Robin McAlpine: What the indy movement needs to do next

CommonSpace columnist and Common Weal director Robin McAlpine reveals some of the work the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) is undertaking

I'D LIKE to apologise in advance for how much I'm writing just now but I've been rather inundated with people who want more information on what's going on and what what the indy movement could be doing next.

I've asked others in the Scottish Independence Convention if we might be able now to be a bit more forthright on what we've been up to. We wanted to show total good faith to the political parties and get them on board before going public, and had to wait until after the interminable cycle of elections. But things are changing very fast now.

So while we have a discussion about what it is helpful to put into the public domain just now, let me outline as briefly as I can what I see as the steps to get us from here to independence.

Read more – ‘Don’t wobble’: Independence figures respond to the #GE2017 setback for SNP

First, two quick pieces of context. When I wrote at the weekend that we now need to find a way to run an independence campaign that doesn't rely entirely on the SNP, some people thought I meant we need to rely more on the Greens (or SSP or some other non-existent indy-supporting party).

No. What I mean is that while we may see the world through the prism of party politics, few voters do. It's not whether we need to be closer to another political party or whatever – it's that we need to find many more ways of talking to the public who do not communicate through party politics.

So when I say we need a non-party campaign organisation it's not because of the failures of any political party, but simply a recognition of the breakdown in trust between many voters and the party system altogether.

The second context; there are only a certain number of ways to do things. Over many, many decades, all sorts of approaches have been taken to political campaigning by all kinds of people in many different places. 

Political strategy is a trade. People in the business will look wherever they can to find new practices that can give them the edge (I met a delegation last month from the Aboriginal rights organisation in Australia who were over on a fact-finding mission on what they could find out about the Scottish and EU referendums).

There is one final thing that needs to be done to get ready to campaign – you need to get your product finished. You can market a prototype car only for so long.

Over time, people learn what works and what doesn't. That does not mean there is no innovation, but it does mean that there are some fundamentals.

My contention is that the independence movement has not been observing those fundamentals. If we want to win, that's where we need to begin.

Many of you will think of me only as a leftwing political activist. Which I am. But I had a 20-year career in professional political strategy before that and most of it at the heart of the establishment. This doesn't represent my leftwing view of the world, it's my professional one.

Right, what to do.

With all electoral campaigns, the first thing you have to do is work out broadly how to get more people to vote for you than the other side. The best way to do that is voter research – focus groups and opinion polls (among a range of other techniques).

Read more – Robin McAlpine: Six reasons for indy supporters to feel cheerful

This tells you what people are thinking. Really thinking – not what they are telling party canvassers.

I know you think you know what people are thinking, but the reason political strategists use voter research is that over the years they discovered that actually people have all sorts of thoughts and feelings and emotions which the political classes miss.

Let me give an example: by all accounts the Tories in 2015 had no idea that the idea of a Prime Minister Ed Miliband being in the pocket of the SNP was playing so badly with the English public.

But it came up a couple of times in focus group work they were doing in the election. So they started to test it, and they were deeply surprised by what they found. It was having a major influence on people's decisions. So they saturation 'messaged' it (you saw the billboards) and it appears to have had a sharp effect.

So where we should start should be with some 'scientific' (or as much so as market research gets...) work to find out who is most likely to switch from No to Yes, why they didn't make it to Yes last time and what could get them there this time.

We can't keep trying to sell a half-finished pitch for independence. We need to decide what the answers to the big questions are – currency, pensions and all the rest.

And you need to break this down to manageable target groups. 'Old people' or 'women' don't think one thing. But on the other hand the evidence that demographic groups really do have very consistent views is strong.

So, on aggregate, we can generally say that 'old people of a certain gender in a certain income spectrum are much more likely to think X or Y than others in a similar cohort'.

You do focus group work to tease out what people think. You analyse it and turn it into a best guess at 'propositions' (statements likely to change people's minds). Then you test your general statements in large opinion polls.

(I'm amazed at the number of indy people who think opinion polls are mainly for newspapers. Journalists, commentators and the public will never, ever see the results of the most important opinion polling.)

