all keep their mouths shut at the launch.

If all are allowed to speak, it wouldn’t take long for the massively different views of all involved to emerge, with some backing an independent Scottish socialist republic – with centralised spending plans akin to something out of the USSR in the 1950s – and others backing a low-tax, small state Scotland tied to the UK monarchy and others still wanting to halt all road transport infrastructure projects.

There is a dilemma here for Mr Salmond. He has to portray this campaign as a cross-party movement – but, if he does so, he might have to share a platform with Tommy Sheridan, Carolyn Leckie, Patrick Harvie and Michael Fry.

Not only would that be something he couldn’t control, but he would have trouble dominating the agenda in the way he would like.

So far, Mr Salmond has enjoyed a massive advantage over his unionist opponents. He has all the money, he has a clear message, a strong and unified party behind him and the general goodwill of the population.

But, by launching his campaign for independence now, the First Minister will almost certainly poke the unionists into action.

There have been unconfirmed reports of secret meetings at the home of Alistair Darling, the former Labour Chancellor, who is being lined up to head the anti-independence charge. These meetings have included, apparently, senior Tories and Lib Dems as well as Labour figures.

The unionists are acutely aware that they cannot leave the field to Mr Salmond for too long, so if the Yes campaign is to be launched this week then the No campaign will have to be launched soon afterwards – possibly within a few weeks.

These developments on the unionist side would probably have not happened for another year, at least, had Mr Salmond not charged ahead so early.

By launching this week, Mr Salmond is forcing the unionists to take action of their own – which means that, before the summer, we will have two proper campaigns underway.

Given that the unionist camp haven’t up until now been able to agree even on a general line of attack, let alone anything else, this can only help the unionist cause. Friday’s event will be glitzy and slick, it will involve all the feel-good positivity which the SNP have perfected for selling their message over the last few years and it will attract bags of international and national publicity, giving the independence cause a boost.

But what no one knows yet is whether the gamble of going so early will pay off. Like a runner in a long-distance race, the nationalists have decided to break for the front with two-and-a-half laps to go.

They are clearly out ahead, but whether they can stay ahead for the considerable distance that is still left in this race remains to be seen.

James Watt <em>Painting: Carl Frederik von Breda, 1759–1818</em>

James Watt Painting: Carl Frederik von Breda, 1759–1818

By Colin McInnes

When the climate took a turn for the worse during the so-called Younger Dryas period some 12,000 years ago, our ancestors didn’t don hair shirts and hope for the best. They innovated. A sharp return to ice age-like conditions helped precipitate the development of agriculture in the Levant, a hugely successful innovation that soon diffused to other settled regions.

So if contemporary climate change is to be taken as seriously as many Greens urge, our response should also be innovation-driven. Why then does much of our current Green thinking focus on environmentally and socially regressive ideas?

While the development of agriculture during the Neolithic revolution was to change the world for the better, the real awakening from millennia of Malthusian stagnation was the industrial revolution. Whether through the far-reaching ideas of the Scottish enlightenment or the innovations of James Watt, it was realised that the future could be radically different from the past.

For example, in the late 19th century the growing use of steam power enabled energy and labour costs to decouple for the first time in human history. Energy became cheap while prosperity soared – not through crass consumerism, but through badly needed economic growth that provided an escape from agrarian poverty. It is the surplus from that innovation-driven growth that now enables the provision of public services such as health and education. Nurses nurse and teachers teach only because someone else is providing their joules, calories and other material needs.

While innovation has undeniably delivered immense improvements in the human condition, innovation is also the principal route through which human needs can gradually be decoupled from the environment. Starting in the Elizabethan era, coal from the ground slowly began to replace wood from the land as the primary source of energy, a transition that only peaked in the early 20th century.

In the late 19th century, oil from the ground replaced oil from whales as the primary source of energy for domestic lighting. Coal eventually helped depleted woodland to re-grow, while the oil industry arguably saved the whale.

These slow historical energy transitions were away from diffuse energy sources such as wood and towards fuels of greater energy density, such as coal and much later oil and methane (gas). As noted by Jesse Ausubel at the Rockefeller University, each new fuel contains less carbon and more energy per unit weight, leading to a centuries-long decarbonisation of energy production.

The latest large-scale energy innovation, nuclear, is of course essentially carbon-free. We should remember that these energy transitions did not take place because of concern for the environment, but because lower-carbon fuels are more energy-dense and so are simply better.

Overall, carbon emissions have of course been growing, a sign that global energy use has risen sharply since the industrial revolution. This is to be welcomed since energy use is both liberating and civilising. We have used this growth in energy production to replace carbohydrate-fuelled human labour with hydrocarbon-fuelled machines. But for carbon emissions to peak and then decline, we will need to accelerate our long historical journey towards fuels of greater energy density. Our energy mix therefore needs to transition away from coal, and ultimately oil, and towards methane, uranium and later thorium.

The alternative path offered by mainstream Greens is the “renewables revolution”. But what is being offered is not a revolution – it is a regression to a past of diffuse energy with arguably greater environmental impact. For a movement concerned with efficient resource use, it is remarkable that Greens ignore energy density and the fact that, per unit of energy produced, diffuse and intermittent renewable energy therefore requires vastly more steel, concrete and land than compact gas turbines or nuclear reactors.

And while Greens rightly abhor corporate greed, they seem content to see the pockets of consumers dipped by corporate energy interests to pay for cripplingly expensive offshore wind, or see a regressive transfer of wealth through feed-in tariffs from the energy poor to suburban property owners with the capital to pay for domestic solar energy. Viewed in this light, it is hard to argue that inefficient and expensive renewable energy is somehow more ethical than compact and efficient thermal energy.

Such is the influence of mainstream Green thinking however that it is now doing real harm. In Germany, Die Grünen manoeuvred Angela Merkel into a nuclear shutdown that will close the single largest source of carbon-free energy in Europe’s largest economy. In France, the Greens have the Socialists over a barrel in the run-up to spring elections, extracting a promise to close nuclear plants and ramp up renewables in exchange for votes. The prospect of Greens forcing the closure of yet more carbon-free nuclear plants is truly absurd.

Similar damage also risks being done through blind opposition to shale gas. Through innovations in drilling technology, methane can now be extracted from deep shale bedrock. Shale gas production has grown sharply in the US, with this new energy innovation set to quickly diffuse to other regions including the UK. Arguments that renewable energy is required anyway since hydrocarbons are running out look increasingly suspect.

Wonderfully, methane can be burned in compact, ultra-efficient combined cycle gas turbines producing electrical energy with less than half the carbon emissions of coal. The use of methane and nuclear as a replacement for coal, and even eventually oil, follows the long historical trend of decarbonisation through increasing energy density. But horrified at the prospect of many decades’ worth of low cost, relatively clean energy, Greens have called for an immediate ban on shale gas and insist on a future based almost entirely on diffuse and inefficient renewable energy.

In addition to ignoring energy density, Green thinking often confuses energy efficiency with demand reduction. For example, the replacement of whale oil lamps with kerosene, and their subsequent replacement with electric filaments and now solid-state lighting has delivered huge gains in energy efficiency. These gains enabled a mass democratisation of the use of artificial lighting as costs plummeted and so utilisation soared.

Efficiency is therefore a natural consequence of innovation and leads to a socially progressive growth in consumption of an energy service until demand is saturated, only after which can energy consumption fall. However, while ultra-efficient lighting may take a modest slice out of developed nations’ energy use, it will be more than compensated for by a badly needed growth in the utilisation of artificial lighting in developing nations as efficiency grows and costs fall.

