Is Mike Crockart voting Yes to Independence?

You might think so from these photos of his office in the heart of Edinburgh West

Crockart yes 1

Crockart Yes 2

Not for the first time, his staff have had to take down Yes posters which had been glued on to the office windows.

Yesterday a cavalcade of Yes cars parked outside the office and played loud music next to Mike’s No Thanks street stall. Why do they bother with nonsense like that.

This, sadly, is one of the milder incidents of intimidatory behaviour which are becoming commonplace across Scotland.  I have lost count of the number of committed and passionate No voters who have very politely declined to take a poster because they are worried that their windows would be knocked in if they display it. It shouldn’t be like this. 

Just this morning, there’s been an example of a Labour Councillor being shouted at in a shopping centre, of farmers who display No posters in their fields being phoned and told that their animals would be let out and a video of a Yes campaigner abusively removing No posters. I can’t embed that here, so here’s a still. You might find the comments interesting.

No thanks poster vandalism

Here’s a video of a Yes mob shouting abuse at a Better Together stall in Dalkeith at the weekend. The guy in the blue baseball cap is the MSP for  Midlothian and Musselburgh, Colin Beattie.

This is going well beyond the usual “few idiots on both sides” narrative. I’ve seen bad behaviour in elections before. I’ve been chased by thugs in Chesterfield. But this is worse than anything I have ever experienced. The thing is when Alex Salmond suggests that the case against independence is the case against Scotland, or an SNP councillor calls Alistair Carmichael a “supposed Scot” it encourages Yes supporters on the ground to behave as outlined above, to throw lemonade over No canvassers as happened to former MSP Robert Brown the other day. It encourages the daily abuse I’ve received on social media for three years. It leads to the sad situation where a five year old shouts “No are Rubbish” at Better Together campaigners in the street.

Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael talked about this on the BBC yesterday:

The reality of this is the people who are jostled in the streets, the people who are pushed off the streets are not Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon or John Swinney; it’s people like John Prescott and Alistair Darling. And they are pushed off the streets by people waving Yes posters.

If there is bullying here, clearly there is now quite a serious atmosphere where people who are supporting a No vote don’t feel comfortable in saying so publicly.

And then, at the weekend, you have somebody like Jim Sillars come out and say there’ll be a ‘day of reckoning’ for any business that supports a No vote.

You’ve got a mob outside Pacific Quay, the BBC headquarter in Glasgow, trying to influence their reporting of this referendum. These are serious, serious tactics to be adopted and really, the person who could stop it all and pull the heat out of this is Alex Salmond. But time after time, despite every invitation to do so, he just ignores it.

What I can tell you is that it can be stopped by Alex Salmond now. And it’s not an isolated incident. We hear it from business people all the time that if they make comments that are disobliging to the campaign then they’ll get phone calls from senior Nationalist figures. You hear it from journalists exactly the same story.

This is probably, is certainly, the most important decision the people of Scotland will ever be called upon to make and nobody should be intimidated from having their say in this debate. And sadly, when you talk to people on the streets and doorsteps you find that they in fact are feeling exactly the same way.

I touched on this in my interview with Radio 4’s PM programme yesterday. I also talked about the great joys of this campaign, about how good it is to work with people from other parties on one campaign, about how engaged everyone is, about the fabulous group of kids we met on the street the other night. They were about 11 and were really clued up with the arguments on both sides. You can hear that from about 51 minutes in.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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34 Comments

  • Neither the Councillors’ Code of Conduct nor the MSP code covers behaviour when not in the chamber or carrying out activities as an elected representative. Maybe these need to be reviewed and changed to include this, to recognise that poor behaviour outside politics reflects on their position too?

  • Caron
    This theme that you keep repeating that the YES campaign can only get people to vote for independence by tricking them or using underhand tactics is wearing a bit thin.

    Scots voters are as capable as any (and probably more capable than most) of making up their minds.
    They are not being tricked, or fooled or bamboozled by trick tactics or sorcery by your opponents.

