Preserving our values

values
Long long ago, back in the distant days of 2014 when Labour dinosaurs still stalked the Earth, or at least stalked Central Scotland, we were told that Scotland needed to vote to stay under Westminster rule because we benighted Caledonians require the tender mercies of the British state to provide us with the best possible bulwark to protect us from political extremism.

The implication was that being lesser and irredeemably parochial beings, Scottish types couldn’t be trusted with democracy, in case we broke it. Those making that particular argument conveniently overlooked the fact that Scotland was and is able to hold an independence debate, a type of political debate which in most countries is conducted with bullets, bombs, and internment camps, and yet the only casualties to date have been Jim Murphy’s dry cleaning bill and some unpleasantries on social media. At least, those are the casualties produced by those supporting indepedence, those opposing it have been responsible for unpleasantries on social media, and also some actual violence. Just ask anyone with a saltire who was in or around George Square in the aftermath of the independence referendum.

It has always been the case that the real threats to Scottish democracy come from the extremist wing of the anti-independence camp, however that didn’t prevent apologists for the British state making the opposite claim. However in the light of what’s been going on over the past few weeks, that claim rings bitterly hollow now, as the Faragists continue their rise. We have an actual party of Peronistas which has now landed in modern Britain, only instead of an Evita charming the masses, we’ve got the 1950s horror show that is Anne Widdecombe, Strictly Come Dancing on the grave of hope and progress.

The Brexit party is entirely a vehicle for the ambitions and ego of Nigel Farage, a right wing populist English nationalist. He is the shape of the UK to come, the future of a Conservative party that will reshape itself in his image in order to retain what it can of its haemorrhaging support. Nigel has announced that his party will never produce a manifesto. Manifestos are all lies, says Nigel, with the confidence of a man who ought to know all about political porkies. Of course the real reason he has no intention of publishing any policies for his egomobile is because that way he can continue to promise all things to all people. Right wing Ukippers can flock under his red white and blue umbrella, and Labour leavers in northern England can tell themselves that Nige is going to stick it to the man.

This is just as well, because on previous occasions when Nigel has voiced some policies, they have not been pretty. Farage has advocated banning people with HIV from entering the UK. He voices suspicions that climate change may not be real and despises wind farms. He cosies up to Donald Trump. He has mused about the desirablity of replacing the NHS with a US style health insurance system. He thinks that the UK’s ban on handguns is ludicrous. He is convinced that the campaign for Scottish independence is driven solely by an atavistic hatred of the English. And while vehemently denying that he is himself a bigot, he is happy to indulge in political imagery that dog whistles to your actual racists.

In Scotland we look upon what’s happening in Catalonia and console ourselves with the thought that this is the UK, that at least here we are allowed to campaign openly for independence without fear of prosecution. We operate under the assumption that it’s for the people of Scotland and the people of Scotland alone to choose the form of government best suited to their needs. All that will change in a UK that’s bent at the knee before the Faragistas with their fetishisation of English nationalism. Scotland will get what it’s given, and will be grateful that it’s being allowed to participate in England’s elections. The political future of the UK is going to be an increasingly unwelcome space for Scottish distinctiveness. That’s going to be true irrespective of what happens with Brexit.

There is however a sliver of good news. That home-grown proponent of policy free politics is being beaten at its own game. Ruth Davidson’s Ruth Davidson’s Ruth Davidson Vote Ruth Davidson for More Ruth Davidson Party seems to have had the wind well and truly knocked out its sails. Ruth has been more puffed up in the media than the England fitba team, only according to the most recent opinion polls she’s not even going to do well enough to be put out by Germany on penalties. One poll has put her party on just 10%. Despite the fact that Ruth has sold the Scottish Conservatives as being entirely her own creature, despite the fact that we’re constantly told that a vote for some random Tory is a vote for Her Ruthness herself, you can bet your last euro cent that she won’t be taking personal responsibility for the drubbing her party is about to receive in the European elections later this month.

The Scottish Tories’ electoral pitch in Scotland is to try not to mention that Scotland voted against Brexit, and definitely not to mention that Ruth Davidson opposed Brexit. They’re trying to repeat the trick of 2017 and make it all about opposing referendums because they’re divisive. Which means hoping that no one notices that it was the Conservatives who inflicted the EU referendum on us all in first place. By turning themselves into hard line Brexit supporters, the Scottish Conservatives have already started tacking to the right. They’re doubling down on that minority segment of the electorate which sees itself as primarily British, which vehemently opposes independence, and which supports Brexit.

