2007 - 2021

The Falsehoods Charter

Preface: Readers should be aware that I will not be providing hyperlinks to certain websites. The disinformation, targeting of individuals, and harmful comments I mention from these platforms are something people have the choice to seek out if they choose to, however, as noted within this article, ‘I would not encourage anyone to expose themselves to the content, or suggest folk should bother to engage with the crowd’ that such sites attract. This is not an advocacy of an echo chamber nor a refusal to engage in sincere dialogue and debate, rather, it is a demonstration of an understanding that there can be no debate with those who intentionally and willfully espouse falsehoods.

It’s now circa four weeks since former First Minister Alex Salmond announced the launch of a new political party, Alba – a name many of its own members struggled to pronounce – in what Shona Craven (Community Editor at The National) described as ‘a car crash’ introduction to Scottish politics. In that time, several ‘big names’ and supposed ‘big hitters’ have defected to Alba – primarily from the S.N.P. – whilst plenty of us cringed at the ethno-nationalistic Robert the Bruce video as it spoke of ‘breaking the spine of English superiority’. The party’s most recent policy conference managed to continue a horrendous public record achieved within their first month alone, more on that in a moment, but the latest of these centred on comments from Margaret Lynch (an Alba Party list candidate for Central Scotland) around queer theory and Scotland’s LGBT+ organisations. Relayed by tens of participants from the conference, Lynch is quoted as having told attendees that queer charities in Scotland are working to reduce the age of consent in Scotland to just ten years old. The two Tweets from Denise Findlay (made almost an hour apart, the second with quotation marks to distance the poster) rapidly become the most commonly shared evidence.

So, briefly, to fully understand what these comments mean (Lynch’s own and those of others around her) as well as the conflicting responses from the Alba Party, let’s briefly examine who this young political party are… Speaking to Sky News, Salmond advised that the Alba Party has ‘already overtaken the [Scottish] Liberal Democrats in membership’; whilst its worth adding that he also utilised this interview to remain unapologetic towards who accused him of sexual harassment and misconduct, stating that ‘most fair-minded people would say ‘“that’s that, it’s time to move on”’. With little evidence to the point, the party leader has proclaimed that ‘Alba [is] that glorious Yes diverse movement reborn in the form of a political party – optimistic, forward looking, and open minded’ – yet, if the last few weeks are anything to go by, the indication is that it’s anything but, with individuals boasting an abundance of intolerances seemingly gravitating towards the party. The vetting processes for the Alba Party would make for fascinating reading, whilst Salmond has already publicly excused Jim Walker – whom he described as ‘one of the most significant economists in the world’ – for his behavior in calling Nicola Sturgeon ‘a cow’, suggesting it was merely ‘a Twitter spat [from] before Jim was [an Alba Party] candidate’. Alex Arthur – whose Romaphobia and Gyspyphobia is abound – was also excused as ‘a world champion and an O.B.E. […] the type of person we want standing for the Alba Party’…

Indeed, Tejas Mukerji of the Republican Socialists has stated that ‘the prejudices animating [the Alba Party] candidates are to varying degrees widely prevalent in our society; be it bigotry against GRT communities, anti-semitism, regressive views on women’s bodily autonomy or an overwhelming, barely concealed transphobia. Until now, these tendencies had always found greater political articulation on the side of the Unionist camp than it had in the pro-independence camp. In this respect, Alba’s greatest contribution is to make space for a similar articulation within the indy camp’. One of those comments came from the aforementioned list candidate for Central Scotland, Margaret Lynch and, as noted above, proclaims that, in Scotland, LGBT organisations, funded by the Scottish Government, are lobbying to lower the age of consent to ten years old. The impact of her comments and – regardless of their accuracy (a topic deeply contested from multiple perspectives, detailed below) – have resulted in a ideological doubling down, outright denial, and waves of homophobic attacks against individuals and organisations.

