How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

I’m more widely read than I thought. It seems Better Together Arran are regulars too. Welcome! (I think the new name is No Thanks, guys!).

It struck me as emblematic of the whole No mentality that my open public discussion at the High School in Lamlash was turned by them into a complaint rather than welcomed as an addition to the great national conversation. I had a look at their Facebook page and there is the prolonged moan studded with the clichés of the Blair McDougall handbook so that I am an ‘angry’ blogger, I got my facts wrong, and Yes is ‘spreading lies’.


I wrote that Better Together had let down Arran as they have communities across Scotland in well documented cases, by failing to provide speakers to enlighten people on their views on independence. Worse, they have been known to accept an invite and pull out at the last moment. At some events, this has the effect of not only denying the public a No speaker but means that Yes can’t be present either as there is no balance of views. Here is an exchange from Better Together Arran’s Facebook page which is particularly sad.

                  Heather Allison
16 June at 15:37

Is there anyone from Better Together Arran that can step in last minute to keep the Arran High School debate on tomorrow? This has taken a lot of organisation and the Better Together representative has pulled out at the last minute.

‪Better Together Arran We’re so sorry Heather, we tried very hard to get someone to come along after Margaret McDougall pulled out but we are struggling to find people on Arran that are able to come along during the day, as most are at work. We’re so sorry to have let the school down.
1 · 17 June at 01:2

‪Better Together Arran As we have said before Gordon, we were simply unable to get anyone there on the day because of other commitments. Like Yes Arran, Better Together Arran is solely run by volunteers and we all have full-time jobs. We would love to engage the young people in a debate but we feel that the Yes campaign are deliberately spreading unhelpful rumours about why we couldn’t attend. Yet more lies from Yes Scotland Arran.
9 hours ago

Gordon Downard This is a continuing problem that the BT people are doing, you do a google search and its the same story, the main reason appears to be ‘no answers’ they are unable to provide a constructive reason as to why we should remain within the Union. As their publications and those of the UK Govt show all their points are based on lies that can be pulled apart very easily !!
1 · 30 June at 01:33

‪Lorna Buchanan A real shame this didn’t happen. Kids were very disappointed
1 · 17 June at 09:29

‪Heather Allison Such a pity. It would have been so good for the school to experience balanced debate and have the opportunity to ask questions. Maybe they will allow us another chance after the summer bearing in mind we were let down this time



This sort of problem is inevitable when volunteers are involved but ask any Yes group across the country and you will hear of a pattern of refusal to engage which can only smack of people afraid or unprepared to back up their own case in front of their peers. I know it isn’t easy. I quake in my boots but I believe in my cause and stand up to speak so expect others to do the same.

Malcolm Kerr replied: ‘…both Better Together and Labour United in Ayrshire, given lots of notice, said they would provide speakers for specific dates and times, but pulled out at 48 and 24 hours notice respectively. (It might have been better all round if they had simply refused!). The result is that AHS pupils have been denied a debate in the run-up to what might be the most important political decision in their lives. Derek was observing that this is a pattern which has been seen across the country. It also wasted a huge amount of valuable staff time at AHS as they tried to find alternatives…’

Instead of calling me a liar (a rather angry term, don’t you think?) they should have a look at themselves and make sure there IS a debate for Arran pupils before voting day. And rather than moaning on Facebook about Bateman being on the island, why not get together and come along to the meeting and put points to me and join the debate? Arran was a delight for me and my family and I’m not so bad face to face that I can’t share an opinion and a glass of wine.

When the dust settles, a story will be told of Unionists afraid to defend their own cause in public up to and including the British Prime Minister. Come on, Arran. Sort it. We may not be talking now, but there will be no hiding after September when we will all have to talk to each other and face the future together. Johann Lamont is coming to Arran* so why not ask her to debate with a Yes person and get the young voters along too? Maybe you could give a lead to the whole Unionist side and show that public debate is democracy in action and that it is, I must remind you, a good old fashioned British tradition.

* Have just heard that Johann can’t make it either…she is unwell from reports so I wish her a speedy recovery and I hope she DOES make it to Arran before September 18 and does debate with Yes people and offers front row seats for all AHS students.



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38 thoughts on “How Do You Want To Be Remembered?

