Tough Love and Scottish Independence

Victoria Gianopoulos-Johnson, Broadcasting Scotland 

 

I am a big fan and long-term follower of new media in Scotland, especially Broadcasting Scotland, Independence Live / IndyLive.Radio. These outputs do not yet have a large following, indeed their viewers and listeners are a tiny fraction of potential consumers from the wider Yes Movement. This is a massive lost opportunity and needs to change urgently, if we are to mitigate the misleading anti-independence narrative of one-nation unionism controlled by British establishment mainstream media in Scotland. I urge you, if you have not already, to sign up to these particular entities.

I have watched many great broadcasts and live streams of so many events, talks, gatherings and discussions, all totally alien to mainstream media. Last Thursday night, new Scot – Victoria from Broadcasting Scotland, covered one such event. Ian Blackford, SNP MP, addressed an audience of mainly SNP supporters in a hall in Dingwall. Full disclosure, I’m a massive fan of Ian Blackford and have the utmost admiration and respect for him. He gave a short talk on Brexit and the potential for Scottish Independence, then answered questions from the audience. The folks asking questions were all great and there was a good flow of information being shared in the room.

Lovely audience, Dingwall

 

Things were going quite well. Forty minutes in, Ian spoke of winning the next referendum on Scottish independence ‘fairly and squarely.’ My heart sank. No use playing with a straight bat, if your opponents are not. Most Tories have no straight bats and the SNP needs to toughen up to that fact.

Then it happened. One question in particular changed the atmosphere and broke my heart, hope and confidence completely, when a woman stood up and asked:

‘Ian, you were talking a few minutes ago how Scottish MPs and Scottish people must be patient and reasonable, rational, know the arguments, fight for our freedom properly. It doesn’t seem the Government in Westminster knows how to behave or respond to that kind of thing anymore. They will not be kind to us. You have to put up with a lot of battering you lot down there.

I’d like to think that being reasonable is a good thing, to be honest and truthful and all the rest of it, but will it win us what we want in the end because they will be nasty to us when we finally do get that independence date. How do we get at them, so there message doesn’t get across?’

This question is one I have struggled with personally for a few years and I know I am not alone in my concern. Ian Blackford looked slightly uncomfortable, he stammered when he spoke of building friendships with the people of England, adding that common sense will prevail. I felt this was condescending, as it’s obvious the Yes movement is against elitist Westminster rule, and has no gripe whatsoever with ordinary folks in England. Mr Blackford then started to list the achievements of the SNP. He called for patience and asked that everyone remains disciplined, coherent, and reasonable. He added that it was possible that the referendum will be before the end of the current parliamentary term in 2021. He was, it is unfortunately fair to say, unconvincing.

The historical information Ian gave was all good and impressive, but in no way answered the question, or provided any hint of a robust plan to take independence forward, if / when the next UK Prime Minister refuses to grant a Section 30 Order. I did not detect any sense of crisis or urgency. He added that the new albeit underfunded BBC channel in Scotland was a fairer opportunity for getting the independence message across. I find that naive and incredulous thinking, there will never be a Scottish focused or independence friendly BBC channel, for quite obvious reasons. I was not at all impressed, his answer mirrored a subservience that is extant in so many SNP elected members. I had previously thought he was beyond that level of establishment acquiescence. Is this 2019’s equivalent of the Indy 2014 currency question? As I stated before, the SNP needs to toughen up…fast.

 

Ian Blackford, MP

 

Reluctantly, I have concluded that it appears, from my peripheral viewpoint, that several senior leaders in the party are risk averse or complacent and are now failing to lead and make decisions, commensurate with the current state of crisis we are facing in Scotland. Get a sense of urgency on or lose!

Be in no doubt, the new UK Tory Prime Minister will immediately begin stripping the Scottish Government and Parliament of its powers and influence. At the same time, they will use mainstream media and public authorities to harm and significantly mitigate the effectiveness and credibility of key independence campaigners and activists.

The UK establishment will imminently undertake extraordinary measures to halt the progress of the wider independence movement. To achieve this, they will deploy all assets at their disposal and use any tactics they can to win. They will seek to this in such a manner that the Yes movement will not recover in most of our lifetimes. They will lie, they will deceive (e.g., promising Scotland extra hundreds of millions of pounds of direct funding, bypassing the Scottish Parliament) they will be brutal dictators and there will be no discussion or consultation with the Scottish Government.

It is clear we are now entering one of the most important, tenuous and fragile periods in Scotland’s history. The SNP quickly needs to outsmart their recess-loving Westminster counterparts and move to a crisis footing. They need to muster all assets over the summer period and garner the widest possible ideas on how to gain independence.

SNP leadership needs to communicate more effectively, especially through their media unit, which is not dynamic or proactive enough for this crisis footing. There is a gap here that cannot continue, it is currently a matter of wide concern among many key activists.

SNP also needs to support the new media in Scotland and encourage them to develop and grow, so they can reach significantly wider audience viewers, listeners, and readers. I have never seen Nicola Sturgeon interviewed by Broadcasting Scotland or Independence Live. Given mainstream media’s reluctance to interview her in any objective or positive way, I feel she is missing an opportunity. Sometimes you need to work with what you have. In addition, SNP needs to join together with the wider Yes movement, in a more effective way, so that all independence talent is maximised in a new fast-paced and unrelenting campaign that has easy-to-understand messages and an air of can-do confidence.

This is the first time I have criticised elements of the SNP. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever and these words did not come easily. To all fellow SNP members and supporters out there, please view my comments as tough love and a genuine plea for action.

Grass-roots activists are key to winning. Their energy, enthusiasm, experience and communication skills are compelling and highly-infectious. This one team approach is the only viable way forward, and if allowed to flourish, will be an unstoppable momentum for a significant independence majority.

 

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