The SNP is allowing lies to “poison the body politic” in Scotland, a newspaper Editor has claimed. Neil MacKay also took aim at Independence supporters who criticised the Sunday Herald and accused them of showing a “hatred of journalism”.
In a controversial editorial in this Sunday’s edition of the paper, the Sunday Herald Editor wrote: “It is, therefore, disappointing that a small minority of both the Yes movement and SNP voters should turn on a paper that supported the central tenet of their beliefs – independence – for many years.
“There seems to be a hatred of journalism – of questioning, of analysis, of nuance, of open debate – at the heart of such sentiment whuch is truly not good for democracy.”
MacKay’s editorial was prompted by a backlash against the newspaper last week after independence supporters took issue with a front page image and article they claimed misprepresented a sixty thousand strong pro-independence march. The article claimed the good-natured event had been “marred” by “ugly confrontations”, a claim that was rejected by those in attendance.
In his editorial, MacKay described online critics as “a mob” and also hit out at what he claimed was a “distortion of the truth” by those same critics.
He wrote: “Some of the criticism levelled at us has had the feel of a complete disconnect from reality, and has echoes of the worst of the online world as exhibited by the Trump campaign and its dissemination of lies as fact.”
The newspaper Editor claimed staff had been subjected to threats and also hit out at the SNP, accusing the party of standing by and allowing political discourse to be poisoned by lies. He added: “It is also disheartening that SNP figures do not speak out to condemn such distortions of the truth …
“By maintaining their silence they are allowing lies to poison the body politic.”
The Editorial was the latest manifestation of differences between the newspaper, which adopted a pro-independence stance in late 2014, and online Yessers and bloggers. It came a day after another Herald journalist was involved in a twitter spat with pro-independence opponents after accusing them of mounting ‘Trumpist Attacks’.
Responses to MacKay’s Editorial suggests the rift between the two sides has now widened, perhaps beyond repair. The row wasn’t helped by what was widely seen as a defiant front page in this week’s edition that targeted former First Minister Alex Salmond.
One blogger suggested the Editorial had damaged the Sunday Herald and its weekday sister paper. Grousebeater tweeted: “The sadness in Mackay’s badly judged diatribe is he doesn’t perceive the damage his newspaper and the Herald does every day to the cause of civil rights in Scotland.”
Stuart Campbell, who runs the Wings Over Scotland website, contrasted claims in the Editorial with threats he said had been aimed at him by a Herald journalist.
The blogger also posted a message which read: “No mention of stuff like this, directed at me unprovoked by a Herald hack I’d never heard of and including an implied physical threat.”
The blogger revealed he had emailed the Sunday Herald Editor requesting a right-of-reply to the Editorial.
Another Yes blogger, James Kelly, argued the newspaper had compounded the misjudgement of the previous week by placing a ‘despicable attack on Alex Salmond’ on this week’s front page.
Writing on his Scot Goes Pop blog, Kelly said: “You might have thought that the Sunday Herald would have reflected on the damage done last week, and would be in full-on build-bridging mode this week.
“But not a bit of it. Instead, they’ve doubled down with a front page that sends an unmistakeable message that a great deal has changed. It contains what I can only describe as a despicable attack on Alex Salmond that in none-too-subtle fashion pursues the barking mad “the Russians are everywhere!” agenda of Mr David Leask from the paper’s anti-independence daily sister publication.”
The blogger suggested the Sunday Herald had gone out of its way to create the front page ‘news’ lead, adding: “I know that defenders of the front page story will point out that the Sunday Herald can’t be expected to let its pro-independence views get in the way of reporting the news.
“But the snag is that the comments of Mr Litvinenko’s widow about Alex Salmond are not a news story that has just spontaneously appeared out of thin air.
“She presumably didn’t ring up the Sunday Herald offices and say “I’ve just got to get this off my chest, guys”. They sought her out and solicited a view from her about a subject that she might well not have given much thought to otherwise.
“It’s a piece of “news” that has been artificially generated by the Sunday Herald completely from scratch.”
The front page attack on Salmond will be seen by some as a warning to SNP figures of what the party can expect should they decline MacKay’s ‘invitation’ to call out the ‘mob’. However early signs suggest Nicola Sturgeon and her party are steering clear of the row.
In a separate tweet, Salmond himself attacked what he called the ‘smear piece’ on his TV show.
The former First Minister revealed he had now cancelled his long standing subscription to the Sunday Herald following the newspaper’s ‘truly bizarre’ coverage of the Glasgow Indy march.
The newspaper stands to lose a considerable sum in terms of subscriptions should other independence supporters follow Salmond’s lead.
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