This week North Korea, the world’s least free country, gave its backing to Scottish independence. On the same day, the yes campaign held an extraordinary event that gave the world a glimpse of what democracy in an independent Scotland might be like.
The press conference that wasn’t
It was the “press conference” that was anything but, and it held democracy in contempt. The purpose of a press conference is to enable journalists to ask the questions that need to be asked. Instead, this event turned into a yes rally. It was stuffed full of yes activists where international journalists were supposed to be sitting.
Journalists looked on in amazement at the first minister’s unstatesmanlike refusal to answer questions.
Alex Salmond’s day: 1. Fills ‘press conference’ with supporters who clap his every word, like some Central American dictator
— Chris Deerin (@chrisdeerin) September 11, 2014
2. picks fight with BBC political editor to avoid answering tricky questions; — Chris Deerin (@chrisdeerin) September 11, 2014
Salmond appears to have abandoned any pretence of being a statesman at this press conference, particularly in clash with @bbcnickrobinson.
— Alan Roden (@AlanRoden) September 11, 2014
If Salmond hadn’t lost the plot before he has now. Unstatesmanlike wittering about leak inquiries and “BBC bias”
— Iain Martin (@iainmartin1) September 11, 2014
if you think it’s great the way salmond is dealing with this press conference, keep it to yourself. don’t reveal your hatred of democracy. — euan mccolm (@euanmccolm) September 11, 2014
A press conference where Alex Salmond gets applause is a frightening portent of what might be to come. A free media is vital to a democracy.
— John DC Gow (@JohnDCGow) September 11, 2014
Seeking to silence journalists who dare to ask questions
Remarkably, yes campaigners have decided that all this is evidence that the BBC is biased. (That is largely based on a manipulated video posted by the odious Stuart Campbell on the appalling Wings Over Scotland website — of which more later.) It is patent nonsense.
To all tweeting about me saying that @AlexSalmond did not answer me : He DID answer re RBS but did NOT re why trust him not company bosses
— Nick Robinson (@bbcnickrobinson) September 11, 2014
Now we have a situation where the campaigners that might get to decide how this country is run forever is calling for the removal of journalists who dare to ask its leader awkward questions that he doesn’t want to answer.
— Chris Deerin (@chrisdeerin) September 14, 2014
This is leaving journalists horrified.
Does SNP's treatment of BBC gives a foretaste of what will happen to independent journalists after independence?
— Nick Cohen (@NickCohen4) September 14, 2014
— Paul Hutcheon (@paulhutcheon) September 14, 2014
The poisonous Wings Over Scotland
Much of this behaviour from the yes movement is being stoked up by Stuart Campbell, author of Wings Over Scotland. This person is vicious and hateful. He has written in the past:
I hope you get cancer, and that your cancer gets AIDS, and that you and your entire family die of being raped to death by rabid wolves in the middle of a choking chemical fire. Know what else? 9/11 was brilliant. I watched it all on TV and I laughed the whole time.
After I found myself in the crosshairs of WingsOverScotland, my wife and I had a few sleepless nights after directions to our house were circulated amongst the followers of this site amidst a mini tirade of abuse and intimidation. It seems from what others have had to face since that we got off lightly.
His poisonous Wee Blue Book, openly validated and even celebrated by many prominent yes campaigners including MSPs, is a tissue of lies.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. (If you are interested in finding out more, the litany of appalling behaviour has been documented by others online.)
When the nationalists’ mask slips
The Scottish independence movement has done a good job in the past two or three decades of dressing itself up as a progressive cause. But sometimes the mask slips. It did again this week when Jim Sillars made clear what this referendum is all about:
This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning.
On top of that, he has threatened BP with nationalisation. This is sinister stuff. The language is inflammatory and bellicose.
Amid Alex Salmond’s offensive talk about no voters not being part of “team Scotland”, it is becoming clear that the yes movement is not nearly as inclusive as it would like to make out.
This is the language of division. The poisonous nationalist movement seeks to split the country in two, in more ways than one.
Talk of a “day of reckoning” makes it clear. An independent Scotland would seek retribution against those who disagree with the nationalist ideology.
Simply put, this referendum is about power for nationalists. This is not the fluffy solution to the democratic deficit the yes campaign would have you believe.
The yes campaign’s intimidation comes from the very top
There are plenty of bad eggs in the no camp as well. But the key difference is that in the no campaign they are on the fringes.
In the yes campaign, the culture of fear and intimidation is found right at the very top.
This week was not the first time Alex Salmond avoided answering awkward questions by seeking to undermine a journalist.
On Sky News he memorably refused to answer Faisal Islam’s questions, instead opting to attack the journalist’s integrity.
Instead of answering Ben Riley-Smith’s salient questions about how an independent Scotland’s economy would be run, Mr Salmond sought to patronise and embarrass the journalist by presenting him with bags of sweets — a pathetic dig at the reporter’s age. He never answered those questions.
There is evidence that the campaign of intimidation and abuse aimed at Jim Murphy was orchestrated from the very top. Alex Salmond’s parliamentary private secretary Joan McAlpine shared information about Mr Murphy’s tour on Facebook. This message showed that yes activists were being bussed around to follow Mr Murphy.
On top of that, Alex Salmond’s senior special adviser Campbell Gunn has been caught out launching a smear campaign against an ordinary woman who spoke up for the UK.
This week it was revealed that an SNP councillor from Fife, David MacDiarmid, was charged after abusing no campaigners in Kinross.
A territorial campaign
There are many good people in the fringes of the yes movement who are not nationalists and really mean well. But these are not the people who would be in power.
At the core of the independence movement is a nasty ideology, nationalism, which is fundamentally about control.
Many yes supporters are territorial in nature. You see that in the way no posters are routinely vandalised. They want to demonstrate that they have control over your territory. “This is my space, and I can control what you say.” These people seek to diminish freedom of speech and censor the views of others.
Members from the yes side will call those who disagree with them traitors and even slaves.
It has also emerged that yes campaigners are planning to march people to polling booths in a bid to intimidate people into voting yes.
Disturbingly, a poster advertising one such march in Craigmillar contains the following quote:
Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.
What does this say about the yes campaign’s attitude towards people who disagree with them?
An independent Scotland would put power in the hands of the few
Yes campaigners say they are enthusiastic about electoral reform. But it is clear that the type of reform they have in mind would be a backwards step.
The white paper outlines plans for an independent Scotland to be run by a centralised unicameral parliament. This would put all powers over all aspects of our lives in the hands of a small clique in Edinburgh. There would be no checks or balances.
A disturbing movement
The yes movement wants to sack journalists that dare to ask it awkward questions. It wants to belittle and censor — and often even abuse — ordinary voters who disagree with it. It exchanges personal details of those who disagree with it in order to mount a campaign of intimidation. It is threatening retribution and “a day of reckoning” against those who disagree with it.
The yes blueprint outlines a dark vision of democracy. History teaches us to be wary.
Politics should not be about me versus you. The yes campaign talks about “team Scotland” versus no voters. This is abhorrent.
This is an anti-democratic movement.
Please take a step back, look at all this, and wonder if this is the sort of future we are supposed to be excited about?