Attempts to set up a ‘Better Together’ campaign group on Bute ahead of next year’s referendum on Scottish independence have got off to a rather stumbling start this week.
A meeting at the Pavilion cafe in Rothesay on Wednesday afternoon was attended by just 14 people - barely half of them resident on Bute.
And when we asked, towards the end of the gathering, how many in the room would regard themselves as firm Better Together supporters, only five hands went up - and only two of those belonged to people living on the island.
Among the five was Argyll and Bute’s Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid, who spent much of the 90-minute meeting fielding questions from a small number of audience members - not on the mechanics of setting up a Better Together campaign on Bute, but on why they, and voters in general, should choose to stay part of the UK in next September’s independence referendum.
Those questioners almost all said they has misunderstood the purpose of the meeting, believing it to be a chance to put questions about the referendum, and the issues surrounding it, to the Better Together campaign itself.
Mr Reid himself admitted to some frustration afterwards, telling us he had been clear in his own mind that the purpose of the meeting was to establish a Better Together campaign group on Bute and to sign up local volunteers willing to knock on doors, post leaflets through letterboxes and other on-the-ground campaign tasks over the next ten months.
Peter Wallace, who has stood as a Conservative candidate on Bute at the last two local council elections and who, along with Kayleigh Harvey, the Better Together campaign organiser for central, west and south Scotland and Glasgow, organised Wednesday’s meeting, admitted wryly afterwards that “unfortunately we did not seem to maximise our reach to the intended audience at this afternoon’s event!”.
But he at least is not ready to admit defeat in his attempts to set up a local campaign group, and has asked that anyone on Bute interested in being involved in the campaign sign up at bettertogether.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
* In the interest of balance, we should point out that more information on the Yes Scotland campaign on Bute is available via the ‘Yes Bute’ Facebook page.