*UPDATE 19/08/14 13:45: I have reason to believe that the man called Sam I speak about in this blog is Sam Harty, and is apparently MP Tom Clarke’s election agent, although that remains yet unconfirmed*
On Saturday morning I attended the Alistair Darling meeting in Coatbridge with a few friends. We were lucky enough that a friend had managed to get past their vetting process and receive tickets.
Better Together meetings, unlike those from Yes, are shrouded in secrecy. In order to gain entry you first have to apply for tickets and give them your name, address, and email address. If you’re lucky enough to pass their process, you are allocated tickets – although that still doesn’t secure you entry as many people have found out, Including a dear Yes supporter called Ronnie, who I have a bit of a soft spot for. Despite Ronnie having been allocated two tickets, he turned up to be told he couldn’t get in because they were full. One does have to wonder how a ticketed event could possibly be full…
There really is nothing new to report on the actual meeting front – lots of talk (read: lies) about pensions, NHS, banking, and Salmond’s plan B. I’m sure you can imagine the entire speech. One question from the audience was rather amusing though – A woman who seemed genuinely terrified that by becoming independent we would have no one to protect us from invasion! “The world is a dangerous place! Who will protect Scotland?” She cried.
Afterwards we decided to go and see the Yes stall, and we couldn’t believe our luck when we saw a (very quiet and lonely looking) No stall being manned by a Labour councillor and a man we soon learned was called Sam. I decided to ask them some questions, as I hadn’t received any answers from Darling when I had asked him only thirty minutes previously.
Sam’s attitude was horrendous and if he’s a representative of what Better Together are offering then I think the majority of decent people will be saying no thanks to him.
I was really angry and incredibly frustrated as he continually avoided answering me, but I managed to be as calm and polite as possible, as I really didn’t want to find myself in the Daily Mail’s cybernat hall of fame.
Here’s a transcript of our entire conversation.
ME: I asked Alistair Darling a question at the meeting, but I don’t really feel that he answered it, so I was… *interrupted*
SAM: So, what was your question?
ME: My question was, we seem to be being told to pin our hopes on Labour winning the next general election… *interrupted*
SAM: No no, let me explain – this isn’t a question about labour winning, this is about whether Scotland should be independent.
ME: No, I know that – but I was having a conversation with Anne McTaggart the other day, quite a long conversation, and she was telling me vote no because Labour are going to do this and that, going to abolish the bedroom tax etc, and my question was: what happens if you don’t? Genuinely, as a labour supporter and voter…. *interrupted again*
SAM: When was the last time the Tories won an election? I’ll help you, 1992!
ME: So?! We still have them in Government now… *interrupted*
SAM: They are in government just now, they are in government just now, but let me tell you I’m predicting like anybody, you might see the future different from me, I,m predicting at the very least that Labour will form the next government with the largest party, that’s what I believe.
ME: Right, but what… *interrupted yet again*
SAM: But that’s got nothing to do with the referendum
ME: All I’m trying to ask…. *another interruption *
SAM: See if you get a government or not, once you vote in the referendum and if you vote yes, you can’t then say we’ll get another chance in four years time, it’s gone
Me: OK, so have we just got to keep pinning our hopes on *yup, another interruption*
SAM: Well we had a labour government from 1997 for thirteen years. So what age are you?
ME: I’m 31
SAM: Right, so for most of your life we’ve had a Labour government. (He obviously can’t count, no wonder Labour keep bankrupting us!)
ME: And look where that got us…
SAM: How? what’s wrong with you?
ME: Just look around you *interrupted*
SAM: You trying to blame the Labour government for everything you see wrong. What next the weather is it?
ME: It’s a mess… *interrupted*
SAM: What’s a mess,
ME: The place is filled…. *interrupted*
SAM: Take your time, take your time
ME: We’re surrounded by charity shops, empty lots, pay day loan shops, … *interrupted *
SAM: Let me explain this to you… There has been a big change in social attitudes and how people shop, right? You go to any town center in the UK and you will see a deterioration, because people decide to go to out of town supermarkets to spend their money. These shops aren’t owned by the government, they’re owned by private companies
ME: Yes, I do know that, but surely you could be investing… *interrupted*
SAM: Do you want to know how much money has been invested? In your lifetime you will see the amount of money that has been invested in this town center, it’s completely changed from when you were born. All of that money has come from the public purse *inaudible* we’ve pedestrianised the place, lots of things have happened, now you might still not like it but don’t tell me nothing has happened.
ME: Well I didn’t say that nothing has happened, now can I get back to my question….*interrupted*
SAM: Well let me just ask you a question about independence. Why, like I said at the meeting, why is Alex Salmond – why have we got that unseemly, demeaning Alex Salmond – begging “please let us keep YOUR pound”?
ME: It’s not their pound, it’s our pound ju… *interrupted*
SAM: Let me finish! It’s not, it’s the UK’s pound
ME: Yeah, it’s Scotla….. *interrupted *
SAM: No, no it’s not Scotland’s! It’s the UK’s pound.
ME: Anybody can use it.
SAM: No, listen, it’s the UK pound and if we, Scotland, leave the UK then the pound belongs to the rest of the UK.
ME: Sterling is a fully tradable currency, anybody can use it.
SAM: Did you hear what Alistair Darling said? If we tag onto the pound, it’ll be wonga dot com.
ME: No it wouldn’t.
SAM: it will be. Now answer me this… why if we are so wealthy, does Alex Salmond not want his own currency?
ME: *takes a breath*
SAM: You haven’t got a clue, have you?
ME: Rises above his arrogance* So you are admitting that we are wealthy?
