15 October 2010

SNP: It doesn't have to be this way...

"The future is what we make it," says Salmond in the SNP's latest campaign video, Let's Work Together - Be part of better.

On one level, this is encouraging, optimistic boilerplate. On another it emphasises the simplest of the SNP's messages - It doesn't have to be this way. If we screw up our courage to the sticking place, if we take responsibility for the future of the polity, a politics driven by a different set of values is possible. While framed as a caress, the thought is also a rebuke to those who eschew the challenges of responsibility - who want a revolution without a revolution, in a manner of speaking - and hope to salvage our parlous political state yet remain thirled to a Union dominated by interests and values which are not our interests and our values. Week by week, month by month, the chasm separating Conservative-Liberal coalition policies from mainstream Scottish opinion grows wider and wider still.

The broadcast's soundtrack is furnished by unsigned Edinburgh band Jakil, a young band of crooners and strummers. Except for the lyrics and Salmond's wee cameo - which both evoke the principal theme of social solidarity - I'm particularly interested in the imagery and characters invoked in the piece. They're certainly not accidental casting, but are a subtle form of positioning, identifying  political Nationalism with particular constellations of ideas. So which ones? The camera slips smoothly from rural field fallow and plough and Heilan' coo to the coast, where a hardy fisherman is lugging his creels. A bored and half-bashful photocopy bod and a pair of chirpy nurses share in the song, with a breathless huff or two from a couple lugging the shopping into the back of their car.  A young female student scribes away at her studies, distracted by the tune. On a beach, a younger lassie struggles to coax her reluctant and truculent basset hound into motion.

A number of elements struck me. Firstly the broad sweep of characters is clearly intended to encompass a vital, optimistic but crucially Scotland-wide sketch of the populace, from sea to sea, from countryside into the heart of the towns and cities, tenements and traffic jams. On one level, this merely reflects the range of of constituencies the party represents and seeks to represent - but also throws a discreet elbow at the increasingly concentrated representation of Scottish Labour in the urban West of Scotland.  What is also particularly striking is that the be part of better theme is actually dominated by vignettes of individual labour. The only group work we're shown are the two folk flinging messages into their car and Jakil's overriding music-making. A middle aged woman wielding her hoover, a vital old woman clipping peas in her allotment, a lonely window-washer shammying for dear life - they're all discrete but united by the melody and the values of collective endeavour and social solidarity. Each enjoys a moment of fulfilment, whether in an immaculately vacuumed carpet, a gleaming pane, a hot rectangle of photocopies - or a fully-primed fishing boat, setting out to sea. While these may be tasks completed, I think it's important that the broadcast's individual characters are depicted working away by themselves - committed in theory - but not yet working together in concerted action. It implies commitment on the ends and values - but challenges the audience with unfulfilled promise, which only action can seize. 

Solidarity in principle, but work yet to be done, the undertone of this swishly produced and even gently comic piece. The impression isn't even disturbed by the looming form of Eck in a room boasting the worst mustard tartan wallpaper in Christendom...


  1. Lallands

    Just when I thought the prat running up a hill and shouting Scotland was one of the worst political adverts I have seen, the SNP have surpassed even that.

    The purpose of advertising, whether it is Mars Bars or political parties, is to give the people who watch the advert a reason for changing their behavior/buying habits/or the way they vote. Remember "A Mars a day" Im sure you know the rest, the advert had a message, change to this product and you will get a benefit.

    Can anyone tell me anywhere in this advert where there is a positive reason for anyone to change the way they vote?

    Vote SNP so we can all sing along together, what a great reason to change the vote of a lifetime.

    As a nice wee sing song, great, as a reason to change and vote SNP, do me a favor.

  2. Lallands

    I did not see one scene there that could relate to West Central Scotland which is the battleground that must be won.

    This is a feelgood, water treading, shore up the hinterland sort of advert.

    Nothing in it to kick Labour in the goolies.

    Too middle class

    Nul points


  3. Sorry, I had to go away and calm down.

    Do the people who made up this advert think that the M8 starts and stops in Edinburgh?

    That is not a rhetorical question.

