We’ve spent a fair bit of time over the course of this website’s existence documenting the multi-media witch-hunts that invariably arise in the Scottish media whenever some obscure and/or anonymous independence supporter on the internet says something slightly intemperate (or even just expresses an unpopular opinion).
We especially enjoy contrasting it against the way that the elected, taxpayer-funded representatives of major political parties can get away unremarked with comparing the First Minister to dictators and genocidal mass murderers (of the sort “Better Together” donors like to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to).
The vast difference in the amount of media weight given to abusive behaviour from British nationalists and that from the independence side (the infamous “cybernats”) has long been a feature of Scottish political debate, but over the last 12 hours the phenomenon has seen an intriguing new twist.
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It doesn’t, of course. (We have it on good authority that the old-school-Tory broadsheet considers the Islamic-fundamentalist terrorist organisation to be “a bit soft“ on homosexuality.) But as a headline, our statement is every bit as valid as the ridiculous one the paper has rather embarrassingly chosen to run on its front page today.
“SNP backs ‘devo-plus’ for independence vote”, hollers the once-august organ, possibly causing more naive readers to imagine that the SNP might have backed ‘devo-plus‘ for the independence vote. The marginally more wary would perhaps have been further persuaded by an opening paragraph which reads “The SNP wants the devo-plus option, which would see Holyrood take control of most taxes, included on the referendum ballot as an alternative to full independence.”
But of course, no such thing – or anything remotely close to it – has actually happened. Dig a few lines deeper and what you find is that some unnamed, unquoted “Nationalists” (who may or may not be in the SNP) have allegedly said that if “a strong body of opinion lines up behind devo-plus” (whatever that actually means), the Scottish Government might agree to include it on the referendum ballot.
(Despite the fact that on last night’s Newsnight Scotland, the proponents of devo-plus, including Jeremy Purvis and Tavish Scott, said that they didn’t want the option included in the vote at all. They want it to replace the status quo as the “No” choice.)
So to recap: some people who weren’t prepared to give their names have supposedly made comments which the paper has interpreted to mean that if certain vague conditions are met in the future something else might happen, in theory, despite that thing not being desired or supported even by the people who invented it. Quite the scoop for the Scotsman’s ace reporters – and for the high journalistic standards of the Scottish media as a whole – there, I’m sure we’d all agree.
David Maddox in the Scotsman livens up a previously-slow news day with a report that Labour are preparing to team up with the Conservatives in the UK Parliament to force a Westminster-led referendum on Scottish independence. The article is short on solid quotes to contradict David Cameron's repeatedly-stated position that the referendum is a matter for the Scottish Parliament, relying instead on unnamed "sources", but if true it would be an astonishing development. None of the UK parties stood on a platform of holding a referendum – indeed, all three explicitly opposed the idea – so where they'd be conjuring a mandate to do such a thing from would be anyone's guess, whereas the SNP have an extremely clear one from the Scottish people to conduct the vote in the second half of the Holyrood parliamentary term.
Most observers on both sides of the debate agree that a Westminster-imposed referendum would be an enormously risky gamble for the Unionists, as Scottish voters are unlikely to take kindly to such a democratic trampling. But it may be that the three London-based parties sense a growing trend of support for a Yes vote – reflected in recent polls – and consider it less of a risk than waiting for three more years of brutal cuts to take effect and persuade Scots that they're better off away from Tory-led UK governments. Labour especially, though, would be dicing with death were they to collude in such a scheme. We shall see.