Shock and awe is for losers

Ian Smart is personally convinced that as the polls show no sign that the SNP have a hope of winning the referendum in 2014, there will be no referendum. Yesterday he added a post which he was referring to on Twitter as “Shock and Awe” about how the “Better Together” campaign will push their argument.

Well, here I propose to let them inside the briefing room. I expect the same “shocked and outraged” response from my SNP readers as some more naive Democrats expressed about Rove. But, while maybe not quite in the Axelrod and Plouffe class, the people around Eck are more street wise. They’ve already wargamed this and realise that they do not have the counter arguments. That’s why they are desperately trying to avoid having a Referendum at all. The good news is that the Tories are apparently coming round to imposing it upon them.

(For my own thinking about this, see

You’re welcome.)

Yesterday the Sunday Herald ran a story about Alex Salmond which they attempted to dress up as a negative story, but which is actually pretty nice.

Isabel Hui Liu is Salmond’s Chinese interpreter: she’s studying for a doctorate at Heriot-Watt University. Salmond has visited China several times, and Moira and Alex Salmond are both “very fond” of Isabel Hui Lui, says the Sunday Herald, but that seems obvious if Isabel Hui Liu has consistently been Salmond’s interpreter:

Interpretation is in itself a diplomatic endeavour. The interpreter’s job is very different to that of a translator. Translators work alone, facing a white sheet of paper and a text. They recreate the text by becoming its second author, understanding and recreating the author’s writing skills, possibly referring to other works by the author in order to better grasp his/her style and expression. The interpreter’s work is not a solitary one. The interpreter works directly with an orator, who possibly elaborates his text as the topic unfolds, expressing his thoughts directly without any time for re-elaboration or rewording. The interpreter also works directly with a public, the floor, who is listening simultaneously to him and to the orator. The interpreter’s work, therefore, calls for a different dynamic.

Last month she got married. Alex Salmond invited the couple to use Bute House, the First Minister’s grace-and-favour residence in Charlotte Square, for their wedding ceremony and reception, and paid for it – as he is legally required to do.

While Bute House is not marketed as a wedding venue, Salmond can use the property for personal purposes under the Government’s ministerial code.

Section 7.2 of the document makes clear that where “personal events” take place in Bute House, “no cost” should fall on the public purse.

There’s nothing about this story that isn’t just plain nice. Sorry to be so positive when it’s not even positive-twitter-day, but really: there just isn’t. I’m as suspicious as anyone else when Alex Salmond gives tea parties at Bute House to the Murdoch clan or to £1M SNP donors, but Salmond has nothing to gain from being generous to an obscure PhD student who’s helped him: this is just a purely nice and very generous gesture. I like Alex Salmond for it, and yet I’m pretty sure he didn’t do it to be liked, but as a gift in exchange for a gift.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister was delighted to host a wedding ceremony at Bute House – which was a personal event. The bride has performed unstinting service to the Scottish Government as a Chinese interpreter.

“She had no relatives in Scotland, and this was a warm, personal gesture by the First Minister who met all costs of the event, including catering, himself – no Government staff costs were involved.”

So when Willie Rennie and an unidentified Labour party spokesperson were asked to comment on it, what could they say? Neither of them said anything very sensible, but then the Sunday Herald were clearly determined to run this as a negative story.

So, what’s happening on Twitter yesterday, in response to a nice story coming out about Alex Salmond that the Herald are trying to dress up as a negative one?

A whole bunch of SNP people picking on the least important part of it – the LibDem and Labour quotes – and trying to use them to make a negative story, especially the Labour comment: absurdly, a silly remark on a non-story

“This is remarkable generosity from the First Minister and it’s nice to see an occasion where Alex Salmond upholds the values of marriage in Bute House.”

– used last night on Twitter to try to claim that the Labour Party is anti equal marriage.

(As a matter of record, Scottish Labour has been much more consistently supportive of equality and against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation than the SNP, but both parties have – at least since the SNP stopped trying to play both ends of the table over gay adoption – been admirably supportive, and I’ve no quarrel with either of them in that area: I accept Brian Souter became “Sir Brian” for other reasons than his homophobia.)

Now, you can make the point that Alex Salmond is really extremely rich and can afford to make this kind of generous gesture. But then again: a wedding is a traditional time to spend money you wouldn’t ordinarily spend, and if Salmond is offering Bute House it’s all or nothing: he has to pay to make it his personal event or it’s not lawful.

Ian Smart calls the coming attacks on the Scottish independence campaign “shock and awe”. That’s a fair way to describe it. The next two years are going to be ridiculously unpleasant if the response to “Better Together” campaigning negatively is going to be “Yes Scotland” trying to get even more negative, everyone loses. “Shock and awe” tactics always, always do.

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