Looking back over Scotland’s independence referendum many things have become increasingly clear with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight. It is clear that many of us in the Yes Campaign fought hard for what we believed was the right thing for Scotland, but for some inexplicable reason we did this while laying aside our healthy suspicion of the structures of the British state. We were naïve to imagine that what we were engaged in was a fair and equal contest, when it was evidently nothing of the sort. We did well to keep up the positive campaigning, but perhaps we gave our internal watchdogs too much free rein when it came to disciplining those who broke ranks from this narrative of an equal contest. There were indeed voices calling out foul against the more obvious dirty tricks of the unionist apparatus. When crowds gathered at the offices of the BBC in Scotland they were, at least initially, treated as marginal and at times as a lunatic fringe. By the time this protest against BBC bias became popular, and every dog on the street knew what was going on, it was too late. The damage had been done.

This is certainly not to say that had we been onto the BBC sooner the outcome would have been any different. We’ll be arguing that until the cows come home. Much of the media campaign for independence attributed too much to the near magical powers of the internet and social media. There can be very little doubt that Yes led the way in the person to person and the social media contests, but it is true – to some extent – that our fixation with Scottish Facebook and Twitter trapped a large enough number in an echo chamber, and we forgot the constituency who were not surfing the world wide web.


All of this has contributed to our ongoing campaign’s learning curve. From the outset of the referendum campaign we witnessed Britain’s use of traditional media, and we quickly learned that this was a media over which they had complete and unchallenged dominance. Better Together’s command of the airwaves was for the unionists their second Battle of Britain, and, not having quite reached that point in history where everyone is online, the entire Yes Movement found itself on the back foot. At the most crucial stage of the campaign, when a Yes win was looking likely or possible, the whole machinery of the unionist media went into overdrive. Panicked as this unionist operation may have been, it is beyond any shadow of a doubt that it was this monopoly of the power to form public opinion that pinched independence from us. History is long, and so we have to think of the future. Our future as a movement must be one with a better share of all forms of media in our own country.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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