  1. Steve Asaneilean

    They have at least twice refused to field speakers to meetings on Skye despite being asked well in advance. The reason they give is that the meetings were being organised by Yes Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh.

    Why does it matter who organised the meetings? They were open meetings advertised in the local press and this is Skye we’re talking about – no-one is going to hurl sweary insults, beer bottles, chairs or punches at you because they don’t agree with what you’re saying at a public meeting.

    And if No are so sure of their position why not defend it to those who disagree – as a Yes person I have no problem doing that and I do it all the time.

    The reality is that as yet no-one has been able to articulate a positive reason for voting No. They don’t come to debates because they know when push comes to shove hope and aspirations will always trump despair and fear.

  2. If BT aren’t prepared to stand up and present their case that’s their issue, these ‘debates’ should still go ahead with an empty chair where the NO representative should be – even Alex Salmond should do this. They will only have themselves to blame and everyone will know it if they start bumping their gums about it.

    • i agree BigAl.

      The symbol of an empty chair can be the new NO Thanks campaign. keep stoom and it will all go away. They are cowards and hypocrites . Threats and scares day in day out and when they are asked for debate they disappear .

      We get the message over by internet and chappin doors. They use the media to misinform and lie and folk are fed up with it all. They want voter apathy. It works for them but they are way too late. The horse has bolted and everyone can now see the Union for what it is.

      They are bullies and bullshitters and they’re getting desperate with no idea how to tackle the TRUTH.

      The might sing from the same hymn sheet but although they know the chorus they don’t know the verses. Ask for ONE just ONE reason for union and watch them boil over.

      A shame for the bairns and a shame for you Derek. My guess is your too popular or dare i say “the bogeyman”


  3. Robert Graham

    is it just my twisted devious opinion or was the term we are “all working” so cant attend in my mind this implies all “YES” supporters are bone idle and have no meaningful employment does it not enter the “NO” lots twilight zone that sometimes some folks might be -on holiday-retired-having a day off a whole host of reasons and surely if there is widespread support for the union their supporters would unless they are a special breed fall into the same category these people really confuse a simpleton like me oh well just a observation

  4. It really is disappointing that the no side fail so miserably at participation. The one exception is the social media where they are quick to call YES folks anything ranging from wee nats to extremists or indeed nazis.
    Having said that, we are still waiting to hear a real case for the union. As far as I have been able to ascertain, after repeated requests for input, there isn’t one.

  5. Unfortunately what you have experienced in Arran is repeated across the whole of Scotland. Better Together-No Thanks refuse to enter any debate else their shallow arguments for remaining part of the Union are exposed as tripe.

    They know it’s tripe and so do we.


    Your piece should stir some response i hope
    the people in the no camp seem to have very little to recommend them in their stance
    on discussing the reasons they have to vote against independence(as i do), they get flustered and very defensive blaming yes for aggression,
    personally i have researched as much as i can,but they seem to research very little and have a dislike of change good or bad while sticking to the old british empire view, dont get above yourself we know better,
    the lack of debate from them puzzles me;

  7. NO are also failing to attend highland shows fairs etc and complain about Yes side so they get barred
    Message is not getting out and they know it

  8. BT/VNOBs/No Txs or whatever nomme de guerre they’re posturing under now – apparently simply divisive and without any moral conviction.

    Echoes of Kenya, India, Cyprus et al when being shown the door?

  9. I agree. The debates should go ahead with an empty chair. It’s hardly Yes’s responsibility if No can’t have Plan B in place in case their first designated speaker can’t turn up. As others have said, it’s a pattern across the country, not only Arran. Either they know darn well they haven’t got any sensible reasons for staying in the union or it’s an effort to shut down debate and prevent audiences from hearing the Yes side. There is a third option of course: that they don’t have many decent speakers. None of those three options put them in a good light especially if they’re serious about democracy and standing up for the union. Come on No! Get your acts together and come and debate with us!

  10. I love the thought of a picture of a table with debaters all chatting away and a sign on the empty spot saying No THANKS.

    I can’t get the picture out of my mind.

    What a sign that would be to passers by.

  11. rab_the_doubter

    You can’t fight an army that hides in the shadows and will not engage. The Better Together mentality is nothing more than an insult.

  12. rab_the_doubter

    As well as the empty chair, a clear statement as a response to every question. ‘Better Together have declined to respond to YOUR question’ . Make it become an issue for everyone at the meeting, these people DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU, THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT THEIR INTERESTS.