‘What she said was not only untrue, but it was also a wilful, bad faith interpretation made for the sole purpose of trying to smear LGBT+ organisations.’ – Stonewall Scotland

Lynch, as stated by Findlay and many others, suggested that LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland were spearheading this drive due to their association with the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (commonly referred to as the ILGA) whom she claims signed up to a charter making the above demand. Formed of upwards of 1,600 organisations, ILGA members in the U.K. encompass groups of a secular, political, religious, or social nature; trade unions, and charities – a handful of those affiliated include Equality Network, LGBT Labour, and Switchboard – LGBT+ Helpline to Gay Christian Europe, Imaan, and the Jewish LGBT+ Group, as well as an abundance of UNISON groups (e.g. Scotland LGBT Group, East Midlands LGBT Group, Greater London LGBT Group) and Unite the Union. The declaration referred to was produced by the organisation’s own Women’s Rights Caucus – ‘a global coalition of over 200 organisations working to advance women’s human rights’. The attempts to spread this disinformation are numerous, generally uncritical, and appear primarily to be engaged in fear mongering, disinformation, and, in many instances, explicit homophobia in their singling out of queer charities.

The response, as anyone should reasonably expect, was borderline unanimous. ILGA World released a statement, advising that the organisation ‘categorically, and in no uncertain terms, does not advocate to eliminate or lower the general age of consent, nor supports paedophilia in any way, shape or form – and never has’. Stonewall Scotland Tweet that ‘[t]oday a Scottish parliamentary candidate stated that we are campaigning to lower the age of consent. This is categorically untrue. Such claims are dangerous and irresponsible and we would urge those making or sharing these claims to stop’. Further still, one Twitter user shared the response they received from their trade union stating that ‘peadophilia is illegal[.] UNISON would not be part of any organisation that promoted this. UNISON is a member of ILGA and we work with ILGA Europe to promote LGBT+ equality in Europe and Central Asia’.

In essence, what we can read is that events took place in this order:

  • Findlay tweets from the conference that ‘the next move is to reduce the age of consent to 10 years of age. LGBT youth [sic] and Stonewall Scotland have received over 1 million pounds of Scottish government funding’
  • Statements denying the accusations are issued by a multitude of queer organisations including: L.G.B.T. Youth Scotland: ‘At no points have @LGBTYS called for a reduction in the age of consent’; Stonewall Scotland: Nancy Kelley, and Colin McFarlane state that Lynch is ‘repeating deeply harmful myths about LGBT+ people as paedophiles and sexual predators’, calling upon her to ‘retract her false accusation and apologise’.; ILGA World add that they ‘[do] not advocate to eliminate or lower the general age of consent’; and the Scottish Government add that they ‘never funding any organisation to campaign for, or promote, any policy that would reduce the age of consent for sex to 10’.
  • From there, the Alba Party stress that what Lynch said was ‘based on fact’, only for Salmond to then deny that any such comment was made.
  • The following day, Lynch goes on record for The Scotsman to make many of the same points Salmond denied.

Findlay’s Tweet has since been deleted. Yet, as Colin Macfarlane (Director of Stonewall Scotland) asked, ‘[i]f Margaret Lynch didn’t make those comments as Mr Salmond claims, why then did multiple attendees at the Alba Women Conference [T]weet that they heard her state the untrue, irresponsible & dangerous claim that we and other LGBT orgs wants to lower the age of consent to 10?’ Scott Cutherbertson (Development Manager at EqualityNetwork) follows up by contesting that the take being offered on of the Feminist Manifesto by Alba Party and others, constitutes ‘a wilful misreading to fit homophobic tropes’, a conclusion that The Ferret’s Fact Service also describe as an ‘incorrect reading of […] the Feminist Declaration’, one that ignores that the purpose of these paragraphs which the service reminds readers ‘backs support for sexual and reproductive health services’ – nothing to do with lowering the age of consent. Staff at The Ferret even contacted LGBT Youth Scotland who ‘confirmed […] that they have not lobbied, or received funding, to lower the age of consent to 10’, statements echoed by The Scottish Government (both cited the above link to The Ferret).

Fundamentally, The Ferret Fact Service offers the most conscience summary:

‘FFS! (For Facts’ Sake): The claim is baseless, ridiculous and/or logically impossible! The claims made by Wings Over Scotland are false. There is no evidence within the blog to support the claim that these organisations support lowering the age of consent to age 10, and the SNP is not funding any organisations which are. The characterisation of the Feminist Declaration as a ‘paedophile charter’ is not accurate.

