The Scottish Independence Convention must distance itself from Bella Caledonia

The Scottish Independence Convention launched a crowdfunding appeal last month.

It was spectacularly successful, raising over £50,000 in four weeks.

Yessers bought into the message of collaboration and togetherness from the revamped group.  Well respected activists like Paul Kavanagh joined its board.

As things stand, the all-new SIC has a war-chest of £51,854.00. It’s ultimate goal is £180,000 – a huge amount.  It will require a huge amount of goodwill if it is to attract a further £130,000 from the independence movement.

That goodwill might not be forthcoming if the actions of one of its most high-profile members is anything to go by. The individual is Mike Small.

Below is an extract of an article published on Mr Small’s Bella Caledonia website.

We have a problem within the Scottish Independence movement. It is a problem with bullying and harassment. This is not a problem peculiar to our movement, but neither is it one that we’ve been able to escape because we are exceptional in some way. If anything, this behaviour shows how similar we are to everyone else. Our group, if I can call it that given four years of increasing fragmentation, has succumbed to social media flu.


The same disease that courses through other movements in [sic] thriving in our own. Online, a spectrum of harassment, including but not limited to persistent dismissal, doxxing, reputation attacks, false profiles, slut-shaming and revenge porn has become a lingua franca for those who want to shut women up. However low-level, the effects are cumulative. They work to push women’s voices out of public discourse.

The problem I have with this article isn’t that it alleges that women, five in particular, have been subjected to abuse online.  It’s the quite outrageous attempt to smear the whole independence movement by presenting it as somehow endorsing, or sharing culpability for, the abhorrent attacks that are being alleged.

The independence movement is one of the most welcoming social democratic movements anywhere on earth.  It does not discriminate on the basis of creed, colour, gender, age, ethnicity or social standing.  All are welcome.

Within it will reside people who disagree with one another.  Some will passionately disagree.  Some, sadly, will exhibit intolerant behaviour.  But to suggest a ‘disease’ is coursing through our movement; that our movement is fragmenting and that young women are being systematically ‘slut-shamed’ is not a movement I recognise.

Mike Small decided to publish this article.  That is his right.  No-one would deny him that right.  He may argue that he doesn’t share the sentiments of the article.  That may be true.

However I would argue that by publishing such an outrageous article, Mike Small has forfeited another right – the right to remain on the board of the Scottish Independence Convention.  The article has aimed outrageous and disgusting slurs at the movement SIC claims to represent.

The Scottish Independence Convention really needs to distance itself from Bella Caledonia and this article.  If it doesn’t, it will implicitly endorse the views the article contains.  SIC will be smearing the very people whose cash it needs.

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22 thoughts on “The Scottish Independence Convention must distance itself from Bella Caledonia

  1. gordie

    There are 14 people who are described as co-opted members(non voting). I’ve never met Mike Small but suspect he is a tit from some of the pish he writes though as I have never actually met him and not being without faults myself I am happy to listen to what this organisation has to offer regardless of whether |Mike Small,( who was solidly behind Independence first time out) is a. tit or not.
    There are a lot of YES groups on board. They have a vote on policy unlike Mike Small.

    I suspect MIke Small was a bit miffed that his sterling efforts on behalf of the cause during the first indy ref didnt leave him better placed. Hence his slagging of the SNP (using tedious unionist rhetoric) at every opportunity. Despite this I’ll side with the Scottish Independence Convention this time Peter. There are a lot of sincere folk on board, i’ll set aside any personal feelings for the greater good.

  2. Douglas

    I don’t doubt that Mr Small wishes independence.
    Unfortunately his ill advised outpourings are unhelpful.
    The YES movement has enough enemies without this.

  3. Mireille Pouget

    I suggest we all keep calm. We can discuss the opinion shown in this article, we can disagree profoundly but SIC is not a Soviet committee, expulsing someone because s/he has said something “bad”. We can all take disagreement, criticism, and praise. The Yes movement is adult enough, strong enough to take on even the most severe criticism from within, even if it is felt unwarranted.

    1. Kay

      Agree completely. I donated and also share his concerns. To kid on it isn’t happening is to store up long term problems.

