2007 - 2022

Flood the Zone

My dad used to tell me “two different things can be true at the same time”. I would turn away nodding but in complete incomprehension. But it certainly seems true today and next week that two very different things can remain true at the same time:

Truth One: there have been some very real problems and some very real mistakes at the senior level of the civil service in Scotland and very serious mistakes and errors of judgement made at the top of the Scottish Government regarding their handling of complaints about Alex Salmond. These have not just cost the public a lot of money but also discredited the institutions of law and government. These problems need to be resolved, they can’t be ignored and they are very serious. They show a weakness in our transparency, accountability and democracy.

Truth Two: the wide-ranging mob of frenzied politicians journalists and bloggers out for blood against Nicola Sturgeon are motivated by (slightly) different things: depose an electoral threat they can’t compete with; attack a woman who threatens their worldview; or to bolster the bat-shit conspiracies they have been nurturing for months; but all must know their actions have severe mission-creep. What once started as a call for ‘heads to roll’ among a select few of errant civil servants has now snow-balled into a full-on attack on Scottish devolution and legal institutions. This is the consequence of the pact between hate-blogs – some of which can be described as little more than a lucrative malignancy – and the right wing of the Tory party.

As one person on Twitter put it: “Let’s face facts. This is just a hit job on Nicola Sturgeon. Underneath it all, what is she supposed to have done? At the worst, her accusers say her crime was that she knew about the complaints against Salmond a few days earlier than she originally said so. So what? Is that it?” – and as the playwright Peter Arnott added: “The substance of the leak is even MORE trivial than that. It’s to do with how the same fraught meeting on April 2nd was remembered differently by the ONLY two people in the room.”

The forces of the British state, the tabloid moguls and the Scottish Tories are reveling in this alongside their new allies from the Yes movement.

Some of it is reminiscent of the Trump administration’s strategy is, as Steve Bannon once said, to “flood the zone with shit“. That is, to spread so much wild misinformation that people cam no longer keep up.

Some of it is reminiscent of the relentless attacks made against Jeremy Corbyn.

As we drown in all of this it’s worth noting too that alot of this is laced with thinly disguised misogyny. This isn’t a Get Out of Jail card for anyone about accountability, but it is worth noticing as David Davis becomes your champion and the Storm that’s Coming turned out to be a bunch of shameless old men unable to take responsibility for their own actions.



Comments (36)

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  1. Jim Anderson says:

    Why has a seasoned, politically savvy stateswoman of international renown allowed this to escalate to such a fiasco?

    1. Neil MacGillivray says:

      Largely because the media, Press and TV combined are feasting on what is a storm in a teacup, although of course alleged sexual harassment cannot be dismissed easily.

      Nothing the FM can do or could do would make a jot of difference.

      What is going on with the UK government is on a different scale – corruption, breaklng of international treaties and agreements, more Police powers refusing an inquiry into the the disastrous mishandling of the pandemic, £37 billion wasted on Track and Trace, Lord Botham and Baroness Davidson in that abomination called the House of Lords, gerrymandering of electoral seats etc etc – and all is cool global Britain. These are ignored while a our problem is exaggerated.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        Spot on Neil. The molehill is taking the spotlight off the mountain.

      2. Jim Anderson says:

        So your argument is that as Westminster is adept at avoiding media scrutiny and Scotland isn’t that the Scottish government are great?

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Westminster scrutiny? An old John McEnroe saying comes to mind.

          I suppose you could say the Scottish government are great at not sucking Rupert’s knob.

        2. Neil MacGillivray says:

          No my argument is that Westminster and the Unionists have the press and other media on their side with the result that manifest abuses go unpunished.
          How about £37 billion wasted on chums? Look at the House of Lords and cringe. Look at Priti Patel – wants to bring back capital punishment. The Monarchy – the awards system> OBE for heaven’s sake – the Empire is way in the past.

          I could go on but its a waste – Continue to vote Tory and No.

    2. Morag Forsyth says:

      Not sure ‘allowed’ has anything to do with it. The forces aligned against NS are way beyond her pay grade, the strings being pulled by faceless, monied press moguls, money men waiting to dip their grubby hands into the health and care pie, and wizened auld gits that have past their sell-by date. And numerous others whose livelihood and lifestyle an independent Scotland threatens. And sorry to say, because she’s a woman! My hope is that for once, we as Scotland, can put aside our indy differences and hold fast. This is cold, clear, determined anger time.

