Stupid Arguments That Should Die For the Scottish Referendum Debate to Move Forward
Stop saying these things and the rest of the campaign will be much less annoying.
With the independence debate having dragged on for over two years, Thursday the 18th of September can’t come soon enough. While there have been many admirable parts of this journey, some of it has been incredibly tedious. The dominant narrative presented in the media over the last 29 months has been of relentless sniping from colourless politicians, spewing out the same tired soundbites and shit one-liners in a constant battle of claim and counter-claim about EU membership, currency and oil. Which is a shame, considering that the referendum has seen the biggest level of mass political engagement in ages.
Here are the elements of the independence debate that should have died long ago – the mind-numbing arguments that would sooner see you tearing up your polling card than rushing to the ballot box. If everyone can quietly agree to a three week embargo on these topics, the remainder of the campaigning period should prove to be a lot more tolerable.
FOREIGNERS ARE SCARY
We may live in an interconnected world of mass migration and Skype but apparently the concept of “foreigners” is still off-putting for some. The sheer horror at the thought of being related to people in other countries has been enough to provoke a number of emotional diatribes from No supporters, even though they often say they're against building more borders.
Daniel Hannan, the Eurosceptic Tory MEP for South East England, is an indyref intervention that no one was waiting for. That didn’t stop him from taking to the pages of the Daily Mail this week to raise concerns about the prospect of his mother’s grave soon being in a “separate country”. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Scotland is already a country. He’s also worried about his Scottish cousins being made “foreigners”.
In a similar vein, a particularly alarming open letter on a No campaign website sees its author grappling with the idea that his grandson could soon be foreign:
“My grandson in England, aged ten and quarter, looks utterly baffled and very sad at thought of his Grandparents being in danger of becoming foreigners. He keeps asking ‘Why Grandpa?’”
These people seem to think being foreign is some kind of crippling illness. I went abroad recently and, weirdly, all the foreign people weren’t walking around like they had some horrible affliction. Given that over 11 percent of the UK’s population were born in a foreign country and many more have relatives abroad, and that xenophobia is not cool, this argument should surely be redundant by now.
WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?
As yet unborn embryos are being milked for their imagined political insights, to tug on the heartstrings on those who don’t have any thoughts of their own. Yes Scotland produced a broadcast earlier this year in which the narrator is a three month old foetus, who has some pretty complex thoughts about the referendum for someone who’s brain is still developing in the womb.
That’s more than can be said for the woman in the No campaign’s recent broadcast, "The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind". Taking place within the confines of a kitchen (naturally), it features a woman thinking out loud as she weighs up how to cast her vote. Being a woman, she hasn’t had much time to think about the referendum, but her husband and “that man off the telly” just won’t stop talking about it. Ultimately though, she wants what’s best for her children and independence seems a bit uncertain. “It’s not been thought through”, she says, which seems to be a commentary on her own mental capacity as much as it is an indictment of independence.
It would be great if the campaign teams could stop assuming unborn babies can develop political thoughts, or that grown women can’t.
WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE DEAD PEOPLE?
The not yet born aren't safe from being dragged into the debate, and nor are the corpses of the long dead. Dead people may no longer be with us, but arguments about how they may or may not have voted in the referendum refuse to go away. Figures like Robert Burns, whose reams of 18th century poems are just waiting to be misinterpreted at will, and Keir Hardie, the forefather of the Labour Party who favoured Scottish “Home Rule” but died 99 years ago, have bizarrely been claimed by both sides of the debate and are the subject of much contention. Stranger still was this pressing investigation the Daily Record newspaper carried out recently, seeking to establish how the “great-great grandchildren” of famous 19th century inventors reckon their celebrated ancestors would have cast their vote. Does anyone care? Does any of this matter?
THAT JOKE ABOUT PANDAS
Having heard this particular gag about 3,000 times since it first surfaced in late 2011, it pains me to repeat it, but here we go: Scotland has two giant pandas, and only one Tory MP! Tories are literally a rarer species than GIANT PANDAS! While this may be mildly amusing the first time you come across it, it gets progressively less so after three years. What’s worse is that the joke-teller invariably thinks that there’s something highly original about making this wacky comparison. When Alex Salmond decided to whip this zinger out during his first televised debate with Better Together’s Alistair Darling a few weeks ago, a nation groaned in unison.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ALEX SALMOND
Trying to paint the entire independence project as an extension of Salmond’s ego has been an effective strategy for the No campaign. Ask people why they’re voting No and responses are frequently in the region of “I just don’t like that Alex Salmond”. Oddly enough, the referendum about millions of people possibly leaving a country for ever isn’t actually a ballot of personally validation for one man, who may not even the form the Government after elections in 2016.
IT’S WAS THE BBC WOT WON/LOST IT
If all else fails, why not blame the BBC? Depending on your worldview, the broadcasting giant is either a left-wing plot to sleepwalk the UK into a liberal PC dystopia where Jeremy Clarkson isn’t even allowed to be racist, or an insurmountable bastion of the British state dominated by establishment voices. So they get a pretty tough time, and the independence debate is no exception, with some Yes campaigners seeming to devote most of their energy to staging protests against the corporation’s perceived anti-indy bias. While some academic research has backed this perception up, there’s always been an element of the tin foil hat brigade about it, obsessing over trivialities like the No campaign booking commercial space in a BBC building. Just to complete the circle, this week Better Together began blaming Salmond’s victory in the second televised head to head with Alistair Darling on its host… the BBC!
To date, the corporation remains adamant that they’re being as impartial as they can, an attitude which seems unlikely to change no matter how much moaning anyone does.
There we have it. Please don’t mention any of these things again, there’s only 21 days left.
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