Despite this, in her article, Lynch still maintains that her comments can be ‘verified by anyone who visits the website of the ILGA’. She contests that ‘[a]ll of the reports my three-minute speech to the Alba Conference – whether on Twitter or in the media – were based on a third party account’ – so far, so accurate – yet, bizarrely, despite the proclamation that the conference was a safe space, the entire event was recorded and may yet find its way into the public domain. And despite, as Cutherbertson notes, ‘a wilful misreading’ of the Feminist Delcaration, Lynch continues to descibe the document as ‘morally repugnant’ – even quoting ‘one of [her] doughty defenders’ as she further proclaims that the document advocates ‘to lower the age of consent to ten years’. Salmond is correct, at least in premise, of what a safe space agreement is meant to entail – a place in which participants are ‘encouraged to express their concerns over a range of subjects’ without fear that those involved will share information or revelations that occur within that space. The fact that any Tweets were shared from that space should be condemned by the party as a breach of that very agreement.

The deep reductive advocacy of a ‘supermajority’, at least initially, as if the sole concern should only be about Scottish secession from the U.K., for Eamonn O’Neill, draws parallels to ‘an almost theological faith’ in a party launched by, and generally centring, a single prominent individual. There’s arguments to be had that all parties and independent candidates should have their manifestos published in advance of postal votes being issued, yet as problematic as it is, at least a majority of the parties had already outlined many of their policies in advance. The same cannot be said of the Alba Party. What will it mean, therefore, if a second independence referendum does happen and we lose it? Any parties or individuals who borderline push exclusively for Scottish independence (almost regardless of whatever that will actually mean) at the expense of ‘the day job’ will have sacrificed perhaps a decade or more of opportunities to implement genuinely impactful change. Plenty positive and negative changes have occurred since September 2014, yet a ‘Max the Yes’ or a ‘supermajority’ over all else – with every area progress could be made whether radical or gradual under devolution in the meantime – risks further failing those harmed by austerity.

There is, however, another positive, suggested by Republican Socialists, ‘what is left of the SNP is now likely to be more hospitable to intersectionality and tolerance for minorities than it may have been earlier’, yet ‘[i]f the Alba party makes a significant breakthrough into Scottish politics and doesn’t immediately face confrontation and opposition from the radical left and social progressives, it will successfully drag all of Scottish politics to the right’. The Scottish Greens have similarly condemned both Lynch’s comments and the conduct of one of their members who made threats of violence towards her:

‘The Scottish Greens have a zero-tolerance approach to violence. This tweet was unacceptable, and we instructed the member to remove it, which has now been done. This matter will now be dealt with through our internal complaints and conduct process. The party also has a zero-tolerance approach to homophobia, including dangerous and sinister conspiracy theories which associate LGBT+ people with paedophilia. This is the worst kind of hate speech, so [it] is shocking to see the Alba Party defend it.’

A vitally important component of this, it seems, Salmond has actually since acknowledged stating that the Tweet ‘inaccurately [shared a] view that Margaret had expressed’, and that this was done ‘quite wrongly as it was a safe space conference’. Simultaneously, his commentary has shifted from the ‘based in fact’ statement to advising that the organisations addressing the comments and categorically denying the claims were, in essence, wasting their time responding to ‘misreporting’. Some have responded individually, with Austin Sheridan (former S.N.P. councillor for Baillieston, Glasgow, elected whilst still a teenager) has already left the party based on Lynch’s comments, stating that ‘there is no way I can be part of a party that tolerates such views and does nothing to address them directly’.

