The Scottish IndependenceReferendumThe campaign on social media
2Contents1. The Study 32. Methodology 53. Results 73.1 Voter intention 73.2 Government policy areas and reasons for voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ 83.3 Key policy areas within voter opinions 113.3.1 Economic confusion 113.3.2 The Bedroom Tax 123.3.3 Trident 143.4 Other key themes influencing voter intention 163.4.1 ‘Democracy’ 173.4.2 The Conservative Party and England 183.4.3 The Scottish National Party 204. Recommendations 235. Further steps 24
31. The StudyThe Obama presidential bid in 2008 broke the mould for political campaigning by employingonline sources for research, polling and messaging purposes. By failing to get to grips withthe technological advances, the Republican Party in the United States surrenderedsuccessive elections to the Democrats whilst simultaneously underscoring the importance ofan online movement in any public poll.Scots will vote in September 2014 on whether to dissolve the United Kingdom and gain fullindependence and social media could prove the difference in this campaign. With thefranchise likely to be extended to include 16 and 17-year olds, a demographic dominated byonline users has become even more crucial in deciding the direction of the vote, adding to theimportance of analysing those areas of the web where Scots, every day, convey strongopinions about the way in which they will vote and the issues that will inform these decisions.These thoughts are unstructured and unsolicited, making them distinct from moreconventional political research results but no less valuable.In his publication The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland Under Nationalism, Tom Gallagher claimsthat “now [the conservative, industrial Scottish working-class] is fast disappearing, beingreplaced by different social categories and a very large underclass, none of which are aspredictable in their political behaviour”1. This underscores arguably the most significantrequirement of social media for effective campaigning anywhere, but particularly in Scotland.Scottish society has experienced many profound changes in the last few decades,accelerated by global economic turmoil since 2008 and the everyday ramifications onemployment and prospects for the young. The political ‘predictability’, or lack of thereby, isthus particularly relevant when considering the youth of Scotland, a generation that will bepivotal in September 2014. In addition to the social change discussed by Gallagher, thesevoters have never before visited a ballot box and so their electoral behaviour is inherentlytough to forecast. It is also the generation that most intently engages with online platforms,both as a means of communication with peers but also to soak up information.Moreover, the relevance of online platforms is widening rapidly. Discussing a ‘stereotypical’social media demographic is no longer sufficient as the Internet usage of swathes of votersincreases. Brandwatch analysis of the recent Presidential battle in the US2proved that socialmedia is no longer the preserve of the young, educated, liberal, tech savvy voter. Nor is it 1Gallagher, T., 2009. The Illusion of Freedom: Scotland Under Nationalism2http://www.brandwatch.com/2012/09/social-media-shows-founding-american-values-at-the-heart-of-the-presidency-battle/
4dominated by political extremes, heavy campaigners or lobby groups. Whilst online researchby no means conveys the attitudes of a representative share of society, its relevance is beingcontinuously stretched.Both Yes Scotland and Better Together will develop online campaigns in advance of the 2014referendum and accurate analysis of how these platforms are used by Scots will ensureeffective communication. As noted, voters that are using online platforms can be reached but,in addition, examination of the sentiments of voters, the key issues raised and the means bywhich Scots form political decisions will also naturally apply to those not active on the web. Inrecent traditional offline polls, around 20% of all Scots asked of their intent to vote remainedundecided3. This constituency, whether debating the issue on or offline, is likely to harbourthe same hopes and fears, on both sides of the debate. Far from attempting to predict theeventual outcome, this analysis aims to comprehend how Scots have formed opinions up tonow on independence, as a means of highlighting effective electioneering methods.Brandwatch Political Analysis will follow the campaign judiciously to understand how theviews conveyed on Scottish social media change, and why, over the next 17 months. 3http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/scottish-independence
