I'll come to the cause in a moment.
I'm a great twitterer and I very much enjoy it. You can exchange views with all and sundry about everything from food to football to what's on the telly. And of course there is a lot of politics where people of opposing views will express strong opinions which, even if you don't share them, are accepted to be sincerely held. Including a lot of very good people who believe in the cause of Scottish Independence.
But, to be honest, there is one group who spoil the Party and that is a small group of Nationalists collectively known as the cybernats by even the more sensible on their own side. Almost all anonymous, I suspect with multiple twitter identities, they will every so often go into overdrive about some supposed offence to their Party or (particularly) its leaders. And they do so without any regard at all for the facts.
My first experience of this was about a year ago. John Swinney was on Newsnight and repeated the falsehood that the reason that the Referendum was in the second half of the Parliament was because that had been in the SNP Manifesto. Kez Dugdale was on for us and tried to make that point but the format prevented her from doing so and I posted a tweet observing that Swinney had been lying. I then went to bed.
The next time I looked at my timeline I was beseiged by cybernat comment that I was lying. That Mr Swinney had said no such thing and that I should apologise to him. Much of this was mixed in with personal abuse directed at me.
I was so taken aback at the vehemence and certainty of this attack this that I began to doubt myself. Perhaps I had misheard or misunderstood Swinney's remarks? Perhaps I would find myself obliged to make a withdrawal, embarassing though that might be. So, eventually I looked at the debate again on the iPlayer and Swinney had in fact said exactly what I had alleged! I pointed this out, even posting a link to the actual programme but still the abuse continued, I can only assume in the hope that most twitterers would not have time to look at the link. This went on for days and even weeks or months later would make the occasional reappearance describing me as the man who had lied about John Swinney. I remain utterly bemused by the whole incident except to say that it worried me that patent and easily verifiable truth seemed to be of no consideration in the attack.
I've been through this again over the last 24 hours. Yesterday I published my usual Sunday blog and one, perfectly sensible, Nationalist tweeted that I seemed to making a case against a No vote. In moments I responded.
Now, you can agree or disagree with that sentiment and, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have put the words "Poles and Pakis" in quotation marks for it is clearly a sentiment I was ascribing to others. I also accept that, for some people, even when put in the mouths of others the "P word" is never acceptable. But I did not for a moment expect the hysteria that has followed. I myself have been accused of being a racist. An Anti-Pakistani racist; an anti-Scottish racist; even, it appears an anti-SNP racist, whatever that is. And that is the least of it. One cybernat even attempted to report me to the Police over twitter! More worryingly, words have been put into my mouth which I have never uttered and then condemned as wholly unacceptable. Which they would have been had I said them.
Throughout I have attempted to make the simple point that the part (and it is only a part) of the Nationalists support that currently blame the English for all our woes, would, inevitably, on finding that Independence is not a cure for all our ills, look round for somebody else to blame. All historic precedent suggests that will be an internal minority as it was, to a greater or lesser degree of seriousness, for the Jews and Gypsies in Hungary; for the Anglo-Irish in de Valera's Ireland; for the Russians in the inter-war Baltic Republics and indeed for the Asians in Uganda. It is the inflated hopes that (some) have for Independence: the automatic eradication of poverty; full employment; the reversal of all benefit cuts; the insulation from all world economic factors and, on top of that, tax cuts all round, that leads one to the inevitable conclusion that many of these hopes would be dashed. After all, in the small print, the best claim that the SNP themselves make is that we'll all be £500 better off. Not a small sum but in no way justifying that kind of transformation in our living standards.
Now perhaps Scotland could dodge the historical precedents on what usually happens in that circumstance.. Happy to have that argument but on the basis of what I have said rather than what I am claimed to have said.
And that leads me to my final tweet, one which I do regret.
While I was at the Party Conference, I nipped out for a fag and tweeted
"Two separate conversations about the fear of some Nationalist suicides on 19th September 2014. Their Party has a duty of care here."
In this I was only reporting conversations I'd had moments before but it was, nonetheless, an inappropriate topic for twitter. And its brevity made it sound flippant, which was not my intention.
But what had been the basis for these conversations, for they were in no way maliciously intended?
There is a small element of the SNP support, particularly drawn to the internet, who seem to me to winding themselves up in to a state of near hysteria about the Referendum. They are not being helped by remarks such as those made by Nicola Sturgeon that the alternative to a Yes vote would be "nothing". Yes or No, the world will go on and it is incumbent on both sides to make that clear. For there are vulnerable people in all political Parties who might not appreciate that what they are being told is mere rhetoric.
It is our great good fortune in Scotland that we do not have to make the choice "Liberty or Death". We are free already. What is on offer is only a different sort of freedom. It might not be my choice but it will be decided democratically and should be decided on fact rather than on base false assertion.
And that will be my last word on this matter.