I’ve written before about the appallingly abusive Wings over Scotland site. It’s a pro-independnece blog written, ironically, by the self-styled “Rev” Stu Campbell who lives in Bath.
His shameful content and comments he allows on his site and on social media have included:
More recently, after the referendum, he set up a petition on change.org about Gordon Brown. It’s shockingly abusive, telling the former PM to “Go f*** himself and referring to him as a useless s******g. You have to worry that over 13.200 people who think that this is acceptable political discourse.
He can do this, but my Twitter timeline is full of his supporters suggesting that because I criticise him, I am in some way denying free speech. Nobody is suggesting banning him, but it’s perfectly legitimate to use my free speech to call him out.
We are also entitled to comment when such an abusive site becomes so embedded in the political establishment that civil servants, who are supposed to be impartial, accessed an average of 77 times a day in the six months leading up to the referendum. How do we know? Because Willie Rennie submitted a Freedom of Information request to ask. The response revealed that 13,913 visits were made. He said:
With civil servants racking up 77 sessions a day on this nationalist blog site you would think they were issued with a prescribed nationalist reading list. This raises further concerns that the political neutrality of Scotland’s civil service has been tainted by this domineering nationalist government.
We know that the SNP government previously relied on nationalist blogs to back up their independence assertions but now that the democratic majority of Scotland have rejected their independence prospectus our civil service should be allowed to get on with their job.
We know that Alex Salmond’s Special Adviser Campbell Gunn, who continues to work for Nicola Sturgeon, based his email to the press about Clare Lally on an erroneous story on Wings. He got away with that.
Wings over Scotland registered the site as a campaigner in the referendum which gave him a £150,000 spending limit. It was supposed to remain completely separate from the official Yes campaign. That didn’t stop Yes campaigners routinely giving out his Wee Blue Book, full of conjecture and inaccuracy on their street stalls and recommending it on the doorsteps.
In light of all of this, Willie Rennie has challenged Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s new First Minister who claims that she’s going to be much more consensual than her predecessor, to dissociate herself from this site. The SNP’s response yesterday was perfunctory. What they should have said was something like: “The First Minister dissociates herself and the SNP from this website because of its abusive and inappropriate content.” What is so hard about saying that?
If Sturgeon ever hopes to persuade Scotland to back independence, she’s going to have to take a very firm line with the nationalist movement’s more intolerant element. Her party’s comments don’t suggest to me that she has yet understood that.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings