The SNP’s worst week ever should serve as a wake up call

All week, I have been trying to puzzle out how the SNP got itself into this mess.  It goes with the territory of being a history graduate, a Virgo and a nosy blighter.  I like to know how something happened and for the life of me, I cannot pin it down.  There are lots of possibilities but none of them quite add up.

So it took a friend to point out that why it happened matters less than the fact it happened at all and that the Scottish Government needs to prevent it happening again.  It also has to admit to itself that this firestorm matters:  it cannot be glibly explained away, nor kicked into the long grass of a Ministerial Code investigation, nor glossed over by picking up the pieces next week and pretending it never happened.

As Euan McColm’s opinion piece in today’s Scotland on Sunday sets out, the events of the past week have served to illuminate some of the weaknesses and flaws in the First Minister’s political character.  What is important is what everyone – including him – does from here.

Last week was the political hothouse at boiling point, bearing very little relation to the reality of life for most people in Scotland.  This much we know.  Only the anoraks and the politicians care about who said what to whom and when and what was said and not said on the issue of legal advice relating to independent Scotland’s EU membership.  Ask your next door neighbour, your pal in the pub, your fellow traveller on the bus and they will shrug their shoulders and be able to tell you nothing.  But what they do pick up is the vibes.

And the vibes are that the Scottish Government in whom they have placed remarkable trust as voters, weighing up the options and finding the SNP to be potentially much more competent than any of the rest, is fallible.  It’s not the issue of legal advice being sought or not on EU membership by itself, but the cumulative impact of a series of such small-beer events.  It is the chipping away of a reputation for competence which is damaging.

The mistake the SNP and the Scottish Government has made has been in setting the bar too high.  It has equated its reputation for competence with a need to be infallible and to always have all the answers.  No one expected this and actually, using bluff and bluster to create and maintain a sense of omnipotence is a weakness, not a strength.  What the Scottish people have trusted the SNP to do is to stand up for and act in Scotland’s interests with the powers we currently have.  They trust the party less on independence, fearing that it will do and say anything to encourage people to vote yes.

So the party needs to stop feeding this vicious circle.  Every time it tries to infer it knows the answers to unknown knowns and unknown unknowns, it will get found out.  Far better to hold its hands up on occasion and admit that it does not have the answers, but will do its very best to find out all the options and present them openly and honestly to the Scottish people so that they can make up their own minds when they come to vote in the referendum.  That will garner respect and box the Unionists into a corner, because they too will have to change their tactics.  And their inability to answer why we should stick rather than twist will be found out.

Key to such an approach is the Scottish Government giving up its obsession with framing everything that it does within the prism of good or bad for the referendum.  It needs to get on with the day job.  Can anyone remember anything of any meaning or substance in terms of government announcements on any matter relating to current devolved powers in the last few weeks?  Only if we think hard.  So first up, Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers need to re-focus and reclaim their turf for trust and competence on the stuff they can do something about.

Also, there needs to be one singer and one song on all matters referendum.  With the appointment of Nicola Sturgeon as the putative Yes Minister, a shift was signalled in who would lead for the Scottish Government on the referendum.  Having appointed her, the First Minister needs to let her get on with fashioning the brief in her own image and go and find something more useful to do instead.

Moreover, the Scottish Government and the SNP has to cede control of the referendum narrative to the Yes Scotland campaign.  Currently, there is no space for Yes Scotland to even begin to think out how it wants to build the campaign for a yes vote.  At heart, the party and the leadership (or at least, most of it) get this:  what it hasn’t quite worked out is how to achieve that.  Letting go is hard, particularly when electoral success has been won through a remarkable ability to exercise self-control and apply self-discipline across and through its ranks.  Yes Scotland is and has to be a messy, grassroots, organic movement, something which is rather alien to the SNP way of doing things.  The sooner the SNP relinquishes control, the sooner Yes Scotland can get on with doing what it was set up to achieve.

One immediate challenge for Yes Scotland is how to prevent the already stretched fabric of its big tent from ripping beyond repair.  Some months ago, at the start of the long Great NATO Debate, Robin McAlpine warned that “if the SNP walks away from the left now, it may look behind it during the referendum campaign and wonder why it is standing on its own.”  T his week, two SNP MSPs resigned the whip;  others were probably persuaded not to follow.  Many in the rank and file have torn up their memberships;  others will simply fade away by not renewing.   There is no point winning support from other demographics if it results in those on the left of the party walking away.  And the movement needs to enthuse activists and foot soldiers, not give the longstanding faithful reasons not to get out there and work for a yes vote.  Yes Scotland needs to agree a strategy which keeps current yes voters on side, as well as targets sufficient persuadables.  And stick to it.  No matter what the SNP might say and do.

