Pundits last night described themselves as “flabbergasted” by the latest unexpected turn in the Scottish referendum debate, as the No campaign sensationally re-branded itself as Better Together for Independence.
“It was the focus groups,” declared Alistair Darling to a slack-jawed press conference. “When we showed them our campaign literature, those who weren’t too traumatised to speak insisted it was far too negative. We’d been hearing the same from Charles Kennedy and David Steel, but we’d ignored them, because that’s just what you do with Liberal Democrats.
“So we sat down with the stakeholders and asked ourselves, well, what sort of idea is it that’s really resonating in a positive way with voters? And, when we looked at the momentum in the polls, we could see that it was obviously independence.”
The thrust of the campaign will change immediately, as multi-million pound efforts are thrown into getting the White Paper out to a wider audience. “The Scottish Government has really dropped the ball on this,” said Darling. “They simply haven’t put enough money into distribution, and with only five months left we’re going to have to ramp things up fast.”
BTI, as the organisation will henceforth be known, has commandeered a fleet of ice-cream vans, and is currently fitting them with miniature cannons which will fire the document at households. “We’re hoping the jolly music will cause people to open their windows,” remarked Darling, “but, just in case, we’re advising Edinburgh investment firms to buy shares in glazing companies.” As a sideline, a loyalty scheme will entitle purchasers of 10 ice cream wafers to an autographed copy of the McCrone Report.
The organisation will now start accepting invitations to referendum debates, where it intends to criticise pro-independence campaigners for not being ambitious enough. It has also introduced its own range of “Yes” badges, bigger and shinier than everyone else’s, and will ask employers to circulate e-mails threatening their staff with the sack if they don’t wear at least five. “It’s a clear business opportunity,” maintained Darling, who himself has a sports version with a built-in camera for taking selfies on people’s doorsteps. The burgeoning collectors’ market is already identifying favourites, such as the Star Trek (“Affirmative”), the Vicky Pollard (“Yehbutnobutyehbut”) and the Ann Summers (“Yes Yes Oh YESSSS!”).
BTI now acknowledges that Westminster is “too big, too rich and too clever by half” to be in partnership with Scotland, but the organisation’s position on post-independence negotiations is rock-solid. “If George Osborne doesn’t agree to currency union,” asserted Darling, “I’m going down to London to give him a piece of my mind. I used to live in his house, so I know all the hiding places.”
On the question of Europe, with Mr Barroso now the subject of an arrest warrant on the grounds of his being a “complete tosser”, things are looking fairly rosy. Just in case, however, BTI has arranged for Spanish fishermen to hold a candlelit vigil outside the European Parliament until Scotland’s position is resolved. “If that doesn’t work,” said Darling, “Alastair Carmichael has had a quiet word, and, if called upon, Mr Putin is prepared to annexe Orkney and Shetland. That should make fast-track EU membership for the rest of Scotland a formality.”
Spin-off organisations are already beginning to proliferate. Bastards for Scotland, a cartel of several big banks, has announced that its members will shortly be moving their head offices to Scotland and paying huge bonuses to randomly selected psychopaths. Meanwhile, National Corrective, a grass-roots movement of people who mistakenly believe they can write, paint and sing, is planning a series of concerts at which the erroneous views of members of the audience will be mercilessly ridiculed in rhyming couplets.
Wings Over Scotland, the enfant terrible of the independence movement, will be purchased by the BBC in a multi-million pound deal and, in Darling’s words, “we’ll get some proper journalists in to write it”. Its founder, Rev Stuart Campbell, will be promoted to Lifetime President, but will have a less hands-on role as more and more of his time is mysteriously taken up by issues such as rodent control. “We have no shortage of rats in our organisation,” commented Darling.
The centrepiece of the revamped Wings will be its serialisation of Alan Cochrane’s six-part biography of Alex Salmond, titled I Admit It, He’s A Genius. “It’s been hell for Alan all these years,” said Darling, “writing poisonous drivel about Alex every week in the Daily Telegraph, when all he really wanted to do was give him a big hug.” A huge promotional campaign is planned for Glasgow Underground, where any advertisements not supporting independence have now been banned.
At Holyrood, it’s been confirmed that Johann Lamont’s opening question on Thursday will be, “What is the First Minister’s favourite colour?” Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie are reported to have asked Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick if it’s all right not to ask a question, but instead to scatter rose petals in Mr Salmond’s path and lead the chamber in a chorus of For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow. Darling, meanwhile, described rumours that SNP members will continue to pose questions about hospitals and the dualling of the A9 as “not helpful”.
Professor John Curtice, who attended last night’s press conference by virtue of his general omnipresence, was asked about the impact of the evening’s announcements on the public’s voting intentions. He examined his tea-leaves carefully for a few moments, then pronounced, “Good heavens, quite astonishing! The No campaign has suddenly shot ahead by fifty points!”
“Mission accomplished,” murmured Darling.