SAM: No, not me, I’m not saying it, Salmond said it “we are a wealthy country” so I’m saying to you – why does he… *I interrupt for a change*
ME: Ed Milliband has just said that transaction costs to businesses, and these are his own words, are estimated in the hundreds of millions so surely if we adopted a separate, currency, those transaction costs would be greater – So why should we punish… *interrupted*
SAM: You don’t know the answer, I’m going to help you… Alex Salmond is terrified of getting his own currency because he knows it will plunge Scotland into deprivation, and that’s why he wants to hang on to the pound! There’s no other reason for it.
ME: Sure there is. I’ve already said – Ed Milliband said that without a currency union, transaction costs to businesses would be estimated in the hundreds of millions, and that’s still with us using Sterling. So can you imagine those transaction costs if we had a completely foreign currency?
SAM: I honestly can’t follow your logic!
Me: You can’t follow my logic?
SAM: You’re the one who wants to go independent.
ME: Yeah, I am.
SAM: You want a pick and mix independence
ME: No, I don’t.
SAM: Yes you do, and I’ll explain why… You want to keep holding on to the pound, you want to be in NATO but you don’t want nuclear weapons.
ME: Only three countries in NATO have nuclear weapons and their whole point is to wipe out nuclear weapons
SAM: Exactly, exactly.
ME: That’s their whole point of being…
SAM: Exactly, but you’re going in to an organisation that has nuclear weapons.
ME: Only three countries have nuclear weapons and their aim is to wipe… *interrupted*
SAM: But we’ve got them… and you and I know there’s a big split in your party over nuclear weapons. You and I know this.
ME: I am all for getting rid of nuclear weapons, I don’t want my children growing up in a country with nuclear weapons.
SAM: You’ve got MSP’s resigning over it.
ME: That’s not my problem. I don’t vote for … hang on a second … you’re assuming I’m an SNP voter…
SAM: I don’t assume anything, I assume you’re a yes voter
ME: Yeah, but you just said my party, I’m a labour voter…
SAM: You’re not a labour voter.
ME: I am a labour voter… I’ve came from a long line of Labour voters, my Grandad, my gran, my Mum, Dad, aunts, uncles…
SAM: You’re voting yes, you’re over here deliberately wanting to talk to me because you’re a yes voter.
ME: Yes, and I wanted to ask you a question but *interrupted*
SAM: I’ve asked you and you can’t answer the question, Alex Salmond, if Scotland’s so wealthy, can’t have his own currency and you don’t know why! Because it would plunge people in this country into a real recession.
ME: Look, this isn’t even the question I was wanting to ask, we’ve got a bit sidelined onto the question I asked in there… The question I wanted to ask was…
*stops to acknowledge Tom Clarke, my local MP*
TOM: I’m about to leave, I’m going to the cancer event Sam…
SAM: I don’t blame you!
ME: What I was going to ask was about Barnett formula. Alistair Darling was talking about the Welsh First Minister… *interrupted*
SAM: Do you understand the Barnett Formula? Before we go any further
ME: Yes, I do understand the Barnett Formula
SAM: cos I do want to know what we’re talking about here… who introduced the Barnett Formula, since you know all about it?
ME: *starts to answer then decided against letting him away with his deliberate avoidance* The Barnett Formula was introduced… actually no, please just let me ask my question because you’re coming across as quite hostile and little patronising.
SAM: No, I’m not…
ME: You’re coming across as it Sam…
SAM: I think you’re trying to be deceptive…
ME: No, I’m not trying to be deceptive.
SAM: Who introduced the Barnett Formula?
ME: I… look, just let me ask my question… My question is, can you guarantee that Scotland’s portion of the Barnett Formula will not change. Wales obviously feel like they’re getting the rough end of the deal when it comes to Barnett, there have been calls, even the man who introduced Barnett has said *interrupted*
SAM: Just calm down, all this stuff with your hands *mimics my hand gestures* You said to me I was hostile…
ME: I’m not being hostile, I’m being extremely open…
SAM: You’re being very animated…
ME: I am, I am, that’s true I am very animated, that’s just the way I am.
SAM: Oh so you can be animated, but I can’t be anything?!
ME: You can be whatever you want to be, just not hostile and patronising… Even the man who introduced Barnett has said that it wasn’t meant to be a long term solution, and that he didn’t think – I think his words were – that he didn’t invent the formula so that the Scots could have more money… something along those lines…
SAM: when did he say that?
ME: I’ve got the quote on my phone, I can get it in a wee second for you… I’d wrote a blog about it as I had seen the quote from the newspaper, I think it was around 2005ish he said it… so if Scotland votes no, and I’m fine with that – Democratic process and all of that … (admittedly wrong choice of words there – I just meant that I wasn’t about to start a riot in the street)
SAM: You will not be fine with that, you’re a yes voter… you’ll be very disappointed.
ME: Of course, I’ll be disappointed, but I’m not going to…
SAM: Don’t try and delude me that you’ll be fine, because you’ll be very disappointed..
ME: Oh you know what, this is an absolute waste of time….
SAM: you can’t match me, that’s your problem…
ME: I have said that I will be disappointed, but I’ll accept that that has been the will of the Democratic….
SAM: *inaudible & i can’t remember, but accuses me of being patronising*
ME: I’m not patronising the….
SAM: You can’t handle it can you?
I walked away at that point, telling him his manner was awful and he was doing his campaign no favours with that attitude, because my patience was thread bare.
Just to note: I was a labour voter, I had never voted for the SNP until the European elections earlier this year. I had always given my vote to Labour. Now, after my encounter with this arrogant Labour campaigner – it’ll be a cold day in hell before I ever give them my vote again.
Oh, by the way, here’s the yes stall which was situated just across from the No stall pictured above. These pictures were taken within mere seconds of each other…