There’s been a fair bit of hoo-ha-ery on social media of late, at least so I’m told. Having recently decided that I’m far too anti-social for social media, or perhaps social media is far too anti-social for me, I’ve given up on Twitter and Facebook so am blythely ignorant of all the fighting. As an independence supporter you get used to nasty snash from the more frothing mouthed unionists, but when you have to wade through tweets telling you that they hope you stop breathing, you start to wonder where it’s time to smother your Twitter account. Then when you then start to get attacked by people you had fondly assumed were working towards the same goal that you were, logging on to social media produces the same kind of sensation that you get when turning over a rock in order to count the nasty wee beasties lurking underneath. I’d rather use my time more productively.
While I was reading up on Roman Britain as part of the research for a novel I’m planning to write, there was one almighty shit-fest on social media. The latest spat was sparked off by an article in the Sunday Herald, one of Scotland’s two pro-independence newspapers, wading into the second vote argument with all the finesse of a brain damaged elephant on crack. Personally I thought that the article was, to put it kindly, ill-advised and the argument it made didn’t stand up to closer scrutiny. Be that as it may, the thrust of the article was about how to maximise the pro-independence representation in the next Scottish parliament. The argument it made may have been more flawed than Jackie Baillie’s arithmetic, more specious than Daisley’s snarky grievance hunting, or more inane then Graph Boy’s comments on linguistic science, but it was essentially a contribution to the on-going debate about how best to achieve a pro-independence majority in the next Scottish parliament. It wasn’t an attempt to destroy the independence movement.
What the Sunday Herald’s article most certainly was not, was evidence of that Scotland’s pro-independence newspapers are part of a Unionist plot to undermine the cause of independence from within. Some people need to get a grip. Editors of newspapers make decisions about how best to further the interests of their newspaper, the audience it seeks to reach, and the causes it espouses, and sometimes they don’t always get it right. That doesn’t make every article that you disagree with part of an evil yoon conspiracy.
Ah, you might say, you would say that, what with you being a regular contributor to the National, the other pro-independence newspaper in the Newsquest stable. What I can tell you is that in the year that I’ve been writing for the National, they have never told me what I can or cannot write about, they have never censored me or silenced me. They did ask that I refrain from using swerry words and tone down the lower bodily function references, what with them being a family publication, and that’s fair enough. But they’ve never tried to alter, shape, or subvert any political message that I want to get across, and I know that is also the case with the other pro-independence commentators who contribute to the paper.
The National and the Sunday Herald are valuable additions to the armoury of the independence cause, and without them we’d all be a lot worse off. They give independence voices a platform and a reach that we’d otherwise not have and by doing so they force the Unionist mainstream to pay attention. I remember the early days of Newsnet Scotland, it was easy then for the Unionist mainstream to marginalise and ignore pro-independence voices. It’s far harder for them to do that now. The ever increasing howling of the yoons is precisely because the independence cause is getting heard and getting its message out, and in part that is due to having mainstream publications in the traditional print media on our side.
More than that however, by providing a regular source of income the National and the Sunday Herald allow independence voices like me to keep doing what we do. Blogging doesn’t pay well, it doesn’t pay regularly, and it doesn’t pay a guaranteed income. I’m immensely grateful to all the people who press the donate button at the end of each article on this blog, but it doesn’t provide me with a guaranteed income. Writing for the National does. Writing for the National allows me to continue writing this blog because I know that I’m earning enough to cover my basic living expenses. Otherwise I’d have to seek alternative employment. The only people that would make happy are my legion of critics on Twitter, the ones who wish that I, and the rest of the independence campaign, would stop breathing.
The bottom line is, if you want a pro-independence media in Scotland, you have to pay for it, and you have to accept that it’s going to be flawed and it’s going to make mistakes. It’s not always going to say things that we all agree with, it’s not always going to get it right. We’re all only human, none of us is perfect. Except of course the dug, who’s canine not human, and he’s quite content with a chew bone.
If independence supporters want something meaty to chew on, they’re going to have to pay for it. I’m happy for people to consume my words for free, but I still have to eat and pay the electric bill. The same goes for every other pro-independence blogger, campaigner, and activist. The National is what allows me to keep blogging. I like blogging, and I don’t want to have to get a proper job.
If the National and the Sunday Herald are part of a Unionist conspiracy to undermine the cause of independence, they’re really not very good at it. The publications are helping to keep the cause of independence firmly in the centre of Scottish politics and public life. Silencing them only silences the cause of independence, and the only beneficiaries are the Unionist parties, the Westminster establishment, and their media friends.
Let’s leave the craziness to the howling yoons, where it properly belongs.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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