      1. Jim anderson says:

        If we Scots all believed that there were forces our politicians could not surmount there would be no need for an independence movement. If we had cold clear anger over the last two years at the way the SNP has taken our cash, splashed it across their preferred nonsense policies rather than proper preparations for an independence referendum we might be in a better position. Anyone that has read and studied all the documents around this fiasco and managed to find their way through all the lies, disinformation and deceit, from ALL involved will be in no doubt of the truth and who is to blame. To suggest the problem lies with NS being a women is to continue the disservice done to the original complainants. Next will be a race card!

  2. Bill says:

    One must hope that the people of Scotland see this fiasco for what it is – displacement activity to deflect attention from the iniquitous behaviour of the Tories in Westminster. If there is to be any justice then we shall vote in the SNP with a substantial majority, the Greens with a substantial increase in seats and the Tories out. I do not think that that will happen but I shall hope to my dying day that Boris and the Incompetents get the justice they deserve in a revolution in England


  3. Robert says:

    “Truth One: there have been some very real problems and some very real mistakes at the senior level of the civil service in Scotland and very serious mistakes and errors of judgement made at the top of the Scottish Government regarding their handling of complaints about Alex Salmond. These have not just cost the public a lot of money but also discredited the institutions of law and government. These problems need to be resolved, they can’t be ignored and they are very serious. They show a weakness in our transparency, accountability and democracy.”

    If Bella and the rest of the pro-Indy media had said this when allegations started coming out, months and months ago, it might have done some good; there might have been changes made at the top of the SNP when we weren’t going to the wire of an election. Having denied the mere possibility for so long, now to have to admit to it because of revelations that have come out at a time and in a manner of the Unionists’ choosing, just looks like what it is — a desperate face-saving exercise.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      It cost us 10p a head Robert. The failed prosecution of the sevco mobsters will end up costing us 200 times that. It’s the legal parasites who should be under investigation. If any of that crown mob told me not to pursue a case I’d check their bitcoin wallets for transfers traceable to the other side.

      PS The track and trace fiasco cost everyone in the UK over £500 a head. Good old Dido. What a jolly good wheeze it’s been.

    2. I think you’re absolutely spot on here. It’s all Bella’s fault!

      1. Robert says:

        Of course it’s not all Bella’s fault. But the part of it where you knew about these allegations months ago (fucks sake, I knew about them — and I’m nobody), and not merely did you ignore them but published exclusively one-sided accounts supporting the SNP line — yes, that part is your fault.

        And Tom — of course the Tories are worse. Massively fucking worse. But that doesn’t make this OK.

        If the corruption in the SNP had been dealt with in good time, it wouldn’t be blowing up now, on the verge of an election.

        1. I was being sarcastic.

          WE disagree on the analysis of what has happened and you dont get to impose your analysis and demand that we agree with it. Put your point, disagree, fine. But if you do this thing of demanding we write what you like it comes over real bad.

          1. Robert says:

            Sarcasm read loud and clear, thanks.

            Far be it from me to “demand” you write anything you don’t want to. It’s your blog. But put it this way: isn’t it part of the role of an independent media to hold government to account? Do you really, hand on heart, think you have fulfilled that role in the Sturgeon affair?

            You don’t have to answer to me — like I said, I’m nobody — but you’ll have to answer to the public and your own conscience.

          2. I love the heavily theatric historic righteous tone “you’ll have to answer to the public and your own conscience” – yeah I do feel very happy we have held the govt to account – have done in the past – will do in the future.

  4. Niemand says:

    Truth 1 trumps Truth 2 though doesn’t it, every time? Truth 2 is a reaction to Truth 1, a reaction waiting and champing at the bit to happen but a reaction nevertheless. Truth 1 is the root of the current problems and NS is unavoidably caught up in that and complicit in it. How complicit is open to question, but complicit nonetheless since she heads a government and party that allowed the ‘very serious mistakes and errors of judgement made at the top of the Scottish Government’.

