It’s not even a fortnight since we started to document the increasing levels of bullying, intimidation and dirty tricks employed by the No campaign against the far more numerous grassroots activists of Yes Scotland. We must admit, we weren’t expecting it to descend to outright physical violence quite this soon.
The picture above is taken from a story in yesterday’s Edinburgh Evening News. It shows an 80-year-old man, James McMillan (no relation to the differently-spelled composer James MacMillan CBE, who recently referred to pro-independence artists’ group National Collective as “Mussolini’s cheerleaders”), who was hospitalised with a broken wrist and other injuries after being attacked in the street by a woman outraged by his Yes placard.
It was only a matter of time.
The constant hysterical vilification and smearing of Yes supporters and politicians by the No camp over the last 18 months (but which has ramped up in intensity over recent weeks) made violent attacks inevitable. The only shocking aspect was that the victim was a frail pensioner, and perhaps that his attacker was a woman.
Well, nearly the only shocking aspect.
The Herald and STV both also carried reports of the incident yesterday, whose common theme was that neither of them mentioned the political nature of the attack. The Herald went with “Singer, 80 assaulted by woman”, while STV bizarrely chose “Gospel singer assaulted by woman as he sang hymns on the street” as its angle. Both reported Scots-born, Scots-resident Mr McMillan as a “Canadian”.
Now, it would be unfair to criticise the outlets for that alone. It’s entirely likely that they and the EEN all simply reported the same original, incomplete story from a newswire. But the Evening News bothered to chase it up and get the full facts, almost like journalists or something. (They’ve admirably followed the piece up with another one today, reporting Mr McMillan’s determination to carry on.)
Yet even despite the EEN having done all the work for them, a Scottish and UK media which exploded in a frenzy of wildly overheated coverage when some demonstrators non-violently barracked Nigel Farage a bit in Edinburgh a few weeks ago is completely silent this morning about an actual serious physical attack on an old man.
(The Herald went so far as to actively delete comments on the article on their website which had attempted to point out the full context of the story.)
Whether that would have remained the case had it been an 80-year-old No campaigner who had his wrist broken and his head gashed by a Yes activist is one of those annoying invisible hypotheticals about which we can only speculate. Another is just how much the language and tone of the No campaign contributed to the attack.
But what we can say with confidence is that the first blood to be spilled in the name of the independence debate is a story deserving more column inches than a few students yelling at an unpopular politician. Decide for yourselves why it hasn’t had them.