Incisive commentary by Kevin McKenna (Wings Over Scotland helps keep the SNP honest, Nov 16). It is gratifying to find a “traditional” journalist who both appreciates the value of new media and is prepared to say so.
There is, however, one point about the relationship between the SNP and Wings Over Scotland that Kevin doesn’t touch on. Which is not to suggest that he is unaware. Merely that he had other priorities for using the available space.
It’s not only Wings Over Scotland, of course. Neither is it just the SNP. There is a fraught relationship between (almost) all of the Scottish political and media establishment and (almost) all of the pro-independence online media. The SNP/Wings Over Scotland situation is merely the most prominent manifestation of a general fractiousness. It is also where we see writ large the aspect of the relationship which Kevin McKenna doesn’t touch on – the matter of control.
The SNP – or at least the party leadership – cannot abide Wings Over Scotland because the party cannot control it. The same goes for other bloggers – myself included. If the SNP’s detestation of my blog is less than its detestation of Wings Over Scotland, this is only because the latter is massively more prominent and influential – and rightly so.
They don’t like us because they can’t control us.
Kevin gets it slightly wrong about one thing. When he says that the SNP is “simply unaccustomed to criticism” he should have specified criticism from within the independence movement. The party is, of course, well used to “criticism” from the Unionist side. And that’s the point. They are used to it. They have strategies for dealing with it.
Attacks by the British parties and the British press follow a pattern. They are predictable. They can be managed. Largely because the attacks tend to be clumsy and dishonest, the SNP can fend them off with relative ease.
It’s an entirely different matter when the rational criticism and probing analysis and awkward questions are coming from independence-supporting sources. Stu Campbell’s popularity as much as his forensic journalism makes him a serious irritant.
The attitude of the SNP leadership, especially with Nicola Sturgeon at the head, is very much in the “with us or against us” spirit of the Bush/Blair alliance for imperialist aggression. Presented with rational criticism it could not rebut, probing analysis it could not refute and awkward questions it could not answer, the SNP had no option, as the party leadership saw it, but to shoot the messenger with the poisoned arrows of smear. Which it did rather successfully.
Other bloggers are derided and decried. None of us get it in the neck the way Stu Campbell has. And that is entirely because the urge to control is proportional to amount of influence.
What is both disconcerting and disgusting about this “control-or-destroy” instinct is that it takes no account whatever of the target’s utility to the independence campaign. If compiled without malice or prejudice, any top ten of the individuals who did most to bring about such success as the Yes side enjoyed in the 2014 referendum campaign would have to include Stu Campbell.
Wings Over Scotland was arguably the Yes campaign’s most valuable asset in the propaganda war with the British media. Yet the SNP sought to demonise the man and destroy the website because neither would submit to their control.
How’s that for warped priorities?
Peter A Bell