In February 2012, over two years ago, I wrote a piece entitled, "Is it possible to have a civilised debate on independence?" prompted by the inaccuracies carried in The Scotsman and Daily Mail, about alleged comments made by Mike Russell. The past two years have been filled with media pieces which have at times, bordered on the asinine and actionable, although there have been others which have been both informative and thought provoking. Unfortunately, the asinine have greatly outnumbered the informative. The tripe which has been carried in the print media, particularly newspapers such as the Daily Mail, about the consequences for Scots if we vote to become an independent country, says as much about the editorial policy of those papers as it does about those who prompted the stories which are carried. The animosity of the media to any idea of Scottish independence is as old as the movement for independence itself, therefore it comes as no surprise to those of us who have been around a bit longer than the majority who are new to the game.
I had hoped however, that the SNP and the wider Nationalist movement, had been around long enough to persuade the more responsible journalists, to give a fair assessment of the issues at stake and, to be fair, there are a few like Ian McWhirter, Ian Bell and Peter Jones who have produced pieces which have been worth reading. Unfortunately, the SNP has itself to blame for much of the criticism it has taken on the serious questions of the currency an independent Scotland will use and our membership of the EU. The party can hardly complain when it continues to argue that a currency union will provide an "independent" Scotland with the economic levers it needs to have economic control, when it quite clearly will do nothing of the kind. Even the SNP's own Fiscal Commission - along with every other economist and economic commentator in the country - has pointed out the conditions which would be necessary for a currency union to work, conditions which leave control with Westminster. For the SNP to continue to deny that is both stupid and dishonest. For their supporters to attack anyone who points this out, is equally stupid and dishonest but of much greater importance; it does nothing to persuade those who are undecided that they can rely on the information with which they are being provided.
There has never been a more important vote in my lifetime and the Nationalist movement has the more difficult task, because people are being asked to leave their comfort zone and take a step in a direction many of them do not want to go. To make that task even more difficult by being less than honest or by being downright dishonest, and then to be caught out in their dishonesty, displays a degree of stupidity that almost beggars belief. When the party is aided and abetted by a collection of numpties for whom personal abuse is their everyday language and who seem to think the way to persuade people to the cause of independence, is to be as vile and unpleasant as possible, and when it is pointed out that spouting bile and venom is not the way to persuade people of the rightness of their cause, their only resort is to spout more bile and venom, the objective of winning the argument for independence, of persuading the undecided that independence is worth having, may already be a lost cause. Any and every political party and politician invites criticism, simply by being involved. If you are going to put your head above the parapet, you are merely inviting people to have a pot-shot at it - figuratively speaking. It is one thing to be criticised for taking political positions, it is quite another to be personally abused for being involved in politics.
Alex Salmond can be fairly criticised for some of his political decisions, criticism which is perfectly acceptable. The personal abuse he takes is totally unacceptable. Politicians have always been lampooned, it goes with the territory, and a good cartoon can be highly effective but the level of personal abuse directed at Salmond has frequently gone beyond the pale. Neil Kinnock was subjected to similar abuse and there is a section of the media in the UK, which has always been incapable of serious political debate and which catered for the lowest common denominator in UK society. The establishment obviously know how serious the referendum vote is and the hounds have been unleashed. The SNP as a political party, was also a target for the tabloids in the early days, when comparisons with National Socialists was commonplace, but the National Movement in Scotland has never been based on race and try as he might, George Galloway will find it hard to make anti-Catholicism stick. The ire of the establishment, has of necessity, to be directed at individuals and Salmond, as the leader, is the obvious target.
Another who is currently in the firing line, is Nigel Farage, who if anything, is being targeted even more than Alex Salmond and with even greater venom. What is surprising, is the source of much of the criticism and the venom of the abuse. Euan McColm wrote an appalling piece in Scotland on Sunday at the weekend. He wrote, "Farage is a one-trick pony, spouting meaningless slogans while brushing off uncomfortable truths about his colleagues. He's a cynic, attacking the excesses of politicians while raking in a huge salary and expenses as an MEP. And he's a weasel, defending his party from charges of intolerance... But more than all of these things, Farage is a hypocrite...his first instinct is to protect his cushy number in Brussels." Farage's crime was to decide not to contest the Newark by-election himself. He is leader of his party and an MEP, fighting a EU election in a couple of weeks but he is a "weasel", a "hypocrite" because he is not contesting a by-election which no other party leader is expected to contest. I have NEVER heard of a party leader contesting a by-election under similar circumstances. Since he is paid the same as every other MEP, I take it McColm considers they all have cushy numbers, or is it just Farage?
Farage's critics accuse him of racism but never miss an opportunity to make reference to his "German-born wife" whom he employs as his assistant in his job as a MEP. Ian Hudghton, MEP and President of the SNP has employed his wife since 1999 while George Lyon MEP has employed his girlfriend since 2009, something which is rarely if ever mentioned. UKIP have had some decidedly unsavoury characters who have stood as candidtates and who have been expelled by the party, which is more than can be said for the Lib Dems in their dealing with Cyril Smith, whose activities are still being covered up or denied by the party leadership. Labour in Scotland have had an MP jailed for wilfull fire-raising and another twice convicted of serious assault; the Tories have had two MPs jailed for perjury and the Lib Dems had one recently jailed for perverting the course of justice. They have all had MPs jailed for expenses fraud, one of whom, Laws, returned to the Tory government on release from prison, and a number of others that should have been. UKIP's claims about immigration have just been confirmed and we now know that 4 million immigrants came to the UK during Labour's term of office and about which they lied consistently. All of those people needed somewhere to live, needed jobs, education, health service attention and were in competition for all of those, with some of the poorest people in the UK, many of whom were deprived of them as a consequence. It was much easier to scream "Racists" at UKIP for raising the issue than to deal with them and the fact that the party is now leading the polls in England must mean something or, are 35% of English residents also just racists?
I am no supporter of UKIP but for Farage to be driven off the streets, to be denied the opportunity to speak and told to "go back to England" can hardly be described as rational debate, by people who call UKIP racists. To pelt him - or anyone else - with eggs is cowardice and I would personally prefer the John Prescott reply to egg throwers - a good, hard left hook. The decision of the Sunday Herald to support independence was a major breakthrough and should be applauded, in the hope that others will follow. The editorial justifying the paper's stance carried the caveat that while it supported the idea of independence, it did not mean it would "support unquestioningly the SNP and its allies". I tweeted that it was to be applauded but also expressed the hope the paper's caveat "would be taken on board by the cybernats". I assumed that any semi-intelligent, rational independence supporter would understand that I was saying that I hoped the cybernats would take on board that supporting independence, did NOT mean that support must be given without question, to everything the SNP and its allies said. I did receive responses to the effect, that differences of opinion were to be welcomed.
However, true to form one of the cybernuts called Patrick Roden, had to surface, with a demand to know what my point was. Still assuming I was dealing with some semi-intelligent individual I posted,
"Try disagreeing with them and you will find out".
That did it. His next post was,
"Who? The Sunday Herald? The Yes Campaign? Haven't saw the SNP tweeting crap about you."
I then suggested he try to understand tweets before responding which unleashed the usual torrent of bile. A further ten posts followed, to none of which I responded and which ranged from,
"Why are you linking SNP with cybernats and doing BT's work for them. Bugger off you bitter old fool"
"BT will be delighted with your days work attacking the SNP again. Well done."
"Your problem Jim is I don't need the unionists approval or pat on the head. I don't care"
to (in reply to another poster who had suggested he might concentrate on independence)
"I agree but Jim seems determined to attack cybernats rather than the other side, silly old cvnt"
"Jim you are the typical Scottish cringer, I'm not like you, your unionist rules don't apply to me."
At that point he decided,
"not gona waste any more time on bitter old Jim"
Roden is obviously an idiot and caused great amusement among some of my family who were visiting but he is unfortunately, a perfect example of the kind of clown who can do the independence movement a great deal of damage. It is significant that the negativity of the No Campaign is having the exact opposite effect on Scottish voters, to that which they had hoped for; just as the daily abuse and sniping at Nigel Farage and UKIP is merely increasing both his and his party's standing in the polls. We have not had the effects of immigration in Scotland, in the way they have in parts of England and our understanding of the problems there has been at best shallow. Nevertheless, contrary to the SNP mantra, large-scale immigration would not be popular in Scotland, according to the latest polls. It is common to dismiss UKIP as having no support in Scotland but we may get a surprise, just as the polls on the referendum continue to surprise the No side. Fortunately they seem to be incapable of changing either their understanding of the issue or their campaign strategy and I fully expect both the negativity and the abuse to continue. Sadly, that is probably also true of the cybernats and people like Roden, who really should see a doctor.