Finally, the SNP needs to get out of the trenches with the Scottish press.  We all knew it would get dirty and the referendum battle would involve close hand to hand combat, but not all destinies have to be pre-ordained.  The Scottish press is on its knees with circulations spiralling downwards.  Commentators proclaim with certainty that one or other of our broadsheet stables will fold next year.  Weekly local newspapers are disappearing fast and no one has found the key to arresting these developments.

And while there is little love lost between the Scottish press and the SNP, the fact remains that a healthy democracy cannot thrive without a free press.  In the next two years, we need a strong and confident press operating at national, regional and local levels contributing to and scrutinising the debate.  So a change of tactics is in order.

The First Minister could use his New Year address to signal a rapprochement, to make a call to us all, as our patriotic duty, to go out and buy or subscribe electronically to Scottish newspapers.  To buy one broadsheet and one tabloid on a weekday, same on a Sunday and also buy a regional title at least once a week, and a weekly local title too.  The only way we are going to achieve better quality of product and output is if newspapers have increased revenue and readerships.  They cannot do this alone.  And newspapers should have the same access as other businesses to innovation funds which enable them to diversify their platforms and reach new audiences.

Last week has been widely acknowledged as the worst week ever for this SNP Government and in particular, the First Minister, with significant erosion of people’s trust and competence in his and their capabilities.  If it and he want to avoid more worst weeks ever, they must heed this wake up call and spend the dog days of winter working out not only how they got into this mess, but how to prevent it happening again.  At stake is not just the SNP’s credibility as an electoral force, but the possibility of winning independence for Scotland.  The stakes are too high to do nothing.

54 thoughts on “The SNP’s worst week ever should serve as a wake up call

  1. Pingback: Music to your ears – Scottish Roundup

  2. Politicians playing “call my bluff”, media merrilly stirring it up for effect – is there really anything new about this? Maybe the week before was the SNP’s worst week for a while. Remember, when accepting NATO split the party in two, in terms of ideology.

  3. Perhaps Alex Salmond would be better off telling people to read blogs. Although the mainstream manifestations of blogging, the likes of Alan Cochrane and his ilk, are beyond a joke it is always a joy to watch the inflated buffoon being torn to shreds in the comments.

    Mainstream media’s attempts to monopolise opinion on t’internet have been a disaster.

    When their opinion was behind the huge hurdle of a bureaucratic Berlin Wall, they could say whatever they wanted and be admired for their perspicacity. Nowadays, when they speak on a topic, they’d better have researched it properly, else some real expert will tell them just how naive and useless they really are.

    Conversely, whilst I disagree with the author, at least this is a forum open for discussion. That, at the very least, is a positive. People talking and arguing about politics in a civillised manner can be quite an enjoyable thing to engage in.

    Carpe diem burdzeyeview!

  4. Can I ask, if the printed press disappeared from our shelves tomorrow,would we miss it ?
    Perhaps the crossword and I personally would miss Ian Bells column but as for the rest who would miss it most? The commentators who fill our screens to talk about their own trade ,the TV interviewers who interview each other regarding an item they have been involved in ?
    Every country deserves a free and informed press,sadly that is not what we have.
    The whole Levenson/Jimmy Saville debacle highlights our free and informative press.
    Their dealings in colluding to boost their circulation (Milly Dowler) and their inside knowledge regarding J Saville show the contempt they have for the public and thats before they even start on events in this country.
    I read an article recently how Scotland’s Establishment is conservative ,with a small c,well I would say it is worse-it is complacent.
    What other major ‘Daily’ would have a 3rd Division team on both their front page and back page (and I write that not as a football fan ) ?
    The problem for the ‘press’ in Scotland (and I include A Cochrane ) is parts of Scotland have moved on. We not only expect a higher standard from life,Government etc, we also expect our press to be ahead of the game,not churning out a point of view that is no longer relevant and more to the point no better informed than your average reader.
    I may not always agree with Ian Bell but he does make you think when you ‘re eating your toast in the morning.Name me one other journalist in a Scottish paper who does ?
    As for Alex Salmond last week ,thats called politics except in Scotland where its called ‘ma baw and I’m no playing’ by the opposition, who like the press appear to want keep us tied to the rules of their game.Afterall its worked for them for generations so why should they change,well until they recognise the rules have changed (internet etc ),they like the opposition can descend to a new low standard, name calling, misinformation etc but my money like my vote is down to me and I certainly won’t be spending it on a ‘newspaper’.

    • There are non-political reasons for buying a newspaper. I sometimes buy the Observer because I like their Everyman crossword, which I find quite challenging, and their book reviews. And Nigel Slaters recipies are a tad aspirational for a complete utter plonker in the kitchen, like me.

