September 18th 2014 | Scotland

The sound of silence

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 1 August 2014
Quiet please

Things are quiet… too quiet. At least as far as the political media is concerned.

Over the last two weeks or so the Scottish press has been dominated by the excitement of the Commonwealth Games – with the prospect of Scotland getting its biggest ever medal haul – alongside the Israeli assault on Gaza.

The referendum debate has been remarkably quiet – at least in comparison to the month prior.

After all, it is a bad sign when the closest thing to a news event is Labour MP Jim Murphy wandering Scotland with an Irn Bru crate.

And there is a good reason for that – parliament is in recess and most politicians, along with their communications advisors, have gone on holiday.

That does not mean the referendum debate has stopped – clearly it is continuing in households and pubs across the country. Anywhere that people talk, there is a good chance the referendum is what they are talking about.

But the professional side of the debate has taken a breather and it is remarkable how marked an effect it has had on coverage.

The media deals in events. It likes to be fed information.

The tragedy unfolding in Gaza took the attention in the foreign pages, but it meant there was no space to cover the bloodiest week in three years of fighting in Syria. People are have become fatigued with Syria. A single sentence from Usain Bolt dominated much of the rest.

If a debate happens and Lamont and Salmond don’t argue over it, it doesn’t make a sound.

And the idea that the news stops when politicians go on holiday is certainly a depressing one.

As Jerry Seinfeld put it: “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.”

Meanwhile campaigners have had a frenetic year and the final weeks could be as febrile as the rest put together.

They will be taking time away from the day-to-day back and forth to tweak their final strategy.

For Better Together, that means holding their fragile lead. For Yes, it means getting the final swing that they have been promising for so long.

So it might be better to enjoy the temporary quiet for now, because it won’t last long.

Liam Kirkaldy