    Shouting “we was robbed” two days before the vote is taking place might prove counter-productive.
    The NO campaign is probably going to win, why don’t you relax and regain a bit of perspective.

  • Hear hear, John

  • Peter Chegwyn 16th Sep '14 - 2:03pm

    Caron. You talk about ‘being chased by thugs in Chesterfield’. I’ve also been chased by thugs in Chesterfield when I was the Liberal-SDP Alliance Agent in the 1984 by-election there. I saw the Conservative candidate having eggs thrown at him. Were ‘Yes’ campaigners responsible for that? Of course not!

    You also mention John Prescott. Wasn’t he egged by a fox-hunting thug many years back and didn’t he punch the guy in return? Nothing to do with ‘Yes’ campaigners as I recall.

    My point is that this kind of thing has always happened and from what I’ve seen on the streets of Glasgow in the Referendum campaign most of the banter has been remarkably good-humoured. When it occasionally turns a bit heavy it’s usually both sides who are equally to blame.

    The political campaigners in Scotland who ARE renowned for bullying people into voting for them at election-time are the Labour Party campaigners in places like Clydebank and Glasgow, the same Labour campaigners who you see smirking behind Gordon Brown & Alistair Darling at what are now becoming ‘Labour Only’ photo-calls for the so-called ‘Better Together’ campaign.

    Trying to accuse the ‘Yes’ side of ‘bullying’ and intimidation is just another ‘smear’ from a ‘Better Together’ campaign whose own negative, threatening and intimidatory campaign tactics have left much to be desired… and whose own abysmal campaign failings might yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Thursday.

  • Peter Chegwyn

    Trying to accuse the ‘Yes’ side of ‘bullying’ and intimidation is just another ‘smear’ from a ‘Better Together’ campaign whose own negative, threatening and intimidatory campaign tactics have left much to be desired… and whose own abysmal campaign failings might yet snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Thursday.

    No it’s not. The No campaigns ground operation has been pretty woeful until recently, but the thuggery and intimidation is coming almost exclusively from over enthusiastic Yes supporters.

    I wouldn’t dream of putting No posters in my windows, it would lead to arguments with my Yes supporting neighbours at the very least.

    I don’t argue with them for putting posters in their windows stating their intention.

  • Simon McGrath 16th Sep '14 - 3:33pm

    David Hill – there nothing in the TTIP that says the NHS will have to be privatised – it simply isntt here.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Sep '14 - 3:35pm

    I agree with John and Peter. I saw the Carmichael interview and frankly it came across as pathetic whingeing from a campaign scared they might lose – in spite of all the polling evidence. And we accept complaints of this nature from the Labour Party of all people? (I just remember, among so many incidents, when Andrew Ellis was defending his seat in Newcastle and was trapped inside his committee room by a gang of Labour kids throwing stones.)

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 16th Sep '14 - 3:35pm

    What the hell for?

  • John Roffey 16th Sep '14 - 4:38pm

    @ Dr David Hill

    ‘article that the Daily Record would not put in print’

    The Guardian seems to have caught on to the dangers of TTIP – and they seem to extend well beyond the NHS:

    This from George Monbiot:

    ‘During its financial crisis, and in response to public anger over rocketing charges, Argentina imposed a freeze on people’s energy and water bills (does this sound familiar?). It was sued by the international utility companies whose vast bills had prompted the government to act. For this and other such crimes, it has been forced to pay out over a billion dollars in compensation. In El Salvador, local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long, perhaps. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.’

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/04/us-trade-deal-full-frontal-assault-on-democracy

    … and this from Owen Jones

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/14/ttip-deal-british-sovereignty-cameron-ukip-treaty

  • I, myself, have witnessed misbehaviour by political activists during election campaigns. Things like stealing stakeboards and shouting abuse at activists from opposing parties,. But I have never seen anything that compares with what is presently going on in Scotland. This is something of a wholly different and unwelcome order, in terms of its scale and relentlessness, and its asymmetry.

