Better Together (campaign)

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Better Together 2012 Limited
Formation1 June 2012
TypeCompany limited by guarantee
Registration no.SC425421
FocusScottish independence referendum, 2014
HeadquartersEdinburgh Quay, 133 Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 9AG
Key people
Blair McDougall, Campaign Director
Directors: Alistair Darling MP, (Chairman), Richard Baker MSP, Craig Harrow, Jackie Baillie MSP, Phil Anderton[1]
WebsiteOfficial website (

Better Together was the principal organisation that represented parties, organisations, and individuals campaigning for a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum, 2014. It was established in 2012 with support of the three main unionist political parties in Scotland: Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservative Party, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Yes Scotland's chief executive was Blair Jenkins, and Dennis Canavan was the chair of its advisory board. Stephen Noon, a long term employee and policy writer of the SNP, was Yes Scotland's chief strategist. Its principal opponent in the unionist campaign was the secessionist Yes Scotland campaign.

History[edit | edit source]

Alistair Darling MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Gordon Brown, officially launched the campaign on 25 June 2012 at Edinburgh Napier University.[2] Darling was a Director and the Chairman of the campaign alongside: Conservative MSP David McLetchie (died August 2013); Craig Harrow, convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats; and Labour MSPs Richard Baker and Jackie Baillie. The campaign was officially registered as Better Together 2012 Limited and its registered office was located in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh.[3]

On 11 November 2013, Nosheena Mobarik, who was formerly on the Chair for CBI Scotland, was appointed as a Director of Better Together.

Better Together's Campaign Director was Labour activist Blair McDougall,[4] who was a special adviser to Ian McCartney (2004-2007) and James Purnell (2007-2008) during the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He was national director of the Labour Party's Movement for Change organisation from 2011 and also ran David Miliband's campaign for the Labour Party leadership[5] before joining Better Together.[6] Former Scottish Government adviser and Strathclyde Police press chief Rob Shorthouse is Director of Communications, Kate Watson the Director of Operations, and Gordon Aikman the Director of Research.

Although the UK Independence Party (UKIP) also favoured Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom, Better Together has refused to work with them on the grounds that "they are not a Scottish party".[7] UKIP in return accused Better Together of being "petty and small minded".[7]

In May 2013, Scottish Labour launched its own campaign called United with Labour.[8] Its co-ordinator, Labour MP Anas Sarwar, stated that the Labour movement had a different vision of Scotland's future from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, but that they would continue to work with Better Together.[8]

Darling stated in May 2013 that his side needs to "win well" in order to prevent another independence referendum within just a few years, to head off calls for another poll, the so-called "neverendum". He contrasted his campaign's position with that of Yes Scotland, saying they had to win only "by one vote" to achieve their ultimate aim. Although Darling did not say what percentage of the vote "win well" would entail, his colleagues had earlier said that the Yes vote would need to be pushed under 40% in order to answer the independence question for "a generation".[9]

In June 2014, Better Together adopted the slogan "No Thanks" in its campaign publicity.[10] BBC political correspondent Iain Watson commented that "Better Together" had been intended to sound positive, but it was felt that it lacked meaning.[10] "No Thanks" was adopted after testing with focus groups, although Better Together remained the formal name of the campaign group itself.[10] It was inspired by Non Merci ("No Thanks") the slogan used in the 1980 referendum on Quebec's separation from Canada.[11]

Subsections[edit | edit source]

On 8 June 2013, Better Together launched its "Forces Together" campaign, consisting of active and veteran service personnel as well as their family members, with a goal of emphasising the importance of the British Army.[12]

On 21 June, Darling launched the "Rural Better Together" campaign at the Royal Highland Show. Rural Better Together will be chaired by Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon who said farmers had given the group a "great response".[13]

Notable supporters[edit | edit source]

Donations[edit | edit source]

The pro-union campaign disclosed its donor list on 6 April 2013[14][15] and donations of more than £1.1 million (US$1,866,000) had been received from approximately 9,500 donors.[14] The Herald commented that "The preponderance of business people is a blow to Alex Salmond, who has made a stronger economy a cornerstone of the SNP's case for independence".[15]

Among the major donors was Douglas Flint CBE, the Glasgow-born chairman of transnational bank HSBC, while the largest single donation was £500,000 (US$848,000)—almost "half the total"[14]—which came from Ian Taylor, an international oil trader with a major stake in the Harris Tweed industry; Taylor made the donation after a meeting with Darling, Better Together chairman and former Labour Chancellor. Since 2006, Taylor, the chief executive of Vitol Plc, has donated £550,000 (US$933,000) to the Conservatives.[15]

Other donors of more than £7,500 (US$12,700) included Edinburgh-born crime writer C. J. Sansom, who gave £161,000 (US$273,000), and engineering entrepreneur Alan Savage, who handed over £100,000 (US$170,000).[14] In June 2014, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, who is a friend and former neighbour of Darling, made a £1,000,000 (US$1,694,000) donation to Better Together.[16][17]

Dispute[edit | edit source]