  13. Last days of the Raj? or Last days of the radge…

  14. It is BT’s tactic on shutting down the debate, what better way to win a referendum than have the electorate kept in the dark and in fear? That is what they think will win it for them, it is sad, desperate and dishonest. The YES campaign must keep plugging away going door to door, talking to people, family and friends up until the 18th Sept. BT think they’re clever using spoiling tactics as they will believe it’s costing YES money and resources, in fact people are just disappointed in the NO campaign and will drive soft NOs and the undecided to YES.

    • I think you are right. Where there is a debate, the undecided tend to change to Yes. Sadly, the Noes are still ahead and the less debate there is, the better for No. A lot of Scots are still afraid to vote Yes. A lot still have the national inferiority complex – they genuinely believe Scotland cannot rule itself and needs London to do it for them. Sad, but true. Stop the debates, and this mindset has less chance of being challenged. I agree with the idea of going ahead with the debate even without a speaker from the No side. If they see this happening, they’ll provide speakers quickly enough rather than giving Yes a free run. Cancelling the debates when the No speaker cancels just plays into the No side’s hands

  15. There is simply no positive case for the Union; we know it, they know it and the hordes that are attending ‘debates’ (that take place or are cancelled) are starting to realise it too.

    The No Scotland campaign is completely reliant on a compliant media who refuse to question and simply reprint their press releases.

    I would respect anyone who is prepared to ‘fight their corner’ but have no time for those that shout from the internet and media and refuse to appear to give us their ‘positive case’.

    I actually think that if out of one hundred people there is only one lone voice against the ninety-nine he/she deserves to be listened to – he/she may still have a point or be in the right and has the right to be heard regardless. No Scotland, of course, only want to be heard in the media – a shameful stance.

    • I wish the debates could go ahead with a large sign saying “No could not find a speaker prepared to argue their case”

  16. This has been our experience in the Borders too, Derek, as you highlighted on the blog a few days ago. After a categorical “Never” from Better Together, we have given up asking and simply organise meetings where people can come and listen to and challenge Yes speakers.

    Someone started bitching about the West Linton one, saying that they wouldn’t go because it “wasn’t fair” (!!!) that No wasn’t represented. Well we could hardly say on the posters that they wouldn’t come, could we? They were complaining that it was “just a Yes rally”. Well, it wasn’t, as Derek will confirm because he was one of the speakers. There were No-leaning people there and they weren’t shy about speaking up. Hopefully they were reassured.

    I don’t see what’s wrong with having a meeting for one side only to present their case and take questions and challenges and heckling. It might make for a better evening, with less chance of degenerating into a slanging match or confrontation. What’s wrong is that the No campaign don’t organise equivalent meetings with their own speakers. And what’s wrong is that some allegedly “neutral” parties refuse to publicise a Yes-only event because “we can’t be seen to be taking sides”.

    Publicising a public meeting is not taking sides. Proper civic engagement is to publish meetings of both sides even-handedly. It’s not Yes’s fault that there are no No meetings. Refusing to publicise anything is an anti-democratic cop-out. (Not that the people I’m getting at will be reading this.)

  17. There is, of course, a further element, which is that some councils, such as Labour-run West Lothian have decreed that council premises can only be used if both sides are present. Well, guess what – BT refuse to attend any Yes-organised event, but won’t organise any of their own.

    In a county where there are very few non-council premises available that are suitable for a debate, this effectively means that public discussion has been shut down.Linlithgow bowling club is one of the very few that makes itself available – and it was a pleasure to see you there, Derek.

    It’s a quite deliberate, cynical tactic. Worse, it is an affront to participatory democracy. The only conclusion it is possible to draw is that BT don’t give a fig for any debate, discussion or exchange of ideas and simply seek to close down Yes by any and all means available.

    They are taking a risk, though. In the course of normal canvassing today, I spoke to three undecideds who all expressed the view that the No side was shutting them out from what they wanted to know, and were wondering why…

  18. The reports of these ‘No-shows’ have been coming in for some time. It might be useful to assess the scale of non-participation – perhaps by taking a poll of the number of blank refusals and last minute withdrawals experienced by those organising meetings. I suspect that the figures might be quite telling – even more so when compared with the number of BT-organised public meetings.

