Labour voters are going to be key in deciding the outcome of the independence referendum. Even if everyone who voted SNP, Green or SSP in the last Holyrood election voted Yes in 2014, it wouldn’t be quite enough to secure a 50%+1 result.
But with polls consistently showing 15-20% of Labour voters are already in favour of independence, and also that a huge majority are dissatisfied with the status quo, it can be no surprise that the Unionist parties and media are extremely nervous of any growth in the Labour Yes faction.
But while nerves are one thing, blind panic is another.
We can only assume the sudden hysterical all-fronts assault (a particularly comic piece from Torcuil Crichton in today’s Daily Record shrieks “INFILTRATORS” as its headline, transporting nostalgic readers back to the days of the McCarthy witch-hunts in 1950s America) on Labour For Independence stems from their holding a “policy conference” at the recent gathering of the STUC in Glasgow.
The Scottish press has studiously ignored the group for most of its life, but such an event appears to have been seen as a significant evolution, and yesterday saw one of the most extraordinary attempts at a co-ordinated blitzkrieg of smearing yet to take place in the independence debate.
Central to the attack was an image published on the group’s Facebook page last year. You can see it in full below, and you’ll understand what we mean by “in full” shortly.
The caption attached to the picture is unambiguous, but we’ll add emphasis anyway: “Lab4Indy in Killie today campaigning alongside Yes East Ayrshire“.
The picture was actually taken by one of the Yes East Ayrshire campaigners in question. He tweeted it on his personal Twitter account the same day, 15 December:
You’ll have noted the caption, but again we’ll add some emphasis for extra clarity: “Big thanks to @labourforindy for attending todays EastAyrshire @YesScotland stall.”
So the facts couldn’t be clearer: absolutely nobody was pretending that everyone in the picture was a Labour For Independence campaigner. It was explicitly and publicly stated, in numerous locations, seven and a half months ago, that the image showed LFI helping out at a Yes Scotland stall with Yes campaigners.
Barton tweeted other images at the time which allow no room for doubt:
So it’s mystifying that bad-tempered, emotionally-fragile Scotsman columnist Euan McColm could have been sufficiently confused as to publish a shock-horror report on right-wing blog ThinkScotland yesterday in which he revealed something everyone had already known since 2012 – that some of the people in the first pic were Yes Scotland campaigners, not Labour For Independence ones.
(Assuming, as apparently we’re being asked to do, that the bright blue “Yes” t-shirts they were wearing hadn’t already rather given the game away.)
But “Scoop” McColm wasn’t done yet. Having used his razor-sharp journalistic talents to discover that people at a Yes campaign stand wearing Yes t-shirts were in fact Yes campaigners, he went on to drop an astonishing bombshell: that a lot of people in the Yes campaign are also in the SNP.
We’ll give you a moment to digest this stunning news. Done?
We know. We’re reeling ourselves. Thanks to intrepid, fearless sleuths like Euan McColm, we now know that the Scottish political party whose entire raison d’etre is Scottish independence, which has fought for Scottish independence for over 80 years, which passed the independence referendum bill and is by far the largest single group of people anywhere on the face of Planet Earth in favour of Scottish independence, is taking an active part in the “Yes to Scottish independence” campaign.
(In the light of such an important public-interest revelation, we can overlook minor details such as the fact Mr McColm cropped out all the original captions explaining exactly who the people in the picture were, in order to create the spectacularly false suggestion that anyone was being deceived.)
Naturally, the usual suspects in the Scottish media have been all over the “story”. In addition to the aforementioned Torcuil Crichton comedy headline, readers probably won’t be entirely amazed that Magnus Gardham on the Herald has joined in (though even he couldn’t make much of it), and respectable broadcasters who ought to know better also reported the mindboggling news that various people who supported independence had been campaigning together for independence several months ago.
However, we must salute (and for once not ironically) the Scotsman, whose Andrew Whittaker produced by far the best coverage of the “story” in a magnificently sarcastic article in which he delivered several phrases like the following totally deadpan:
“Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar criticised LFI after it emerged that Douglas Reid, the SNP leader of East Ayrshire Council and other nationalists had stood beside the group’s banner in the Facebook photo.”
Dear God! Nationalists! Standing beside a banner calling for independence!
The object of the exercise is obviously to discredit LFI by playing on Labour members’ deeply-ingrained tribal hatred of anything to do with the SNP. But given that up to a fifth of Labour members back a Yes vote, we suspect that giving massive national media exposure to the existence of Labour For Independence might not be quite the genius move Anas Sarwar thinks it is. We shall see.
In the meantime, inspired to seek new journalistic heights by the heroic work of Euan McColm, we’re off to the Vatican to ask the Pope what kind of school he went to.