  4. Nature abhors a vacuum (and SNP party political broadcasts).

  5. Do I detect a bit of general scepticism? ;-)

    In the post, mostly I was attempting to work out what on earth the succession of characters was intended to mean. Undeniably, this isn't a content heavy ad. Or a content light ad. Indeed, as I understand it, the piece is intended - however unsuccessfully - as a tone-setting thing rather than a concrete appeal to voters. Then again, I've not met too many folk who voted on the basis of telly ads, so I suspect any influence it might have is ambient, whether you think it is a good stab or a faulty attempt.

    I agree with Dubbieside though. To get from the lyrics to the essential point - which I suspect is the "doesn't have to be this way" argument I began the post with - takes a measure of reflection. Moreover, as others have pointed out on Twitter, "working together" is a mutable phrase, amenable to a number of interpretations. Personally I think it is not without its charms, however slight. Certainly it isn't substantive or likely persuade anything to turn or stay nationalist on polling day.

  6. I'm particularly interested in your point, Bugger. As I interpreted it, it was striving to construct a "whole Scotland" vision. Up to a point, it succeeded - but as you say, strikingly absent was some obviously West of Scotland scene. There was a van-man caught in traffic, a window-washer who might have been polishing a tenementish building - but it certainly wasn't clearly represented. The interior of the house which the wummin' was running her hoover across looked deeply bourgeois to me. In the figurative sweep across the country, Clydeside working class urbanity was largely o'erleaped. Interesting.

  7. Lallands

    Are you really surprised that you have not met too many folk who have voted on the basis of telly ads given the general standard of said ads.

    Commercial companies spend millions of pounds on telly ads because in general they work. They make people think about what they buy and why they buy that product or service.

    I have yet to see an SNP telly ad or information piece that lays out a reason why they (the general public) would benefit from switching their vote from who ever to the SNP.

    Maybe its time to start looking how we give people a reason why they should vote SNP. The pound in their pocket might be a good place to start. Iain Gray if elected will put up the council tax for everyone in Scotland. Maybe the ads will work a bit better if they spell out specifics, rather than the rather woolly "lets work together" The question being, to do what exactly???

  8. LPW

    Loads of fish though, as I said, shoring up the hinterland and a Singalongamax theme.

  9. Will the SNP meeja folk be doing an album of retro.

    Here are some suggestions

    Theme from Shaft, a tribute to the Union
    Rien de Rien, a personal statement by His Eckness
    This Town, by the Specials dedicate to GDC
    Won't get Fooled Again dedicated to the West of Scotland labour voting heartland.

    all contributions welcome.

  10. It's true there's not much that is obviously west Central Scotland working class about it. But that is emphatically NOT where the battle is going to be won and lost - there's simply not enough of it left. There's a huge underclass, true, but that's a different thing and it doesn't vote. We have to get the aspirational. The battle is to make folk aspirational: that characteristic is the fundamental difference between the SNP and Labour - which appears to have abandoned any aspirations at all - or the Tories who, however aspirational they may claim to be for individuals, are not aspirational for our country.

  11. Am Firinn

    They do vote but no for the SNP, except maybe once in Glasgow East.

    How many seats does this area represent and with 10 of them (Holyrood) the SNP would be there in real power.

    Get enough of them to question the keich they have been fed by Labour for the last 60+ years and maybe enough will vote for the SNP tipping the balance.

    To make folk aspirational, oh dear. Have you ever walked around Bridgetown, Maryhill, Drumchapel, Castlemilk, Easterhouse, Bargeddie, Greenock?

    Aspiration is good, if you are potentially envious to buy a Jaguar rather than a Ford, or a personalised lighter rather matches, a Parker pen rather than a Bic.

    You are trying to sell someone a superdooper washing machine when they are socialised and conditioned to go the Steamie.

    What the SNP have to counter is Labour generated fear, lies and disinformation.

    Singalongamax is not going to do that.

    Maybe after the target constituency has become aware of themselves as sentient political beings but, that has yet to be demonstrated.

    Retaliate first or be forever singing in the dark in WC Scotland.

