Friday, 18 April 2014

The Labour/Tory ban on lamppost posters

Banning political posters from lampposts in North Ayrshire might seem like a trivial matter, but it isn’t.

You have to ask why Labour and Tory councillors reached a decision that posters should be banned ahead of May’s European Election and the Independence Referendum in September, particularly when they have had no problems with the practice up until now. 

The answer has nothing to do with the European Election and everything to do with the Independence Referendum.  Put simply, Labour and their Tory partners in the British Unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign do not have the activists to actually put posters on lampposts, while the pro-independence ‘YES’ campaign have so many activists they would have blitzed the area.  Labour (and the one Tory councillor) sought to negate the ‘YES’ campaign’s advantage by the application of a ban on a legitimate political campaigning tool.  The Labour and Tory line appears to be, “If you can’t beat them, ban them!”

The Tory-Labour poster ban comes as polls continue to narrow ahead of the referendum, showing an unmistakable movement from ‘No’ to ‘YES’.  With the momentum strongly behind support for independence, the British Unionists are beginning to panic.  The Tory-Labour coalition in ‘Better Together’ is losing...and they know it.

It is also important to make clear that North Ayrshire Council officials supported the continued use of political posters on ‘street furniture’.  As the officials pointed out, by allowing the practice it was possible for the Council to regulate exactly where posters could be fixed, the time-span during which they were allowed, and the sanctions that would be imposed if any party or campaign group breached the rules.  This has been accepted practice in North Ayrshire for decades and has worked effectively.

From time to time, some posters were left on lampposts after an election, beyond the 48-hours the Council gave parties to remove them.  Ironically enough, the Labour Party was probably the worst offender.  However, in most cases political parties were conscientious in getting posters down after elections.

Of course, there is the argument that no-one is going to change how they vote simply because they see posters on lampposts, but that is countered by the position that if there was no benefit from fixing posters to lampposts, then political parties would not invest the time and money to do it.  The parties clearly believe it is a worthwhile practice that can work to their advantage, but only if they have the resources – people, finances and time – to compete with their rivals.  The Tory-Labour decision to ban lamppost posters in North Ayrshire ahead of the Independence Referendum was taken because they can’t match the support and resources of the pro-independence campaign.

What is quite remarkable in terms of the wider campaign around the Independence Referendum, is the continuing rise in support for ‘YES’ despite concerted and often co-ordinated attacks launched by the Tory-Labour Unionist coalition and the mainstream media.  None of the ‘national’ newspapers sold in Scotland are actually owned in Scotland.  Most take their editorial positions from newsrooms in London and oppose independence.  Only the Sunday Herald, so far, has been prepared to offer a fair hearing to the case for an independent Scotland.

Then there is the BBC: the corporation’s coverage of the Independence Referendum is so biased in favour of the British Union that it’s become a joke.  It is, after all, the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation and is effectively now carrying out the role of chief propagandist for the London-controlled British State. 

Against such British Unionist control of what we get to see and hear in the media, support for independence continues to grow.  It is therefore clear that the Scottish public is not being taken-in by the Unionist propaganda in newspapers and on television.  It is clear the positive case for independence is being heard, and that the message is circumventing the so-called ‘mainstream’ media to reach the people of Scotland.

The grassroots ‘YES’ campaign is holding public meetings the length and breadth of the country, while the ‘No’ campaign is nowhere to be seen.  More and more people are turning to the internet for their news coverage, both nationally and locally.  Sites such as Wings Over Scotland, Newsnet Scotland and Bella Caledonia daily set-out the positive case for independence while comprehensively demolishing the British Unionist scare-stories and propaganda.

What Labour and Tory councillors did in banning posters from lampposts in North Ayrshire ahead of the Independence Referendum was just the latest strand in the British Unionist campaign aimed at preventing people from hearing both sides of the argument.

When public meetings have been organised to hear a debate from the ‘YES’ and ‘No’ camps, the British Unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign has frequently failed to put up a speaker.  They have then demanded the public meeting is cancelled because only one side would have been represented.  The ban on lamppost posters in North Ayrshire uses a similar tactic – the Tory-Labour coalition would have been unable to get their posters up on lampposts (if they even have posters), so they unite in a Council meeting to ban the ‘YES’ campaign from putting up theirs.  

Of course, what lies at the core of this issue is the fact that there is no positive case for Scotland remaining within the British Union.  We don’t have to speculate about what Scotland would look like if we vote ‘No’ on September 18th because we are already living it.  If we reject independence, Scotland will continue to be governed from London by Tories.  If we reject independence and the powers to govern our own country, we will continue to have imposed on us savage ‘austerity measures’ and cuts to public services.  If we reject independence, the Tory-led Government in London will really put the boot into us and we will be powerless to stop them...because when we were offered those powers in the Independence Referendum, we rejected them.

The choice is ours – prosperity with independence or austerity with the British Union. 

What the Tory-Labour Unionist coalition really doesn’t want is for us to hear the positive case for independence.  A seemingly trivial thing like banning lamppost posters in North Ayrshire is just part of the attempt to close-down debate and campaigning.   

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