The party has decided to make a pitch for Brexiters who oppose independence, but those voters overwhelmingly despise Theresa May’s deal and have zero confidence in the ability of the Conservatives to deliver Brexit. People who support leaving the EU and who are in favour of independence are hardly likely to vote Tory, so Ruth is fishing in a very small pond where there are far more voracious sharks. Her chances of becoming the next First Minster are smaller than my dug’s.

British politics remains uncertain, unstable, and insecure. All we can be sure of is that rise of British populism means that the UK is becoming less and less able to tolerate and accommodate Scottish political distinctiveness. Those values that we were always told were British, values of tolerance, fair play, democratic stability, inclusivity, acceptance of difference, are now most at threat by those who claim to love Britain. Paradoxically, if Scotland wants to guarantee those supposedly “British values”, we can only do so with independence. Because Nigel and his right wing English nationalist populists are looking over our shoulder in the UK.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free, and for the next ten days Vagabond Voices are doing a special offer, giving you two pounds off the cover price. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Wee Ginger Dugcast with Elaine C Smith

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Elaine C Smith, Paul Kavanagh, and Ginger the Wee Ginger Dug himself in The National’s office in Glasgow.

Welcome to the 10 May edition of the Wee Ginger Dugcast where Callum and I are chatting with our very special guest, Elaine C Smith. We talk about Voices for Scotland, Elaine’s own journey to Yes, and much more besides.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free, and for the next ten days Vagabond Voices are doing a special offer, giving you two pounds off the cover price. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The value of emotion

formula
There’s been a lot of justified anger this week. Partly it’s a symptom of an SNP leadership which many feel is at risk of becoming out of touch, managerial, and tone deaf to the sensibilities of the wider independence movement. Partly it’s the febrile atmosphere of Brexit, which has produced a political uncertainty and British government incompetence the likes of which has never been seen in the UK since WW2. Partly it’s the anxiety that the far-right is gaining a purchase in British politics in a way that it has never before. But it’s also partly because Scotland is inching ever closer to independence, and there are concerns that we now have an opportunity which must not be squandered.

Of course it’s not just the Scottish independence movement where you can see emotion. There is also emotion amongst the ranks of the Scottish Tories. It’s just that for them the dominant emotions are fear, jealousy, and bile. They are terrified of the future, the best that they can hope for is to screw down the shortbread tin lid in the hope of containing Scotland’s aspirations. They are terrified because they know that they have to win and to keep winning forever, to ensure that Scotland is kept encased the fragile glass of Ruth Davidson’s ego in perpetuity. We only need to win once, and there are so many more of us. As someone pointed out in the comments to yesterday’s article on this blog, there are more comments on this blog than people who attended the Conservative Conference in Aberdeen.

Ruth Davidson has often been accused of her detractors of being an empty vessel, a vehicle for photo-ops and cheeky sound bites empty of the cargo of policy. All this is true. However there is also one sense in which she is a finely tuned German automobile. She’s capable of instantly going into reverse. It was only a short while ago that Ruth was happy to concede that it was up to the voters of Scotland and their elected representatives to decide whether Scotland should have another independence referendum. Now she’s unilaterally ripped up the Scottish Claim of Right and has decided that power belongs to a UK Prime Minister and not to the people of Scotland. Ruth doesn’t want Scotland to have a referendum before 2021, or after 2021. And she expects a British Prime Minister to block it for the foreseeable future. Screw you and your electoral will, Scotland.

In an interview the other day, Ruth claimed that she’d changed her mind on whether it was up to Scotland to decide should have another independence referendum because during the most recent elections in Scotland, the 2017 general election, Nicola Sturgeon fought an campaign about independence and lost. That’s untrue on a number of levels. Firstly it’s untrue because the SNP didn’t lose the general election in Scotland. While it is true that the party lost ground compared to the historic and unique victory of 2015, the SNP won that election in Scotland. There is only one measure for victory in the First Past the Post system to which Westminster is so attached, and that’s the number of MPs a party gains. The SNP achieved almost three times as many MPs as Ruth Davidson’s Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson Party.

