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By Jason Michael
All the dirty tricks Britain played against Scotland in 2014 are coming out in the wash. We are seeing more clearly not only that we were cheated but how we were cheated out of our independence. Get ready. Another chance is coming.
A report in The Press and Journal this morning comes as a timely reminder of the lengths to which the British government has gone to sabotage the independence movement. Now that London is operating under the assumption that nationalism in Scotland is on the wane, it is cutting the research grants it had been issuing to Scottish universities through the EPSRC. According the SNP’s Kirsty Blackman these grants were inducements “for PR purposes to save the union.”
Speaking with a professor of engineering and physics, who would prefer to remain anonymous, I learned that it was these UK grants that convinced many of his colleagues throughout Scotland to back No in 2014; seeing Scotland’s academic and research reputation faring better within the union. University professors and lecturers are influential people; they share their opinions on the future of the Arts and Sciences with their students. He was an enthusiastic campaigner for Better Together and a No voter, but “it has all left egg on our faces,” he said. “Now we are even threatened with losing EU funding as well.”
"Nudging" is government gamesmanship at it's finest. It uses the frailties of the human psyche against itself, so... fb.me/6u02AQG5P—
AJ Alonzo (@aj_alonzo) February 24, 2017
This is a process known in the world of power politics as “nudging,” and it is frightening just how many people we encounter in Scotland who are unfamiliar with the concept. When large government or corporate interests find themselves threatened by public or consumer trends they engage in both direct and indirect campaigning in an attempt to sway these trends back in their favour. Multi-billion dollar corporations like Coca Cola and McDonald’s, when faced with falling sales due to the release of health reports, will launch massive advertising campaigns and fund their own “research” through compromised scientific bodies to promote the benefits of their products.
Governments, thanks to neoliberalism and the evolution of the corporatist state, do exactly the same thing. Britain did this during the 2012-14 independence referendum campaign. It backed the No campaign and pulled every string to “encourage” the great and the good to publically do the same. It also did some nudging. With the help of government-friendly public relations companies – the sort implicated in the now known and well-publicised “psych-ops” projects in Iraq and Afghanistan – opened offices all over England for the purposes of waging cyber war on the Yes campaign. Hundreds of paid employees – mainly students – created thousands of sock puppet social media accounts to astroturf the living daylights out of Scotland – an Israeli propaganda tactic known as “hasbara” or “public diplomacy.”
It doesn’t end there. Right across Scottish civil society institutions and people of influence were co-opted into supporting the union and using their influence to persuade others. Every major employer, banking and financial institutions, industrial giants, and colleges and universities was brought in on the game to campaign behind the scenes for the union at a social and cultural level. This is nudging, and how it works is simple: When the social media shell accounts effectively muddied the waters, making the debate “too confusing,” and many of the most respected persons and trusted institutions were behind the No campaign, ordinary voters – voters with less access to alternative sources of information – were more likely to vote for the status quo.
All of this eventually comes out in the wash. Blackman is right in pointing out the fact that the universities have been sold short. Partly, and what the SNP MP fails to mention, it is their own silly faults. They accepted the money knowing full well what the cost of this free cash was. The same goes for the businesses and banking and financial institutions. They were all promised the sun, moon, and stars by a British establishment that was prepared to do and say anything to make sure Scotland’s bid for independence went belly up. What they have been left with is London as an absentee landlord and the pieces of all their European rewards strewn all over the floor of the Commons.
We have to learn from this and use the lessons the profiteers of Better Together are only now learning. There are signs – visible in the attempts to consolidate power around the Scottish Independence Convention – that wheels are turning. The rumour is that May’s snap general election is about to be mirrored by a snap referendum in Scotland, and this may be sooner than we think. But let’s be level headed. Regardless of this, we are still moving in that direction and all the same tricks will be played. Our job is to be vigilant and do our bit in educating people – reminding people – of what went on and what we have learned.
Britain is a powerful and merciless beast. Underestimating the lengths to which it will go to kill independence is dangerous in the extreme. Yet, having said this, we must always bear in mind that Britain is not all-powerful. It has been defeated plenty of times in the past, and by far smaller countries than Scotland. What those who beat it in the past had, however, was a far more realistic understanding of the nature of the beast. Last time round out naivety was stripped away and we are now far better positioned for another crack at a referendum.
If we are serious about doing this all over again then we too have to be prepared to see Britain for what it is – a true enemy; an enemy which poses an existential threat to Scotland. We won’t be getting a third chance at an independence referendum. Not for a couple of lifetimes anyway. As far as the Westminster government sees this, Scotland has become a serious pain in the arse. In the event that we lose again, devolution and everything that nurtures a sense of Scottish nationhood and identity in our society will be systematically and programmatically culled. We have to be hatching some pretty dirty tricks of our own. The gloves are off.
Nudging the Citizen