They did it their way: The last hour of #indyref with YesScotland Digital Team

September 25th, 2014

 

“It feels like a cup final,” said Stewart Kirkpatrick, Yes Scotland’s Head of Digital but there was no crowing behind the fact: if anything, the Hibernian supporter knew exactly what that could mean.

But at 9pm last Thursday, when Scotland Votes was invited to spend the last hour of the #indyref campaign with Yes Scotland at their Glasgow HQ, it was still all to play for, to continue the football metaphor.

Yes Scotland Digital Team working to the wire

Yes Scotland Digital Team working to the wire

In fact, there were more than one game going on. Just as there was still information being shared online urging people to vote Yes and fighting other rumours (“none of the polling stations have closed early so let’s not be sharing that,” critiqued Gail Lythgoe), there was a battle going on against David Cameron to be the largest UK political page on Facebook.

We’re 200 Likes away from overtaking him on Facebook,” pointed out Kevin Gilmartin “and some people may think that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things but it’s a statement, it shows that in two years people can become a large movement and come together in hope. It’s a very symbolic statement.”

But there were even smaller personal gains people had hoped for. “I set myself a goal of 5,000 followers on Twitter through the campaign and then I set for 6,000 so I could reach more people about Yes,” said Lythgoe inbetween answering calls from people with late voting queries.

Just yards away, there may have been hundreds partying in George Square but for Kirkpatrick and his team of Gilmartin, Lythgoe, Peter Dempsie and Stewart Bremner, there was no party, just the soft glow from iMacs onto their concentrating brows, looking at the data, finding what combination of hard data and emotion could lead to undecideds and No’s turning to Yes voters.

“Retweeting and posting elsewhere material that shows No voters turning to Yes is getting shared an incredible amount at this point and that’s good because it will help those Yes voters who may still be on the fence have confidence that they are making the right decision.”

But what he didn’t want posted was pleas for Yes to overtake David Cameron, especially as the difference narrowed to 100. “If we post something, the Tories will see it and potentially rally round.”

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The Empty Office

There was no let up in the online activity and monitoring in the empty office. “And it should be empty because the teams and hard working volunteers should still be out helping people and informing them if questions are asked,” pointed out Dempsie. “The best parts of Yes were not about sitting on backsides. It was about engaging with all the communities – from online to on the doorsteps.”

“Make no mistake,” added Kirkpatrick, scouring through data from Google Analytics, Hootsuite and other sources, “this campaign has shown the roles that digital can play as part of an integrated campaigning effort. It’s not about saying digital wins it, it’s about making sure people can access the information they want to find, about responding to not only their queries but their search patterns and having a community to help you.”

And that sense of community continued even when a group from Venezula turned up at the last minute as did a journalist and other commentators. They were not turned away, they were welcomed in – and encouraged to like the Facebook page as David Cameron’s lead slipped to 68.

The Venezulans left after pointing out Alba means Dawn and there was the dawn of a new political leader on Facebook as the Yes page overtook the Prime Minister but there was no loud cheers and aggressive fist pumping, just some quiet calls of “Yes” as there was still 12 minutes until people could turn up and vote. One observer did miss the Cameron overtaking though as he had locked himself out escorting the Venezualans out.

As the moments ticked down, there was a sense of accomplishment amongst the team. “There’s been moments where it was rocky,” said Kirkpatrick, “but from the start of the year there was a real sense of it coming together, of the right people being in the right places and that yes, this could be done.

“And that’s what people need to take away from this – the confidence, the optimism. Even if the vote is No, there’s a lot the campaign has done – digitally and otherwise.”

The clock – or rather the computer screens and TVs – turned 10pm but Kirkpatrick enthused the team to carry on, knowing there were still people in queues. “We don’t stop now,” but 15 minutes later they did to the strains of Sinatra and My Way filling the room, a converted bank vault.

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Gail Lythgoe (front) as the rest of the digital team discuss tactics in the closing minutes of the campaign.

There were hugs, there was praise, pictures taken and “well done’s” as thousands of hours of work came to an end – but there was last one thing to be done. “Capture the data. Go back to the start and get all of it.” Data that will be pored over for days and weeks to come as people see exactly what worked in digital engagement and what could be improved in other campaigns. “Catalonia could be interesting next year if anyone wants to go…” teased the journalist to nods by some of those present.

“Never mind Catalonia next year, I’m still waiting for Henry McLeish to come out for Yes,” cracked one of the team as they put their machine through Shut Down for the last time. The digital campaign that started with a start-up chime and the rattle of keyboards came to an end in a similar way, the team all still too wrapped up in what would happen in the next few hours to think ahead to the realisation that within hours they would all be unemployed in a Scotland changed by the last years, regardless of result.