    I saw it this morning. In Fraserburgh, a trawlerman was interviewed by the BBC and asked how he was going to vote. He reply was that he knew nothing about politics. Similarly, a week or so ago, a businessperson in Aviemore was asked the same question, and responded that she would make her mind up in the polling-booth. Why are people so reticent about admitting that they itnend to vote “NO”?

    Then we have the Tayside farmers who have been threatened with what amounts to terrorism against their businesses, simply because they display “NO” posters. I have never come across anything remotely comparable. And what about the attempts to film and record people suspected of having unionist sympathies?

    The demostration outside the BBC offices in Glasgow might have looked like a ridiculous farce, but it was clearly intended to be threatening, and must have been seen as threatening by BBC staff.

    Why are someliberals defending this kind of behaviour? Why are there some liberals who want to abandon Scotland into the hands of the se people?

  • Eddie Sammon 16th Sep '14 - 5:38pm

    If as individuals we ever want to be able to canvass Yes voters successfully again, in any way, then we need to be a bit more respectful. I fall foul of this rule, but sometimes it is hard to see the merit in breaking up the UK, unless you believe in a small state.

  • If he were to do so it would be consistent with liberal principle, surely?

  • paul barker 16th Sep '14 - 7:07pm

    Theres an article on Labour List about Milliband trying to talk to shoppers & being shouted down by Yes campaigners, we do seem to be hearing more of this sort of thing. The fact that Labour have done similar things in the past is irrelevant here, we should condemn this behaviour whoever is doing it. My worry is what happens on Friday & Saturday nights, whoever Wins.

  • John, Peter and Tony – if you don’t believe there’s a problem, then you have to get up here to see it. Yes, posters get vandalised during elections, but (for example) every single No poster on a 21 mile stretch of dual carriageway between Perth and Dundee smacks more than a little of organisation. For the first election in years, I don’t have a poster up because I just don’t feel safe doing it (and I had a huge diamond at the bottom of my garden in 2011!) Add to that ITV News’ Tom Bradby admitting he is not enjoying the campaign because of the intimidation journalists are feeling, and you can see the problem.

  • Linda Forbes 16th Sep '14 - 8:17pm

    The bad behaviour cuts both ways when it comes to posters: my neighbour’s Yes sign at the end of a quiet country lane was removed last night between midnight and 8am, while someone else’s No Thanks sign disappeared from their paddock overnight. Living as we do in Orkney I suppose I could blame the trowies, or perhaps it’s a Don’t Know voter trying to make up their mind.

    The arms race in getting one’s posters further up lamp-posts in campaigns (or replacing the opposing candidates’ ones) is part and parcel of electioneering. And often during canvassing I’ve met people who are troubled at the thought of displaying their political allegiance openly through taking a poster or stakeboard = it’s not a referendum only issue.

    When it comes to barracking and shouting down one’s opponents I feel Westminster (Holyrood to a lesser extent) is reaping what it has sown – the behaviour by expensively educated millionaire ministers and theircolleagues and opponents at PMQs hardly sets an example to the electorate. This intimidatory behaviour has resulted in able people, particularly women, deciding Parliament is not the place for them, unbalancing yet further the representativeness of the House. This doesn’t excuse what’s happening on the street during any campaign, including the referendum, although perhaps those in ‘authority’ might like to reflect on their influence.

  • Keith Legg
    But none of this sort of thing is new and it isn’t exclusive to one political party or just one side in this referendum.
    I think it shows a weakness in the NO campaign that instead of discussing the issues and trying to win the debate they whinge on about this sort of side issue.
    The YES campaign seems enthusiastic, confident in what they are working for and much more engaged with real people.
    The top down NO campaign seems to be relying on media stunts with invitatiom only audiences of Labour Party nodding dogs behind an increasingly incoherent Gordon Brown. Or the ill-conceived march of one hundred English Labour MPs down Buchanan Street – who did they think they were going to impress?

