These headlines often make for uncomfortable reading, particularly for the most obstinate of 'nationalists', but cast aside any preconceptions you may have, and consider for a minute that these prophecies could be true;
1. The financial institutions in Scotland will have no option but to move their offices and headquarters south of the border should we vote to leave the union
2. We will gain greater devolved powers within the union should we vote to remain within the UK
3. North sea oil is not just a finite commodity, but governmental projections state that it will run out much sooner than we anticipate and is becoming so complex to extract that it will soon be unaffordable to do so
3. Our heavy industry & shipyards will not survive without the union and the benefit of orders from the UK
4. A Yes vote would consign our friends in the rest of the UK to successive Tory governments
5. Scotland would become a “high-tax ghetto” if we had tax-raising powers
Despite these warnings, and all of the other intimidating evidence about the risks of an independent Scotland which we are being inundated with daily, why are current polls showing a sway of momentum with the 'separatist' Yes campaign. Could it be our age old empathy of the underdog complex, or our love of hopeless causes. Are we really naive enough to follow a political agenda in blind faith. Or could we finally be waking up to the unthinkable fact that, as we find so deplorable in other countries, we are being subjected to a government which is distorting facts for its own benefit, and a mainstream media which is peddling the propaganda with a heavy handed bias.
This is nothing new. Daily newspapers in this country have often pinned their colours to the mast when it came to political favour, but more often than not, there was a more balanced representation of any likely outcome. In this referendum however, of the 12 most read daily national newspapers in Scotland, not one are in favour of the 'Yes' campaign. This is hardly surprising as they all have to answer to their corporate giant owners South of the border, but wouldn't it be more honest for them to be transparent and admit to taking a staunch anti-independence stance rather than maintaining a pretence to their readership of objectivity. We are subjected to imbalanced reports full of 'cataclysmic warnings' of the dire consequences should we choose to go it alone. But, as long as so many claim to maintain a neutral standpoint, these will be the most manipulative. They convey a biased message to the unwitting reader as impartial.
The Sunday Herald (a weekly publication) stands alone in bucking the trend, openly endorsing support for the Yes campaign. Whilst this could be construed as a well judged ploy to boost its readership (the only British newspaper to report an increase in sales figures in the first 6 months of this year) it is at least doing so having openly admitted to favouring the prospect of an independent Scotland. Its readers do not expect to open the pages and have negative press passed off as being entirely impartial.
Whilst the 6 stories at the outset of this article may look all too familiar from the front pages or homepages of 'reliable' UK media sources in the run up to this referendum, for those old enough, and with a good memory, they may sound painfully familiar. None of these points are contemporary stories from today's press, but were all published prior to the previous Scottish referendums in 1979 and 1997, and all transpired to be wholly untrue;
1. The financial institutions in Scotland will have no option but to move their HQs south of the border should we vote to leave Union
As long ago as 1992, Standard Life and Scottish Widows warned that devolution could force the company to relocate South of the border. A senior figure from the Bank of Scotland made the same threat towards the run up to devolution in 1997. All remain in Scotland.
2. We will gain greater devolved powers within the union should we vote to remain within the UK
The people of Scotland voted in favour of a Scottish Assembly in the 1979 devolution referendum, but not in sufficient numbers. Instead the pre-election promise of "a better form of devolution" in the result of a No vote, resulted in no further powers, Margaret Thatcher's reign and 18 years of Tory rule, and it would be 18 years until any form of devolution ever materialised.
3. North Sea oil is not just a finite commodity, but governmental projections state it will run out much sooner than we anticipate
In 1979, it was predicted that the last drop of oil would be extracted from the North Sea within 5 years at worst, 35 years at best. In 2005, with the eventual release of the McRone Report it was conceded that the report was suppressed at the time to "take the wind out of the SNP's sails". It has since been admitted that the true value of North Sea Oil was greatly underplayed , with Dennis Healy, the ex Labour Chancellor now admitting "I think they [Westminster politicians] are concerned about Scotland taking the oil, I think they are worried stiff about it."
4. Our heavy industry & shipyards will not survive without the union and the benefit of orders from the UK
Claims that were made preceding the 1979 referendum that the coal mines would close and Ravenscraig would shut in the event of a Yes vote, yet this happened even after devolution failed to be delivered. In 1979 Scottish shipbuilding employed around 35,000 people - by 2012 they amounted to less than 8,000, and the Westminster government aims to reduce jobs further from over 5,000 to 1,500.
5. A yes vote would consign the rest of the UK to successive Tory governments
Of the 18 general elections in the 69 years since World War II, only two would have resulted in a Labour win being turned into a Tory win without Scotland's presence at the polling booths. None of the results which brought Thatcher, Major or Blair to power would have changed significantly enough to alter the outcome of the largest parties of those elections.