In contrast, demand reduction is a socially regressive tool, an artificial increase in the price of energy to suppress consumption, the burden of which falls on the energy poor. It is often hard to avoid the conclusion that Greens advocate expensive renewable energy specifically to ensure demand reduction and a future of energy austerity.

The real lack of innovation in Green thinking, though, can best be seen in arguments against nuclear energy. For example, a longstanding grumble is that it leaves future generations with a stock of nuclear waste to deal with. Nuclear energy does indeed present an intergenerational transfer, but it is an overwhelmingly positive one.

By constructing compact, nuclear plants with a design life of 60 years, we can leave future generations the ability to generate abundant clean, reliable low-cost energy towards the end of the century. This compares to renewables which typically have a design life of only 20 years. Growth of nuclear output can accumulate, while renewables will saturate as we begin to rebuild existing capacity in less than a generation.

But while Greens only see nuclear waste, innovators see spent fuel, still with copious quantities of energy that needs to be released in so-called fast spectrum reactors rather than buried. Further ahead, thorium offers the prospect of clean energy production into the distant future. Whether nuclear or methane, there is no shortage of clean, high-grade energy to deliver a future of shared prosperity, but only if we have the will and ambition to exploit it. We will need this energy to liberate the poor in the developing world, power rapidly growing global cities and efficiently recycle strategic materials in ways undreamt of at present.

In contrast, Green claims that renewable energy creates more jobs per unit of energy produced than nuclear energy are again regressive. The entire point of economic development is productivity, doing more with less. So if we can generate clean, reliable energy from compact nuclear plants, requiring fewer people than renewables, then labour is freed to doing something more useful, such as creating real prosperity and providing public services. Using such regressive Green economics we could indeed create plentiful employment, for example by banning the use of tractors on farms, which is one vision of the future of agriculture in relocalised Green economies.

On agriculture, Green opposition to innovation in genetically modified (GM) technology is also telling. While that opposition is often seen as precautionary, the precautionary principle cuts both ways. Mainstream Green thinking now runs the real risk of holding back innovation that can both improve crop resilience in the developing world and deliver increased food production without annexing more land from nature.

Again, Greens insist that innovation is actively suppressed. And if the contention is agri-business corporate antics, why have Greens ripped up field trials of publicly funded research that could provide GM technology to the poor patent-free? Let’s also remember that it was through the development of agriculture, and entirely artificial means of organising nature, that our ancestors innovated their way out of climate change in the Younger Dryas period and prospered, rather than merely prevailed.

The greatest danger to humanity is not climate change, nuclear energy or the other calamities that form the cataclysmic imagery of mainstream Green thinking. It is a paralysis of inaction due to risk aversion, coupled with a wider technological pessimism that has robbed us of a coherent vision of a better future. For all these criticisms, Green thinking does of course have a key role in providing the essential checks and balances of a pluralistic society. But its deeper hues ultimately risk being marginalised as conservative, limit-setting views which are increasingly both socially, and environmentally regressive.

Colin McInnes is Professor of Engineering Science at the University of Strathclyde. He also writes at Perpetual Motion.

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<em>Picture: John Knox</em>

Picture: John Knox

By John Knox

Now is the winter of our discontent. It began on St Andrew’s Day and who knows when and where it will end.

They came in their thousands, bearing the saltire and the green and white flag of the “Protect our Pensions” campaign. They marched down the Royal Mile to the Scottish parliament in the largest demonstration ever seen there, 7,000 strong.

Instead of a pipe band, they brought their own green plastic hunting horns. Most were middle-aged, respectable-looking people – teachers, nurses, council workers. Many brought their children because the schools were closed by the national day of action. An estimated 300,000 Scots were out on strike, two million across the UK. It was first national strike for 30 years.

The marchers were served curries from a mobile kitchen, rather than pie and chips. They were greeted by pop music, rather than a brass band. But there were the traditional angry speeches from the platform.

There was no great crowd to watch the march-past. MSPs were divided as to what to do. Labour and the Greens joined the march, the SNP, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats stayed holed up in their spiky parliament building, earnestly debating the pensions issue, and no doubt wringing their hands. On the Royal Mile I heard a lady cyclist complaining the marchers were delaying her getting to work. The Queen’s Gallery stayed bravely open for art lovers and well-heeled coffee drinkers. The exhibition was ominously entitled “The Northern Renaissance”.

So has the government misjudged the pensions issue? Will it turn out to be the poll tax of our times, the final insult that drives the people to revolution? Public sector workers are already seeing their jobs go – 700,000 over the UK in next three years. They learnt in the chancellor’s autumn statement on Tuesday that their wages, currently frozen, will be subject to a 1 per cent cap over the next two years.

All this is taking place under a gloomy economic sky, with growth forecast at just 0.7 per cent next year, unemployment at a 17-year high, inflation at 5 per cent, the banks still in trouble and the euro on the edge of meltdown. This is indeed an Age of Austerity and it is expected to last for years.

The immediate issue is the reform of public sector pensions. It is a complicated business – but, as I understand it, the government is saying that employees need to pay 3.2 per cent more in contributions, receive lower career-average pensions, and the retirement age should be raised to 67 (in 2026) if the system is to be sustainable. People are, after all, living much longer and the government, as the employer, cannot afford to raise its contributions. That, it says, would be unfair on the taxpayers – who, by and large, do not have such generous pensions.

On the other side of the barricades, the unions are saying that the public pension funds are currently in surplus (£2 billion in the case of the NHS and £300 million in the case of local government) and the 3.2 per cent increase in contributions is going straight to the Treasury to help pay off the huge national debt run up by the banking collapse. As in Ireland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Iceland, ordinary workers are asking why they should be made to pay for the misdeeds of the bankers, especially when there is no sign of fat-cat pay or bonuses being brought back to earth.

David Cameron says the day of action was a “damp squib”. The unions say it was the biggest demonstration of public anger for a generation. No one knows how this battle of wills will be fought out over the coming months. But for me it has distinct echoes of the old class wars. Gordon Brown was accused of raiding the pension funds of the middle classes with the abolition of tax credits on dividends. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats are now accused of raiding the pension funds of public sector workers. We are falling back into a divided Britain and the Age of Contentment is over.

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John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908–2006 <em>Picture: Anandtr2006</em>

John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908–2006 Picture: Anandtr2006

The big speeches have been delivered, the seats are being generously warmed, the gears of Scottish government crank back into action. The second SNP administration, having democratically secured a working majority in political system designed for rule-by-coalition or minority government, finds itself in a unique position.

In the campaign for office, many winning political parties find themselves almost instantly lacking in credibility. Manifesto promises that claim to be tightly connected to governmental levers can loosen and unravel, as the black (and evenly mildly grey) swans of economic turbulence swim into view.

Yet the SNP government has a unprecedented political mandate to seek extra levers of economic and resource power in Scotland – and it seems that the British state is rattled enough to concede at least some of those. So the SNP resoundingly win the electoral game of policy ambition in Scotland – and then get the chance to change the rules of the game, so they can increase economic revenue and reliably answer those ambitions.

Short of their magical majority, trapped in a minimally reformed devolution, how quickly would they have run into a hailstorm of broken promises and manifesto retrenchment? Alex Salmond is a noted gambler, but this is brand new territory: on 5 May he didn’t just win the bet, he got the option to change the lease on the betting shop at the same time. As a spectacle of political achievement in a media-and-marketing age, as I wrote here last week, the SNP victory will be a sophisticated case-study for ambitious parties throughout the world.