52. MethodologyBrandwatch crawls around 65 million data sources a day across the web, finding theopinions of millions of social media users on a multitude of brands and wider issues.Brandwatch Political Analysis uses the thoughts of everyday voters conveyed on thesesources to inform public policy and communication.In order to ensure the data for this study was relevant, data was only taken from Scotland.Twitter data (the vast majority) can be narrowed down by location based on a hierarchicalsystem that takes into account geo-coordinates, time zone, language and the location givenby the user. For non-Twitter sources, the IP address of the site was analysed to confirm thatthe opinion was given in the United Kingdom and the content was then read by a humananalyst to ascertain whether the thought came from the Scottish electorate. The in-builtproblem with this methodology is that Unionists living in Scotland may wish to define theirlocation on Twitter as ‘UK’, whereas nationalists might opt for ‘Scotland’. This almost certainlycovers a small proportion of the data found but could explain an element of the swing awayfrom the results of traditional polling.A sample of these online authors was then manually analysed, with only one opinion perperson included to mitigate disproportionately vocal users. The sample taken is statisticallyrepresentative within a margin of error of 4.9 points.Voter intention, and the topics associated with these decisions, was selected by ahuman. Voter intention was limited to ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, with no Devo-Max option. Only opinionsgiven online were analysed. The majority of online data on Scottish independence carries nosentiment, merely bland comments on the issue or factual content. The volume of votersgiving balanced views in the sample was very small due to the nature of Internet discourse:users rarely give the opinion that they are ‘undecided’. Government policy areas were definedbased on the categorisation of Holyrood4and additional themes in the data (figures 6 and 7)were identified by the analyst himself within the process. Similarly, male or female opinionswere defined as such by the information given by the social media user themselves and weredefined as ‘unknown’ where insufficient information was available.The methodology also needed to combat aspects of online conversation that are commonacross many topics, such as the perceived influence of protesters and political extremes(although this can’t be ignored entirely, and is perhaps a different study). Findings, however,were not weighted in order to stand for the population as a whole. Unlike traditionalpolling, the purpose of this analysis is not to predict the result of the referendum but to 4http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics
6understand how the online users of Scotland form opinions and how that can improvecampaigns.More than two-thirds (68%) of online opinions on independence in Scotland were posted onTwitter, with 24% on found on Facebook and the remainder on forums and blogs. This isvery similar to the distribution in the majority of social media datasets.‘Questions’ have been attributed to each category of data, as with traditional polling. Thesequestions were, of course, not asked of social media users, but by the data analyst of theunstructured thoughts given online.Quotes have been taken verbatim from social media platforms. Spelling errors have not beencorrected or denoted with (sic).
73 Results3.1 Voter intentionFIGURE 1.IF A REFERENDUM WAS HELD TOMORROW, WOULD YOU VOTE FOR ANINDEPENDENT SCOTLAND?FIGURE 2.GENDER OF THOSE GIVING OPINIONS ONLINE ON SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCEOf those giving explicit opinions on Scottish independence, 72% of all voters answered ‘Yes’to the question, a marked difference from the results of offline polling. The possibilities for thisare vast in number. Yes Scotland, in some quarters, amounts to a combination of protestmovement, a political campaign and an amalgamation of political parties, potentiallymultiplying such support. Similarly, dissent of the status quo may be much more noteworthyon online platforms than traditionalism, similarly attracting a wider social media following,resulting in content sharing. As discussed throughout this analysis, the socially left-wingelements of “Yes’ supporters could be merging with the more traditionally reactionary aspectsof any nationalist movement, creating a perfect storm of conditions necessary for socialmedia popularity. A further possibility could be that the stereotypical social mediaNOYESUNDECIDEDFEMALEMALEFEMALESMALESUNKNOWN
8demographic is more likely to vote ‘Yes’, whereas reticent voices (Shy Tories?) and those notactively discussing the issue online could form the core of the ‘No’ base so often encounteredamid traditional, offline polling. Similarly, another polling phenomenon, the Bradley Effect,may be in play, although this is much less likely where direct questions are asked by ahuman.Reticence may be particularly pertinent when analysing the much less visible opinions offemale social media users on the issue of Scottish independence, at least in comparison tomales (see figure 2: females provided only 23% of all opinions). Coupled with the findings offigure 5, we can understand that especially females planning to vote ‘No’ in September 2014are much less likely to cite a policy-related reason for doing so, more often retreating toirrational positions, quite literally, on the ‘No’ side of the debate, without giving furtherthoughts, on social media platforms, at least.3.2 Government policy areas and reasons for voting ‘Yes’ or‘No’FIGURE 3.WHICH GOVERNMENT POLICY AREAS ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN DECIDING‘YES’ OR ‘NO’ (MALES)?0% 5% 10% 15%EnvironmentFarming and rural issuesBuilt environmentLaw, order and public safetyMarine and fisheriesTransportEducation and trainingArts culture and sportPublic sector and governmentPeople and societyHealth and social careBusiness, industry and energyForeign affairsEconomy and taxation% of all voter opinionsYESNO