    I was a strong Corbyn supporter, still am really, but he had to go in the end not because of the media and his enemies generally but because of what he got wrong. Maybe no-one wouldn’t have noticed if it were not for the press and others but that is a world that doesn’t exist. And the difference with Corbyn is there was never any period when he was either in power or had hardly any mainstream support. The SNP and then SNP under NS have had real and substantial power and mainstream support for many years – they are the establishment in Scotland. They have made their own bed.

    But thanks for this article as a springboard for discussion as always. Made a small contribution to the funding appeal for simply providing some great copy over the years.

  5. James Mills says:

    Perhaps if the system of proportional representation that was foisted on the Scottish people , which landed us with numpties on the Harassment Committee that couldn’t find their arses with two hands , together with more control over WHO leads the Civil Service in Scotland , we might not have been exposed to this naked exhibition of political custard pie throwing !

    That’s not to say that the institution of Government itself was perfect – far from it , but you wouldn’t trust many of these MSPs to replace a lightbulb never mind tinker with Government or the Justice System .

    In an independent Scotland we must have safeguards against unelected ( unelectable ? ) political party numpties being given , effectively , a job for life allowing the electorate NO way of removing them .
    It is surely a simple task to put a mandatory limit on how long a List MSP can sit without getting bedsores from their longevity in the chamber !

  6. Tim Hoy says:

    The “little more than a lucrative malignancy” remark reminded me once more why I subscribe to BC. Great piece Mike thank you.

  7. Tom says:

    “thinly disguised misogyny”.

    This kind of statement is just a way of closing down argument, as is the reference to ‘old men’. When do ‘old men’ start, Mike? When they’re 50, 60, or 70? Is ageism, or sexism, any less of a problem than misogyny?

    Or even misandry, thinly disguised or not. Mmn …

  8. SleepingDog says:

    One aspect I find interesting, a ‘truth’ that is seldom told but raised by Norman Baker in his recent book on the royals, is why the 7 principles of public life (aka the Nolan Principles) do not apply to the royal family:
    Incidentally, I think there is also a widespread misconception put about even by some philosophers that the problem is that there is a crisis of trust in politicians, rather than the more logical position (favoured by anarchists) is that it is simply a mistake to trust politicians, as power corrupts. I watched the BBC Panorama programme on Sturgeon vs Salmond, and this was something lacking. Obviously people like Andrew Neil and Alastair Campbell do not want to talk in general here of corruption in politics and the ways in which they contribute to it. But the idea that voting for the SNP to achieve independence would result in a mini-Westminster in Scotland dominated by the SNP is highly unrealistic, as the only binding force of the party would have gone. Independence is the opportunity to move beyond corrupt party-politics dominated by ‘leaders’ and factional plotting, and try something different: a political system that perhaps embodies the values that are widely seen as positive in government, but does not rely on the false requirement of trusting politicians.

  9. florian albert says:

    It seems possible that the forthcoming Holyrood election will not be about the election a Scottish government for the coming years, nor even a vote in favour (or against) Indyref2. Instead, it is shaping up to be a referendum on Nicola Sturgeon’s character.
    I am fairly agnostic on the idea of independence – I would be quite content to live in an independent social democratic Scotland. However, the independence movement finds itself roped to the voters’ opinion of one politician in a way which is unhealthy. When a political party become over-identified with a specific leader, their future becomes entirely dependent on that leader’s continued political success. If, and when, such a leader falters, the party falls too.

    1. John Learmonth says:

      I also would be content to live in a social democratic Scotland but only when I know what currency i will be using…..

      1. Pub Bore says:

        I’m of an age when I soon won’t be living anywhere, under any régime… Free at last!

      2. BSA says:

        Maybe you and Florian Albert should be a little less precious about Scotland’s minor peccadilloes and consider what the future under the UK looks like. You won’t be in any position to worry about your currency or whether the voter’s opinion of your leader is unhealthy or not.

        1. Pub Bore says:

          Ah, the future… Crystal-ball time!

          This is classic millennialism: we’re heading for an apocalypse; repent, or you’re for the Big Fire!

    2. Pub Bore says:

      Aye, the SNP style of government has been a bit presidential, which has made it a hostage to just such misfortunes as have befallen Nicola’s image recently.

      I still think the SNPs success, though, lies in its being a kind of Peronist ‘catch-all’ party, the general ideology of which has during the Salmond-Sturgeon leadership been a vague blend of nationalism and labourism under the ‘three flags’ of social justice, economic independence, and political sovereignty, with the role of the state being that of mediating the tensions and conflicts that arise between the various corporate interests into which ‘Scotland’ (like any imagined community) tends to deconstruct.

