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Herald article

Yes-vote roadshow: a sales pitch or a public flogging?

Tony Blair called it his “masochism strategy”.

During the run-up to the 2005 General Election campaign, the then PM toured Britain exposing himself to relentless criticism in public forums. It was a kind of atonement for the Iraq war which by then had of course turned into a nightmare. But the PM survived, and went on to win in 2005.

Now Alex Salmond has devised his own collective version of the masochism strategy. He and the Scottish cabinet are to hold public meetings on a monthly basis around the country, taking flak from interest groups, voluntary organisations, business associations and anyone around who happens to have a grievance. It is called taking the White Paper, Scotland’s Future, to the country.

Since its launch last month, 50,000 copies have been downloaded, although it is unclear how many have actually read it. Or been persuaded by it. One opinion poll this week suggested that, while support for independence has very marginally increased, most Scots don’t seem to have been influenced much either way by the 670-page independence “Bible”.

But the First Minister isn’t content to leave it there. Mr Salmond and his apostles are taking the word to the people, whether they like it or not. The tour began on Tuesday at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre where he and his team faced what is claimed to be the largest single gathering of that amorphous and ill-defined body usually called “civic Scotland”. I was asked to act as an independent “facilitator” and agreed, mainly because I wanted to see what civic Scotland actually looks like.

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