The news that someone attempted to sabotage the Yes Bikers as they rode into Galashiels on Saturday to attend the independence march and rally is a worrying development. That same march also saw opponents of independence racially abuse independence supporters of English and Asian origin, but it was the attack on the Yes Bikers which had the potential to cause injury or worse. This attack was the second directed against the Yes Bikers. During the Glasgow march last month, British nationalists hurled traffic cones at the Bikers’ convoy.
According to reports, screws were scattered over the roadway as the bikers approached Galashiels, seemingly with the intention of causing punctures, and possibly to cause some bikers to lose control of their vehicles. The perpetrator partially succeeded. Seven of the bikes suffered punctures to their tyres. It is only by some good fortune that no rider lost control of their bike, and no injuries, or worse, were caused.
No one has taken responsibility for the incident, and it’s unlikely that anyone will. With the exception of The National, the incident has passed unremarked in the Scottish media. Indeed, some of the usual red white and blue tinfoil hat wearing anti-independence trolls have attempted to claim that the incident never happened, or that if it did then it was an attempt at self-sabotage in order to garner sympathy. Yet this is serious. This is an attempt, possibly by an extremist British nationalist, to cause harm and injury to people simply because they support Scottish independence. This is several orders of magnitude worse than threats and abuse on social media. This is terrorism, this is an actual attack upon the physical safety of a prominent and well-regarded group of peaceful and lawful independence supporters, and for the most part the Scottish media doesn’t care.
However can you imagine the response if there had been a similar attempt to sabotage some pro-UK event, a sabotage attempt that could potentially have caused injuries or even deaths? It would have made TERRORISM headlines and the Daily Express would have gone into one of its paroxysms of random capitalisation. There would be calls for Nicola Sturgeon to condemn it. There would be reporters doorstopping SNP politicians demanding that they call out the extremists in the independence movement. There would be a special programme on the BBC featuring Glenn Campbell flying off to the USA to interview someone no one has ever heard of about Scotland’s shame. It wouldn’t be off the front pages for weeks.
Yet when there is actual violence in Scottish politics, it’s invariably produced by the extreme fringe of British nationalist support. It was right wing British nationalists who went on the rampage in George Square in the aftermath of the independence referendum in 2014, attacking independence supporters, beating people up, running riot in the streets of Scotland’s largest city.
This was an incident which was shamefully reported by the BBC as clashes between supporters and opponents of independence, as though there was a moral equivalence between a violent British nationalist thug and the victim he chose to attack. It was clear that the BBC and the Scottish media in general did not want to face up to the ugly reality about the extremists amongst the ranks of opponents of independence. It ran counter to the carefully constructed narrative that it’s only the independence movement which has a problem with bad behaviour.
We saw something similar last year when a right wing thug was convicted and sentenced in Edinburgh for planning to make explosive devices. His links to British nationalist anti-independence groups were downplayed in the Scottish media, yet we can be quite certain that had he been an independence supporter, the entire Scottish government and the wider independence movement would have been held to account.
Peter Morgan was sentenced to 12 years in jail for possessing bomb making materials. Morgan was a member of the Scottish Defence League, whose members sing Rule Britannia and wave union flegs. According to Rational Wiki, the SDL has ties to Regimental Blues, a nakedly sectarian far-right Orange anti-independence group founded in Glasgow in 2013. The SDL also has strong links to other fascist and white supremicist groups elsewhere in the UK, and like them is a British nationalist extremist organisation which violently opposes Scottish independence.
This was the nasty little British nationalist puddle in which Morgan tried to make a splash, but the most prominent photo of him to appear in the press showed him with a Saltire, and downplayed his British nationalist and anti-independence ideology. A casual reader of many of the news reports of his conviction could have thought he was an independence supporter. I’m sure that was entirely accidental on the part of the press. You know, like it’s accidental that Scottish Conservatives call themselves the Ruth Davidson’s Ruth Davidson Party for More Ruth Davidson, and hope that we’ll forget that they’re really a branch office who do what they’re told by their masters and mistresses in Westminster and expect Scotland to follow suit.
Now of course none of the anti-independence parties are responsible for the reckless act of sabotage against the Yes Bikers, which could so easily have led to someone losing control of their bike and quite possibly losing their life. The point however is that it wouldn’t occur to anyone in the Scottish media to demand that prominent anti-independence politicians condemn whoever was responsible. That’s despite the fact that we frequently see dog whistles from Tory politicians on social media aimed at those of their supporters who reside in a 1690 timewarp.
Yet if the boot was on the other foot and there had been an illegal act of sabotage which risked the lives and physical safety of opponents of independence, finding an SNP politician to condemn it would be the first thing on the Scottish media’s mind. The independence movement as a whole is held responsible by the media for the behaviour of a tiny minority of extremists, the reverse is never the case. The reason for that is nakedly political. It’s a ploy to prevent people from engaging with the arguments for independence. It’s not an omission. It’s not a mistake. It’s not an accident. It’s not coincidence. It’s a tactic.
As we get closer to Brexit and another independence referendum, a campaign which will begin with half of Scotland supporting independence, the extremist wing of British nationalism will grow increasingly angry and increasingly desperate. This is why we need to continue to support the pro-independence media that we do have. If it wasn’t for The National there would be no mentions of the attack on the Yes Bikers anywhere in the traditional Scottish media. It would have been left entirely to social media to highlight it, and that would not have given the incident the profile and importance it deserves. It’s very easy to dismiss reports on social media. It’s harder to dismiss the front page of a national newspaper. If the bulk of the Scottish media won’t hold British nationalism to account, it’s up to the independence movement and the pro-independence press to do their job for them.
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