More importantly, it’s untrue because the SNP most categorically did not fight the 2017 general election on the basis of proving support for independence. Instead the party went to great lengths to tell anyone who was listening, which wasn’t Ruth or most of the media in Scotland, that this wasn’t an election about independence. The only people banging on about independence in 2017 were the Scottish Conservatives. The upshot was that pro-independence supporting voters were not motivated to come out and vote for the SNP in a way that anti-independence supporting voters were motivated to come out and vote for Ruth. We were there Ruth, we were paying attention, and you don’t get to claim that you’ve changed your mind on the basis of your fantasies.

The real reason that Ruth Davidson has changed her mind about who is the final authority on whether there’s another referendum from the people of Scotland to a UK Prime Minister is because she’s terrified there’s going to be one, and even more terrified of the result that it would produce. Ruth might have been on maternity leave for the past few months and not being actively involved in politics, but she will have noticed the complete and utter shitshow that her party has become. The Conservatives are currently not in any position to win a bottle of cheap supermarket wine in a raffle, never mind mount a successful campaign to persuade Scotland of the benefits of remaining a part of a United Kingdom that has spent the past few years alternately ignoring it and treating it with contempt.

Ruth knows that her party’s chances of retaining its sole Scottish MEP are even less than the chances that Murdo Fraser would win the clever Tweet of the year competition. The vote share for the Scottish Conservatives, sorry, the Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson for Greater Ruth Davidson Party, is going to plummet. It’s very difficult to maintain the pretence that you enjoy the political momentum when the only momentum you’re demonstrating is your ability to allow your support to fall off a cliff. That’s all the more painful when, like Ruth, you have done your utmost to ensure that your brand of politics has been so intensely personalised.

The anger within our independence movement of late is a sign of its rude good health. It means that we’re not going to be passive recipients of politics from above. We are the ones who are going to shape Scotland, and we reject the managerialism, the lack of care, the lack of empathy and compassion of British politics. That’s why we want independence, because we know that Scotland deserves better and we won’t settle for anything less. And if that means we sometimes need to read the riot act to those at the head of this movement, then so be it. Better that than the Scottish Tories, who are dying inside and rotting from both the head down and the bottom up. Our emotions are a sign of health and vitality. The emotions in the Scottish Conservatives are the last twitches of a political corpse.

No one can accuse the Scottish independence movement of lacking heart, of being emotionless, of being cold and clinical imposers of a heartless ideology. The fact that feelings are running high is a good thing in one important sense. It means that there is passion. That’s the passion that will drive us during the campaign that is ahead. Where there is passion, there is heart, and where there is heart, there is empathy. Where heart meets passion, it produces compassion and the hope for a better future. That’s the formula for independence.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free, and for the next ten days Vagabond Voices are doing a special offer, giving you two pounds off the cover price. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Some friendly advice to the SNP leadership

It’s been a long standing policy of this blog that I don’t criticise other independence supporters. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with them. I frequently disagree with the SNP, with the Greens, with other pro-independence bloggers, organisations, or groups. But I usually keep quiet. I keep quiet because it’s important that we remain a united movement, and we don’t alienate one another.

However the main reason I don’t advertise my disagreements is because we live in a country where the media is overwhelmingly opposed to independence, and is constantly seeking SNP bad stories, stories which allow them to highlight divisions in the Yes movement, and which never gives supporters of independence the same opportunities to put their views across as it does to opponents of independence. Given the media environment in which we all live in Scotland, I don’t see it as being my role to do the anti-independence media’s job for them and to provide them with more ammunition to use against us. My job is to support the Yes movement.

So it is with a heavy heart and great reluctance that I publish this blog article today. I hope that what I write here will be received in the spririt in which it is intended, as a helpful warning from a friend that things need to change, that we cannot go on the way that we have been.

I refer to the attitude of the SNP hierarchy to the wider Yes movement. The SNP is seriously in danger of making the historic mistake of the Labour party in Scotland, and falling into the trap of managerialism and of taking its support base for granted. The leadership appears to many on the ground as being far more interested in attempts to placate the impacable beast of a Scottish media which is never going to be its friend, than it is to defend those of us who form the backbone of the movement. It gives the impression of having forgotten that many – if not most – of us do not vote SNP because we want the SNP to run a devolved administration, or because we want a lot of SNP MPs in the Commons. We vote SNP because we want independence.