      Although it is outwith the scope of your comment, I almost always buy Private Eye, mostly because it is my contribution – through a sale – to what investigative journalism ought to be about, but also because it takes all politicians to task, without fear or favour. I have also used the conclusion of this exchange and thus feel more that a little obligated:

      Arkell v. Pressdram (1971) [unreported]

      Solicitor (Goodman Derrick & Co.):

      We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd. His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory. We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter. Mr Arkell’s first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.

      Private Eye:

      We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

      [No further reply]

      Now that is the English at their best!

      For the sake of explaining myself, I also buy a magazine called Interzone, which is my way of encouraging science fiction authors at an early stage of their career. It is my obligation, if you will, to encourage new talent in a field that has been, for me, a lifelong entertainment. And the short stories are generally of a much higher quality than the stuff I voraciously read in the 1960’s.

      On the Scottish Press? I made a serious mistake in contributing to the coffers of the Glasgow Herald in taking out an on-line subscription. However it has given me hours of endless amusement arguing with the likes of Cllr Terry Kelly, him from the West Midlands and some guy whose name I forget.

  5. Interesting piece.

    Interesting in the sense that most who have posted comments about the opposition’s attacks on Salmond seem to have developed a mass amnesia regarding the SNP’s behaviour in hounding Alexander, McLetchie and McLeish from their positions.

    As a Labour supporter I am absolutely delighted to read the comments and see that the overwhelming majority of SNP supporters appear to be in denial over the damage done by your leader to his party.

    Speak to anybody outside the political bubble about their understanding of this affair and you will get the same response: Alex got caught lying. Multiple showings of the interview in which he answered ‘we have, yes’ to a direct question then attempted to suggest that it was perfectly clear that what he meant was ‘we haven’t, no’ has done his credibility no favours.

    To think otherwise is quite frankly deluded…

    • Belief in the face of contrary evidence is a trait commonly associated with fundamentalist religion. And the most fanatical British nationalists.

    • Except ,of course, the SNP did not hound any of these people out of office. Yoiu can perhaps provide some evidence of this but I know for an absolute certainty there was no disgusting, defaming personalised attacks on any of them by the SNP opposition. Wendy was done in by the press and those supposedly on her own side briefing the press, Mcletchie was done in , not because of the taxis, but where he was going in the taxis which had to be kept out of the public domain and I well remember for instance Henry Mcleish getting generous support from Alex Salmond on QT following his muddle.
      The people are not daft. The informed ones already are aware that the unionists have lost the arguments and are now playing the man.
      This will come back and bite them big time.
      Without the biased and corrupt media there wouldn’t be any unionists

      • Mr Hill,

        If you seriously think that the SNP played no part in the hounding of these politicians then you are even more deluded than even I imagined.

      • Evidence, please.
        At no time has the SNP or its leadership resorted to the type of gutter politics we see being used against the SNP. What is going on is the desperate last stand of the union and having lost all the arguments we see serious politics reduced to smears and name calling.

    • The only persons deluding themselves are Scottish churnalists, pendantry political pundits and numpties like yourself. This was more of the same media mania about Alex Salmond but with very little public connect. Ask anyone what Alex Salmond was accused of lying about and you will find no one knows what the heck you are talking about.

  6. The Scottish Government and the SNP are spelling out what an independent Scotland would look like under an SNP Government elected in 2016.
    The Yes Scotland campaign has a different narrative, a narrative for the people living in Scotland to vote Yes in 2014. This narrative comes from the many of us members of different political parties and none, a narrative that the No campaign cannot cope with.
    It is not up to Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scotttish Government, the SNP or the media to spell out why we should vote Yes in 2014, it is up to you and I to speak to our next door neighbour, our pal in the pub, our fellow traveller on the bus the next two years and Scotland will become an independent country.

    • Exactly, Christian. And we should concentrate in pointning out that now that the unionists have lost all the arguments in desperation they are now playing the man

  7. Pingback: The SNP’s worst week ever should serve as a wake up call | YES for an Independent Scotland | Scoop.it

  8. Burd, as usual, some sage commentary. It’s been a hellavu week and to be honest, justifies my decision recently to cancel my SNP membership. It wasn’t the NATO thing that did it – I’m undecided on this particular issue – but rather the Trump disgrace. Until now I’ve been willing to believe they had the best intentions when dealing with Trump, but the revelation we sourced him to support Megrahi’s release was beyond belief. It might be a minor detail, but it was definitely the straw that broke this camel’s back.

    That said, I still believe the SNP are, by some distance, the best choice for Scotland. The opposition aren’t fit for opposition, nevermind government so I’m pretty sure I’ll still be voting SNP in some capacity should it be required before 2014. That said, I do believe independence supporters need to look beyond the SNP so I’ve decided to channel support in the direction of the Greens and Yes Scotland. The latter specifically needs more support and momentum that is distinct from the SNP.

