Referendum result: How the comms battle was won and how it will change the landscape forever

In the end, the victory for the Unionist campaign in the Scottish Referendum was resounding, but came only after a one-point lead in one poll for the nationalists caused a panic among the UK political establishment.

Nick Williams: Head of public affairs and corporate comms for FleishmanHillard
Nick Williams: Head of public affairs and corporate comms for FleishmanHillard

So while the status quo won out, it was carried on the back of a promise of huge change to come, and in very short order.

While Devo-Max was always on the table, the No campaign had to push it to the fore to bring back primarily Labour voters from the SNP cause.

This is why it was Gordon Brown who fronted the new announcements of a timetable, with No10 rowing in behind. Those Tories who balked at Brown apparently freelancing ought to have more political nous – this was clearly stitched up between Better Together, No10 and Brown in advance. Cameron is used to soundings off from his backbenches, and he realised he would not survive losing the Union.
Devo-Max will have a profound effect on public affairs.

In the short term the focus on English MPs and how the Labour Party responds to these proposals, which under some circumstances could prevent a Labour Government getting its manifesto commitments through, will dominate politics from now until the election.

UKIP is already hijacking the issue, writing to all Scots MPs to ask that they don’t vote in matters only pertaining to England.

In the longer term, the new settlement to be reached will in all likelihood see a dispersal of power away from London to the nations and regions – the Labour Party already has a plan for this in economic terms in the form of the Adonis Growth Review, which fits pretty squarely with the Heseltine Plan for the Tories.

Consensus may emerge around these two proposals.   

While Alex Salmond looks like the big loser in the campaign, failing to carry his own stomping ground of Aberdeenshire, and not turning out Glasgow in great enough numbers, he has managed to wring massive concessions from what he refers to as the ‘political establishment’.

The SNP ran the Yes campaign as an insurgency, with youthful vigour.

The stickers on lampposts, the chalking on pavements and the hoiking of Saltires on every street corner resembled more a protest movement than a campaign run by the Scottish Government.  

The dominance on social media of the 'CyberNats' has been evident for years now, and while the No campaign in its entirety looked impressive, the 'sturm und drang' hid the fact that the No campaign supporters were calmly against the whole prospect of independence, and didn’t feel the need to swathe themselves in blue and white (and red).

While the term 'the silent majority' is overused in politics, in this case the No campaign is probably justified in its claim to have been the face of it in Scotland.

Nick Williams is head of public affairs and corporate comms for FleishmanHillard

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in