9The largest shares of potential voters conveyed opinions on issues in the Economy andtaxation and People and society categories when deciding on ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ votes (seefigures 3 and 4). Of all Holyrood policy areas, the economy provoked by far the mostsignificant share of concerns over independence among both males and females, althoughthe category still accounted for more ‘Yes’ voters.Discussion of People and society issues was far more lopsided in favour of dissolution, forvoters of both genders, with no women found to be in favour of the union based on thesepolicies. Debate over the fairness of Scottish society and the distribution of wealth andservices were regular conversation topics in this category, whilst dialogue on Trident was alsocontained in People and society due to the social factors involved in storing the UK’s nucleardeterrent. ‘Democracy’ and ‘Trident’ are covered in greater depth in the following section(Trident also falls into Foreign affairs).FIGURE 4.WHICH GOVERNMENT POLICY AREAS ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN DECIDING‘YES’ OR ‘NO’ (FEMALES)?Two significant differences were evident when contrasting the views of males and females onHolyrood issues: males were more likely to address Foreign affairs, Business, Industryand energy and Health and society matters amid debate of why Scotland should notdissolve the United Kingdom (although were still more likely to be positive on these issues onaggregate) and females, particularly those offering ‘Yes’ opinions, were less prone to giving a0% 5% 10% 15%EnvironmentFarming and rural issuesBuilt environmentLaw, order and public safetyMarine and fisheriesTransportEducation and trainingArts culture and sportPublic sector and governmentPeople and societyHealth and social careBusiness, industry and energyForeign affairsEconomy and taxation% of all voter opinionsYESNO
10policy-related reason for their decision (see figure 5). People and society was considered tobe by far the most provocative policy area by women and was also, proportionately, muchmore likely to be cited by women than men as motivation to vote ‘Yes’.FIGURE 5. WOULD YOU CITE A GOVERNMENT POLICY-RELATED REASON TO VOTE‘YES’ OR ‘NO’?Figure 5 also reinforces a widely held view that voters than plan to vote ‘No’ are doing somore due to emotive, irrational motivation than for more practical reasons. Males made upmore than 70% of all opinions and, of these, those planning to vote for dissolution were 17percentage points more likely than females to discuss an issue under Holyrood orWestminster control. Again, we might understand from these findings that ‘No’ is a vote forthe ‘fear of change’. Interestingly, females that were drawn to social media platforms toparticipate in the debate were more likely to address government topics when intending tovote against independence.MALESTOPICNO TOPICFEMALESTOPICNO TOPIC‘NO’‘YES’‘NO’‘YES’
113.3 Key policy areas within voter opinions3.3.1 Economic confusionWithout robust finances, an independent Scotland will flounder; this much is agreed by almostall that are engaged in the online debate. This Holyrood policy area commanded moreattention from the Scottish online population than any other but was, in turn, the most divisive.The feeling still abounds that economic confusion will ensue in the event of dissolution.“Also, I have yet to hear one solid argument for independence - they are allspeculative. If Scotland becomes independent, it is a fact that a huge volume of cashwill be needed to even get close to where the UK as a whole is at the moment -HMRC, DVLA, Passport applications etc. - all of these will need to be dealt with. TheUK might not be perfect, but spending billions to get to the level the UK is at now, justto change the name of a country is economic suicide.”Parsnip, pistonheads.comEconomy and taxation discussion also ramped up significantly in April due to ongoingdecision-making over Edinburgh’s choice of currency in the event of dissolution. The linksbetween currency choice, the decisiveness of the related policymaking process and a broaderbudgetary stability of an independent nation are interwoven in the minds of many online, oftenundermining the overall plausibility of independence itself. Far beyond being the campaign’spreeminent policy-oriented concern in terms of the sheer volume of opinions, its significanceis arguably far greater from a more qualitative position. An economy perceived as incapablewould shake the ‘Yes’ campaign’s very foundations and, in addition to this, without a crediblefinancial platform, Scotland will not stand as an entity aside from the remainder of the UK(rUK) in the eyes of many swing voters. It is for this reason alone that the issue should beundoubtedly, and unsurprisingly, the primary focus of any online campaign.