Last Saturday there was a massive march and rally in Glasgow. It was organised without any support from the SNP, although a couple of well-known SNP faces did appear on the march, and Keith Brown did address the rally. The event passed off without incident. 100,000 people filed past a group of far-right British nationalists in George Square who were out to disrupt and provoke, and no one rose to their bait. That’s something deserving of praise. The day was peaceful, happy, and those attending left it energised and enthused, feeling that they’re part of a bigger movement. The day provided exactly the kind of boost and positive reinforcement that grassroots activists need in order to get out canvassing and campaigning and to convert people to the cause of Yes in a country where independence supporters are made to feel marginalised and excluded by the media.

Yet Nicola Sturgeon, who was happy to attend an anti-Brexit march in London, not only didn’t attend the Glasgow event, she didn’t even tweet a supportive message afterwards. Other SNP figures went on social media to criticise the march for taking place. Because apparently demonstrating that there is indeed mass support for independence in Scotland in the face of anti-independence parties and press which insist there is not is a waste of time that could better be spent sticking SNP leaflets through doors, leaflets that invariably get stuck in a bin without being read.

In fact, the last time that the SNP officially supported a mass participation independence event was the rally at Calton Hill back in 2013. That’s simply not good enough. But worse than that, the SNP led council in Glasgow became embroiled in a dispute with the march organisers, and now Manny Singh of All Under One Banner has been charged with an offence under the Civil Government Act. None of this is a good look for the SNP.

Something like Pete Wishart’s decision to stand for election as Speaker of the Commons is not a good look either. Perhaps he is trolling other MPs in an epic wind-up. I hope that he is. Unfortunately he gives every impression of being deadly serious. That’s a misstep, a sign that there are SNP MPs who seek to embed themselves permanently into the House of Commons, to settle in and not to settle up. A party whose raison d’etre is to achieve Scottish independence should not be permitting its MPs to join the British establishment. We don’t elect you because we want you to make the British state work better, we elect you because we want Scotland to become an independent nation.

However the day following the march and rally was what really did it for many grassroots independence supporters. Instead of publicity about a positive event for independence, the independence talking point in the media was an attack on the online behaviour of a minority of independence supporters for which the movement as a whole was expected to take responsibility. Everyone was tarred with the same brush, as is so often the case with reports in the anti-independence press. But instead of trying to defend the movement, to point out that the mainstream independence movement is no more responsible for the behaviour of a minority of extreme nutters than the mainstream British parties are responsible for the far right bigots in George Square on Saturday, some senior figures in the SNP enthusiastically joined in the attack and did so in blanket terms that made everyone feel that they were being criticised. Then that was compounded in the following days by comments which certain prominent SNP figures made on social media.

It was a massive own goal. Instead of building on the success of Saturday to create momentum for another referendum, we’re mired in a debate about “cybernats”. It’s a debate whose terms and boundaries have been set by our opponents, a debate which it’s impossible for us to win. Yet instead of trying to reframe the debate, instead of trying to point out that bad behaviour in social media is not an issue which is peculiar to supporters of independence, it was given traction by senior SNP politicians.

British politicians, quite rightly, insist that the behaviour of online extremists has nothing to do with them. The media in this country does not expect them to be responsible for it either. If they are ever asked to comment they simply condemn it as the behaviour of an unrepresentative minority and move on. The SNP doesn’t do that. The SNP agrees to the framing of a hostile media and hopes to be rewarded for its good behaviour – which is never going to happen.  However by doing so the SNP is implicitly agreeing that it is responsible for the behaviour of unrepresentative idiots and grants the media licence to continue its attack.  It’s a lose-lose for the party and for the wider movement.

There’s a lot of angry activists this week. A lot of people who put their faith and trust in the SNP now feel betrayed, let down, and deeply disappointed with the party. It’s not too late for the SNP to regain their trust. So here’s a message to the SNP leadership, a supportive message from a friend, a genuine attempt to help. Don’t turn into the Scottish fitba team which snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.  Don’t turn into the Scottish Labour party and take your support base for granted.  Start building bridges with the grassroots movement. Start to demonstrate that you value and support it. Start to show that you’re listening and you care about the people whose energy, time, and shoe leather has put you where you are. It’s over to you now.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free, and for the next ten days Vagabond Voices are doing a special offer, giving you two pounds off the cover price. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

A proper conversation about online behaviour

If we’re going to talk about bad behaviour and abusive and threatening language in online discourse, and what to do about it, we need to do it properly.  That means that we can’t isolate out bad behaviour from independence supporters online and claim that there’s a specific problem proper only to one side in Scotland’s constitutional debate while we ignore everything else that goes on online. Bad behaviour on social media is not unique to independence supporters, nor even to those who oppose it.