You find out what works with what group and how likely they are to change. You run focus groups with those groups to try and refine and test further the messaging. You go back to an opinion poll to test further the refined propositions.

Read more – Jim Sillars: Here's what the SNP and the Yes movement now need to do to build the indy case

And so on – until you've got a targeting and messaging strategy which can tell you exactly which demographics to target with exactly which set of messages to get 60 per cent of Scots voting Yes.

All preconceptions about what those messages are is unhelpful. Some of you may think its higher turnout among the young, some may think its reassuring pensioners. Fine – but still you go in with a blank sheet of paper and you follow where the evidence takes you.

Do all this and you should have a solid messaging and targeting strategy.

Then you need a means of delivering it. Campaign organisations are structures which enable research and development in messaging and targeting, media communication, political communication, direct public communication, network organising, IT and data management and so on.

You need a chief operating officer. Then a director of campaigns. Then a head of messaging, a head of voter research, a chief press officer, a logistics team, a digital comms team and so on.

You can't sell it if you can't describe it. 'Please buy whatever is in this bag' is a garbage pitch, no matter how good your marketing campaign.

This organisation should be driven partly by your research (its name and look matters – a campaign to stimulate the young would probably look and sound different to one which reassures the old). But an awful lot of it is 'off the shelf' – no version of a campaign isn't going to need the functions above.

So you draw an organisational diagram. You negotiate the governance arrangements with all the partners so they are happy. Then you draw up job descriptions for all the posts. Then you start talking to the many recruitment consultants and specialists in the indy movement to begin headhunting the best people.

(I believe there is a lot of talent in Scotland, but political strategy doesn't seem to me to be a particular strength. I can envisage recruiting a campaign director from the US, perhaps someone from the Sanders campaign.)

Next you need to examine your delivery strategies. For us that is particularly going to mean cutting edge grassroots organising. The Corbyn campaign was using mass grassroots organising principles drawn from a broadly 'Alinsky' model of organising (more info here if you're interested).

These techniques have been refined enormously in recent years, particularly by the Obama and Sanders campaigns in the US. We are miles behind good practice. We must create really effective networks of local campaigners and get them trained in the very best practices.

Read more – Ben Wray: Don’t capitulate on ScotRef, Nicola: It’s time to learn the real lessons

There were small English cities in which Corbyn's team had 2,000 activists out mobilising in the week before the election. We need to build that and sustain it for perhaps two years.

Then, of course, you need money. You always need money. All of the above costs. So here's the question – are there half a dozen 'million pound donors' to the indy cause in Scotland? I've spoken to professionals in the business who are convinced there are.

There is also believed to be a real chance of finding 10 'million pound donors' among expats dotted around the world. That's the scale we need to be looking at.

So how do you get at that money? Again, you go to professionals who do this stuff day and daily. There is an entire profession of 'high value donor' fundraising, and we happen to be well endowed with these people in Scotland.

Which means you hire a first class fundraiser, work with them to identify a list of possible donors and let them do what they do.

I hope this outlines a possible agenda for the months ahead. We need about £100,000 to get the first phase of this complete and then the campaign needs to be self-financing.

There is one final thing that needs to be done to get ready to campaign – you need to get your product finished. You can market a prototype car only for so long. Eventually you need to have finished cars ready for sale.

We can't keep trying to sell a half-finished pitch for independence. We need to decide what the answers to the big questions are – currency, pensions and all the rest.

We may find this is absolutely crucial when we do voter attitude research – or we may find that the biggest issues are something else. But either way, you can't sell it if you can't describe it. 'Please buy whatever is in this bag' is a garbage pitch, no matter how good your marketing campaign.

You do all of this and then you run a campaign. You don't talk (ever) about referendums but about whatever your research tells you to talk about. You use multiple routes of communication, of which First Minister's Questions is unlikely to be a significant one. You organise relentlessly.

And you keep monitoring voter attitudes as you go along – is it working? Are you missing something? Has something new come up? Can you refine your targeting? Find out, fix, deliver, test, repeat.