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But as I also mentioned last week, it was too much of a spectacle also – a political majority resting on around a quarter of the total possible electorate, in a plebiscite where just under half of those able to vote (49.8 per cent) could be bothered to do so.

In the mid-90s, under James Boyle‘s dynamic era at BBC Radio Scotland (ochone, ochone), I was sent to Harvard to interview the great Scots-Canadian economist John Kenneth Galbraith, about his 1992 book The Culture of Contentment. Galbraith’s rumbling anxiety was that levels of political participation in US politics were worryingly correlated with class benefit. Those who did vote were responding to appeals to their evident economic self-interest – low taxes, strong on law and order, protectionism for US industry.

Those who didn’t were either literally disenfranchised (due to the US’s appalling rules on criminality and voter registration, which Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign determinedly overcame). Or, if they were franchised, people were disgusted with the whole institution of politics, their civic will corroded by the general downpour of stories about political corruption and scandal – and so chose not to exercise their democratic right.

I hope that people vastly better equipped in political science than me (and in less of a freelance hurry) are planning to examine the mindset and attitudes of this 50 per cent of non-participants in the Scottish Spring. What is the balance between Scots unregistered to vote, and Scots registered but choosing not to? I’m guessing we don’t have US-style barriers to registration in Scotland, but I’d still like to know the rates.

And as for the rest of this slight-but-silent majority, which of them gaze upon the operations of the Scottish parliament (hardly free from scandal politics over the years) with the same general jaundice and cynicism as, say, the residents of Detroit or Cleveland?

I’ve only one family anecdote to bring to this doubtless empirical question: the despair of a relative who was delivering (and urging the completion of) census forms around his Lanarkshire neighbourhood. “So many of them were angry at you,” he said, “chasing you from the door. Or they were just so totally out of it with drugs or depression that they simply couldn’t get it together to fill it in. I had no idea so many people in this area were so basically incapable of functioning.”

In my dispute with Jim Sillars in the Scotsman last week about his concept of “independence-lite” – where we decide, in advance of any constitutional vote on independence, to agree certain shared powers with the UK government – I objected to his notion that “social security” would be one of those “cross-border” functions we would be happy to cede.

Are we really so happy to fall in with two decades of neo-liberal or Third Way workfare policies? Do we want to continue to compel the armies of surplus labour in Scottish society to take low-paid service jobs in a retail-led, hyper-consumerised economy – hundreds of thousands of Scots acutely aware of their low social status, in an already very unequal society? As we now know from studies such as The Spirit Level, self-perception of low social status literally degrades the minds, bodies and health of the poor.

Might it also unravel their willingness to be involved in a once-every-five-years plebiscite, of any kind?

Any forward movement in Scottish society has to deal with poverty, its distortions of the human spirit. And that’s why the Galbraith thesis doesn’t quite work for the 50 per cent who did vote – and, to be honest, the vast majority of those who generally voted (between SNP, Labour, Lib Dems and Greens) for a broadly left-of-centre, Nordic-model platform of manifestos. Cross-party commitments to free education, free health and renewable energy are light years away from Galbraith’s US affluent middle-classes actively using their vote to preserve their privatised privileges in each of those areas.

As I wrote last week, the SNP won their majority of votes by layering a psychologically-literate politics of hope and aspiration, in an authentically Scottish register, on top of this broad social-democratic consensus. But as Kenneth Roy’s necessary article reminded us a few days after the election, the mandate is based overall on some gey few turnouts. Glasgow shows alarming figures of participation, almost exactly correlated to poorer areas – only 43 per cent for Nicola Sturgeon in Southside, 38 per cent in the SNP gain of Shettleston, 35 per cent in Provan, Even Salmond’s own seat had 48 per cent staying at home.

When Obama unlocked Galbraith’s iron cage of contentment, he did so in a way that clearly gave a campaign template to the SNP – a hopeful and socially-repairing message of national renewal. But he also constructed a huge program of voter registration, and then motivated those voters – meaning significant rises in black/minority, youth and working-class participation in the overall plebiscite, most of these rises going to Obama.

And in a nation often described as a deeply malfunctioning democracy (a “moronic inferno”, in Martin Amis’s famous words), note that voter turnout was over 10 per cent higher than ours – 61.7 per cent in the 2008 US election. The only Scottish constituency that cleared 60 per cent participation in May was the Tory-turned-Labour Eastwood – replete, let us say, with enough socio-economic ease that voters might enthusiastically consider their political options.

What does the electoral underbelly of the SNP victory mean for an independence referendum? Duncan Hamilton at the weekend restated the gradualist position for Nationalists: this was a vote for “more good government”, with the extension of demands for more powers for devolution continuing that display of forward-looking competence. And a referendum on independence will be won, he suggested, “if the proposals emphasise a sense of national unity and consensus.”

How much of the nation will be involved, though? And is that a consensus only among the “unco guid” of can-be-bothered, civically conscious voters?

The post-Scottish-election debates about the exact definition of independence have been generated by many factors. But for me, it’s all been about the need to ensure that a Scottish parliament has as many effective governmental powers as possible, in order to reduce the shaming inequality of life-chances in Scottish society.

Yes, full fiscal autonomy will support a jobs-creating business environment in Scotland – and, as we hope, jobs as part of a green industrial and infrastructural renaissance. My greatest hope is that there will be a renewed demand for the craft and technical skills that constituted the identity of the Scottish working class 30 years ago – but under brand new sustainable values of efficiency, ingenuity and useabilty, where workers have a much less alienated, much more intrinsic investment in the work they do. Not so much a work ethic, but a social-productive ethic – the construction needed for a better-founded society.

We need the entrepreneurs and business-growers who are riding this wave to also think about the quality of employment they’re providing for the Scottish people – and where that employment can do most good. Local and national government, in its role as procurer and regulator of services, has much power here to shape green development – and make sure that it brings agency, dignity and resources to all those currently disconnected from the Scottish future.

So would a clear plausible link between the powers of independence, and a new vision of the labouring and productive life in Scotland, reach out to those un-citizens who stayed out of the polling both on 5 May? That link, yes, and perhaps many others in addition to our existing social-democratic menu – around housing, the quality of public space, local provisioning of food, greater voice and input into our mediaspace (ie, don’t just sneeringly point cameras at the “cast list” of The Scheme, but give them the cameras, and the skills, to render their own lives as an empowering narrative).

And for me, one reason to ensure a “full independence” that has control over armed forces is to begin the demilitarisation of Scottish public life. We must reduce the position of the army as sometimes the only substantial career option available to young men and women in poorer communities, historically and currently. Not forgetting the foul waste of expertise and resources expended on Britain’s military-industrial complex. Out of all the songs that we might sing to celebrate a free and fully sovereign Scotland, let’s not forget Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come-All-Ye.

To make the most of an independence referendum, we need to start to build an independence society – what Gerry Hassan calls “self-determination at every level”. Further notes on that anon. But half a country not bothering to decide its own future, even on a classically rainy day, is a warning bell that we must not ignore.

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First Minister Alex Salmond <em>Picture: Scottish parliament</em>

First Minister Alex Salmond Picture: Scottish parliament


This address was given to the Scottish parliament by Alex Salmond on his re-election to the post of First Minister for Scotland, 18 May 2011.