It is not whataboutery to point out that bad behaviour exists elsewhere online. It is simply the observation that poor behaviour, abusive language, threats, insults, and slurs is a characteristic of a minority of people on social media as a whole. You can’t isolate out one area of discussion and propose that it requires a unique treatment when the behaviour in that one area of discussion is a symptom of a much bigger and more systemic problem. The point here is that it is not online debate about Scottish independence which is problematic. This is not an issue confined to the Scottish constitutional debate. Problems of abuse and threatening behaviour are a feature of social media as a whole, and therefore we need a solution which tackles the root causes, not isolated symptoms.

Trying to solve issues of poor behaviour online and restricting discussion to the behaviour of one side in Scotland’s constitutional debate is rather like a doctor who is confronted with a patient suffering from chickenpox, and deciding that only one pustule needs to be treated. It’s not going to work, the doctor is not going to cure anything, because the problem is not the pustule itself, it’s the underlying disease. Even if they were, somehow, able to get rid of just that one particular pustule, if they don’t deal with the underlying illness it’s just going to pop back up again and all their efforts will have been for naught. Yet that’s precisely what we’re being invited to do in discussions about the poor behaviour of a small minority of independence supporters on social media.

It’s not merely erroneous that the entire independence movement is expected to take responsibility for the behaviour of an abusive minority in a way that our opponents are not expected to take responsbility for the poor behaviour of the very real fascists, sectarian bigots, and far right extremists who infest the ranks of opposition to Scottish independence. That galling double standard is bad enough.

The real error is expecting that we can have a conversation about, and find a remedy for, the poor behaviour of a minority of independence supporters on social media by ripping it out of the wider context of behaviour on social media in general. That is an exercise in futility which only benefits opponents of independence because it reinforces the narrative that it’s only the independence movement which has a problem. It has to be said that the reason that we are constantly being invited to treat the online behaviour of Scottish independence supporters as being especially and uniquely problematic is because it suits opponents of independence and Scotland’s overwhelmingly anti-independence media for us to do so.

The reality is that it does not matter what the topic is, where you have a difference in opinion, a minority of people on social media will use that as a justification for abuse, for insults, for racist, sexist or homophobic or other kinds of slurs, even for making death threats. Women are particular targets of online abuse no matter what the topic of discussion. That’s a symptom of the wider sexism and misogyny of society. Likewise, minorities are targeted. Gay people receive homophobic abuse. Black people receive racist abuse. None of this is anything that’s caused by issues which are unique to Scottish political debate.

Other areas of debate are equally prone to a minority who abuse and who indulge in threatening behaviour. There is an ongoing debate about gender self-ID, this debate has minorities on both sides who toss about insulting language, threatening behaviour, and abuse. Likewise the Brexit debate has a minority, on both sides, who behave equally reprehensibly. Corbyn supporters are frequently accused by their political opponents as being especially badly behaved online, and their opponents are not always lamb-like in their innocence. None of these debates have anything to do with Scottish independence.

In fact, any difference of opinion online will lead to a minority of social media users behaving in ways that are beyond the bounds of what is considered normal and acceptable behaviour in other spheres of human interaction. This occurs because on social media people can be anonymous. There is no immediate consequence for insulting behaviour the way that there is in a face to face encounter. Social media lacks the inhibiting factors that make us behave far more circumspectly in other contexts.

It doesn’t even need to be a serious issue for passions to run high and behaviour to become reprehensible. We all know about abuse and threats amongst sports fans, and they are after all arguing about a pastime, about men kicking a ball about a field. I once witnessed someone making a death threat in a forum for model railway enthusiasts, because some people take the detailing on the latest Hornby model steam locomotive extremely seriously indeed. As a fan of RuPaul’s DragRace I can assure you that a minority of fans of the show get extremely worked up.  They insult and abuse competitors, and each other.  They toss about racist abuse. There have even been bomb threats. And this is about men who put on frocks and wigs as a form of entertainment. It is often sparked off by disagreements about who performed best in a lip-sync.

It has to be said that out in the real world, amongst the local Yes groups, the SNP groups, the Yes Hubs, and the indy groups, people’s behaviour is unfailingly polite, compassionate, accepting, gentle, welcoming, and tolerant. Those are the real characteristics and the real face of the independence movement, not the online arguments and insults of Twitter – which is the only place where most anti-independence journalists encounter independence activism.

