Gathering 2: A report

The event was opened with a brief speech by Keith Brown who stressed (as he had done at the first gathering) the importance of the SNP working alongside the YES movement. He also re-emphasised the variety of opinions on how independence should look like, but stressed that these must be put aside until after independence is won. A revised version of the Growth Commission (GC) will be published at the next spring conference, and the results from the Gathering2 will be taken into account when re-drafting.

He outlined the principles of the GC: an open trade, dual focus on competitiveness and inclusion (in particular looking at the Scandinavians as an economic model), an international and corporate outlook, and pro migration and population growth. He said we want to meet our obligations with the UK and be good neighbours and therefore we would pay any debt owed. He cited other ‘general’ areas in which the growth commission would have implicit input such as: optimising all of Scotland, improvement of public finances, commitment to work for the consensus of the national interest, optimising life chances etc. He concluded his opening talk by stressing how independence is won through one to one conversations, and encouraging everyone in the room to talk across Scotland about independence.

Next came a talk on ‘reframing the narrative’: They argued that framing is the basics of propaganda, and that re-framing is the most effective way of countering it. Political frames are defined in moral terms (what is good/bad, what we should/shouldn’t do…). They went on to have a little dig at the ‘establishment’ saying that their particular moral frame was one of self-interest and greed (visible in their neo-liberal policies and status-quo). They argued that every time we think of something, we are reinforcing that particular neurological pathway in our brains, making it easier to think this way. If we think of a patch of grass that we walk over regularly, we will end up carving a path through our most frequented route, as grass will stop growing there. Then, this will become the easiest and most obvious path to take, and consequently it will be hard to take a different path, and even herder to let the grass grow over the path we originally created. This is how they explained the way our mind creates these ‘frames’. Through propaganda, certain narratives such as ‘Scotland is too poor’ will have carved itself a very clear neurological path in No voter’s brains, and so not only does it become very difficult to move them out of that path, but we may be digging them into this path further with incorrect reframing. This is where wording and imagery come in. The mind, they argued, is incredibly well primed to follow these established pathways, and therefore these paths can be triggered with a single word or image. In this way, simply saying ‘NHS’ (for example) will trigger the ‘NHS will not survive in an independent Scotland’ pathway (subconsciously of course) and automatically close off the other person from taking onboard new facts, no matter how true they are. To avoid this they suggest we must reframe our narrative, this is, we must come up with entirely new pathways of our own to try and convince people, rather than put all our energy (or in their opinion any energy at all) into simply refuting ‘established’ pathways with facts. They suggest using ‘Scottish health service’ instead of ‘NHS’ to avoid NHS triggers for example. They also caution against using any of the oppositions language, even if it is to argue against it, a restriction that is extended to social media where they say that re-tweeting Unionist ‘propaganda’ is still giving visibility and coverage that will trigger these pathways subconsciously. I will be attending the longer presentation this Friday to learn more on this.

The top tips they gave to help people think outside of the status-quo ‘frame’ is to 1) have face to face conversations and 2) be consistent with our own framing.

We then proceeded to our tabled discussions. My table (2) had the topic of voting and referendum rights. The three major points discussed and agreed upon were: 1) Votes to 16 yo 2) votes for EU nationals and 3) Postal votes must be encouraged (an idea that the SNP are pushing). Other topics discussed but not deemed to be critical included Blockchain voting, dark money in politics, fair elections and what working will be on the ballot.

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