When Donald Dewar addressed this parliament in 1999, he evoked Scotland’s diverse voices: “The speak of the Mearns. The shout of the welder above the din of the Clyde shipyard. The battle cries of Bruce and Wallace.”

Now these voices of the past are joined in this chamber by the sound of 21st-century Scotland. The lyrical Italian of Marco Biagi. The formal Urdu of Humza Yousaf. The sacred Arabic of Hanzala Malik. We are proud to have those languages spoken here alongside English, Gaelic, Scots and Doric.

This land is their land, from the sparkling sands of the islands to the glittering granite of its cities. It belongs to all who choose to call it home. That includes new Scots who have escaped persecution or conflict in Africa or the Middle East. It means Scots whose forebears fled famine in Ireland and elsewhere.

That is who belongs here, but let us be clear also about what does not belong here. As the song tells us, for Scotland to flourish then “Let us be rid of those bigots and fools / Who will not let Scotland, live and let live.”

Our new Scotland is built on the old custom of hospitality. We offer a hand that is open to all, whether they hail from England, Ireland, Pakistan or Poland. Modern Scotland is also built on equality. We will not tolerate sectarianism as a parasite in our national game of football or anywhere else in this society.

Scotland’s strength has always lain in its diversity. In the poem Scotland Small, Hugh MacDiarmid challenged those who would diminish us with stereotypes. “Scotland small?”, he asked. “Our multiform, our infinite Scotland, small? Only as a patch of hillside may be a cliche corner. To a fool who cries ‘Nothing but heather!’”

The point is even the smallest patch of hillside contains enormous variation – of bluebells, blaeberries and mosses. So to describe Scotland as nothing but heather is, said MacDiarmid, “Marvellously descriptive! And totally incomplete!”

To describe Scotland as small is similarly misleading. Scotland is not small. It is not small in imagination and it is not short in ambition. It is infinite in diversity and alive with possibility.

Two weeks ago, the voters of Scotland embraced that possibility. They like what their parliament has done within the devolved settlement negotiated by Donald Dewar. They like what the first, minority SNP government achieved. Now they want more.

They want Scotland to have the economic levers to prosper in this century. They are excited by the opportunity to re-industrialise our country through marine renewable energy, offering skilled, satisfying work to our school leavers and graduates alike. But they also know we need the tools to do the job properly.

This chamber understands that too. My message today is let us act as one and demand Scotland’s right. Let us build a better future for our young people by gaining the powers we need to speed recovery and create jobs.

Let us wipe away past equivocation and ensure that the present Scotland Act is worthy of its name.

There is actually a great deal on which we are agreed. The three economic changes I have already promoted to the Scotland Bill were chosen from our manifesto because they command support from other parties in this chamber.

All sides of this parliament support the need for additional and immediate capital borrowing powers so we can invest in our infrastructure and grow our economy. I am very hopeful that this will be delivered.

The Liberal Democrats, Greens and many in the Labour party agree that Crown Estate revenues should be repatriated to Scottish communities. We await Westminster’s reply. Our leading job creators back this government’s call for control of corporation tax to be included in the Scotland Bill.

The secretary of state for Northern Ireland – a Conservative – supports the devolution of this tax, and the cross-party committee of this last parliament agreed unanimously that if the principle was conceded in Northern Ireland then Scotland must have the same right.

But these are not the only issues which carry support across this chamber. There are three more constitutional changes we might agree on. Why not give us control of our own excise duty? We have a mandate to implement a minimum price for alcohol. We intend to pursue that in this parliament come what may.

However, our Labour colleagues agree that it is correct to set a minimum price for alcohol, but they were concerned about where the revenues would go. Gaining control of excise would answer that question. It means we can tackle our country’s alcohol problem and invest any additional revenue in public services. So I ask Labour members to join with me in calling for control of alcohol taxes so that we together we can face down Scotland’s issue with booze.

Another key aspect of our national life controlled by Westminster is broadcasting. All of Scotland is poorly served as a result. If we had some influence over this currently reserved area we could, for example, create a Scottish digital channel – something all the parties in this parliament supported as long ago as 8 October 2008.

We agree that such a platform would promote our artistic talent and hold up a mirror to the nation. How Scotland promotes itself to the world is important. How we talk to each other is also critical.

These are exciting times for our country. We need more space for our cultural riches and for lively and intelligent discourse about the nation we are and the nation we aspire to be.

Finally, many of us agree that, in this globalised era, Scotland needs more influence in the European Union and particularly in the Council of Ministers. At the moment that is in the gift of Westminster.

Sometimes it is forthcoming, more often it is withheld. We in the Scottish National Party argue for full sovereignty – it will give us an equal, independent voice in the EU.

However, short of that, the Scotland Bill could be changed to improve our position. When the first Scotland Act was debated in Westminster in 1998, there was a proposal, as I remember, from the Liberal Democrats, to include a mechanism to give Scotland more power to influence UK European policy. It was defeated then, but why not revisit it now? Let Scotland have a guaranteed say in the forums where decisions are made that shape our industries and our laws.

I have outlined six areas of potential common ground where there is agreement across the parliament to a greater or lesser extent: borrowing powers, corporation tax, the Crown Estate, excise duties, digital broadcasting and a stronger say in European policy.

I think we should seize the moment and act together to bring these powers back home. Let this parliament move forward as one to make Scotland better.

Norman MacCaig observed that when you swish your hand in a stream, the waters are muddied, but then they settle all the clearer. On 5 May the people of our country swished up the stream and now the way ahead is becoming clear.

We see our nation emerge from the glaur of self-doubt and negativity. A change is coming, and the people are ready. They put ambition ahead of hesitation. The process is not about endings. It is about beginnings.

Whatever changes take place in our constitution, we will remain close to our neighbours. We will continue to share a landmass, a language and a wealth of experience and history with the other peoples of these islands

My dearest wish is to see the countries of Scotland and England stand together as equals There is a difference between partnership and subordination. The first encourages mutual respect. The second breeds resentment.

So let me finish with the words of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, who addressed this parliament in 1706, before it was adjourned for 300 years. He observed that: “All nations are dependent; the one upon the many.” This much we know. But he warned that if “the greater must always swallow the lesser,” we are all diminished. His fears were realised in 1707.

But the age of empires is over. Now we determine our own future based on our own needs. We know our worth and should take pride in it.

So let us heed the words of Saltoun and “Go forward into the community of nations to lend our own, independent weight to the world.”

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<em>Picture: Fiona Shields</em>

Picture: Fiona Shields

Regardless of when the independence referendum is held, the Yes campaign is underway right now. It’s underway on the telly, online and in print. And crucially it’s underway whenever you speak to your friends and neighbours. Here are a few quick thoughts on how to win the argument.

Make the message clear
The great problem that independence has had historically is a vagueness about what it actually means. What will it look like? Will an independent Scotland be like Denmark? Or Ireland? Or Greenland? Or North Korea?

Well, an independent Scotland will look exactly like Scotland does now – but with a far greater ability to come up with local solutions to Scotland’s specific problems.

Here is the core message about independence that the Unionists fear: it’s not that big a deal. It is a tweaking of Holyrood, an evolution from devolution, an efficient relocation of key decisions from an unfocused, one-size-fits-all institution 350 miles south of the Border.

There is no divorce, secession or separation involved in the move to full nationhood. In fact, as was discussed by Hamish Macdonell in these pages, Scotland and England may share supra-national functions – the kind of cooperation common in Europe. This is being characterised as independence-lite, but that’s a misnomer as Scotland will behave in these relationships as a sovereign nation.