Read more – Andrew Smith: 10 thoughts on #GE2017 from a London-based leftie

Sorry again for the volume of this, and to those for whom this is familiar territory. But for those who are not familiar with this, be assured that there are clear, simple, well-understood paths that take us from here to a winning independence campaign.

We've got a lot of this happening in the SIC (and at Common Weal we're trying to develop the policy work needed for that fleshed-out 'independence proposition'). We were ready to press go on a first round of focus groups at the end of this month but may now delay for a month until the 'noise' from the election fall-out subsides.

But here's a possible timeline. July – start the data research, get initial funding for a fundraiser. August – first big opinion poll research, start recruiting fundraiser. Early autumn – next phase of targeted focus groups, fundraiser in post, major training programme for local organisers begins.

Late autumn – try and get final (outline) independence proposition agreed and some form of outline launch. Have a signing ceremony to make this the start of the campaign. Fundraising begins in earnest. Second big opinion poll testing detailed messaging.

Early 2018 – organisation structure and job descriptions for full campaign organisation are complete. Recruitment begins. IT systems in place, training and development of local groups continues (with them being supported to produce detailed 'area plans').

It's going to need to involve a lot of people, and we need to be much better at communicating what is going.

By spring 2018, have complete messaging strategy in place, detail of the full independence proposition further fleshed out and core staff of campaign organisation in place.

Then start campaigning for as long as it takes until we hit 60 per cent in the polls consistently. Then – and only then – start talking about a referendum. For my money that looks like it would be 2020, but there is no need to even start to thinking about that before the end of next year.

And throughout all of this time, Nicola Sturgeon's ministers can avoid talking about independence altogether if their instincts are to 'focus on the day job' for a while – safe in the knowledge that things are in hand and being delivered.

I hope this outlines a possible agenda for the months ahead. We need about £100,000 to get the first phase of this complete and then the campaign needs to be self-financing. It's going to need to involve a lot of people, and we need to be much better at communicating what is going.

So again, I know a lot of you have been down for a few days now. I'm not – those of us who've been working on bits of the above plan have been focused on a clear route forward for a while and despite Thursday night's disappointments we remain focused on that route.

If we can only make some progress in this direction, you'll too will start to find yourself perking up very soon...

Picture courtesy of Stuart Crawford

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Comments

fellowhoodlums

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 17:09

Excellent piece, I whole heartedly agree that this is the way forward. We need to gain the trust of the "other side" - where can i donate/help specifically on this?

MauriceBishop

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 19:13

The preconception that you need to tackle is the one that says "Independence would be good for the people of Scotland." It may have seemed like a good idea at one time, but that was only because of the assumption that the new Scottish government would be receiving billions annually from oil.

I understand that for emotional/psychological reasons you want independence. But you aren't going to get the support of the majority of Scots until you can do one of these two things:
(1) convince them that will be better off (i.e. the 2014 strategy); or
(2) admit that there will be costs, plausibly quantify those costs, and then outline the benefits that will accrue to the voters in return for agreeing to shoulder those costs.

I know you think you are doing (2), but you aren't. You are doing that thing that think-tanks do, where they start with the answer, then work backwards to find data that can be shaped to support that answer.

The CommonWeal "paper" on a currency for independent Scotland is a shocking example of this. The authors understand that at least £40 billion is going to needed to back it. They also understand that £40 billion isn't available. So they have worked out a very dodgy argument that says "only" £15 billion would be needed at the outset, and that we would work toward building up the full £40 billion over time. It just so happens that £15 billion is, theoretically, available, as the upper end of the estimates of what Scotland would receive as a population share of the BoE reserves.

This is a suicidal strategy that no professional economist or central banker would ever endorse if they were starting without a preconceived notion that a palatable answer must be found. They would say that the hard truth is that starting with £15 billion when you know that you need £40 billion is nothing but begging the gods to be kind to you for a decade, because otherwise, if even a single challenge comes your way, you will be thrown into a fiscal crisis that you cannot fight.

So if you know that £40 billion is going to be needed, you've got to be brave enough to tell the voters that independence is going to require a sustained period of higher taxes and lower services so that the new country can run a primary budget surplus.

That is what (2) above really entails.