    I am from Maryhill, a long time ago.

  12. An Firinn

    If I seemed patronising to you, I am sorry for I just feel that the SNP is so hopelessly out of touch with what should be their wining constituency, WC Scotland that they havn't a snowballs chance in hell on making Scotland independent.

    They have good people working day in day out in local government but this is not being translated into parliamentary seats as the fear and cringe message has been drummed into the for so long, it is part of their collective psyche.

    Glasgow East was a glorious win and a denoument for those who looked at the following G Election as to why the SNP is not advancing.

    They have had it drummed into then for decades that as Scots they are to wee, too stupid too needing of someone else to tell them what to do with their lives.

    When Glasgow East (by election) arrived, for once the MSN gave the SNP a fair crack of the whip.

    The voters there were confronted with the reality that they were important and not just part of an underclass. Their aspirations were raised and they actually could see an element in self actualisation within the political system.

    Fast forward to the GE and the MSN co-ordinated onslaught against the SNP, plus the lack of local campaigning to the level of the B Election led to a return to the underdog mentality of fear and self loathing, nicely manipulated to project the Labour Party as their champion. The result was a certainty.

    The SNP need tackity bits and a ruthlessness that its middle class core abhors or does not understand.

    The SNP is too comfortable wrapped in its Tartan Shawl of government, its bubble of complacency.

    A left of centre Labour new party with independence as part of its creed, could deliver WC Scotland to independence with the SNP's East/ North East of Scotland middle classes

    Can anyone in the SNP see that way?

  13. Ah'm wae Bugger. Take the hoosin schemes ae Glesga and ye'll take Scotland.

  14. Is this the SNP vision of a "better" Scotland? Where everyone has an American accent?

  15. Bugger, you don't need to apologise, and I'm with you on the need for tackity bits, actually. For example to deal with this "SNP are anti-Glasgow" plsh when actually Glasgow has done quite well from the Scottish Government since 2007. But a bit of perspective: all the Glasgow constituency seats, and the regional ones as well, with the contiguous ones from the other regions, still don't make up a majority of MSPs. We could take the rest of the country and - sorry to be blunt - Glasgow could go to Hell on its own red-rosetted handcart. And in Glasgow they really don't vote: in 2007 the turnout in constituency and regional vote there was 43.26% and 41.61% respectively; by some distance the worst in Scotland. Which means that we don't actually have to turn all that many people to win there, and one would hope we could find some at least in Glasgow who are looking for better things. Please don't take this as an anti-Glasgow rant: I like Glasgow and its people a lot, and would rather we moved forward with Glasgow on board. But it isn't necessary to further progress.

  16. I tried to post a mathematical analysis of the constituency MPs in what I call WC Scotland and after spending 20 minutes typing away and counting them on a different tab the damn commentary box told me there was an error and my precious work disappeared into the ether. How DID you do that, Am Firrin!

    Anyway my failing memory says that of the ~30 constituencies available, only 2 were SNP. Take 10 of these, hold the List vote and 20 votes (equivalent) changes place.

    Factor in a contraction of LibDem votes and Tories, my guess, and the who mathematics of Holyrood flip.

    The key for the SNP is WC Scotland.

  17. Sorry to hear that my occasionally intransigent blogger interface ate your comment, Bugger. I've been enjoying the discussion. On the class identity of the SNP, you might be interested in a few chapters in Gerry Hassan's edited collection The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power which looks precisely at those issues.

  18. I think it's great. It strikes exactly the right note. Ten out of ten. I'm really enthused about this campaign now - not simply about the PPB but the whole tone and theme of the campaign.

    To all the people moaning about it. You are nationalists. You are political animals to begin with. Yes, you might prefer to watch a bunch of talking heads denouncing the Labour Party but this campaign is not for you. You are going to vote for independence anyway. This is for everyone else - the uncommitted voters for whom capturing a feeling and a mood is as important as hard facts and figures.

    You don't get that.

    If we followed your advice we would lose the election for sure.

    Having seen what shape the campaign is going to take however I am feeling pretty confident.

    I think we are going to win.

