A Reply to James Kelly


Reluctantly we are forced to respond to nonsense published by James Kelly about our exchange over an article he wanted to publish on this website. So here’s the email exchange we had which shows that not only did I not ‘censor’ or ‘reject’ or ‘ban’ his article but was in dialogue about how to improve it. That’s what editors do. I’ve only noticed now that he’s published four blogs abut Bella Caledonia in the last few days. I’m not sure where this obsession has come from.

You’ll have read the article already I’m sure, and those of you who agree with his position will nod along with glee, and those of you who don’t, still won’t. It’s all extremely tedious, but if people are smearing you there’s no option but to publish the correspondence. I’d have to add I have always liked Scot Goes Pop, have promoted his site and commissioned him to write for Bella in the past. Make your own mind up:

James: Hi Mike, Here is my submission for Bella Caledonia on the subject of tactical voting. I’ve also attached it as a Word document in case that’s more convenient.

Hi James

thanks for this, just read it over.

I have a number of pieces in the queue on this subject, and I’m trying to find ways to get beyond the grievance and bad blood that there’s been. One way is to accept that this is an issue that’s both contested and complex. I’m not sure if you accept that basic premise?

I have a few problems with your article that maybe we can discuss?

The first is the framing. You say “There have been persistent suggestions from supporters of parties like RISE and the Greens that it may somehow be possible for SNP supporters to “hack” the voting system”. It was my understanding that voters vote for candidates and parties and that RISE, the Greens (or any party appeal) to the electorate, not to ‘SNP supporters’, don’t they?

The second is the sort of apocalyptic language use in this debate. You write: “The future of our country shouldn’t be entrusted to blind chance.” Yet I see no compelling route to indy from the SNP or from ‘1&2’ advocates, so I don’t understand or recognise the ‘future of our country’ argument.

Indeed, at the time of writing we don’t know if there will even be a commitment to a second referendum in the SNP manifesto do we?

Can you explain the route-map, or point me to where it is outlined? This is a genuine not a rhetorical question.

Thirdly, I think the broad green left will be contributing to the mass tactical vote that will deliver an SNP landslide on the first vote, and this seems to be ignored in your analysis. And that this feeds into the reality that the SNP cannot win indyref 2 alone.

As I said, I’m looking for ways to bring this debate forward without adding more divisiveness whilst also being aware that a lot of people spent the last 48 hours talking about little else.

Thanks for the piece – would be interested in your response to the issues I’ve raised.

All the best


James: Hi Mike,

Well, it’s an issue that’s contested, certainly – although a casual reader of Bella would be forgiven for reaching the conclusion that it’s an open and shut case, and that nobody has raised any serious objections to the idea that tactical voting is feasible and desirable.

I’m bemused by your suggestion that RISE and other small parties haven’t been specifically targetting SNP supporters. Of course they’re seeking support from the wider electorate as well, but that’s not who they’re speaking to when they talk about hacking d’Hondt, is it?

I wasn’t particularly talking about independence when I referred to the “future of our country”, so that point is a red herring. The future of our country is at stake in every election, because the government is being chosen.

It’s risible to suggest there will be a “mass tactical vote” for the SNP in the constituencies. The vast majority of SNP voters will be voting for their first choice party. Polling evidence suggests there are very few supporters of RISE and Solidarity out there. There are a substantial number of Greens, although the track record of local election transfers suggests those votes will not go uniformly to the SNP – many will go to unionist parties.

I hope I’ve addressed your concerns and that you now feel able to run my piece as it stands. If not, please let me know.


Mike: Hi James

as I said I have a number of pieces to consider, but I’m concerned that your tone is really partisan and you’re not really committed to improving the nature of the debate.

For example, can you point me to articles that argue for “hacking D’Hondt” please?

If you weren’t talking about independence when you say “the future of our country” – what were you talking about?

When you say things are “risible” then argue that “Polling evidence suggests there are very few supporters of RISE and Solidarity out there” – I think you highlight the problem. This is deeply tribalistic. There is as huge swathe of people pout there who are broadly progressive and would identify as ‘green left’ ‘liberal’ (in the best sense). By pigeonholing people as ‘Solidarity’ you are just operating in a party mindset that most people don’t exist in.

Do you recognise this problem?

Quote of the day: “I don’t like being told I’m damaging indy for defending democracy”.

I’m hoping to resolve difference and get a better understanding because I feel we are part of the same movement. Do you feel the same?



James: Hi Mike,

Can you please tell me whether you’re going to run the piece or not? You said you wanted to present a range of views from the movement – well, my article is a view from the movement. You’ve made perfectly clear you don’t agree with my view – that’s fine, but are you seriously saying that’s a reason for not running the piece? Can you not see the contradiction here? Where is the range of voices on Bella if this voice and the countless other voices like it is barred?


Mike: Hi James

I’m not sure about your tone.

I’m attempting to have some dialogue with you about your article to resolve the problems I have with it.

If you are willing to enter into dialogue then the article will be considered, if you are not, it won’t.


James: Hi Mike,

You have completely wasted my time. If you never had any intention of publishing an article that doesn’t conform to the Bella editorial line on tactical voting (you know, the one you pretended yesterday doesn’t exist), you should have told me that, rather than allowing me to go ahead with a piece that you knew would never be used.

If you don’t like my tone, perhaps you should reflect on the fact that you have acted in bad faith. An apology from you would be appropriate, although I’m not naive enough to expect it.


Mike: If you can’t enter into dialogue with an editor when you submit an article then don’t expect to be published.

I asked a series of perfectly reasonable questions which you simply refused to respond to.

This is what I do with any piece that is submitted to clarify and improve content.

James: The last time I checked, dialogue is a two-way process. You failed to answer my earlier questions, so have a try with this one – was there ever the remotest possibility of that article being published without major surgery to bring it into line with your own personal views on the subject?


Mike: Which question of your have I not replied to – and I will now?

I never considered major surgery, I was / am just trying to establish a better quality of debate?

James never replied to this – nor answered any of the questions I asked him, but then published the article on his own blog and his supporters went into full-scale meltdown about vile and terrible censorship. The exchange was completely reasonable and I was astonished when it ended abruptly. As you’ll see by my final email where I say “I never considered major surgery, I was / am just trying to establish a better quality of debate?” – I was clearly going to publish the piece after some discussion with the author.

This is all just a bizarre and petty episode caused by some weird and petulant behaviour, in my opinion. Bella remains a forum to promote ideas. Strangely enough this doesn’t mean we will publish whatever you want it to, and yes we do have editorial ideas. Here’s James’s article:

Why “tactical voting” on the Holyrood regional list is a mug’s game

There have been persistent suggestions from supporters of parties like RISE and the Greens that it may somehow be possible for SNP supporters to “hack” the voting system for the Scottish Parliament election in May. The overall composition of parliament is supposed to be broadly determined by the result of the regional list vote, but it’s true that weird things can start to happen if one party is totally dominant in constituency seats, and yet is abandoned by many voters on the list. The system would attempt to distribute list seats as compensation to parties that are under-represented in the constituencies, but in reality would end up dumbly “compensating” voters who are already handsomely over-represented. In theory, that makes it possible for considerably more pro-independence MSPs to be elected than the combined vote for pro-independence parties would justify, as long as independence supporters vote in huge numbers for the SNP on the constituency ballot, and for other parties on the list ballot. Unfortunately, as with so many other things that are perfectly possible in theory, it’s fantastically improbable in practice. If it ever did happen, it would probably be as a result of pure luck. Trying to make it happen through deliberate action (a push for so-called “tactical voting on the list”) is fraught with enormous danger.

In single-member constituency elections, tactical voting can work brilliantly. Scotland surprised itself in 1987 by suddenly grasping how the combination of a four-party system and first-past-the-post could be transformed from a weakness into a strength in the battle against Thatcherism. The nationwide Tory vote was only modestly cut from 28% to 24%, but in terms of seats there was a bloodbath, as voters in marginal Tory-held constituencies flocked to whichever party had finished second locally in 1983. And the identity of that party was literally the only information that was needed to make tactical voting feasible.

But to “vote tactically” in a relatively risk-free way on the Holyrood regional list ballot, you need to have far, far more detailed information. Exactly how much you require depends on what your objectives are. There seems to be a degree of creative ambiguity over which sort of SNP supporter is being targeted by the smaller parties’ pitch for tactical votes, but we must presumably – at least in part – be talking about people whose first priority is not merely a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, but an outright SNP majority. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t constantly be hearing the soothing noises about how an SNP majority is already assured on constituency votes alone – a tacit acknowledgement that a necessary precondition for many potential “tactical voters” is a sense of certainty that the SNP will not require any list seats at all.

But is that proposition remotely credible? In the real world, no. To turn the list vote into a completely ‘free hit’ in the way that is being suggested, the SNP would need to be sure of winning at least 65 of the 73 constituency seats. To put in perspective just how murderously difficult a feat that is, Alex Salmond fell a full twelve seats short of the target figure in the landslide of 2011. The independence referendum would never have taken place if the SNP hadn’t won a considerable number of top-up seats on the list. And in retrospect it may seem a tad surprising that in the first Blair landslide of 1997, Labour won “only” 56 of the 72 Scottish constituencies at Westminster. If that had been a Holyrood contest, Labour’s support might well have been just about strong enough to win an absolute majority – but only if their voters had remained disciplined on the list ballot. They wouldn’t have been close to winning on constituency votes alone.

Now, it’s true that the SNP are currently polling higher than they did in 2011, or than Labour did in 1997. It’s also true that if the result of last year’s general election were to be replicated in May, the SNP would not require any list seats to secure a majority. But it would be a bit too close for comfort. It must be remembered that not only did the unionist parties hold onto three seats last year, they also lost only narrowly in a few others (mostly ones previously held by the Liberal Democrats). The 1987 result is a useful warning from history of how a relatively small drop in a party’s share of the national vote can help swing the balance in a large number of constituencies. In this case, it only needs to happen in a very small number for Nicola Sturgeon to find herself in desperate need of list votes.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s eminently possible that the SNP will hit the magic number of 65 constituencies. But those who tell you that it’s already certain (or practically certain) to happen are misleading you about the limitations of polling evidence. On election night last year, two completely different seats projections flashed up on our television screens. The broadcasters’ exit poll suggested that the SNP would win all but one seat in Scotland, while the YouGov on-the-day poll claimed that the unionist parties would between them hold onto eleven seats. Nobody really had a clue which poll was right, although the initial gut instinct of most politicians and pundits was that YouGov were probably closer to the mark. As it turned out, the opposite was true. If that’s the degree of uncertainty we can routinely expect to find ourselves dealing with after the polls have closed, what hope do we have at the moment we’re actually casting our votes? This, in a nutshell, is the first big disadvantage a budding “tactical voter” on the list has in comparison with a tactical voter in a single-member constituency election. The latter only needs to be able to predict with confidence the top two placings in an individual constituency, while the former needs foreknowledge of the outright winner in many, many different constituencies. That is rarely going to be realistically possible. Getting even one or two results wrong could sometimes be enough for the “tactical vote” to completely backfire.

But even if it somehow became possible to navigate that minefield with genuine confidence (it would probably require the SNP to reach ANC-style levels of popularity), that would only be the start of the story. Other unrelated pieces of foreknowledge about the likely election result would also be necessary before the risks of a tactical vote might recede to a vaguely acceptable level. Even if an SNP majority was assured, our potential tactical voter would still want to know that they’d actually be helping to increase the overall tally of pro-independence MSPs, not decrease it. Most fundamentally, they’d need to know that their vote wouldn’t be totally wasted as a result of their chosen “tactical” party failing to reach the de facto threshold for winning any representation at all.

Here, again, we come up against the limitations of polling. Fortunately, it’s at least possible to make a judgement with a degree of certainty in respect of RISE. Recent polls have been unanimous in giving the SSP virtually zero support, and there’s no reason at all to suppose that RISE – with its weaker brand awareness – is faring any better. Unless things change radically over the coming weeks, it would be totally irrational for any SNP supporter to switch to RISE on the list. The SNP have a realistic prospect of winning at least one list seat in any given region, while RISE have virtually no chance of a list seat anywhere in Scotland. I say ‘virtually’, because there is one previous example of a fringe party coming from zero support to snatch a list seat – that was the Scottish Senior Citizens’ Unity Party, which achieved a sensational result in 2003 with the help of some Old Firm stardust on their election leaflets. So RISE do have an outside chance of a breakthrough, but it’s a very, very small one. Nobody sensible will be betting the house on it.

In seven out of eight regions, exactly the same is true of Solidarity, who are also languishing on virtually zero support. However, past form suggests that they may have a small concentration of support in Glasgow that the polls are unable to pick up. If so, it’s just conceivable that Tommy Sheridan may be able to recapture past glories, and seize a single list seat. But SNP supporters in Glasgow should still have massive doubts over whether Solidarity are really better placed to make an impact on the city’s list than their own party. Even if the SNP win every single Glasgow constituency seat – a very big if, for the reasons I’ve already discussed – they should still have a good chance of a list seat as long as their list vote holds up. Sheridan is a long-shot by comparison.

With the Greens, the situation is more complex. Polls have been sending mixed signals about whether they are in line for a breakthrough. But even if we ignore the more pessimistic polls, it should be noted that we’ve been here before. In both 2007 and 2011, the Greens seemed on course for substantial gains, but in both cases ended up with just two seats. Anecdotally, I know of several SNP supporters in the North-east region (including party members) who voted “tactically” for the Greens in 2011 on the basis of two assumptions – that the Greens would reach the de facto threshold for a seat in the region, and that the SNP would win so many constituencies that they would be totally out of the running on the list. Both of those assumptions proved to be wrong, and indeed the SNP took a list seat in spite of winning every single one of the region’s constituencies. Fortunately, the misjudgement didn’t cause any damage, but it could easily have done – if just 2000 more SNP voters had switched “tactically” to the Greens, and 600 more had switched to the SSP, the final list seat would have been won by the Tories rather than the SNP, and the overall pro-independence majority at Holyrood would have been cut from 72-57 to 71-58. That wouldn’t have been a great day’s work by any standards.

