Yes campaign tipped to push '˜take back control' message

A fresh campaign for Scottish independence is likely to emulate tactics used by the Leave side in the European Union referendum, a leading academic has suggested.

Wednesday, 22nd March 2017, 1:25 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:03 am
The Yes side in Scotland will have noted what worked in the Brexit referendum. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

Charlie Jeffery, senior vice-principal and professor of politics at the University of Edinburgh, said he expects the Yes campaign in a second independence referendum to emphasise a “take back control” message similar to that espoused by the pro-Brexit side.

His comments were published to coincide with the launch of new independent Scottish EU think tank the Scottish Centre on European Relations (SCER).

He argued the Yes side in Scotland “will have noted what worked in the Brexit referendum”.

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The Yes side in Scotland will have noted what worked in the Brexit referendum. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

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He said: “The Leave campaign was not exactly strong on carefully-calibrated cost-benefit analysis. It went for the gut: ‘let’s take back control’.

“Its case focused on legitimacy, what felt right and wrong, not what could be demonstrated by reasoned argument or, heaven forbid, ‘expertise’.

“So expect more of a Scottish version of ‘taking back control’ and less of the attempt to map out all the details of what independence might mean that we saw in the 2014 independence white paper. All those details were hooks for challenge: What currency? How big would oil revenues be? How would EU membership be secured?

The Yes side in Scotland will have noted what worked in the Brexit referendum. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

“Already we can see hints of a different approach: a willingness to concede that the economic challenges of independence would be difficult, or that full EU membership for Scotland might need to be a medium-term goal.

“Expect an approach which says we don’t have all the answers, things will be uncertain, but that we in Scotland should be the ones finding answers and dealing with uncertainty, not them in Westminster and Whitehall.”

Professor Jeffery said the No side is likely to be fragmented but could also take lessons from the Brexit referendum, notably “that a ‘Project Fear’ didn’t work well against arguments aimed at gut feeling”.

While the obvious answer is a “supercharged Vow” offering more powers to the Scottish Parliament, such a strategy looks “doubtful”, he said.

“Theresa May’s response to Brexit seems focused on assuaging the concerns of voters in England whose gut feelings about the EU and concerns about immigration are matched only by their sense that Scotland already gets too good a deal within the UK.”

The SCER aims to provide high-quality research and analysis of European Union developments and challenges, with a particular focus on Scotland.

It will be chaired by David Wilson, executive director of the International Public Policy Institute at the University of Strathclyde, with Dr Kirsty Hughes, who has worked with European think tanks including Chatham House, Friends of Europe and the Centre for European Policy Studies, as director.

The think tank’s full advisory board includes Vanessa Glynn, chair of the European Movement in Scotland; Danuta Hubner MEP, chair of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs at the European Parliament; David Martin MEP, Socialist and Democrat Group co-ordinator for the European Parliament International Trade Committee; and Alyn Smith MEP, member of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee.