THE BLOG

Better Together Campaign Must Up Its Game

21/02/2013 12:45 GMT | Updated 22/04/2013 10:12 BST

Thursday is the day of the Glasgow University mock referendum, the first of its kind in Scotland, to see what students are thinking about independence. Working for the Glasgow Guardian newspaper, this has given me plenty of opportunities to speak to students, politicians and other campaigners about the referendum, due to take place in Autumn 2014. But whilst researching information for some interviews, it suddenly struck me: the Better Together campaign isn't particularly engaging or persuasive.

In comparison, the Yes Scotland website is much better; it clearly sets out why people should vote 'Yes', what an Independent Scotland will mean for them and generally giving reasons (whether you agree with them or not being a different matter) as to why you, yes you, should show your support for the campaign. The Better Together website, on the other hand, does none of this. It simply states the voting 'No' doesn't mean you are against Scotland, or that you think Scottish people are incapable of running their own country, but just that an independent Scotland would simply not be as strong as a United Kingdom - and no explanation further than this.

When I think about it, I've yet to come across any real argument as to why people should vote 'No' come 2014. It seems to me as though every argument the Better Together campaign has put forward is simply to poke holes in what Yes Scotland say and do - but never setting out themselves why the Union is indeed better together. 'No' campaigns seem to be relying on the fact that people will automatically want to stick with the status quo, that citizens able to vote will automatically vote 'No' unless persuaded otherwise. This is simply not the case. What about trying to turn those 'Yes' votes into 'No', or at least trying to pull over support from those sitting on the fence?

Personally, upon first hearing that the referendum was going ahead I was skeptical about an independent Scotland - would it really be able to function? Could it afford to be independent? Would it really be better for the citizens of Scotland? At first, I was a 'No' vote. Now I'm not so sure. Having read up on the subject the 'Yes' campaign is giving me much more compelling reasons for me to give my vote to them. Better education and healthcare? Sure. Higher GDP? Fine with me. Evening out social inequalities? Yes please. Regardless of whether or not the arguments are valid, at least Yes Scotland are trying to be persuasive, more than can be said for Better Together.

So, let's look at the case Better Together is giving us. An independent Scotland would be uncertain, unstable and create barriers for business, but what is the evidence for this? The Yes campaign has at least backed their argument for higher GDP up with data - saving on defence, North Sea oil and continued membership within the EU which will keep markets open. Let's try another Better Together argument - an independent Scotland would be less secure; again, where is the evidence for this? Scotland would indeed spend less on defence than the UK, but it is a smaller country, and much of the savings come from getting rid of the Trident - a resource which we don't need and doesn't make us any more secure anyway.

And the final of the three main arguments given on 'the +ve case' page is that Scottish culture is only enriched by the Union - this point just baffles me. Scotland has it's own culture and a very strong one at that outside of the UK, and besides, removing the Union isn't cutting Scotland off entirely from the rest of the UK as this statement seems to suggest. The two nations will still share a border and a history after all.

What I would like to see over the next 18 months is for this debate to deepen. I'm currently sat on the fence, but when it comes to the referendum in 2014 I want to be able to cast my vote with some certainty as to what in fact I am voting for.

My vote may be a 'yes' or it may be a 'no', but either way when I make that decision I want to be certain that I'm making the right choice for me. I'd like to see each side become a real contender with each other, each side to give me real reasons why I should vote that way.

So go ahead, campaigners, I invite you to persuade me, and millions of others who are eligible to vote, why we should agree with you. Why should I vote 'yes' or 'no'? Why should I back your campaign and not the other? The Better Together campaign in particular needs to engage and persuade the nation, or risk losing the referendum. This campaign needs to seriously up its game if a 'No' vote is to succeed.

Click to view interviews with Blair Jenkins and Alistair Darling for Glasgow Guardian.