Opinion: Scottish Unionists miss a major PR trick

A lot was written earlier this week about the 300th anniversary of the union between Scotland and England, but the Scottish Executive missed a key PR opportunity in failing to truly celebrate it.

The whole debate around the next Scottish parliamentary elections, in May, will be about independence, so what better excuse to promote the union itself?

In sharp contrast, next week millions of Scots will celebrate Burns’ Night and heartily enjoy toasting the bard. It was Robert Burns, of course, who accused the signers of the union treaty as having been ‘bought and sold for English gold’, in reference to the bribes they took.

Therein lies the problem. No one in Scotland really likes the fact that they aren’t an independent nation – but they know that they are better off in the union. The polls show a majority of Scots in support of independence, but they won’t vote for it.

As predicted in PRWeek, the English media are now taking more interest in the forthcoming Scottish elections. That’s because an independent Scotland would, of course, mean no House of Commons seat for Gordon Brown.

But while the Scottish National Party is doing well in the polls, it is worth pointing out that the bookies, who rarely get it wrong, have the SNP at 25-1 to be the biggest party at the next election – and 200-1 on Scotland gaining independence within five years. Still, why let the facts get in the way of a story?

More importantly for Brown, and particularly following his Fabian Society ‘chat show’ with Oona King last weekend, he and his PR team now realise that anything the future PM does these days is going to hit the headlines.  Gone are the days when the Chancellor could chat for an hour at such a boring event and everyone in the media would ignore him.

Brown has been saying exactly the same thing about topics such as the English/Scottish union for years – but the TV news agenda has changed. Similarly, the fact that he’s sending his son to a state school today becomes a ‘snub to Blair’.

I was asked on the radio this week if it would help Brown, and Labour, if Blair went sooner rather than later. Well, probably, but the point is it doesn’t really matter any more given that the media are already treating him as Prime Minister.

In Scotland this will help Labour win in May, and independence will be dead for another 300 years. 
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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