    By the way in Kingston where I live there was a tradition of burning the local Tory MP in effigy once a year in the ancient market place. I have on occasion suggested that the local Liberal Democrats revive this splendid tradition from over a hundred years ago. In Norman Baker’s constituency on bonfire night they burn all sorts of people in effigy sometimes on a very grand and colourful scale. The Pope is a regular victim but plenty of other public figures have been included over the years. All that in a very polite and quiet part of Sussex.

    Political passions sometimes get high, especially when it is a close run thing and everyone knows that every vote will count. In such circumstances people get noisy, remove poster boards, heckle politicians or throw eggs. It happens on all sides and it is very seldom other than an over-excited individual whose actions cannot be blamed on anyone other than that person.

  • paul barker 16th Sep '14 - 9:42pm

    The point is that its not just No supporters wh say that something different is happening, experienced Journalists also say that the level of aggro is higher than usual & mostly from The Yes side. If support for Yes turns out to be significantly less than The Polling Consensus of 48% that would be strong evidence that No Voters have felt intimidated.
    49% of Scots Polled said the campaign had left bitter divisions, if thats all imagination then a lot of people are imagining the same thing.

  • Peter Chegwyn 16th Sep '14 - 10:47pm

    Keith Legg – I have been to Scotland to see first-hand what’s happening. I wouldn’t have commented otherwise. And I’ll be back in Glasgow & Edinburgh again tomorrow (Wednesday).

    Hopefully I’ll survive all these dreadful ‘Yes’ bullies that the ‘No’ campaign keep talking about.

    Have to say from my own experience that all the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigners I’ve met so far have been charming, witty and passionate in their beliefs.

    It’s been a fascinating campaign that has captured the imagination of the public in a way that I’ve seldom seen before. Good and bad, we can all learn from it.

  • Liberal Neil 16th Sep '14 - 11:07pm

    Thuggery and vandalism is exactly that and shouldn’t be tolerated on any side.

    And the fact that there has been much Labour thuggery over the years (and I’ve seen plenty of it) does not in any way excuse thuggery in the referendum campaign now.

  • What’s wrong is excessive expectations.

    As an Englishman, I would prefer a “no”, because a yes will cost us all money, especially Scotland.

    If I was Scottish,however, I would vote yes. It would be a chance to break free of corporate control of government. It would on balance be worth a shot.

    However, it will probably not make a big change for the better. Salmond would sincerely like to avoid NHS privatisation, economic contraction driven by globalisation, and climate disaster. However, he hasn’t much of a clue as to how to do so.

    We need to stop fussing about the shape of government and start prioritising what decisions it should make.

  • The one thing I know is that if No wins, the establishment response will immediately be “we’ve had enough of talking about the silly Scots and absurd plans for political reform, let’s get back to serious business,” whereas if Yes wins, Scotland and reform will be on the agenda for quite a long while to come.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Sep '14 - 2:04am

    It seems I am missing the strength of the desire to “kick Westminster”. I’ve tried using rational arguments, about not weakening the state or adding costs to business, but it all seems to fall away when the opportunity to give Westminster a good kicking arrives.

    The only thing I would say back is that the SNP and the Greens also need a good proverbial kicking. We can kick the establishment in other ways :).

  • Worth repeating —
    David-1 17th Sep ’14 – 1:42am
    The one thing I know is that if No wins, the establishment response will immediately be “we’ve had enough of talking about the silly Scots and absurd plans for political reform, let’s get back to serious business,” whereas if Yes wins, Scotland and reform will be on the agenda for quite a long while to come.

    Indeed this is exactly the view of a member of my family who has already voted NO by post but is appalled by the pretend last minute VOW etc from Unionist leaders.
    If even NO voters find the tactics of Bitter Together off-putting and insincere why should the rest of expect anything else?

  • Paul In Wokingham 17th Sep '14 - 8:51am

    @David-1 and @JohnTIlley: There is a growing cynicism about our democracy, and it is entirely justified.

    Over the last few weeks I have referred a few times to the plutocratic/kleptocratic model of government that has controlled the Anglo-American nations since about 1980, and I do not exclude our current government from that description.