Look at it this way – if you cast a well-founded tactical vote in a single-member constituency election, there are only really two possible outcomes. Either your tactical choice of candidate will win and your objective will have been achieved, or they’ll fall short and you’ll be no worse off than you otherwise would have been. But a “tactical vote” on the regional list is a very different beast. Since you will rarely (if ever) have sufficient foreknowledge to make a tactical switch on a rational basis, there are four potential outcomes. You might get lucky and achieve your objective. Your vote might backfire and lead to an increase in the number of unionist MSPs – and in a worst-case scenario bring about an anti-independence majority. The result might be no different to what it otherwise would have been. Or you could end up replacing a pro-independence MSP from your first-choice party with a pro-independence MSP from your second-choice party. (The latter wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would certainly be rather irritating.)

The phrase “tactical voting on the list” should really be outlawed under the Trade Descriptions Act. What we’re actually talking about here is gambling voting. If you fancy a flutter, my suggestion is Betfair. The future of our country shouldn’t be entrusted to blind chance.

Comments (190)

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  1. Aileen says:

    Ding-dong argument: yawn. Original article: interesting.

    1. CMac says:

      Interesting and well argued (although most of the points are only valid if the SNP were polling at 40% not 50%+) but it is partisan and it could be improved.

      James is patently annoyed that smaller parties are attempting to poach SNP votes but he presents no actual evidence of this so it is reasonable to ask for it before publishing. He also seems fairly happy for his analysis to be used in the exact opposite manner – i.e. pressing supporters of independence (but not necessarily theSNP) to vote SNPx2 as the “best” or “only” vehicle to independence, which is also totally unsubstantiated. A warning against this misuse of his work would also have made it a serious and eminently publishable piece.

      1. Jim McIntyre says:

        I am tempted by the Greens or RISE on the second vote. The argument I like is that more than one pro-indy party will benefit the movement. The other argument is that you have a big ANC-style party that is a broad church. Have that debate. Both have interesting arguments for and against.

      2. DB1 says:

        CMac, The argument for indy supporters to vote SNP+SNP is well substantiated.
        It worked last time to get a referendum. There is precedent. Actual proof that it worked.

        It’s true that SNP support is higher right now, but who is to say it will remain so ?
        Enough voters in traditional Labour areas might be fooled by Dugdale’s promises of higher spending all over the place from non-existent APD money. Together with tactical Tory votes and a biased press, they could end up retaining many of their seats on the day.

        Remember that Labour were ahead this time in 2011, and everything changed when the campaign got going. And anyone in the SNP taking constituency seats for granted.. that will backfire with voters. Don’t you see how arrogant that would look?

        Tensions are high.
        Many SNP supporters are *terrified* that attempts to game the system could backfire and result in a lost majority – with the fringe parties splitting the remaining indy vote between them. As much as individuals in these parties may be admired, it looks like too big a risk to take.

        No majority and all momentum for independence could slip away. Without even the chance of a second referendum, the Tories in London will be free to treat Scotland with contempt.

        For me personally, I think the SNP deserves a majority. I think Nicola Sturgeon is genuine, and the SNP has a good record to stand behind.

        1. DB1 – I think the SNP deserve a majority too. I think Nicola Sturgeon is genuine too. They’ll get a majority. When you say: “The argument for indy supporters to vote SNP+SNP is well substantiated.It worked last time to get a referendum. There is precedent. Actual proof that it worked.” Well the arguments is contested and complex, and though ‘it worked’ last time – it / we also failed, so we need to rethink things, dont we?

          1. DB1 says:

            The referendum failed, but it was a close call in the end.
            And I agree the 45% was partly achieved due to ‘green left’ supporters helping to get out the vote.

            What didn’t fail is a massive SNP vote getting us a referendum in the first place.

            The 2016 election is only 15 weeks away.
            If an independence majority is achieved again, we have 5 years to come up with a better strategy in different circumstances.

            This current argument comes down to whether an SNP+SNP vote is the best way to achieve that, and the logical argument is that it worked last time.

            To me, aiming for more pro-indy MSPs in general looks like a gamble. As pointed out, it would take tactical voting on an unrealistic scale with unpredictable results.

            In casino terms, it’s like hitting on 18 in the hope of getting 21.

    2. Peter Barjonas says:

      Are we talking about the MSP James Kelly who was thrown out of Holyrood by Marwick or another one? In any case, appologies to both for this misassociation.

      1. MBC says:

        James Kelly the blogger is not the MSP. Different individuals

    3. Bob says:

      It seems to me that the two of you were at cross-purposes. Next time you might try discussing edits to an article by phone. You pick up each other’s tone better that way.

  2. Neil Anderson says:

    In my opinion, James makes his case rather convincingly and with plenty of analysis. On this basis, I will be voting SNP 1 & 2 in the coming election. What’s your thoughts Mike?

    1. Good for you. Vote how you like

      1. Alastair says:

        Oh, grow up.

        1. Neil Anderson says:

          Hi Alastair. Not sure if it’s me or Mr. Small you’re recommending should grow up. I’m delighted to have been patronised by Mr. Small and will indeed be voting as I see fit.
          Having been active in so-called left wing politics during the late 70’s and through to the early 90’s, I’m rather familiar with the type of creature who is Red at 18 but then progresses through the ranks to the inevitable Ermine and comfy leather seat.
          SNP X 2 and send the clearest message possible to our imperial masters that we are determined to be independent.

          1. John Harrower says:

            I agree totally with your sentiments and will be voting SNP 1 and 2. Maybe one day there will be more room for parties with an honestly held green or variation of left wing character to challenge SNP policies but the time is not now. They only appear to be rocking our carefully constructed ship of reasonable Independence for their own personal gain. The vote for our Party of Independence needs to be overwhelmingly solid to convince our opponents that we are serious and nothing else will do.

    2. DB1 says:

      The point about Solidarity is a good one.
      There is no doubt that Tommy Sheridan still has some personal support. Maybe not enough to win a seat, but enough to split the vote further.

      It’s a shame the Greens / RISE / Solidarity are so similar.
      There is a case for tactical voting in certain circumstances, but it is so hard to predict and could easily backfire. Three parties fighting for the same hard left vote reinforces that.

      The SNP / SNP case is very strong because there is a precedent.
      It worked last time to get an independence majority and a referendum.

      A referendum is the time for everyone to come together in a bipartisan campaign for a better Scotland. The SNP seems like the best vehicle to get that referendum in the first place.

      OK, Nicola isn’t keen on another vote in the next few years, but that’s fair enough, and respects the 2014 vote. I am sure the manifesto will leave it open for 2020 or 2021, or sooner if circumstances change. After all, it is the SNP’s ‘raison d’etre’

      I did find a statement from the Greens with a good idea – a million strong petition when people want a second referendum. That avoids the trap of setting ridiculous polling targets too.

  3. carthannas says:

    Sorry, I’m with James Kelly on this. I understand that you have a right to edit your own site but it seemed to me that you were trying to influence what he wrote. Any issues you had with his views could have been taken up after the article had been published, rather than before the event.

    1. Sorry – but the point of editing is that you don’t just publish and ‘take it up with them after’

      1. carthannas says:

        I didn’t actually say ‘take it up with them after’ but I should have made it clear that I meant that discussion could take place where we could all see and take part in it.

        1. Well, yes of course. The basic truth is – as you say “I understand that you have a right to edit your own site”. That’s all I was in the process of doing

      2. Jim McIntyre says:

        Sorry Mike, I thought your whole argument for putting up the previous articles that pissed off everyone was to “allow debate”. The e-mail exchange is pretty uninteresting and you’re wrong it does not take long to find ‘tactical voting’ slogans from the fringe parties. There is a video of Tommy Sheridan calling for tactical voting. I am not even a political aficionado.

        I am all for Greens/RISE/whatever having a go at the SNP or whatever, what disturbs me is an article in Common Space saying SNP supporters are zombies. How was that not ‘partisan’? How is that ‘new media’? Why have you written no article explaining how ludicrous that is coming from a party styling themselves on radical leftists in Greece and Spain. Are we meant to believe the Workers revolt will start by having a go at the head of a regional parliament? It’s stupidity.

        Then there is the little fact that the election is for the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster. What the hell can anyone do in the Scottish Parliament and what is the point in getting worked up about it? RISE will/will not cut Air Passenger Duty? Viva la revolucion! Greens will implement increase a tiny subsidy to wind farms? Our countryside is saved!

        Let’s get some perspective about what the Scottish Parliament elections are really about (an attempt to appease disgruntled Scots) and even with Smith, it is not as if it can really change anything. Sure, it might be nice that the Radical Indy crew get a wee reward of an MSP for their hard work in the indyref, but a lot of folk worked hard in the ref and believe in independence.

        1. Hi Jim – which are “the previous articles” that pissed off everyone? And who is “everyone”?

          1. Jim McIntyre says:

            It is a figure of speech. I was referring to the controversy in the last article “Shsh for Indy”, which is basically a hatchet job against a single SNP activist, you know what we are all kind of discussing now.

            If you want to make Bella truly cutting edge, you should go for a “I am not a Tory for supporting Ruth Davidson, isn’t she bloody marvelous” article, followed by a series of follow-up articles suggesting anyone who suggests otherwise is partaking in “aggressive thought-policing” (from another article lambasting SNP supporters last month).

      3. Alban Fry says:

        It does strike me, Mike, that your main concern with James’ piece is with the actual content, i.e. you don’t accept the argument he’s making.

        I can understand an editor interfering, as it were, on tone, or length, or on some legal issue. But the content, the meat of the argument is surely sacrosanct. You are either willing to publish the argument, or you’re not. It does seem in this case, you were not. Which is your affair, I suppose, but rather underlines (sic) James’ argument that you were simply unhappy giving airtime to an argument counter to your own views. That doesn’t strike me as the proper role of an editor.

        1. Hi Alban – thanks for this. I clearly was going to publish the argument (as I say: “I never considered major surgery”.

      4. Alastair50 says:

        I hate to quote Rumsfeld but, in terms of the arguments, we do seem to be in the ‘known unknown’ sector here.

        I’m more concerned at the ‘editing’ process on display. Like many people, I’ve found Bella Caledonia stimulating and wonderfully wide-ranging. But, if the editor thinks that it’s his or her job to shape and mould articles in the way that was quite clearly attempted here, then that’s mistaken. By all means correct spelling and grammar so that we’re not distracted, and by all means ask authors to condense excessively long pieces, or expand pieces where they don’t do justice to the arguments, but don’t, please, attempt to impose an editorial direction. We’re perfectly capable of assessing authors’ arguments and responding.

  4. stephen says:

    After reading above article,it will be SNP X 2 for me .

  5. David says:

    Yep, I agree that you ought to have put the article up as was & allowed open debate to follow. Would’ve saved any unnecessary upset. The e-mail exchange does read like you weren’t allowing the article to go up unless its main thrust was modified.

  6. Ian says:

    Apart from the simple literary criticism of James’ piece, that it is long and heavy going, how many voters on the day will vote with any of this in mind?

  7. Bigdav says:

    Are we not all dancing around an ‘inconvenient truth’ – we need to get over the line, and all things considered that really means SNP x 2 ….

    1. What does ‘get over the line’ mean? I know you mean independence but what is the strategy for gaining it? It doesn’t seem at all clear. Maybe I’m wrong. Would love someone to explain it

      1. Alex Buchan says:

        You’ve put your finger on it. If there is a strategy it won’t be shared, except perhaps by senior SNP people speaking off the record to the unionist press. In reality there is no strategy except to keep pressing for more powers.

        Sturgeon is planning for the long haul. Presumably she hopes to transform Scotland, which is no bad thing and in my opinion an essential prerequisite to winning any future indyref, but in the mean time Scotland will endure Tory rule and the Tories will try to ensure that the Scottish economy is spiked so as to head off any indyref2.

        No UK Government will ever concede a referendum again and any referendum called by Holyrood, if not knocked back by the courts, will be derailed by the press who will mount a campaign of abstention by no voters and declare the result meaningless. So indyref2 is a nonstarter and we delude ourselves by arguing over it.

        But the UK state is also being changed beyond recognition. More powers for Holyrood will only add to the pace of that change and Westminster’s perceived relevance will wain even more, which is already putting pressure on the BBC etc with Tony Hall already all but capitulating on the totemic issue of the Scottish 6.

        So if there is a strategy it is gradualism taken to its ultimate conclusion with perhaps the possibility of exploiting any situation that arises, such as Bexit. But in the absence of a strategy for indyref2, which in any case will never happen, the priority becomes keeping the SNP in power which eventually will corrupt the SNP.

        So your damned right Mike we need to discuss strategy.

        1. DB1 says:

          Any refusal or boycott of a second referendum would turn the 2021 Holyrood elections into an independence referendum by default. And then the possibility of UDI by a majority of Scottish MPs.
          Realistically, it would be the biggest recruitment drive that the SNP and the independence cause could possibly hope for.

          I don’t think the unionists want that either. We all have to get along afterwards. A friendly democratic referendum is better for everyone, or as you imply, a friendly agreed independence achieved gradually.

          1. Alex Buchan says:

            DB1 It would be great if it was that simple but Nicola Sturgeon has categorically rejected UDI and stated that independence will only come through another referendum and that a second referendum needs evidence of persistent support for independence in opinion polls before it should happen. This is all we know in concrete terms of the SNP’s strategy for independence.

            My point was that there are a lot of assumptions built into this position which there is little evidence can be over-come easily if at all, such as requiring a UK government to oblige in granting a referendum and winning that persistent support in opinion polls against a backdrop of a hostile press and a UK government that will de everything in its power to make sure that the conditions are never favourable for Scottish independence. The effect of this strategy is to take the initiative out of the hands of activists and hands it over to the Scottish government, UK government and the press with the only real role for the activist seen as getting behind the SNP in persuading voters of independence. In effect it equates maintain a SNP majority with winning independence (I’m not disagreeing with the need for a SNP majority only the lack of space for analysis and intelligent debate over all of this)

            It’s the contradictions of this position of making independence dependant on a continuing SNP majority and a favourable UK government which has the effect of killing off debate on strategy because when strategy is handed down from the top debating strategy can easily be seen as an attack on Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. Arguments like the one we’ve witnessed over this blog post are a symptom of the political situation we are in and the lack of room we have at present for open debate because of the way that the question of indyref2 has been framed.

