Permitted Participant


Three days ago Women for Independence tweeted saying:”‏@WomenForIndy So, in the next few weeks you will see us, @myYesScotland @WeAreNational & @ScotIndConv all as registered Yes campaigns. More to follow.”

Today in the Herald, Magnus Gardham descends into CBI levels of ineptitude in his attempts to smear the Scottish Independence Convention, of which I am Secretary.

He writes: “Unionists (unnamed) are concerned a long list of pro-independence groups linked to the main Yes Scotland organisation will be recognised as official campaign bodies after the Electoral Commission yesterday approved one, the Scottish Independence Convention, as a so-called “permitted participant”.

Now this is very strange.

In 2004 the Scottish Independence Convention was formed as a cross-party organisation campaigning for Scottish independence. So it pre-dates Yes Scotland by a decade. It has NO links with Yes Scotland. It receives (sadly) no funding from them or anyone else and is a completely distinct organisation. Had Gardham had the gumption, courtesy or professionalism to contact us, he’d have known all these facts before publishing.

But this would have stalled his botched smear of SIC and other groups.

Anyone who alleges this as Gardham has, has an embarrassingly poor understanding of Scotland and its politics. If you know anything at all about this campaign you know that every one of these groups organised themselves and raised their own money. It’s not our fault the No campaign doesn’t have any pals.

As well as being strange, what these ‘unnamed Unionists’ are suggesting is also beyond it’s reach. As Lallands Peat Worrier writes (‘Can the Electoral Commission legally “block” Yes organisations?’):

On the basis of the Act, this talk of “blocking” and “approval” is a nonsense. If the Commission purported to “block” a qualified organisation from registering as a “permitted participant” in the campaign, it would be acting beyond the powers parliament has given it, awarding itself discretion where the law gives it none.  A trip to the Court of Session would be in order to set matters right.

But why would a commission who invited groups to be compliant resist them being so?

This smacks of being a formal attempt to exclude legitimate groups from participation.

Readers will recall the desperation the Unionists feigned to have the Electoral Commission involved – a demand happily accepted by Salmond in the earliest discussions. The commission, you’ll remember was invited by the First Minister to regulate the referendum. Setting out his plans in a consultation document and draft bill, Mr Salmond said the referendum should meet “the highest standards of fairness, transparency and propriety”.

It was in that spirit that the SIC felt that, even though we are highly unlikely to spend even the £10k it was important to be open and transparent during #indyref debate. This is about plurality, openness and accountability, in stark contrast to the Vitol escapade or the CBI omnishambles.

So how exactly will being registered with the Electoral Commission, which requires groups to report monthly and declare major donations adversely affect ‘policing’?

The question journalists should be asking themselves is why is the No campaign dominated by political parties and without a credible campaign on the ground anywhere? What has caused the spontaneous creation of dozens of pro-indy groups and the biggest revival of political activity in decades? Why does this seem such a threat to democracy?

For the politically illiterate journalists out there: it’s called a movement.

Comments (0)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Doug Daniel says:

    I find it particularly pleasing that BetterTogether’s submission to be Lead Campaigner for the No side has had to make it clear that WomenTogether, AcademicsTogether and all those other astroturf groups are very much just facades for the BetterTogether campaign.

    1. Indeed. That admission is gonna make it that teensy bit more awkward if and when they decide to change their minds and set them up as distinct front groups of BT.

  2. andygm1 says:

    “Anyone who alleges this as Gardham has, has an embarrassingly poor understanding of Scotland and its politics.”

    Yup, that’s Magnus.

  3. bringiton says:

    The Electoral Commission needs to be spending more of it’s time deciding what it is going to do about the state broadcaster who is a member of an organisation actively opposing Scottish independence.
    Is it allowed for state enterprises to use tax payers money to fund a political campaign?
    This is a far more important issue to be addressed.

  4. Ken MacColl says:

    Yet more evidence, if any was required of the decline of The Herald.

  5. G H Graham says:

    Gardham may well have increased the click rate of on line readers but the print version where most of the money is made is still in steep decline.

