Project Fear

The referendum campaign seems to have been going on for years (Ed. – it has). It’s fascinating to see how the language used in the campaign changes over time. Some language is constant; some comes and goes with the subjects it enlightens or obscures; some disappears only to return later like a ghost at the feast.

One of the phrases that I thought had disappeared, at least from civilised discourse, is

Project Fear.

Well, blow me, it’s come back, and this time from the mouth of First Minister Alex Salmond himself, in what broadcaster STV called his ‘landmark’ live TV debate with Better Together’s Alistair Darling.

Not only has the phrase come back but the FM used it three times, then added to his score by throwing in a solitary ‘fear’ towards the end of the two hours.

His first reference, I thought with a covert glance at his highlighted A4 prompts, was to the original version of the story – that this was what Better Together staff themselves called their campaign in the privacy of their Glasgow HQ, and that their director Blair McDougall had acknowledged this. Darling refuted the claim, as he has done before. But mud, as they say, sticks. Or at least it does for some.

My gripe is not with whether it was originally said, if so who said it, when, where, how many times or whether it might have been used ironically.

My gripe is that the First Minister said it and kept repeating it in the debate.

Because here’s the truth. If you say the Better Together campaign is based on fear, you say that all those who agree with its basic presumption – that the UK should stay together – are afraid.

This is insulting and hugely ironic from a dominant political figure who consistently claims that the No campaign is a negative one. In fact, both campaigns use positive, negative and factual arguments and that is entirely proper. As they say these days, get over it.

My reasons for wanting Scotland to stay united with England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not negative. They are almost entirely positive and I will return to them in later posts.

Any apprehensions I do have are based mainly on the policies and aspirations of Scotland’s currently dominant political party – the SNP. I am not convinced by their glib assertions on so many of the basic issues of the campaign – on an independent Scotland’s currency, on EU membership, on defence and defence alliances, on the value of Scotland’s natural resources, on the likely future state of the economy, and so on and so on.

So please, First Minister, answer the questions and don’t tell me I’m afraid.

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