By April 2013, three of the campaign's four largest donors, responsible for £686,000 (US$1,163,500) of the total £1.1 million received between them, were Flint, the chairman of HSBC; Taylor, chief executive of Vitol;[15] and Sansom, who described the SNP as "dangerous" in a note appended to his novel Dominion.[18] All three drew criticism from Yes Scotland[18] for being donors located "outside Scotland". The campaign's acceptance of the £500,000 donation from Taylor was also criticised by the pro-independence organisation National Collective, who pointed to "serious incidents [...] linked to Ian Taylor's business background".[19]

The Herald also highlighted Taylor's links with "dubious deals in Serbia, Iraq, Iran and Libya", as well as UK tax avoidance behaviour. Angus Robertson, of the SNP, added:

This information is extremely serious and raises questions the No campaign must answer. Material in the public domain states that during his tenure as chief executive Mr Taylor's company paid $1m to Serbian war criminal Arkan, who was indicted at the Hague for crimes against humanity... Also during Mr Taylor's tenure it is reported Vitol paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in return for oil supply contracts, and was involved in a tax avoidance scheme in the UK for over a decade. His donations to the Tories were questioned and criticised by Labour's Douglas Alexander in relation to a conflict of interest about oil contracts in Libya, so the No campaign must have been aware of these matters.[20]

Taylor responded by threatening the Herald, National Collective and another pro-independence website, Wings Over Scotland,[21] with legal action for defamation. National Collective closed its website down for several days, before replacing the article in question with a slightly edited version that included responses from Vitol. On 16 April 2013, the Herald published a response from Vitol's public relations (PR) firm to the allegations as an appendix to its original article.[20] Wings Over Scotland ignored the initial threat, but then challenged a second letter without amending its piece.[22]

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie defended the use of Taylor's money, saying: "If it's good enough for Harris tweed, it should be good enough for Better Together."[23] A YouGov poll undertaken on behalf of the SNP in May 2013 suggested that 43% of Scots surveyed wanted the donation money to be returned; compared to 34%, who believed the money did not need to be returned.[24]

Fine for irregularities[edit | edit source]

In January 2016, the campaign group was fined £2,000 for failing to account for £57,000 of campaign spending.[25]

Accusations of negativity[edit | edit source]

The Scottish Government and Yes Scotland accused Better Together on several occasions of "scaremongering",[26][27] whilst the Scottish Sun and Sunday Herald both complained about use of "scare stories" and negative nature of their campaign.[28][29] These arguments were rejected by Better Together, who contended that the Yes campaign have used accusations of scaremongering to obscure some of the practical issues surrounding independence.[30]

On 23 June 2013, in an article marking the campaign's first anniversary, the Sunday Herald claimed that "Privately, some inside Better Together even refer to the organisation as Project Fear".[31] The name "Project Fear" subsequently appeared in other news outlets[32][33] and was co-opted by pro-independence campaigners.[34] The following line of the Sunday Herald's article said that "[Blair] McDougall is unrepentant about the tactics", but on the following day's edition of Scotland Tonight McDougall denied ever hearing anyone use the term "Project Fear".[35]

On 18 January 2013, journalist Joyce McMillan wrote in the Scotsman: "The truth is that the tone of the No camp’s response to the independence debate has – in too many cases – been so reactionary, so negative, and so fundamentally disrespectful of the Scottish Parliament as an institution, that I now find it hard to think of voting with them, no matter what my views on the constitution. And this, for me, is a new experience in politics – to enter a debate with a strongish view on one side of the argument, and to find myself so repelled by the tone and attitudes of those who should be my allies that I am gradually forced into the other camp" [36]

On 17 February 2013, an editorial column in the Sunday Mail said "The No campaign needs to start explaining why the Union can make Scotland better not why independence will be a terrible thing as Scots, mired in a swamp of endless negotiations, wander between our mud huts borrowing cups of woad. If, as their campaign claims, we will be better together, they need to start telling us why."[37]

In March 2013, a column in the Observer by Scottish Daily Mail executive editor Kevin McKenna,[38] said: "In one respect, 18 months is a very long time for a political campaign. For surely there is a limit on how long otherwise proud Scots, night after night, can stomach [Better Together's] own narrative: that Scotland is too wee to go it alone; that we can't make our economy work; that we must have a babysitter sometimes; that at other times we must be back before midnight. Months of telling people that, unlike Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg, Scotland is simply not strong enough may exact a toll on Better Together volunteers well before it takes a toll on the voters."[39]

