Dipped in Brit

Scots budget underspend will help fight virus carers ‘not coping’

The above headline in The National fair got my vital juices flowing this morning. The term ‘budget underspend’ is kind of a trigger for me. What it triggers is not exactly anger but intense frustrated irritation. The sort of thing that makes you clench your fists and half scream half growl through gritted teeth. I don’t know how to write that sound. The scream would be ‘aaarrrgh!’. The growl would be ‘grrr’. So I suppose noise I’m talking about would be something like ‘grrraaarrrghgrr’. But I’m not writing that. It may sort of convey what I’m trying to describe, but it looks ugly on the page. And it causes my spellchecker to start writing her resingation leter. Anyway! You know what I mean!

Where was I?

Oh yes! Language! Language matters. Language matters a lot. I don’t mean language as in English or Hindi. Obviously, if I was writing this in Hindi few of you would be able to read it. And I’d be off to the hospital with a suspected stroke. No! It’s not just which language you use, but how you use the language you use. The terms you choose. The context. The semantics and the pragmatics and the semiotics and all that stuff. (How do you spot a linguist? They all have lots of tics!) Stuff we don’t concern ourselves with as we communicate with each other. Things that we are all expert in without necessarily knowing the ‘proper’ words for them. It’s knowing the ‘proper’ words that separates the ‘experts’ from the rest of us. Things that professional communicators are supposed to know something about even if not enough to make it into the category of ‘expert’.

Journalists are professional communicators. They mediate messages. They are one of the main links between us and ‘out there’. The world. Journalists are trained how to use language. Which starts with learning how language is used. If you are aware of the way people express their thoughts then you can describe and explain the world in terms that people will best understand. There’s more to it, of course. A lot goes into a journalist’s training. They have to learn about the way print, broadcast and online media function at a technical level and how they operate as businesses and how to avoid buying your round in the pub and probably a couple of other things.

Training is important. Journalism is a profession with very stringent ethical standards and a powerful commitment to public service. I think it was Paul “Scalphunter” Hutcheon who told me that. Or maybe it was Tom “Hellhole Scotland” Gordon.

To be a lot more fair than most journalist seem to manage, they’re not all like that. There are a few who actually take at least a bit seriously at least some of that stuff about professional standards and public service. I’d even be prepared to accept that the bulk of them start out that way. They genuinely believe that they are setting out on a mission to speak uncomfortably disruptive truth unto power on behalf of the many. But something happens to them along the way. At some point they find themselves speaking appropriately mediated truth unto the powerless on behalf of the few.

A formalised understanding of how people express their thoughts not only makes it possible to describe the world accurately in a way that people understand, it also makes it possible to have people understand the world inaccurately by the way it is described. Journalists are not just messengers. They are mediators. They process messages for onward transmission in a form that serves the intended purpose of the author. They manipulate messages. They make their living from manipulating messages on behalf of others. The others being whoever is prepared to pay them. Or whoever they choose to seek/accept payment from out of a closed group defined by the ability to pay to have messages manipulated. The powerful. Even if only relatively.

In the main, journalists work for established power. They may do so as indirectly as is required to ease any residual conscience. But most journalists by far work for established power. They manipulate messages on behalf on established power. They manipulate truth for the benefit of those whose interests are best served by ensuring that truth is never spoken unto the powerless.

They don’t necessary lie outright. There is rarely any need. People can be deceived in many ways just by the way language is used. A mediated – manipulated – message may contain nothing that is untrue. It may contain only verifiable facts. And still it can deceive. The information can be filtered. The facts can be purposefully selected or omitted. The components parts of the message can be ordered in a particular way either for emphasis or to ‘adjust’ their perceived importance or relevance. Or to make it either more likely or less likely that selected parts of the message are received. All of this is related to language and its use. It’s not just the words chosen.

But words matter too. Especially the words in the headline and standfirst – the bit right at the beginning and usually in bold. The former is almost bound to be read. The latter is likely to be read if the headline succeeds in seizing the attention of the reader. (Something similar is true for viewers and listeners whose attention may be captured using different means.) Words matter. Words matter if they are read – if the message is received. Words also matter even if they are not read. Because the words used by the media tend to become the currency of public discourse. To a very significant extent, the media defines the terms of debate. Journalists take the language we use for our purposes and return to us the same language, but formed for other purposes. The purposes of those who own the media and/or pay the journalists. To a very significant extent, this returned – mediated, manipulated – language then comes to be the language which informs public discourse. You see where this is going? You see how it works?

