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Late Call – Editors Blog

Funny guy

Funny guy

My first day back in the Bella editorial chair  – while Mike temporarily swans off into the sunset – was a bit of a shock to the system.  It’s not so much the physical graft (what physical graft?) nor the quantity of material you have to edit and publish on the website that takes its toll, its having to fill your headspace with the minutae of everyday politicking.

You have to prioritise, read like a demon, and continually weigh up what is worth commenting on.  It’s hard work and needs to be done full-time if you’re publishing daily and want to counter the Unionist press with their vast budgets and army of paid employees.  In my opinion the best thing that’s happened to sites like Bella and Wings was the successful crowd-funding appeals. The wages of the editors are now paid and you can see the difference in professionalism and quality.

But the pressure is still intense, given what these sites are up against. Anyone who has ever edited any kind of daily political or news publication will know what I mean.  You have to be on the ball, be aware of everything from the latest fracking reports to the news that Prince Harry is having his pockets filled with gold for his 30th birthday.  You also have to filter out the background noise which makes up so much of the so-called news: such as the story of the woman who gave birth today outside Primark in Birmingham. (Rumours the child has already got a job in one of their Chinese factories is not proven).

Then there’s all things Referendum.  I’m not a cheery morning person by nature and I’ve hardly digested my honey-covered porridge when a BBC Scotland presenter got my hackles up , haranguing Angus Robertson MP – they all want to be Paxman Mini-Mes these days – with claims that Trident is necessary because there is a “real threat”.  He cites the situation in Russia/Ukraine.  Aye, right.

BBC news reporting did not challenge any of the findings of the Trident Commission report today.  They simply repeated the official lines and wheeled in a few dissenting voices.  For instance, the Trident report stated that Trident would only be used against countries who already have nuclear weapons.  Wow.  Since there are only 8 other nuclear states in the world at present that narrows down its practical “usefulness” considerably.  Since  USA, France & Israel are supposedly on “our” side then these monsters on the Clyde, at a cost of £100bn, are there to defend us from just FIVE countries: Russia, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea.  The sheer insanity of this is self-evident when it is analysed but our state broadcaster lets these irksome details slide past. Their job, as the BBC editors see it, is to present, unquestioningly, every utterance from Westminster and Downing Street with the utmost gravitas.

I was considering whether to write something on this when a YouGov poll – complete with a beaming Curtice – had No at 18 points ahead of Yes.  I’m distracted by this and go off on a tangent.  If this poll was consistently echoed across other polls it would be worrying at this stage.  Whether this marks a trend or an outlier remains to be seen.  One thing is unavoidable though: Yes is behind in the polls and to draw ahead Yes needs to step up a few gears.

Each day also brings a fresh batch of alleged cybernat abuse. Celebs For No are churned out, usually aggrieved on other people’s behalfs.  Rory Bremner is the latest.  It is tedious and mostly untrue.  But No has chosen to concentrate on this.  On the one hand this is part of No’s “smear those you don’t want to debate with” approach.  But on the other hand it gets Yes bogged down in trying to respond to the latest allegations.  Therein lies a bigger problem for Yes.

It would appear to me that Yes spends WAY too much time reacting to whatever nonsense No conjures up on any given day.  I doubt too if this is accidental.  No is using the national media to frame the debate and that creates a tactical challenge.  We have a choice.  We can be reactive or proactive.  The great thing about the grassroots Yes is that it is proactive in communities all across Scotland.  This is what is winning hearts and minds.

It also begs the alternative question why so many Yes supporters spend so much time reacting to online drivel from No-bodies like John McTernan, Ian Smart, Lord Foulkes or Jim Murphy?

These Labour Unionists do not have the ear of anyone outside politics bar their own supper clubs.  (I’ve Blocked most of them on Twitter and would highly recommend it.)  Their main reason for being online is to wind Yes folk up and drag us down to their level.  So why give them the satisfaction?  Why engage or bite?  Why waste precious time and energy?  They’re completely irrelevant to the dialogue needed with the people who really matter.

As I was saying, there is a great swirl of background noise in politics.  Editors need to have finely tuned news filters.  Readers and activists do too. I’m enjoying this stint back in the editorial chair.  But I won’t be changing the office locks when Mike is away.

(This is the first in a series of late night editorial blog posts.)

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  1. Clootie says:

    Does anyone who knocks doors, stands at stalls or attends public meetings believe the recent YouGov poll?

    The YES support feedback gets stronger every week. Every YES campaigner talks of pulling someone over to YES every week and yet the gap gets larger?

    RIC does a mass poll of tens of thousands, a poll showing a strong YES support but YouGov sticks with their trusted 1000.