“Have always held view an indy Scotland must have indy currency. Its not true indy ifit doesnt... Indy.”Peter Welsh, twitter.comCertainty and clarity over currency amid economic messaging is paramount. The issue ofwhether Sterling, Euro or any newly devised coins are in the pockets of Scots is oftendeemed unimportant in relation to the firmness of this choice and its eventual implications for‘true’ independence. Evidence exists among would-be ‘No’ voters that Holyrood is trying tohave its cake and eat it over sterling. Crucially, though, this is deeply evocative of concernsheld in England, potentially strengthening views that the Better Together muscle emanatesfrom south of the border, a constant thread in the much wider debate of independence
12(discussed in section 3.4.2). Wavering over a choice of currency, however, also occasionallyleads to a lack of voter confidence over the economy more broadly and threatens to discreditthe economic theory underpinning elements of Yes Scotland.“There has been a lot of discussion in recent days about what independence mightmean for our currency. The choice of which currency to use is perhaps the singlemost important economic decision a country can take. As part of the UK, the pound –one of the oldest, strongest and most successful currencies...”Jamie Leishman, facebook.com“Surely if you were ever saying yes or indecision about Scottish independence thenthe change of currency would make you see sense”Tom Smith, twitter.com‘No’ campaigners addressed the inconclusive nature of the ownership of natural resources,among other financial capital, again charging Yes Scotland with indecision and a lack ofconcrete detail. This is not always a pejorative element of voter opinions. Those giving theiropinion online will acknowledge, if sometimes tacitly, the institutional entanglement of UKfinances and the laborious process of separation, identifying with a lack of detail from theindependence movement.“Additionally, and most importantly, the Scottish people have to remember that NorthSea Oil is not Scottish, but British, meaning owned by the United Kingdom, whichincludes: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If independent, Scotlandwould receive a share of present and future oil Lastly, Scotland, as part of the UK, willhave to take some of the deficit raked-up by the UK government. Scotland isrepresented in the British parliament, therefore are accountable for a share of thenational debt. They cannot say it for the British government to deal with; there are 52MP’s for Scotland. What will have to be decided is how much; will it calculated on thepercentage of people in Scotland, against the UK overall population? Or will it becalculated from the number of Scottish MP’s in the House of Commons?”Christopher Miles Jenkins, facebook.com3.3.2 The Bedroom TaxCounter opinions to the economic doubt identified in the previous section took two primaryforms. Online users regularly established positions of principle or theory, discounting theimportance of economic data in comparison to democracy, human rights and freedom ofspeech. The argument that Scottish independence is a process, exclusively, of democraticself-determination is not new, but holds increased relevance amid economic confusion. Thelegal fine print can wait until full autonomy, in the minds of a vocal minority, whilst others
13simply consider that the economic situation could not fall further than is currently the case.The importance of ‘democracy’ is analysed in section 3.4.1.“Im past caring about the financial state of Scotland if we go Independent. It cant beany worse. The nos are going on about how much less money we have and the yessare saying how much more.”Philip McAuliffe, facebook.comSecondly, support in Westminster for changes to housing benefits (the ‘Bedroom Tax’) waswidely lambasted by Scots, falling into two Holyrood policy areas in figures 3 and 4,Economy and taxation and People and society. Of political parties in Scotland, only SNPMPs offered blanket opposition to the reforms, proving hugely popular with both theindependence campaign and fence sitters. The issue is also representative of three muchbroader themes within the debate: the importance of class, political bias and England.The Bedroom Tax policy, in practice as well as the views of Scottish social media users,largely affects those considered to be working class and it is on this note that Yes Scotlandcan be seen to harness support from the corresponding end of the social scale. Whenanalysed in relation to the ideological position of the political parties on either side of thereferendum campaign (and also in opposition to each other over the Bedroom Tax) itcrystalises the view that Scottish nationalists will seek to create a more equal society thatprotects its poor. In short, a government that will serve all Scots, and is representative ofScots, as opposed to those in support of the Bedroom Tax that are not only seen as havingabandoned those that may be cared for by Edinburgh but also that have colluded with aprimarily English parliamentary majority in ratifying the legislation. Which arrives at the thirdbroad theme. Put brusquely, the Bedroom Tax can be seen as an English invention imposedupon Scots and that, by implication, those promoting the bill are potentially less Scottish.