For all of us Californians fascinated by the recent Scottish independence referendum and the developments in the UK, the following article from the "Westminster Daily News," which, unfortunately, is not widely available in the Golden State, gives us an inside view of history-in-the-making. "Divide or unite" remains the question, and while "Six Californias" failed to make the ballot this time around, the organizers might take a page out of "Better Together's" book next time around, because -- let's face it -- there is a very fine line between what divides us and what unites us. Read it and ruminate...
UK's Pro-Union 'Better Together' Unveils Future Plans
By Jack Aontas
Fresh on the heels of its impressive victory in the Scottish Independence referendum on Sept. 18, "Better Together," the anti-independence group backed by all three major British political parties, announced that it would not, as previously indicated, dissolve the organization.
At a press conference on Friday, speaking at Caxton Hall in London on a podium festooned with red, white and blue carnations, traditional Union Jacks as well as Union Jacks in red and yellow, the "Better Together" colours, Campaign Director Blair McDougall sought to calm a raucous crowd, still buoyed by the results of the referendum. Motioning to quiet the chants of "We just said 'No,'" McDougall broke through the tumult, and said in a hoarse voice: "The united people of Scotland just told us that we're better together, and we are listening."
"Better Together" co-founder Alistair Darling, standing next to McDougall said, "Togetherness is not just for Scots, though we do take pride in our unique history. Now that 'Better Together' has won an important victory in avoiding the mistakes of the future, we can seek to redress the mistakes of the past."
Darling then went on to read a letter signed by national party leaders David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband:
"We'd like to thank personally all the voters who put new meaning into the greatness of our Great Britain. The referendum process has been a humbling experience for us and we now truly understand just how much better together we are. To this end, we are now jointly not only exploring the possibility of a national unity government, but we have also decided to expand our efforts to be better... together.
As gratified as we are by the referendum results, Great Britain cannot be truly great unless those who are currently excluded from this great nation are given the chance to embrace their inner Britishness and be better together. We remind the world that the British Isles include Ireland, most of which has been precluded from participating in the noble endeavor which is Great Britain for almost one hundred years. Yet the ties that bind us are both historical and indisputable; we take this opportunity to honor the memory of all the Irish soldiers buried next to British soldiers in cemeteries throughout Europe and the world.
Consequently, we have sent a joint formal letter to the Rt. Hon. Michael D. Higgins, President of the Republic of Ireland, and invited his nation to hold a referendum in September of 2015 to answer the following question: 'Should the Republic of Ireland re-join the United Kingdom so that we can become better together?'"
Darling went on to explain that the "Yes, we can!" campaign would formally kick off on St. Patrick's Day with a rally and march down Oxford Street. According to Darling, the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Labour have jointly appointed the Rt. Hon. Paddy Ashdown as chair of "Better Together: the Emerald Reunification" and suggested that his Irish-sounding name and Celtic dancing skills were the perfect qualifications for this important role.
"This time we get to say 'Yes,' and while that may be a word we're not used to uttering, we're looking forward to being in the affirmative," said Darling. "Of course, we'd allow Ireland to keep their Republic. We would figure out a new formal name for a resurgent union after we welcome the Irish back into the family of multicultural Great Britain."
McDougall wasn't able to reveal the full plans of "Better Together's" latest campaign, but he did state that the organization would be keeping its signature yellow and red colors, adding green accents for the 2015 campaign. The "No, thanks" logo was to be slightly revamped, with the circle outline changed to a shamrock and the "No, thanks" text changed to "Yes, please."
While Darling and McDougall said that detailed branding efforts would be released at a press conference on Nov. 5, they were able to disclose that they had secured singer Rick Astley as the campaign's celebrity spokesperson.
"We have responded to some of the criticism that we were late to the game on Scotland," stated Darling, "and have resolved to make our case early on. Rick is the perfect celebrity ambassador and we believe that his 'Better Together' Irish concert tour planned for next summer will be the perfect way to show our Irish brothers and sisters that unity, not separation, is the true Irish way."
"We're convinced that if Rick had been around in 1919, our Irish brethren would have embraced the sentiments behind his hit 'Never Gonna Give You Up' and we could have avoided unnecessary divisiveness. In fact, that standard should have been our theme song with Scotland, and, quite frankly, we missed the boat. Well, we're not missing the boat with Ireland. We can't change history, but we can change the course of history and give new meaning to Rick's hit song 'Together Forever,' which will become the official song of the 'Yes' campaign."
Darling continued: "Along with some of our leading politicians, Rick will embark upon an historic concert tour next year from Malin to Mizen with special guest star Johnny Logan, showcasing the unique harmonies that result when the English and Irish join together to make music. The Irish are a very poetic and romantic people and we fully expect that they will respond to the deep-seated yearning created by our long separation, and understand on all levels, including the sentimental, why we indeed should be 'Together Forever.'"
McDougall added, "It's not just about music. We're going to work hard to let our Irish friends understand that we don't ever want to see them frown. We will move heaven and earth to be better together forever. This isn't just a follow-up to the Scottish vote. It's destiny calling; a power we just can't deny. We shouldn't waste a single day, and we won't. "
Darling gave an additional preview of the campaign's upbeat message: "In addition to the catchy calls for unity inspired by Rick's signature hits, we have a number of very good taglines we're toying with. I can't disclose all of them now, but 'You can go home again' and 'Welcome back -- we missed you' are two slogans that have been bandied about."
Darling would not comment on "Better Together's" strategy past the Irish referendum. "There are a number of directions we can go. We first want Ireland to feel better together with us, then we can make a determination about with whom else we might be better together." Darling would neither confirm nor deny that India, Uganda and South Africa were among the top targets for future "Better Together" campaigns, but he did say: "We're on a roll, a Rick-roll, as it were, and we're not letting up."