BBC reporter suggests ‘less deserving sites’ caused demise of Bella Caledonia

A BBC Scotland reporter has controversially suggested that the funding of “less deserving sites” by Yes activists has contributed to the demise of online site Bella Caledonia.

In a bizarre tweet on Monday, BBC Scotland’s business and economy editor Douglas Fraser said: “Financial crunch at one of the better pro-indy sites. Time for consolidation? Could it be that activists have funded less deserving sites?”

The message was prompted by an announcement from the board of Bella Caledonia that the site faces being closed down unless extra funding can be found.  A statement posted on the website said: “The Advisory Board of Bella Caledonia confirms we are going to have to make the decision to close, unless an urgent fundraising appeal can be met.”

The tweet from the BBC reporter prompted questions from Yes supporting users of social media who demanded to know which sites were being deemed “less deserving sites”.  Many believed the tweet was a thinly veiled attack on rival online site Wings Over Scotland.

In a tweet posted in response to the BBC reporter, Wings Over Scotland editor Stuart Campbell sarcastically asked: “I think we’d all love to know who those might be.”

The apparent demise of Bella Caledonia has prompted a mixed reaction on social media with several posters showing support and offering to help.  However others have expressed dismay that a site that has received over £85,000 in donations in less than two years is unable to continue.

The announcement is the third time the site has faced closure since it was created in 2007.  In January 2011 a similar announcement appeared which read: “This project is now finished.  Thanks to everyone for their support and interest over the last three years, partocularly all the contributors.  But it’s not possible to continue.  All content will be available til the end of the month.  Mike.”

The site was eventually rescued after supporters and backers rallied.  However closure loomed again in October 2012 when an email message was sent by Mike Small to supporters and backers of the site which informed them that he was “stopping doing Bella Caledonia”.  The site was saved again when backers stepped in to help.

The site was heavily criticised by SNP supporters during last year’s Holyrood election campaign when it was accused of promoting a tactical voting ploy aimed at persuading SNP voters their second vote was wasted.  The strategy was the brainchild of the radical left group which called itself RISE which went on to flop in the subsequent election.  The SNP lost its overall majority with many supporters blaming the targeting of the party’s list vote.

It is not yet known if the site can be saved a third time.  An offer from well known blogger Craig Murray to take over the site has not yet elicited a response from the board.

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31 thoughts on “BBC reporter suggests ‘less deserving sites’ caused demise of Bella Caledonia

  1. ScotsCanuck

    If Douglas Fraser passes comment on this situation …. my advise would be “beware Greeks bearing Messages”.

  2. Robin J Barclay

    I can’t say I’ll be too bothered if Bella Caledonia discontinues. As much as I admire that there are so many yes supporting sites out there, I cannot forgive BC for their antics last year. I also find that a number of their articles are not really there to give information but more of an opinion which 9 times out of 10, I tend to find are pretentious.
    Its almost like the contributors are trying to prove that they are smarter than you because in their opinion they understand law and politics more clearly.
    Perhaps that is true but it doesn’t appeal to the majority of voters who prefer (after so many years of being talked down to) simple, easy to understand facts that they can use to inform others whether it be on the doorsteps, in the pub or around the dinner table.
    If Craig Murray does take over, I would hope for some sort of shift away from the usual rhetoric as I do enjoy reading his blog.
    Either way, I will always continue to read WoS, WGD, Newsnet, Munguin’s Republic, Lalland’s Peat Worrier, Scot Goes Pop and of course Towards Indyref 2.

    1. Robert Graham

      well said Robin and covered my thoughts on Bella , unfortunately there were a few good articles before its demise and i thought it was expanding with the aid of livestream however it probably means more traffic to other sites ,
      The BBC reporter forgot to mention the party they had to celebrate the closing of an Indy site , small minds at Pacific Heights . or just desperation ? .

  3. Andy McKirdy

    Agree with Robin. After their illogical nonsense last year when it was so obvious to everyone that a split vote only helped unionists, I wouldn’t give them a penny and if a BBC reporter is voicing any sympathy or support for them it tells you all you need to know!

  4. bjsalba

    Rarely if ever bothered with them. Just not interested in what they had to say.

    There are better places for people to put their money.

    Endorsement by the BBC is not a recommendation to most people.

  5. East Neuker

    Having been told by Mike Small,in a response to a comment disagreeing with him over the list vote issue, that I should go away and read other sites instead, I took his advice.

      1. Geejay

        I think Small was/is one of the problems. He could be condescending/patronising/spiteful all in the same sentence and didn’t like criticism.

  6. Dan Huil

    Looks like the bbc misreporting Scotland campaign has hit a britnat bbc nerve or three.

    Don’t pay the bbc tax. Give your tax money to a more deserving organization.

    1. Geejay

      Yes, Fraser’s snide comment reminds me that if ever money (tax) went to a less than deserving cause it’s the BBC.

  7. Vestas

    Says it all that unionist hacks are crying over the demise of BC. I hope to gods we’ve heard the last of the self-serving unionist Mike Small, but I fear not.

    1. David McCann

      I did not always agree with some contributers on Bella, but enjoyed the site, and will miss it if it goes to the wall.
      Mike Small is no unionist, and to suggest that he has ever been other than an independista is complete nonsense.

      1. Vestas

        Mike Small is one of the many “pro-indy” people at BC/other sites who have no interest in indy ever happening.

        Clearly the indy debate has provided him with a very nice income stream & once its done who is ever going to listen to him again?