    My main objection with your piece regards the media, One of the last things I will do, regardless of how this campaign and referendum goes, will be to support the Scottish media, especially the press. It is bad enough that there is a complete lack of depth and substance to their coverage, but the questionable balance is tipped further by having to suffer the general gloating and hostility on Twitter. They obviously subscribe to the belief that questions should only be asked of the Yes campaign and have no intention of giving the Scottish people what they deserve – a fair, free and balanced press. The Scottish print press is dead… or is only a matter of time. A national disgrace IMO. The SNP and Yes Campaign should not pander to them, and instead, should continue to promote the campaign online and via traditional campaign methods. The Scottish press should be left to be a parody of themselves – their authority is well kent and should never be over-stated.

  9. Hmm.

    I won’t buy a newspaper because it is my patriotic duty. I’ll buy a newspaper where the ethos is to inform me, to tell truth to power, a power that lies in Govt, local govt, EU, Westminster, the Unions, the media, the Establishments in both Scotland and the UK as a whole, truth to the monied and businesses who manipulate, lobby all our democracies for their own profit.

    In short, I won’t buy or watch a product that is on one side of the other as if media must behave in the same way many many “passionate” football fans do. Where media is concerned, if they aren’t on the side of democracy and justice, they aren’t in my home.

    Produce a newspaper where EVERY article is informative journalism, not PR, stenography, or waving triumphant unreason, littered with “can’t be bothered doing my homework” inaccuracies or bitter sniping, then I’ll buy it.

    We can’t have a democracy with a failed, rotten media. Propping up rotten media will not help us develop democracy, the rot in politics will merely continue to fester

  10. Good riddance to the Scottish media. For far too long we have been fed a partisan diet of half-truths and lies, being told what to think and how to vote by an unscrupulous creed.

    Considering all the scandals surrounding the media, eg News International and the BBC, if you were to ask the public “Are news journalists scum?”, how many would reply in the affirmative?

    There is not a Scottish newspaper I would reccommend, because there is none you can trust.

  11. I think you are being over hard on Alex Salmond.
    He hasn’t actually done anything wrong that I can see and certainly nothing serious at all. All that thas happened is that the media and the Labour Party has said that he has and no measured response from him or us has been allowed. We are now in the territory in which our opponents can actually invent problems for us, tell lies about us and then not allow us any significant rebuttal and this will go on.
    I am concerned by the number of people in the SNP who don’t understand what is going on and who are critical of Alex Salmond at the moment. That is exactly as our enemies would like. Ian Bell in today’s Sunday Herald talks a lot of sense.
    I imagine we will make obvious to everybody as soon as we can that the unionists have lost all the arguments and are now playing the man.
    But that will require a huge grass roots effort and not nervous skitters

  12. burdz you are on the defensive here and rightly so.
    The almighty mess this past week has been the disgraceful behaviour of Davidson and Lamont at FM Question Time. Your punters -in the pub, bus or whatever, if they did pay attention, would pick up the vibes of two screaming witches in Davidson and Lamont.
    The press in Scotland is dying and good riddance. Why aren’t people buying newspapers? Arguably because they pick up the vibes that the articles are hopelessly biased?
    Internet blogs are enabling people to converse free of an editor’s red pencil and the “vibes” of biased articles. Here I am able to dispute the content of your article. i suggest you try a letter to the Herald or Scotsman supporting Alex Salmond, or if you prefer a critique on the witches’ performance Thursday past. You may not feel inclined to support Salmond nor criticise Lamont or Davidson but try having your letter published anyway.
    Join your local Yes Campaign group and neuter the biased BBC and MSM.

  13. I think there’s definitely an element of truth in the not being omnipotent thing. That’s something the SG has to crack. It’s partly about the fact that the opposition are so useless. That’s not a partisan point but they really are. The media almost serve as the opposition in some senses. The opposition politicians follow the media instead of vice versa which is why I suspect the SG operates on a permanent basis of being surrounded by hostile Indians. It’s difficult to see how to find a way out of that impasse but I agree they have to. Maybe they need to shoot their way through! There is no doubt that Johann Lamont and Ruth Davidson are vulnerable. If they could take them down it might create a space to change the dynamic the Scottish Parliament seems to be stuck in. We would lose two women leaders which would be a drawback but in all honesty Ruth in particular is woeful. i share your liking for Johann but the troops aren’t happy with her either.

