They’re Not Singing Any More…

Let’s be clear. When a campaign has to deny it’s in trouble, it’s probably in trouble. When there is doubt expressed about who the leader is, there is probably doubt about who the leader is. When senior people claim there is no problem, there is a problem. Probably.

Put it another way, Better Together should be coasting by now. The claims of the Yessers should have been debunked by the unprecedented series of British government reports dismantling the arguments for independence – and they should have been believed by a majority of voters because they have an inherent trust in the Whitehall system.

The lunacy of reviving an old nation, too small to survive in the globalised world, laughably short of resources and expertise, should have turned the Yes case to dust as sensible Scots realised it was built on Salmond’s ambition and Anglophobia.


After all, haven’t the drivers of the economy, the highly respected business bosses, not given their dire warnings of unemployment, falling profits, EU exclusion and corporate flittings? Hasn’t the EU club of nations broken its own rules by engaging directly in the domestic affairs of a member state to make clear the virtual impossibility of re-entry? Did not NATO say the door would slam on a nation giving up nuclear weapons? Has not the proud Labour Party, the natural home of left-leaning Scots, outlined its vision of greatly enhanced powers and clear tax-raising plans to outflank the separatists with Devo Max? Isn’t Labour well poised to sweep back to power at Westminster and deliver? And hasn’t the compliant media destroyed Salmond’s reputation as a smart operator, revealing him instead to be insanely ambitious and slippery? Game, set and match to the Union. If only.


It should be working smoothly with Westminster Big Beast Alistair Darling imperiously awaiting victory. Yet even the attempts to bring in different voices – perfectly justifiably – is read as signs of a power struggle in a flagging operation. I can’t for the life of me see why Douglas Alexander isn’t used by BT and why he wasn’t from the start. He seems to have floated about outside the bubble giving his own analysis that wasn’t part of the official script. Why? I don’t even think his interventions were publicly endorsed by Darling and the campaign. And then Gordon Brown began rumbling away in another offshoot group and the impression gained ground that nobody was coordinating, possibly because of the personal differences so typical of Labour and glaringly exposed between Brown and Blair. You just know that afterwards the truth will emerge of the tensions inside BT. I wonder if Alistair has already sold the idea of his next book?

In any case, the Union argument is built on a myth. It is that there is an optimistic message about where the Union is going. There IS a case in history and they’re right to use it. There IS a case in principle about working together and they should use it. But it falls apart when you ask what the Union is for today and what it does for us…if it’s fit for purpose, if it can adapt, respond and regenerate.


The lengthy campaign has opened our eyes to any number of systematic failures…dismal pensions, low wages, long hours, in-work poverty, lack of workers rights, a housing shortage, unchecked debt – both personal and public, social immobility, poor health, premature death, an obscene wealth gap…it goes on…into nuclear weapons and their renewal, worship of bankers, appalling productivity and a burgeoning Upper House stuffed with jobsworths.

Britain is a failure and even those who are not nationalists or Yes voters can see it. Where once they might have looked to the Liberals, they now turn away in disgust. Where once they turned to Labour, they see an unconvincing figure as a future Prime Minister and hear a narrative which apes the Tories on welfare and spending and immigration. Labour, like BT, should be cruising against a right-wing doctrinaire government hammering working people. And yet, the polling evidence looks consistent and has Labour struggling. It is a fact that in Scotland a revived and well-led Labour with a powerful story to tell and an activist base would be leading the No campaign to victory. I don’t for a minute think there are enough nationalists in Scotland to win a referendum. It has to be swung by convincing non-nats that this is the only way to get a socially just country. But Labour has neither story to tell not talent to tell it.

It is an obvious question, rarely asked: If this is Scotland’s referendum and Labour is the lead party for No, why are no MSPs fronting it? I read of Alexander or John Reid, of Brown and Murphy and of course of Darling…but where is Johann, or Iain Gray, Paul Martin or Patricia Ferguson? Where is the local talent, bred at Holyrood, schooled in opposing the SNP, attuned to Scotland’s debate, drafted in to lead Better Together? Isn’t it a story in itself about what has happened to Labour – the talent prefers London and even a retired politician from the discredited Lords who has so far excused himself from the debate, is preferred to Labour’s parliamentary group.