6. Scotland would become a “high-tax ghetto” if we had tax-raising powers
In the run-up to the devolution vote in 1997, senior Tory figures such as then leader William Hague said Scotland would become a “high-tax ghetto” if we used tax-raising powers. Hague conceded he was wrong to claim this in 1997, but claimed the current debate on independence was "based on facts".
In spite of these fantastical claims, the Better Together campaign has focussed much of its attention on the perpetuation of fear and uncertainty, to the point of taking pride in naming part of their organisation "Project Fear". In addition to the above, mainstream media has also unashamedly reported inaccurate stories on;
Entry into Europe
Massive job losses
Grossly exaggerated set up costs of an independent Scotland
Losing the BBC
Mobile telephone costs
And even the threat of Pirates invading our waters
These stories are repeatedly regurgitated by lazy journalists and splashed across the front pages of Scotland's national newspapers, whilst contradictory stories are run on the same front pages across the rest of the UK. They are substantiated as fact with quotes and figures from specialists, 'inside sources', The Office of Budgetary Responsibility (set up in 2010 by George Osbourne) and the Independent Fiscal Commission (who consistently cross reference the OBR) to name but a few. These are often 'balanced' with a short quote from the Yes Campaign towards the end of the article in the interest of fairness, but by that time the damage is done and the mud has stuck. Even if the stories are later rebuked or proved untrue, Better Together has moved on to the next political scoop about 'Big Eck' resembling a North Korean dictator, or the 'Separatist Mobs', knowing that the damage has already been done.
Dare we even comprehend, that bastion of international impartiality, the BBC may even be using the same underhand tactics in the way it reports referendum stories? As the scare stories slowly crumble, will the public treat them with a certain scepticism too.
So why are the polls still showing that undecided voters are slowly coming round to the Yes campaign? Why is the media giant of the No campaign, and their election winning Saatchi & Saathchi graphics not indoctrinating those valuable 'Don't Know' voters?
Behind the scenes for the last 3 years, a grassroots campaign has been quietly simmering behind the scenes. Gatherings of a handful of active individuals have evolved into small town hall meetings, which have in turn grown into coffee mornings and local events, festivals and demonstrations which tens of thousands strong. All cumulatively snowballing with real people, passionate about their cause. They are not the SNP or devout supporters of Alec Salmond. They are your friends and neighbours who were too timid to stick their head above the parapet in the past, but are now finding their voice, finding their confidence and finding ways to convey a message from the bottom up.
In addition to the hundreds of regional Yes groups, to name but a few there is;
Spirit of Independence
Women for Independence
English Scots for Yes
Academics for Yes
Architects for Yes
Africans for an Independent Scotland
Veterans for Independence
Farming for Yes
Business for Scotland
NHS for Yes
Mums for Change
Teachers for Yes
Whilst the No campaign and the media has become obsessed with demonising the SNP and portraying Alec Salmond as a saltire waving, bagpipe blowing, kilt wearing despot, they have failed to realise what has slipped under the radar, and that this has become much bigger than any one leader or political party. The Scottish people are engaging in politics like never before. We are slowly realising the information is out there, it's just a little harder to find than glancing at the front page of a newspaper or turning on the 10 o'clock news. It is no longer about stuffy middle aged white men in suits, or traditional politics, standing on a soap box with a megaphone, antagonising a captive audience by shouting louder than those who dare to disagree. This is new a new social politics.
Whilst this 'bottom up' methodology may appear at first like a provincial approach, it is resonating with a public who has become justifiably disillusioned and untrusting of the political system in this country and the mass media that represents it. In an age where we are beginning to doubt the integrity of the media we have trusted and welcomed into our homes for so long, we are embracing our connectivity with one another through the internet and social media, without the need to be instructed by any one political party instructing us how to vote.
We are slowly conversing with one another and admitting to ourselves that there could be a better way, that we're not alone in feeling discontented and hungry for change. Whilst social media can't be seen as a trustworthy source of information, it has progressed beyond friends' tabloid quarrelling on Facebook, it is a means of us to inform one another, to challenge one another, to direct one other to more reputable sources of information which may tell a different story to that which we are so readily subjected to, and allow us to form our own opinion.
Is the tide changing? Could No Thanks remarkably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Are they proving themselves so out of touch with the Scottish electorate that they are becoming unelectable. In a campaign where it has long been said that woman would hold the balance of power, how could they get it so wrong by presenting us with the now infamous #PatronisingBTLady
One thing is for certain. Regardless of the referendum result, mainstream media will continue to distort the truth in their own interests. The question is, will we ever be able to trust them again.
So in the interest of fairness and balance, why not try these 2 sources as a non-impartial but very well informed starting point;
We no longer have the excuse that the information is not out there. We just have to take the time and effort to find it and not wait for it to be spoon fed to us as fact. The time has come for us to try a new approach - Don't Hate The Media, Become The Media!