        2. Galbraith says:

          the Strategy is being discussed….

          We do not need permission for nor require to hold Indyref 2.

          The Scottish Government has all the power it needs right now, what it lacks is the majority of people in Scotland realising the power we actually have.
          The SNP were careful to call for a referrendum as they realised that many were brainwashed by years of media and political control into thinking the UK are our Lord and Masters…

          The indyref opened up the debate and opened up more eyes….

          We have the power to pass any legislation we want and the UK supreme court cannot overrule it…..The SNP are allowing time for the majority of us to realise it and come to terms with it…

          after that…….the need for indyref2 will disappear

          1. Alex Buchan says:

            I would have thought the recent past would have opened peoples eyes, but clearly not. The Scottish Parliament was set up to police itself for the benefit of the UK state. Patricia Marwick is advised by legal advisors to block all legislation which breaches the strict limits put on the Scottish Parliament’s powers, and has shown that who ever is presiding officer will be obliged to use those powers. This fact alone highlights the case for having a wider range of indy parties. There is a convention that the role of presiding officer is rotated among the different parties. The SNP has already had the position twice Labour has never had the position and there would be pressure for a MSP Labour to be appointed next unless there were a sufficient number of Green MSP’s to plausibly argue they could get it.

      2. Jo says:

        I think Sturgeon has made it clear that the coming elections are not about independence Mike. They’re about getting another SNP majority at Holyrood so that her Party can continue leading the government in Scotland on day to day Scottish business. That’s her priority and I’d agree with her on that. So it isn’t something we can gamble with using tactical voting on the second votes.

        The “shhh for indy” stuff has been really irritating. Three different articles lately, one of yours in Bella, another in Common Space and a third from Angela Haggerty in the Sunday Herald were all very anti-SNP. I don’t see the need for the hostility. I’m an SNP (ex-Labour) voter but I am happy to criticise SNP policy when I see fit. I’m not a zombie.

        It seems to me a strange thing for any Party to suggest the second vote can just be handed over to them. I want to hear RISE talking policies not just asking me to give them my second vote. That’s kind of arrogant. RISE is a very new Party and there is a view out here, held by some, that the SSP is using RISE as a vehicle to grab a list seat because they wouldn’t have a hope in hell of getting one standing under their own banner. The seething hatred between the SSP and Sheridan’s Solidarity is still boiling even now. That could affect the vote for RISE too, perhaps?

        It’s clear that this spat between you and James has been frustrating for you. Having read the email exchanges though it did seem to me that you were trying to get him to change his view rather than publish and let the debate flow from there. That’s a shame.

        1. RabMac says:

          I found Angela Haggerty’s article quite strange; she complains about the “Scottish blogosphere tearing itself apart” then proceeds to rip into GA Ponsonby for publishing a piece she disagrees with. A real pot/kettle situation.

      3. Iain says:

        Consolidating the SNP’s dominance is at present the only credible strategy for achieving independence. The SNP is the only political party in Scotland which can exert any muscle on behalf of the Scottish people, the only one which scares the UK Establishment, the only force which can break the UK. Nothing would please the unionists more than being able to find some weakening of support for the SNP. If the Greens and RISE could take the votes of the remaining Labour diehards – fine. But it’s only the SNP that the UK Establishment is concerned about.

        We want another referendum, but this time it has to come about through the SNP responding to a marked popular clamour rather apparently seeking to impose it – a clamour which will arise naturally when there is sufficient support for independence to ensure victory. At the moment, the support for independence is probably no better than equal to that for the Union, but I reckon we’re winning. Backing the SNP has brought us this far, and as one who has supported the cause through crashing disappointments and times of little hope for half a century, I have to reject any voting tactics which might result in an ‘own goal’ and succour our opponents. There’ll be opportunities after independence for a range of opinions to win representation.

  8. Jake Gittes says:

    SNP 1 and 2 for me also. James makes a convincing case of the dangers of seeking to “game” the system on the List. Take a moment to imagine how we might all feel if this went wrong.

    I can appreciate the point of view of the radical Indy left and their presence in Holyrood would be welcome. But at what cost? A careerist Slab Westminster reject? Their support seems minimal and as James says, name recognition poor. It would be a collosal punt to go there.

    My advice to the radical Indy left is concentrate on
    (1) Working on the Slab vote to make inroads there.
    (2) Plan for post Indy Scotland where they will come into their own in a fresh new polity.

    But the only realistic vehicle to get us all there is the SNP, which upon the achievement of Independence will have served it’s purpose.

    By the way to assume as Mike does that the SNP might not have an IndyRef2 commitment in the 2016 Manifesto is wrong. Heavily caveated maybe to take account of polling and the volatile political climate they operate in in order to give us the best chance of winning, but it will be there.

    1. I dont assume anything, I just point out that it’s not there at the moment, is it?

  9. Graeme says:

    The article should have been edited based on length alone, but the exchange does look like you were trying to influence not just the form and tone of the article, but also its political conclusions.

    I’m a regular reader of Bella and for what it’s worth I think your original piece was a well argued one. In contrast I’m not a regular reader of Scot Goes Pop and don’t particularly like it on the rare occasions that I do.

    The reason I mention this is so you can see what angle I’m coming from.

    1. Thanks Graeme – except the evidence says otherwise? As I said to James: “I never considered major surgery, I was / am just trying to establish a better quality of debate?”

      1. Graeme says:

        Sorry I should have quoted an example. In your first email I feel that the first point is a factual and asking him to (rightfully) provide evidence. The second one is asking for more detail (again fine) but I felt like your third point was down to political interpretation and felt a bit like you were asking him to change his political conclusions rather than to expand on them.

        “Thirdly, I think the broad green left will be contributing to the mass tactical vote that will deliver an SNP landslide on the first vote, and this seems to be ignored in your analysis. And that this feeds into the reality that the SNP cannot win indyref 2 alone.”

        That may be my interpretation, but I can see why he read it that way (although a cynic might suggest he would always have seen it that way no matter what you said!!!)

        Obviously the last few days have seen a fair amount of back and forth on blogs and social media, and I think a lot (if not all) of the criticisms aimed at Bella have been totally unfounded and unfair. You run an excellent blog with a varied and engaging content.

        1. Thanks Graeme. The third point I was making was simply that people of a wider progressive outlook (but members of no political party) would be voting SNP in large numbers. I think James might have misunderstood this.

      2. James Cassidy says:

        I think Awizgonny summed it up perfectly. The article was not being edited for reasons of length, clarity, accuracy, but because it didn’t fit with your views.
        As the administrator of the website it’s up to you what you put on it. It would have been easier if you had just been honest and rejected it. The “I was going to publish it all along” line just doesn’t sit right.; it sounds like an after the fact cop out.

        The article, as submitted, seems a fairly decent one. Despite my not intending to vote SNP for 1 or 2 it does seem to be a fair and honest summary of the pitfalls of trying to vote tactically.

        1. I don’t know what an ‘administrator’ of a site is. I think you must be confused.

          1. Awizgonny says:

            I think he meant “editor”. It’s an inadvertent malapropism.

  10. Alex Buchan says:

    I want to congratulate you Mike on your decision to publish the email exchange along with James’ article. It may have taken the unfolding of events to bring this about but I’m glad it did. I agree with your comments in the email exchange and by revealing them you’ve helped to rebalance Bella after the ‘Shsh for Indy’ piece which seemed to add to the bad blood there been these last few days.

  11. Kenny says:

    Bloody hell. I hope Mike Small has a nice nanny who’ll pick all his toys up and put them back in his pram.

    To be honest, James isn’t much better, but at least he’s absolutely honest about his intentions and his goals. Mike’s “range of views” spiel is blown out of the water by those emails. I mean, it’s not like one or two of Loki’s recent articles on Bella haven’t been extremely divisive and even quite hurtful to some people. That’s not a reason not to publish them. Indeed, they sparked a lot of debate and for what is essentially a glorified blog, that’s a really important thing. And in between some of the more irate responses (which are absolutely inevitable on the internet) they made people discuss the issues and think about things from a different perspective. That’s all to the good. But it’s come to a pretty pass when an article saying (truthfully) that you can’t really game the d’Hondt system without running serious risks of it backfiring and that the safest pro-indy vote is SNP/SNP is somehow not fit for publication, but lying to people about the viability of gaming the system is absolutely fair and right and, as James notes, pretty much the editorial line of Bella.

    Pathetic. Embarrassing. Stupid. It’s just as well only a minority of actual voters read Bella or SGP. This bullshit is what makes ordinary people switch off from politics altogether.

    1. Helayne says:

      Ha! Ha! Seems the Ed. is very sensitive. The emails do smack of censorship, with a 4×4; no matter how many times the Ed. jumps up and down.

      1. I’m not sure how saying: “I never considered major surgery” is censorship?

    2. CMac says:

      The thing is with the SNP polling at 50+% on the 1st vote there is no such thing as “serious risk”. It really is a case of worst case 1 or 2 more unionist, best case 5 or 6 more pro indy. His analysis only holds if the SNP only get as low as 40% on the day – no evidence that this is a possibility.

      James’ certainty in his piece is predicated on extremely conservative thinking to the point that he dismisses but not disproves the alternative viewpoint. Mike therefore had every right to suggest some balance could be added to make the final piece a strong and well informed contribution to the debate… alas, it was James who threw the toys I’m afraid. Blocked Peat Worrier and James Devoy on twitter for light-heartedly joking about it as well… dear me, how old?

      1. James Kelly says:

        Let’s not drag poor James Devoy into this – I haven’t blocked him.

        1. CMac says:

          Oh aye, ’twas yon other one right enough!

      2. Indeed CMac – and you are left wondering why people are so insecure and desperate about this? RISE has barely existed a few weeks, and, as I outlined in Shshs for Indy piece – the SNP are riding high in every poll and way of measuring approval.

        I think you mean Jack Foster rather than James Devoy btw.

  12. David Francis says:

    What a lot of fuss about nothing.
    Good to see Kelly’s article belatedly published on Bella.
    For the life of me, I cannot understand why its contents should have caused such a problem for this site.
    Kelly’s points give a balanced view to others I have read on here – and that, in itself, is a good thing.

  13. Andrew says:

    Reading the email exchange, it does seem as if Bella were trying not to publish and asking questions that the author couldn’t have made changes in response to without substantially changing the thrust of the article.

    I’m perplexed by the Bella response regarding “tone”. I didn’t see anything wrong in the “tone” which was being used and Bella’s response came across, to me at least, as slightly condescending.

    It’s a shame Bella couldn’t publish the article as-is, in the first place, if, as i always believed it was, a platform fir many viewpoints.

  14. Awizgonny says:

    There seems to me to be a definite attempt by the editor to change the stance of the article in the email exchange. Many of the comments regarding the article would be more suited to the comments section. It was not the business of Bella Caledonia to require the article to be more conciliatory, but to either reject the article, or sub it for clarity and brevity, check it for accuracy, and publish it.
    I believe you invited James to submit the article so you could play him by suggesting changes you knew he would not accept (while at the same time allowing yourself the luxury of some highly evaluate terms and finger-wagging elsewhere on your site), and then present yourself as Honest Broker. A classic ploy in the Dark Arts.
    So please, whatever you do, don’t have temerity to present yourself as promoting openness and debate. You’ve shown yourself to represent nothing of the sort.

    1. Hi Awizgonny, I’m not sure how saying “I never considered major surgery” is the ‘dark arts’? As you can see from the exchange its pretty standard fare between a writer and editor.

      1. Rachel says:

        Your first reply to him said it all and said it well: you have a lot of pieces on the subject queued up, you are looking for an original contribution of the correct tone. That is the right of an Editor and sounds like an intelligent way to run a magazine (I’m a former media editor).. That is ALL you needed to say, it was a mistake to get involved in a correspondancd.

      2. Awizgonny says:

        Saying you didn’t do something doesn’t prove you didn’t do it. And as a former journalist who trained under a former Express sub-editor, I know the substantive difference between editing for clarity, accuracy and sources, and what is in those emails. You were taking issue with his point of view – in several instances – and you were also asking for a tone that was conciliatory in approach, something that, as I said above, you did not seem to require of your own article. “Acolytes”, indeed. Pot, kettle, black.
        These comments belonged in the comments section, or in a respondent article, not in the editorial process.
        And then the cherry on the cake – you printed the article, but made sure it would be read in the context of the emails by prefacing it with them and your own comments on that correspondence, hoping to paint the author as an unreasonable person thereby. Otherwise, why do it? You could have published the email correspondence at a later date. Or not at all.
        And while all this ridiculous piece of flyting is being indulged in, the real issues are being ignored, such as those I outlined below in another comment.

  15. Iam Scott says:

    There’s one point I’m not hearing from either side of the tactical voting argument, namely the tipping point for another referendum.

    The simple reality is that it is only with an SNP administration in Holyrood that we can get a second referendum.

    Nicola has made it clear that she needs to see that the Scottish electorate want that before indyref 2 can get the green light.

    It seems clear to me that we can’t rely on opinion polls for this, and the only poll that matters is in actual elections. Therefore indyref 2 requires overwhelming support for the SNP in this election.

    So even though I do not consider myself an SNP supporter, they will be getting both my votes to put pressure/give confidence to the SNP to deliver indyref 2.

    1. CMac says:

      Why is 50%+ of the vote for SNP any better than 50%+ for pro-indy parties?

      1. Awizgonny says:

        It’s not. No-one’s claiming that it is. What is being argued is that by voting for RISE or any of the other small parties, the nature of how the List vote is shared out presents a real risk of handing regional seats which could have gone to the SNP to Lab, Lib or Con candidates, thereby denying the SNP an absolute majority.

