Some have labelled it a schism. Others describe it as infighting. The more melodramatic claim it is a Yes civil war.
I refer of course to the online fallout over the attack on Wings Over Scotland by the editor of Common Space.
Angela Haggerty’s attack on Stuart Campbell has dominated social media for days. What prompted it isn’t clear given Campbell’s defamation action against Kezia Dugdale has been public knowledge for some time prior to the Common Space editor deciding it was unwise and ego driven.
An article entitled ‘Why we should back Kezia Dugdale and send Wings Over Scotland packing‘ appeared in Common Space last week. The writer denounced WOS as nothing more than “a man and a blog” which has “a strange cult following”.
Days later Haggerty used the issue as the basis for her weekly column in the Sunday Herald. In her own article she compared Stuart Campbell to former SSP leader Tommy Sheridan and suggested ego was a driving factor in the action against Dugdale.
The Common Space editor also argued that Campbell’s actions were dividing Yessers on social media, saying of the Wings Over Scotland editor: “He is already a controversial character within the Yes movement, and Yessers on social media are divided about whether this defamation case is the right course of action.”
Are Yessers on social media divided? I myself conducted a poll on social media that asked participants whether they backed Campbell’s defamation case or not.
Of the 2770 who took part, a staggering 74% backed Campbell against a paltry 8% who disagreed with his course of action.
There is no social media division amongst Yessers. Campbell enjoys a near ten to one majority on the issue.
The Common Space editor also claimed the defamation action could have ramifications for the Yes movement, adding: “Given his close links to the Yes campaign, Campbell’s case could embroil the movement in an unedifying spat.”
Stuart Campbell’s case has got nothing to do with the Yes movement. He has brought an action against someone he believes has defamed him. He is no more representative of the Yes movement than Frankie Boyle is of the comedy circuit.
In 2012 Frankie Boyle successfully brought an action against the Daily Mirror after the newspaper described him as “racist”.
The comedian won £54,650 in damages. What of his reputation and career if he had done nothing?
What we are witnessing is not a split, a spat, a schism or division within the Yes movement, but a misunderstanding of that movement by elements of the radical left.
These self-styled elites have been trying to piggy-back the Yes movement since the referendum of 2014 and keep getting it spectacularly wrong. This misunderstanding fuelled the calamity that was RISE. It led to the near collapse of Bella Caledonia after the RISE debacle and has now resulted in a backlash against the Common Space.
What is this misunderstanding you ask? It is this. The elites cannot see that, deep down, the Yes movement is a simple beast. That it seeks independence first above all else. They cannot see that the vast majority of those who wish independence know that it cannot be achieved by taking the side of Unionists over other Yes activists or continually sniping at the SNP.
Moreover, this same Yes movement is not as unsophisticated as some elites appear to believe and is perfectly capable of discerning agenda driven smear from honest healthy debate. Most of all, the Yes movement is loyal.
To most in the wider Yes community, the attack on Stuart Campbell is driven not by a desire to help the Yes movement, but by envy and/or grudge. They see a vendetta. Wings has been in the cross-hairs of the radical left for quite some time.
The attack on Stuart Campbell by members of the radical left was in contrast to the support those same people gave to Cat Boyd after she announced how proud she was to have voted Labour in the general election. In the space of two weeks, the radical left has twice adopted a stance which contrasted with that of the wider Yes movement. In both, it has chosen to implicitly align itself with Scottish Labour over the Yes movement.
If there is an unedifying spat at all, it is between these elites and the wider Yes movement they continue to misjudge. It’s a misjudgement that has witnessed the editor of the Sunday Herald demand some Yessers shut up.
In a tweet this Sunday, Neil Mackay said: “Jesus, as a Yes voter I wish half the folk on twitter who claim to support independence would just shut up. Their dumb, toxic bile is ruinous.”
Mackay wasn’t specific about who should shut up, but it’s reasonable to assume he was referring to supporters of Stuart Campbell given that in his very next tweet he praised Haggerty, describing her as “one of the best columnists in the business.”
In these tweets we see the root of the whole problem. The elites have created their own hierarchy, and they sit at the top. The rest of us are too vulgar to be heard. They despise Stuart Campbell not because he runs the most popular blog, but because he runs the most popular blog and isn’t one of them.
Yet they constantly fail to realise just why he is so successful. Stuart Campbell doesn’t try to ingratiate himself with the main stream media. He isn’t desperate to receive the validation of the professional commentariat. He doesn’t crave a career as a BBC pundit. He doesn’t play by their rules.
The radical left has miscalculated the Wings/Dugdale defamation issue. If social media comments are anything to go by, Common Space has taken a funding hit due to this miscalculation. The miscalculation looks to be continuing if the decision to turn its attention to MP Mhairi Black is anything to go by.
Scottish Independence Convention
And there may be further fall-out from this. At the height of the ‘Wings Witch Hunt’ I opined that it impacted on the recently re-incarnated Scottish Independence Convention.
I recently acquired details of the make-up of the new body which describes itself as the “umbrella group” for Yes groups and Yes organisations. The list of organisations and people involved was interesting.
I may have more to say on the Scottish Independence Convention, but for the time being I’ll restrict myself to a key observation. One of the board members is Common Weal. Common Weal funds Common Space.
In May 2016, in an article entitled ‘The Yesurrection and Indyref2‘ I wrote the following:
Any attempt to resurrect the Yes movement must include all of the major players from indyref1. That includes the Scottish Greens, the socialists, the a-political and the SNP.
There must also be an open door for those within the Unionist party ranks who wish to participate. Alan Grogan caused considerable panic within the No campaign during indyref1 when he launched Labour for Independence.
Ground rules should be agreed. There must be no party-politicking of any description. Everyone would have to agree to abide by a code of conduct. A Yes movement that descended into the kind of SNP sniping we witnessed during the Scottish election would collapse before the year was out.
I was happy for the Common Weal to participate in this re-incarnation of Yes Scotland. However that was before its media outlet the Common Space started taking pot-shots at Wings Over Scotland.
No organisation that seeks to bring the disparate elements of the Yes movement together can hope to succeed if one of its board members is implicitly funding the attack on the most popular pro-Yes blogger.
Sadly things didn’t end there. On the day Angela Haggerty’s Sunday Herald article appeared, I happened across a tweet from Pat Kane.
The tweet was unambiguous in its criticism of Stuart Campbell. Pat appeared to have taken sides. Pat is also one of the co-convenors of the Scottish Independence Convention.
If the Scottish Independence Convention isn’t careful, it will lose the backing of the very people it needs if it is to be successful. I hope those behind it are taking note.
It’s worth re-iterating the origins of this whole episode. Kezia Dugdale accused Stuart Campbell of homophobia. She did it in a national newspaper and repeated it in the Scottish parliament. The Scottish Labour leader also sought to smear the SNP using the issue.
I know whose side I’m on.
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