That last point means we can opt out of expensive follies like Trident and choose not to send Scottish soldiers off on reckless foreign adventures such as Iraq.

But we need to be specific about how these relationships will affect people’s lives: the days of “blah, blah, blah, something about oil” are long passed. The Yes campaign needs to lay out in concrete detail what independence will mean for the Scot in the street from day one.

Vagueness will kill us.

Not talking ‘bout a revolution
Let us not be distracted by the various red, white and blue herrings that will be cast in the path of independence. The head of state will remain Queen Elizabeth II. The EU will not kick out millions of citizens. You will still be able to watch Corrie. Scotland will not join the Warsaw Pact. There will be no razorwire lining the Tweed and Sark.

The only issue up for grabs at the moment is this: “Are we capable of running our own affairs, at our own expense?” Everything else is a distraction.

No third option
The Grand Unionist Alliance, which was so successful that all three of its leaders have now quit, had a chance to include a Calman-plus option in the independence referendum. They didn’t want it then. They shouldn’t get it now.

If there are more than two questions, we’ll get embroiled in some complex PR farrago because independence will have to be backed by more than 50 per cent of voters. Everyone knows what’s at stake. The choice will boil down to Yes or No. Keep it simple.

The question should be: “Do you think the powers of the Scottish parliament should be increased to cover all policy areas?”. Answer Yes or No.

Keep it joyful
You can’t get more positive than saying Yes.

Barack Obama and Bob the Builder cornered the market on “Yes, we can”. The rallying call for Scottish independence should be subtly different, more personal.

Yes, I can.

Yes, I can manage my own affairs.

Yes, I can pay my way.

Yes, I can solve my own problems.

That also means that those who oppose independence have to say “No, I can’t” – a difficult position to defend.

You don’t have to be a Nationalist to say Yes
Sorry, Braveheart fans, but banging on about “fereedem” will get us beat. This is not about patriotism. It’s about a sensible, efficient and rational reordering of the administration of the United Kingdom. You see? I put the case there without mentioning nationalism, independence or even Scotland.

Target the message
Preaching to the choir is pointless. Those in favour of independence will be very motivated to get out and vote come the day. Trying to convert those who are implacably opposed to independence is also pointless.

As with all advertising strategies, a win will come only from swaying the undecided. All messages and campaigning resources need to be targeted at them. They need to be reassured that what is being proposed is rational and straightforward.

The people who ran the SNP election campaign were “brain the size of a planet” clever. Let’s make sure they’re involved in the Yes campaign too.

Thanks to their incredibly integrated marketing, the SNP will have access to a vast amount of data about voting patterns. It’s harder to predict from demographics where someone stands on a single issue than on party choice, but that intelligence gives a great platform on which to build a sophisticated Yes campaign.

And the messages those voters will respond to have to be calm and sensible.

Independence is not about party politics
To win, the Yes campaign needs the backing of Labour, Lib Dem and Tory voters as well as Nats, Greens and whatever the far Left are calling themselves this week.

The Lib Dems’ desire for federalism sits well with a modern view of independence. Scottish Labour voters will be uneasy with the privatised hellhole being created by Westminster. And there are strong Conservative reasons for supporting independence: if you like small government then surely you welcome (a) the removal of two weighty tiers of it in the Houses of Commons and Lords and (b) the fiscal responsibility inherent in independence.

The Yes campaign will be backed heavily by the SNP, but to succeed it must reach to people of all political persuasions.

Deploy Margo
She’s a national treasure, use her. As the cliché runs: Alex Salmond is the biggest beast in the Scottish political jungle. But Margo MacDonald is the most loved.

Silence of the bams
The No campaign will take every opportunity to brand Indepentistas as boggle-eyed, paranoid racists obsessed with mediaeval power struggles.

And, online, some nationalists will play right into their hands. If I were a No campaign strategist, I’d crawl over every utterance of every cybernat on every bulletin board to build a picture of slavering demonic eBrownshirts waiting to usher the unpatriotic into re-education camps.

Not every pro-independence person online is a cybernat. Not every cybernat is a nutter. But every time a nutter goes off on one then we lose one, five, ten votes. So if you see someone ranting about Bannockburn, the fiery cross or John McTernan, have a word. (I like John. He’s the Neil Lennon of the Scottish political commentariat: gobby, sharp as a tack and a genius at winding up his opponents.)

On a similar note, the No campaign needs to say a quiet “No thank you” to any donations from Brian Souter. Mr Souter’s funding of a “referendum” to keep the homophobic clause 2A (aka section 28) means he is anathema to many progressives. Some 5 per cent of the Scottish population are LGBT. The Yes campaign cannot afford to alienate that many voters for the sake of a few bucks. There are many other people worldwide who will be happy to donate money to the cause of independence, just as there are many south of the Border who will fund the No campaign.

So, ca’ canny, stay calm and responsible. Treat opponents and their arguments with respect or you personally might be the Yes campaign’s “Sheffield moment”:

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castell3“Positive campaigns will always beat a negative campaign and I hope that’s a lesson Scottish politics will long remember” – Alex Salmond, the Herald, 6 May 2011.

Given the way the SNP’s electoral machine ripped up the proportional checks and balances of a Unionist-devised parliament, turned Labour urban heartlands into SNP urban heartlands, and siphoned votes from both Liberal Democrats and the Greens, I doubt they’ll ever forget.

Independistas are still doubtless rubbing their eyes at the sheer fact of a majority party in Holyrood whose stated aim is the establishment of a Scottish nation-state. I think there’ll be more than a little strategic staggering around for a few weeks yet, as new MSPs and newly empowered SNP party grandees wonder exactly how to translate their manifesto commitments into a policy programme for the next five years.

But I’ve deliberately opened with Salmond’s well-polished quote because I want to dwell on the means and methods of this seismic event in Scottish history. If we don’t really understand what led up to 5 May 2011 – and particularly the seemingly miraculous six-week turnaround from defeat to victory – I don’t think we’ll have the proper foundations for any conceivably successful campaign in the independence referendum. (I’ll come to my ambivalence about how many options there should be on the ticket in a later column.)

This is a properly modest contribution, given the manifest brilliance of the SNP’s campaign team – who are doubtless already scheming away. But Salmond’s admonition at the beginning gave me an intellectual itch. Was that the case? Do positive campaigns always defeat negative ones?

Cognitive science says “Mostly, yes”. I’ve been ploughing through the Catalan sociologist Manuel Castells’ 2009 book Communication Power, which provides an incredible overview of the science of politics in a media age. Much of it comes from US studies into how emotion (values and habits) is essentially at the seat of voters’ political decisions, rather than just rational calculation of self-interest.

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This is the lesson that US Republicans learned over many years, using the best psychological expertise of Madison Avenue to select images and phrases that triggered primary emotions. And it’s a lesson that (excepting Clinton and Obama) the Democrats generally forget, preferring to aim detailed and statistical policies at the rational minds of voters.

The basic psychological–neurological mechanisms that underpin what Castells calls “emotional politics” almost instantly begin to shed light on the SNP’s transformative victory. To begin with, it’s all about the mirror-neurons: the fact that when we see an action performed in the world, the same part of our brain fires up as if we were performing that action ourselves. As George Lakoff says, “the use of the same neural structure for experience, and representation of experience, has enormous political consequences”.

Parties or politicians should now be aware that everything they do and say, and the forms in which they do so, is shaping voters in much deeper ways that they’d previously thought.