      What Nicola has failed to do, however, is successfully mediate the tensions and conflicts within the SNP that have rather grubbily come to head in the otherwise insignificant ‘Salmond affair’. And that could cost both her and the SNP dearly in terms of her populist appeal to the broader electorate.

  10. Margaret McGregor says:

    spot on.

  11. Bruno says:

    Many of my English women friends, who aren’t necessarily on top of the detail with the NS/AS situ (or alleged sex. harras claim), are mostly claiming/seeing misogyny. The wider attacks on NS are definitely prone to hatred of sorts. I can’t help thinking of Caroline Flack. Is it right that we expect female politicians to put up with this woman-hatred-treatment just because politicians should expect to be “scrutinised”. I think women are seeing this for what it is and will demand change…let’s hope Scottish women agree in May.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Sorry, Bruno! Are you saying that our parliament’s findings in relation to the government’s behaviour in the person of its First Minister is motivated by misogyny? Why would you say this?

  12. Paddy Farrington says:

    The Tories and their pro-Salmond allies might be overplaying their hand – their true aims (to destroy Nicola Sturgeon and thus the current SNP leadership) are becoming increasingly apparent, and it’s not clear they are having any major impact on the electorate. Perhaps a marginal effect sufficient to deprive the SNP of a majority: in which case that might open up creative alternatives like an SNP-Greens coalition government.

    I think the major effect of this saga will be on the Yes movement. It has laid bare profound, probably irreconcilable differences between its activists. When the lockdown ends I’m not sure we can easily go back to the uncomplicated de-facto alliances we had before, or even whether we should seek to.

  13. J Galt says:

    When does the misogyny card expire?

    I’m sure that many on the Independence side and commentators on here, particularly those of us old enough to have lived through her reign, will have heaped vitriol on Margaret Thatcher’s head, and quite rightly so. Was that misogyny?

    Or is it only misogyny when it’s a woman that you agree with that is being criticised?

    Like many others who you seek to tar with the misogyny brush, my criticism of the Sturgeon led SNP is based on facts, what they have done and more importantly what they have not done since 2014. There are plenty of women who have criticised Sturgeon – are they misogynists?

    And don’t think this is based on Salmond idolatry – he made mistakes as well – not least, in my view the major one, of dropping the SNP policy that every election was in effect a plebiscitary election in favour of referenda. He would be well advised – not least for his own sake – to remain retired.

    The “mistakes” you talk of appear just a mite too consistent to me and many like me. To say it all comes down to what happened at a meeting on the 2nd of April is nonsense.

    “Bat-shit conspiracies”? To me it usually indicates a certain weakness in argument when the “tinfoil hat” insults start. What is the corruption in London except conspiratorial? Did they take out a full page in the Times to advertise what they were up to?

    And yes the corruption in the UK government is on a different scale – at least financially – however so what? Two wrongs have never yet made a right.

    1. Paddy Farrington says:

      On the contrary, I thought that Mike in his excellent piece rather downplayed the misogyny involved. It is not thinly disguised, as he writes, but all too apparent. Not least in the attacks on the complainers who are endlessly portrayed as liars. The issue that started all this is the inappropriate (though not criminal) behaviour of a powerful man towards several women he worked with. This was then compounded by his denial of any responsibility for having caused the situation in the first place. Such behaviour is widespread, and it must be called out. None of this has anything to do with criticizing women politicians for policies you might disagree with.

  14. Jim Bennett says:

    Bang on the mark. Good article.

  15. Tom Ultuous says:

    They really are ramping up the rhetoric. Sunday Mail online is now blaming the SNP for the £850K the police “wasted” on the Salmond investigation. They’ve now got the “wastage” up to 27p per head of population and it’s only a matter of time before the SNP will be to blame for the failure of the Rangers supporters within the crown & police to prosecute the Craig Whyte gang and the resulting compensation they’ll have to pay them.

    It’s sickening. Poor Dido has had to make do with a measly £600 wastage per head of UK population for the useless track and trace system.

  16. Tom Ultuous says:

    Breaking news. “NS did not break ministerial code”.

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