Better Together (campaign)
- Not to be confused with NHS Scotland's Better Together (programme).
|Type||Company limited by guarantee|
|Founded||1 June 2012|
|Key people||Blair McDougall, Campaign Director
Directors: Alistair Darling MP, (Chairman), Richard Baker MSP, Craig Harrow, Jackie Baillie MSP, Phil Anderton
|Focus(es)||Scottish independence referendum, 2014|
Better Together is the principal organisation representing the parties, organisations, and individuals campaigning for a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum, 2014. (The principal organisation campaigning for a Yes vote is Yes Scotland). It was established in 2012 with support of the three main pro-union political parties in Scotland: Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservative Party, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
Alistair Darling MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Gordon Brown, officially launched the campaign on 25 June 2012 at Edinburgh Napier University. Darling is a Director and Chairman of the campaign alongside: Conservative MSP David McLetchie; 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 is located in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh.
Better Together's Campaign Director is Labour activist Blair McDougall, 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 before joining Better Together.
Although the UK Independence Party (UKIP) also favours Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom, Better Together has refused to work with them on the grounds that "they are not a Scottish party". UKIP in return accused Better Together of being "petty and small minded".
In May 2013, Scottish Labour launched its own campaign called United with Labour. 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.
Alistair 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".
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.
On 21 June, Alistair 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".
The pro-union campaign disclosed its donor list on 6 April 2013. Donations of more than £1.1m had been received from approximately 9,500 donors. 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″.
Among the major donors was Douglas Flint CBE, the Glasgow-born chairman of global super-bank HSBC. The largest single donation was one of £500,000 (almost ″half the total″), which came from Ian Taylor, an international oil trader with a major stake in the Harris Tweed industry, after a meeting on Lewis with Alistair Darling, the Better Together chairman and former Labour Chancellor. Taylor, chief executive of Vitol Plc, has given the Conservatives £550,000 since 2006.
Three of the campaign's four largest donors by April 2013, responsible between them for £686,000 of the total £1.1m received, have been Douglas Flint CBE, the chairman of HSBC, Ian Taylor, chief executive of Vitol, and C. J. Sansom, who described the Scottish National Party as "dangerous" in a note appended to his recent novel Dominion. All three drew criticism from Yes Scotland, for being donors 'outside Scotland'.
The campaign's acceptance of the £500,000 donation from Ian Taylor was also criticised by the pro-independence organisation National Collective, who pointed to "serious incidents [...] linked to Ian Taylor's business background".
The Herald also pointed to Taylor's links to "dubious deals in Serbia, Iraq, Iran and Libya" and UK tax avoidance. Angus Robertson of the Scottish National Party 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."
Taylor responded by threatening the Herald, National Collective, and another pro-independence website, Wings Over Scotland, with legal action for defamation. National Collective closed its site down for several days before replacing the offending article with a slightly edited version including responses from Vitol. On 16 April, the Herald published a response from Vitol's PR firm to the allegations as an appendix to its original article. Wings Over Scotland ignored the initial threat, then challenged a second letter without amending its piece.
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." A YouGov poll carried out on behalf of the SNP in May 2013 suggested that 43% of Scots wanted the donation money to be returned, compared to 34% who believe it should not be.
Accusations of negativity
The Scottish Government and Yes Scotland have accused Better Together on several occasions of "scaremongering", whilst the Scottish Sun and Sunday Herald have both complained about use of "scare stories" and negative nature of their campaign. These arguments have been rejected by Better Together, who contend that the Yes campaign have used accusations of scaremongering to obscure some of the practical issues surrounding independence. As Alistair Darling has stated: "This debate is too important to be based on anything other than cold, hard facts. Unfortunately, we find ourselves living in a country where legitimate questions are met with bluster and assertion, rather than detail and debate. Experts, businesses and trade unionists who raise their concerns about what independence means are often shouted down. Anyone who raises any questions about the wisdom of leaving the UK is accused of scaremongering." 
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". The name "Project Fear" subsequently appeared in other news outlets and was co-opted by pro-independence campaigners. 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".
On 18 January 2013, pro-Union 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" 
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."
In March 2013, a column in the Observer by Scottish Daily Mail executive editor Kevin McKenna, 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."
Better Together have come under fire for exaggerating the narrative of Scottish nationalism and support for independence in general. Several of the campaign's members have described supporters of independence as "anti-English"  while others in the campaign have claimed their opponents have a limited outlook on identity and culture. 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 infer that supporters of independence weren't interested in the Olympics. In November 2012 Alistair Darling suggested Scottish independence would threaten the continuation of British culture in Scotland. This is despite the fact that although Scotland would no longer be part of the UK it would still be part of the island of Great Britain whose adjective is also 'British'. National Collective swiftly rebutted Alistair Darling's comments pointing out that it was entirely for individuals to determine their own identity and not politicians. In September 2013 during a Labour Party Conference, the party's Scottish Leader Johann Lamont controversially described support for independence as "a virus." Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens and Advisory Board Member of Yes Scotland, Patrick Harvey 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”".
In August 2013, the pro-independence blog Wings Over Scotland published a message from campaign director Blair McDougall in which he refused for Better Together chairman Alistair Darling to participate in a proposed debate with his Yes Scotland counterpart Dennis Canavan. Darling had previously stated in the Telegraph newspaper that he would also not debate with Yes Scotland chairman Blair Jenkins - only First Minister Alex Salmond, who does not hold any office in Yes Scotland.
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- Gordon, Tom (6 September 2012). "No team unveil 'better together positivity'". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Dinwoodie, Robbie (20 June 2012). "Darling to launch new think-tank". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
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- 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.
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- "Forces Together". Better Together. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- MacNab, Scott (22 June 2013). "Scottish independence: Rural Better Together launch". The Scotsman.
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- "Scottish independence: Call for Better Together to return Ian Taylor donation". 18 April 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- Devlin, Kate (6 May 2013). "Scots want No camp to hand back donation from oil chief". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- "Scaremongering leaves "a bad taste in the mouth"". 14 September 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
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"The Better Together campaign has many faults. It is tedious, piecemeal, relentlessly negative, and a factory for an endless supply of scare stores."
- 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."
- "500 days to go...". 6 May 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- Gordon, Tom (23 June 2013). "One year on: will Better Together change their tactics?". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
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- Dempsie, Jennifer (30 June 2013). "Jennifer Dempsie: Hope must replace Fear in vote". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- "Scotland Tonight - Monday, June 24 | STV Player". Player.stv.tv. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
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- "Indy's leap of faith is only issue". 17 February 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- McKenna, Kevin (20 January 2013). "Scottish independence is fast becoming the only option". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- McKenna, Kevin (24 March 2013). "Scotland: Labour really needs to get its act together". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- "The spokesman who won't speak". 2 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Johnson, Simon (27 September 2012). "Alistair Darling: Yes Scotland chief is Alex Salmond underling". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- Macleod, Angus (9 March 2013). "I’ll debate independence only with David Cameron, says Alex Salmond". The Times. Retrieved 2013-08-07.