  19. LPW, I'm afraid I agree with Bugger not only about the need to apply our size 12s to the Unionist rump - and also the desirability of picking up more west Central Scotland seats - but also regarding the instability of your website. I'm sorry to say the same has happened to me more than once. Please take delivery of a cahier de doléance!

    Where I part company with Bugger is thinking that west Central Scotland is where the battle will be lost and won. It'll take a lot to shift some attitudes there. We ran quite some campaign in Glasgow North East - I wasn't there, I admit, but my money was - to get not very much out of it. In a Scotland-wide election we have to target resources at more hopeful cases. I'm sorry, Indy, but that's elsewhere! I think, too, that resources is at the heart of what we do in our PPB. A generally warming one is probably the best we can do, given that, without the resources of the London parties, it's something of a miracle we can do a PPB at all. But it's another question as to whether we should. The money might be better spent on, for example, billboards, each of them nailing one Unionist lie or exposing one Unionist scandal.

    And if I could interfere with internet-based communications, Bugger, I wouldn't be wasting that talent on allies! There's plenty of enemies to choose from!

  20. An Firrin


    Yes, I had thought about that and specifically for WC Scotland.

    Say 20 to 30 different messages, short, sharp ones rubbishing what Labour has given them in 500 years of dynastic rule. Lots of white space and carefully tailored messages, especially using modern day semiotic linguistics.

    100 sites around WC Scotland, and rotated every 2-3 days in the message.

    That is the sort of guerilla marketing / political messaging we should be using and should cost a lot less than TV.

    It may not guarantee any seats this time round but would alter the dynamic of the political gossip in WC Scotland especially if we made sure that the areas surrounding the roads to the BBC, Herald and Scotsman were suitable adorned, ambush style. Get intae rem! The messages would get into the subliminal of a fair few people.

    Are you old enough to remember the Tory's "Labour isn't working" message with a snaking line of people subliminally saying that they were in a dole queue.

    Then there was the two boxing gloves and the message of the Double Labour Tax Whammy.

    These have been credited with being election tipping messages.

    I have a challenge for you, as I suspect you are a lawyer and so, in between your lawyering about, could you look up the text of Aunty Bella's speech at the Tory bun fest concerning Scotland?

    I think she said that without the Union there would be NO Defence Jobs in Scotland, nul, nada, zippo.

    How does the detail of that speech chime with Liam Fox's announcement about the two Aircraft Carriers, and the only reason that they are going ahead was because of the Labour constructed contractual obligations, shade of Fur Coat and nae Nickers City's tram scheme to which they were a party?

    I think that with the other Unionist Parties, now all have had the honour, of being in Imperial Rule in Scotland from afar, in day to day power we will have no military bases anyway, except for the ones that nobody else wants.

    I am sorry that I cannot do it myself as I have a mouth to feed, my own, a riot to organise in France, and a column to write on wine for NewsnetScotland.

    See you over there, or be square.

  21. It did it again and I lost my bloody post!

    I am going out to riot in the streets and kick a few gendarmes.


  22. As the Marquis de Valmont said, "Its beyond my control". Or at least, beyond my ken. I assume its some quirk about the blogger interface that occasionally eats comments. Might I suggest in future folk hastily Ctrl+C their prose lest one of my blog goblins makes off with it. Apologies again. At least in your most recent case, Bugger, your remarks appear to have survived and been posted. You can leave that gendarme untenderised.

  23. I have rewritten it, as far as I can with my feeble memory. You asked for it!

    Am Firminn

    Judginas I do that you ay have a legal mind, even be one of them and thus have time i n between your lawyering, I challend to do something for us, that is to say having a kick a Aunty Bella of the Tory Diehards.

    At the Tory bunfight a few days ago, Aunty Bella did a few soundbites about how without the Union there would be no defence jobs in Scotland. We really had to ever so grateful for the Tories not canceling the two flat decks.

    Now fast forward to today and the Tories are screaming that because of the contracts so signed by the former Labour administration, they could not cancel the construction as it would have cost more that bulding the buggers.