  19. @Morag

    You suggest that you can’t say on the posters that NO will not attend. I think that’s exactly what you should do! Print off a label which says something like “Better Together withdrew speaker at last minute. Debate will still go ahead. If you support BT, please come and give your views” and stick this across the advertising poster.

    They have to be flushed out.


  20. And there you have it. There is no credible reason for the union to continue. They have no case to make, so that is why they avoid debate or attack and smear the yes campaign. Its also why its so important to make sure they keep trying to make it about Salmond and the SNP, and not as it should be, a debate about the suitability of the Union and Westminster to govern Scotland’s affairs.

    The only occasion you will see something resemble a case for union is an appeal to history and a pathe news vision of Britain that never really existed.

  21. I was at a debate in Duns where No was represented by two Liberals, M Moore MP and Jim Hume MSP. They did not, in my opinion, have a case to make, especially with Robin McAlpipe and Lynda Williamson there for Yes, but they turned up and did their best. Afterwards I appealed directly to Jim to get on the right side of history, he didnae want tae.

    It’s all on youtube if you have a spare hour and 50 mins

    • Oh good grief.. Michael Moore – I could have ripped apart every single one of his arguments in a 20 second space – ‘flexible agreement’ – is he seriously arguing that English criminals could flee across the border to escape the law ?

  22. Spokesperson for Business for Scotland on GMS this morning almost pleading for No (business) people to come to a debate in Dundee tonight, because they don’t turn up, then complain of bullying by the Scottish Government, taking their line from Cameron. Where’s the evidence?

    This whole business convinces me more than ever that the problem with our politics is politicians and especially party politics. Like the Law (also dysfunctional ) we have an adversarial system, rather than one based on consensus as exists in many continental countries and it is this which is at the root of the matter. Many politicians, it seems to me, are interested in only two things: power and self-advancement. And they will do anything to achieve those ends: lying, smearing, dirty tricks or whatever. Like Stalinist Russia they will accuse their opponents of doing precisely what they themselves are doing, while re-writing history. The most visible symptom of this malaise is the charade of PMQ/FMQ’s which is an affront to democracy.

    Tories used to be “One Nation”, Labour used to be Socialist with principles, Liberals used to support Home Rule and Proportional Representation (until they were taken to the cleaners by their coalition partners). But now they have all been captured by big business, the rich and powerful and the legacy of the colonialist mindset.

    Only a social revolution will radically improve matters. But a vote for Yes will give us the opportunity to change things, if we have the courage.

  23. I was actually at a “debate” where Alisdair Darling was present. It was in church in Edinburgh. All the questions had already been decided. The audience weren’t allowed to speak, or ask questions. AD just spouted the “same old, same old”. I could have recited it all myself. I should just have stayed at home & watched Eastenders, while I still have the chance! All the other Better together – no thanks “public” meetings, seem to be ticket-only affairs, where the venue is a secret. Preaching to the converted, or what!

  24. broadbield – yes, you have it there.

    What do I wish for Independent Scotland? A government which includes voices from Common Weal, Business for Scotland and the Greens.

    Social justice + Sustainable business + Environment, all working together. A dance. A balance.

    A dream? And why not?!?

  25. We have documentary evidence that Better Together?No Thanks have pulled out at the last minute, citing the fact that although we had both sides represented and made every effort to keep as neutral as possible in order to attract undecided voters, since YES organised the event, they would not attend “because they have their own NO events”.

    We did get two NO speakers, but not from BT?NT, and had over 500 people at the event in Troon, as we previously reported. We did not preselect questions, we did not ask NO people to leave, nor did we place any restrictions on what people could say, either on the panel or from the floor. I mention this to contrast what other events have demonstrated – preselected questions, aggressive stewarding, refusal to answer questions, ad hominen attacks in place of reasoned argument. As someone who attended one of the NO events recently said to me only yesterday,”it was like a stage-managed rally, They seem to be running scared!” Draw your own conclusions!

  26. I have no doubt that this ‘no show’ business is a strategic ploy by Blair McDougall and Co. They know they can’t match the ‘Yes’ grassroots campaign so their excuse is that they will not stoop to participating in ‘Yes’ events. Likewise pound for pound, the ‘Yes’ side are more motivated so that any ‘neutral’ event is more likely to be swamped by ‘Yessers’.