If you think you can't do that, because people wouldn't vote for it, then you've got to re-examine the "Independence would be good for the people of Scotland" premise. When I do the cost/benefit analysis for my family I certainly do not come to that conclusion. And I'm not going to fooled by someone doing the cost/benefit analysis dishonestly.

Dave Coull

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 18:52

"I had a 20-year career in professional political strategy"

Is that a boast, or a confession, Robin Macalpine? Personally, I think that's a disreputable "profession", and it sounds to me like you want to further, or to re-start, your own career in that disreputable profession.

"a lot of you have been down for a few days now"

Not me.

"had to wait until after the interminable cycle of elections"

There's probably going to be another one very soon, and you and other "experts" will probably continue dithering. Stop the dithering. What we need is a a new independence referendum without any further delay.

"while we have a discussion about what it is helpful to put into the public domain"

Oh, the "experts" are deciding our fate in secret, but they might (or might not) give us a hint of what they are deciding.

"we now need to find a way to run an independence campaign that doesn't rely entirely on the SNP"

Good grief.

The "experts" are discussing how THEY can run an independence campaign "that doesn't rely ENTIRELY on the SNP".

The answer is bloody obvious.

I'm glad I'm not an "expert".

"some people thought I meant we need to rely more on the Greens (or SSP or some other non-existent indy-supporting party). No. What I mean is that while we may see the world through the prism of party politics, few voters do. It's not whether we need to be closer to another political party or whatever – it's that we need to find many more ways of talking to the public who do not communicate through party politics"

Do these "experts" get paid for thinking the bloody obvious and keeping it secret because only "experts" can handle it?

"Political strategy is a trade"

There you have it, these "experts" consider this a skilled job, and, if they're not already getting paid for this, they fancy their chances of turning it into a paid job. These "experts" are leeches on the Yes campaign.

"there is one final thing that needs to be done to get ready to campaign – you need to get your product finished"

No you don't.

Robin Macalpine talks like an ad-man, like a PR-man.

We don't need ad-men.

We don't need PR-men.

What we need is for ordinary people, folk who are not "experts", to get on with doing what ought to be bloody well obvious.

Telling us we can't even start until the "product" is "finished" is an authoritarian way of doing things, a "we experts know best" way of doing things, a bossy way of doing things, and not only do we not need it, we should actively oppose it.

In reality, the "product" can never be "finished". There can never be unanimous agreement amongst YES campaigners; indeed, the very suggestion that there ever could be unanimous agreement amongst Yes campaigners is verging on downright fascist. There will never be unanimous agreement and this is a good thing. It is a good thing that there will always be variety. "Unity" is an essentially fascistic concept. What we need is variety. And, left to get on with it without "experts" trying to boss them around, Yes campaigners will offer variety. And this is a good thing, a positive thing, not something to moan about.

florian albert

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 19:09

All this reads remarkably like how New Labour went about constructing their project.
Might it not be be better to start by producing answers to the questions where the independence supporters failed to provide satisfactory answers in 2014 ?

ElaineBryan

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 19:32

Music to my ears. Thank god.
I was going on about involving professionals to develop a dedicated 'PR strategy' as I called it years ago (& got 'booed') without knowing how - this is what I meant.

ElaineBryan

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 19:34

Deleted

MacGillieleabhar

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 20:00

For some time I have felt that there was something lacking in the Independence Campaign and when I saw the latest Referendum proposal being labelled Indy 2 my heart sank as a rerun of the 2014 campaign would have delivered the same result.
Politicians are easy targets for the MSM and have baggage either in party policy or history whereas a new and freestanding organisation would not .
Oddly I had just finished reading Paul Masons opinion piece about Jeremy Corbyn's advance before clicking on here and if it works for Corbyn why shouldn't i a bespoke model work for us?

OlwenMcG

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 20:01

Events today and for the last few days had dragged me down a bit so it's pleased me to read something positive and forward looking.

I found it convincing. Then I read the other comments...