Language itself creates and recreates the contexts in which language is used. But the tendency must always be for the language to favour or at least shield established power. Without exercising any direct ‘Orwellian’ control, the system works in favour of the powerful. In a very real sense, we all end up doing the same. To the extent that we use the language favoured by the powerful, we favour the powerful. We help to make that language and all its purposefully attached associations and connotations a defining part of the social and political environment. We do for free what journalists get paid to do. We probably don’t do it as effectively as they do. But there’s more of us. Each of us need only do a little bit even in the most half-arsed way and the aggregate has a major effect on that social and political environment.

It’s a self-perpetuating, self-reinforcing process. It would be to the general advantage of those in the sub-basements of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which serve the few at perpetual cost to the many if the cycle was broken. Why hasn’t it been broken? Good question! So glad you’re still here to ask it more than 1200 words in.

The simple answer is that the cycle hasn’t been broken because it’s a self-perpetuation and self-reinforcing process. The advantage of this being true is almost certainly going to be outweighed by it being judged unhelpful – perhaps facetious. As if I would ever!

We need an explanation which is at least sightly better lest readers get to 1300 words only to feel cheated.

Remember the headline I began with? If so, well done you! I had to scroll back to the top of the page to remind myself. Remember the fuss I made about the language? Specifically the term “budget underspend”? What was all that about? And how does it relate to all that other stuff?

What the term “budget underspend” refers to is a fiscal phenomenon more usually called a ‘budget surplus’. In fact, it is always called a budget surplus. With only very rare exceptions. I’ll venture that the only exception anybody reading this is aware of is when the budget surplus in question is the Scottish Government’s budget surplus. What’s the difference, you ask? Aren’t ‘underspend’ and ‘surplus’ just different words for the same thing?

Again! Good question! Maybe even better than the one I remarked on earlier. My answer is that maybe they could be different words for the same thing, but in the context they definitely are not. In the context, ‘underspend’ implies something unplanned. A failure to meet set spending levels. A failure to effectively manage the budget. Even a failure to properly fund essential public services. All negative associations and connotations. All associations deployed through the media by those whose purpose is to undermine the Scottish Government, the SNP administration, the Scottish Parliament and all of Scotland’s democratic institutions.

Now you’re asking the best question of them all. Given the foregoing, what the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] is that word doing in a headline on the pages of The National? Why is a newspaper which is explicitly in favour of the restoration of Scotland’s independence and broadly supportive of the SNP administration using such language? Why do they use a word which would be more at home in one of those British Daily Express headlines breathlessly ‘informing’ us that the Scottish public are FURIOUS about something. Commonly something the Scottish public is largely unaware of or all but totally uninterested in. In this case, the fact that the Scottish Government has a budget surplus such as it always has because it is required to by law. Well, they couldn’t possibly (almost wrote ‘credibly’! Hah!) suggest that anybody might be FURIOUS about a budget surplus, could they? The term ‘budget surplus’ has entirely positive connotations. It’s the pursuit of a budget surplus and all the pursuant benefits which is used to rationalise the British state’s austerity economics. It has to be a good thing. And we don’t say good things about the uppity Jocks if we’re a journalist whose mortgage payments won’t be met just dodging rounds in the pub.

In Scotland, a budget surplus is unexceptional. It is unremarkable. It is commonplace. Everybody who cares about such things knows about it and doesn’t care. Call it an ‘underspend’, however, and the propaganda potential becomes significant. So that is what journalists in the service of the British state do.

But Roxanne Sorooshian – whose byline appears under the headline for which she may or may not be responsible – isn’t one of that disreputable breed, is she? She’s a Deputy Editor at The National! What the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] is going on? Isn’t it obvious? She must be a mole planted by the British Security Service to disrupt the independence campaign. I have it from a reliable source in a very fetching tinfoil Trilby.

Or it’s simple carelessness. But that doesn’t seem like a satisfactory explanation either. After all, it’s always called a ‘budget surplus’. It’s “budget underspend” that’s the unusual term. If it was a case of inattention then you’d expect there to be a default to the most common term. The default would be ‘budget surplus’. It’s where you’d go if you were on autopilot. Using the pejorative terminology must be intentional.

Well, yes! If you mean intentional in the sense of non-accidental. But not if you mean it in these sense of (invariably malign) intent. A better term might be ‘unwitting’.