        You can see the same self-interest in other members of the so-called pro-indies of the “radical left” – from Haggerty constantly saying no indyref before brexit to Robin McAlpine saying it’ll take 3 YEARS from a yes vote until indy.

        Many of the older members in this grouping really just want things to go back to the way they were with “old” Labour & that’s the truth of the matter.

        YMMV of course.

  8. Brian Powell

    Mike Small doesn’t want Craig Murray taking it over and doing it for costs, he wants the money: as far as I read, £35K for a salary.
    The petty jealousy in relation to Wings is pathetic, but Mike Small doesn’t like James Kelly of Scot Goes Pop either, or the SNPSG.

  9. awkwardboy

    The reported demise of Bella seems to be far more upsetting to unionists and MSM hacks than it appears to be for those of an independent bent.

    I, in common with one or two others, used to be a regular visitor to Bella untill mike small convinced me that those of my ilk were not welcome at Bella.

  10. Bill McLean

    And the BBC is “deserving”? How many still pay the TV tax in Scotland? We’ll never know – that’s for sure! Pity about Bella which I enjoyed from time to time but it did have a tendency to purity and divisiveness.

  11. Clydebuilt

    Stopped reading Bellacaledonia, when their split the vote campaign got underway.
    If Douglas Frazier liked BC then was it on our side……

    Talking about a sick BBC. This morning for an example of a gender balanced cabinet KayE chose to go all the way to Canada ignoring Nicola Sturgeon’s gender balanced cabinet…… And not a single guest or caller pointed this out.

  12. grizebard

    Bella did exceptionally well when it promoted indy from a cultural standpoint. The cultural as political. That was unique to the site and highly commendable. However, it lost the plot when it became overtly party-political and turned to pushing a radical-left alternative in the SG elections. A tactic that flopped rather spectacularly in the event.

    While the indy movement is necessarily a broad church, radical leftists alas bring a whole lot more inflated self-importance to the table than they do actual popular support. As Bella now seems to implicitly realise.

    I hope though Bella can be turned around somehow. Initiatives such as Craig Murray’s are definitely worth pursuing, for all our sakes.

  13. Les Wilson

    Hmm, followed Bella for a long time, once they started pushing “Rise” etc, I bailed out never to return. I do not know what Small’s agenda was, for the site it was a real downer that lost them many readers.
    Small must have known that it would be divisive, so my question is why did he go down that road when things appeared to be going reasonably well.
    Very odd to me.

  14. Robert Peffers

    Far as I go BC stepped over the line during Indyref 1 and joined the Unionist cause of SNPBAAD.

    The fact Douglas Fraser and the BBC, Westminster’s main propaganda wing, mourn the failure of BC is confirmation enough of where BC and the BBC stands in the independence struggle.

    Bella was rather like the Curate’s Egg, only good in parts. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and to voice that opinion but the downside of doing so is that others will judge us on our opinions and act accordingly.

  15. Lochside

    Agree with most posters…used to read and contribute to Bella, but got fed up of the’ Rise ‘pish. I’m left wing, but will not tolerate divide and rule that rewards the Union. I don’t trust any left wing group that tries to undermine the SNP hegemony…not because I’m a ‘disciple’ but because it’s the only way to achieve Independence. If the SNP backslide, I’ll abandon them like thousands of others.

    The other aspect that led me to disenchantment was Mike Small’s arrogance and infatuation with self promoters like Cat whatshername and similar.

  16. James Coleman

    The cause of Bella’s troubles is the £35K pa they pay Mike Small, ie £70K in two years out of the £85K crowd funded amount. I have no problem with a man wanting to be paid, but if it is not feasible then he has to go and get a job elsewhere.

    Craig Murray’s offer to take Bella under his wing on his blog at no cost should be seriously considered. I like his blogs, his honesty, and his refusal to be intimidated by any power anywhere. And his inside knowledge of the working of “the Establishment” is useful now and would also be of great value in the next Indy Ref campaign.

    He has set out in his latest blog how he would run Bella if he took it over and his ideas are not too radical, eg keeping the current Board in being, and employing Mike Small et al current contributors as guest writers, but importantly, making it a definite Indy YES campaigner.

  17. Edward Freeman

    A typically BBC Scotlandshire/ British Labour Party Scottish Branch Office reaction: how dare Scottish readers, viewers and voters have the barefaced effrontery to exercise their freedom of choice in ways we would rather they didn’t!

  18. Iain Taylor

    Funny that Douglas Fraser of the compulsorily funded BBC would comment on voluntarily funded sites that publish news. Isn’t it?

  19. Bibbit

    Actually relieved Mike Small won’t be around to spout his Rise pish, in this year’s council elections, especially with the red & blue tory councillors’ amalgamation.

    Christ! What Labour has stooped to! Keir Hardie must be spinning in his grave!

    If it is true, as others have posted above, that Mr Small siphoned off the bulk of Bella’s crowdfundings, (to which, like many,I donated), then he truly was the ‘poor player who struts & frets his hour upon the stage and should be heard no more’.

    I hope the BC Board grab the Craig Murray life-line. If not, well, that too speaks volumes of their ‘fringe’ priorities.

    See you on the barricades!

  20. Del

    A day or two later …
    Bella Caledonia has been resurrected, and Mike Small (temporarily?) continues to manage it. The independence church is a ‘broad movement’ (#21 Jas has it right) and Small’s intervention for RISE did do damage to the SNP majority in Holyrood. However Bella contributed a lot to cultural debate as well as political. I hope their advisory board manages to sort out the financial mess.

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