As others have observed, Wings seized on the Tweets by those in attendance or who followed-up on it afterwards. The aforementioned article, ‘The Paedophile Charter’ alone demonstrates that eagerness with which many latched onto the claim ‘[i]t appears that it’s entirely true – the SNP are indeed paying lobby groups with your money to try to reduce the age of consent in Scotland to 10’. Naturally Alba Party and Wings are not a single entity but the relationship between the two is clear and, despite proclamations to the contrary – many of the party’s candidates and members shared the commentary from Wings (Neale Hanvey amongst them). Indeed I can personally attest to having witnessed social workers and health care professionals in positions of influence over Scottish politics alongside other folk with links to groups such as For Women Scotland (described as transphobic by several organisations), LBG Alliance (an anti-trans organising, many believe they are a hate group), and others with any combination of ‘Adult human female’, ‘Gender Critical’ / ‘GC’, ‘I [heart] JK’, ‘[cherry emoji]’, or ‘#IStandWithJKRowling’ in their Twitter biographies, all of whom seemingly shared the content unquestioningly. Some of the direct Tweets are included below, whilst other individuals have been careful not to comment but merely to Retweet. Others, still, have continued to produce their own reports in the time since, with The Christian Institute claiming on 17th April 2021 that ‘[a] global LGBT group has thrown its support behind a statement calling for ages of consent to be lowered around the world to allow adolescents to engage in sexual activity freely and without “stigma”’.

The problematic blogger from Bath states that ‘Wings is not aware of any statistical predilection of homosexual people towards paedophilia compared to heterosexual people’, yet the blog has no qualms about producing articles entitled The Paedophile Charter, What You Find Under Rocks, or The Last Line of Defence. Nor, indeed, does the website’s lead author have an issue with portraying those hurt by his accusation, left fearful for their personal safety, or who are unwilling to give such falsehood the time of day due to the suggestions inflammatory and dishonest nature as disingenuous or ill-equipped for their roles. He proclaims that ‘anyone who reacts with outrage and evasion and deflection to a basic minimum of scrutiny and vigilance [as] someone over whom there should be rather MORE scrutiny and vigilance, not less’… Yet he is not alone in doing so, eagerly sharing his platform with those spout similarly gaslighting languages – For Women Scotland include openly transphobic content in the recent article they published via Wings, including misgendering and dated language. The comments sections under such articles are rife with homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia more generally, hateful terminology abound, and the pathetic attempts to link queer people with numerous attempts to allow harm to others – shithousery many of us have been expose to in our day-to-day lives, both in-person and in virtual spaces. I would not encourage anyone to expose themselves to the content, or suggest folk should   to engage with the crowd Wings attract.

So, where does this leave us? Colin Macfarlene stated that ‘[i]t’s extraordinary to see Margaret Lynch continue her campaign of misinformation against Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Youth in the Scotsman today’, adding that ‘[h]er words about our orgs […] basically say what Alex Salmond has denied she said’. Mukerji is absolutely correct in identifying a home for exclusionary politics within the pro-independence movement in Scotland. Many of us have witnessed it or confronted such perceptions regularly, indeed, often such ideologies found a home within the SNP’s ‘broad church’. It no longer seems that this will continue to be the case, at least not to the same extent. A question, therefore, arises over whether the Alba Party can gain traction in Scotland, and, if so, one of where they will land. In the event that they do, will we see them sat amongst the Conservatives fighting for that right-wing ideological space, or does the dynamic become one of competing drives towards another independence referendum, casting aside any complications of intersectional struggles? An abundance of organisations, journalists, community groups, and individuals have demonstrated repeatedly the willful and incorrect misreading of the Feminist Declaration, yet the misinformation continues and many are placed in harm’s way. If we don’t fight it now, knock such a shift down in the ballot box, online, and in the streets, there’s no knowing quite how far those involved with the Alba Party – enabled by others either willfully or complicitly – will go. Inversion and action must take place now.

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AFTERWORD: I want to stress that although, as I noted above, many people in prominent positions have relayed the comments around what Lynch may or may not have said during the Alba Party conference or shared her ‘I didn’t say this, but here’s me saying it now’ article; provided links to the horrendous contributions made by the Bath-based blogger; or rehashed any number of harmful stereotypes and homophobic prejudices, there are others who’ve challenged these comments, who are fighting to defend and safeguard us from such attacks. Make no mistake, threats of violence towards others should not be taken lightly, but know that if you’ve been affected by the contributions of the Alba Party, Wings, Lynch, or any of the others you may once have trusted, you are not alone.

Support is available from many incredible people and organisations, among them LGBT Youth Scotland, LGBT Health and Wellbeing, Equality Network, Stonewall Scotland, Mutual Aid Trans Edinburgh, Scottish Trans Alliance, LGBT Domestic Abuse Scotland, Engender, DiversiTay, the Highland LGBT Forum, and Scottish Borders LGBT Equality Forum. These are merely the organisations I’m familiar with, so, please, if there are others you would recommend, please do post them in the comments so that other people may benefit from them.

