Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.
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On 15th of April I posted a blog calling for the SNP to address the issue of cybernats. I was specifically concerned about supporters referring to people who hold views contrary to their own as 'traiters' and 'quislings' and talking about 'drumming' folk out of the country. Please note that I never suggested that those holding these views should be disciplined or expelled from the SNP or that free speech should be restricted. I simply called on the SNP leadership to lead by stating clearly that they did not themselves hold or endorse such views.
Much of the reaction to my blog was favourable with even some nationalists saying it was interesting and fair comment. However, many thought I had been unfair and one-sided in singling out cybernats and only giving a passing mention to the abuse being meted out by Britnats and Unionists.
I fully accept that it was one-sided in this respect but I wrote my blog in response to a particular incident and I wasn't setting out to write a general piece on the topic. Now I've returned from holiday and had time to reflect I want to set out my views.
As far as I can gather it was nationalists who were the first to seize the opportunity afforded by the new media internet outlets to make their views known. They felt that the media was biased against them and so they were quick to use this new technology to publicise their opinions – sometime forcefully but often aggressively and offensively. As they did this in fairly large numbers this stream of negative comment attracted a great deal of attention. The Britnats were slower to use this new medium but seem to have made up for lost time and there is now a huge amount of equally offensive and aggressive comments by them on media websites.
I tweeted and added a comment to my blog that I was looking for counter examples for balance and was sent quite a few. (Sorry the twitter links didn't work so I wasn't able to look at them.) Most of the links sent to me were to comments made by people in leadership positions (eg MPs or Jeremy Paxman) who called the SNP 'neo fascists' or who likened Alex Salmond to Hitler or Mugabe or some other dictator or fascist . All of them bar one, I found gratuitously offensive: a pathetic attempt to undermine the SNP by simple scare-mongering and name calling. I also think that Johann Lamont's recent reference to Alex Salmond as 'wee Eck' not just demeaning to him but contrary to what the majority of Scottish voters want. We don't want cheap remarks and name calling as this trivialises important political issues. We want the Scottish Parliament to be more civilised than Westminster.
The SNP is in the ascendancy in Scotland – they have an outright majority in the Parliament, a growing party membership and there is a palpable change in atmosphere in Scotland with more people feeling relaxed about the notion of independence. This may not add up to a majority in favour of independence but it does mean that, like it or not, the SNP are here to stay. Those who oppose Scottish independence have to come to see the SNP as a legitimate and permanent feature of Scottish politics. The opposition parties need to engage in debate about Scotland's future, and the kind of country they want it to be, and not continually resort to jibes about neo-fascism. Such a negative, simplistic approach is not only facile but completely counterproductive.
That being said I think that nationalists in Scotland have to rethink their relationship with the media. I'll set out my reasons in a future blog. Interestingly Kenneth Roy has a piece on the media and the SNP in the latest edition of Scottish Review.