        The thing is, in amongst all this sound and fury, there’s a real dilemma for the pro-Independence voter. Should they vote for the SNP if the party does not commit to another referendum within the next parliament? Or should they trust the gradualist approach which seems to be its present position?
        On the other hand, by basing their vote on the Independence ticket alone, are they in danger of losing the SNP’s majority? In which case, they may then tie the SNP’s hands in the more immediate task of governing Scotland. Do people want that?
        And here’s the final dilemma: although the SNP is leading in the polls both in Scotland and in Westminster, if it were to commit to another referendum now, other polls show that there is no clear wish in the electorate either for a referendum soon, or indeed by some even later, including many who vote SNP at the moment. So there would be little question that many who vote SNP as best-suited now to either govern in Holyrood or to sit in Westminster on their behalf, would not vote for the SNP if another referendum was in the manifesto.

    2. Hi Iam – you make a great point – I’ve been trying to say the same. I tried to engage James on this issue, essentially saying ‘Ok vote 1&2, then what?’ As a movement we need to have a) a proper honest reflection on what went wrong (which avoids just pointing fingers at other people) and b) develop a clear strategy for indyref2. I see neither happening anywhere.

      1. JamesMac says:

        I think that is wrong. We – as a movement – need to be realistic about what can be acheived in Scotland. We do not have the powers over the economy and most debates are about marginal expenditure (a few extra £££ on x instead of y).

        The UK is incapable of changing. Even Corbyn’s Labour are proposing nothing to get excited about. Going over the ref and certainly arguing about tactical voting is pointless. If the radical fringe want to be taken seriously, they should advocate legislating on reserved matters in spite of Westminster such as legalising cannabis through sentencing guidelines. As it stands we know the SNP want indy and even if it is ten years away, they will push for that.

  16. Alan says:

    Not sure I want to get into this aside from a comment that I’m in agreement with the Wee Ginger Dug’s comments on The Great Scottish Blog War.

    What all this means is that when you vote you should do so according to the dictates of your own conscience. Tactical voting in Scottish elections is fraught with danger. It’s futile to try and game a voting system as opaque as the D’Hondt method used in Scottish parliamentary elections and attempts to do so risk allowing a Unionist party to get in through the back door….The point being, I will vote for whoever is standing locally that I believe in and who I trust to help bring about an independent Scotland that is an accepting and tolerant place that values all its citizens equally, and I suggest that you do the same. That is the essence of democracy, and that’s the kind of Scotland that we’re all striving for, irrespective of our differences.

  17. Conan the Librarian™ says:

    Is the pissing contest over? I’d like to get back to getting independence for Scotland…

  18. Alex Birnie says:

    When Bella Caledonia appeared on the scene, I was excited by the thought of a new, cutting edge media outlet that would “tell it as it is”, without fear or favour. Sadly, it has turned out to be a mouthpiece for a particular political mindset – that of RISE. (I will insert here that I read everything that Robin McAlpine writes, and he is one of my heroes). Bella Caledonia is now no better or worse than the Daily Mail, only from the opposite end of the political spectrum. The National publishes fairly vituperative letters from staunch unionists, which in turn generate exchanges with yessers – it’s called open debate, but according to the message you have sent by publishing your email exchange with James, the RISE ideology is too fragile to allow barbarians like James to trample over it. Pity……

    1. Alex I’m glad you were excited when we appeared but sad too that we are now no better than the Daily Mail. Poor Bella.

      1. Chris Baxter says:


      2. Alex Birnie says:

        You are glad that I was excited about the appearance of Bella, but you aren’t sad that I feel that it is no better than the Daily Mail? I was making a serious point, and instead of making a sarcastic remark, you should have either replied politely, or refrained from answering…..Poor Bella indeed! Is sarcasm going to help Bella become more popular?

  19. baronesssamedi says:

    As I always say – as soon as things get in ANY way heated, get on the phone. This is all just silly.

  20. Mike Fenwick says:

    Sorry to interrupt …

    Quote Nicola Sturgeon: “To propose another referendum in the next parliament without strong evidence that a significant number of those who voted No have changed their minds would be wrong and we won’t do it. [But] if there is strong and consistent evidence that people have changed their minds and that independence has become the choice of a clear majority in this country, then we have no right to rule out a referendum and we won’t do that either.”

    If there is a task that needs undertaken, it is to unite in finding all of the ways that allow for that strong and consistent evidence to be found, to be demonstrated, to be convincing and to be effective in achieving a Yes majority.

    Or am I wrong?

  21. Chris Baxter says:

    @Mike Small

    Your prerequisites for publishing James Kelly’s invited (because you did invite it) article are peculiar, and not standard editorial practice.

    Dressing yourself up as a professional editor in an attempt to belittle someone is rather unbecoming as well.

    Your actions on this topic are probably the death-knell for many for this site.

    1. Hi Chris, I’ve been editing this site for almost a decade – and I’ve been a journalist for a decade before that. I’m not ‘dressing myself up’ as anything, nor am I belittling anyone.

      1. Chris Baxter says:

        Thanks for your reply, Mike:

        “So here’s the email exchange we had which shows that not only did I not ‘censor’ or ‘reject’ or ‘ban’ his article but was in dialogue about how to improve it. That’s what editors do.”

        Are you suggesting that it’s standard editorial practice to demand that contributors bow to your personal opinions before publishing an article?

        Editors typically publish a variety of opinion pieces (because these are pretty much all opinion pieces), many of which they will disagree with. If they were to follow your own methods, their outlets would become personal fiefdoms with little opportunity for expansive and constructive debate. If the latter is your intention, then fine, but it’s best to state that openly, rather than categorically suggest that your site is the opposite of that.

        Given that you also knew that there would be the preconditions to the invited article, and that James Kelly would most certainly not bow to them, then you could have informed him of that in advance, rather than waste his (and your) time.

        We’re all biased, to some extent. Sometimes it pays to recognise that.

        From my own personal viewpoint, the conduct from this site regarding these issues is not dissimilar to the BBC’s; have a quite distinct bias, but plead impartiality and transparency.

        1. I’m not sure what could be more transport than publishing my email exchange? I really really don’t expect contributors to ‘bow to my personal opinions’.

  22. Bryan Weir says:

    Seems to me like this is a “dummy out of the pram” moment. It illustrates that Bella is becoming no better than the MSM. Your insistence on censoring (call it minor surgery if you like) any article to align with your views is disappointing.

    It looks like your decision to publish this exchange has not had the intended effect. That’s good. Learn from it. Keep your feet on the ground or you’ll float away into the ether.

  23. Sandy Thomson says:

    Dear, dear. As a veteran of Scottish left politics, all this takes me back 40 years to the vicious arguments over Jim Sillars’ and Alex Neil’s breakaway ‘Scottish Labour Party’. At least this time, I haven’t heard anyone being accused of being a ‘Pablo-ite revisionist’ – an accusation hurled across the room at a friend of mine.
    The more we squabble, the better the bosses like it.

  24. Ian Gibson says:

    As a long time lurker on both sites, I was intrigued by this but not going to jump to any decisions without seeing the whole thing – and it certainly wouldn’t have troubled me if that didn’t come to pass. Now that it has, and having read James’s version of events, I’d make a couple of observations:

    James quickness to anger initially surprised me – but then, having gone back and read it thoroughly, it seems that he probably worked through the night to produce this solicited piece. I might well be less than completely sanguine in such circumstances.

    But for me, the major point is that I’m afraid to say that this site is for me increasingly trending towards the tone and modus operandi of some of the more vehement anti-independence blogs. I’ve made the mistake of trying to have dialogues with a couple of them – Vox Political and Chokkablog – and gave up fairly quickly. There is an increasing tendency towards authoritrianism in the way these are moderated. The latter particularly threatened to block me within about 3 or 4 lines of exchange if I didn’t stop pursuing the line of argument I was taking, which was a reasonable one articulated in a completely moderate and respectful tone.

    I’m afraid the correspondence above has the same feel about it to me. It seems to me that your difficulty was with the content of James’ argument, and despite your (after the event) protestations about surgery, you were in fact seeking for him to lessen the strength of his argument in his article and using the implied ‘threat’ of not publishing to do that. As others have said, the debate would have been far better served by publishing uninfluenced, and then arguing.

    Neither side comes out of this well, but James has at least been consistent, direct and honest. I don’t think the same can be said for Bella.

    1. So this morning I’ve been compared to the Daily Mail and vehement anti-independece blogs. God this is depressing.

      1. Bryan Weir says:

        Learn from it.

  25. Big Bungle says:

    It’s amazing to me that it was thought appropriate to try to edit this (very reasonable) article when it was in response to an article that was itself complaining about allegedly not having the views of some pro-indy campaigners taken seriously i.e. being told to shsh.

    If we can’t rise above:

    A) Playing the victim and
    B) Using the msm tactic of extrapolating from individual cases of twitter moronism to try to argue there is some kind of conspiracy against (insert group or idea here)

    …then all we will do is erode support from within.

    1. As editor I think it appropriate to edit things. Shock horror probe.

      1. Big Bungle says:

        What’s the editorial position?

        Shsh for RISE?

        I’m all for new parties but to take the line of “don’t waste your vote on the SNP vote for us” and not expect some blowback from within the indy camp seems a bit naive.

        1. What’s the editorial position? We support independence (and have done for a decade). We don’t support any one political party and our board is made up of members of the SNP, the Scottish Green Party, RISE and, probably more importantly none.

  26. Matt says:

    “It’s the Judean Peoples’ Front!”
    “No, it’s the Peoples’ Front of Judea!”

    No wonder we struggle to get anywhere.

  27. Thrawn says:

    This whole issue highlights the fundamental issue surrounding nationalism….its defining nature is that it cares nothing about people and how they live other than what nation they are. If you really believed a UK Tory government would “destroy” the lives of Scots why would you vote for the only party in Scotland who could at best could do nothing to prevent it happening and at worst actively help bring it about unless the long term goal of independance was more important than the short term “pain” of other Scots

    And i feel that is what Mike is groping towards…the SNP don’t believe in the things he believes in other than independence or if they do they are willing to compromise and hedge on those beliefs if it serves the higher purpose of independence. With RISE as a second preference vote he is trying to have his cake and eat it

    1. K1 says:

      ‘This whole issue highlights the fundamental issue surrounding nationalism….its defining nature is that it cares nothing about people and how they live other than what nation they are.’

      Quite an opening statement Thrawn.

      How do you square that outlook with all other countries on the planet? All countries have borders, that’s the defining nature of ‘country’. Internationally recognised agreements, lines that separate one country from it’s neighbouring countries. Do none of these ‘nations’ ‘care nothing about people and how they live other than’…that they belong to their ‘respective’ nation?

      Or does your statement merely have a parochial application…concerning Scotland? Our ‘nationalism’ is ‘bad’, cause ‘it’ doesn’t care about people or if it does, it’s only because they are ‘Scottish’ people?

      Can you see it Thrawn? Can you see the ‘narrowness’ in your own eye.

      ‘If you really believed a UK Tory government would “destroy” the lives of Scots why would you vote for the only party in Scotland who could at best could do nothing to prevent it happening and at worst actively help bring it about…’

      You would vote for the SNP because they at least attempt to mitigate some of the worst excesses of same Tory government (e.g. bedroom tax). How they ‘would actively bring…about’ ‘destroy’ing the lives of Scots’ I have no idea? Do enlighten us.

      So you are saying Mike is ‘piggybacking’ on the SNP’s ascendance? Using this moment in history to advantage a party that he favours (RISE) on the back of the fortunes of a party he does not align himself with (SNP). It’s his only chance?

      Ergo wanting his cake and eating it?

      You come across, cynical. And mibbe a wee touch…bitter. Are you?

      1. Thrawn says:

        “How do you square that outlook with all other countries on the planet?”

        Quite simply…the main aim of SNP is independance….and will (and has) espouse any policy that furthers that aim. Barring other separatist parties the main aim of all other political parties in major democracies is better the lives of their citizens (or at worst try and stop them from getting worse) even if they all approach it from different directions and philosphies.

        “You would vote for the SNP because they at least attempt to mitigate some of the worst excesses of same Tory government (e.g. bedroom tax). How they ‘would actively bring…about’ ‘destroy’ing the lives of Scots’ I have no idea? Do enlighten us”

        The SNP might mitigate the “worst excesses” of the Tory party but in a UK wide FTTP system only one party had the possibility of preventing them and that was the Labour party…voting for the SNP made it more likely that they would have no chance of doing that. Also the behavior of the SNP in basically stating that the 5 million of Scotland would hold to ransom the 60 million of the rest of UK actively discouraged people from voting for Labour in England again leaving Scotland in Tory “clutches”

        BTW I say all this as a Tory who is delighted that the Labour party failed to get into power thanks to the SNP surge

        As for Mike…my point of view is that if he believes in real socialist politics then he should vote for it and be free to blog as much as he likes advocating for it and the attempts of SNP partisans to paint this as some grand betrayal is as chilling as it is illuminating

        1. K1 says:

          The main aim of the SNP is no different from the main aim in any other of the ‘major democracies’. Do you seriously dispute that because they support Scottish Independence that that somehow suggests that they do not want to ‘better the lives of their citizens (or at worst try and stop them from getting worse)…?’ Or that a fundamental aspect of wanting Independence is not rooted in wanting to ‘better the lives of their citizens’? Their ‘philosophical’ approach is not an unrecognisable model in our democratic pantheon either, in the modern context.

          There is nothing ‘wrong’ with wanting Independence Thrawn, you seem to be implying there is, is this how you feel about all peoples’ who seek self determination throughout our world? I mean I obviously have to cite the number of countries that were once part of the Empire here, were they ‘wrong’ to want their own autonomy. Or do you just not like the SNP?

