September 18th 2014 | Scotland


Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 19 August 2014
Edinburgh Agreement

Yes supporters often suggest there is a concerted campaign working against them. Which of course there is – called Better Together.

But the referendum campaign has been marked by repeated claims of bias against Yes, with various activists arguing that groups ranging from the media, to celebrities, to the secret service are working to undermine the case for independence.  

While it is of course possible that there is indeed a conspiracy against them, certainly the opposition does not always seem particularly concerted. In fact it can often appears as if many members of the Conservative and Labour parties in England are still not particularly concerned by the idea of Scottish independence, with a recentDods poll showing that 100% of Conservative MP’s questioned were predicting a No.

Boris Johnson offers one example, choosing to talk down the prospects of further devolution at the worst possible time for the pro-union campaign.

The same goes for Ian Duncan Smith’s boasts over the strides his party has made in dismantling the welfare state last week.

In his speech he described how when he took over the job he was confronted by, “a series of apparent ‘generosities’ in the welfare system, which were in fact quite the opposite.”

IDS said: “Whole sections of society had been dumped on the sidelines, unable to play a productive role. Our challenge was to diagnose the cause of this dispossession and then put in place the changes that would bring these people back in from the margins. If we did not then we would be destined to repeat the lessons of the past. We would fix the economy, yes - but it would be only a patch-up job, at best if we did not fix society at the same time.

“It was clear to me that the dispossession we were seeing was the product of a dysfunctional welfare system that made life difficult for people at every turn. The way that the system took money away from people as they tried to do the right thing and move into work at rates that no one would accept if it were a tax on higher incomes meant that for too many work simply did not pay.”

IDS’s views, and the welfare cuts they justify, jar with those held nearly right across the Scottish parliament.

As Nicola Sturgeon put it recently, describing the welfare system as ‘a safety net’.

She said: “It should be there to protect people from life’s unexpected twists and turns. But it should also be a springboard.”

Time and again it seems as if members of the Labour party in particular are being undermined by the work of their colleagues in the south, who move to the right just as their Scottish colleagues need them to go left.

For example it must have been difficult for many members of Scottish Labour to watch as Ed Miliband signed up to match the Conservative’s spending plans for 2015/16. 

If anything Better Together supporters have a better case for arguing they are being sabotaged – by the very people who are meant to be supporting them.

In fact with Better Together ahead there is even talk of David Cameron coming up to Scotland for the final weeks of the campaign, to allow him to claim he ‘saved the union’ if Scots vote no in spite of him.

If it is a conspiracy, Yes supporters might hope for it to continue.

Liam Kirkaldy