Labour learned decades ago about fratricide and how the public detest divided parties. Well they’re in a divided campaign now which has managed to give the impression of not knowing what it’s doing and who should be promoting it. For all the disparate components of Yes, it is pretty much universally on-message, and yet has no single figurehead. It is true Salmond and the SNP drive the electoral element and he is the easily the most powerful figure, but no man or party can control of a grassroots movement. It is self-generating and I believe that if Salmond was seen to exert a too direct influence, that movement would revolt. Yes audiences do not think this its Salmond’s cause. It is their cause.

They coincide, of course they do, but it feels increasingly that Salmond is an agent of the campaign rather than the other way round. But, as we prepare to welcome David Cameron – and I do, he is our Prime Minister until independence – the No people can also ponder another little noted fact: Salmond hasn’t begun to campaign yet. The attempts to demonise him are an insult to the intelligence of Scots but I recognise he has image problems with some of those who don’t know him.

But they make a mistake if they think he is not respected and admired. There is no one I know who denies Salmond’s outstanding ability as a hands-on campaigner. It is a rare gift, the ability to relate to people even those who are hostile, and to win them over. The heavy lifting is being done by a people-led mass movement but it is possible that the final push to a Yes win will come from the old fashioned political skills of pressing flesh when Salmond decides it’s time for the real campaign to start.

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55 thoughts on “They’re Not Singing Any More…

  1. Stop Press

    Press Release

    The Team Manger has the full backing of the Directors and “owners” and we have confidence that the Team will avoid relegation.

    interpretation of duckspeak

    “The Manager is toast”

    • Yep and when your team has slipped from 3rd to 18th place despite successive managers. Where your ‘strikers’ continue to earn millions despite missing sitter after sitter and….to be honest are useless. Where your decent hardworking defenders are either sacked or have their salaries hammered and are then vilified. Then it’s time to Sack The Board

  2. By the way, Derek, do you know that when he was Secretary of State in Scotland, Jim Murphy was actively lobbying the USA and others and briefing aginst Scotland and Independence.

    It was revealed in Wikileaks

    I always thought that he was a SP Branch stooge but, briefing the American Ambassador?

  3. Salmond is an impressive person to meet. He doesn’t talk, but listens, then responds.

    • Yes I agree about Alex.

      I was thrilled to meet him at a social event in Glasgow. He listened politely and even asked me if he could get me a drink from the bar…. I never saw him or the Glayva again!

      Still no hard feelings – I will buy him a drink if he delivers independence!

  4. I worked on a municipal campaign with Salmond in a hard Labour ward. He was there because it was fortress Labour but we had a funny feeling that we could take it, potentially an iconic victory.

    Salmond was on the streets every day, speaking to anyone who wanted to talk. He bought us ice cream cones from the van and stood licking his while one of the locals berated him for the evil bastard he was. About five minutes later they were talking about football, and parted with a handshake.

    Like me or you, Salmond isn’t perfect. But the Unionists know this about him – he is scared of nobody, talks to anybody, and is highly persuasive.

    Oh, and we won. Labour conceded before the count was over.

  5. Mr Salmond knows that it is best ‘to keep your powder dry’ until the time is ripe.

    • Dennis mclaughlin

      Wait ’till you see the whites of their eyes…….he’s no daft is oor Alex Salmond 😉

      • The two year campaign will go down in political history as a masterstroke. You sit just behind the ridge and let them waste their ammunition trying to hit you, then you form square and see off their best cavalry with ease. All the time buying time for the reinforcements who have been leading an entire wing on a merry dance to hit them in the flank just as they are tiring. Reinforcements you have been in constant contact with.

        As a student of military history I salute him as a master strategist. We have yet to see his mastery of tactics. That will indeed come soon.

        I bet he is waiting until the pressure on Cameron to debate him is irresistible. A bit closer in the polls is all it will take. Cameron’s backbenchers will truss him up and deliver him hog-tied to the studio to be eviscerated live on air.

  6. The BT leadership, the most vociferous voices expressing support for the Union all have far too much of a personal stake in seeing it survive. Their London centric careers, their ongoing influence, their, hoped for, ascent into the House of Lords makes them all look like they are acting in their own self interest and, for me, that totally undermines anything they might have to say about the positive continuance of the union or, more likely, the negative effects of a yes vote. They only have credibility with died in the wool no voters who are unwilling and/or unable to find the broader and more comprehensive information and opinions that exist beyond the mainstream press and TV.