          It is simply not true that the Labour party were prevented from forming the Government because of SNP votes Thrawn. The polls were the issue here. Not the votes. The weighting of the polls and the fact that pollsters often find the biggest samples coming from potential Labour votes, is what partly caused the ‘skewed’ polling. It is an absolutely refutable fact that the SNP did not prevent Labour forming the Government in May. And to absolutely hammer this point, please listen to this from Good Morning Scotland, this morning at 2.10.40, Professor Curtice explains to Gary Robertson what went wrong with the polling. He states it clearly, there was not some big shift toward the Conservatives caused by the ‘threat of the SNP’. Labour lost because not enough people in England voted for them.


          More importantly, if every one of the Scottish Labour MP’s had been returned, they still wouldn’t have beaten the Tories in our FPTT system, it wasn’t the SNP that done it Thrawn.

          That was propaganda: the term ‘holding to ransom’ was right wing rhetoric Thrawn promulgated by yer Daily Mails et al (do you read these papers?). Nicola Sturgeon suggesting that she would only work with the Labour party and never do a deal of any sort with the Tories, that the SNP and Labour (well supposedly!) are left of centre parties sharing a similar ‘philosophical’ outlook was not a ‘holding to ransom’ strategy, that is what it was ‘twisted’ into by the Tory supporting media. Fighting the Tories was the proposition.

          It was people voting for the SNP in this country Thrawn who felt that the SNP would be best placed in looking after our ‘citizens’ interests, as Labour in this country during the referendum sided with the Tories. What did they expect? A round of applause? The Tories as you well know, in Scotland got their lowest historical vote share of about 14%, must be hard for you living in a country were a big majority have gone mad…eh Thrawn? 🙂 (I of course imagine this is how you must feel…it’s whit they say in the papers anyway).

          But as you say you vote Tory, so it all worked out well for you and in fact you can be best pleased that Labour didn’t get into power, so it comes down to you just not liking the SNP. Fair enough.

          As for Mike, well I have no concrete opinion one way or t’other, I don’t think this ‘spat’ is about whether he is entitled to vote for who he wants. It’s about a misunderstanding at best and a difference of opinion at worst.

          ‘…and the attempts of SNP partisans to paint this as some grand betrayal is as chilling as it is illuminating’

          I think you are ‘extreme’ in terms of your use of language (at times), I don’t see anyone from the SNP painting ‘this as some grand betrayal.’ If anything it’s the other way around Thrawn, the smaller parties are wanting a shot and want those who support SNP on the constituent and regional lists to give their second vote to either RISE or Green, so that the parliament has more pro Indy parties and less Unionist representation. And as so many from the ‘left’ ‘lent’ their vote to the SNP in May, it’s a case of return the favour in 2016?

          I think the argument is about the ‘process’, which involves all the back and forth disagreements between the methods of achieving this. Each side has legitimate points, I certainly see no ‘chilling’ aspects, but then I’m not in your mindset, and it seems you couldn’t be in mine either. We’ll have to leave it at that…

          As for Mike…my point of view is that if he believes in real socialist politics then he should vote for it and be free to blog as much as he likes advocating for it and the attempts of SNP partisans to paint this as some grand betrayal is as chilling as it is illuminating

          1. K1 says:

            Oops…Wish you had an edit function Bella.

            That last paragraph is redundant, it was the last para on your reply to me Thrawn, for ease when replying, so’s I don’t have to scroll up and down the btl trying to remember what was said, I paste the comment I’m responding to in the comment box, and delete when done, just missed that last para, apologies. 🙂

        2. JamesMac says:

          Thrawn, as a Tory you hate and fear the SNP so – as a socialist – I will vote for them.

          As for Labour losing because of the SNP. The Labour Party is a joke, their Scottish activists are universally middle class Blairites and we said during the ref that Miliband would lose. He was a joke figure.

  28. Frank Wright says:

    I contributed to the last crowd-funder for Bella Celadonia. I have also contributed to Scot goes pop.

    James Kelly has a long track record of objectively commenting on polls, all through the Indepedence referendum. If there is a topic involving polling and voting, he should simply be allowed to present his opinion.

    I did not expect such strong editorial control here on Bella Caledonia. I am genuinely astonished.

  29. K1 says:

    Just curious Mike, James has a second edit on his latest blog stating that your last email to him came a while after the initial email exchanges between you ceased. Said he didn’t get it till ‘this afternoon’. (yesterday afternoon I presume)

    ‘Mike: Which question of your have I not replied to – and I will now?
    I never considered major surgery, I was / am just trying to establish a better quality of debate?’

    Can you tell me if this is the case? Simply because you have on more than one occasion btl quoted your own ‘I never considered major surgery’ as indicative of your stance with regard to publishing his article on Bella. The implication is that you ‘don’t’ have any issue with publishing his article per se, and want to continue dialoguing with him.

    But if he did not receive this reply from you before he posted his first blog about the ‘issue’ with Bella posting his article, it would make a bit more sense why he was upset as he hadn’t received that email from you by the time he had posted about his upset?

    I always think to be completely ‘open’ one has to publish the timestamp from the emails that one is referring to? Why go half measures.

    What could have been a simple misunderstanding could have been prevented from escalating to this extent if you had immediately sent that last email during the initial exchange. He may well have continued the dialogue with you.

    His piece is a well informed ‘opinion’ piece imv. Did it need this much ‘editorial’ input. It wasn’t ‘cut n paste’ ‘rearrange grammar’, ‘tidying up length’ et al that you were driving at, it was his entire premise.

    That is clear Mike.

    1. Bryan Weir says:

      Yes, I am getting the feeling that there is more to this than meets the eye.

  30. Peter Clive says:

    Guys … GUYS … look at us … squabbling … bickering …

    1. Frank says:


  31. Peter Clive says:

    We need vehicle or mechanism that allows us to maintain diversity of opinion with unity of purpose in the absence of a referendum campaign … see below …


  32. Mabel says:

    I am really disappointed in all this squabbling amongst independence supporters but I am more especially disappointed in Bella and your means of trying to defend the position you have taken here.

    From reading the above it seems to me now you were very much trying to dictate what was or was not the basic premise and argument of the article before you were willing to post it, and that seems to me to be far overstepping the role of a fair editor who welcomes opposing views and tries to give a platform to all – after all before the General election you even allowed an English Labour member to have his say and punt his views, yet now will not let an SNP voter explain his views before the Scottish elections?

    And in looking at some of your twitter exchanges with people who were supporting James I will add that as someone just following the exchanges and not active on twitter your responses came across there to me as very patronising, pompous and supercilious in the extreme. I am deeply disappointed.

    1. Elaine Black says:

      Me too. V disappointed. Had so much time for RIC and Greens and still do but RISE could have done so much more building a base in local council elections first and playing a canny long game. For the younger members I understand their impatience but Mr Small you are long in the tooth enough to know we are in the dogfight of our lives – better a social democratic SNP parliament than SLAB/ Blairites or Tories – no ? You may be comfortable risking that for higher values and a more ‘plural’ Scotland but I’ve had enough. Time to be as ruthless as the opposition. I sympathise with the dangers of an SNP Carte Blanche but now is not the time. I respect your view that there are some things more important to you than independence – although am sad at the tone of this spat. But for me , providing another stick to beat an SNP that is already getting it on all sides – the first successful independent supporting party we have ever had on a UK scale – is very, very wrong. Would be a shame if it all went wrong and tarnished Bellas achievements so far……

  33. Lennie says:

    What a great article and pretty much sums up the huge risk that splitting the pro Indy vote could pose.

    I did wrestle with the idea of splitting my vote but that article has totally made my mind up.

    Definitely SNP 1 and SNP 2 for me.

  34. Paul says:

    I enjoy the range of Indy blogs and will continue to enjoy them all, despite the latest “blog wars” (as one blog calls this latest exchange). It does seem to me that there are two issues that need not be personalised:
    1. Can the List vote be successfully manipulated?
    2. How is the next referendum come about?

    I’m not convinced 2 is actually a current election issue. For what it’s worth, I agree with the mantra we don’t just want to hold another referendum, we want to win one. I don’t think the conditions are any better now than they were in 2014, and are unlikely to be so in the next Parliament (barring Brexit). Therefore, the best way to move towards Indy2 is for the range of Yes groups to keep making the argument. Divided movements never achieve their aim, but the main strength of the Yes movement was incredible diverse yet united in its aim.

    1. is the contentious issue. There is a certain plausibility in thinking the list can be used tactically. After all, a rainbow parliament resulted in 2003 – but that was by accident, and was the result of a successful Green campaign that put into the minds of the electorate that the list vote was a second choice vote. This indirectly benefited the SSP and the Pensioners’ Party. Let me stress that I do not consider that tactic improper. In many ways, I’m not sure the SNP would have come up with a sufficiently robust second vote strategy (Alex Salmond for First Minister) to win in 2007 without it. However, it’s worth noting that even though the SNP were the main losers to that strategy, they still emerged with 27 seats because their general support was strong enough to gain list seats. With Labour currently predicted to win no FPTP seats, their core support will inevitably lead to a significant number of List seats. It’s not a case of the SNP being “gubbed” on the list – the system is designed to balance support and seats.

    There are three main problems to playing the list:
    a. The SNP clearly cannot endorse anything other than SNP 1 and 2. To do otherwise would be exposed as taking the voters for granted. Therefore, tactical voting would have to rely on social media, cutting the number of potential voters who would be exposed to the idea;

    b. I’m not persuaded there are actually that many voters who would be persuaded or would be interested enough to do so. There was clearly evidence of tactical voting in the General Election, especially in LibDem seats (where their vote held up and the others collapsed), yet there weren’t enough folk prepared to do it to make a difference. In Edinburgh, you didn’t need that many to do it, and there were of course the local factors.

    c. When you’re dealing with dividing votes by seats, you deal with very small margins of error. A substantial reduction in the SNP list support will almost certainly result in fewer list seats for them, but there is no guarantee it would result in a non-Unionist gain. This is especially the case (paradoxically) if Labour win no FPTP seats, because dividing their vote by 3 and 4 doesn’t result in a substantial reduction. This will probably raise the threshold required to get a seat from around 5% to 6%. To win two seats, a party would need double the Lib Dem vote +1 in most regions, more than half the Conservative vote, and more than a third of the Labour vote. That’s a tall order.

    If folk want to vote Green or another party because that’s who they support, then that’s what they should do. It’s another matter to tell SNP supporters that they *ought* to vote for one of those parties on the list, because it probably won’t result in the outcome they want. (The one exception may the Lothians, where it’s unlikely the SNP will pick up a list seat – to be honest if I lived there I would probably take the risk of Green with the List seat – but it’s a risk!)

    I would love to see the Greens come ahead of the LibDems. That is a realistic prospect, but in order to do that, they would have to take list votes off the Unionist parties. If they (and RISE) promote the line that SNP supporters should vote tactically, it may end up shoring up the Unionist vote (remember, Labour will be adopting an aggressive second vote strategy too!)

  35. Peter Clive says:

    Reasons to be cheerful

    Thoughts on this recent turbulence …


  36. Peter Clive says:

    Reasons to be cheerful

    Some thoughts on this recent turbulence …


  37. Bibbit says:

    I always supported Bella but this has put me off reading you now. I mean, if you are going to censor James Kelly’s opinion piece, what other so-called ‘independent’ articles have you censored before & in the future? Bella’s censorship flies in the face of everything I thought Bella & the wider YES movement stood for, i.e. open, honest debate and information transparency (as opposed to the MSM vested interests and BBC lack of bias. It seems Bella has vested interests and bias of its own. IT seems Bella, like the MSM & the BBC is not allowing dissenting voices to be heard, or if they are heard, they are only to be heard on Bella’s terms.

    Bella seems to have learned a lot from the Yoon MSM & BBC on shutting down debate and its petty mindedness reeks of labour’s infighting. Bella’s censorship has destroyed my trust in Bella which will make me think twice about clicking onto future Bella articles or contributing to future fund raisers. That makes me very angry. Bella does have a duty of care to its readers and that has been neglected. Bella readers are grown up enough to make up our own minds on how and why we vote. Don’t insult my intelligence, the way MSM, does by deciding what I can or cannot read.

    How the Yoons must be laughing all the way to the polling station, as the Indy side loses the moral high ground on transparency. A very sad day. So depressing.

    1. muttley79 says:

      I think you are assuming this dispute is of some great import, influence, and interest to the majority of voters. I see no real reason why a dispute between two political blogs is of any great importance to voters.

  38. chris ward says:

    I am glad to see Jame’s article published, although reading through the email exchange I am slightly surprised as they give the distinct impression that Bella was not willing to publish the article without substantial changes to the core actual arguement. IMHO It would probably have been better if the article had been simply published in the first place, perhaps with a commentary/ response from Bella outlining their disagreements.
    I have voted mainly for the SSP in elections down the years, but I have been much less impressed with RISE and what I percieve as a change in tone in recent times. There has been an emphasis on arguing over tactical voting strategies rather than trying to win votes based on policies. And to be frank the mathematical/statistical arguements advanced by the proponents of tactical voting on the Holyrood lists have been really poor (IMO). There has been a fair amount of hand waving and stating of the obvious truth that the SNP vote will (likely) be divided x7-x10 in the list. But no real examination of how these numbers will actually play out compared to the likely vote count for Greens and RISE (at the simplest, 10% of a very big number can still be much higher than 100% of a much smaller number). I have found the counter arguements advanced by James, and also Rev Stu, to be much more rigourous in crunching the numbers (with all the caveats about predicting actual vote counts) and therefore more compelling.
    But really what is dispointing is the line taken of argument taken by some members and supporters of RISE as published in articles in the National and various websites such as Bella. If you want to convinve people to vote for fundamental radical change you should be talking about the political issues, not trying to gather votes with appeals to game the electroral system that appear to be poorly supported by anaysis of the figures.
    I voted SNP for the first time at the last Holyrood elections, and then only in the constituency ballot (I voted SSP on the list). I had moved house recently and for the first time in my life faced a ballot paper with no left or green candidate. I surpised myself by voting SNP rather than spoiling the ballot paper, but I have never regreted the decision.
    This May I will be voting SNP in both ballots. It would be great to see SSP/Greens achive more MSPs at the expense of Labour/Lib-Dem/Tories, but the number crunching does not appear to favour that as a likely outcome. I would far rather use my vote to make a new SNP overall majority as likely as possible rather than risk that majority in order to elect more RISE/green MSPs.
    In future elections I may rethink my vote. However I find myself more likely to consider the Greens over RISE as I have been unimpressed with the change in emphasis that seems to have occured with the transition from SSP to RISE.
    But as other commentators have said, vote with your consience. Most particularly on the list. I have no wish to persuade convinced Green or RISE supporters to vote SNP on the list (though I think it does make sense for them to vote SNP in the constituencies).
    Actually having rambled on much longer than I intended I’d like to note that I don’t believ the 10% (or so) difference between the SNP vote in the constituency and list ballots is primarily down to tactical voting. I think it simply reflects the fact that many voters are supportive of both the SNP and the Greens, with a significant minority prefering the greens over the SNP and voting for their first prefernce on the list. I think this is how the d’Hondt (spelling?) system is designed to work.

