Loose lips

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh devotes much of her column in The National today to a valiant attempt to repair some of the damage done by her colleagues who apparently thought it a good idea to follow up the stirring event in Glasgow on Saturday with a stunningly ill-considered attack on the Yes movement’s online activists in The Herald the following morning. Acknowledging that “pro-indy bloggers do great work” may go some way to placating those who were understandably perplexed and offended to learn from Neil Mackay that the SNP had declared “war on the cybernats”.

Mackay’s “exclusive” rehashing a stale gobbet of Unionist propaganda was laced with quotes from a trio of SNP worthies from which the former editor who oversaw the demise of the Sunday Herald was able select the words which would help him spin some shallow, lurid sensationalism from a tired, trite trope. Angus Robertson, Alyn Smith MEP and Stewart McDonald MP were reported as referring to online Yes activists using terms such as “cowards”, “creepy”, “snarling”, “vicious”, “nasty” and “vile”. Hard-hitting stuff.

Could these “leading figures” in the SNP be talking about the same people Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh later praised for doing “great work”? Well, of course not! Not according to Stewart McDonald, at any rate. Apparently, when he said what he is reported as saying, he didn’t mean to offend any of the people who were offended.

The thing is, Stewart, when you loose a salvo from a blunderbuss hoping for the effect of a sniper rifle, you are almost inevitably going to be obliged to then spend an inordinate amount of time and effort picking pellets from the posteriors of those who would be your friends and allies.

Stewart McDonald, too, takes to the pages of The National to proclaim that The Herald’s “”awful ‘cybernat’ headline pissed me off“. He seems genuinely taken aback to find that the thoughtful, measured comments which he could swear were what he fed in, came out after ‘processing’ by Mackay sounding more like the demented ranting of a thoroughly lubricated pub pundit.

Mr McDonald seems like a decent sort of person. I understand him to be a very effective MP who does excellent work for party, nation and cause. To the best of my knowledge he has expressed no ambition to abandon this work in favour of pursuing the office of Speaker of the House of Commons. For which he is to be applauded. But his evident naivety in dealing with the media is cause for concern.

The pressing issue for @NicolaSturgeon as party leader is that alarm bells didn’t ring in the minds of leading figures in the SNP immediately on receiving a call from somebody like Neil Mackay.— Peter A Bell #DissolveTheUnion (@BerthanPete) May 6, 2019

As I commented on Twitter a couple of days ago, it simply isn’t acceptable that senior figures in the SNP should be so lacking in circumspection when dealing with journalists. It is a failing which, as party leader, Nicola Sturgeon really must address as a matter of urgency. Frankly, it beggars belief that experienced politicians should be unaware of the ways in which the media manipulates information. This was not some cunning trap laid by Neil Mackay. It was one of the oldest tricks in the book. And yet these three traipsed into it like children gaily following the Pied Piper into the chasm.

Perhaps Nicola could start by passing on to all her colleagues Kevin McKenna’s message to Angus Robertson, Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith.


Leave the Unionist propaganda to your opponents. Re-double your efforts on doing what we pay you for: fighting hard for the communities and the lives that have been destroyed by your political foes. Don’t pretend to be upset at the uncouth and uncivilised language of the cybernats. Instead, when you’re sharing cocktails in all your kilted finery at your next £100-a-head dinner you could try using some of it on the bankers and industrialists you’re all fond of meeting and who are guilty of much, much more than a few obstreperous cybernats.


My message to the SNP on ‘cybernats’: Stop perpetuating a Unionist myth

That seems like a good way to introduce a crash course in dealing with the media. And perhaps those who qualify as “leading figures in the SNP” will indulge me if I presume to offer a bit of advice specific to the situation in which that particular trio found themselves.

When the phone rings at some odd hour when you might be expected to have at least partly unwound after a hard day of politicking and you answer to be greeted by a journalist who informs you in slightly breathless tones that he is about to submit a piece on [hot topic] and asking if you would like to comment, BEWARE!

The sensible thing to do in that situation is to offer to submit a written statement by email within the hour. If the hack insists this would be too late for inclusion, politely end the exchange and hang up. You won’t get your name in the paper. But neither will you get yourself in the shit.


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8 thoughts on “Loose lips

  1. I recall Stewart telling people they should be campaigning for HIM instead of going on an Indy March in 2017 , desperate to keep raking in his cushy salary . Snout firmly in the Westminster trough . Probably the least impressive of a largely untalented bunch we have (there are exceptions of course )
    The man is an utter establishment clown

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  2. The naivety shown, at times, by so many in the SNP, and in the wider YES movement, it must be said, is alarming. Anyone who has come up through the ranks of either should be well aware by now that the British State, well supported by the various pillars of the establishment, including journalists from certain titles, is not going to be a fair foe. Indeed, it is safe to assume that it will be the very worst foe they will have encountered ever – by a country mile, and adjust their thinking to suit. Do they? No, they hand the establishment the ammunition to destroy not the real ‘cybernats’ and ‘cyberbritnats’ – the ones who do cause real hurt and fear – but those who are trying their hardest to help them achieve what, we have been told, we all want, which is independence.

    It seems to me now that this should not be a question of whether we can ‘persuade’ enough NO voters to join us against all the odds (we don’t have a hundred years in which to gently cajole and explain, pander to and cosset to achieve that end, even if we could, in any case – and we can’t) by stamping down, like irate Clydesdales, on those who may use unorthodox methods of expression, and crushing them underfoot. It should be a question of choosing the route to independence that will give us, those who live in Scotland, the greatest protection quickly and efficiently, against Westminster’s attempts to silence us and trim back our devolved powers. It should no longer be a case of a majority for independence, but the fact that 45%, nearer 50% now, of voters voted for independence and have had their voices stifled by the supposedly greater needs of the Brexit scenario. If self-determination is normal, if it is a basic human right, if it is recognised as a fundamental right in international law, why the hell are we begging like supplicants for it, instead of taking it? The only open, illuminated and legal way now is to resile from the Treaty of Union. Let Westminster and the Unionists challenge in the courts with a case for the Union. In the face of 312 years of ultra vires workings by Westminster, that is going to be an extremely difficult case to support with real evidence of a partnership.

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  3. Interestingly, Mr McDonald, in demanding that the Yes community refrain from using coarse language, chose to forcefully express himself in coarse language. As fine a set of double standards as I’ve come across in a politician.

    Perhaps he could grow a fine set of *unmentionables* and extricate Scotland from this damaging union instead of firing accusations at all and sundry in his own support. You know, Mr McDonald, the very thing you were sent to do in Westminster.

    * I wouldn’t like to use coarse language. I know how much it upsets him.

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  4. Sensible conciliatory stuff Peter, think maybe your reference to Pete Wishart’s ill advised speaker ambitions needs to take acct of the possibility ( i have no direct evidence) that Pete is taking the piss. I suspect he is.

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  5. No! Peter NO! Stop being polite and letting people off the hook.

    Your assigning a positive motive (or at least naive) does YES no favours. The evidence does not support this wallpapering. Too many factors work against that “nice” reading:

    ** The late attempt to change the time
    ** Alyn Smith’s clashing campaign meeting in Edinburgh (how could he not know or be informed)

    Sure believe your own side….but once holes appear in their arguments – then belief is just dangerous dogma.
    YES should never give up its logic for a bag of beans. I hope the Scottish enlightenment always shines brightly.

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