Politics

Better Together Campaign Chief: We Would Have Struggled To Win Without 'Scaremongering'

Blair McDougall said that if the campaign had listened to newspaper columnists calling for an emotional case for the union, Scotland might have voted for independence.

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MANCHESTER – The head of the successful Better Together campaign today suggested Scotland might have voted for independence in last week's referendum if his campaign had made a positive case for the union, rather than "scaremongering" about economic risks.

Critics of the anti-independence campaign repeatedly called on it to make a more positive case for Scotland to remain part of the UK. But Blair McDougall referred to polling that showed that 40% of Scottish voters would base their vote on an emotional case to keep the UK as it is anyway.

He told a meeting at the Labour party conference in Manchester: "It would have made people feel nice but it would have made the 40% who already agree with us feel nice. So there was a constant drumbeat to talk about identity, about a sense of belonging, but that was always going to be a core voter strategy."

He said the campaign's research showed negative tactics worked, despite newspaper columnists consistently calling for a change in strategy.

The Yes Scotland campaign team dubbed this approach "scaremongering".

McDougall said: "If you do your own research and you get really clear messages back from it, have the courage to stick to it regardless of what the commentators are saying, because they have an increasingly small reach in terms of setting the agenda."

He also addressed a heavily criticised advert for the campaign that featured a purported mother, an undecided voter, who claimed she did not want to risk her children's future.

The advert led to much mockery and the hashtag #PatronisingBTWoman to start trending on Twitter, but the campaign was surprised by the reaction, McDougall said. "That video tested exceptionally well with undecided voters," he said.

When asked how he will make a living now the referendum is over and he is out of a job, McDougall said: "I will work for food."

Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

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