Image: John Devlin for The Scotsman.]

Image: John Devlin for The Scotsman.]

Many Scottish readers will have tuned out after reading the word ‘Scotsman‘ in the headline but let’s hope those who remain tell them they are doing themselves a disservice.

The article explains much that is wrong about SNP campaigning – and that of its supporters, and agrees with much of what this writer has been saying for the last few months. Kenny Farquharson writes:

To the smart people in Yes Scotland’s shiny headquarters in Glasgow’s Hope Street, binary politics was anathema. Chief strategist Stephen Noon knew it was no good standing on one side of a line, telling people on the other side how stupid they were.

That’s not how persuasion works. And it’s not how smart politics works either. You don’t suddenly wake up one morning and decide your political stance is a fraud, and that everything you believed yesterday is a lie.

This was a touchstone concept for Yes Scotland. It imbued every aspect of SNP strategy in the referendum, including the main canvass questionnaire, which asked people to rate their feelings about independence on a sliding sale of 1-10.

And it brought the independence movement closer to its goal than many had ever dreamed.

So why has the SNP now binned this entire philosophy? [bolding mine] Why is it now treating politics as a binary choice? And why does its strategy seem to be more about winning converts than winning votes?

Take a look at the way the SNP has been talking about Labour in the past four months. Much has been made about sharing a platform with the hated Tories during the indyref.

The clear message is that Labour and the Tories are indistinguishable. In fact, nationalist politicians have a favourite way to describe their Labour opponents – they are “Red Tories”.

Is this good psychology? Or is it actually a failure of emotional intelligence?

This is a blunt and unsubtle attempt to shame people into switching their vote. It’s the equivalent of standing on one side of that chalk line in the pub and shouting at the people on the other side of the room.

I’m sure the whole “Red Tories” thing is what most diehard SNP activists sincerely believe. They hate Labour, just as most diehard Labour activists hate the SNP. Meanwhile, in the real world, most Scots voters hate neither Labour nor the SNP. They hate the Tories – sure, who doesn’t? But they regard the two main Scottish parties with ambivalence, seeing much to admire in both.

All politics is identity politics. You support a party when you feel it chimes with your personal and political identity. That identity is a complex thing, and it includes your past voting history, your family antecedents, your outlook on life, your changing circumstances and your developing world view.

To insult one aspect of a complex political identity – for example, to call the Labour Party “Red Tories” – is to disparage that identity. It’s telling people they are wrong to feel how they feel.

Of course, the SNP is riding high in the polls just now. But if the gap narrows, as many expect it will, it may be because people think the SNP characterisation of the Labour Party simply does not ring true.

Read the full article on the Scotsman‘s website.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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