“With the enactment this week of the savage Bedroom Tax and other radicalchanges to the social welfare system, the UK government has rendered bettertogether an oxymoron and doomed any prospects of convincing Scots to remainwithin the Union.”Fiona Johnston, Facebook.com“If anyone ever tells you that Scotland has influence at Westminster, respond withtwo words, bedroom tax”Stewart McDonald, twitter.comThe visibility of England and the English in this debate among Scots on the issue of Scottishindependence is striking. It is analysed in greater depth later in this paper but discussion of
14the Bedroom Tax underlines that England runs through a range of conversational themes inthe debate and shows further how the actions of both campaigns have positioned a clashamong pro and anti-independence Scots as a fight between a Scottish Yes Scotland and anEnglish-dominated Better Together. It also reduces the validity of charges of economicconfusion within the independence lobby: the UK may be more fiscally decisive, but to thedetriment of many Scots.3.3.3 TridentThe housing of Britain’s nuclear deterrent on the banks of the Clyde being vocally opposed bymany Scots, including pro-independence champions, is again far from new to this campaign.Its relevance, however, has swelled due to both the adjunct elements of the debate, notablythe salience of ‘the English’ and political preference in Scotland, and also due to the issuebeing placed firmly in the spotlight by the prime minister himself in April. The issue generateda significant volume of both Foreign affairs and People and society concerns during themonth, across both males and female voters.The significance of the geography of the British Trident programme has never been lost onScots. Indeed, its basis as a rallying call for political autonomy is also well entrenched, but itsguise as another apparent imposition by a majority Anglo-Saxon government in Westminstermakes it even more apt amid consideration of the debate, in some quarters, as Scotlandversus England.“75% of Scots dont want Trident and 83.3% of Scots didnt vote Tory”Radical Independence, twitter.comPolitically, a similarly anti-Scottish Westminster view could be ingrained. The visibility ofTrident, a nuclear programme widely opposed by the political left, within pro-independencediscussion indicates that, in addition to forming a broad ‘imposition’ rallying call across themasses, nuclear weaponry more generally could be considered un-Scottish due to theapparent left-of-centre slant north of the border. Trident, crucially, has historically also beenopposed, as with the vast majority of nuclear technology, by students, a demographic crucialto forming the referendum outcome.“Weve had @CNDuks website open, in order to see how much UK has spent on#Trident since David Cameron started speaking.”SNP Students, twitter.comConsidering the appearance of Trident within these criteria, the fuss visible on social mediaplatforms amid David Cameron’s visit to Scotland on April 4 was far from arresting. Not asingle voter within the sample considered Trident to be a reason to vote against
15independence, despite the prime ministerial rhetoric on the economic and employmentbenefits from the nuclear deterrent should Scotland stay in the Union.“And just to be clear, the jobs would be secure in an Independent ScotlandWITHOUT A TRIDENT! Stop your Tory scaremongering!”Gillian Coyle, facebook.comNationalists latched on the prime minister’s appearance, exacerbating the level to which itbackfired from a Better Together perspective, at least online in Scotland. The apparentfoolishness of the prime minister’s speech topic was also not lost on Yes Scotlandchampions.“David Cameron coming to Scotland to tell us why we should be grateful for Trident.That should go well.”Mike Weir, twitter.comThe importance of Trident to Yes Scotland cannot be underestimated for the above reasons,often forming an umbrella over the political differences underpinning aspects of the campaignas well as perceptions of English governmental imposition. The prime minister raised Tridenthigh as a unionist creation to be celebrated, but the way with which this backfired on socialmedia platforms in Scotland necessitates its resurrection across Yes Scotland campaigning atregular intervals in the run up to September 2014.