“That’s me,” said Kevin Gilmartin. “We’ve done what we can, it’s been far more than we hoped for, we’ve touched more people than we could ever have expected to. It’s been an amazing journey, personally as much as anything. I’ve learned so much about what I’m capable of, I’ve grown, we’ve all grown. But what comes next?”

There was no bang, no loud screams, no tears. It was a professional close to a professional effort, one that others had dismissed and then raced to play catch-up in and the team kept their own counsel as Gilmartin put the lights out but Gail Lythgoe wryly noting she’d be back – to the recruitment agency that was next door to the Yes organisation.

From there the team did their own thing – some went straight to the count in Ingliston, others retreated to the Pot Still pub and their dram of the month – Isle of Jura’s Origin ironically enough.

They had engaged with their fellow Scots digitally and it was time to take their places, anonymously, in the crowds around Scotland, mingling with people who may not know them, may never know them, but certainly knew of their work and been informed – one way or another by it. There were no egos, there was just the community. There was Scotland.

 

By Craig McGill


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How to take the perfect #indyref polling station selfie

September 17th, 2014

 

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There’s been huge rows over people taking #indyref voting selfies - and we got the definitive answer on the legality of it from the Electoral Commission - but what if you want to take a selfie in the voting booth on September 18? Is that legal?

Yes. Kind of. Most definitely. Maybe.

We asked the Electoral Commission for specific rulings on this and they pointed us to Mary Pitcairthy, the Chief Counting Officer who said:

“While it is not necessarily a criminal offence to photograph a completed ballot paper either at home or within a polling place, it is strongly discouraged  as it could violate the secrecy of the ballot, which is fundamental to the integrity of the process.”

The Electoral Commission Scotland then pointed us to the Electoral Commission Report (May 2014, Page 38)and the Referendum Act 2013These basically say, don’t be disruptive (Schedule 7 Subsection 13) and don’t break the secrecy of others when voting (Schedule  7 Subsection 7).

So, in essence, it’s legal as long as you aren’t disruptive, noisy or including others.

But what’s the best way to tell the world how you’ve voted? (And remember, it’s only your vote you can share – you can’t take pictures or ask others how they voted.)

SIX STEPS FOR A VOTING BOOTH #INDYREF SELFIE

  • Before going into the polling station, turn the sound and flash off on your phone camera. Some people would be very nervous at the sound of a camera clicking when they are in a booth
  • Ensure you take a photo of only your own ballot paper without the ballot paper number visible (it’s on the back), or if in an enclosed polling station only capture yourself and the voting paper
  • Don’t be disruptive – if asked to stop do so as you could be ejected and banned from re-entering the polling station
  • Once you have taken the photo put your phone away and don’t take out again until you leave the polling station
  • Respect your fellow citizens, think – would you feel comfortable? If not, don’t do it
  • Do not ask others if you can take a picture or a video of them voting

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO IN THE VOTING BOOTH

The Ice Bucket Challenge. Just don’t.

 

By Kenny Murray. Kenny is Weber Shandwick’s Digital Assistant.


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The Wide Open Race

September 9th, 2014

 

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Niki Birrell examines a frenetic few days on the #indyref campaign trail

Anyone who’s just returned after a long weekend away without access to the TV or internet would be forgiven for wondering how on earth so much could have changed over the last few days. Indeed it’s highly likely that something dramatic will happen before I’ve finished typing this.

While the phrase “game changer” is often banded about, the developments since Saturday night have truly shifted the tone of debate. While there are many Yes supporters who have long held faith that Scotland would vote for independence come 18 September, most (if not all) in the No camp may have worried about how close the result would be while being fairly certain of victory.

Today the race is wide open.

Last week a YouGov poll showed a dramatic swing to Yes – it put the lead for the No campaign at six points, down from 14 points in the middle of August and 22 points early last month. While a shock, the No side could draw some comfort from the fact that no poll had yet put Yes in the lead.

Then on Saturday night Rupert Murdoch tweeted that a new poll in the Sunday Times would shock Britain and show that everything is up for grabs. This YouGov poll put Yes on 47% and No on 45%.  That represents a five point increase in Yes support since YouGov’s previous poll, conducted less than a week before, while No are down three.  Once the Don’t Knows are excluded, Yes are on 51%, No 49%.

YouGov

While a Panelbase poll released the same day as the explosive YouGov one painted a different picture, with No maintaining a four point lead, the YouGov results dominated. 

Cue two days of what I think can be fairly described as feverish excitement or chaos, depending on which side you look at. Below the dramatic headline figures lurked some equally dramatic findings. Both polls found that around one in three of those who voted Labour in 2011 say they will vote Yes – YouGov put this figure at 35%, up from 18% at the beginning of August.