What this demonstrates is the extent to which the heavily propaganda-laden language of the British state has permeated and tainted Scotland’s media environment. It must be effectively impossible to train as a journalist without getting the stuff on your hands and up your nose and in your hair. Every journalist comes dipped in Brit. So maybe we should cut The National some slack.

But I’m not going to. Because language matters. The National Is a great asset to the independence movement. It has the potential to be a great asset to Scotland. It could be the catalyst for a whole new Scottish media environment. But not so long as it remains contaminated by the British media culture. Not until it is rid of any tendency to call a surplus an overspend.

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The National interest

Along with Thursday 18 September 2014, Monday 24 November that same year is one of those dates which are significant enough to have lodged in my increasingly unreliable memory. It is the day The National launched in a nation still thrumming with the democratic power that was so tragically squandered.

The National’s masthead proudly declared it to be,


It still does. It still is. It remains the only newspaper that speaks for an aspiration shared by around half of Scotland’s people. The aspiration to restore Scotland’s independence. The hope and determination to free Scotland from an imposed political union contrived over three centuries ago for the purpose of subordinating this nation and its sovereign people to the will and the interests of an emerging imperialist British state. It still is such a political union. It still does what it was designed to do. It remains an insufferable blight on Scotland.

I was recently reminded of the editorial in that first edition of The National. Written by the newspaper’s founding editor, Richard Walker, it included the following

During the referendum campaign, it became clear that there is a democratic deficit in terms of the Scottish media. The raison d’etre of the National is to redress the balance and cogently to argue the case for independence.

More than five years later, the democratic deficit in terms of the Scottish media is, if anything, greater than it was then. Unquestionably, there is an even greater need now for a newspaper which supports Scotland’s cause. We need The National. Scotland needs The National.

And now The National needs us. If we wish to have a national newspaper that is truly Scottish in its outlook; a newspaper that offers an alternative to the view from inside the British media bubble; a newspaper that presents the news from a Scottish perspective, then we must ensure that The National survives the current difficulties. Because, if The National fails it is extremely unlikely that there will ever be such a newspaper again. We will never again have a newspaper that supports Scottish independence.

Even if you are sometimes irritated by the way The National covers a topic; even if you occasionally disagree with the line taken on a particular issue; even if The National tends to fall somewhat short of your own ideal for a Scottish newspaper, you have to support The National because without it there is no hope of ever achieving that ideal. It is not, in any case, the job of The National to pander to some purist notion of of Scotland’s cause. The National exists, as Richard Walker said in that first edition, to redress as far as one newspaper can the appalling imbalance in the media in Scotland. Anything which does this to any degree is doing a great service to both the independence movement and the Scottish nation.

It is through its media that a nation presents itself to the world. But a nation also sees itself through its media. If what Scotland sees of itself through the distorting lens of the British media is what Scotland believes itself to be, then Scotland is a nation impoverished and inadequate and unworthy in every way. The National matters, not because it lets us see ourselves as others see us, but because it allows us at least a glimpse of what we really are – and what we might be. To lose The National now would be like losing ones sight again a few years after having it restored.

The National needs you to take out a digital subscription. That is all. I can personally testify to the quality of The National’s digital edition. Even in normal times when it’s possible to pop down to the shop to buy a copy, it’s great to have that digital edition there on your phone, tablet or computer first thing in the morning. I still get the hard copy whenever possible. Or rather my wife does. The digital edition can either replace or augment the traditional newspaper. It is a good thing!

This is the bit where I’m supposed to give you all that pish about how I know times are hard and people are struggling and blah! blah! blah! I won’t! I decline to be so condescending. If you are in such dire financial straits as to be unable to afford a digital subscription to The National then it’s for sure you don’t need me to tell you. Nor do I imagine you place much value on my sympathy; or any value at all on threadbare platitudes. My plea is to anyone who can possibly manage it, even at some tolerable personal sacrifice, to help preserve something which is more than just a newspaper. More than just the light by which we see through the murk of British Nationalist propaganda. More than just the true mirror in which we see our nation reflected.

More than all of this, The National is a token of our self-respect in a Union which allows us none. It is a symbol of the defiance which has for centuries has held out against efforts to subsume Scotland into initially an imperialist ‘Greater England’ and latterly an equally alien right-wing British state. It is the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland.

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The speech that wasn’t

The National is hosting a rally in Glasgow’s George Square on Saturday 2 November which will be addressed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP. Supposing I’d been asked to speak at this event, what might I say? Perhaps something like this…

Patriotic pride has never held much appeal for me. I am Scottish by accident of birth. Being Scottish took no effort on my part. I cannot count it a personal achievement, so there is no cause for personal pride. You won’t hear me say I’m proud to be Scottish.

