Who will stand up for this campaign? Who will speak out for us? Who will kick back against the slurs and smears and lies that are told about us? Who will actually take our side? Who will lift our morale by facing the bullies of the Scottish press corps? Who will speak out and say what the No campaign really is? I’d trade you all your spreadsheets, polling analysis, infographics and business-friendly media releases for just one robust defence of our people. Just one.
I was pretty disappointed at the SNP leadership’s response to last week’s Better Together-organised smear campaign surrounding Claire Lally and Campbell Gunn. Labour was caught out passing off a member of its Shadow Cabinet as an ordinary member of the public. The Scottish Government’s special advisor for media was absolutely right to publicly correct this untruth and was wrong only in misidentifying Lally’s father in law. I expected Alex Salmond to come in to First Minister’s Questions and demand an apology from Johann Lamont for deception. At the very least I expected a strong defence of the high moral nature of the campaign and a clear statement that if the Yes campaign has to answer for the actions of every supporter then good luck to the No campaign responding to the bile poured out by the Scottish Defence League and others.
Instead he apologised profusely and fairly abjectly while repeating variations of ‘a few bad apples’ over and over again. I am sure that I’m not the only person who has been out working for this campaign night after night who just felt deflated.
But that is a minor disappointment in comparison to the level of disappointment I feel today at the actions of Yes Scotland in turning its back very publicly on Wings Over Scotland. I don’t write in support of Wings anything like enough. Wings has served two of the most important purposes in this campaign so far. First, it has diligently monitored and dissected the propaganda being run by the ‘diehard cult of unionist media’ (to paraphrase the never-knowlingly even-handed Magnus Gardham). And second, it has lifted our spirits throughout the campaign. When we wake up in the morning and Yes Scotland isn’t in the papers (why?) and the SNP is being timid and talking like an accountant, it is often Wings that is the primary source of commentary that doesn’t seem always to accept the premise set by the mainstream media as the only possible frame for discussing independence. It makes it OK to be both angry and excited while becoming informed at the same time.
I never use the word ‘scum’ in politics. It is dehumanising and is a lazy, backwards-looking trope in left politics. I wouldn’t have used it in a tweet if I was Rev Campbell. Then again, if I had been Alex Johnstone I wouldn’t have made the appalling attack on the Weirs that provoked it. I wouldn’t rely on the lazy, routine name-calling which is the fridge magnets from which an Alan Cochrane column is composed. And nor would I use much of the spiteful, hate-filled invective of various Labour types – for example, Johann Lamont calling nationalism a virus, Iain Davidson claiming all that was left was for unionists to ‘bayonet the wounded’ or virtually anything written by Brian Wilson. But I can be perfectly robust in my criticisms and this is part of public debate these days. I can live with it all.
What I cannot abide is simpering cowardice. Which brings be back to Yes Scotland. It’s actions today in ‘demanding’ that one of ‘its’ local groups stop distributing a leaflet that names Wings breaks new ground in spinelessness. Wings is a great site with lots of good material and is a good read. It is widely loved in the campaign because it is clear and unashamed in making our case. I have been following Wings for quite a while and have yet to come across any reason to quarantine it. I cannot understand what judgement the Yes Scotland bureaucrats were making when this decision was arrived at. Was the Advisory Board consulted? Or did the kids in the office just get carried away?
I do not for one second fail to understand the context in which the campaign is operating. I’ve heard all the strategists with their ‘Salmond can’t be seen to be strident because it plays badly with women’ stuff and ‘Yes Scotland must maintain the constant tone of a Youth Fellowship rally or the fairy dust won’t work’. Strategists are often people who have developed the skill of persuading politicians that everyone else is as afraid of their shadows as are the strategists themselves. No, I’m not advocating an aggressive or angry campaign – I was first in the door making the case for a wholly positive and up-beat campaign. But up-beat does not mean weak.
As everyone knows, we’re the campaign, not Hope Street. We’re winning this, not Hope Street. I have a little more sympathy for the leadership of the SNP contracting Stockholm Syndrome given the relentless position they are in. But someone in Yes Scotland went out of the way to produced a press statement bashing Wings. They presumably went out of their way to do it because they calculated that it would make Yes Scotland look good. To hell with Wings. To hell with the rest of the campaign. To hell with the morale among campaigners. As long as Yes Scotland looks good for three minutes.
I have already written more than I should. For two years I have tried to avoid writing anything that would damage the campaign or any of the groups that make it up. When my frustration got too much I go out to the garden and do some weeding and I keep my mouth shut. But this is too much.
Who will stand up for this campaign? Who will speak out on behalf of the thousands of wonderful people I have met everywhere I’ve gone? We’ve stood in the rain, in the sleet, in gales. We’ve been insulted, attacked, belittled, humiliated and patronised. We’ve been ignored. We’ve been lied about. We’ve suffered the most vicious attacks. We’ve been defamed by the most biased media in any parliamentary democracy in the developed world. And we’ve stood tall, been brave, been honest, been principled and above all we’ve been open and positive and joyous (and funny – you make me smile). I will go anywhere and tell anyone this truth. I point blank refuse to apologise for this wonderful campaign and its wonderful people. And I will not turn my back on, betray or let down any of the many, many people with whom I’ve been lucky enough to share this amazing time.
To everyone in this campaign – I have been most incredibly proud to be part of it with you and I’ve been moved over and over again by the commitment you have shown, the passion and kindness you’ve shared. To Wings – I’m sure you’re bearing up but thank you so much for everything you’ve done and pay no attention to them. We need you. To the local campaign whose leaflet is to be burned – I’ve seen it, I thought it was a lovely leaflet which I know you paid for yourselves from your own pockets. Don’t feel down, we’re all on your side. To the small-minded, small-hearted lynch mob that seek to persecute us – we are not afraid of you, we are going to win and history will remember you for how you behaved. And to the Yes Scotland Board – get this ridiculous decision overturned immediately.