    I think the pollsters have forgotten that this is a grass roots campaign and we can sense the true status better than they can. Perhaps future contracts are more important than reputation (a gamble if you pick the wrong side)

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Tend to agree about YouGov. But polls like this should drive us forward. We’ll win but we’ve still got plenty to do.

  2. You write: “No is using the national media to frame the debate and that creates a tactical challenge.”

    Framing is about the crafting of consciousness. I am concerned at how much both sides of this debate have bought into it being framed within an economic window. The polls also pander to this with their emphasis on economic questions. This represents a shirking rather than an expansion of consciousness.

    If the only thing at issue is whether we’re a bit richer or poorer than our neighbours and fundamental equals south of the border then we don’t deserve independence. We need to re-frame in terms of higher values than the hip pocket – and by “higher” I mean those predicated on altruism rather than self interest. That’s the pattern and example that we need to set before the world. It’s about social justice, abolition of our unconscionable WMDs on the Clyde, environmental responsibility, etc. as distinct from, say, Boris Johnson’s crass cultivation of “the spirit of envy.”

    “I’ll hae nae hauf-way hoose….”

  3. goldenayr says:

    Totally agree with you temp Ed(Your new name is tEd).No voters that should be challenged,however,are the ones that come onto sites like this.Displaying an arrogance and ignorance which is quickly shot down with simple argument.

    We should all carry ourselves with more dignity,we don’t need to lower ourselves to their level and engage them in pointless argument.No matter how annoying they are and tempting it is to demoralise them.I’m not immune,I know,and found it hard to follow my own advice on far too many occasions.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      tEd talks. Like it 🙂

      1. goldenayr says:

        Glad you like it,anytime

        Do I get copyright?


  4. fehvepehs says:

    This is so true about being caught up in the drivel that is spouted out by the No-No lot. It’s not easy to ignore the mince, and there can often be a short term pleasure of winning the small skirmishing that’s taking place. However there is a big battle to be won. The YES side need to hone the argument and not get bogged down by the “aye but what if this or what if that” questions. That’s like trying to say that the world cup will be won by Argentina. Aye but what if Messi gets injured in the semis. The Trident fiasco you mention is a vote winner. No “sane” person can justify in this day and age squandering money on it when there are food banks and children living in poverty.
    Ultimately it comes down to this: If you believe that we can create a better life for ALL the people living in Scotland by gaining full control of ALL the power then you must vote YES.
    Both sides can produce facts and figures to satisfy every outcome. It’s all a matter of presentation.
    We have great people in the YES campaign. The message we need to get over is: Believe that we make a difference and that no one will be left behind-that includes stubborn No’s. They WILL thank us eventually that YES won the day.

  5. alharron says:

    “It also begs the alternative question why so many Yes supporters spend so much time reacting to online drivel from No-bodies like John McTernan, Ian Smart, Lord Foulkes or Jim Murphy?”

    I have them blocked, along with a few others who just eat up time. The only exception is Blair McDougall, since he’s the No coordinator, he can’t let rip with the worst bile, but has the largest reach.

  6. Peter Arnott says:

    I think Kev’s right. We need to concentrate on the positive case. We’re being weighed down by relentless negativity into being negative..which is THEIR territory where they win.

    I know I spend a lot of energy thinking about the No voters…and not enough on the positive case. This is partly because as a dramatist , people who are wrong, self-hating and miserable and self-serving and smug simultaneously are so INTERESTING…dramatically…

    But because we are being dragged into a flyting with people who have endless newsprint and broadcast resources on their side, it may be that bitter polemic, though endless fun, is bad tactics as well as bad Karma.

    (” Hatred, even of meanness , distorts the features. ” B Brecht 1939 )

    So I will try to think happy thoughts and not respond to provocation and being called nasty names any more!

  7. Ian Foulds says:

    Like your editorial.

    Also like from you and your bloggers – Dignity, Focus and Ignore the ‘mince’ –

    It is the only way to finish first

  8. Tom Platt says:

    A lot of good sense in that editorial IMO.

    I think that this part bears repeating:-
    It also begs the alternative question why so many Yes supporters spend so much time reacting to online drivel from No-bodies like John McTernan, Ian Smart, Lord Foulkes or Jim Murphy?

    These Labour Unionists do not have the ear of anyone outside politics bar their own supper clubs. (I’ve Blocked most of them on Twitter and would highly recommend it.) Their main reason for being online is to wind Yes folk up and drag us down to their level. So why give them the satisfaction? Why engage or bite? Why waste precious time and energy? They’re completely irrelevant to the dialogue needed with the people who really matter.

    We need to focus on talking pleasantly but assertively to ordinary people. with votes.