    Gordon Brown – pensions expert, aye right, Danny Alexander – finance and economics expert, aye right, Alistair Carmichael – expert on Scotland in general and main representative of Scotland and its people in Westminster, aye right.

    So bring in a few more peers, a few NAT hating Scottish MPs whose venom for Eck clouds their rational judgement and bring in Douglas Alexander, the man who has already managed a few failed campaigns. That will make a difference? Aye right!

    • “Gordon Brown – pensions expert, aye right, Danny Alexander – finance and economics expert, aye right, Alistair Carmichael – expert on Scotland in general and main representative of Scotland and its people in Westminster, aye right.

      My take

      Gordon Brown, World expert in bombing gold reserves, the economy and debt enslavement (PPI)

      Danny Alexander, Cairngorms expert (ha!)

      Alastair Carmichael, Portsmouth expert.

      Who in a month of Sundays would invite anyone from the trio to represent Scotland in the post Referendum Yes vote to negotiate the settlement? They have burned their boats.

      To be fair, Michael Moore could be one candidate to help the Liberal “franchise” survive post independence.
      On the left side, I think you might have to go out of the Parliamentary rump to find people in LFI and the Commonweal, RIC, etc. In fact there might be a few in the SNP who could help fund a group with LFI et al.

    • Found not fund in my post at 12:39

      I think is still operating on UK “winter” time.

    • To be fair to Doogie Alexander, He does have a twin who was reputed to have a brain the size of a planet, or at least Jackie said something to that effect? Uranus; I case for the Prosecutions rests your Derekness.

      Still on my first glass, honestly.

    • David, but what you haven’t reckoned with is the huge groundswell of support from ordinary people who fervently wish to keep our glorious union and are organising in villages towns and cities to take a persuasive message to their friends and neighbours,
      reminding them of what this union, this great union (sniff) has given us.

  7. ” I can’t for the life of me see why Douglas Alexander isn’t used by BT and why he wasn’t from the start. “
    Because he reminds everyone their school’s oiliest brown-nosing school prefect who was always dobbing people in for runnng in the corridor, even his own sister?

    • wee e
      HAhahahahahahahah that’s hilarious, and so correct, I thought I was the only one who saw him like that, top marks wee e

  8. Glad to have you back D.

    Brilliant piece that sums up the whole BT farce .

    I was all for the union until the scares and smears started. Almost everyone belittled Scotland and the anger i felt made me look else where for info. And the only info i could get was pro indi .

    Since then i have changed my view and no matter what, will vote YES on the 18th.

    The BT group have been very quiet of late and it is good to notice the lack of any Scots -lab mp’s debating the referendum . Their silence speaks volumes. But to be fair they seem to have lost the trust of their core voters. It caught my eye on many occasion that the rebukes to the SNP/ YES come from London . And that says it all.

    To be fair , i get the impression they have “given up” for fear of causing more damage to the BT group. Too many people have slated Scottish labour for working with the tory/ Lib coalition. They could have , if they had given it even a little thought , Taken the BT mantel on their own and as you say won easy. The chances of that happening now look remote and i doubt very much that the voters would trust them to keep their word.

    Even worse now the Tories have a lead in polls down south. Thats going to help the YES teams big time. Labour can promise us jam tmoz but it look like they won’t be in power to give us anything and that scares a lot of us.

    As the tories rise in popularity down south , many will vote YES as a protest vote. Even hard line pro-unionists i spoke to last night voiced their concern that they could not vote NO if the tories looked to staying in power for another 4/5years. And i have to admit , i quite enjoyed the “worrying look” on their faces.

    • yesguy says
      “Their silence speaks volumes.”