All sensible independence supporters, which is the vast majority, welcome polite and respectful discourse. Likewise they welcome attempts to ensure that Scottish political debate is respectful and polite. After all, the kind of Scotland we seek to build is going to be determined by the kind of campaign we mount in order to achieve it. We want a kinder and gentler Scotland, and that means that we welcome kinder and gentler behaviour.

However we can only tackle poor behaviour online by looking at it in all its aspects, over all topics and fields of debate. We need to examine how the anonymity of social media facilitates abuse and threatening behaviour. We need to tackle the sexism, racism, homophobia, sectarianism, and other forms of discrimination which pervade society and infect online discourse. We all need education in how best to identify and deal with online trolls who seek to provoke, upset, and derail.

However one thing is certain. We will not solve anything by falling into the trap of slavishly following our opponents’ politically motivated insistence that there’s a problem unique to the Yes movement. This is a far bigger issue. Let’s stop pretending that it’s something that only Scottish independence supporters need to beat themselves up for.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free, and for the next ten days Vagabond Voices are doing a special offer, giving you two pounds off the cover price. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The double standards of the Scottish media: Part 7,952

doublestandards
Here we go again. More rank double standards from the Scottish media. I don’t listen to BBC Scotland at the best of times, and certainly not in the mornings, and most especially not the morning after a pro-independence march and rally when I’m knackered and my ageing bones are aching and my throat is hoarse from shouting above a sound system blasting out music.

Yesterday was a great day. Tens of thousands of independence supporters from all over Scotland came out onto the streets of Glasgow to disprove those who claim that there’s no support for independence and that Scotland doesn’t want another referendum. It was a massive vindication of Scottish independence, and the mass grassroots movement which seeks to attain it.

You might think that the march and rally would have been the big independence topic in the media the following day. Well not really, you’d only think that if you had absolutely no familiarity whatsoever with the media in Scotland and have spent the past couple of decades with your nose stuck in a copy of Hello magazine’s royal wedding special. I am reliably informed that on Good Morning Scotland on Sunday the topic was not the big march and rally for independence in Glasgow the day before. Quelle surprise. It was a gushing soft soap interview with Kezia Dugdale followed by a segment on how dreadful the behaviour of “cybernats” is, and how awful it is that certain pro-independence bloggers are apparently trying to “monetise the Yes movement”. Naturally pro-independence bloggers were not invited onto the programme to put their point of view. Because BBC balance.

No bloggers’ names were given, but I can only assume that I’m one of those pro-independence bloggers who were being complained about by anti-independence journalists who get a very good wage for their writing and commentary. After all, I have the gall and audacity to have a donate button on the blog, and the even greater gall and audacity to do an annual fundraiser. It strikes me as the height of hypocrisy to be criticised for hoping to receive some sort of wage for my work by people who receive a very good – and far more lucrative – wage for doing the exact same work only in support of a different political perspective.

Scottish culture does not like immodesty. We are taught not to blow our own trumpets, to hide our light under a bushel. But I’m going to be immodest here. I’m talented. I do worthwhile work. I work hard. I dedicate myself. If I really wanted to maximise the financial return for my talents and abilities, I can assure you that I wouldn’t spend my time and energy blogging and campaigning full time for Scottish independence. I do this because I believe passionately in it. Blogging for Scottish independence doesn’t make you rich. It’s a precarious and uncertain way to make a living. It opens you to all sorts of personal criticism and abuse.

Unlike most pro-independence bloggers, I am fortunate enough to have a platform in the traditional media with my weekly column in The National. But The National is just one newspaper, the sole independence supporting newspaper in a sea of publications which oppose it. It certainly doesn’t pay enough to allow me to live on what I earn from writing the column. So I blog full time, writing over 1000 words almost every day takes time and effort. I do a weekly podcast. I create shareable online images. I do speaking engagements all over Scotland for which I never ask for nor receive a speaker’s fee.

All the online content that I produce, which now amounts to over 3 million words, is available online for free. Unlike the BBC I don’t charge an annual licence fee and threaten those who don’t pay it with criminal action. Unlike newspapers I don’t take advertising or paid content and hide away behind a paywall so that content is only available to paying subscribers. No one is forced to contribute to this blog, and those who don’t contribute enjoy the same full and unfettered access as those who do. Yet apparently, according to the Scottish media, this is a funding model which is immoral in a way that criminalising a jobless single mother who can’t afford the TV licence fee is not.