I am not proud of my nationality. But I am proud of my nation. I am proud of Scotland. Not all the time. Not unquestioningly. But, generally speaking, I am proud of Scotland.

I am proud that Scotland dares to be different. Under a regime which demands that we settle for being less than we might be, Scotland aspires to be more than it has been. In a political environment that encourages and rewards the worst of human nature, Scotland strives to be a better place.

I am proud that, in a British state where it is regarded as natural that the many should be disadvantaged in order that the few may prosper and that the weak should be sacrificed to benefit the strong, Scotland yet clings tenaciously to its collective social conscience and to the idea of community and to the principle of universalism and to the belief that every person who calls Scotland their home is worthy of dignity, fairness and respect. .

I take pride in the fact that, as a corrupt and collapsing British political system continues to concentrate power, privilege and patronage in the hands of an imperiously insensitive elite, we steadfastly maintain that sovereignty is vested entirely and exclusively in the people of Scotland.

There is much about our nation of which we can be justifiably proud. But there is much that humiliates us.

I want to be proud of our Scottish Parliament. But I cannot so long as it is befouled by the presence of self-serving British politicians who, while theatrically proclaiming their proud Scottishness, treat with sneering contempt the institution to which they have been elected. Liars, deceivers and hypocrites who boast of their Scottish heritage even as they barter our nation’s interests and dignity for the tawdry rewards of loyal service to the British state.

I cannot be properly proud of Holyrood while it remains subordinate to a parliament which is foreign to me, thirled to a political system which is alien to me and subject to the whims of a British ruling elite which is abhorrent to me.

I cannot be properly proud of our Parliament until it asserts its authority as the only democratically legitimate voice and agent of Scotland’s people.

I want to be proud of our Scottish Government. But I cannot so long as it continues to accept Scotland’s diminished status within the Union.

I cannot be properly proud of the Scottish Government while it looks to powers furth of Scotland to validate our nation’s claim to constitutional normality.

I cannot be properly proud of our Scottish Government until it declares its full confidence in the people of Scotland and total belief in the sufficiency of our own power to achieve Scotland’s destiny.

I want to be proud of our First Minister. Perhaps most of all I want to be proud of our First Minister. I know her to be a person I can admire and a politician I can respect. But I want her to be more. I want her to be the leader that Scotland needs.

I want her to be bold. I want her to be assertive. I want her to be fearless. I want her to be fearsome.

I want her to confront the British ruling elite. I want her to reject their authority. I want her to defy their rules.

We don’t need a lawyer politely pleading Scotland’s case. We need a warrior relentlessly fighting Scotland’s cause.

Make us proud, Nicola! Make Scotland proud!

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Bust the myths! Bust the Union!

The myth-busting campaign being run by The National is undoubtedly worthwhile and we should all give it our full support. I shall be buying several copies tomorrow and taking them to various pubs around Perth. The things I do for the cause!

However – and I have no wish to put a damper on The National’s efforts – this is all still too defensive for my liking. As well as busting the myths we need to be condemning those who created them in the most forthright terms. We should be examining and exposing the malign motives behind the myths. And we should stop calling them myths! They are lies!

My sincere hope is that this campaign will build to an honest and rigorous appraisal of the Union and what it means for Scotland. It is good that people should be aware of its origins. But it is more important still that people are made aware of how the Union has been used against Scotland over many decades. How it has evolved as a tool of the British political elite; a constitutional device by means of which the people of Scotland are denied the full and proper exercise of their rightful sovereignty.

Most importantly, people need to understand how the powers over Scotland that the Union confers on the British political elite are now being deployed in the service of a relentlessly anti-democratic British Nationalist ideology. A ‘One Nation’ project which, if left unchecked, will dismantle our democratic institutions, eradicate our distinctive political culture, destroy our essential public services and seek to obliterate Scotland’s identity as a nation.

Bust all the myths you like! As long as the Union persists others will be devised to take their place. And when the lies cease to be effective, be in no doubt that ruthless Britannia will not flinch from using more aggressive methods to maintain her jealous grasp on Scotland.

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A warning sign?

As they read Martin Hannan’s forensic dismantling of the British establishment’s duplicity and mendacity, younger readers may need to be reminded that there was a time when this sort of revelation cause shock and consternation. As British Nationalist efforts to preserve their precious Union have grown ever more shrill and desperate, we’ve become rather blasé about their perfidy. Another day! Another British Nationalist lie.