  39. Jim Bennett says:

    This whole exchange is thoroughly depressing. Agree or not with Mike Small and Bella but Mike is not Lord Rothermere and Bella is not the Daily Mail. Contributors who say this sort of stuff are really and truly off their rockers.

    That said, I think RISE are victims of their own tactics. Concentrating on tactical voting at the expense of promoting actual programme is a very serious mistake. I honestly can’t think of another political occasion where so much vituperation is spent on arguing tactics rather than actual content.

    The SNP however, deserve to be challenged on a number of issues, including:
    – just exactly what is their independence strategy other than “trust Nicola”?
    – their temerity on a large range of issues that the Scottish Government do have control over e.g. land reform, housing, economy, living wage, education and police oversight.

    I want to create a participative democracy which has an emphasis on equality and social justice. I do not need to wait for independence for aspects of that to be modelled. Frankly, I despair at the “just wait for indy” cries. There are plenty of problems that we are well equipped wit the powers to address now. What matters is that there is a programme there to address them.

    I’ll vote SNP 1 because they offer the main pro-independence opportunity. However, I’ll vote for a YES party on the List ballot which reflects policies and programme most closely related to my other political views. I have no interest in gaming any system but also will not blindly vote SNP 1&2 when their main platform in domestic matters isn’t that much different from Labour’s (and never really has been).

    Let’s spend effort on speaking about housing, education, economy, land reform, wages, small town economic development, peripheral estate renewal, policing and the host of other areas of policy which we can do something with now.


  40. Redgauntlet says:

    Well done to Bella, for publishing this, and also the Shsh article the other day…

    ..we all want plurality of the press…at least we say we do. Bella has always been a bit edgy and a bit contrarian.

    If you want the SNP news sheet, then read The National or read Newsnet Scotland. The Rev does a good job at demolishing the lies peddled by the MSM. Each of them are necessary and a welcome addition. But nobody should take the humph because Bella stirs things up a bit, because that is what Bella is for, at least that is what I like about it.

    As for “censorhsip”…well, Mike Small just published the article he is accused of having censored…so how can anybody talk of censorship?

    Come on, this is all just a storm in a tea cup. Move on, folks.

    1. Frank Wright says:

      Bella Caledonia were not first to publish the article.

      The first publication of article that James kelly had written for Bella Caledonia was via his Scot goes pop! blog at 9:57am on 18th January.

      The question is whether Bella Caledonia would have published the article unchanged, without James kelly publishing it on Scot goes pop! blog first.

      1. K1 says:

        Thanks for that info. It does confirm that Mike’s last email to James was sent, After, James published his ‘Bella’ article on his own blog.

        Did you read Scot goes Pop’s article first Mike, before hastily sending that last email?

        Beginning to look affy silly Mike…not a good look. By not publishing the time stamps of the emails, you’ve attempted to ‘cover’ yersel, but it hasn’t worked?

        You are in the ‘wrong’ here and should now openly apologise to James, all the correspondence before your last email to him, makes his case, you attempted to manipulate him to alter the ‘essence’ of his article Mike, and claimed ‘editorial’ license as your excuse.

        Then, ‘it seems’ after he expresses his upset about this, publicly, your last email is sent to him stating no ‘major surgery’. The line you kept ‘flagging’ in your btl responses.

        As if to say: Look I’ve been’ reasonable’, ‘this proves it’.

        If James hadn’t casually mentioned receiving your last email in the ‘afternoon’ on the 18th, on his second edit later that evening, you’d have succeeded, to some degree, in perhaps convincing some people that your intentions were purely ‘editorially’ motivated.

        Alas Mike, it looks very strongly from the above, that you’ve allowed your ‘politics’ to usurp your objectiveness as an ‘editor’.

        You were attempting ‘major surgery’.

        James called you out, and you attempted a failed, backtrack wi this article.

        I don’t expect a response from you regarding this Mike, but for the sake of Bella’s integrity and standing and your loyal readership, you should now, at least be honest about your motivation regarding your decision not to publish James’s article on ‘ideological’ grounds, not ‘editorial’ grounds as you have claimed.

    2. Jim McIntosh says:

      Redgauntlet – “Well done to Bella for publishing this”. – Do you really think Bella would have published this if James Kelly hadn’t already published it on another blog and there hadn’t already been a stooshie on Twitter?

      This is Bella backpedaling while shouting “Help me Rhona” at the same time.

  41. Murray McCallum says:

    I personally don’t understand why James Kelly’s article wasn’t published in full in the first instance.

    I never realised that individual writers had to submit to their article being substantially changed by the Editor, especially on what seems to be a subjective topic.

    Isn’t the purpose of the comments section to challenge the writer? That way everyone can appraise a piece rather a single Editor.

  42. Davie says:

    I’ve contributed funding to both sites. I prefer Scot Goes Pop mainly because it is less challenging to my viewpoints. This in itself is a compliment to Bella and the variety of pieces it delivers.

    You’re wrong on this Mike. The pieces from Loki and Sshh have been close to the mark. James’s was hugely less contentious and should have been allowed to stand as submitted (though it was overlong). Your ‘get-out’ that you keep bringing up around ‘surgery’ is totally transparent; it was included when it was clear you had erred and were about to be exposed.

    Accept the error of judgement and let’s move on. You and Bella have built up enough goodwill over the years to ride this out.

  43. Conan the Librarian™ says:

    Sorry, I always thought Bella was up its ain erse anyway. Mind you James Kelly is a nippy sweetie an aw.

    A plague on both your houses.


  44. Sweep says:

    Dear, oh dear.

    Censorship of comments and blocking of dissenting views by argumentative and aggressive admins on your Facebook page have been a known issue for some time.

    Now we see attemps at political censorship of articles on the blog too.

    Why not just stand as a list candidate for Rise? Get it all out of your system. Then you can come back, refreshed and ready to continue your day job.

    1. Nobody’s censored anything, all of your wonderful comments have been published.

      1. Bryan Weir says:

        I left the Facebook because of censorship and autocratic administrators.

        1. Bryan Weir says:

          Sorry – Facebook Group.

    2. No comments have been censored. No articles were or are censored on the blog. I am not nor will I be a candidate for Rise. But thank you for joining the chorus of bile.

      1. K1 says:

        ‘chorus of bile’ ‘mob’. Are you just going to stick to your guns here Mike?

        Keep firing off sarcastic bullets in the face of justified criticism in this case.

        Why don’t you respond to my comments, are they ‘bile’ Mike?

        Do you assume I and others who can see clearly that you have ‘backtracked’ are part of a ‘mob’?

        You’re not helping yourself wi these comebacks…you ain’t no victim Mike.

      2. Frank says:

        No one has suggested that you are a candidate for Rise – but you have become their PR guy, and the result is a substantial decline in trust regarding this site.

        1. Frank says:

          Apologies my comment was aimed at the editor of Bella not K1

      3. Sweep says:

        No comments have been censored on the Bella Facebook site? Are you serious? People were having screenshot competitions about it! The “Now you see it, now you don’t” contest.

        I hope you haven’t erased any of those bile-filled comments made by the admins – with the same zeal they showed to contributors – otherwise your credibility will be circling down the same plughole as your integrity.

  45. Johnny comeback lately says:

    I’d be interested to see Bella’s stats over the last year and a half. Bella has certainly gone downhill for me and it is seldom that I frequent the site now. A Quick pop in every few weeks to Read the article headlines in the Vain hope that there might be something of interest worth clicking on.
    This spat just about says it all really. I Can understand why James got annoyed, although I don’t understand why he wasted so much time arguing with Mike. Jame’s time would have been better spent discussing the subject with a doorhandel.
    I hope I’m Wrong, but I get the gut feeling that Bella’s days are numbered. Time to go Mike.


    1. Thanks Johnny, seriously considering it

      1. Gordon Clark says:

        Mike: As someone who has been reading Scot Goes Pop for a while, I think it was inevitable this would happen at some point. I agree with much of what James writes, but whenever anyone criticises him he reads it as a personal attack. If you were to list the websites/organisations he’s accused of shady underhand dealings over the last two years you’d barely have anyone in the media/online left. He’s a bit unhinged to put it mildly and does rather bonkers things like hounding people who work for YouGov on Twitter accusing them of being part of a conspiracy.

        That’s the kind of aggressive nonsense that might play well with a small group of people who are just as zealous about the SNP as he is, but Bella Caledonia is aiming at something much larger than that as far as I can see. You have an outlet here for diverse views – the kind of views that the James Kellys of the world are never going to accept because they counter the basic pro-SNP narrative he parrots on his own website.

        All I can say is ignore the criticism you’re getting and keep going with it. There’s a real danger in Scotland that this tendency to shout anyone down who disagrees with the prevailing narrative undermines our ability to argue for radical politics. The quasi-conspiracy theory stuff about every website that disagrees having an “agenda” is equally damaging. Bella Caledonia has always been the sane part of the independence movement – the place where we have dissenting views rather than simply regurgitating the same stock arguments over and over. It would be a real shame if you stopped doing what you’re doing.

      2. Mabel says:

        I hope you don’t. Bella is needed and has always before been great at providing a range of views, and it is partly because you seemed to diverge from that high standard that people were disappointed. We need you to continue all the good work you’ve done so far. Time for us all to take up the fight to build the basis for a new country together. We have enough enemies without making them of each other.

      3. AnnaMac says:

        Don’t you dare go anywhere Mike, you are needed and so is Bella. Do I have to plead?

  46. punklin says:

    Pleased to see the tedium may soon be over and we can bet back to campaigning.

    SNP x 2 pour moi, but if you are Green, Rise or other and you are certain sure that you can get a pro-indy MSP without handing another seat to the unionists then you should vote for what you believe in…

    Just don’t screw it up for the rest of us, please!

  47. pipe dreamer says:

    It would serve yourself well if published what changes you required in the pro rise articles in the interest of showing even handedness.

    How word for word were they?

    1. Great idea. Why dont I publish all the correspondence between every writer and the mob can decide whether I am up to the job?

      1. Bryan Weir says:

        Mike, why don’t you just take on board the amount of criticism of what you did here and get on with it?

      2. Jo says:

        I hope you won’t pack it in Mike. I think you should close comments on this one and everyone should move on. You and James should put this one down to experience and forget about it. The rest of us should do the same.

      3. Alan says:

        Hard as it may be, I would suggest dumping the sarcastic responses and listening and learning from all the criticism above. I like others here have enjoyed reading Bella, and have supported it financially, but you seem to be in danger of alienating a good chunk of your readership by turning Bella into a partisan vehicle for promoting RISE at the expense of honest debate and discussion.

        1. Jo says:


          To be fair I think James Kelly went into hysterics over all this too. That wasn’t needed. He’s churning it all out on his own blog. That isn’t helpful either.

          Meanwhile Angela Haggerty basically stole from other commentators and threw an article all over the MSM Sunday Herald last weekend. There’s a word for that. It’s plagiarism. She took issues from Common Space and Bella into the Sunday Herald. I thought that was so dishonest of her. If I was her I’d be really embarrassed.

          The second vote thing is important. I do not think any of the smaller Parties has the right to demand that SNP voters hand ours over to them. It’s worth remembering that on the day RISE was launched Colin Fox specifically addressed SNP voters by inviting us to give RISE their second vote. I don’t think he had the right to do that. On a personal note I would not give Colin Fox my vote on any issue after what the SSP did to Sheridan. Fox and others would never have made it to Holyrood without Sheridan. It was votes for Sheridan that got them there!

          If RISE want second votes they need to talk policies, not entitlement.

          This has all been ugly. I really think we should all drop it and move on. Bella has much to contribute as do other blogs. But the warring should stop.

          1. Alan says:

            I agree with you that James Kelly also didn’t handle the situation very well. More debate and less drama all round would serve us all better.

      4. pipe dreamer says:

        I’ll take that as a no…..

  48. James says:

    My problem with this is now the same problem I have with the MSM, I will never be able to read another Bella article without thinking about how this has been tweeked to suit somebody’s agenda, as this is clearly the case here despite the denials.

    1. Beth says:

      With respect, that’s a bit of an odd perspective. Any site that has more than one or two authors will be edited. If you didn’t edit a site like this one it would be a chaotic mess of typos/bad content/offensive rants and nobody would bother reading it in the first place. It’s got nothing to do with an agenda, it’s simply how editing a website works. If you don’t employ a consistent style or exercise control over what gets posted then it’s going to be useless.

      And in this case I don’t see much evidence for an agenda. I see someone objecting to the way something was written rather than the opinion of the piece. That’s the very essence of what editors do and the response – point blank refusing all of the editorial comments, using overly combative language, implying there’s some agenda against him personally and then running off to rant about it elsewhere – is pretty ridiculous all things considered.

      1. James says:

        Thanks for explaining that… pity I am none the wiser as to what you are attempting to say.