I am not rich. I don’t have the financial resources of some of our opponents who can rely upon the overwhelmingly anti-independence media to give them well paid work. I live up a close in an ex-council flat in the East End of Glasgow and drive a small 10 year old car. Supporters of independence in Scotland struggle to get their voices heard in the mainstream. We cannot go cap in hand to rich individuals with titles. We can’t get financial support from right wing corporations. All those avenues are open to our opponents with their newspapers, their dark money, their broadcast media, and their “think tanks” with obscure funding from offshore trusts or donations from big businesses.

Independence supporters rely upon small donations from large numbers of people, and that means that our fundraising efforts must be transparent and obvious in a way that our opponents’ funding is not. It’s very easy to lay claim to the moral high ground about a pro-independence crowdfunder when you can rely upon a pro-British corporation to pay you a nice comfortable middle class salary. Who funds Kezia Dugdale’s cosy new job with a think tank? It’s certainly not as open and transparent as a pro-indy crowdfunder.

Our opponents apparently expect that while they can continue to enjoy their middle class salaries, those of us who oppose them should do so in our spare time, entirely for free. In other words they want opposition to independence to be full time and professional, but support for it to be part time and amateur. They don’t want anyone to devote themselves to working full time for independence, because then they have the field clear for themselves.

All this is part of a narrative which the media in Scotland, politicians opposed to independence, and anti-independence organisations, have been pushing for years. It’s the narrative of the cybernat, the myth that it’s support for independence which uniquely has a problem with bad behaviour. Sadly, that’s a myth that sections of the SNP leadership seem happy to buy into. Now I am not saying that there are no issues, that every single person who voices a pro-independence opinion online does so in a respectful and polite manner. Of course that is not the case. However the media focus in this country is overwhelmingly on the behaviour of the independence movement, even though the actual fascists, the sectarian bigots, the real racists, the real nazis, the holocaust deniers, the islamophobes, are mostly to be found amongst opponents of independence.

I welcome genuine and well meaning attempts to ensure that the independence movement conducts itself respectfully, politely, and honestly. All sensible Yes supporters do. However we must be careful to ensure that those attempts do not play into the hands of our opponents by allowing them to further the anti-independence narrative that it’s only the independence movement which has a problem here. There was a clear strategy on the part of our opponents in 2014 to demonise independence supporters as a means of attempting to ensure that undecided voters or soft no leaning voters would not engage with arguments for independence. That was the usefulness of the cybernat scare. It doesn’t help the cause of Yes to do Better Together’s job for it.

As the last remaining shreds of a positive case for remaining a part of the UK have been destroyed by Brexit and the arrogance of Westminster Conservatives, in their desperation opponents of independence are going to redouble their efforts to demonise independence supporters and campaigners. That means that if we are to talk about poor behaviour online, we must ensure that it is also opponents of independence who are held to account. It is the height of hypocrisy for the media to further a narrative that the SNP and the independence mainstream are responsible for the behaviour of the wilder fringes of the movement, but mainstream opponents of independence have nothing whatsover to do with the very real fascism, intolerance, sectarian bigotry and racism which characterises the wilder fringes of British nationalism. Those who criticise the independence movement must be held to the same standards which they want to hold us to.

So yes, let’s have a proper conversation about behaviour in politics. Let’s stop the comfortable pretence that it’s only one side in Scotland’s constitutional debate that has a problem. That means we also need to talk about the violent fascists, sectarian bigots, and out and out nazis who infest the campaign to oppose Scottish independence.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free, and for the next ten days Vagabond Voices are doing a special offer, giving you two pounds off the cover price. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

What can’t be fixed must be left behind

leftbehind
On Friday we got the results of Thursday’s local elections in England and Northern Ireland, or more accurately, in Northern Ireland and in parts of England. Even so it was the biggest electoral test faced by the Conservatives and Labour since the General Election in 2017. Prior to the vote, Conservative spokesapologists were spinning that they expected the party to lose up to 1000 seats. This was widely seen as expectation management, so that they could spin a catastrophic loss of 800 seats as better than expected, and the disaster of losing 500 seats as really being a victory. As it turned out, they really lost 1269 seats.