      Simply because people are starting to wake up to the lie of English munificence to the wee runt Scotland is just that, a lie,
      the risible idea that we are subsidised arises out of the simple economic fact that the cost of a road being built for fewer people to use appears more expensive than a road many more people will get benefit from,
      Now lets think about that, when we were dragooned (without our consent) into the union, how many people were recorded as resident in England?
      it was 5 million and the number of people living in Scotland?
      1 million, England then had 5 times the population of Scotland,
      look at it now, 56 million as against 5.2 million ,
      more than ten times the population, so for the 300 years on union Scotland has been denied a fair share of the union “dividend” look at Belgium 11 million and has a smaller land area than Scotland.somebody said “but Belgium’s flat, Scotland has loads of hills”, never been to Tenerife have you I said.

      the runt of the litter has been starved and is starting to wake up to the fact it doesn’t have to simply accept the scraps from the table,

      Then we have a statement from David Cameron
      “The former Scottish Labour leader John Smith is evidence that Scottish patriotism does not require independence”
      Is that it? is that the sum total of his reason to stay together?
      does he really think this is about see you jimmy hats
      and giruy moments when Scotland beats England at football?
      that’s what those people think of us,
      a few beads and trinkets and we’ll give em Manhatten (Faslane) out of gratitude,
      the sense of superiority which exudes from every pore of that man’s skin is manna from heaven,
      don’t be a stranger Dave, your always welcome.

      • David Cameron channeling John Smith. John Smith would have wanted it? He has been dead for about 20 years? Mystic Meg would not have a clue what John Smith would have wanted today , apart from the fact he probably could not have foreseen the Labour Party becoming The New Tory Party.

        I used to think that In The Thick of It, was closer to reality of how the clowns of Government pass their daylight hours. My feeling now that reality in Westminster is a 50/50 cross of Yes Minister and ITTOI. Good comedy but no way to run a nation.

      • You should see where they build houses in New Zealand. Cantilevered out over sheer hillsides for lack of anywhere else. There is such a shortage of flat land in NZ the country is not self sufficient in grain. I remember my parents looking at one house in Dunedin when we emigrated and the conclusion was we would need a goat to mow the lawn. We needed a flymo to mow the place they bought. The bank from the road down to the hedge was so steep my engineer father used to put a rope on the handle of the flymo and lower it down that way.

        In both of the houses we lived in when I was growing up, in Dunedin and then Auckland you entered the top story from the road, there was another one underneath going down the hill. My little sister’s bedroom next to mine had to be tanked as almost all the back wall was underground. Because the hill went down in two directions my room just next door was free.

        Of course building largely in wood makes building on hillsides much easier. Also you wouldn’t want to be in one of those houses on a steep hillside in an earthquake if it was built of brick or stone.

      • JDman brilliant another tea spilter moment. I am gonna have to get one of those waterproof screens and a wee tray to catch all the drips
        I just keep a cloth handy now.
        thank you for the cleanest pc screen in Dalkeith

  9. I agree with you, Derek. that probably many voting for independence are not through-to-the-bone nationalists of the old-fashioned kind.

    I don’t believe that most of those promoting the Unionist side either are really motivated by some atavistic love of Britannia – especially those cynical self-servers of politicians. (Their careers are predicated upon the continuation of the British state and their true love is their bank balance.)

    I am reminded of reading many years ago about the Scottish Wars of Independence and it was suggested, that what we might call a primitive idea of nationhood then emerging in Scotland was a new idea – especially among the aristocracy who were not easily wooed by it.

    Until then, the aristocratic class was, we might say, internationalist, in that they only recognized as their peers, other aristocrats from the rest of Christendom. Having anything in common with a commoner from their own lands would have seemed to them absurd.

    That medieval mindset is with us yet, in that the politicians have common cause with international capital and finance. They have little in common with ordinary people which is why their appeals to a union of interests within the Union sound so hollow. Ordinary people are just voting fodder just as their ancestors were the poor, bleeding infantry called up to win battles for their liege lord.

    I can at least say that I am voting from enlightened self-interest – in that I believe that an independent Scotland will best serve the interests of myself and my family but also that it best serves the interests of the Commonweal, too.

  10. I whole heartedly Agree Derek, I’ve been telling people for ages that we haven’t started yet, the YES side are just wandering around stamping on the piddly wee fires being lit by Westminster and letting voters make up their own minds ( massively helped by the huge grassroots ). The more the no side rail against us the stronger the resolve gets. I’m sticking with my original prediction of 74% win for YES cos when Eck steps up to the plate, he’s going to do some serious arse kicking

  11. Good dissection Derek, couldn’t agree more.

    Of course this is the point BT have been dreading since day one, the commencement of the campaign proper. The FM has been entirely noticeable by his absence from the campaign to date. Hence the attempts over the past two years especially, to bring him down in the public’s eyes prior to the event. They are well aware of his abilities in campaign mode and they know fine well what would be in store should he enter the campaign less than publicly and professionally damaged.

