The National is reporting today that a number of newsagents have cancelled their orders for the Sunday National, despite selling out the copies that they previously received. The news has been received with the usual contempt and dismissal by opponents of independence, some of whom have openly accused the newspaper’s staff of consciously and deliberately inventing an outright lie in order to mislead and deceive – you know, as if it were a right wing tabloid which specialises in stories about Diana’s ghost telling a medium that she supports Brexit.
It’s a sad reflection of some people Scotland that they are so terrified of independence that they will attempt to prevent other people from talking about it and reading about it. It’s a perfectly legitimate point of view to oppose Scottish independence. It’s not a view I share. It’s a view that I believe is wrong on multiple levels. But I wouldn’t ban an anti-independence newspaper from a shop or hide it so that people couldn’t find it. Although to be fair, if you tried to hide all the anti-independence newspapers there wouldn’t be many newspapers left.
There are some 38 daily and Sunday newspapers in Scotland, and only one which supports independence despite the fact that independence is the constitutional option favoured by half the population. However British nationalists are so threatened by the existence of a single newspaper with a pro-independence editorial line that they will hide it, censor it, and try to prevent people reading it. They loudly take to social media to decry it as McPravda, as though the Scotsman or the Mail were beacons of balance.
For decades opponents of independence had the entire Scottish media on their side, independence was a marginal idea, consigned to the far edges of the frayed tartan blanket of Scottish newspapers. It wasn’t taken seriously. It is now, but the media in Scotland still hasn’t adapted to that new reality, and neither have many opponents of independence. Their problem is that they still hanker for the days when independence wasn’t taken seriously. Their entire strategy is based upon the mistaken idea that they can put us back in the box. That’s why there’s the barrage of SNPbad stories. It’s not going to work.
When Callum Baird, the editor of The National, stated in public that one of the difficulties The National experiences in distribution is that there are individuals who hide copies of the paper, he was called out as a conspiracy theorist and mocked by anti-independence journalists. Callum didn’t just invent the allegation that individuals opposed to independence were hiding copies of The National so that they couldn’t be seen on newspaper displays, he said so because people attending National Roadshow events had told him that they’d caught them in the act of it.
Someone who reads this blog wrote in to tell me that they are an employee of a large supermarket chain, and they had caught a person taking copies of The National off the newspaper display and hiding them. The person was banned from the store as a result. I have also had people attending a talk or event I’ve been at telling me that they have caught opponents of independence hiding copies of The National.
The allegation that opponents of independence are hiding copies of The National in order to prevent them being seen and purchased is credible and well sourced, not a wild eyed invention. The wild eyed invention is refusing to believe, a priori, that the allegation cannot possibly be true because it’s only independence supporters who are nutjobs. Honey, your bias is showing. The truth is that the actual fascists, sectarian bigots, racists and anti-democratic right wing extremists are largely to be found on the anti-independence side of this debate.
It’s not a conspiracy theory to point out that the press in Scotland is overwhelmingly opposed to independence. It’s a simple fact. When the Sunday National was launched, it was announced on social media and on the BBC’s Reporting Scotland that the Herald, and the new Sunday edition of the daily Herald, would continue to be “neutral” on the topic of independence. It’s not often that I laugh out loud during a broadcast of Reporting Scotland, but I did that day. The Herald is neutral on the topic of Scottish independence in the same way that the Kardashians are neutral on whether they want to avoid publicity.
The fact that a newspaper occasionally carries opinion columns from people who support independence doesn’t make that paper balanced or neutral on the subject of independence. It’s the newspaper’s editorial stance that counts, and it’s the choice, selection, and presentation of their news stories. What we see in Scotland is a rush to publish anything that paints independence in a negative light, and a corresponding reluctance to publish anything that is positive for independence.
There remains amongst the deeply conservative (with both a small and a large C) Scottish press the notion that opposition to independence is the neutral and apolitical stance, the status quo, whereas support for independence is political in a way that opposing it is not. That might have been true a couple of decades ago, but it’s most certainly not true now as the UK lurches toward a chaotic Brexit that Scotland has consistently opposed. There is no status quo any more. There is only Brexit, or independence. There is only change. There is only change imposed upon Scotland, or change which Scotland has a voice and a say in. That’s it. Those are the only options.
The ostriches of British nationalism want to pretend that change is not happening. The ubiquitous anti-independence media is pushing a nulliquitous reality, a reality that is the opposite of ubiquitous, it doesn’t exist anywhere. But it means that independence supporters can take heart. The fact that our opponents feel the need to hide from us, to censor us, to silence us, can only mean that they have no confidence in their own arguments. It means that those of us who support independence must redouble our efforts to support the pro-independence media that we do have. It means that we are making compelling arguments. The attempts of some newsagents to prevent the message getting to their customers means that we are getting through. They’re only doing it because they are afraid.
The panic in the British state was clear in Theresa May’s Brexit speech this afternoon. The UK is threatening to commit economic suicide if the EU doesn’t meet it halfway. But the EU is under no obligation to meet the UK halfway when it’s the UK which has moved off into a fantasy world. It’s not independence which is based in romantic notions of an idealised past that never really existed. That would be the UK. Theresa said today that she will not overturn the result of the EU referendum, and she will not “break up her country”. She doesn’t need to worry, Brexit has broken it up for her. Theresa May had her bluff called in Salzburg, but she’s still trying the same bluff with the same cards. This has been going on for two years. Her bluff will be called again tomorrow and she’ll still have nothing. Rinse and repeat, until the UK crashes out of the EU.
People all over Scotland are waking up to the truth that there is no security and stability in the UK any more. And that means we’re winning.
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