After the chaotic launch of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign (didn’t they work out that having the acronym BSE is not a good idea?) the Scottish National Party has made its mind up: it’ll stay well clear of this. John Swinney, the SNP Deputy First Minister, has just been on BBC Radio Scotland laying out his reasons. Yes, he doesn’t like the idea of being part of a campaign that might involve the Conservative Party – but it’s about more than that.
As the SNP can see, the ‘in’ campaign is turning out to be a rebadged version of ‘Project Fear’, the campaign that almost destroyed the union in last year’s Scottish independence referendum. It has the same people, even the same selebs (June Sarpong, for example). Andrew Cooper, strategy director of the Scottish 'no' campaign, is doing the same job for BSE. He placed great faith in the power of negativity when it comes to referenda. So Better Together argued that Scotland was too weak, too small and too poor to make it as an independent country. Obvious nonsense, which annoyed so many Scots that 45 per cent of them voted to end the union – the high water mark of the separation movement. As John Swinney said, such negativity looks like being deployed again: that Britain would be too small, too poor to make it without the EU. The SNP have seen this movie, and they know how it ends: it strikes voters as outrageous nonsense and it rallies them to the other side. So the SNP wants to be free to build its own positive case for Britain staying in the EU while the tragicomedy of the ‘in’ campaign keeps rolling on.