Crucially, the brain builds frames – made from culture and language, but resulting in new, physical patterns of neurons – to make use of these primary responses to others. The political prize for creating the most compelling emotional frame – whether you’re making TV shows, advertising or a political campaign – is huge. Castells’ research says that it’s this emotionally-rooted frame which actually shapes what facts and information you find relevant in any argument. Establish your frame in people’s minds, and they’ll literally see reality – including the details and priorities of policy – your way.

Clearly this is what the SNP’s campaign – reportedly begun in August 2010 – fully achieved. But how, exactly? Castells identifies two deep emotional responses that are particularly relevant to politics: enthusiasm and fear. Fear triggers anxiety, uncertainty and an increase in political calculation in the voter, who widens their search for more information about the other parties, carefully evaluating options. But if you can incite enthusiasm, the voter narrows down their search for other options, and exhibits “goal seeking behaviour” towards those enthusiastic parties and politicians. Political enthusiasm “creates positive emotions by directing an individual towards experiences and situations that produce pleasure and reward”.

All parties in this election fully bombarded the voters with anxiety-generating statistics and policy options – aimed at the “rationally calculating” citizen. But the SNP almost certainly had the campaign with the most enthusiastic, culturally uplifting overtones. There were bright, collective slogans: “Be Part of Better”, “Let’s Work Together” (tied to an evocative rock song) and “Together We Can Make Scotland Better”. There were Hollywood-style campaign launches, and steady streams of substantial celebrity and leading-figure endorsements (guilty as charged).

Yes, at the heart of this was a defensible policy record, and a credible policy manifesto, weapons available to use at the traditional rationalist hustings moment if necessary. But the SNP’s overall cloud of positivity managed to cast every other party in the role of complainers and carpers on the sidelines. Castells quotes research on ads in American political campaigns that say if you engage voters with an enthusiastic appeal, their prior political choices firm up: that is, the symbolic “frame” of the campaign reinforces the neural “frame” (or predisposition) in the citizen’s mind.

As the SNP was already the incumbent party, with a clear electoral base surrounded by floating voters, the positive campaign probably encouraged half-hearted SNP supporters to vote full-heartedly. And it possibly encouraged full-hearted ones to respond to the “both votes SNP” appeal of the final week – thus breaking the anti-majority structural bias of the Holyrood parliament.

Scottish Labour ran a campaign almost entirely aimed at the “fear” frame of the emotional citizen. According to Castells’ studies of American politics, it was almost textbook Republican stuff. One of the most powerful and deep emotional triggers (or “somatic markers”) that politicians can reach for is fear of death. Communication Power shows how Republicans successfully used the “existential threat to the nation’s existence” after 9/11 to build public support for military actions, the factual justification for which was either ill-founded or fallacious. In the grip of a successful “death-fear” framing, rational or empirical counter-argument mattered little to American opinion.

What was Labour’s knife-crime policy other than a direct (and tawdry) appeal to “fear of death”? Now, according to the cognitive science, what fear and anxiety does is to impel voters to begin to seek out more information and to “carefully evaluate” other options. Yet this also tends to diffuse voting intention, rather than firm it up – and in any case, the SNP were ready with a “positive” response of “1,000 more police on the beat”.

The second fear strategy deployed by Labour in the last week was “fear of deprivation” – the consequence of an SNP vote leading to independence, and all the societal “chaos” that implied. Yet again, the SNP used its incumbency to remind voters of the continuity and stability of the last four years of Scottish government. Castells often talks about the natural and instinctive politician being able to emotionally resonate, using cultural metaphors and symbols, with his or her constituency. Salmond’s summation of the popular judgement on the SNP’s first term in government – “Aye, they’ve done no’ bad, they deserve another kick o’ the ball” – is an effortless example.

Castells also talks about hope as a powerful emotional underpinning of politics. “Hope is a fundamental ingredient in activating brain maps that motivate political behaviour oriented towards achieving wellbeing in the future, as a consequence of action in the present,” he writes. “Hope is a key component of political mobilisation… Fear is essential for self-preservation. But hope is essential for survival because it allows individuals to plan the outcome of their decisions, and it motivates them to move toward a course of action from which they expect to benefit.”

Of course, “hope” (not to mention “change you can believe in”) was the 2008 Obama campaign’s great slogan (Castells provides a magisterial analysis of that in Communication Power). But “change you can believe in” was almost the invisible subtitle running under every part of the SNP’s campaign. If hope is “essential because it allows individuals to plan the outcome of their decisions” and “motivates them to move towards a course of action from which they expect to benefit”, then the SNP’s “Scottish Hope” tied those practical aspirations to the functioning of a Scottish parliament.

Scottish Labour’s other peddled scare – “fear of Tory Westminster” (chimed by all the other Unionist parties) – might have had the desired effect of getting undecided voters to seek information about those generating the fear. But Castells cites research to say that an anxiety-generating frame diffuses and weakens the general intention to even participate in a voting process.

And those who did eventually turn to examine the SNP as the “scary” party would have found a “hopeful” narrative and framing about their life in Scotland – a narrative that had at least the possibility of answering their citizen’s desires to take more control of, and get more benefit from, their lives.

Might this analysis also account for the failure of the Greens (which I regretted – I was looking forward to a much stronger voice for sustainability in the parliament)? They sallied forth on their own “fear-oriented” politics – the keynote being “we’ll raise taxes to defend you against Tory-imposed cuts”, within a general horizon of looming environmental collapse.

Greens have a joyful, convivial, optimistic political message buried away in their thinking and practice – I’ve written about this in the Scottish context before (here and here) – but in the face of the SNP’s Juggernaut of Joy, none of the attractive aspects of sustainable lifestyle change could remotely come through. Change You Couldn’t Believe In, one might say.

I’ll come to the SNP’s particular use of media, new and old, in the next column – and how that can be tweaked and refined for an independence campaign. But Castells’ summary of information-age politics is worth chewing over: “Creating new content and new forms, in the networks that connect minds and their communicative environment, is tantamount to rewiring our minds.”

So the SNP rewired our minds: you heard it here first. Or at least, that is, the minds of the less than one million who gave their vote to the party, on a turnout of just under 50 per cent. About which democratic insufficiency, and its remedy, tune in next week.

Want to discuss other issues? Join the debate on our new Scottish Voices forum

castell3“Positive campaigns will always beat a negative campaign and I hope that’s a lesson Scottish politics will long remember” – Alex Salmond, the Herald, 6 May 2011.

Given the way the SNP’s electoral machine ripped up the proportional checks and balances of a Unionist-devised parliament, turned Labour urban heartlands into SNP urban heartlands, and siphoned votes from both Liberal Democrats and the Greens, I doubt they’ll ever forget.

Independistas are still doubtless rubbing their eyes at the sheer fact of a majority party in Holyrood whose stated aim is the establishment of a Scottish nation-state. I think there’ll be more than a little strategic staggering around for a few weeks yet, as new MSPs and newly empowered SNP party grandees wonder exactly how to translate their manifesto commitments into a policy programme for the next five years.

But I’ve deliberately opened with Salmond’s well-polished quote because I want to dwell on the means and methods of this seismic event in Scottish history. If we don’t really understand what led up to 5 May 2011 – and particularly the seemingly miraculous six-week turnaround from defeat to victory – I don’t think we’ll have the proper foundations for any conceivably successful campaign in the independence referendum. (I’ll come to my ambivalence about how many options there should be on the ticket in a later column.)

