UPDATE: I have now definitively linked the BuzzFeed article to the Scotland Office itself!
So there I was, minding my own business on twitter, when up pops a tweet by Ramsay Jones, “UK Government Special Advisor Scotland. Tweets my own views. Hopefully someone else’s later.”
His tweet linked to what was apparently a Buzzfeed article, “Scotland. The UK. 10 Myths. 10 Facts.”, which purported to explain “What would happen to Scotland if we became independent? From our global relationships to our oil revenues, this blog looks at the myths, and the realities, of the Scottish independence debate.”
The post had been retweeted by Rebecca Lefort, “Digital at
@number10gov for a while (usually @bisgovuk). Ex @telegraph journo. Lover of coffee, badminton, feminism, dancing, comedy…. and much more!” I’m glad to see that in the modern world, one can claim to be a feminist whilst participating in a government that has conducted the biggest attack on women’s financial independence since the second world war, reducing the average woman’s disposable income by 10% through cuts alone.
On Ms Lefort’s twitter feed, I saw that she had also retweeted a tweet of the same article by Alex Stewart Aitken, “Government Communicator, Chairman of Westminster Wanderers FC and Arsenal fan”. Tory marketers seem to be huge fans of this BuzzFeed article! Rebecca liked it so much she retweeted it at least three times! Professional pride, perhaps?
So I read it (it didn’t take long, this is BuzzFeed after all!). An eagle-eyed reader will notice that it is “created by a user and has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed’s editorial staff” – but this text is small (in the Tory comms team’s defence, this is Buzzfeed’s decision).
The article itself isn’t worth reading – it’s just a list of the usual scare stories presented as myth-busting FACTS: “Fact: Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems have all made clear if we leave the UK we’ll also leave the UK pound. A currency union would not work for Scotland or the rest of the UK – it will not happen.”
At the very bottom of the article, it links to the UK government website.
I then discovered a twitter account, @YouDecide2014. Its twitter bio was “The Scottish Referendum on 18th September 2014 is a massive decision that needs proper thought. You Decide is here to give you the facts ahead of the vote.” and its website was listed as the Scotland Office official website. It had tweeted the Buzzfeed article several times, as well as tweeting and retweeting a lot of stuff from the UK government – Foreign Office tweets, Scotland Office tweets, MOD tweets. It seemed very keen on David Cameron’s speeches.
So it appears that taxpayers’ money, via the Scotland Office, is being used to fund a twitter and BuzzFeed account run by the Tory comms team. These accounts pretend to be neutral purveyors of facts but are in fact highly partisan. With reports of a recent Better Together leaflet adopting the same strategy, we have to assume this is a new phase in the No campaign – realising that their brand is now utterly toxic, they are resorting to pretending to be other people.
UPDATE: a discussion on Reddit reveals that this article was shared by no less than the 10 Downing Street facebook account!
UPDATE 2: Scott Abel on facebook noticed it was even retweeted by the MOD!