    Even so, the quality of the online comments is dire. It’s overwhelmed by a handful of zealous proponents of both sides of the YES/NO argument but rarely establishes complex theory, discussion & conclusion. Thus, the puerile, often false stories he prints, achieves his objective; raise the blood pressure of enough folks to stimulate a comments war. Before anyone realises, several thousand click rates have been reached. This allows the paper to demand higher ad fees.

    There’s no doubt the accountants at Newsquest are pleased with this model. Thus, Gardham feels the weight of financial assurance behind him so presses on, printing even more ridiculous copy. And so the vicious playground games are repeated daily. The only respite during this charade that laughably considers itself journalism, is provided by the occasional skin pinching column by Bell & MacWhirter. Gardham’s nationality shouldn’t matter but you do have to wonder, if coming from the other side of the border, has helped ingrain his inflexible, pro British philosophy.

    I know others would rather we retain a print media in Scotland but if this paper & The Scotsman, supposed national titles, are the best that can be produced here, it really is time to throw the towel in, ring the bell & retire to the locker room for a rethink.

    Personally, I couldn’t care less if both papers switched the presses off for ever. There’s so little good copy left in them, they’re just not worth saving. These columns & others like it, may well be the future of Scottish print/on line media.

    1. gonzalo1 says:

      It surprises me that virtually all of the print media, with the exception of the Sunday Herald, is so slavishly pro-union. Surely it would be commercially attractive for at least one title to come out in favour of independence.

      1. Mike says:

        I have often wondered about that myself. I cannot understand the business ethic in the strategy adopted by the MSM. Its as clear as day that their strategy is costing them not only in sales but in share price value. I can only conclude that the owners are being compensated in some way for their financial what looks to be unsustainable losses.
        Wouldn’t it be a campaign breaker if we ever found out this possible compensation came from public funding?
        Some kind of 2 way financial link between Government and the media moguls?
        I wonder if a bit of digging in this direction would uncover anything with the potential to end the No campaign stone dead.
        We already know for a fact that the BBC in Scotland is publically funded to run UK state propaganda it wouldnt take much of a stretch of imagination to conclude the rest of them are as well only less obviously so and more clandestine.

    2. Mike says:

      You do realise that the majority of comment within both the Herald and Scotsman articles are from internal sources? They fill their own comment space not with as you put it “zealous proponents” but with internal staff “agitators” taking both sides of the argument.
      I thought that was obvious for some time now

      1. liz says:

        I post occasionally on the Herald and it would be good if you could give some indication of who these internal sources are.

        I also disagree with the idea that the comments are dire, I for example, never respond to OBE, Kelly from Ireland or the other Kelly, councillor.

        I thought that there were more woman being positive on BLC which I took to be a good thing due to the negativity women seem to have about indy.

        If I thought most of these were internal then I would stop posting at all.

      2. Mike says:

        Hi Liz

        Well for one you mention “OBE” Did you know that “OBE” actually posts PRO Independence statements on the “Europe Today” website and is very flattering of Alex Salmond. He even uses the very same Avatar. He clearly posts to provoke. I wish I had kept a copy of his “Discus” comments which showed over 73 posts over a period of 10 months both promoting Scottish Independence and being very critical of all of the 3 main unionist parties. He deliberately takes a contrary stance on blogs and forums which is predominate to a specific argument. This suggests he or she is a “Gun for hire”.
        Somebody used deliberately to motivate and encourage comments and posts.
        There are similar characters on the Scotsman. One of them used to be referred to as “Doris”.
        A single poster who took on various avatars at the same time.
        There is a very transparent and clear pattern of provocation sometimes bordering on the absolute ludicrous that I have no doubt you’ve already experienced for yourself.
        Its in the best interests of these publications to promote comments and debate as it also promotes advertising potential to clients.

  6. “The question journalists should be asking themselves is why is the No campaign dominated by political parties and without a credible campaign on the ground anywhere? … Why does this seem such a threat to democracy?”

    It’s a clear and present threat to their acquired contacts, inside knowledge, and [arguably] lazy attitude.

    Rather than speak to (and dine with) a handful of established insiders they are now faced with a series of diverse groups with a wide range of political views. A whole new learning experience for established journalists. It would appear that many would rather avoid the pain and appear to be in a state of denial.

