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The Blair which project

The Blair which project

Has the campaign run the way you expected?
Blair Jenkins: Broadly speaking, yes. We laid out a campaign plan and timeline at the beginning to which we have generally adhered, although you always adjust tactics in response to events. In so many ways it has been an amazing learning curve and a rollercoaster, if you can be both of those things at once.  That said, I’ve always believed that our positive arguments were winning support and would achieve a Yes result – though it would have been easier on the nerves of the broader Yes movement if the polls had reflected that a little earlier!
Blair McDougall: In some ways no. When we launched, Alistair Darling said that the choice was between economic risk and the best of both worlds. In a six-week general election campaign, let alone a two and a half year campaign you would have expected the message to evolve and change. It is significant that we close the campaign on the same message we started on.

What has been the highlight for you so far?
BJ: Two things stand out.  First of all, our grassroots campaigning – something that has definitely exceeded all our expectations.  It really has driven the campaign, and indeed the referendum as a whole. Secondly, the sight of people queuing to register to vote – it really was great thinking about how people were engaged in political issues again, like never before.  And while time will tell, I doubt many of them were queuing up to vote in favour of the political system that they’d completely disengaged from. 
BMcD: The phenomenal commitment of our volunteers and new friendships with members of our utterly brilliant campaign staff. One moment which stands out is a letter from a 95 year-old Scottish woman who sent a donation to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of her husband in action over Normandy in the days after D-Day. She was a codebreaker at Bletchley Park. Her personal story was the story of shared struggle and triumph. Just one of thousands of moments and stories but ones which stuck in my mind.

And what has been your low point?
BJ: Even in the more difficult weeks, it has always been an absolute pleasure and privilege to be in this job. However, missing the decisive penalty in a charity shoot-out against the No campaign was momentarily painful – though all for a great cause: MND and Gordon’s Fightback.
BMcD: The organised disruption of our events by Yes campaigners. I simply cannot understand why, in a democracy, another side would aggressively disrupt the events of their opponents. This isn’t just the cut and thrust of politics. Two days running in the short campaign, broadcasters had no usable footage from our events because of aggressive disruption from Yes campaigners. Meanwhile, we allow Yes events to go on unmolested and their media events get covered as they intended. It is a disgrace and a discredit to the other side.

Whatever the result, in what way has Scotland benefitted from the debate?
BJ: It was great to see a poll showing an overwhelming majority of people in Scotland believe that the referendum is something to be proud of - by 69 per cent to 15 per cent.  It’s re-engaged so many people in politics and thinking about what kind of country we want to be – with more people than ever before following debates and arguments, registering to vote, actively campaigning and going to public meetings to ask questions. And so many terrific young people have found their passion and found their voice in this campaign.
BMcD: I have very mixed feelings. The level of engagement has been great. There is a new cadre of political activists who, given the right leadership, can change Scotland for the better in the long term. However, I can’t help but feel that this has been two-and-a-half years when we should have been changing Scotland for the better and addressing, rather than simply debating, the big issues. 

What have you learned personally during the process?
BJ: There’s a lot to be said for perseverance.
BMcD: It is the first time in my working life I have been front of stage. For the 15 years I have been in political life, I have always been an adviser or strategist. I’m still both but have the additional role of being a spokesperson. The transition from coach to player has been really enjoyable and people who recognise you in the street, even those who disagree, are overwhelmingly positive.

Who in the opposition camp do you admire most and why?
BJ: I disagree with her completely on just about every political issue, but on a personal level I do have considerable regard for Ruth Davidson who I’ve known for quite some time since we worked together at the BBC. When I was her boss, I found her to be someone who stood up for other people, a quality I’ve always admired. She’s been a very eloquent and determined campaigner. I only wish she was campaigning for the right causes! 
BMcD: John Swinney, for at least showing a degree of realistic analysis of the challenges we face as a nation, as revealed in the leaked Cabinet papers. It is a pity that the conversation he was able to have in private could not have been conducted publicly over the last two years.  

How would you describe your opposite number, Blair?
BJ: As I think comes across on television, the other Blair is a very affable and personable character and not difficult to get on with. I suspect we might meet for a beer and swap notes at some point after 18 September!
BMcD: Decent. Intelligent. Hard-working. Wrong! We get on pretty well given the pressure, the binary nature of the debate and the passion on each side.

What have you got planned for the weekend of 20 September?
BJ: Sleep will definitely feature to a large extent.
BMcD: Sleep.

What will you do next?
BJ: I made a conscious decision when I took this job that I wouldn’t think or talk about what came next until after the referendum. This was mainly to make sure that I was wholly focused on getting a Yes result. My wife and I will have a nice holiday and then we’ll give some thought to where I might best make a contribution to a successful independent Scotland. 
BMcD: Play with my brilliant kids. Reintroduce myself to my friends who I haven’t seen since spring 2012. Repay the extraordinary support and patience shown by my amazing wife. 

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