    Well, they dished it out, but can they take it?

    I doubt it. I doubt it very much indeed.

  12. “I wonder if Alistair has already sold the idea of his next book?”

    One wonders who he will blame this time.

  13. I’m sure you’re right Steve.

    However, I tend to agree with the gentleman who said:-

    ‘ Alex is a supporter of the grassroots Yes Campaign; but he is not it’s master.’

  14. But haven’t they still to release “Flooers o the Onion”? It really should have been the UK’s Eurovision entry.

  15. The reason the MPs, rather than MSPs, have fronted and campaigned for Better Together and for the glory of the Union is because they are the ones whose jobs are under immediate threat after September 18th. The disgusting belittlement of Scotland that comes from their mouths on an industrial scale will hopefully, and at least, result in a few P45s for that shower. I’ll quite happily dance on their political graves and laugh as they try to usurp their political brethren in Holyrood as they desperately try to cling onto something that still gives them letters after their names and some belief in entitlement.

    Dougie Alexander, 46, unemployed;
    Jim Murphy, 46, unemployed;
    Alistair Carmichael, 48, unemployed;
    Danny Alexander, 41, unemployed …

    … now doesn’t that sound satisfying.

    • Dr JM Mackintosh

      I think Danny is angling for a safe Tory seat in the south of England after a Yes vote.
      He seems to be more Tory than his new found cabinet friends.
      Southend on Sea – Teddy Taylor’s old seat – that would be ideal !

  16. ronald alexander mcdonald

    When was the last time any Labour Westminster Scottish politician thought a skillful campaign in Scotland? The offering of the so-called big beasts has been vote Labour or you get the tories!

    Hence the red rosette on a gorilla syndrome. My argument is they don’t know how. Hence their ineptitude in the BT campaign. All they can say is vote NO or you get armageddon.

  17. Great to watch the centralised Better Together campaign having to shuffle and delicately manage the inflated egos within their all-male squad. They seem to be trying to out bluster each other and give the impression they are at the true heart of efforts to deny Scotland running its own affairs.

    • Actually Murray that’s a very good point you make about BT having an “all-male squad”. I hadn’t thought about it before, but BT put forward very few female faces on TV or the rest of the media.

      Given that, up to now at least, their strongest support was among women, you would have thought they’d want to put some effort in shoring up that part of their support? Or maybe ?hat’s just another sign of their disjointed campaign.

  18. The UKIP tail is wagging the Westminster dog. The UK seems to stumbling into an openly racist society with a sense of entitlement that would shame a miser. An ineffectual labour party has been trapped by this rightwards lurch and is getting dragged along. The last 40 years have seen a slow but steady erosion of all it meant to be British and part of the Union. But as long as no one challenged it, no one could be bothered to fix it.

    Amazingly, when it got challenged – Alistair Darling decided the best approach to selling union, was to effectively separate Scotland from the UK, as he told us how useless we all were but for Britain. He even got Osborne to come here and tell us that the Union was nothing more, than a 300 year old act of charity, and that we were putting at risk if we voted yes.

    On the way there we have been told some amazingly stupid things. From bombed ports and airports, roaming charges, to being a mascot for the forces of darkness.

    I can only come to one conclusion. The lack of any credible argument for union, would indicate that at some point in the UK’s history the union had effectively ended. Even more incredible, is that until now, no one had actually noticed. If that argument seems too bizarre, too incredible, then what is wrong with the union. It can’t be that they were scared that a successful Scotland would think the union was pointless – so lets keep telling Scotland how pointless it is instead? Is it perhaps that politics has become so banal, so worthless that we don’t have anyone of real talent to promote the union?

    I am leaning towards a combination of all three. One day I look forward to reading the history of this period. Unvarnished with access all areas.

  19. James Coleman

    Derek one of your biggest problems, probably a relic of your time at the BBC, is that you pussyfoot too much, eg,

    “Let’s be clear. When a campaign has to deny it’s in trouble, it’s probably in trouble.”