    So, with the expected cuts in RAF bases in Scotland and the news, my interpretation, that they would have cancelled the Carriers, or certainly only one of them to assuage Mrs Clinton. So, where does that leave Aunty Bella's puff about how the Union is so beneficient and vital to our defence employment, active and constructional?

    I challenge you to research her words and then juxtapose her sound bites with today's reality.

    Where does that leave Aunty Bella in the Tory party's in-crowd? My guess would be out on a limb, sitting alone, in the dark, whistling away to keep herself company. Or, up S Creek, without a paddle.

    Every vote counts.

    Write it, send it to LPM and ask him to publish it! Do the same with article, with acknowledgements to LPM on the Newsnetscotland website


    There you go, strike a blow to help break the Unionist yolk.

    I have no time to do it myself as I am currently writing my next column post for Newsnet on wine. Quelle vie!

  24. Wrong memory, at least half of it.

    When I remember what it was I WILL return.

    Severe infection of Champagnistis.

    Hell, it IS Tuesday and mes freres are en marche en manif.

  25. Bugger - I am having similar problems!

    To reconstruct my own thought process...That I have a degree in Scots law admitted. Quoad ultra denied. It's not as though I actually practised, or anything like that [shudders].

    Bella's speech is helpfully available on the not-very-Scottish-but undoubteldy-Conservative-and-bl**dy-Unionist website.


    I didn't waste much thought on it as it was so obviously barking that it brought Unionism into disrepute without any asistance from us at all. And subsequent developments have indeed shown up the usefulness of the Union in terms of defence contracts for the wretched chimaera it was.

    BUT (definitely in capitals) I would absolutely delighted if they shut all the navy and RAF bases. As far as I am concerned these are the army of occupation, the successors of Cumberland and Albemarle's eminently dislikeable red-coated soldiery. I have some familiarity with the areas round the RAF bases, at least, and to my mind they are not an economic asset: if you are a local they are a distortion of the housing and jobs markets alike. But you'll be more interested in the shipyards, and that's fair enough. I would just rather they built, say, a class of small vessels suitable for fisheries and oil industry protection for a Scottish Navy rather than useless behemoths for an enemy which, amusingly, can't even afford the aircraft to put in them!

  26. Am Firinn

    ll go to it.

    Your mission, should you etc?

    Take the ball and kick IT (my capitals) and stop lawyering.


  27. I went trawling through that Tory web site and could find no reference to that speech, or part of, in which I am sure she said that, without the Union Scotland would have no bases etc etc .

    Well, seems to be just what is happening, and the only reason that the Aircraft Carriers are going to be built is that the contracts negotiated by the previous Labour lot were watertight.

    In fact Aunty Bella was not in the loop.

    I think that this particular piece to which I refer has been removed in Ingsoc style and has been replaced by a piece dated 19th which makes no mention of that and just blames Alex Salmond for the cat having kittens.

    No rioting today

  28. You know how to show yourself a good time, Bugger! Donning your red jabot, hitching up a nag, congregating a hunt of Scottie dogs - and galloping over hurdle and heather after a fleeting Dame Bella of Doily.

    In connection with your class/West central Scotland point - I'm reminded of Power and its Minions' pertinent piece from earlier in the year on just this issue for the SNP and his own understanding of the Labour-voting West Central Scotland working class mindset. Certainly, I've no qualms about admitting that my own family history gives me no real insights or resources to help to understand those ideas.

  29. Found it on the BBC website


    Her erse his hingin oot the windae, just like Absolon's unnamed love in the Canterbury Tales

    This Absolon plumped down upon his knees,
    And said: "I am a lord in all degrees;
    For after this there may be better still
    Darling, my sweetest bird, I wait your will."
    The window she unbarred, and that in haste.
    620 "Have done," said she, "come on, and do it fast,
    Before we're seen by any neighbour's eye."
    This Absalom did wipe his mouth all dry;
    Dark was the night as pitch, aye dark as coal,
    And through the window she put out her hole.
    625 And Absalom no better felt nor worse,
    But with his mouth he kissed her naked arse

    So who is Absolonin Toryland? Who has the guts?