FWIW I believe we lost in 2014 the moment Alex Salmond laughed off the currency question and suggested a plan B but wouldn't (couldn't?) say what it was. (Though Mhairi Black's comment during the National's roadshow that it wasn't important was interesting.) A clearer picture with more definitive answers is needed to convince those who need the reassurances.

We need to move forward and in the absence of alternative suggestions I like the cut of this particular jib... I'm on board!

Geejay

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 21:09

I have a lot of sympathy with Dave's views. Robin's piece sounds like: "find out what people want to hear and then let them hear it." So, if they want to hear "get rid of all these immigrants taking our jobs" or "the EU has taken over Britain" etc etc, then that's what we tell them. Cynical opportunism. But it doesn't seem to have worked for May this time round.

On the other hand, we need to be organised, fine tune our message, address the voters' concerns and so on, as Robin says.

But where does Principle come into it? What about political leadership? One of the most nauseating aspects of recent politics is that there is no leadership anymore, no tackling of difficult issues, no trying to persuade people that there is a better way, just dodging, surrendering to the basest of human instincts. We saw that in the Brexit campaign where the argument in favour of Remain (at UK level) was luke warm at best. The way the immigration issue was handles was a prime example, where none of the UK Government made a solid case for benefits immigrants brought to the UK and refuted the lies and misinformation spread by the Leave side.

So, while I think Robin's argument is basically sound, there are dangers, that it can easily slide into the sort gratuitous pandering to phobias and demonisation as evidenced in the Miliband/Salmond billboard - i.e. throw decency and principle out the window and play on innuendo and absurd fears if it'll gain a few votes.

UCSvet

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 02:36

I have great respect for both Jim Sillars and Robin McAlpine and I am sure Jim's remarks concerning the internal structure are pertinent however as a participant/survivor of the historic UCS campaign I think I have a contribution to make which complements Jim Sillars sentiments but which I think cut across Robins.
I remember walking across the bridge leading to the trade union centre in Glasgow to be met by my excited branch secretary of the shipbuilding branch of the communist party of Great Britain. He had summoned us to a branch meeting to discuss the crisis in our industry. He told me with great excitement that this could bring the government down ( the Ted Heath government ) In attendance at the meeting were people who later became household names. Jimmy Reid Sammy Barr, Jimmy Airlie. A small band of politically motivated men. We discussed what we could do and decided on the tactic of the work in.
We had many meetings after that but our guiding principle was how best we could involve more and more people in our campaign to save the shipyards of the Clyde valley.
In the course of the next 18 months we dispatched our shop stewards all over the country to spread the word and to raise money for the work in. We involved car workers in Birmingham, mine workers in the Ukraine, steelworkers in America, Glasgow women working in sweat shops and sweety shops printers, pop singers ( John Lennon) butcher bakers and candlestick makers. We had no professional campaign managers, no focus groups, no strategy planners we had nothing but a determination that we would fight for the right to work and we would ALL stand or fall together.
We won.
Now I can quite understand the SNP leadershp's obsession with maintaining control of the struggle but it is a dangerous obsession and one that is capable of crippling our movement. It is born of a lack of confidence in the working people of our country. It is FOR them that we struggle and we need to INVOLVE THEM in the conduct of the struggle.

What is the essential lesson. Extend our struggle or end it. IF we want to win we need to involve ever greater numbers in the fight. One gram of passionate determination to explain the justice of our cause to anyone who will listen is worth a million tons of managerial experience in manipulating public opinion and if you don't believe me just ask Theresa May. Bet she wishes she had what Corbyn has and what we have. In her own words" So let's get on and do it"