  27. Cag-does-thinking

    Rather typical of this is the PM coming here to address a rally (it’s always a rally that doesn’t involve the public have you noticed; such a rally that the BBC don’t spell out where it is my guess is it might be that club in Edinburgh) where John Swinney is advertising appearing in Dundee. That 100 days touring round of Jim Murphy. Where is he? Until he’s gone no-one seems to know. In politics there is a point when you have to face the electorate. What we are seeing is that disconnect between real engagement and giving media statements. If you don’t meet the people why come to Scotland at all? Just make the press release from No.10 straight to the BBC, job done.

    Many years ago there were many active members in the Conservative party in North Ayrshire and Arran who would give you a debate any day of the week. What is sad is that a whole generation are learning that “Proper” politics is avoiding making a case for your political decisions, aversion rather than skillful debate. Smear rather than killer points.

    Talking of killer points I’ve never met anyone yet who can give me one example of something that will get better from staying in the union, not staying as it is, something better.

    Maybe that explains why they ditched the Better Together slogan!

  28. Now we’re into the official Electoral Commission rules period – isn’t there an obligation on both sides to explain their position to the voting public?

    Should it not be the case that the EC is responsible for calling the contesting sides to debate?

    Can it not be that the EC nominates the date and time for public meetings to be held? Perhaps there should be three ‘official’ hustings meetings?

    Democracy ain’t being served if one side refuses to debate and thereby prevents the other side from making its position to the electorate.

    Like in boxing – the referee can warn a boxer to try harder and points penalise him for not doing so and the same needs to apply here.

    What we’re getting here is just contempt from the NO side.

  29. Bottlers Together – no thanks!

  30. Heather Allison

    I particularly object to the Better Together response above as it insinuates that only they have jobs! Do they believe all us Yes activists sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting for our latest benefit cheque to come in?I work full time in the NHS, Our speaker who allocated his precious time TWICE for the Arran High School debate is a GP. Most of the members of the Yes Campaign on Arran are working. However, they can see that the most vulnerable members of our communities are suffering and as a country we can do so much better for them. As for Better together, is the future of their country so unimportant that they cannot take a few hours annual leave from work to debate their argument? I think the real reason is that they are not only thin on the ground but running scared. No Thanks indeed.

  31. Orders from the top. It’s a deliberate tactic. The BT/NT group have been told not to take part in those debates in the hope that it will shut down discussion from both sides. Needless to say neither MSM or TV will report what is happening. This information was passed on by a No supporter who now happens to be on the cusp of YES.

  32. All the mainstream Westminster parties have pursued a cynical culture of deliberate non-engagement with the electorate since at least the 1980s. So many of our modern politicians have grown up simply echoing the soundbite policies their party leaders mediated through press and TV, and cannot thole the idea of actually debating with the great unwashed. Of course, that’s doubly difficult when policies are handed down from on high and not subjected to democratic debate or votes within parties.

    A favoured trope of the Labour Party in Scotland, especially in the West, was any vote not for them was a “wasted vote”. For years this was peddled, blithely unaware of the contempt building for a system that told people how pointless it was to exercise choice. Then came the Scottish Parliament and PR, then council votes on PR, and now a question clear as a diamond where every single vote will count.

    Now the Labour Party in Scotland resemble nothing so much as the dregs of the old Communist regimes int he autumn of 1989 – aware of the rumblings but so arrogant, so complacent they cannot believe it will come to pass. Think Ceaucescu lecturing the crowds in wintry Bucharest, face going from irritation through bewilderment to disbelief and, finally, realisation. The game was up.

    Come September think of Dearest Darling, Comrade Gordon, Lord John, Wee Dougie, Big Danny, Cheerful Choann and wee Ruthie Krankie all standing bitter together on that balcony, hands flapping at the crowd. We’ll be so much kinder than the Romanians were to Ceaucescu, but the expressions on their faces will look very, very familiar.

  33. I am fairly sure that Helen Liddell back in the days when she was still a commoner, long before she was banished to Australia and was then elevated to become a Baroness was asked under what conditions the Scottish(sic) Labour Party would co-operate with the SNP,responded with withering, lip-curling contempt stating that she would “not soil her hands ” by contemplating such a deal..
    Don’t give up Jimmy Hood, MP, they may yet give you a peerage though it may not last for long.

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