    We sell our national assets such as Royal Mail to the rich at knock-down prices. We allow companies that employ thousands to go to the wall because we permit asset-stripping, debt-loading “venture capitalists” to take them over. We limit benefits to the poor and ignore tax avoidance on a massive scale by corporates.

    Here is a graph of “percentage satisfied with direction of nation” polls from the USA since 2000:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2014/09/20140916_sat.jpg

    Is it surprising that so many people do not want to remain part of this model of government? And if (as I expect) the charge for independence falls just short, does anyone really expect anything at all to change?

  • David-1 – that might be the response of some Tories. However, the Commons maths at the moment means that if all Labour MPs, all Lib Dem MPs, and (presuming they’re not huffing) all SNP MPs vote in favour, it will be difficult for those opposed to vote against.

    John – the Yes campaign have proposed this as some last minute thing, and that’s how the English media have portrayed it. However, the three Scottish leaders actually confirmed there would be more powers earlier this year.

  • Keith Legg
    If you do not believe that there has been a lot of last minute scratching around by panic stricken Unionists, you must be one of a very small minority who believes otherwise.
    The irony of Nick Clegg signing a VOW along with Cameron and Miliband would be funny if it were not tragic.

    The Daily Record headline could have read —
    FROM THE MAN WHO GAVE YOU A SOLEMN PLEDGE ON TUITION FEES —–A SOLEMN VOW ON DEVOLUTION

  • Paul In Wokingham
    ——the plutocratic/kleptocratic model of government that has controlled the Anglo-American nations since about 1980 —–

    Paul, It is an accurate description. I have always thought it a reasonable question to ask how it was possible for Tony Blair who whilst Prime Minister was on a published salary (was it around £100k a year?) to emerge from Downing St in 2007 as a multi-millionaire. Even before his highly paid job with ‘Dictators-R-Us’ he had become fantastically rich.

  • Simon McGrath 17th Sep '14 - 10:52am

    @john Tilley “Paul, It is an accurate description. I have always thought it a reasonable question to ask how it was possible for Tony Blair who whilst Prime Minister was on a published salary (was it around £100k a year?) to emerge from Downing St in 2007 as a multi-millionaire. Even before his highly paid job with ‘Dictators-R-Us’ he had become fantastically rich.”

    any evidence he was a multi millionaire in 2007 ?

  • @John Tilley
    “using underhand tactics is wearing a bit thin”

    This kind of intimidation and vandalism has no place in politics. What is wrong with letting the people decide for themselves whether to vote yes or no?

  • Green Voter
    I agree people should decide for themselves. What I actually said was —

    “This theme that you keep repeating that the YES campaign can only get people to vote for independence by tricking them or using underhand tactics is wearing a bit thin.
    Scots voters are as capable as any (and probably more capable than most) of making up their minds.”

    Not sure why you chose to quote only one part of one sentence — but I hope I have made it clearer now?

  • Linda Forbes 17th Sep '14 - 4:19pm

    Scottish Police Federation being moved to comment on reports of misconduct during independence referendum perhaps lays some of the hyperbole in the media to rest http://www.spf.org.uk/2014/09/spf-media-release-independence-referendum-2/

  • Linda Forbes
    thank you for the link to the statement from the police.
    I note in particular —
    “At this time it is more important than ever that individuals be they politicians, journalists or whoever should carefully consider their words, maintain level heads and act with respect. Respect is not demonstrated by suggesting a minority of mindless idiots are representative of anything. One of the many joys of this campaign has been how it has awakened political awareness across almost every single section of society. The success enjoyed by the many should not be sullied by the actions of the few.”

    This reflects the comments of Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Daily Politics today. Having been all over Scotland he said he had been treated with courtesy everywhere and that the vast majority on both sides were polite and thoroughly engaged in a civilised debate. I may not have the words verbatim but it was along those lines.

  • Green Voter 17th Sep '14 - 8:28pm

    I can see nowhere in the article where it is claimed that the Yes campaign think they can only win by certain tactics.

    What Caron does do is rightly point out that bad behaviour is there and it seems to me to reflect badly on the Yes side.

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