UCSvet

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 02:36

I have great respect for both Jim Sillars and Robin McAlpine and I am sure Jim's remarks concerning the internal structure are pertinent however as a participant/survivor of the historic UCS campaign I think I have a contribution to make which complements Jim Sillars sentiments but which I think cut across Robins.
I remember walking across the bridge leading to the trade union centre in Glasgow to be met by my excited branch secretary of the shipbuilding branch of the communist party of Great Britain. He had summoned us to a branch meeting to discuss the crisis in our industry. He told me with great excitement that this could bring the government down ( the Ted Heath government ) In attendance at the meeting were people who later became household names. Jimmy Reid Sammy Barr, Jimmy Airlie. A small band of politically motivated men. We discussed what we could do and decided on the tactic of the work in.
We had many meetings after that but our guiding principle was how best we could involve more and more people in our campaign to save the shipyards of the Clyde valley.
In the course of the next 18 months we dispatched our shop stewards all over the country to spread the word and to raise money for the work in. We involved car workers in Birmingham, mine workers in the Ukraine, steelworkers in America, Glasgow women working in sweat shops and sweety shops printers, pop singers ( John Lennon) butcher bakers and candlestick makers. We had no professional campaign managers, no focus groups, no strategy planners we had nothing but a determination that we would fight for the right to work and we would ALL stand or fall together.
We won.
Now I can quite understand the SNP leadershp's obsession with maintaining control of the struggle but it is a dangerous obsession and one that is capable of crippling our movement. It is born of a lack of confidence in the working people of our country. It is FOR them that we struggle and we need to INVOLVE THEM in the conduct of the struggle.

What is the essential lesson. Extend our struggle or end it. IF we want to win we need to involve ever greater numbers in the fight. One gram of passionate determination to explain the justice of our cause to anyone who will listen is worth a million tons of managerial experience in manipulating public opinion and if you don't believe me just ask Theresa May. Bet she wishes she had what Corbyn has and what we have. In her own words" So let's get on and do it"

Nelson

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:17

Not another blog on 'what the indy movement needs to do'.

It is the same as what they should have done in 2012 - divorce themselves from political parties, very, very obviously. Like, duuuuuh.... But there is zero sign that the indy movement is ever going to look and operate as anything much more than a fan club for the SNP. Very, very obviously, there are a lot of people who find the party political adulation hard to swallow. Robin McAlpine saying 'we shouldn't punt party politics - vote SNP' is bewilderingly shite.

If it is not divorced from the SNP (and the Greens for wishtrees - I wish they burned to the ground), it is not a mass-participation popular movement for everyone of every hue. It is an exclusive club run by SNP appointees/wannabes who run something that mostly looks like an SNP pensioner's coffee club with various hingers-on.

I thought the EU ref was revealing - in Scotland, 95% voted for pro-EU parties, and something like 38% voted to leave the EU. Interestingly, that was achieved without bothering to brand Scots with any party and movement affiliations.

Perhaps the real use of branding Scots with nationalist party and movement affiliations is to make money out of blogs, and to enrich a chief operating officer, a director of campaigns, a head of messaging, a head of voter research, a chief press officer, a logistics team, a digital comms team and so on?

What a gravy train. And the author of this piece is on it. It stinks of 'vote yes for career advancement'.

Loulabelle

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:16

I believe you are right Robin.

We need to build the Scottish Independence Convention into something akin to the Momentum movement who, along with Jeremy Corbyn, have shown that telling the truth and sticking to principles, even when they are difficult, can work. Looking at synonyms for Independence the word ‘Liberation’ stood out as a possible name for the movement, SIC doesn’t really work for me.

In addition I concede that, even though I find some of the workings and tactics of ‘political strategists’ difficult to swallow, the time has come to get more serious and professional about our common aim.

Our offering must be apolitical in the respect that policy is determined by the grassroots of the movement, with inputs from interested and supportive politicians of whatever party where appropriate.

An enormous amount of the groundwork has been done by Commonweal, particularly in terms of the White Paper Project. We have a strong basis to start and if attendance at the AUOF Independence march on 3 June is anything to go by, the movement is ready.

To my knowledge no-one involved with the Scottish Independence Convention or Commonweal is in it for the money. They work long and often unsocial hours to get their message across because they believe in independence for Scotland.

Nelson

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:21

I just visited Commonweal's website.

With my first two clicks I got this:

Log-in to your personal internet banking portal.

Copy our details into the required form fields.

Select donation amount and set frequency to 'monthly.'

Review and complete set-up.

