Sunday, 15 June 2014


I have now got to the point of conceit to believe there might be an anticipation that I will produce a Sunday Night blog which will outrage some and reassure others. So this is it. although I don't have any particular "big point" to make.

Interestingly, this week it was revealed that there are only 78,000 active twitter accounts in Scotland and if you drill down into their number it would  reveal that the overwhelming majority of these have no interest whatsoever in politics.

Instead they are engaged with football, or popular music fandom, or simply in talking about what is happening on the telly. That is that part of the telly which doesn't include Scotland Tonight or Scotland 2014.

Perhaps we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we (by that I mean all of us reading this blog) are living in a pretty small bubble. Sometime in the past week somebody on twitter reported on an event specifically called to debate "the" question where those voluntarily present were asked how many had ever heard of Campbell Gunn. A solitary hand was raised.

If that is the impact the "scandal" of the week had had on those actually engaged, how much less so did it impact on the 5,217,000 Scots without an active twitter account?

Nonetheless, it is one aspect of that episode that provides my first (but not only) topic tonight.

Some time back the SNP clearly made a strategic decision to make common cause with a small group of cyberspace fanatics who saw it to be their task to try to verbally intimidate anyone prepared to suggest on the internet that they were not wholly persuaded of the merits of independence.

It would only be fair to point out that a number of committed nationalists were opposed to this strategy from the start, Who exactly were these people? Had they ever knocked a door or even delivered a leaflet in "the cause of Scotland"? Why did most of them feel it necessary to conceal their identities?

Nonetheless, Eck clearly felt they could do a job for him and, in the modern SNP, what Eck decides is final. So they were allowed to proceed with only the mildest of censure.

With the highlighting of the vile, misogynistic  attacks on Claire Lally and J.K. Rowling this week the chickens have come home to roost. When your key demographic weaknesses are with women and young people, what more lunatic strategy than to personally attack the mum of the year and the greatest living children's author? Suddenly the SNP leadership realised that they should have listened to wiser heads on their own side. Too late. In the words of Windsor Davies: "Oh dear, how sad, never mind".

But in the midst of the storm this week there has been one constant Nationalist counter argument. Yes, finally, we might be trying to disown this but the other side are just as bad. "Nicola Sturgeon received death threats on twitter".

Now this is an allegation that has gone the rounds before. And it falls into, the Nats hope, one of these situations where if something is said often enough people will come to assume it must be true.

Except, as a lawyer, it has always seemed to me to be a bit of an  incongruous allegation. You can be pretty outrageous on twitter. I have been myself. But direct threats to the life of another still attract the attention of the criminal law. There are, quite rightly, people in the jail right now for having made such threats against Neil Lennon.

So surely if people had threatened the life of the Deputy First Minister of Scotland that might reasonably have been expected to attract the priority interest of the Polis?

Well, as with so many assertions by the nationalists, when you look into this, this matter is somewhat different from how it was being portrayed last week. There is a single source for the allegation that Nicola Sturgeon received death threats on twitter and that single source is.................... Nicola Sturgeon, in an interview that she gave to the Daily Express. Now look at what Ms Sturgeon actually says. She suggests that the "threats" came from a single account (of a "sad and lonely individual" ) and that she herself did not take them seriously. Indeed so not seriously that she decided to report these "threats" not to the Police but rather to the Daily Express. In, it should not be overlooked, an earlier attempt to excuse the cybernats.

Yet by last week this "fact" was being held up by various SNP spokespeople as somehow equivalent to  the systematic vilification of Ms Lally and Ms Rowling by literally hundreds of nationalist online supporters. Or at least, since these supporters mostly remain anonymous, by literally hundreds of nationalist supporting accounts.

Which leads me on to whether there is a central mind controlling this. Well, there is and there isn't.

Most of the cybernats congregate around a single notorious nationalist website from which they take their cue. They certainly did that in the case of Claire Lally. And it was the failure to realise that what appears on that sewer often bears no relationship to the truth that led the fundamentally decent Campbell Gunn astray. Perhaps he was misled by the willingness of Yes Scotland to endorse the site as a source of "facts" when it is anything but.

So if the SNP are finally serious, as they claim to be, about reigning in the cybernats then a good start would be to ensure that there is no further reference to this sewer on Yes Scotland literature. Let's wait and see.

Or perhaps they should simply consider the second half of Jim Sillars intervention and reflect on where this man came from and how he comes to be so well funded?

And normally, that would be me. Except that something else happened today, Gordon Aikman announced he was dying..

I wrote at the start about appreciating how few of us exist in this electronic referendum bubble. But Gordon is one of us. One of the brightest and best and most tragically one of the youngest.

For me he did not need to write of the horror of Motor Neurone Disease, for it claimed the life of the wife of a close colleague who is now a major fundraiser in its combat. But even in her case it was in later life.

It is almost impossible to comprehend why a young man so full of life should be struck down in this way.

I can only end by doing what he does himself and ask you to donate towards finding a cure. That would almost inevitably come too late for him but it would be a worthy lasting legacy.

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