    Beyond that I also agree Alex Salmond and the SG in general need to take a step back from the independence debate. I suspect that is probably the plan now that the Edinburgh Agreement is signed and sealed. It seems from press coverage today however that BetterTogether are focusing on bringing down Alex Salmond in the hope that this will bring down the Yes campaign. They will be aided and abetted in that by the media. I think our people need to be realistic about this. It is in the nature of the modern political media to go into a feeding frenzy when they smell blood especially if it is the biggest beast in the jungle that is bleeding. Doesn’t make them part of a great unionist conspiracy so there’s no point having a go at them. They are just doing what they do. So for that reason too I think Alex needs to take a step back and make himself a smaller target. I am sure they are thinking along those lines, hope they are anyway! Meanwhile there are doors to chap and people to speak to. That’s what it’s all about really.

    • The only blood is that from Better Together’s own cut throat.

      It’s only understandable that they will be a bit disoriented after so fatally wounding themselves through the Edinburgh Agreement, so mistaking the smell of their own blood for their enemy is possibly forgivable.

      Despite what the media says and what they allow the Unionists to howl through their channels, the SNP leadership is in precisely the position they could only have dreamed of 6 months ago. I would argue that Alex Salmond’s position is stronger than ever and the frenzy of this week only serves to prove it.

      BUT, Yes Scotland needs to get itself sorted out and sorted out pronto. It should have been taking much more of the initiative in the last few months. The sooner this is resolved, the sooner Yes Scotland / SNP / Salmond become disentangled and the sooner the opposition will realise that their personal attacks will count for nothing.

      We had months of this stuff prior to the 2011 election and look what happened then. But hatred is a difficult emotion to overcome and it seems that even nose-rubbed-in-it experience does not help some folk realise their mistakes.

  14. The SNP got itself into this mess for one very simple reason, They are attempting to convince potential voters that day one of I-Scotland will be no different from the last years of Scotland as part of the Union. This is why the SNP have panicked and thrown out their opposition to I-Scotland joining NATO and this is why the SNP have got themmselves into a very deep hole regarding I-Scotland’s position regarding membership of the EU – regardless of whether the Scottish people want to stay in the EU or not.

    Where I disagree is in your paragraph where you say that the Government have set the bar too high. Sorry, but while the first SNP government has been compitence exemplified, this second government has fallen so far below the standards set by that first govenment and made lots of elementary mistakes. The only “consolation” for the SNP government is the poor quality filling the oposition benches. All of the opposition leaders have been feeble at best in their new role’s.

    While this feebleness will see a third sucessive SNP term, i suspect that before last week that the die has already been cast for the referendum. The SNP’s lack of any sort of pre-campaign foundation building will harm any chances of a “yes” vote in 2014.

    • If the current administration has made “lots of elementary mistakes” it should be no trouble to provide three examples.

      • One mistake that they need to address is what I term ‘Bragging’ to counter attacks from the opposition rather than using a less aggressive response which can’t be jumped on if events change.

      • So much for “lots of elementary mistakes”.

  15. Breaking News: Will be extensively covered across the airways on all networks all day and evening, newspaper headlines, call Kaye will get stuck in Can we trust Better Together?

    “I have a dream”

  16. Contrary to popular belief the public are not stupid.
    If journalists and newspapers continue down the propaganda route then people get turned off.
    If journalists continually pursue witch-hunts and cause drama over nonsense or tarnish reputations just because they can, then most intelligent people get turned off.

    Most will side with the underdog. Journalists bullying, and denigrating people may be OK as a once off to boost sales, but if it is repeated then fair-minded people switch off, and make the assumption that the whole news-sheet is unjustly biased and start to question the veracity of its position.

    The days of getting one’s whole perspective on life from one newspaper are gone.
    I can flick through many, many different perspectives on a subject dear to my heart in a matter of minutes on the internet.
    I do not want to read biased old stuff from an opinionated journalist with an agenda. I want to read in-depth, thought provoking stuff that would take me days to get online, well researched and with even-handed opinions from broad-minded experts.
    Of course I would buy that, but I won’t buy second-hand regurgitated stuff primarily designed to make me think in a certain way.

    If I could go to a news paper and find that events were being reported in an unbiased way with both sides getting equal coverage then I, and others will enter into the debate and make OUR own decisions. I want to read unbiased, true accounts. I want to read all different perspectives and make MY mind up. I do not want to buy an newspaper to be deliberately influenced by some journalist or editor who feels he has the “right” to tell me what I should think.

    The public want honest debate, not propaganda and partisan posturing posing as FACT. They especially do not want to buy and read pure rhetorical guff that spends every week SNP/Scottish Govt,/Scottish people/Scotland bashing.

    Telling people what to do and what to think is old fashioned, it doesn’t relate to the wide experience and knowledge base that most interested people are now able to surround themselves with.

  17. “Far better to hold its hands up on occasion and admit that it does not have the answers, but will do its very best to find out all the options and present them openly and honestly to the Scottish people so that they can make up their own minds when they come to vote in the referendum. That will garner respect and box the Unionists into a corner, because they too will have to change their tactics.”