It’s therefore not surprising that yesterday Gordon Brown seemed to decide that enough is enough. After George Osborne made a vague and confusing pledge on Sunday to set out a “plan of action” on the implementation of new powers for Scotland, yesterday it was suddenly announced that the former Prime Minister would set out a timetable that evening during a speech in Loanhead. It wasn’t immediately clear on whose behalf Gordon Brown would be speaking or whether he’d be detailing what powers would be devolved or just setting out a timeline. Meanwhile a new TNS poll was also expected which would confirm whether the race had narrowed to the extent shown by YouGov.

During his speech, Gordon Brown set out a timetable for delivering “nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule.” His plan has now been endorsed by all three pro-Union parties which means that a common position on what powers will be devolved will be agreed ahead of the next General Election. The agreed timetable is:

  • In the event of a No vote, work is to begin on the new legislation the day after the referendum
  • A “command paper” is to be published by the present UK government setting out all the proposals by the end of October
  • A white paper is to be drawn up by the end of November, after a period of consultation, setting out the proposed new powers for Scotland
  • A draft new Scotland Act is to be published on 25 January (Burns Night)

This, Gordon Brown emphasised, would allow whichever party forms the government after next year’s general election to table legislation “immediately upon taking office.”

Meanwhile the TNS poll also showed a major swing to Yes and put both sides in a dead heat on 50% each once Don’t Knows are excluded.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, today it was announced that this week’s PMQs are being abandoned to allow the UK party leaders to travel to Scotland to campaign.

Alex Salmond has said the campaign to keep the Union was now in “absolute panic” and asserted that we are witnessing the “disintegration” of the No campaign. The flurry of announcements following Sunday’s YouGov poll has certainly given the impression of chaos and panic within Better Together.

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The spotlight will be brightly focussed on Scotland from now until the vote as news organisations, politicians and commentators from outwith Scotland have suddenly realised that the No side are not going to walk it next week.

Victory is very much up for grabs by either side. The momentum is undoubtedly with the Yes campaign and Better Together need to pull themselves together for the last week if they are to be in with a chance.

While the excitement levels have reached fever pitch, it’s also worth remembering that if one side scrapes victory, as is now looking likely, it means that almost half of voters will be left deeply unhappy come 19September. This is not ideal when it’s such an important decision being made.


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YouGov shows #IndyRef tightening

September 2nd, 2014

 

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The latest #indyref poll was published last night. A joint YouGov poll for the The Sun and The Times revealed the latest prediction:

Yes — 42% (+4)

No — 48% (-3)

Don’t Know — 10% (-1)

Clearly, there has been a shift in support to Yes which many will attribute to last week’s events where Alex Salmond ‘won’ the second televised debate.

On the long term YouGov trend, which we’ve been tracking since May 2012, we can see No losing support and Yes gaining. In May 2012, Yes sat on 33% with No at 57%. That 24 point lead has shrunk significantly to just 4 now.

These results also mark Yes’ best result and No’s worst since May 2012. Never before have No dropped below 50% in a YouGov poll and nor had Yes breached 40%. This will cause as much concern for Better Together as it will cause excitement at Yes Scotland HQ.

However, there is still a large caveat: in 68 polls since May 2012, Yes have never led No. And with just two weeks to go, on the basis of this poll, Better Together only need to convert just over 2 out of every 10 undecided voter to their side to secure victory.


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Democracy in a digital age

August 29th, 2014

 

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There’s been some tizzy over the last few days about people posting and sharing pictures online of selfies not only of ballot papers but filled in postal votes. Some say you should be jailed for it, others say it is harmless. I think it’s the finest expression of personal democracy.

A wiser man than me called Ian Cairns once pointed out that democracy isn’t the right to vote – it’s the right to choose to vote. There’s a subtle difference and it’s hard to argue with.

Democracy is not about the vote, it’s about you being able to participate in society and its politics in any way you choose:

  • You want to vote, you have the freedom to do so
  • You want to tell the world how you voted, free from state persecution, you have the freedom to do so
  • You want to keep your vote a secret and tell no-one? You have the freedom to do so.
  • You don’t want to vote, you have the freedom to chose not to
  • You think they are all rotten and want to stand for Government/Council/PTA yourself? You have the freedom to chose so.
  • And democracy also means you have to respect the (non-violent) rights of others even if you disagree

And not only do you have the freedom, you have the right. That’s democracy, that’s the right every person has in this country. If you live in a true democracy, the right not to vote is every part as valid as the right to vote. And the word here to remember is that it is your vote to do with as you want (except sell).