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Take care of yourselves and those around you. x

 

 

 

Comments (11)

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  1. GM Stevenson says:

    Thank you for writing this.

    I live near a bar in Glasgow that is a notorious stab inn. A few years ago, there was talk that it might close, and I overheard someone walking by it say, “If they close it, where are the nutters supposed to go?”

    This can be taken two ways. One is a typical Glaswegian compassion for “the nutters,” an understanding that even the most antisocial and violent people need community. The other, more practical, point is that if their hangout closes, they will migrate to other bars and make them less pleasant, safe and sane.

    In the politics of Scottish independence, Alex Salmond’s new Alba party might serve the same function as the bar I shall not name. The worst bigots and other reactionaries — “the nutters” — now have a party to join, a community of their own, leaving the SNP a more pleasant, safe and sane place. The worst of the worst will join Alba, while the good and the merely bad will stay with the SNP.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      My thoughts exactly, GM. Alba could provide a home for dissensual views within the wider nationalist community and add to the range of products available to the consumer in the political marketplace.

  2. Tom Ultuous says:

    I was thinking the other day about the similarities between George Galloway and the schoolgirl who, under the influences of Miss Jean Brodie (a woman in her prime), went off to fight for the wrong side in the Spanish civil war and died in a train crash on the way there. Has Alex inadvertently boarded the same train?

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    Scottish Education could be done gooder Jim.

  4. Dougie Blackwood says:

    Sorry but, in my belief this article just feeds into the troll’s agenda.

    There are nutters in every party and usually some other sensible people. The idea of Alba (pronounced sniffily, either way) is a good one.

    Unionists are delighted that SNP voters waste their second vote as it gets them elected. Alba can reduce thier numbers and keep the independence camp as a broad church. We must never decree which path other independence supporters follow. Everyone needs to have a voice.

    By the way, I do not believe anybody with any sense is advocating a change to the age of sexual consent. The sooner this troll’s story is shut down the better.

    1. There’s several problems with this Dougie.

      “Alba can reduce their numbers and keep the independence camp as a broad church.” I mean we don’t really know that to be true, other than every single poll tells us that’s very unlikely to happen. Even if it did, its totally unclear what consequences would follow from it.

      “We must never decree which path other independence supporters follow. Everyone needs to have a voice.” Well how far wold you take that? ‘Fascists for Indy?’ Presumably you have a threshold for this idea that you must never criticise other independence supporters?

      The problem with this ‘broad church’ you speak of is its choc full of people who have been smearing entire communities in Scotland and suggesting – in all seriousness – that there is a secret agenda to lower the age of consent to ten. Why should anyone work alongside people who propagate such smears?

    2. Radio Jammor says:

      Continuing to point out that Alba candidates have smeared entire LGBT organisations based on falsehoods, and have not apologised for such, leads me to conclude that this was wilfully orchestrated.

      There is though the possibility that Salmond tried a ‘reverse play’ by acknowledging ‘clarity’ from those orgs over the wording concerned (whilst they condemn the accusations made of them), to cover for a candidate who genuinely didn’t understand the wording and what she was talking about, which was then leaked by the hopeless & tactless Denise Findlay, who previously failed to see the problem with comparing Israel to Nazis, and had already been tweeting untoward accusations about The Scot Greens prior to this blowing up.

      Perhaps Salmond was trying to front it out without making yet another big apology for one of his candidates (although he still had to with regard to Findlay – something had to give).

      Of course the daft Green (I don’t know who, I only heard) that responded with a threat, played into this and gave Salmond the ability to respond indignantly and deflect away from the furore created by his own candidates. A smart and measured response would have left Salmond wanting.

      However, if this was wilfully staged from the start, the two-fold intended effect was to undermine those supporting LGBT (The Scot Greens through Patrick Harvie in particular being an obvious target), and to appeal to idiots and bigots for votes; because surely there is more of them than the 3% Alba are polling at. Make no mistake, Alba want votes from where ever they can get them.