163.4 Other key themes influencing voter intentionFIGURE 5.WHICH OTHER ISSUES ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN DECIDING ‘YES’ OR ‘NO’(MALES)?0% 5% 10% 15%Voting at 16Donors and donationsTrident and nuclear issuesDemocracy, freedom, destiny,and human rightsEnglandThe Scottish National PartyThe Conservative Party% of all voter opinionsYESNO
17FIGURE 6.WHICH OTHER ISSUES ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU WHEN DECIDING ‘YES’ OR ‘NO’(FEMALES)?3.4.1 ‘Democracy’To a number of Scots, the fine print of autonomy is merely a sideshow. The process ofensuring Scottish independence is purely one of self-determination, to be fought on groundsof democracy, freedom and, more broadly, human rights. As previously discussed, thissentiment permeates the views of many Scots to the point where detail can be dismissed asBetter Together doubt or scaremongering. Put more transparently, social media users canrecognise factual naysaying, particularly economic, as fear, whereas the realisation ofdemocracy will demolish this doubt.“What is at stake is not identity, but democracy, embedded in the principle of popularrather than parliamentary sovereignty. While Westminster offers only a territorialcompromise (combined with an unreformed electoral system and House of Lords,crown prerogatives, and repeal of the Human Rights Act), the Scottish government isoffering a real constitution, produced inclusively, that will establish an independentdemocracy fit for the 21st century.”Alan McKinnon, facebook.comThe fundamentals of freedom of speech were also present within discussion of the removal ofCo-operative head, Mary Lockhart, in April. Far from being seen as a bold and decisive moveby the party to stand down its chair for promoting the socialist values of dissolution, Yes0% 5% 10% 15%Voting at 16Donors and donationsTrident and nuclear issuesDemocracy, freedom, destiny,and human rightsEnglandThe Scottish National PartyThe Conservative Party% of all voter opinionsYESNO
18Scotland supporters employed the situation as an example of the limited democracy on offerwithin the union. Lockhart’s piece also raised an important point on the left: does New Labourrepresent the direction of socialism across the whole of the UK and, if not, which side of thereferendum debate is truly socialist?“I remembered the trades union legislation which Margaret Thatcher introduced, andwhich Labour failed to repeal, which keeps workers divided. I pondered a LabourParty which had failed to highlight the bedroom tax at earlier stages of the WelfareReform Bill, a Labour government which had pledged to renew a redundant nucleardeterrent. And I went to sleep wondering if the Labour Party socialism by which partof my identity is defined was beyond redemption. On the 20 March, I awoke with asense of hope, and with new resolve. A resolve to vote Yes in the referendum forScottish independence.”Steven Cookson, facebook.comDemocracy was considered to be around twice as noteworthy by women than men, with thelatter seemingly more focused on the economic and legislative feasibility of self-rule. As withTrident, the issue was also partisan, heavily on the side of Yes Scotland, with the sole anti-independence voice concerned with democratic values critical of the Scottish National Partyand its role in the campaign, rather than any standards attributed to the United Kingdom(analysed in section 3.4.3).Democracy is crucial to Yes Scotland for at least two reasons. The philosophical principalsthemselves are crucial to advocates of the campaign itself but can also be employed to paperover any perceived detail deficits.“what is "guaranteed" is Scotland independent will be Fairer, Greener and moreDemocratic than the UK”“fairer and greener with lower corporation tax & more reliance on oil :)”“(at least) thatll be a decision of an independent ScottishGovernment”Mark Gallagher & Keith Houston, twitter.com3.4.2 The Conservative Party and EnglandMore than any other issue, whether an area of Holyrood policymaking or another socialmedia-generated conversational theme within the independence debate, the ConservativeParty and, more broadly, the English were crucial elements of the discussion online inScotland. The two were inextricably linked by many Yes Scotland campaigners due to bothcultural stereotyping of the Tories and also because of the party existing as primarily anelectorally English entity. This is a crucial linkage: even Scottish Conservatives may not be
19welcomed as ‘true’ Scots by the ‘Yes’ campaign or many on the fence. Indeed, to many insupport of an independent Scotland, Better Together stands with the English and theConservatives.“If the Better Together campaign truly believe that is the case then prove it getCameron and Clegg to show us the books. I while they are at it can the show us thereports for the new Oil fields off Shetland. The one nobody knows about apart fromthe English government.”Tom Tonney, facebook.comThe prominence of England within the debate as a whole online is intriguing. Multiple factorshave repositioned this apparently Scottish debate as Scotland versus England. The presenceof a Conservative government at Westminster has exaggerated the political and electoraldifferences between the people of Scotland and its UK government. One that has, in theminds of many Scots online, been imposed by electoral results in the remainder of the UnitedKingdom.“points made to me by non nationalists have pretty much conviced to to vote yes onindependence. 1. there hasnt been one election in last one hundred years, where ifyou removed the constituacy won in scotland, the overall result of the election wouldhave changed. so, it doesnt matter who you voted, the result would still have beendecided by voters down south. 