    Hm. If we had a mature press culture, possibly; but do you really think that this would result in anything other than screaming headlines of:

    Uncertainty Clouds SNP Vision
    Salmond: “I Don’t Know” about Indy Scotland
    Where are the Answers, Mr. Salmond?
    Darling: “Salmond hasn’t a clue”

    If the SNP were to play it like that, they’d be walking into a press firestorm and throwing away any credibility. Sad but true.

    And this leads us on to the idea that we might prop up the newspaper industry in Scotland out some kind of altruism. I can see where you’re coming from, and I agree that we need a strong press, but the fact is that artificially propping up the papers out of a sense of duty won’t give us that. If we’ll buy what they print just because we feel we ought to, what incentive is there for the papers to change how they operate? Won’t they just assume they don’t need fixing?

    There was a time when the Scotsman printed letters which carried debates between Hugh MacDiarmid and Hamish Henderson. They serialised “A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.” The Herald used to carry reviews of the latest academic editions of seventeenth-century Gaelic poetry. And in those days circulation figures were of the order that editors today can only dream of, like a seven-year old scoring a hat-trick for Scotland in the world cup final when he kicks a ball against a wall.

    Can you imagine such a thing happening now? Can you imagine any poet or poetry being given that kind of space? And that’s just a microcosm – our papers have hollowed out their intellectual content, gone for the soundbite and the angry quotation over analysis; and have become, frankly, not worth buying.

    When they treat us seriously, when they take Scottish culture seriously, when they stop pretending that what someone said on Twitter is news (or rather “a Twitter storm”, an “outrage”) and become what they should be: a forum for debate and open public discourse – then I’ll buy the papers. Until then, they’re just another shoogly pillar of an establishment which is high on entitlement and insists that we pay it respect because we just should. Sorry, that doesn’t do it for me.

  18. Firstly, the S.G. is getting ready to introduce the new drink driving laws, this is in the press today. Secondly, the mainstream media has, and is, very hostile to Scotland taking on the powers that countries across Europe, large and small, take for granted. The hostility to independence is apparent and they have been using the ‘attack Salmond’ tactic for a considerable time. They deserve to see their newspaper sales plummet as they are so biased. Look at what has happened to the Scotsman in the last few decades. The unionists simply do not have a positive argument for the union and they can only resort to negativety. If you cannot see the No campaign’s agenda in all of these smears then it is no wonder you think this is the SNP’s worst week. The reality is that they know that Salmond will be cleared for the 6th time. That alone should tell you about the No campaign and the complete lack of vision it has for Scotland. They appear to believe fervently that Scotland is uniquely incapable of running its own affairs.

    • No, the press story today is about Justice Secretary writing to UK Minister for powers to set different fines – entirely a referendum framed approach.

      • Since the referendum is all about increasing the powers of Holyrood to those of a normal national parliament, surely any effort to increase any powers in the interim could be portrayed as “referendum framed”. Are you suggesting that the Scottish government should refrain from seeking those powers which it deems necessary in order to best serve the people of Scotland?

      • Surely it is relevant though. They are introducing laws that were given by the UK government recently. If they are getting powers to reduce the alcohol limit, why should they not have the powers to do other things related to it? Also, why are you so against the SNP, when you are a member of the SNP? You must be aware that the media, along with their allies in the unionist parties, will do everything they can to prevent independence. There is no denying that the SNP, S.G. and Salmond have their flaws and do make mistakes, but you only need to look at what people like Alex Massie, Ian McWhirter have said about the bias in the media against independence and the SNP, to see that the media coverage is unbalanced. For example. why are journalists not asking Alistair Darling, who they tell us is a man of integrity, about the house flip-flopping he was involved in? After all, they are happy to question Salmond’s integrity.

    • So certain are they that there is no case to answer and that Salmond will be cleared yet again, the unionists have already started impugning the integrity of the panel members.

  19. The SNP’s reaction to this mess will be very interesting. Whether Salmond lied, spun or was playing games with words (generic advice not specific advice, yes doesn’t mean yes) has become immaterial. The impression is of a First Minister who cannot be trusted,

    Will the SNP blame the usual bogey men – unionist spin, Tory media, London something or other? Or will they admit to being wrong for once? The continued use of assertion as if it were fact will cause more and more problems. There is no definitive answer to the EU question – so stop pretending there is. There are various possibilities and different “legal experts” can make a convincing case for each of them.

    I was really interested in this phrase: “Key to such an approach is the Scottish Government giving up its obsession with framing everything that it does within the prism of good or bad for the referendum.”