    1. Chris Primrose says:

      I intend to tell my bank to cancel my direct debit for my BBC licence tomorrow. I shall reinstate it on 1st June when the moratorium on bias is introduced. I also bought my last “Herald” today. I stopped buying the “Scotsman” and “Scotland on Sunday” in the run-up to the referendum on Devolution.
      Incidentally, I was living in the Shetland Islands at that time and was happy to note that they voted “Yes” to both Devolution and Tax-varying powers – something that Unionist bloggers/journalists seem not to have noticed.

      1. Garry Henderson says:

        I’ve done the same Chris, I will pay the TV Licence when the BBC resigns from the CBI and not before.

  7. edulis says:


    C4 News tonight was saying that the Shetland Isles were the only place to record a ‘No’ vote to Devolution.

    I can’t remember. I think Borders or Dumfries & Galloway were also problematical in terms of tax raising powers.

    1. Chris Primrose says:

      Hi Edulis

      During the Devolution campaign every council area in Scotland voted “Yes” to Devolution. Only two – Orkney and Borders voted against tax-varying powers. I remember it well because I was on the island of Bressay that looks directly onto the lights of Lerwick on Shetland Mainland and was dancing round the room with a glass of “Independence” whiskythat originally I’d bought to console myself with (iit looked tight at the time).

      1. Chris Primrose says:

        Incidentally, the mere fact that whisky called “Independece” was flying off the shelf in Lerwick Cooperative should give Tavish Scott (the Lord Lieutenant’s Favoured Wean) and his followers some pause for thought.
        Shetlanders proudly fly the Shetland flag. It was designed by the founder of the first SNP branch in Shetland. Alba gu brath (as they most definitely would NOT say in Shetland)t

  8. David McCann says:

    Indeed, as Mike states above, the Scottish Independence Convention was in existence more than a decade before the Yes campaign.
    As a founder member in 2003, and Secretary for a good part of that time, I can say that it took the best part of two years to get the pro indy parties to sit in the one room, and agree to put party politics behind them, to the stage of the official launch in 2005 at Dynamic Earth. Our aim was to petition the Scottish government to ‘Let Scotland Decide’ by having a referendum. We now have that referendum, and in September Scotland WILL decide.
    The launch and the running of SIC was funded, and still is by its members. We have never taken a penny piece from any political party.
    What a pity Gardham has replaced real journalists, like former Herald political editor Murray Ritchie , who served with distinction for two years as SIC Chairman.

  9. Clydebuilt says:

    The Herald is Gardham’s plaything. On the positive side the letters page and Ian Bell are worth a read. Iain Macwhirter is away for some rest. Says he’s going to be doing some thinking. Betchya he turns more negative. He’s got form.

  10. Clootie says:

    I am campaigning for independence. I will spend my money as I see fit. It is insgnificant in comparison to MSM and the BBC.

    Whitehall spend is about to go off the dial without registration.

  11. gonzalo1 says:

    Why is it hacks like Gardham seem to have bitterness and bile coming out of their every vein when it comes to independence? They can’t seem to write any article objectively on the subject without putting over their own biased views.

    1. manandboy says:

      Intelligence doesn’t explain a No vote.

  12. By the tone of reporting on Good Morning Scotland this morning, concern appears to be mounting at Pacific Quay as to whether the BBC can carry the day for the Union against a diverse grass-roots campaign.

  13. Illy says:

    Had these lyrics stuck in my head while reading the comments:

    “You just-a walk right in,
    it’s around the back,
    just-a half a mile from the railroad track,”

  14. tartanfever says:


    Regarding your comments about the Electoral Commission, my understanding was that part of the SNP’s acceptance of their oversight was that they would report to Holyrood for the referendum vote where under normal circumstances the EC would only report to Westminster.

  15. stone says:

    Hi, I’m a little despondent about the most recent poll. I am a YES supporter. I just wondered about an earlier comment. The poster said that the 97 devolution vote had looked very tight before the vote. Does anyone have polls from close to the vote or what the expected outcome was? I know there was a big win but I’m just hoping to be able to extrapolate from this.

  16. David McCann says:

    Latest opinion poll shows that the Yes side are closing the gap.
    Check it out here.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.