  4. Julia Gibb

    Bella was taken over and taken in a strange direction. They are the tail trying to wag the dog. Mike Small in particular is a dangerous man with a very narrow mindset on Independence.

    He has done a great deal of damage to the Independence campaign as he drives his unusual personal vision of Scotland.

    I will not give a penny while he is in anyway connected. Why the National teamed up with Bella is beyond me.

  5. Independent Woman

    I don’t know the background to the discussion regarding Bella Caledonia and the Independence Movement. What I do know is that I stopped reading BC because I became uneasy at some of the opinions expressed there and the way they were expressed.

    I did not know that Mike Small was part of SIC. I would be happier if he was not. Likewise, I would be happier if there was no link between Bella Caledonia and the National. We don’t need division in the Independence Movement being manufactured where none exists.

    We are a multi-political view movement inclusive of all shades of political opinion. I think we have got so big that we have inevitably attracted some pond-dwelling bottom feeders. It is up to us to deal with it as it arises.

  6. Dave Simpson

    I just do not recognise the picture the article tries to draw. Both at SNP conference and the AUOB marches inclusivity is paramount. Either I am missing something or the author is seeing things which don’t exist.

    Why should we give the Britnats ammunition?

  7. Kenny

    The article was written by a woman who was subjected to horrendous abuse by people on our side.
    So were the other women named in the article, including SNP councillors.
    Are you suggesting these women are liars? Are we going to pretend that their concerns are not real and not worth bothering about?
    Is this another thing we can sort out ‘after Indy?
    It doesn’t take much of a search on twitter to find the abuse and bullying outlined in the article.
    What’s so wrong with holding a mirror up to a small, but worryingly loud and intolerant section of our movement?

  8. Thomas Brotherston

    A national liberation campaign such as our WILL contain a rainbow of opinions. I have been married to a woman that I love deeply for 50 years yet we still have disagreements. Would it ever be different?
    For mike to address the apparent misogyny of our movement as evidence of some deep malaise strikes me as having whiffs of the “ anti semitism” campaign against Corbyn’s Labour Party.
    I welcome the fact that women are emerging more and more into the world of politics most making outstanding contributions. It is reasonable to expect therefore that when your head is above the parapet you will draw fire.
    They will draw fire not because they are women but because they express AN opinion. I’m sure our women comrades are more than capable of dealing with this and would not expect or ask for special treatment.
    To proscribe Bella Caledonia from the Scottish independence Convention for expressing a view which bizarrely enough seems to almost quaintly to demand some special protection for our women comrades from the misogynistic abuse they receive is disempower them. Im sure they would say they are not shrinking violets.
    However to proscribe Bella Caledonia is to travel down the “holy willie” path.
    I recently commended a Mandeep Singh of AOUB for his bravery In standing firm in the face of HES bullying only to find out later on that I had friended someone whose idealist philosophy and anti socialist views I found repugnant. I did not unfriend him. His reasons for supporting independence are his own. I don’t need to share or support them. His bravery and the bravery of his AUOB colleagues was still commendable and I don’t regret expressing my support for it.

  9. Steven

    I read this article with interest. Please can I ask who wrote it? It just says “site admin” and I couldn’t find any information about who the site admin is on this website.

  10. Kenny

    Mike Small called for a “civil war” in the indy movement. That doesn’t strike me as appropriate from anyone seeking any sort of leadership role.

    Then again, SIC is not exactly democratic or accountable, so why would they care?

  11. Kevin Williamson

    Most blogs that support Yes are written by men. Bella Caledonia, unlike the noisy chorus of one man and his blog, has a vast swathe of pro-Indy women writing for it. No one owns the Indy cause. Diversity of opinions are a movement’s strength.

    You dont have to agree with the left or for that matter the centre or the pro-democratic right of the Yes movement but we do need to include all democratic progressive vewpoints. Bella features more than most, and that’s thanks to Mike Small.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald

      Hear! Hear!