Narayan

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:41

Great news. We need an independent entity to take on such challenges. Parties cannot be independent if they are thinking about trying to satisfy their financial supporters and appease big business.
We need intelligent and responsive leadership so all of this is very encouraging. Keep up the great work. :D

steve andrews

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:58

Certainly there is a danger with the focus group approach as MauriceBishop explains that this could end up as a sort of reverted Thinktank approach, but I put my faith in Robin’s intelligence to not allow this to happen.
UCSVet explains how the shop stewards were organised to ‘spread the word’. But surely that also required some form of a strategy, a tactic, and an informed persuasive message to ensure people would be motivated to help the cause. Similarly do the YES activists require a strategy and assistance with promoting the correct message, provided with coherent answers to the many questions that might arise in their discussions on the doorsteps and at work. It is fairly obvious what the big-hitter questions are but there are many others that unionists and switherers alike bring up.
So I believe there is a place for Robin’s strategy – the outcome must be sensible robust responses to the many questions people need reassurance about – for instance MauriceBishop would make you give up before you started if that £40Billion riposte is anything like true. Essentially we need to know the reasons for No in order to better provide relevant and understandable answers for those reasons.

DJF1

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 14:38

thanks Robin, its a big topic but I really just want to comment on one area now. Pensions.

The 2014 referendum yes/snp campaign did not really have any detail on pensions. My memory is that it seemed to be focused only on the state pension, how and secure would that be in an independent Scotland. From the yes side we were given examples of security e.g. expats in Spain and elsewhere still get paid their pensions from the UK. What was not discussed in any detail was how the funding of this state pensions would work after independence e.g would Scotland become responsible for paying this type of pension to those resident in Scotland? Would Scotland take a on a share of the payments to expats? Would a totally separate system of state pensions be set up for Scotland and who would be transferred into this. Would it then switch to payments in a Scottish currency and would it also take on its own inflation pay rises etc.

So all of that and more before we even get on to the bit that frightens many middle class wallet clutchers.

e.g Those many who have a work pension from a uk employer. I'm one of them, My pension is paid in pounds sterling by a large UK pension scheme if Scotland becomes the independent country that I want it to become will my pension still be paid in pounds sterling from England. If we get our own currency and it performs better that ruk £ sterling will I be able to get compensation for the less favourable and declining exchange rate that will affect my £ sterling pension and make me poorer, relatively speaking?

I'm only scratching the surface but I know that this is a key issue that prevents many who are very concerned with their financial security into old age from supporting independence.

I'm brave enough to make the change but most are in this position probably are not.

MauriceBishop

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 15:07

@DJF1

Scottish pensions would be the responsibility of the independence Scottish government. "expats in Spain and elsewhere still get paid their pensions from the UK" because they are still UK citizens. It is highly doubtful that the UK will volunteer to treat the citizens of independent Scotland the same way.

Independent Scotland has to have its own currency (eventually at least), and when that happens, then yes, the state pensions will be paid in that currency. Because the iSG will both want to and have to do that. Want to because it needs to do everything it can to force Scotland to run on the new currency not the old one; has to because it can't print stirling, it can only buy it.

I think your relationship with your private pension provider should remain unchanged.

DJF1

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 16:01

apologies for grammar / spelling mistakes in previous comment. I have corrected these in the following -

thanks Robin, its a big topic but I really just want to comment on one area now. Pensions.

The 2014 referendum yes/snp campaign did not really have any detail on pensions. My memory is that it seemed to be focused only on the state pension and how secure that would be in an independent Scotland. From the yes side we were given examples of security e.g. expats in Spain and elsewhere still get paid their pensions from the UK. What was not discussed in any detail was how the funding of this state pension would work after independence e.g would Scotland become responsible for paying this type of pension to those resident in Scotland? Would Scotland take a on a share of the payments to expats? Would a totally separate system of state pensions be set up for Scotland and who would be transferred into this. Would it then switch to payments in a Scottish currency and would it also take on its own inflation pay rises etc.

So all of that and more before we even get on to the bit that frightens many middle class wallet clutchers.

e.g Those many who have a work pension from a uk employer. I'm one of them, My pension is paid in pounds sterling by a large UK pension scheme. If Scotland becomes the independent country that I want it to become will my pension still be paid in pounds sterling from England. If we get our own currency and it performs better than rUK £ sterling currency will I be able to get compensation for the less favourable and declining exchange rate that will affect my £ sterling pension and make me poorer, relatively speaking?

