During the 2014 Referendum the SNP set the bounds of the debate on many issues. Not only did they get to choose the date and length of the campaign, the franchise (16 year olds and EU citizens), the question, the answers, and the words on the ballot paper itself (see below); but they also managed to ensure that people from outside Scotland were essentially excluded from the debate, and felt awkward about entering it.
They successfully "de-legitimised" voices from the rest of the UK.
This meant that people from outside Scotland were reluctant to voice an opinion, even though it was about the future of their own country – the United Kingdom!
Unfortunately, the official "Better Together" campaign did little to counter the notion that everyone else on our Islands was involved and needed to be engaged.
We realised the problem when a woman who lived in Scotland said to us, "I'm from England so maybe I shouldn't have an opinion on this."
We told her immediately, "If you're British, you're involved!"
That experience made us realise that if there is another separation referendum, then everyone in the rest of the UK must be welcome and encouraged to participate. This will be essential if we are to keep our shared Nation – the United Kingdom – together.
Never again can we allow the de-legitimisation of British voices from outside Scotland.
As we said recently, this is not just about Scotland "becoming independent". It is primarily about breaking up the United Kingdom itself, and it is absurd that less than 4% of the entire British electorate could be responsible for such a catastrophe.
Everyone has to be engaged and involved.
Even the Ballot Paper Excluded the Rest of the UK
The SNP's exclusion of the rest of the United Kingdom even extended to the way the question was framed and the way the ballot paper itself was written. Compare these 2 examples.
On the 2014 ballot paper, the United Kingdom was not mentioned. It was entirely ignored. It was as if the little matter of "the United Kingdom" was somehow not relevant to the matter at hand.
Compare this with the ballot paper for the 2016 refrendum on EU membership where the EU was mentioned 5 times!
The heading on the EU Referendum ballot paper read, "Referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union".
The question read "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"
The answers given were, "Remain a member of the European Union" and "Leave the European Union".
It was all about the European Union!
However, the referendum on whether Scotland should leave or remain in the United Kingdom appeared to have nothing to do with the United Kingdom on the ballot paper, or in the question!
That cannot be allowed again! And please do not think that is of no significance.
The fact is, we went into the Voting Booth in 2014 and we were presented with a piece of paper which made no mention of the United Kingdom, the very thing we were trying to keep together and stop being broken apart.
That was undoubtedly worth percentage points to the separatists as we have elaborated upon here!
Even the way we consequently speak of the 2 referendums has been forged by these different emphases. For example, many of us will often speak of the "2014 Scottish independence" referendum, and the "2016 EU membership" referendum. We don't normally speak about the "2014 UK membership" referendum, or the "2016 UK independence" referendum, and that is a direct consequence of the way the matter was successfully framed by the SNP (with the help of the mainstream media).
The Survival of the United Kingdom Concerns Us All!
This point was raised very well by only a handful of journalists during the run up to 2014 referendum.
For example, Fiona Laird wrote in The Guardian published online on 29 Apr 2014:
"I have always considered myself British. But if Britain is about to be redefined as a country that doesn't include Scotland, then I don't feel British at all. Living in a country that has Scotland as part of it is an essential part of who I am. Over the last few months, I have realised I have very strong feelings about all this – but it seems there is no approved outlet for them.
"I am supposed to just sit here and take whatever happens in the referendum without saying a word. It feels like being left by a lover I have lived with for years and not being allowed to make any contribution to the discussion about our future...
"Let me now criticise the terrible Better Together campaign. It needs to do something fast to prove that the UK population feels much as it does about the current government, the status quo and the future. This isn't a fight between Scots and English; that's an invention of the yes campaign. Better Together needs Welsh voices on board, and Geordies, Liverpudlians and Mancunians. The 'rest of the UK' is so much more than a few smug Londoners, despite what the yes campaign would have us believe."
Jenny McCartney put it well in this article in The Sunday Telegraph of 1 Dec 2013:
"One of the most seductive things about the UK is that you can travel anywhere in it – from Land's End to John O'Groats to the rugged Antrim Coast – and be aware that, although perhaps a stranger to locals, you are not a foreigner: at some fundamental level, its curiosities and beauties belong to all of us. That's a deep, unspoken kind of magic, and I wonder how many people have considered what it would feel like if it disappeared. If Scotland becomes an independent country, it would officially render me a foreigner to it, an automatic outsider, a tolerated guest. It's not a feeling I yearn for."
We at A Force For Good believe that it is great to visit, or go on holiday, or work in another part of Britain and say, "This is my country too". Those who identify only with Scotland, or England, or only one part of our Islands, don't have that psychological feeling, and can't share that joy.
Scotland and England are uniquely blessed by the fact that we are also part of the same country – the United Kingdom. We here in Scotland don't want to have to look on England as a foreign country!
And Graeme Archer spoke about the "Poetry of the Union" and our shared togetherness in The Daily Telegraph on 7 Feb 2014:
"The poetry of the Union is simple, but provides the strongest reason to oppose Salmond's carve-up-a-small-island nationalism: that I was born in Scotland to an English father and Scottish mother, and now live in London. That's it. But this one sentence contains the big question that separatists prefer to avoid. Namely, why should my parents be made foreigners to one another, and I to one of them?"
In Conclusion - Everyone is Involved!
Keeping the UK together is a matter which concerns everyone who supports it, wherever they live in our Islands, or indeed the world.
During 2014, the SNP did a very good job of giving the impression that you were not entitled to an opinion if you did not live in Scotland.
It was utterly appalling that some people outside Scotland were made to feel that they were "not entitled" to an opinion!
We at A Force For Good encourage everyone to get engaged and involved.
As we always say, "If you're British, you're involved".
And even if you are not British, but you support the idea of the United Kingdom, then you're involved also!
If there is a next time, we must ensure a broad British coalition against the Nats from north to south, from John O'Groats to Lands End, and 'from east to west, from Lowestoft Ness, to Belleck in Co. Fermanagh'.
So, wherever you live, please support our campaign to keep us together. We need 200 monthly supporters to keep us sustainable into 2023. You can donate from as little as 0.69p a week (£3 a month) or £1.15 a week (£5 a month). Please make the move from passive observation to active involvement by contributing what you can. Thank you so much!