      These personal attacks on Mr Small – whom I do not know personally – are uncalled for and ill-informed. Bella runs articles Ona wide range of topics, by a wide range of writers. Some articles I find are well-written (probably because I agree with the points being made!), many are interesting and open up aspects of which I was ignorant, a few, I find precious, and, occasionally, one is incomprehensible. However, Bella is, by a long way a great feature in the Scottish journalism scene and I commend Mr Small for his Stakhanovite work rate.

      PS Vonny Leclerc has been the victim of some of the most appalling vitriol, most of which is sexually explicit and humiliating. I think she is right to speak out. Abusive trolling is not solely the experience of women, but that does not diminish Ms Leclerc’s complaint.

  12. grizebard

    I read the article. For the most part it’s describing the shameful online treatment of independence-supporting women by opponents of independence. But suddenly, out of nowhere, it switches to implying that the independence movement is guilty of the exact same kind of behaviour. Then sweetly says of course, women shouldn’t get a free pass.

    This is frankly disreputable. Where is the evidence that these women have been subjected to the same kind of scurrilous behaviour meted out to them previously by BritNats? True enough, some of them have been criticised by others in the independence movement, and rightly so because of how they have behaved, and not – as implied -because they are women. But despite the closing disclaimer, criticism is still a problem, somehow?

    It’s this kind of back-stabbing and guilt-by-association that sadly seems to the calling card of Bella Caledonia these days, and all because, one may guess, it has far less influence than its grossly-inflated pretensions.

    You can’t be an “umbrella group”, SIC, if you are harbouring people like Small and his wee band who have a well-established control-freak tendency.

  13. Fed Up

    You should be ashamed denying that abuse is a problem in the movement. Increasingly large sections of Yes online have a siege mentality that is deeply unhealthy and they lash out at any criticism, at any perceived negativity. There is a complete unwillingness to listen to the concerns of minorities, who are told to shut up for “the sake of the movement,” who are told their “identity politics” are off-putting to voters. These same people will then go on to claim the movement is “an inclusive movement” without a moment of reflection. LISTEN to the voices of women, of POC, of LGBT+ folk when they tell you that they do not feel included. That they do not feel safe.

    If independence is about building a better country then we as its advocates need to live the principles we espouse. That means holding ourselves to a higher standard. Sadly though, I don’t trust the movement I see, which has become conspiracy-addled, obsessive and aggressive.

  14. Vestas

    SIC get nothing from me while RISE & BC are on the “board”.

    The SNP would have a majority at Holyrood were it not for the lies from RISE & malicious smearing/innuendo from BC.

    I’d sub to The National were it not for their association with BC & their (predominently protestant, Glaswegian) journos wetting their knickers every time “Rangers” score a goal.

  15. Jim Anderson

    So a solidly yes political blog publishes an opinion piece on very relevant issues for women, and you can’t handle it so a tantrum ensues? the indy movement shouldn’t be one that reacts like this to opinions it doesn’t agree with.

    Internal criticism and self reflection is something other movements seem to do, it isn’t always what you want to hear, but it is essential if you want to be a progressive and forward thinking pro indy movement, there are issues as you agree among some social media fault lines within all movements, lets be better and confront them now, if not now then when?

    If women find yes to be a place where their ideas are met with thoughtful understanding and constructive criticism then we can win, if we throw their opinions out, in the way this piece and many of its comments do then people will leave.

  16. grizebard

    This had nothing to do with fair appreciation of a female perspective, it was an attempt by a small faction of self-declared supporters of independence to use the issue of respect for women to attack other actual supporters of independence by smear-by-association with previous disreputable BritNat behaviour.

    This has nothing whatever to do with defending women’s voices. This was a cynical attempt to use women as a shield against rightful criticism of minority extremist political viewpoints, just like their pal Rhea Wolfson tried to do recently when she was found out in her political manoeverings. This kind of posturing does nothing whatever for women.

    This manufactured outrage is a reaction to what the rest of us are increasingly realising: we can well do without “splitters” and “frenemies” like these…

      1. Vestas

        Says the moron from Bella…..

        There’s a reason most indy blogs/sites have deleted links to BC – try utilising your single brain cell and see if you can work out why.

        We won’t be holding our breath….

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