This is a properly modest contribution, given the manifest brilliance of the SNP’s campaign team – who are doubtless already scheming away. But Salmond’s admonition at the beginning gave me an intellectual itch. Was that the case? Do positive campaigns always defeat negative ones?

Cognitive science says “Mostly, yes”. I’ve been ploughing through the Catalan sociologist Manuel Castells’ 2009 book Communication Power, which provides an incredible overview of the science of politics in a media age. Much of it comes from US studies into how emotion (values and habits) is essentially at the seat of voters’ political decisions, rather than just rational calculation of self-interest.

Want to discuss other issues? Join the debate on our new Scottish Voices forum

This is the lesson that US Republicans learned over many years, using the best psychological expertise of Madison Avenue to select images and phrases that triggered primary emotions. And it’s a lesson that (excepting Clinton and Obama) the Democrats generally forget, preferring to aim detailed and statistical policies at the rational minds of voters.

The basic psychological–neurological mechanisms that underpin what Castells calls “emotional politics” almost instantly begin to shed light on the SNP’s transformative victory. To begin with, it’s all about the mirror-neurons: the fact that when we see an action performed in the world, the same part of our brain fires up as if we were performing that action ourselves. As George Lakoff says, “the use of the same neural structure for experience, and representation of experience, has enormous political consequences”.

Parties or politicians should now be aware that everything they do and say, and the forms in which they do so, is shaping voters in much deeper ways that they’d previously thought.

Crucially, the brain builds frames – made from culture and language, but resulting in new, physical patterns of neurons – to make use of these primary responses to others. The political prize for creating the most compelling emotional frame – whether you’re making TV shows, advertising or a political campaign – is huge. Castells’ research says that it’s this emotionally-rooted frame which actually shapes what facts and information you find relevant in any argument. Establish your frame in people’s minds, and they’ll literally see reality – including the details and priorities of policy – your way.

Clearly this is what the SNP’s campaign – reportedly begun in August 2010 – fully achieved. But how, exactly? Castells identifies two deep emotional responses that are particularly relevant to politics: enthusiasm and fear. Fear triggers anxiety, uncertainty and an increase in political calculation in the voter, who widens their search for more information about the other parties, carefully evaluating options. But if you can incite enthusiasm, the voter narrows down their search for other options, and exhibits “goal seeking behaviour” towards those enthusiastic parties and politicians. Political enthusiasm “creates positive emotions by directing an individual towards experiences and situations that produce pleasure and reward”.

All parties in this election fully bombarded the voters with anxiety-generating statistics and policy options – aimed at the “rationally calculating” citizen. But the SNP almost certainly had the campaign with the most enthusiastic, culturally uplifting overtones. There were bright, collective slogans: “Be Part of Better”, “Let’s Work Together” (tied to an evocative rock song) and “Together We Can Make Scotland Better”. There were Hollywood-style campaign launches, and steady streams of substantial celebrity and leading-figure endorsements (guilty as charged).

Yes, at the heart of this was a defensible policy record, and a credible policy manifesto, weapons available to use at the traditional rationalist hustings moment if necessary. But the SNP’s overall cloud of positivity managed to cast every other party in the role of complainers and carpers on the sidelines. Castells quotes research on ads in American political campaigns that say if you engage voters with an enthusiastic appeal, their prior political choices firm up: that is, the symbolic “frame” of the campaign reinforces the neural “frame” (or predisposition) in the citizen’s mind.

As the SNP was already the incumbent party, with a clear electoral base surrounded by floating voters, the positive campaign probably encouraged half-hearted SNP supporters to vote full-heartedly. And it possibly encouraged full-hearted ones to respond to the “both votes SNP” appeal of the final week – thus breaking the anti-majority structural bias of the Holyrood parliament.

Scottish Labour ran a campaign almost entirely aimed at the “fear” frame of the emotional citizen. According to Castells’ studies of American politics, it was almost textbook Republican stuff. One of the most powerful and deep emotional triggers (or “somatic markers”) that politicians can reach for is fear of death. Communication Power shows how Republicans successfully used the “existential threat to the nation” after 9/11 to build public support for military actions, the factual justification for which was either ill-founded or fallacious.

In the grip of a successful “death-fear” framing, rational or empirical counter-argument mattered little to American opinion. The interesting subtlety that Castells notices is between anxiety and anger. A fear-based rhetoric that clearly identifies a wrong-do-er, and rouses anger against them – Bin Laden or Saddam – has the same cognitive effect as an enthusiastic appeal: it focuses rather than diffuses citizens minds, leading to “an imprudent processing of events”, a desire for justice that narrows down the search for other options.

What was Labour’s knife-crime policy other than a direct (and tawdry) appeal to “fear of death”? Now, according to the cognitive science, what fear and anxiety does is to impel voters to begin to seek out more information and to “carefully evaluate” other options. Yet this also tends to diffuse voting intention, rather than firm it up – and in any case, the SNP were ready with a “positive” response of “1,000 more police on the beat”.

Rather scarily, what we should be thankful for is that the Labour Party didn’t identify a folk-devil to turn general anxiety about knife-crime into focussed anger – for example, party-political broadcasts of marauding neds across bucolic housing schemes. (If John McTernan, one of their chief advisers, had got his way, the images would have been worse).

The second fear strategy deployed by Labour in the last week was “fear of deprivation” – the consequence of an SNP vote leading to independence, and all the societal “chaos” that implied. Yet again, the SNP used its incumbency to remind voters of the continuity and stability of the last four years of Scottish government. Castells often talks about the natural and instinctive politician being able to emotionally resonate, using cultural metaphors and symbols, with his or her constituency. Salmond’s summation of the popular judgement on the SNP’s first term in government – “Aye, they’ve done no’ bad, they deserve another kick o’ the ball” – is an effortless example.

Castells also talks about hope as a powerful emotional underpinning of politics. “Hope is a fundamental ingredient in activating brain maps that motivate political behaviour oriented towards achieving wellbeing in the future, as a consequence of action in the present,” he writes. “Hope is a key component of political mobilisation… Fear is essential for self-preservation. But hope is essential for survival because it allows individuals to plan the outcome of their decisions, and it motivates them to move toward a course of action from which they expect to benefit.”

Of course, “hope” (not to mention “change you can believe in”) was the 2008 Obama campaign’s great slogan (Castells provides a magisterial analysis of that in Communication Power). But “change you can believe in” was almost the invisible subtitle running under every part of the SNP’s campaign. If hope is “essential because it allows individuals to plan the outcome of their decisions” and “motivates them to move towards a course of action from which they expect to benefit”, then the SNP’s “Scottish Hope” tied those practical aspirations to the functioning of a Scottish parliament.

Scottish Labour’s other peddled scare – “fear of Tory Westminster” (chimed by all the other Unionist parties) – might have had the desired effect of getting undecided voters to seek information about those generating the fear. But Castells cites research to say that an anxiety-generating frame diffuses and weakens the general intention to even participate in a voting process.

And those who did eventually turn to examine the SNP as the “scary” party would have found a “hopeful” narrative and framing about their life in Scotland – a narrative that had at least the possibility of answering their citizen’s desires to take more control of, and get more benefit from, their lives.

Again, Scottish Labour didn’t manage to transform anxiety about independence, or rule from Tory Westminster, into anger. It would seem that over a decade of the Scottish Parliament has gradually answered the desires of Scottish citizens for more power in their own lives – desires thwarted, and therefore transformable into much angry protest, in my heyday political era of the 80’s and 90’s.