But one part of Martin Hannan’s analysis grabbed the attention of even a weary veteran of the constitutional struggle such as myself.

The key point they [Knight Frank] made was that UK funds increased their investment by 58% in 2018, rising from £487 million to £771m – a huge increase of 255% on the 2016 figure of £217m.

This is, indeed, a huge increase. Massive enough, one would have thought, to tickle journalistic curiosity. What prompted such a significant change? What happened to change investors’ attitude to Scotland? What did they find out that suddenly made property in Scotland seem like a much better investment than previously? What factor could be significant enough to explain such a dramatic shift?

Two possible explanations immediately come to mind. Perhaps, in the wake of the EU referendum and the British government’s contemptuous disregard for Scotland’s Remain vote, institutional investors decided that it was now inevitable that Scotland would restore its independence. Maybe they figured that property – particularly commercial property – in a small, EU member state with a prime location and excellent resources, was too good a bet to miss whatever their former prejudices.

Or perhaps these investors were given some kind of assurance that the constitutional issue would be finally resolved in a very different way. Perhaps they were given cause to believe that Scotland was about to be put firmly back in its box. Perhaps their analysis led them to the same conclusion being reached by increasing numbers in the Yes movement – that he British state was planning to ‘deal with’ the Scottish problem in a very British way.

Maybe these investors also saw the signs that the British political elite intended to use the opportunity provided by Brexit to lock Scotland into the Union; re-impose direct rule from London; and disable democratic dissent by ‘suspending’ the Scottish Parliament.

The first of these seems unlikely; not least because of the way acceptance of Scotland’s independence conflicts with the evidently very strong market prejudice which had deterred investment in Scotland. It would require a change of attitude such is not commonly associated with persons or institutions governed by prejudice.

The second of our candidate explanation, by contrast, requires only a change in information such as aligns perfectly with the old prejudices. If investment was deterred by the threat of Scotland’s people exercising their democratic right of self-determination, investors would be greatly reassured to know that the democratic institutions required for this were about to be dismantled.

All speculation, of course. But surely the dictates of precaution demand that we we see in this exceptionally rapid 255% increase in property investment yet another warning of the British state’s malign intentions towards Scotland. And, recognising the threat to our democracy, surely we should take immediate steps to #DissolveTheUnion.

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Worthy winners

Ian Blackford had a hard act to follow in Angus Robertson and it would not be contentious to say that, for many in the SNP, his background in the financial industry made him a controversial choice to lead the SNP group at Westminster. I think we can safely say that all such doubts have been dispelled by Blackford’s performance in the role.

It might be argued that Jeremy Corbyn’s all but total abdication of his duty as leader of the official opposition in the British parliament provided Blackford with a relatively easy opportunity to shine. It could equally be said that he had exceptional responsibility thrust upon him and that he has acquitted himself admirably in the face of growing hostility towards SNP MP’s and increasingly bitter contempt for Scotland at the heart of the British political system.

Mike Russell’s appointment as Scotland’s Brexit Minister also raised a few eyebrows. Not that anybody doubted his abilities. You don’t survive five years as Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning without being an adroit politician and tough operator. But there was a certain feeling that Mike Russell’s political career had peaked and that, in selecting someone in the “twilight stage of his political career”, Nicola Sturgeon may have been underestimating just how demanding the Brexit brief was going to be.

As it turned out, Ms Sturgeon’s judgement has been fully vindicated. The Brexit brief has even more demanding than anyone could have imagined. And Mike Russell has been more than up to the task. It is no exaggeration to say that he has been outstanding in the role and totally worthy of the confidence the First Minister had in him.

Given the way SNP MPs are treated by the British political elite, and the manner in which the British establishment has sought to exclude the Scottish Government from the Brexit process, it might be tempting to cast Ian Blackford and Mike Russell in the role of underdogs. I prefer to think of them as unlikely heroes. Unquestionably, they are deserving joint winners of The National’s politician of the year accolade.

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Scotland? What Scotland?

Theresa May has ignored Scotland throughout the whole Brexit process, and excluding The National in this way simply underlines how she is running scared of answering tough questions.

The stuff about Theresa May “running scared” of difficult questions makes for great political rhetoric. But, as I’m sure the First Minister is well aware, it doesn’t quite reflect the reality.