I'm only scratching the surface but I know that this is a key issue that prevents many who are very concerned with their financial security into old age from supporting independence.

I'm brave enough to make the change but most that are in this position are probably not.

DJF1

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 16:04

"I think your relationship with your private pension provider should remain unchanged."

OK, but if that is all that is on offer then expect the NO vote from many of my generation to remain steadfast.

stephy

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 08:27

Jeremy lost, (much to my disappoint), and Theresa won. Trump won too and he utilised 'big data' to target voters. WM will use every weapon in their arsenal, and so must we.
Society has changed and we must build the type of solidarity you speak of using every method available to us.

roorooyes4

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 08:18

While I like the idea of more organisation, your timeline is too long. We can't delay the vote until after we've left the EU. Not only will that be financially disastrous, but we'll likely lose the voting power of the EU residents here. Speed it up somehow!

peterabell

Sun, 06/18/2017 - 12:14

I don’t mind admitting that, in the week or so since the election, I avoided reading articles by Robin McAlpine. Just as I avoided reading articles by Gerry Hassan and others. I body-swerved them because I knew well enough what they would say. And I knew they would irk the shit out of me.

I suspect I’m far from alone in being utterly pissed off with what Derek Bateman calls the ‘I-Know-Where-the-SNP-Went-Wrong’ pontifications. I’m sick of the solemn lectures on how the answer to every known political, social or economic problem is an increased dose of ‘Dr Shafi’s Radical Snake Oil Liniment’. I may well gouge out my own eyes rather than let them light upon yet another one of those ponderous ‘Independence: The Next Steps’ pieces.

Don’t get me wrong! I respect Robin McAlpine’s undoubted abilities. And I don’t doubt his commitment to the cause of independence. But he’s a technocrat. And his greatest enthusiasm is for the tools and techniques of his trade. So much so that he sees every situation first and foremost as an opportunity to deploy his expertise and use his shiny instruments. Show him a headache and he’ll skip the cold compress on the forehead and go straight to the brain surgery.

But here’s a curious thing. For all his conviction that his methods will be effective in selling independence, he doesn’t even consider the possibility that those methods might work with selling the SNP. He’s absolutely certain that his science can change people’s attitudes to independence, but accepts their attitude to political parties as if this was something immutable, enforced by an iron law of nature.

I am not discounting the relevance of campaign strategists and their strategies. I’m merely suggesting that there may be a tendency to work backwards from the strategy. An inclination to say I have a hammer, so I’ll treat the problem as if it was a nail.

I see the words “we now need to find a way to run an independence campaign that doesn't rely entirely on the SNP”, and my blood runs cold. Then starts to boil. For a start, there never was a campaign that relied entirely on the SNP. Nor was there ever any suggestion that there should - or could - be a campaign that relied entirely on the SNP. The problem that afflicts so many of those seeking to advise the independence movement is that they are so intent on devising a campaign which doesn’t rely entirely on the SNP that they completely lose sight of the fact that any campaign must rely ultimately on the SNP.

Working backwards from a predetermined ‘solution’ - be it exponential radicalism or the appliance of science - these ‘experts’ eventually come up against an obstacle that they’ve already accepted is impervious to their ‘solution. They reach the point where what is required is effective political power only to find that their ‘solution’ involved discarding the only way of accessing that effective political power.

Here is a scientific truth and a rather ‘radical’ idea. Given that effective political power is absolutely essential to the independence project, it should be the starting point in formulating an independence campaign. We will not move people to Yes unless we can first persuade them to accept the crucial role of the SNP. Any strategy for an independence campaign which fails to take due account of the need for a political force operating within the British political system, is incomplete and doomed to failure.

That is why people like me get irked by those within the Yes movement whose first instinct always is to run with the narrative of antipathy towards political parties in general and the SNP in particular. We’re not motivated by ‘blind loyalty’, as the shallow-minded insist, but by a cold, hard pragmatism that others could really do with emulating.

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