    The ‘correct’ way to report that is:-

    When a campaign has to deny it’s in trouble it’s in trouble.

    Np probably about it. Learn to SPIN.

  20. James Coleman

    I totally disagree with your claim that the NOs should be winning this Referendum. This push for Independence has been building up for at least the last 10 years and is finally coming to fruition. The SNP are completely in tune with the Scottish Public and have been since Devolution happened.
    Labour in Scotland are totally discredited because of its lack of action during the 40 years when it DID have power, and even great power at WM. Scottish Labour are entirely responsible for the degeneration into poverty of many parts of Scotland although it was and is one of the richest parts of the world. SLAB didn’t care, or maybe it knew but chose to do nothing just to maintain its ‘poor people’ constituency.
    Whatever it was, Scots now know that SLAB failed us.
    And the Shakespeare quote is VERY pertinent in Scotland at the moment:-

    “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”

  21. Derek, your opening picture reminded me of the old joke about the difference between a Tory MP and a shopping trolley. The shopping trolley may develop a mind of its own but you can get a lot more food and drink into the Tory MP.

    • “he difference between a Labour MP and a shopping trolley. The shopping trolley may develop a mind of its own but you can get a lot more food and drink into the Labour MP. ”

      Fixed that for you.

  22. BT haven’t given up, they are well aware that their negative message has worn right through. BUT they have to wheel it out in the last few weeks, SO beter give it a rest for a while…….A good time for the YES step it up.!

  23. What is it that song said?

    “Salmond brought us to the ring, now see if we can dance.”

    He’s the one who has given us the opportunity. We’re the ones who have to take it.

  24. Thomas William Dunlop

    If this is Scotland’s referendum and Labour is the lead party for No, why are no MSPs fronting it? You are right the MSP left are the equivalent of part time cleaners at sub post offices open twice a week, only in summer.

    It is interesting that the NO campaign is being fronted by people who WILL lose the jobs (and cushy retirement spots in the HoLs) if there is a YES vote in September. i.e Westminster gravy train politcos. It shows they are so out of touch sitting in their bunker down there to, beavering away making their astroturf campaigns at the tax payers expense

    I have remarked previously that the these people are the only ones to fear a new Scotland. That and the crazy British ultra-nationalists such as the LOL. So we are looking at a hardcore of 200 000 max in Scotland. The rest of the population we can reach with reason

  25. Thomas William Dunlop

    I apologise for previous slurring part time cleaners & post offices. Labour MSPs are so utterly useless they couldnae fight their way out of a wet paper bag (that had been left to degrade for 10 weeks in a farm midden)

    • I suppose the non-SNP Scottish MPs would, after a YES victory, want to enter the House of Lords. But could an impoverished rUK electorate afford this?
      Hardly fair to remove our generous contributions from their coffers and dump our discarded politicians on their doorstep…..!

      • I really don’t see why not Jan, we’ve been paying for their care home residents for 300 years

        • True but I don’t believe the Tory “elite” will give them a thought. Used goods from another era. Poor souls. Ignored in Westminster and looked down upon in Scotland. Difficult adjustment to have to make. No doubt though, having amassed a bob or two along the way, they’ll manage to get by!!

  26. David, like your good self, I don’t see much talent among politicians.

    More worryingly, I don’t see any integrity.

  27. It’s strange that Better Together are turning to Saatchi and Saatchi for help –
    Surely all they need to do is have a chat with Acanchi which is, after all, one half of BT’s sub-branch, Vote No Borders.
    Does this mean that BT have so much money that they can spend it on two advertising/PR gurus, or just that they are inept and desperate? The latter would be surprising given BT’s stellar line-up of big hitters: Darling, Alexander (x2), Cameron, Osborne, Lord George of Cataclysm, Baroness Lidl, Gordon Brown, Frank Roy, Pacific Quay and so many more.
    It’s all a puzzle.

    • Baroness Lidl – that is so funny! Thanks for the laugh Iain. I’ll never be able to get that out of my mind if she ever pops up on the campaign.

  28. It does raise the interesting point.. what happens to the Scottish lords after independence? Does Baroness Liddesdale lose her right to decide what happens to the rest of us?

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