2. If we were living in an independent Scotland now,we would not be suffering at the hands of a tory parliment we did not vote for.”Tony Stewart, facebook.comIn addition, Better Together has failed to reposition the battle to one unfolding among Scots,preferring to employ prominent Westminster figures to argue the benefits of union and failingto promote the virtues of Labour leader Johann Lamont within a framework of ‘Scottishness’.Dissent over the origin of donations for Better Together also fell into this realm, with largefinancial help coming from outside of Scotland. This was conspicuous in the eyes of Scottishsocial media users in April and was again used to question the motives behind BetterTogether and whether the group is truly representative of Scotland.“The Unionist No campaign is accepting large donations from people outwithScotland who will not have a vote in the referendum. National Collective says:"There cannot be a fair referendum if money is solicited from outwith Scotland or fromrich Tory donors who do not vote in Scotland.”Brian Holton, facebook.com
20The inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of rival politicians working together have alsonot been missed.“Alistair Darling: In Westminster Osborne is wrong. In Scotland Osborne is right.”The SSP, twitter.comEvents in April further widened this gap between what is considered to be Scottish and whatis not. Bedroom Tax legislation and the prime minister’s Trident appearance north of theborder both, as previously noted, highlighted differences between Scotland and Englandwhilst underlining the role of English politicians in creating laws in Scotland that happen to beboth opposed by huge numbers of Scots as well as being understood as inherently ‘un-Scottish’.“Although we elect a few MPs to Westminster, we in Scotland are never likely tohave a real say in social justice in the UK because we are in such a minority.Only by voting yes in the referendum can we finally have a true voice in defeatingsocial injustice in Scotland. […] We need to vote "yes" to ensure we have a societywhich looks after its poor, sick and elderly citizens and which does not allow itspeople to starve or freeze.”Kieran P Russell, facebook.comThe death of Margaret Thatcher formed another front on the battlefield, with manyrecoginising recent events as evocative of the role of the Conservative Party in the 1980s and90s.“The day Ive feared for so long has come to pass. Thatcher has died. Were going tobe subjected to so much hagiography about what a wonderful person and primeminister she was, when she did so much damage to this country and started acultural change which is still harming us all today.”Author unknown, soundonsound.com/forumUnderneath discussion of England, the English and the Conservative Party lays the claim ofan imposed government. Scanning the results of general elections in the United Kingdomsince the rise of the Labour Party as an electoral power shows that the Scottish vote wouldhave never transformed a would-be Conservative government to Labour, or vice versa. Onlytwice has a hung parliament changed to a Labour majority, and once (2010) has an outrightConservative victory in the rest of the UK resulted in a hung parliament (albeit with aConservative-dominated administration). This largely debunks the myth that an independentScotland would doom rUk to an eternity of Tory tyranny and also that, by implication, ScottishLabour voters have in any way a moral obligation to remain in the union as a means of
21preventing this, helping to assuage the concerns among many swing voters on both sides ofthe border. It also helps to understand the ‘imposed’ nature of Westminster government, anissue far from lost on Scots.“Voted Labour, Got Tory? Make sure it never happens again, vote Yes in 2014”Colin, twitter.com3.4.3 The Scottish National PartyThat the SNP featured in a wide variety of discourse on independence in April should comeas no shock. The party has forced a vote on dissolution to the forefront of its manifestos fordecades and, to many, the SNP and independence are linked. Perhaps surprisingly though,the party is considered less noteworthy around the debate than the Conservatives and oftendisassociated by Yes activists. If the presence of the Tories in the debate helps to rally theYes troops, then it is not behind the SNP. The party was the only major theme amidconversation on Scottish independence that was more often conveyed as a reason to voteagainst autonomy, also providing the negative Public sector and government thoughtsdisplayed on figures 3 and 4.“So Alex Salmond, Scotlands First Minister, goes to America to promote ScotlandWeek, costing the taxpayer almost £360,000 in the process. Does he promoteSCOTLAND? No, he promotes INDEPENDENCE. This BUFFOON is telling MORELIES, saying how great and rich an independent Scotland would be.”Alan McNamara, facebook.comMany on the Yes side could view the SNP merely as vehicle toward achieving independence,eager to dispense of Mr Salmond after the vote. Supporters are keen to convey that the SNPalone is not Yes Scotland, whilst the independence lobbies within the other leading politicalparties in Holyrood are vocal in support of autonomy, when present. Whilst a high-profile‘Swastika’ section header published by The Scotsman evoked much wrath fromdissolutionists and even helped to persuade a number of swing voters to move in thatdirection (“the disgusting Scotsman photo has pushed me over the edge. Been thinking aboutit for a while. Joined SNP today”), the campaign may have touched a nerve. Many pro-independence voices have no wish to associate with the SNP.“A YES vote is NOT a vote for the SNP - folk need to understand this. I despise theSNP but ill be voting YES.”Tom Barrow, twitter.com“Just a reminder for those that still have doubts. We do not vote for SNP or AlexSalmond in the referendum next year. We vote for an Independent Scotland and will