      This does indeed lead to the question of where will this party go if it gets elected to office.

      In my own scribblings, (before this particular issue blew-up – I can’t claim prescience for something that was bound to happen in some form or another – even if some accuse me of having a time machine, because they lack such foresight), I have accused Alba supporters of, ” ignoring who they are voting into the Scottish Parliament and whether they will a) be competent and/or b) be able to persuade anyone other than existing Indy supporters to actually vote for Indy and c) not be used by the Unionist side to attack the current and potential voters for Indy with.”

      “Independence voters in general, and Alba voters in particular, need to get to grips with the need to appeal to more voters, and ones that have not come around to Indy thus far.”

      Alba are not really appealing to anyone outside of the pro-Indy cause and their list votes are courtesy of largely SNP voters. They had been convinced of the case for a second list party, and do not seem to care about anything else, or be able to see beyond this election. They just seem to see ‘Second Indy Party = No wasted votes on the list’, when because Alba’s support is so small, it probably still will be a wasted vote.

      And then they will wonder why there was not enough people voting the same way. And we will facepalm in response.

      No, I want more articles like this, that spell out the nonsenses these people under the Alba banner have been spouting, including before electioneering got under way.

      I want more articles pointing out that there are Unionists stirring the Alba pot, in a none-too subtle way, because they see that Alba are bad news for us, and can be something they can latch onto later, especially during a referendum campaign. If Alba supporters actually looked around them at who some of their cheerleaders are, they might suddenly wake up to the danger.

      I want more like this so that more Scots realise that they should steer clear of Alba and not put a single one of them into the Scottish Parly.

      Getting zero seats will effectively kill this party off, as we have a SNP/Green pro-Indy majority and draft legislation for a referendum that can happen without a Section 30. We have every reason to believe that we will have a referendum that we will win by the time Alba get another chance to vote people into the Scot Parly.

      In a sense, it is a shame, because the concept of a list party had merit, which is why some have supported it, but Salmond has utterly perverted it into a party of bigots who care not what they say or do to get elected. Salmond has lost sight of the cause; is using it for his own ends and doesn’t really care about the damage he does in the process.

      If Alex Salmond was ever a canny political operator, Alex Salmond should know that Alex Salmond is himself a liability. He would know that all the afore listed are political liabilities and that they are far more likely to come a cropper before they can possibly do anything constructive.

      Indeed, the only thing constructive Alba seem to have done is demonstrate that we can maximise the pro-Indy vote by voting for the Scot Greens on the list; at least in some places.

      Whatever Alex Salmond did for the Indy movement in the past, this attempt to return is at best, ill-advised, and at worst, egotistical, conceited and counter-productive. It is destroying whatever positive legacy he was leaving.

      I hope more people who are currently Alba supporters wake-up to the folly of voting for them on the list before 6 May, and do something better with their vote.

  5. Jim says:

    Great piece Luke. Very interesting and on the ball in my view.

  6. Daniel Raphael says:

    Outstanding, useful, timely. Great work.

  7. John Monro says:

    I should make it perfectly clear, that while in a previous posting I “supported” Salmond’s right to form a party and to throw his spanner into the workings of Scottish politics if he wished to, and to provide counter to the what I consider some specious arguments posted on this site, that does not include necessarily liking the man (I don’t) nor wishing to support apologists for any sort of social intolerance, whether gay rights, race or religion, nor those that wish to make political capital out of, or even just wilfully ignoring, these mean and spiteful values. But there are quite a number of Scots out there, as I understand it, who find Sturgeon and the SNP’s apparent cronyism and general competence open to a good deal of criticism, and Alba might surprise by doing rather better than you’d wish. If that’s the case, best to get these arguments out in the open and hopefully fairly debated. It might be best that the country gets used to a measure of competent progressive government and reasoned debate from all parties before wishing to strike out on its own. Cheers.

    1. Pub Bore says:

      Yes, you’re right, John. Even if the Alba Party is packed with morally dubious characters, as is being claimed, that party still has the right to enter the electoral marketplace and compete for votes. That’s the way our democracy works. And if Alba’s intervention prevents any party from gaining enough seats to enable it to command an overall majority in parliament, then so much the better for that democracy.

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