Referendums have been at the heart of British politics for the past dozen or so years. The EU Referendum of 2016 changed the face of politics. Like another recent documentary on the EU Referendum, Yes/No – Inside the Indyref utilises testimony from those who were there and contributed to both the Yes and No campaign.
However, unlike Ten Years of Turmoil Yes/No has greater access to the central players such as Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and her scandal ridden predecessor Alex Salmond from the Yes side. Whilst former Chancellors George Osborne and Alistair Darling and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown appearing from the No campaign.
This helps to make the documentary feel more authentic – not only does it have testimony from those who participated in the documentary, but it has it from those who were central to each campaign. This gives the documentary more of a chance to explore not simply the motivations of the players in the Scottish drama but also to allow them to somewhat explain themselves or “set the record straight” – an example of this can be found when Alistair Darling makes clear how unhappy he was with Labour’s 2007 Scottish Assembly campaign, something he would not have been able to do at the time.
Though as with any documentary featuring politicians has to, Yes/No delicately balances between simply being a party-political broadcast and allowing the various participants to be honest about their experiences during the campaign. This also allows the documentary to feel less like a story of one party but rather a narrative of events that intersect with the differing fortunes of a variety of parties.
Whilst, by necessity of its subject matter, the documentary focuses on Scottish politics it does reflect the changes that have occurred throughout the UK – the fall from power of the Labour Party in between 2007 and 2010; the rise of the Conservatives, their coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the way that the result of the 2014 referendum supercharged the SNP to take over Scotland’s Westminster seats. It demonstrates, very effectively, how the SNP managed to take centre stage in Scottish politics through the issue of independence.
By framing the background to the documentary in this way, Yes/No manages to achieve an interesting and engaging dramatic narrative. This isn’t to say that the documentary feels in anyway fictionalised or “counter factual” – rather that it is able to tell the story of why Scotland had an Independence Referendum in a way that is both engaging for the audience and informative as well.
Its utilisation of archival footage and recent interviews with the main participants in the referendum allow it to have a truly analytical approach to the referendum. It helps us to fully understand the way in which the referendum motivated change in Scotland and how that change is still felt today.
Yes/No – Inside the Indyref is a fascinating and remarkable documentary that allows its audience, whether they were there or not, to fully experience the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and to understand what motivated both politicians and people to campaign for independence and to remain a part of the United Kingdom. It combines journalism and history in an entertaining and engaging way that is sure to inform whoever watches it.
- Watched on BBC Scotland. 19/03/2019