    This sums up the SNP – it is at heart a single issue movement but acts as a political party. The fight for independence is the only thing that keeps it together and is the prism through which every decision will always be viewed. That won’t change.

    Finally the pedant in me can’t help but point out the infer/ imply error! “Every time it tries to infer it knows the answers to unknown knowns and unknown unknowns, it will get found out”

    The subject implies; the observer infers.

    • Why shouldn’t the SNP blame “unionist spin” when that is so very obviously what is at work here. The only wonder is that so many people continue to be gullible enough to be taken in by that spin.

      The stuff about the SNP being a “single-issue movement” is sooo last century! Have you been away?

    • oops sorry, pedantry noted. Will change.

  20. Pingback: The SNP’s worst week ever should serve as a wake up call | Politics Scotland | Scoop.it

  21. This reads like all those that want to ban bloodsports to go out and buy ‘The Shooting Times’ to aid their falling sales in order to keep us focussed and on message!

  22. The very first sentence betrays that paucity of analytical thinking that I have had cause to remark on before. While the article as a whole once again displays what must now be regarded as the author’s customary eagerness to run with the cosy consensus of the unionist-dominated mainstream media.

    Before wondering how the SNP “got itself into this mess” there were a couple of prior questions that should have been asked, but weren’t. The first question that should have been asked is whether the SNP and/or Alex Salmond actually is in a mess. Accepting the word of the afore-mentioned media is hardly the mark of an inquiring mind.

    The other question which should have preceded that suggested by the opening sentence is whether the SNP and/or Alex Salmond did get itself/himself into whatever mess they are assumed to be in.

    By first thoughtfully addressing these questions instead of unquestioningly accepting the conclusions of openly anti-SNP journalists, a rather different perspective is gained. A perspective informed by the facts and the realities of the situation rather than the frothing rhetoric of the union’s propaganda pedlars. The fact is that neither the party nor the First Minister has actually done anything wrong, or even questionable. The reality is that the entire “mess” is entirely a concoction of the media.

    No matter which aspect of the situation one examines, so long as one does so honestly and without prejudice, then the most remarkable thing to be found is the lack of substance in any of it. The whole FoI thing regarding “legal advice” was obviously no more than a political stunt. The Andrew Neil interview was unearthed and ferociously spun as something it was not seen as at the time or in the intervening six months. And the whole “legal advice” thing is a nonsense anyway.

    The only reason any of this is getting any attention at all is because the anti-independence campaign and its friends in the media are so desperate to put some kind of dent in the SNP, Alex Salmond and Yes Scotland that they are prepared to abandon all reason in frenzied pursuit of anything that might serve their purpose. Following their lead is probably a very bad idea.

    Then there is the embarrassingly ludicrous suggestion that the First Minister should provide some sort of celebrity endorsement for the newspaper industry in the hope of rescuing it from its own folly. One is tempted, from simple generosity of spirit, to draw a discreet veil over such nonsense. I will content myself with suggesting that The Burd might have had a more telling case if she had pointed out where the blame for the decline of the press really belongs – with the owners, the editors and her journalist pals.

    • On another subject entirely Peter, I looked hard for you at SNP Conference last week as would have been nice to meet in person, but couldn’t see you. Were you there?

      • I was there on Thursday and Friday, but came down with a stinker of a cold that obliged me to miss the rest of the weekend. Very disappointed as I too had hoped for an opportunity to put faces to names. Maybe next time?

  23. Why should anyone buy and sustain a newspaper which is hostile to his r her most dearly held opinions? If Scottish newspapers refuse to treat the independencedebate even-handedly, why should any fiar minded person throw them a lifeline?

  24. I can’t actually believe what I’m reading. After the Scottish Press calling Alex Salmond a liar simply on the strength of Labour party press releases you’re encouraging us to go out and fund these newspapers.

    “The Scottish press is on its knees with circulations spiralling downwards. Commentators proclaim with certainty that one or other of our broadsheet stables will fold next year.”

    Perhaps the commentators and the press themselves could look at why nationalists in Scotland, who are the demographic one would expect to support a distinctive Scottish press, have turned away from them.

    “The First Minister could use his New Year address to signal a rapprochement, to make a call to us all, as our patriotic duty, to go out and buy or subscribe electronically to Scottish newspapers. To buy one broadsheet and one tabloid on a weekday, same on a Sunday and also buy a regional title at least once a week, and a weekly local title too. The only way we are going to achieve better quality of product and output is if newspapers have increased revenue and readerships. They cannot do this alone.”

    Several things wrong with this. The First Minister cannot use his position to promote specific commercial enterprises. He could call for us to buy more newspapers in general but even then he’d probably get it in the neck from news sources who use other media. Singling out specific newspapers as better purchases than others would be an abuse of his position and he’d be made to pay for it. I don’t believe that the Scottish press is unionist because it is poor, it is poor because it is unionist. The idea that if nationalists hand over more money to the Scottish press they are going to get a less unionist press is fantasy land.