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Ms Goldie told delegates that the joint submission of the four Scottish parties made to the strategic defence and security review presented "a powerful argument for the Scottish defence industry".

    But she claimed that it also "lays bare a very inconvenient truth for Alex Salmond".

    In her speech, she said: "One fact underpins that document. It is this - Scotland would not have one single defence job if we were independent. Not one.

    "We only have these defence jobs because we are part of the United Kingdom."

  32. LPW

    Are the Tories in Scotland classified as vermin, for hunting reasons, and thus it is open season for them, or a protected species, like Ospreys, because there are so few breeding pairs?

  33. Bugger,

    You've got my measure. All political points supported by a verse or two particularly appreciated! That said, I'm not sure if I'd want Bailie Bill's pate stuffed and mounted in my Landseer-themed, tartan-grallocher-decorated hall.

    I suspect, for conservation reasons, we'll have to weed out a few more Tories until there are just a clutch of breeding pairs left...

  34. Indy - yes we are nationalists. What relevance does this music video have to Independence? There is nothing remotley 'nationalist' or "pro independence" about it.

    Yes its a catchy up beat song and Im sure its fun to clap along with at conference but its a bland video.If you took out the FM and the SNP logo at the end you could be watching an advert for anything.

    It says nothing about what SNP has achieved or what we plan for the future. People will vote against SNP in May because they will believe labours lies about bus passes, snp being anti glasgow, nhs cuts or whatever else they concoct all of which will be drip fed to them by Reporting Scotland, the daily record and Iain Gray.

    The likes of this will not counter that. Yes we need to be positive but we also need to educate people. Salmond said in his speech we need to make people understand indpendence, how does a video of people hoovering and washing their windows convey that.

    The Snp are up against a hugely biased anti Scottish, anti independence media and when we are given our couple of minutes of airtime we throw away the opportunity by showing a music video.

    "Be part of better" - is also a car crash of a slogan. It is slightly better than the flawed "more nats less cuts" but its about a million miles away from the phrase the defined 2007 - "it's time!"

    I live in hope that the snp pull something that good out of the hat before May but to me this is not a good start.

  35. 1. Be part of better isn't the slogan - it's the website address for the consultation. The slogan is Together we can make Scotland better.

    2. The song, for me, works on a number of levels and is literally true.

    Together we'll stand
    Divided we'll fall
    Come on now people
    Let's get on the ball
    And work together.

    If we, as a nation, cannot do this over the next 4 - 8 years our most vulnerable people will pay a dreadful price for it.

    What you guys are arguing for is all about attacking Labour, it's divisive, it's negative, it is completely and utterly uninspiring. When our country is facing such tough times ahead why should anyone vote for us if all we can do is blame and attack our fellow Scots instead of trying to defend them?

  36. Why then did the FM end his excellent speech with "be part of better" if its not the slogan.

    The song to many will hint at unionism - "divided we fall" could be straight out of a labour video. I understand its talking about Scotland but will everyone take that from it? Already the opposion have attacked it and scoffed at it because of that song - yes thats petty - but they shouldnt be given any ammunition like that.

    Labour need to be attacked at every opportunity - for too long the snp have stood back and tried to be positive while Labour can get away with the most ridiculous smears - that people will believe. Yes people need to be shown the positive alternative but you cant do that without showing the failings of the unionist parties. The video doesnt tell anybody anything about the alternative.

  37. He ended it with be part of better because he's trying to get us all onto this:


    You know this is a six month campaign - this is phase one.

    The song really is great you know, as trite as those lyrics are they sum up what we are talking about.

    People, when things go wrong
    As they sometimes will
    And the road you travel
    It stays all uphill
    Let's work together
    Come on, come on
    Let's work together
    You know together we will stand
    Every boy, girl, woman and man

    Whoever picked that song and that band is a genius. The whole narrative of this campaign for our opponents is going to be about the cuts and fighting about who is to blame. We can get dragged into that very divisive agenda. We can get stuck in like ferrets in a sack while Scotland goes to hell in a handcart. Or we can choose to take a radically different approach and demonstrate our fitness to lead Scotland by actually leading Scotland.