It is has been impossible to escape the Yes logo in all our public spaces. Photo: Getty
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The empty cult of Yes: the silent masses in Scotland want to know what we’re really being sold

People have started to feel that behind the apparent hope offered by the Yes campaign is something more sinister.

You repeat a word enough times and it loses its meaning. That word in Scotland is Yes – the word behind the massively successful pro-independence PR campaign. On the advertising hoardings, on the lampposts, there are so many Yes signs that it’s impossible to walk down the street without the subconscious sound of the word in your head – Yes Yes Yes. Alex Salmond proudly boasted that he’d stolen a march on his opponents by buying up all the ad space in the country, and so now Scotland is plastered with the very same advert: an image of a newborn child’s hand in a mother’s hand and the words “Scotland’s future in Scotland’s Hands” and the word written big: YES.

It’s a powerful affirmation. Who could say no to this message of positivity and hope? You can only say Yes, otherwise you appear to be anti-hope and anti Scottish. Yes Yes Yes. It is asking you to affirm your very existence – and this is in Scotland, the land of “dour negativity” and Calvinism, the land of the “nay sayers” of old. Yes Yes Yes. The Yes campaign has encouraged followers to put yes flyers and posters in their windows to demonstrate their allegiance. You would think all of this would lead the Scots to voting Yes, but for this Scot and a hidden and silent mass of others the saturation of the Yes message has lead to Yes fatigue and made us ask –what is actually being sold here?

In the final week before Scotland goes to the polls, a week in which it is has been impossible to escape the Yes logo in all our public spaces, Scots have woken up from this hopeful dream of a politics of pure positivity. The don’t knows and the Nos feel intimidated by the Yes signs that Yes voters in their neighbourhoods have placed in their windows. People have started to feel that behind the hope of Yes is something more sinister. People are afraid to speak their minds, because out in the streets they have heard demonstrations and Yes groups silencing the words of their opponents with that one chanted word: Yes Yes Yes.

The PR, marketing and recruitment machine of the Yes campaign has done an impressive job, but at the eleventh hour, the Scots are asking “are we really voting for who ran the best advertising campaign?” Personally, I asked myself – what is really behind Yes, what does it stand for? What is on offer with independence? What is really on offer here? The efficiency of the Yes campaign is also its downfall – the gloating efficiency of a slogan without substance has been exposed as empty.

I joined the Yes camp out of the communal euphoria that had been whipped up by the cult of this one word, but I did not find substance, nor did I not find any real politics. Instead I found a kind of ecstatic refusal of real-world politics in favour of “positivity”. I found something a bit like witnessing a street seller in action. If independence was a product that was for sale, then the Yes camp were cunning salesmen – telling us as little about the product as possible by saying that this product was exactly what we as individuals wanted. It was thus they attracted the Greens, the Trotskyites, those disillusioned by party politics, anti-globalisation warriors, the English haters, the Gaels and the anti-nuke peaceniks. The salesmen told us that each and every one of us would be satisfied by this “independence” product, because this product was all about us, personally, and it was about feeling good about yourself – empowering yourself. You can become a “new you”, like the newborn in the poster. A crowd gathers, all wanting this desired product, this independence that fulfils all their desires but then some people in the crowd start asking – but what is this product really? How can it work for me if these other people are getting the same thing? And then someone else shouts – how much will it cost?

In truth, the Yes camp is a ragged collection of factions all seeking power for themselves – a bigger slice of the political pie in a much smaller country. The unity and positivity behind the singular Yes has masked the divisions on the Yes side, between Greens who want no more drilling and the “it’s-our-oil” men; between steady state anti-capitalists and “business for Scotland”. There are even within the Yes camp factions of the old left that have long been pushed out of modern politics. The chanted “Yes”, it turns out, is as much about silencing the dissent among the ranks of Yes followers as it is about silencing opponents.

How will so many disparate and vying factions manage to create a better, more “positive” Scotland? We could have had an answer to this if months back the Yes factions had actually made concrete plans for the future and recognised their divisions, but instead they chanted the mantra of fantasised unity: Yes Yes Yes. This is why the word plastered all over our country has come to mean absolutely nothing. It’s an illusion of positivity. A hope about hope. A pure advert, selling us something we don’t need, something that does not even exist – a post-political dream of a new nation untroubled by the conflicts of the past or grim realities of the world beyond. Say it enough times and you start to believe it. Yes Yes Yes. Say it and see it too many times, and it vanishes into meaninglessness.

Ewan Morrison is an award-winning author and screenwriter

Photo: Getty
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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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