    1. And that’s just about what I’m away to do, Tom.

  9. Michael says:

    The best way to deal with concerns about polls is to read the excellent blog on the subject by James Kelly on Scot goes Pop. His analyses are always spot on. Honestly it takes five minutes to find out about trends, polling methodology and sampling and what the data shows. The polls are extremely favourable to us and the trend is absolutely in our direction. I’m afraid with YouGov you’ve fallen into the trap you suggest others avoid which is allowing your post to be framed by the unionist press. The YouGov poll is questionable on a whole range of grounds, none of which you appear to be aware of but which were identified months ago.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Good call. I read Scot Goes Pop and its excellent. The polls are all over the place, even if the gap seems to be narrowing. Which is no bad thing. Keeps us on our toes.

    2. Pete Bradley says:

      One thing that’s possibly worth bearing in mind about YouGov is that its president, Peter Kellner, is married to Baroness Ashton, she of countless cushy, well paid public sector non-job appointments, but who’s never been elected to anything in her life. Even though her current gig in Brussels wouldn’t be affected if Scotland were to leave the Divided Kingdom, they’re part of the clique who’ll do anything to maintain the status quo as much as the possibly can.

  10. Michael says:

    And strangely we see very little analysis of the campaigns online which must be by far and away the most exciting and interesting part of this process. The great cybernat saga is a manifestation of the No campaign’s terror of the success of the Yes campaign on social media and elsewhere online. Superficially it looks like one thing but actually conceals a much more interesting story which is about No’s lack of control and fear. We need to turn the story round and focus on our enormous success in a space which they find terrifying.

  11. Dr Ew says:

    Celebs for No all seem hugely concerned with online abuse. An unpleasant thing, no question, but a quick visit to any football website or political forum of any stripe and you’ll find stuff every bit as bad. Apart from the repeating the canard that all abuse comes from one side – ours – it always sounds like more of an excuse not to engage with the fundamental matters at stake.

    I was a Labour voter for 11 years and a member for seven, leaving because I realised personal attack was the default strategy; I was on the receiving end of it for continuing to argue for nuclear disarmament and more civil disobedience over the Poll Tax. I left in 1991 and never cast another vote their way after the repeal of Clause 4.

    The emergence of the attempt to associate the SNP with “blood and soil” nationalism, and smear Yes supporters as Nazis or Fascists is the logical step – anything to divert from real debate. Scottish Labour and UK politics in general “plays the man”, tried and tested tactic that is all about keeping the punters petrified with fear, clouded with despondency and mired in apathy. Hence Alex Salmond is a dictator, a totalitarian, a liar, a coward, a cheat, and those that follow him fools, goons or poltroons.

    So, yes Kevin, you’re spot on. Do not drain your energy on these people – it’s what they feed on. It’s how they win.

    But not this time.

  12. Douglas says:

    Agreed, Kevin, we are getting bogged down too much in details of little interest or importance.

    The Lally incident, the Rev and whether YES should always back Wings last week….and this week the address by an academic at St Andrews university.

    With the uproar there has been here on Bella and elsewhere on the latter issue, anybody might think the Doctor made her address at the UN General Assembly and accused the SNP of being Nazis, a word which of course she never mentioned once in her address.

    None of these issues help the YES campaign at all in my view, in fact the opposite….

    The irony is of course, that the SNP itself is reluctant to clearly articulate the paradigm in which Scotland’s independence movement should be understood, because it is a colonial paradigm.

    You can’t tell anybody that Scotland has been colonized, albeit in a way very different way to the former colonies; a kind of soft colonization and self colonization, a very unique case; some people get very upset by that idea, even on the YES side.

    But the truth is the nearest models to our case are the anti colonial movements in Ireland, Africa and Asia and the revolutionary nationalist movements in Latin America.

    National liberation movements have got nothing to do with old style ethnic 19th century European nationalism at all….

    With all the sound and the fury there’s been in the last few days, it is easy to forget that basic point. .

  13. John Page says:

    I thought this was excellent………see reference attached to Tory strategist Lynton Crosby who said when discourse becomes problematic dump a dead cat on the table and everyone will get diverted to talking about the dead cat…………

    Just wait for the MacZinoviev letter on 11th September……..


  14. Almost missed this thread – some good points Kev.

    In the past week, I have picked-up a handful of yellow and red cards from the Herald, thanks to one of the pro-BT “trolls”, who posts shite on the site, but never responds or debates when his mince is shown to be such.

    This troll takes great deight in letting us know he has the OBE, but, when I call him OBE-Wan, because he’s the only wan on the site championing the Evil Empire, I get a red card and a note from the webmaster telling me I am being childish,

    Point out he is trolling – red card.

    The webmaster will not control him, and other no supporters, but, we Yes supporters who try to take him to task are being penalised unfairly.

    As you say, we’re getting bogged down by BT’s refusal to discuss the issues in an adult manner.

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