Theresa May is not afraid of tough questions, for two reasons. Firstly, as a professional politician, she is trained to deal with hard interrogation. And, as the British Prime Minister, she has a small army of advisers whose task it is to ensure she is thoroughly briefed and equipped with well-rehearsed responses for any question.

This, incidentally, is how she will deal with Jeremy Corbyn in the proposed TV .debate’. She will be armed with a sword of stock phrases and a shield of glittering generalities. Corbyn will have nothing but a water-pistol loaded with vacuous slogans and the Pac-A-Mac of his self-righteousness.

Then there’s the arrogance. I have not the slightest doubt that Theresa May considers herself an excellent orator and debater. Again, she has a small army of people around her whose jobs rely on assuring their charge of her shining brilliance after every performance – no matter how dire that performance may have been. May, like most senior British politicians, exists in a bubble of near-adulation that shields her from both criticism and reality. She is entirely oblivious to the ineptitude that is clearly apparent to detached observers. And almost entirely unaware of how widely she is detested.

This conceit of herself makes her unafraid. The protective phalanx of minders makes her self-assured.

The significant point in the above quote is right at the start. When Nicola Sturgeon says “Theresa May has ignored Scotland throughout the whole Brexit process”, she hints at what is actually behind decision to exclude The National from her press event. The British establishment has discovered the power of ignoring.

We exist in a world of media. We swim in a sea mediated messages. If something isn’t trending on Twitter or the subject of Facebook fury, it barely exists. If it doesn’t warrant a mention in the crowded 15-20 minute space of rolling news, then it isn’t happening. If it isn’t being talked about by the Andrews Marr and Neil, it just isn’t important.

The British establishment has deployed the ignoring strategy as one strand of its effort to diminish Scotland in the public consciousness. They denigrate our public services, delegitimise our democratic institutions and trivialise Scottish issues They aim to eradicate our distinctive political culture.. They seek to obliterate our national identity in a storm of unionjackery.

The National would seem an obvious target for this studied ignoring. May’s lackeys doubtless thought it in keeping with the ignoring agenda to exclude the paper which, almost uniquely, presents the news from a Scottish perspective. Very evidently, they got it wrong.

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Scotland’s paper

the_nationalThere is an increasing sense that The National is, not just the only newspaper in Scotland to reflect that half of the population which aspires to independence, but also that it is the only part of the media which is actively engaging with Scotland’s politics.

I have long maintained that The National’s real value lay, not in its support for independence, but in the way it demonstrates that a different perspective is possible. There is an alternative to the cosy consensus of the British establishment media. The National has proved that. The National provides it.

The launch of YES DIY is a further step in this process. With its Roadshow events, The National has already established a reputation for reaching out to the public in a manner and to an extent which is, I think, unique in our time. The paper has also gone further than most to allow access to its pages. It devotes an exceptional amount of space to readers letters and comments reprinted from its website. There is already a ‘what’s On’ feature for Yes  events in the print version as well as a very useful online calendar that can be used to create personalised reminders of upcoming events.

This remarkable two-way engagement is now to be enhanced with a twice-weekly feature about Yes groups throughout Scotland. And that is a damned fine thing!

One of the things that inevitably comes up in every discussion of independence campaign strategy is the problem of media access. Well, here it is! Not everything we might wish for. But wishes rarely come true. Not in the way we hope. It’s a start. It’s a foot in the door. The National is a small wedge inserted in a tiny crack in the British establishment’s media armour. It is up to us to drive that wedge home. It is we who must open up that crack until the armour is broken.

I hear criticism of The Nation. Most of it ill-informed. Much of it petty and prejudiced. All of this criticism misses the point that, whatever the paper’s provenance, it is what we make it. Some say The National was only launched to cash in on the demand for a pro-independence newspaper. Well, duh! If the Yes movement has the power to bring about the launch of a new newspaper in a time when the traditional print media is in serious decline, then it has the power to shape that newspaper. Especially when Callum Baird and his team are so evidently amenable.

The National is by no means safe. We cannot afford to take it for granted. There are a lot of very influential people who would like to see it fail. If we make it viable, we make it more secure. If we make it profitable, we effectively own it. It seems obvious to me that the entire Yes movement must get behind The National. Why would we not? Why would we decline this opportunity? That would be madness.

But it’s not only the Yes movement that stands to gain from making The National a success. The National should be respected by all who value media diversity. It should be embraced for the contribution it makes to creating media which serve society and democracy rather than established power and corporate interests.

Buy it! Read it! Share it! Promote it! Make The National work for the Yes movement, for Scotland and for democracy.

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