Might this analysis also account for the failure of the Greens (which I regretted – I was looking forward to a much stronger voice for sustainability in the parliament)? They sallied forth on their own “fear-oriented” politics – the keynote being “we’ll raise taxes to defend you against Tory-imposed cuts”, within a general horizon of looming environmental collapse.

Greens have a joyful, convivial, optimistic political message buried away in their thinking and practice – I’ve written about this in the Scottish context before (here and here) – but in the face of the SNP’s Juggernaut of Joy, none of the attractive aspects of sustainable lifestyle change could remotely come through. Change You Couldn’t Believe In, one might say.

I’ll come to the SNP’s particular use of media, new and old, in the next column – and how that can be tweaked and refined for an independence campaign. But Castells’ summary of information-age politics is worth chewing over: “Creating new content and new forms, in the networks that connect minds and their communicative environment, is tantamount to rewiring our minds.”

So the SNP rewired our minds: you heard it here first. Or at least, that is, the minds of the less than one million who gave their vote to the party, on a turnout of just under 50 per cent. About which democratic insufficiency, and its remedy, tune in next week.

Want to discuss other issues? Join the debate on our new Scottish Voices forum

Tricia Marwick MSP <em>Picture: Scottish Parliament</em>

Tricia Marwick MSP Picture: Scottish Parliament

To say that Labour MSPs were unhappy with the result of the presiding officer’s election would be a serious understatement. Most were unwilling to go public because they knew it would seem churlish, but a good number were spitting fire over Tricia Marwick’s victory.

This Labour antagonism was not directed at Ms Marwick herself. She is a well-liked and well-respected MSP – across all sides of the chamber. The anger was directed first at the SNP and secondly (although they wouldn’t like to acknowledge it) at their own impotence.

Labour’s anti-SNP grumbles were based around the convention that the presiding officer’s job is shared around between the parties. Labour is the only major party not to have provided a presiding officer – the previous incumbents having been David Steel (who came from the Liberal Democrat benches), George Reid (SNP) and Alex Fergusson (Conservative) – and, on that basis, this was Labour’s turn.

There was also the distinct feeling in Labour ranks that it is somehow undemocratic for one party to control the votes so completely as the SNP will now do, and also control the chamber.

At the heart of this controversy over the election of the presiding officer is the unstated implication, therefore, that Ms Marwick will favour the SNP in any tricky decisions she has to make.

That is certainly debatable. Anybody who has played football with a referee picked from their own side will know that it often works the other way: arbiters are frequently harsher on their own side just to prove they are not prejudiced, and this may be what Ms Marwick ends up doing.

What this really does seem to be about, then, is not the fear that Ms Marwick will be biased, but the realisation that, as opposition MSPs, there is nothing Labour – or the Tories, or the Lib Dems – can do about it.

If the combined forces of Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs could do nothing about the election of the presiding officer in what was supposed to be an unwhipped secret ballot, how more powerless will they be when it comes to real pieces of legislation and formal votes?

Labour MSPs could huff and puff and mutter about the unfairness of the presiding officer vote, but they couldn’t do anything to change it. They are going to have to get used to that, though, because if they get worked up every time the SNP railroad something through parliament, they’ll have blown their blood pressures before the summer recess.

Ms Marwick is a feisty, strong-minded and experienced MSP – this will be her fourth term at Holyrood, having won the Mid Fife and Glenrothes seat with a 4,188 majority and 52.3 per cent of the vote on 5 May. She will certainly bring a different feel to the job than the three men who preceded her. She is not much of a monarchist (she made it clear earlier this year she would not be watching the royal wedding), so will probably adopt a less deferential role when showing the royals round the parliament.

Would Labour’s Hugh Henry have done a better job? Possibly, but it’s impossible to say. What about Tavish Scott or Annabel Goldie? Possibly – but, again, that is now hypothetical.

What is not hypothetical is that an SNP MSP is now in the chair at Holyrood while her party enjoys a clear majority in the chamber, the first time this has happened.

Ms Marwick’s appointment was not really about bias, or prejudice, or democracy. It was a reflection of the SNP’s unchallengeable power at Holyrood – but also of the powerlessness of the opposition.

This is a theme which everybody in politics, including the opposition MSPs at Holyrood, will have to get used to – and soon.

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The Caledonian Mercury has invited some of those in the election firing-line to send regular bulletins about the personal side of campaigning. David McLetchie is a former leader of the Scottish Conservatives and is standing for re-election in Edinburgh Pentlands.

Thursday 28 April
Into the last week of what has seemed an interminable campaign with which the public has yet to engage despite our best efforts. I am out canvassing in Currie with a team of helpers and the results are pretty good.

Work hard to persuade a fellow Hearts fan that I am worthy of at least one of his votes. Will be interesting to see the extent of split-ticketing. In 2007 I received just under 13,000 constituency votes in Pentlands but only 9,000 of them translated into list votes for the Conservatives.

The Margo factor comes into play in Lothians on the list and the Greens also do well enough to have elected an MSP in each of the last three parliament elections in the person of Robin Harper, who is standing down this time after 12 years as a MSP.

Just before the parliament broke up, I cast my first-ever vote for a Green in an election – it was for Robin in the election of board members of the National Trust for Scotland, in which he was successful. Robin is very well liked and respected – whilst some Green ideas would take us back to the horse-and-cart era and are plainly barking, others do offer an alternative view of the world which is worth consideration.

In the early evening I attend the AGM of Smile Childcare, which runs a nursery in Wester Hailes and which I helped out when it ran into problems with its lease last year – thankfully now resolved, because a lot of families depend upon it.

A number of mums and kids are there as well as staff and board members – one wee lad raises a laugh by his determination to talk to us at the top table, but he’s what it’s all about, so good on him.

Friday 29 April
The BIG DAY – no, it’s not about you Alex – as William and Catherine take centre stage and the election takes a back seat. I am not one for watching this sort of event for hours on end and oohing and aahing over the costumes, but the pageantry of it all is breathtaking, as is the precision of the organisation – so I end up watching the arrival and the ceremony.

Saturday 30 April
Multi-page spreads in the papers crowd out the election yet again. It’s hard to see that there are going to be any game-changing events now which swing votes, although there will be a lot of focus on the two TV leaders’ debates this week.

Today in the constituency is all about putting up our posters on lamp-posts. In Edinburgh, you can only do this in the last five days of the campaign. Our teams are at it for hours and put up around 500 posters on the main roads in the constituency and around the polling stations.

By the time we finish, we have company from the SNP and there are a few Green and SSP posters on display as well, but no sign of Labour anywhere in the constituency. It would be nice to think Labour have given up on Pentlands and are focusing their efforts in seats such as Southern and Eastern Edinburgh where they are looking to beat the Lib Dems and the SNP respectively, but I take nothing for granted.

Sunday 1 May
The BBC leaders’ debate is the big event, although it is not broadcast until 10:30pm which is hardly conducive to a big audience. Annabel [Goldie] does very well indeed with her straight-talking realism about the financial problems facing the country. When she talks about the need for a graduate contribution, she gets a positive audience response.

This is a good example of where being brave pays and how the chattering classes can obscure public opinion. To listen to Salmond, Gray and Scott, as well as most of the pundits, you would think it’s political death to contemplate asking graduates to pay something – but the polls show that the public agree with us. Annabel is giving voice to the opinions of people who are normally drowned out by the powerful lobbies in favour of the status quo.

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