    “…the fact remains that a healthy democracy cannot thrive without a free press. In the next two years, we need a strong and confident press operating at national, regional and local levels contributing to and scrutinising the debate.”

    I strongly agree with that. Unfortunately we have a press joined at the hip to the union and the Labour party. The Labour party and the union being essentially the same thing. The choice is between a partisan press or no press. Given that choice I’d go for no press and let the scrutiny and debate be held on online.

    • *the FM cannot use his position to promote specific commercial enterprises*. Where have you been these last two years?

      • Please give an example where the First Minister has promoted one product over another and urged consumers to choose one rather than the other.

  25. Needed to see someone be honest about how much trouble this has caused for the SNP, I am & have been an SNP member for years, been voting SNP since 1970’s. But I have been put under a lot of pressure myself form family & friends I had been convincing (albeit slowly) that the SNP was the BEST of the bunch & at least they could be trusted. I have been close a few times to cancelling my subscription to them, as I just feel let down. Did he lie? I really am not sure, but I watched that Neil interview over & over & could only confirm to myself that i DID hear him say, Yes, We have, regardless of what followed next, I felt he was saying yes they had legal advice on the EU. Later, after reading others posts on this, I agreed reluctantly that OK, he may NOT have REALLY lied, but the game he played was just as bad, infact probably worse, as he did come across then as slippery… I have always held Alex in such high esteem, so I really did feel and still feel let down by him..
    Today there is a YES MEETING in my area, I had signed up saying I would be present, then after this fiasco, I had decided what is the point, however YOU have made my mind up for me, as the YES campaign is NOT the SNP, & I just hope that it can get that message across to the people. Because Alex HAS damaged even them, with this silly way he handled this situation… Honest & Transparent he said, I believed him, not sure I shall take everything he says from now on with such clear clarity as before…

    He really has got to change his ways & stop this smugness that fools people into believing he knows all the answers.

  26. I will not buy another Scottish broadsheet until some semblance of balanced editorial coverage is provided between yes and no. The east coast broadsheets in particular remain vehemently and blindly anti independence

  27. There is no doubt that the SNP has made some mistakes in the last few months but last week’s events are more a reflection of how febrile and vacuous the opposition is and how complicit the press and BBC are.

    What the First Minister said in his interview to Andrew Neil was, at the very most, arguably inconsistent with what Nicola Sturgeon said in chamber. It speaks volumes that Labour had to employ a tampered transcript to give their claims any credibility. The breathtaking stupidity of Willie Rennie in following that lead was outdone only by Ruth Davidson’s farcical contribution to FMQs on Thursday.

    I would say that, of the SoS columns today, by far the most revealing is Andrew Wilson’s. He nails exactly what is going on. The SNP’s opponents are simply not interested in allowing this debate to move forward and will use every mechanism possible to obfuscate and stall.

    What we are really seeing is the fallout from possibly the most brilliant political coup in living memory. The unionists thought they had won a watch by ensuring there would be no second question. Now they realise that this was the bait all along. The bait that enabled the Scottish Government to get its way on how the referendum would be framed but, most crucially of all, on a mutually agreed process to Independence. They are utterly furious and are all the more so because they only have themselves to blame.

    And, contrary to what they say, this agreement will be pivotal to subsequent legal advice because there is now no longer any question of Independence being a unilateral or secessionist process – it will now come about through a mutually agreed dissolution of the Treaty of Union.

    This is the real story of the week but as Ewan Crawford so eloquently put it, it’s much easier to shout ‘Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!’. Shame on the Scottish media for allowing the Unionists to drag this debate down into the gutter yet again.

    And by all means let’s ensure lessons are learned where necessary but it seems to me that if the only price to be paid for securing this prime political position is for the media to be howling about how Labour politicians don’t believe an SNP First Minister then there is precious little to be learned.

    • I’d agree with most of this. I cheered when I read Andrew Wilson’s column and utterly deplore the language being used. Lamont was so awful on Thursday with her tone, approach etc there is nothing worth saying about it. And as for Ruth Davidson?

      You are right the opposition cannot be trusted here so why make them our benchmark. Do we want to slug it out with them week in week out or do we want to win a yes vote in 2014?

      • Andrew Wilson and Duncan Hamilton are a massive loss to the SNP. Wilson should never have been put down the list by activists. Mike Russell also had to leave Holyrood. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. No wonder Swinney introduced reforms. Although younger politicians, such as Humza Yousaf, Angela Constance, Derek McKay are emerging, it is a real shame that Hamilton and Wilson are not there at the present time. They would definently have added to the independence cause.

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