During the 2012 Olympics in London, Better Together were criticised for attempting to use the games as political propaganda, in particular the participation of Scottish athletes in Team GB which was taken to imply that supporters of independence weren't interested in the Olympics.[40] In November 2012 Alistair Darling suggested Scottish independence would threaten the continuation of British culture in Scotland.[41] National Collective responded to Alistair Darling's comments by stating that it was entirely for individuals to determine their own identity and not politicians.[42] In September 2013 during a Labour Party Conference, the party's Scottish Leader Johann Lamont described Scottish nationalism as "a virus."[43] Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens and Advisory Board Member of Yes Scotland, Patrick Harvie has challenged the notion that supporters of independence are all nationalists, stating "National identity is not at the heart of my politics. In fact, it’s not really relevant to my politics at all. People can reach a view in favour of independence without being motivated by Scottish nationalism, just as people can reach a view in favour of staying in the UK without being driven by the identity politics of “Britishness”".[44]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Ex-Hearts chief Phil Anderton joins pro-UK group". Edinburgh Evening News (Johnston Press). 15 February 2013. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  2. "Scottish independence: Darling launches Better Together campaign". BBC News. 24 June 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  3. Gordon, Tom (6 September 2012). "No team unveil 'better together positivity'". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  4. Dinwoodie, Robbie (20 June 2012). "Darling to launch new think-tank". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  5. "Different tactics from the No team". Herald Scotland. 27 May 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  6. "Labour appoints key union man". The Scotsman (Johnston Press). 10 May 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Aitken, Mark (5 May 2013). "Better Together campaign refuse to work with UKIP in bid to keep Scotland part of union". Daily Record (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Scottish independence: Labour launches referendum campaign". BBC News. 12 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  9. Devlin, Kate (15 May 2013). "Darling says No campaign needs to win well to avoid 'neverendum'". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Scottish independence: Better Together campaign adopts 'No Thanks' slogan". BBC News. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  11. "Scotland's pro-union side turns to 1980 Quebec vote for inspiration". Globe and Mail. 4 August 2014. Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  12. Forces Together (Campaign film). Better Together. Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  13. MacNab, Scott (22 June 2013). "Scottish independence: Rural Better Together launch". The Scotsman. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 "Scottish independence: Better Together reveals donor list". BBC News. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Gordon, Tom (7 April 2013). "Revealed: Better Together's £2m war chest...and who donated to it". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  16. "Scottish independence: JK Rowling donates £1m to pro-UK group". BBC News. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  17. Carrell, Severin; Brooks, Libby (11 June 2014). "JK Rowling donates £1m to Scotland's anti-independence campaign". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Gardham, Magnus (8 April 2013). "Yes campaign to unveil list of donors amid cash row". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  19. Gray, Michael (7 April 2013). "Dirty Money: The Tory Millionaire Bankrolling Better Together". National Collective. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 Dinwoodie, Robbie (10 April 2013). "Controversial background of No campaign donor". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  21. Campbell, Stuart (10 April 2013). "Closing down debate". Wings Over Scotland. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  22. Campbell, Stuart (15 April 2013). "Legal correspondence". Wings Over Scotland. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  23. Campbell, Glenn (18 April 2013). "Scottish independence: Call for Better Together to return Ian Taylor donation". BBC News. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  24. Devlin, Kate (6 May 2013). "Scots want No camp to hand back donation from oil chief". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  25. "Better Together fined by Electoral Commission over referendum spending - BBC News". BBC Online. Retrieved 19 January 2016. 
  26. "Scaremongering leaves "a bad taste in the mouth"". Scottish National Party. 14 September 2012. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  27. Gilmartin, Kevin (8 July 2013). "Perspectives: 'The unbelievable scares of the No camp'". Yes Scotland. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  28. "Yes camp needs vision to dispel scare stories". Herald Scotland. 28 April 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013. The Better Together campaign has many faults. It is tedious, piecemeal, relentlessly negative, and a factory for an endless supply of scare stores. 
  29. Campbell, Stuart (7 March 2013). "Quoted for truth #11". Wings Over Scotland. Here's a radical idea for the Better Together campaign. Just once, just for a change, let's hear something positive about why Scotland would be better staying part of the United Kingdom. Because frankly, the scare stories are wearing a bit thin. 
  30. "500 days to go...". Better Together. 6 May 2013. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  31. Gordon, Tom (23 June 2013). "One year on: will Better Together change their tactics?". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  32. "Scottish independence: Duggy the dog helps in 'Project Fear' battle". BBC News. 25 June 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  33. Cochrane, Alan (30 June 2013). "Prophecies of doom beginning to look like overkill". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  34. Dempsie, Jennifer (30 June 2013). "Jennifer Dempsie: Hope must replace Fear in vote". The Scotsman. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  35. "Scotland Tonight". STV. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  36. McMillan, Joyce (18 January 2013). "Joyce McMillan: No answer came the stern reply". The Scotsman. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  37. "Indy's leap of faith is only issue". Daily Record. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  38. McKenna, Kevin (20 January 2013). "Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  39. McKenna, Kevin (24 March 2013). "Scotland: Labour really needs to get its act together". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  40. "Has The London Olympics Undermined The Scottish Nationalists?". Huffington Post. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  41. Darling, Alistair (10 November 2012). "'Better Together' - Alistair Darling delivers the John P Mackintosh lecture". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  42. "Editorial: It’s Just Music, Darling". National Collective. 15 November 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  43. Ferry, Patrick (5 October 2013). "Johann Lamont defends nationalism 'virus' comments". The Journal. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  44. Harvie, Patrick (1 October 2013). "Perspective: Why a Yes voter needn't be a nationalist". Yes Scotland. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 

External links[edit | edit source]