  49. Gordon Clark says:

    So many people on here seem to be conflating “editing” with “censorship”. This isn’t a discussion forum, it’s a blog/website and you have to control what you post or it will turn into something that’s little more than unfiltered rubbish. The idea that if James Kelly writes something Bella has to publish it unaltered or else they’re pushing an agenda is just nonsense. The site doesn’t owe him or anyone else anything. If he sent that to a larger publication – e.g. the Guardian – they’d likely just ignore it, no questions asked. Mike took the time to respond to it and try to tailor it to something he felt would add to the discussion. That’s what all good editors do and the stick he’s getting on here from some people is ridiculous.

    It’s not as if James Kelly is somehow using a different standard on his website. He has a personal blog and he wouldn’t even dream of posting an unsolicited submission from anyone else that was critical of his views. He generally regards anyone who disagrees (even on marginal opinion polling discussions) as a complete scumbag, yet seems to think other people have to drop everything and accommodate his articles without any alterations. In contrast Bella is trying to be inclusive and just gets grief as a result. Clearly the SNP/RISE divide is pushing everyone into James Kelly’s camp, but we’re talking about personal conduct here and on that count Mike is far more in the right on this issue.

    1. James Kelly says:

      Gordon : The point you’re missing (or ignoring) is that I asked Mike in advance whether he would run an article putting the alternative view on the subject, after he had sent me an irate tweet about how he has no editorial agenda on tactical voting. On your specific claim about me, it’s simply untrue that I would never run an unsolicited submission that is critical of my own views – I have done on more than one occasion. There was one I didn’t run because it was basically taking the p*** – it was just a sustained personal attack on me. I wouldn’t have expected Mike to run a piece like that in a million years. My article was a straightforward analytical piece, and made no comment at all about Mike or Bella.

      As for the earlier comment about me supposedly “hounding” a YouGov employee, whatever anyone might think of that exchange, it’s simply a fact that I didn’t initiate it. The gentleman in question sought me out on Twitter because he disliked one of my blogposts.

      1. Gordon Clark says:

        “it’s simply untrue that I would never run an unsolicited submission that is critical of my own views – I have done on more than one occasion. There was one I didn’t run because it was basically taking the p*** – it was just a sustained personal attack on me. I wouldn’t have expected Mike to run a piece like that in a million years. My article was a straightforward analytical piece, and made no comment at all about Mike or Bella.”

        I’ll happily draft 600 words on why I think you’re completely wide of the mark on this issue if you want to test out that theory. If you’re willing to publish it on your own site without any amendments then you’ll be true to your word, but I highly doubt that.

        And Mike didn’t refuse your piece, he suggested that you edit it. There’s a massive difference.

        1. James Kelly says:

          Gordon : As long as it sticks to the issue (ie. isn’t “James this” and “James that”, “bonkers”, “unhinged”, etc, etc), I’ll happily publish it.

          And let’s drop this nonsense about Mike not rejecting my piece – his emails speak for themselves. He perhaps would have been willing to publish a radically edited piece in conformity with his own views, but that would have defeated the purpose if the exercise.

        2. I clearly didn’t refuse the piece – I was discussing it with the author.

          For anyone familiar with the basics of how to edit a magazine would know its standard practice (for a very good reason) to try and interact with writers on their submissions. That’s all I was trying to do.

          The paranoia and bitterness displayed in the last few days is simply extraordinary – I now want to move on and create new content that is challenging and thought provoking. Contents are now closed on this blog.

        3. I clearly didn’t refuse the piece – I was discussing it with the author.

          Good luck Gordon with your submission to James’s site. I look forward to seeing it online.

          For anyone familiar with the basics of how to edit a magazine would know its standard practice (for a very good reason) to try and interact with writers on their submissions. That’s all I was trying to do.

          The paranoia and bitterness displayed in the last few days is simply extraordinary – I now want to move on and create new content that is challenging and thought provoking. Contents are now closed on this blog.

    2. Ian Gibson says:

      The other thing you seem to be ignoring, Gordon, is that the article arose specifically in response to the alleged absence of any presentation of an alternative view on the 2nd vote debate. For the editing to seek to change the essence of that view defeats the purpose of the author, and lessens the debate. As James has said, it’s purely an analytical piece with no personal overtones: the only scope for editing it should be on grounds of length, grammar and other such practical matters – not the thrust of its argument.

  50. Jac Gallacher says:

    Well who knew there were so many editorial experts out there. So many seem to know best just how Bella should be run, hooray for the cavalry Bella is saved.

  51. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    Bella Caledonia has been a superlative, radically questioning site, casting refreshingly wide nets. It is attractive (site name-check), accessible, coherent, and admirably legible. Its contribution to the independence movement has been illustrious. Its recent expansive provision for posting and discussing our languages is unparalleled and of profound importance. So: Vivat, crescat, floreat… May she live, grow and flourish…

    And regarding languages, here are a couple of millenium-old, if questionably-relevant, Chinese poems for us all to enjoy (note the appearance of the bodhrán in the second one). They are by the great Yang Wanli (1127-1206), English by Jonathan Chaves (‘Zen Poems’, Selected and Edited by Peter Harris, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets, David Campbell Publishers Ltd 1999):

    (Yang Wanli 1127-1206. English tr. Jonathan Chaves)

    Don’t read books!
    Don’t chant poems!
    When you read books your eyeballs wither away,
    Leaving the bare sockets.
    When you chant poems your heart leaks out slowly
    with each word.
    People say reading books is enjoyable.
    People say chanting poems is fun.
    But if your lips constantly make a sound
    like an insect chirping in autumn,
    you will only turn into a haggard old man.
    And even if you don’t turn into a haggard old man,
    It’s annoying for others to have to hear you.

    It’s so much better
    To close your eyes, sit in your study,
    Lower the curtains, sweep the floor,
    Burn incense.
    It’s beautiful to listen to the wind,
    Listen to the rain,
    Take a walk when you feel energetic,
    And when you’re tired go to sleep.

    (Yang Wanli 1127-1206. English tr. Jonathan Chaves)

    Today there is no wind on the Yangtze;
    the water is calm and green
    with no waves or ripples.
    All around the boat
    light floats in the air
    over a thousand acres of smooth, lustrous jade.

    One of the boatmen wants to break the silence.
    High on wine, he picks up his flute
    and plays into the mist.
    The clear music rises to the sky –
    an ape in the mountains
    screaming at the moon;
    a creek rushing through a gully.
    Someone accompanies on the sheepskin drum,
    his head held steady as a
    his fingers beating like raindrops.

    A fish breaks the crystal surface of the water
    and leaps ten feet into the air.

    1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

      Fourth last line:
      “his head held steady as a peak”

  52. Redgauntlet says:

    James Kelly, why did you not publish your piece on your own blog, Scot Goes Pop, which seems to be successful enough anyway?

    If I understand the order of events, Ponsonby published an article rubbishing RISE on Newsnet. Mike Small replied to it on Bella – not Newsnet – and then you wanted to answer Mike´s Shsh piece on Bella…

    If you didn´t have a blog and following, then I would understand you wanting to reply on Bella. But since you do, I can´t see what the fuss is about?

    1. Frank Wright says:

      I think it is good for the wider independence movement if we do *not* stick only to our preferred blogs/websites. This incident has clearly shown that we need to talk more.

    2. James Kelly says:

      Redgauntlet : Morag answered that question when you asked it on my own blog. Mike claimed that Bella doesn’t have an editorial line on tactical voting, and was simply presenting a ‘range of voices’ on the subject. It was therefore reasonable to put that claim to the test and ask if an article that argued the contrary position to the highly provocative “Shsh for indy” piece would be used.

      Mike says that all submissions go through this “dialogue” process – it would be interesting to know if that rule applied to the RISE press release that was published here under the title “TNS poll shows SNP 2nd votes wasted”.

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        Aye, James, they don´t call it petty nationalism for nothing…

        ..well done to you for revealing to us all that Mike Small, who spoke at the first RISE conference, has a proclivity to RISE……we didnay ken that. Newsnet is pro SNP, so what? Anybody who reads Bella knows it is a mixed bag, heterogeneous…Mike is for RISE…big deal!!

        One million Scots living in poverty, SNP MPs on fat cat salaries, Europe in the midst of several crises, no just one, and the next Great Depression just around the corner, and we´re talking about this crap?

        Petty doesn´t do it justice…

        1. James Kelly says:

          By all means, don’t let me distract you from the serious business of bashing SNP MPs.

          1. Redgauntlet says:

            James, you are cut out for Scottish journalism….any criticism of the SNP is “bashing” and the real “serious business”…the SNP are not to be criticized or challenged from here on ever after until independence is delivered, which may never happen…

            …it´s that mentality which will ensure that Scotland will never be independent…no intelligent person could argue in such a way, and influential people tend to be intelligent.

            ..if politics is a science, can we apply some basic scientific methodology? While scientists publicly test theories and publish findings, can we publicly and robustly critique SNP policy in the hope that, by doing so, we might actually improve it? Playing the ball, not the man?

            Number one on my list of policy critiques would be universal freebies for the middle class, while the poor get poorer…well intentioned, but ultimately counter-productive.

            And if Podemos MP´s have capped their salary at two and half times the minimum wage, why could at least some SNP MP´s not do the same, given their purported commitment to social justice?

          2. Bryan Weir says:

            “Bashing” is way different from genuine criticism and disagreement on certain issues. Personally I think that this unquestioning and unconditional support for all that the SNP say and do is a real turn off.

            All parties, even the SNP, have to be accountable to their voters. When they do wrong they need the voters to let them know what they think. In my opinion AS may have cost us the referendum through his intransigence on the currency question. When I suggested this on a couple of forums after the event it was as though I had blasphemed. That’s not a good situation.

  53. tartanpigsy says:

    I’m not getting into the meat of the counter arguments going on here, apart from to say i think that realistically, only The Greens are in any position to gain electorally from any tactical second vote, if there can be such a thing.

    BUT, and I think this IS important, next year we have another election for Scotlands Councils and in that election, under STV we will seriously all need to work together on the ‘Yes’ side if we are to gain control of as many local Authorities as possible.

    It is clear that Unionist controlled Councils were a major problem in the last referendum and we must do everything we can to reduce their influence next time around.

    1. Glasgow East End Wurkin Class says:

      Stupid comment. There are no Unionist controlled councils just elected councils. You Nat sis ought
      to get a grip.

    2. Frank Wright says:

      I think it is best to view the Scottish election as EIGHT mini-elections, one for each region. Voting SNP/Green, as you suggest, may be successful in one region but not in another.

      Opinion polls for each region would be very helpful as we get closer to the vote. Each of us could then get an idea if our choice for second vote would result in the outcome we wished for.

      Having said that, I judge that now is a time for policies and campaigning and trying to raise the vote of your chosen party.

      1. tartanpigsy says:

        Agree with all of that Frank, my main point is that we are still all on the same side, whatever our differences, and will need to act together if we are to eventually gain independence and all that comes with it.
        Saying that I’ve nothing against a good rammy when it’s required 😉

        Also a good point by Wul below. A hell of a lot of work goes into all the forums/groups etc that have emerged over the last 5 years or so, and we should all appreciate them for what they are.

  54. Wul says:

    The world, my world, is a better place with Bella in it. It costs me nothing (apart from a donation a while back) and gets me thinking. I’ve contributed to Bella, Common Space, Wings, RIC & The National and lots of other good causes. I don’t always agree with everything they say. The more the merrier.
    I am very grateful to Mike Small for putting so much work into something which has helped me understand my own country better and helped me become better informed.
    I’ve personally had the experience of putting my heart & soul into creating something which mainly benefits other people and then being treated with unkindness and a lack of compassion over differences of opinion. It feels sh*te.
    Its easy, as a reader to feel ownership of a favourite site, to want it to be a certain way and to forget that someone has to spend all day, every day making it appear on our screens. I’ll bet it is really hard (mostly thankless) graft.
    Mike, you are doing a good job. In my opinion no one out there is doing a better one. Don’t even think about packing it in.
    Passions are high and the language reflects that. Its best not to take criticism to heart, especially on the internet.

  55. Big Jock says:

    I like Bella and I like to hear a variety of views. However on this James is correct.

    Any small fractures in the solidarity of the independence movement. Will ultimately backfire.

    The unionists will be rubbing their hands if they think there is a way to split the movement. We are taking a risk giving our second vote to a new party who have no pedigree.

    The SNP got us to within 5% of independence. Why would we back a party with no basis of trust. Who are Rise?

  56. Tam G says:

    I thought you called it right Mike. I’m a broad green progressive… who will lend SNP my first vote but could comfortably vote Green, SNP or RISE… not an “SNP supporter”. Editing should involve making polemical pieces rely on clearity, logic and evidence to make an argument. Not ‘leading’ language or framing.

  57. Kate J says:

    “I like Bella and I like to hear a variety of views. However on this James is correct.
    Any small fractures in the solidarity of the independence movement. Will ultimately backfire.”

    I’ve listened to this stuff about the “danger” of not backing the SNP and I have to say I’m mystified as to why so many people have bought into it. The idea that we need the SNP to achieve independence is little more than a campaigning line by a political party. It’s about as convincing as “vote Labour to keep out the Tories” when you break it down.

    What matters is how people’s views on independence change over time. If we get to a tipping point of 60% of the public routinely backing independence in polls then how we bring about the referendum is almost an irrelevance. It’s hard to imagine the situation that would need to exist to prevent us from succeeding under that scenario, yet that’s the only aspect where the SNP matter. At present we’re therefore focusing on arguably the least important part of the entire process (having a majority in Holyrood to bring about a referendum) when the real issue we should be focusing on is winning people over to independence in the first place.

    And on that count having a diverse movement can only help. It doesn’t need to be united, it needs to be able to speak to as wide a range of people as possible to win them over. If Rise can do that for those on the left then it should be welcomed. If the Greens can do it for Green voters then that’s a positive as well. Dare I say it, if we had a centre-right party on the Yes side we’d have even more chance of reaching the tipping point. If these parties take votes away from the SNP then so be it.