Digital expression has been used by many groups to gain further acceptance or legitmacy. It has helped 17 year olds with acne take on the world, it has raised awareness and money for charities and made unlikely celebrities.

Digital in this day and age is not about bytes or ones and zeros: it’s about sharing. The phrase Web 2.0 may be an overblown cliche but one fact from it is that people like to share things – from what would once have been considered private to the obvious.

But people share, often for free. We share love, we share kindness, we share information and sadly sometimes we also share hate but we share – and we will continue to share.

And that includes sharing pictures that reveal how people are posting.

At the time of typing this, there seems to be confusion over what is legal and what is not but I think it would be a hard thing for the Electoral Commission or others to consider penalising those who go online and reveal their own vote or share the an already public vote image. Here’s why:

  • Let’s be honest, it just wouldn’t be British in the noblest sense of the word. Expressing a democratic opinion peacefully? You’d fine or jail someone for that?
  • In the Terms and Conditions of most social media sites people accept that they give up the right to privacy with the material they share online.
  • By extension, most people now know that what they post publicly is there for the world to see (because changing privacy settings isn’t too hard on these channels)
  • Technically, hosting these images may make Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Kiltr, YouTube and others also liable as publishers (depending on the interpretation of Terms and Conditions) – you’d take them on?
  • Given that the majority of pictures posted so far seem to be backing Yes in the vote, can you imagine the cries of paranoid cybernats calling political consipiracy theory if the state chased these people up?
  • Equally, you would remove someone’s vote as valid because they posted it online? That’s democracy? No, it sounds more like a Burnistoun or Limmy sketch (“The Yes side won but because Big Tam in Govan and Mary D’oll from Partick posted their Yes votes online, we’ve ruled them out and the No’s win.”)

Democracy. People die for it, people die for the right to vote, people die for political expression. Come September 18 that won’t happen to you. You can vote and tell the world or not. That’s your choice, that’s your right.

That’s democracy.

Craig is the Digital Strategist for Weber Shandwick in Scotland. This is his personal opinion.


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What is Scotland?

August 19th, 2014

 

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To vote for an independent Scotland, we must first answer the question ‘what is Scotland?’, says Jon McLeod

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There’s a lot of Scotland in Derbyshire.

A statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie next to Derby Cathedral. Highland Games in Ashbourne. A haunted pub called The Gate in Brassington that was used as a Jacobite field hospital.

Why the obsession, you ask? Well Derby, of course, was where the Young Pretender decided he should turn back on his march to London.

The decision is commemorated at Derby City Museum, which has retained the panelled room where the ‘council of retreat’ took place. There’s also a rather unkind pie chart in the museum’s information booklet, which shows Charlie to be more Italian and Polish than Scots.

I suppose it is that way with all great heroes – they’re always rather less than they seem, and you should certainly never meet them.

But the tale also points up one of the wrinkles in the Scottish independence debate – namely the question of what is a Scot and what is Scotland. What am I, born in a bit of Cyprus that is considered British for military reasons, never lived in Scotland, but with a name as Scottish as haggis?

Bonnie Prince Charlie was an Italian-Pole marching to London with French support, as Hanseatic troops sailed to the aid of London’s Dutch monarch. Just shows what a crazy mixed up country we already were back then.

The Prince should, of course, have marched on, if the great artist Hogarth is to be believed. His hilarious painting of the press-gang raising troops on the northern fringes of London depicts just what a rag-taggle, drunken shower lay in store, spilling out of the pub at the call to arms.

Viewed from Westminster, the Scottish independence debate is almost entirely one-sided: ours is a unionist Parliament, and the overwhelming majority of political, press and media comment is squarely behind the ‘no’ campaign.

And it’s been a dreary campaign, only enlivened by the decision to use Al Green’s classic ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and Alastair Darling’s seemingly steroid-fuelled trouncing of Alex Salmond in the STV debate.  

The passion – or venom – of the ‘yes’ campaign hasn’t really permeated the collective political consciousness down south – except for the weird stuff about people being rude to J K Rowling. We hear talk of a grass-roots campaign, WOM (word of mouth) that may yet produce a surprise ‘yes’, despite the 57-43 split against that outcome in the polls as I write.

Yet the mood in Westminster is one of the pro-independence campaign about to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Of course, a future alternative, which might prove more attractive to many outside Scotland is the option of invoking the Pictish ‘Auld Alliance’ with France.

A vote to approve a deal with France to swap Scotland with Burgundy, or Aquitane (including Bordeaux) has its attractions after all.

 

Jon McLeod

Chairman, UK Coporate, Financial and Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick

Jon is one of the country’s most experienced corporate communicators and lobbyists, with a strong track record in regulatory, financial and legal affairs.


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