22be free to vote in Elections for the party that we desire. The first Government of anIndependent Scotland could be any of the political parties not just the SNP.”Harry MacFadyen, facebook.comFurther to this, the post-referendum fortunes of the SNP were debated, noting that a range ofissues may render the party redundant in the event of either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ votes.Independence could place extra emphasis on other policies held by the party whilst alsoflooding the country with Scots that may have sought careers in Westminster and drawing thefull attention of the current opposition parties. A ‘No’ vote could mean failure and subsequentelectoral unreliability.“511 days to go till the political death of Alex Salmond at the ballot box, times aticking”George Laird, twitter.com“A yes vote does Not Mean Alex Salmond Will be our Leader is a cods wollop. WhenScotland Votes yes we must have an Election to elect the first Government ofIndependent Scotland. The only thing we can be sure of No more tory attacks on thepoor.”Tom Tomney, facebook.comWhilst these thoughts held by social media users relate to the fate of a political party, ratherthan the campaign for independence, and Scottish politics after the vote itself, they remainrelevant. A strong, multi-facetted SNP, if it continues to be tied to the notion of independence,will only benefit the campaign and help to imbue a sense of permanence and assuredness invoters. The Scottish electorate knows it will return to ballot boxes soon after a positivereferendum vote, but carrying knowledge of what awaits may prove important. A campaignthat shows a united front with an understanding of the politicians that will be involved inHolyrood post-referendum will prove much more attractive.The natural linkage between the SNP and Yes Scotland provides the majority of the positivethoughts around the party and independence, even when merely sharing nationalist output onsocial media platforms. The bond is profitable for both entities but could seek to be moreinclusive in order to progress.“RT @theSNP: Senior Labour MP says Darling must return £500,000 donation”Tony Gurney, twitter.com
234. RecommendationsThe ‘confusion’ over the Scottish economy come independence, as discussed, threatens toderail the entire campaign. Leaning on the importance of more theoretical principals is the keyto winning this debate until fiscal details can be established. Social media users on the ‘Yes’side understand the value in the historically embedded notion of self-rule, often over andabove what is perceived to be economic small print. Simultaneously positioning the campaignas one seeking democracy whilst admitting the immensely complicated budgetary nature ofUnited Kingdom institutions, and the eventual disentanglement of them, would will counterclaims of confusion over currency and cement the support of the ‘Yes’ campaign, whilstattracting swing voters.The role of the English in this debate cannot be ignored, either when discussing individualexamples such as the Bedroom Tax or Trident or the wider perceived political chasmbetween how Scots and English vote. Both of the aforementioned policies have underlinedthe way in which an English-majority, Conservative government has ‘imposed’ rule on Scotswho not only did not vote in this direction but who also embody an entirely different part of thepolitical spectrum. A campaign strategy that emphasises the similarities between Englishpolitics and the Better Together campaign would impact on many undecided Scots. That,however, does not imply that such a tactic should depict Better Together as non-Scottish, butinstead create an inclusive campaign away from issues dividing Scots.Similarly, the role of the Scottish National Party in Yes Scotland could be downplayed.Social media users see the party as the sole reason to vote ‘No’ among major issues in thedebate, whilst expressing a lack of confidence about what may follow independence, should ithappen. As noted, a campaign that disavows party politics and seeks to capture dissolutionistelements of each of the major parties in Scotland, and independents, would rise above thedislike of individual personalities or parties on the ‘Yes’ side and manage most eventualitiesafter the vote itself. Dividing Scots into two camps would, of course, be disastrous in anyoutcome.
245. Further stepsDetailed analysis of voter intention and opinions is just one way to fully utilise the wealth ofsocial media data for political purposes.The Brandwatch guide to using social media data for political analysis lays out alternative,and additional, routes in this genre. More specifically, analysis of Scottish independencecould take the following extra steps:• More detailed polling – where do the political parties stand on this issue compared towider approval ratings? How popular are party leaders and other frontbenchers?• Deeper public policy and issue research – how can the views of social media usersaffect policymaking?• Social media platform analysis – how can those involved in the independence debatefine tune their own online pages and communication to improve public standing?Examples of each of these methods are available in addition to this document by email@example.com.