The curious case of YouDecide2014 – Tories in ‘neutral’ clothing

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.”

Ramsay Jones @Ramsay59 - Sorting out the facts from the Indy fiction.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).

Scotland. The UK. 10 Myths. 10 Facts. What would happen to Scotland if we become independent? From our global relationships to our oil revenues, this blog looks at the myths, and realities, of the Scottish independence debate. YouDecide2014. Buzzfeed user. This post was created by a user and has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed's editorial staff. BuzzFeed Community is a place where anyone can post awesome lists and creations." Learn more or post your buzz!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.

Get the facts at www.gov.uk/scottishreferendum

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.

Scottish Referendum @youdecide2014. We're here to provide you with the facts ahead of next year's massive decision around independence. #youdecide

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!

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    • GrahamM
    • April 30th, 2014

    The link to the buzzfeed was also retweeted by The Scottish Office twitter account.

    • Scott
    • April 30th, 2014

    Also retweeted by the MOD

    • Anonymous
    • April 30th, 2014

    Because of course the Yes campaign would never dream of being deceitful in any way

      • jason
      • May 1st, 2014

      If they are why don’t you prove it? What so bad and poisonous politics has the yes campaign been doing, because there’s a long list of lies and contradiction from the no campaign?

      • Robert Scott
      • May 1st, 2014

      Too scared to post your name even?

  1. It was sent to me through MOD

  2. That was really brave of ‘anonymous’ there. I’m impressed

  3. Murdo Fraser’s twitter also linked to it, then immediately deleted it. Unfortunately for him, it was captured by @deletedbyMSPs : https://twitter.com/deletedbymsps/status/461469641718923265

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