    1. Ian Gibson says:

      “I’ve listened to this stuff about the “danger” of not backing the SNP”

      This seems to be gaining traction as what this debate has been about, and it seems to me that it is plain wrong. This isn’t at heart an argument about politics so much as about mathematics: the dispute is not that the heart and soul of the Indy movement should be reserved to the SNP – I can’t for the life of me think that many in that party would do anything but welcome fellow travellers of a broad left-ish persuasion, and a better quality of opposition too, come to that – but that the very particular pitch, made in a number of places, that a 2nd vote for the SNP would be wasted and should be given to other pro-independence parties, particularly RISE, is not only electorally illiterate, but actively promises to damage the SNP’s prospects at a time when their electoral success is one of the surer potentials of a route to a 2nd referendum. That is above all the argument that Mike seems to have been trying to inhibit James from expressing.

  58. Gashty McGonnard says:

    This spat is an embarrassment to the Yes movement. And so’s the whole second vote controversy.

    I like Bella because it has a good range of well-written articles. I don’t give two hoots if the editor was feeling touchy one day, had a tiff with another blogster, and spat the dummy. I’ll keep reading.

    But just to confirm what numerous voices above have said, Mike – you do come across a bit Stalinist in that email exchange. That’s from an impartial who doesn’t know James Kelly from Adam. Whatever subtexts either of you imagined between the lines of those emails, you both come out as egos and diddies in black and white.

    Anyway I hope you and Kelly and Ponsonby and the Rev et al. all keep up the good work. We need the full range of opinions, even if they sometimes clash.

    I won’t comment on JK’s article itself: tl;dr

  59. McPhee says:

    Reading through the replies on here and twitter, it does look like a mistake was made with the impression of heavy editing needed for an article that that was somehow seen as a test of Bella’s impartiality. That said, Scotgoespop was maybe a bit too fast to lose the rag, and now I see there are twitter blocks which just look silly and petulant.
    I value both sites and hope they quickly move past this. Myself, I’ll be voting SNP twice as I am a member, and I like the candidates in my area. The regional list vote can be seen as a kind of insurance policy if the party falls short on the constituency seat vote.
    But I can see why a green vote in a couple of regions might work tactically. There is a recent article on Wings titled “The Eye of Reality” that shows tactical voting might just work in Lothian if the SNP vote remains high in the polls. Mostly agree though with the viewpoint that YES parties should be campaigning FOR votes and attacking the UK parties, not each other.

  60. Whodunnit says:

    One thing that seems to be missed in all this is that James has been banging on about Bella long before this supposed issue with the article he submitted. In fact this whole thing started after he wrote a lengthy and unprovoked diatribe about Mike (here: http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-increasingly-disturbing-attempts-to.html) that’s little more than a character assassination, including an admission that he’s had a personal gripe against him going back to 2011. It’s littered with pretty insulting language and has little purpose beyond trashing Mike personally – largely because James disagrees with his views on tactical voting/RISE.

    The piece in question was only submitted after a Twitter exchange relating to that article – and off the back of an “I bet you won’t use this” style argument. As James wrote: “All right, would you be willing to publish an article putting the alternative view? My guess is no.”

    James is the one that initiated this and he was clearly hell bent on stirring up conflict about it from the start. Just reading that email exchange in the article above without looking at the previous exchanges is pretty misleading as it makes it look like this was some kind of open and honest submission rather than part of an existing argument. Essentially James launched a fairly childish, unprovoked and highly personal attack on Mike via his blog, he attacked him further on Twitter and then only sent the piece to prove a point that he wouldn’t use it.

    Is it any wonder Mike’s email is a bit tetchy under the circumstances? He’s actually being more than fair given what had previously been said and, typically, James immediately ran off and posted a “Mike is the second coming of Stalin for not using my article” style comment on his site at the first sign of trouble, which was clearly always his intention.

    That it’s now turned into a discussion about how Mike was out of order to suggest editorial changes is pretty unfortunate. He’s actually getting tarred and feathered for being too reasonable to someone acting like a bit of an overly aggressive lunatic in this case. Seriously, I challenge anyone to read the original article on Scot Goes Pop about Mike and the Twitter exchange and still come down on James’s side on this one. It’s basically James randomly trashing Mike on his blog just because he disagrees with him and then sending the article on the basis that if he doesn’t use it he’s “proving” that Bella is a biased pro-RISE campaigning site. I’d be surprised if anyone would accept an article from him in that situation.

    Whether you agree with James about tactical voting is a different issue, the simple fact is he’s started a pointless feud here for no good reason. If he’d submitted a piece on good terms and without the insulting article before it then maybe Mike would have been questionable in demanding so many changes, but that isn’t what happened at all.

    1. Thanks – I hadn’t actually read James’s various other blogs about me and Bella before discussing his article, or did I realise he’d been harbouring a feud since 2011! All very strange. Hopefully we can move on and continue to publish analysis which is thought-provoking and challenging.

    2. James Kelly says:

      I hope you do, Mike. The point of those posts you are trying to label as eccentric and obsessional was precisely to “challenge” the propaganda that was never, ever allowed to be challenged here. (Except BTL of course, I accept that.)

      1. Jo says:

        @ James Kelly

        “I hope you do Mike. ”

        Can you not just drop this and move on? There are surely more important things to discuss and keeping this spat going is really not the best way forward.

      2. To be honest James I’m more than a little bored by this now. Perhaps we could all move on?

        1. James Kelly says:

          Yes, I could have predicted that people who are still commenting themselves would be hypocritical enough to tell me – in Better Together style – to “move on”, because “I’m bored”. My very few comments over the last 24 hours have all been in response to quite nasty personal abuse, or to direct questions.

          Doubtless you can justify your own continued contributions to this thread, Mike, but if you’re bored with the topic my strong advice is to stop taking about it. Good afternoon to you.

    3. James Kelly says:

      And I would just note the irony of people who happily call me “unhinged”, “lunatic”, “bonkers”, “an arse”, etc, also charging me with being childish, petulant and personal. You, Mr/Ms Anonymous, may defy people to read the full sequence of events and come to the conclusion that I’ve got a point, but clearly that’s what some people have done. I haven’t exactly been acting in secret.

      1. Whodunnit says:

        James: And what is your point, James? That Bella is a RISE propaganda site – great, you were saying that long before you sent your article in. The only reason you sent it in was to try and prove that point and you’ve achieved exactly the kind of reaction you wanted: division, bitter arguments, abuse. Well done.

        And that’s the issue here. Many people agree with your perspective on tactical voting. If your only intention was to argue against tactical voting nobody would have a problem with it. That wasn’t your intention, though, it was to try and smear another website/author you disagreed with and that’s abundantly clear to anyone that reads what you wrote before you sent the article in.

    4. K1 says:

      Stretching ‘credulity’ here. My oh my invested are ye?

      ‘Is it any wonder Mike’s email is a bit tetchy under the circumstances? He’s actually being more than fair given what had previously been said…’

      ‘Bella Caledonia Editor
      9 hours ago
      Thanks – I hadn’t actually read James’s various other blogs about me and Bella before discussing his article,…’

      This is all ‘speculative’ on your part and Mike contradicts your assertion that he would be in a prior state of ‘tetchy’…clearly he wisnae as he hadn’t ‘actually read James’s various other blogs about me and Bella’.

      I’m struggling to find the relevance of your point in this ‘obvious’ detective work you’ve indulged in. The exchange between them from atl stands on its own merits and you are reading ‘ulterior motive’ on James’s part with no evidence.

      Oh yes that blog you provide the link for is dated precisely one day before James put his article up about the exchange with Mike:

      ‘I knew his comment* was mainly directed at the likes of Jeff Breslin and James Mackenzie, who were the leading pro-independence bloggers at the time. But I was still a tad miffed, because the criticism effectively extended to me and a few others. So when Mike started banging the drum at Bella again in April 2011 with just a few days to go until the referendum, I decided to leave a number of forthright comments. In particular, I noted the glorious irony that Mike was charging people who didn’t want to abstain in an important referendum with the crime of “sitting on the fence”. I was stunned to quickly receive the following condescending email from “Bella Baxter” -…’


      He’s not displaying a ‘gripe’ he’s outlining and contextualising his ‘issue’ with Bella on the back of the the Shh for Indy article and pointing out that he views Mike’s approach with regard those who disagree with his ‘take’ on tactical voting as similar to his* approach back in 2011. So yes he is pointing out what he feels is a ‘characteristic’ response from Mike, wherein Mike ‘guilts’ people who don’t have the same views as him.

      Perfectly legitimate ‘framing’ from James’s pov. The way you describe it doesn’t relate to the article you are citing as proof that James has some ‘ulterior’ motive regarding the above the line issue in this very article (the submission of his article for Bella, being rejected on ‘editorial’ grounds by Mike). The two are not related, but you are grasping at very flimsy straws to bind these two articles from James together as proof positive that he is some nasty piece of work with an axe to grind. There is simply no evidence to support this assertion. What you have done here is ‘character assassinate’ James.

      Yet you infer that this is a ‘bad thing’? To assassinate someones character? But it’s okay for you to write, what truly can only be described as a ‘diatribe’, in defence of Mike?

      Your passionate defence of ‘whatever it is you think your’e defending’ is certainly entertaining, but really you come across as quite ‘unhinged’, nae offence, but seriously ye need to question your own motives here.

      You don’t always have to take sides in an argument, work with the evidence and it is clear what has taken place here. Both James and Mike went public wi this, both have ‘issues’ wi this, neither of them are completely wrong or completely right.

      But Mike did attempt to alter the ‘premise’ of James’s article. And he did wait until after James published his ‘upset’ about not being published by Bella, to send his last email and he did btl on this very article refer to the last email on a number of occasions to ‘prove’ that he was a ‘reasonable’ guy. IMV.

      Was he? Who knows, it’s okay that James is passionate about Independence and he too is a respected and well informed blogger on Scottish Independence, whether you ‘like’ him or not. No need to attack one to defend the other.

      People can and will make their own minds’ up on this ‘spat’ and on their decision in May on who they choose to vote for 1st and 2nd.


  61. Redgauntlet says:

    All the posters who sit there coolly passing judgement on Mike Small, who has with his team, created one of the most influential blogs in Scotland out of thin air over the last few years with endless amounts of unpaid work should hang your heads in shame….what a bunch ye are.

    It´s the blight of Calvanism: never give praise, always take people down a peg or two…and above all, be sure to judge, to criticize and to condemn…

    …”and the scene is so typically Scottish” as John Motson would have said.

    1. Bryan Weir says:

      Nah! I won’t be hanging my head for providing an opinion after being asked for it.

    2. K1 says:

      Och away ye go wi yer guilt trip…grow up! Who ‘speaks’ like this and is taken seriously?

      Based on the actual published emails and the context, people commented appropriately.

      We don’t need telt aff from those with a clear attachment to one of the protagonists.

      Let it go yersel, smug ain’t attractive either.

      1. Bryan Weir says:

        Love it! :o)

  62. MBC says:

    I wish Rise well. RIC did sterling work during the indyref in getting the vote out and in convincing folk. They deserve some electoral reward.

    But reading all this it seems clear to me that Rise is a different creature from RIC. It has a far stronger on-line presence in blogs like Bella and Common Space who promote it heavily than it has on the ground amongst actual voters and activists. I’m wondering where all the RIC activists have gone that got out the vote on September 18th 2014?

    It is a very young party which has yet to establish any real traction amongst voters therefore James’ argument stands that voting for it on the list is a highly risky business because a minority party really needs to have at least 5-10 % support to stand any chance of gaining a list seat.

    This is not a partisan view, it is simply pragmatic.

    I think that the editors of Bella and Common Space think it is possible to create this support by on-line promotion alone, but the polling evidence is just not there that this strategy is working. Rise would appear to need to do the hard slog that other established parties have had to do, of forming constituency associations, holding meetings, chapping on doors, and delivering leaflets.

    1. Whodunnit says:

      There are two issues with that. The first is that we’re writing them off before they’ve even started. New parties with new campaigning methods can gain a lot of support quickly. RISE is partly modelled on Podemos in Spain and the last Spanish election is a pretty good illustration of how you can quickly build a support base with a combination of online campaigning and meetup style groups.

      The second is that the whole “vote for the safe option” thing only makes any sense if you somehow see the SNP as on the same side. The SNP’s line here is that you should more or less ignore left-wing politics (in fact you should ignore pretty much all issues of policy full stop) and back them because we can sort all of the details out after we’re independent. Some people buy into that, but it’s hardly a surprise some of us don’t find it convincing. The supposed “risk” here (some kind of resurgent Unionist party sweeps to power and pushes independence off the agenda forever) is barely credible, while the reward (getting a more left-wing government in Holyrood) is massive for those of us who actually care about the left.

      And let’s be clear here, the poor are suffering today. The idea we should just shut up about it and wait 5 years/10 years/however many years the SNP decide we have to wait without trying to mobilise support for doing something about it today is pretty much anathema to everything the left stands for. It’s basically a fairly sophisticated campaigning line designed by the current government to silence its opposition. I happen to think the SNP are doing a reasonable job in some areas, but where they aren’t (and I think they could do far more for the poor and the environment) and they already have the powers to make changes they deserve to be criticised. If RISE are the vehicle for that then I think that’s a positive for all of us.

      1. Jo says:

        I couldn’t disagree with you more.

        I know nothing about RISE but I’m really concerned they’re asking for second votes from SNP supporters while only being a few months old as a Party. They won’t get mine.

        “If RISE are the vehicle for that then I think that’s a positive for all of us.”

        Where are their policies? All I’m seeing are on line blog sites like Common Space and, at times, Bella insisting they should get our second votes………..just because. No way. That’s not just risky, it’s utterly reckless.

  63. Ewan Macdonald says:

    James completely nailed the debate. Mike tried to tone police it and failed. Absolutely shameful stuff. This email exchange makes Mike’s previous “points” look even more pathetic.

    And I’m a member of the Greens, not an SNP member.

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