Scottish referendum: Policy or PR?

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As campaigning continues, are voters being swayed by policy or dressed up statements and public appeals?

In a society which strives for perfection, where a politicians every move is watched, and personality is utmost, it makes complete sense that both the Yes and No campaigns have used the media and celebrities to their advantage. The Better Together campaign only this week released an open letter from David Beckham, who wrote “what unites us is much greater than what divides us.”

However, it is the Yes campaign that have truly recognised policy as only being half of the battle, and have, as Salmond promised, built up huge momentum in the final few weeks of the campaign. A concert at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh last night brought together some of Scotland’s best musical talent such as Franz Ferdinand, to persuade the audience to support independence. Salmond used this as a PR opportunity, taking photos with some of the artists.In comparison, it could be argued that the opposing campaign has relied too much on policy, and been unable (or perhaps in the first few months, reluctant?) to create the same kind of hype. It was only recently, as the polls began showing a narrow battle between the two, that Cameron, accompanied by Miliband and Clegg, travelled to Scotland to campaign. In spite of celebrity supporters, such as JK Rowling who donated £1 million to Better Together, it has been a much slower start, and this could explain why the Yes campaign have been able to gain such momentum.

The role of the media in reporting the referendum comes somewhere in-between policy and PR; but Salmond claimed in an interview with Scotland’s Sunday Herald that the BBC’s coverage has been “biased”. Suggesting the BBC are “players” in the referendum, he also noted that in his view, the BBC have found it difficult to “separate their own view of the world from their view reporting Scotland.” Although the BBC obviously denied this, stating their coverage has been fair and impartial, the clash shows the importance of the media’s influence. The Better Together campaign quickly derided Salmond’s claims, with shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander arguing he was simply playing the blame game if a Yes vote is not secured.

With recent polls putting the Yes camp on 46% and No on 54%, there is no doubt that PR and policy will be colliding as each campaign seeks to persuade those undecided voters, who hold the key to winning the referendum. For these voters, concerts and hype just might not be enough to convince them when compared to hard facts-but, everything is in a state of flux, and it is my view both will be needed in order to win.