No amount of spinning can make out that unmitigated disaster is better than expected, or not really an epic kick in the teeth. But then there’s spinning, and then there’s a statement from Theresa May. Spinning a result is at least based in reality. It’s warped. It’s cherry picking. It’s highly misleading. But lurking at its core is some sense of what really happened. Theresa May just ignores reality in favour of the voices in her head. If you want to know in which universe voting for pro-remain parties really means that people want Parliament to deliver Brexit now you know. It’s the universe in Theresa May’s head.

It’s not just Theresa May. Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesapologists are also declaring confidently that an increase of 676 seats for the strongly remain Lib Dems, and an increase of 185 for the equally strongly remain Greens really means that people just want Westminster to get on with delivering Brexit. Labour didn’t do well in these elections either, even though they didn’t do as badly as the Conservatives. But that’s like saying that someone who was blown into a thousand pieces in a nuclear war did better than someone who was vaporised.

At this point in the electoral cycle, if it is to have a realistic chance of forming the next government the official opposition ought to be running rings around the governing party. Those 1265 seats which the Conservatives lost ought to have gone largely to Labour. But they didn’t. Labour managed to end up with a net loss of 63 seats and lost control of some councils it had previously run.

Where we are now is that according to May and Corbyn that pro-EU guy who stands outside the Palace of Westminster every day, getting into every political broadcast and waving his EU flag and his STOP Brexit placard, is really telling everyone to get on with delivering Brexit. In a similar vein, voting SNP means you really loathe the idea of Scottish independence and think Ruth Davidson is the best politician in Scotland. That’s British politics, where the truth is whatever the leaders of Labour and the Conservatives want it to be. We are all screwed.

To be honest it doesn’t really matter what the results of England’s local elections had been, irrespective of how many seats the Tories won or lost Theresa May would have said that it meant that the people were telling her to get on with Brexit. Trying to get from reality via a chain of logic to whatever comes out of Theresa May’s mouth is the ultimate exercise in futility. All signs and portents tell Theresa the same thing. She’s got a special book of weather rhymes that says red sky at night, the DUP’s quite right, red sky in the morning, heed the ERG’s warning. Somewhere in the bowels of Downing Street there’s an ancient Etruscan haruspex divining the future from the entrails of sheep, and although he keeps saying that being up to your knees in offal and slipping on the spilled contents of a colon is a literal description of Brexit, no one speaks Etruscan any more so Theresa is convinced he’s telling her that people want her to get on with it.

It’s not really a surprise that Theresa May gazes upon a clear and obvious rejection from the voters and tells us that it’s really a vindication of her Brexit strategy. You could hand her her own arse on a plate and she’d claim that it was conclusive proof that voters wanted her to get on with delivering Brexit. And in fact that’s exactly what happened in the English local elections this week. We shouldn’t be surprised, and in fact few are. A historic defeat in the Commons didn’t shift her warped sense of irreality. If she’s not going to listen to those who are in theory her equals, she sure as hell isn’t going to listen to ordinary punters. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. Nothing. Has. Changed.

Fresh from pretending that an epic defeat was really a vindication of her career, Theresa went on a wee tour of the devolved bits. Or more precisely the Welsh and Scottish Conservative conferences. The Scottish conference was held in Aberdeen, where despite the best efforts of party managers and a sympathetic media to choose flattering camera angles, it looked like there were about 200 people in attendance. Although to be fair at least a handful of them were under the age of 80. The Prime Minister completely ignored the results of the English election, and concentrated on slagging off the SNP as though she possessed some moral or political authority to do so. She’s got so delusional that thinking that Ruth Davidson has a realistic chance of becoming the next Scottish First Minister counts as a serious intervention.

The Tories hope that Ruth is going to save them, but their difficulties can’t be solved by cheeky photo ops alongside farmside animals, and neither can the problems that beset British politics. Over six million people signed a petition, over a million people have marched against Brexit, 100,000 are expected to march tomorrow in favour of Scottish independence, the pro-Brexit parties have been utterly hammered in an election, but still they tell us that we want Brexit to be delivered and there is no appetite for Scottish independence. We have a government which insists that it isn’t out of touch, it’s the people who are wrong.

British politics can’t be fixed. It can only be left behind. 100,000 marchers in Glasgow tomorrow will be shouting that message.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free, and for the next ten days Vagabond Voices are doing a special offer, giving you two pounds off the cover price. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com

I will be speaking at the All Under One Banner rally in Glasgow on Saturday, and will be in the park with a stall where you will be able to buy copies of the new book, Gaelic maps, t-shirts, and badges!


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.