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2012: Death Of The Year

Posted on December 28, 2012 by

Now don’t panic, readers. We wouldn’t, of course, be so crass and tasteless as to celebrate the death of an individual human being. (Though it’s hard to sensibly dispute that a great dark psychological weight will be lifted from the Scottish psyche whenever Lady Thatcher finally gasps her last.) Instead, for the latest of our “Wingy” end-of-year awards we’ll be marking the passing of something that started the year full of health and vigour and promise, but has ended it as a tragic corpse, lying unnoticed by the neighbours for months until the smell became too much to ignore.

We speak, of course, of Unionist blogging.

Nationalists have long been held to exert a near-monopoly on online activism, whether on websites or social media. The initial reaction of the anti-independence camp was its traditional one: smears and name-calling. The coining of the term “cybernat” was intended to ridicule and belittle internet-based nationalism, leaving the debate in the control of the overwhelmingly Unionist media, but was proudly adopted by its objects.

When the insults alone didn’t work, individuals were singled out, with the press only too happy to protect their own turf by expending acres of coverage on various isolated supporters of independence who made intemperate (though often entirely private) comments, while studiously ignoring far more offensive public statements from far more prominent BritNats.

But at the same time, after the shock of the 2011 Holyrood election fans of Westminster government also attempted to take the battle to the dastardly cybernats on their own turf. A number of quasi-official sites sprang up promising to fight the good fight for the Union, and to present the mythical “positive case” for having Scotland’s government decided by the people of Essex and Kent. But where are they now?

Labour Hame’s list of contributors read like a Who’s Who of Scottish Labour worthies. Johann Lamont, Anas Sarwar, Tom Harris, Douglas Alexander, Margaret Curran, Kezia Dugdale, Ann McKechin, John McTernan and George Foulkes represented the party’s elected representatives in Holyrood, the House Of Commons and the House Of Lords with multiple posts each. Many more of the party’s biggest Scottish names supplied articles here and there too – Jim Murphy, Jack McConnell, Richard Baker, Ken Macintosh and Iain Gray.

They were joined by prominent activists like Ian Smart, Duncan Hothersall, Aidan Skinner and John Ruddy, all familiar to readers of newspaper comment sections, and also by the writers of those same newspapers – Kenny Farquharson of Scotland On Sunday, Michael Kelly from sister paper the Scotsman and Torcuil Crichton of the Daily Record all weighed in with a couple of posts.

The site launched at the start of June 2011 and kept up a frenzied initial pace – its first three months saw a phenomenal 131 posts, even very briefly reaching out to softer nationalist types like Kate Higgins and Jeff Breslin. (Our own submission was sadly declined.) But things started to tail off quickly, as the site became more and more bad-tempered and partisan, perhaps as a reaction to constantly having to defend its arguments against nationalists in the comments.

Despite that, the next four months running up to the end of the year yielded a still-respectable 77 posts. But the dawning of 2012 saw Labour Hame run out of steam completely. The next four months produced fewer than half as many articles as the preceding four – a mere 36 – and at that point, still a month short of its first birthday, the site gave up the ghost altogether.

May, June and July combined saw Labour Hame publish just THREE posts, compared to the 131 of its first three months. August offered more than the preceding three put together, but still only a miserable four, and though a short-lived September mini-revival struggled up as high as nine (including reprints from elsewhere), the rest of the year has managed to add just five to the total, with none at all for over a month.

Over on the blue side of the Union camp, meanwhile, the demise of Tory Hoose was altogether more sudden. Some time in December – it appears to have taken a while for anyone to notice, and TH blocked from accessing its content, so the exact date is a mystery – the site simply winked out of existence entirely, under a “This Account Has Been Suspended” message.

There’s been no word as to why, and no response to enquiries. The last post we can find via Google Cache is “Tory Hoose welcomes party changes” from the 26th of November, which now takes on a rather more sinister aspect. The site’s Twitter account has been deleted amid renewed allegations of racism by one of the site’s founders, whose Twitter account has also now disappeared.

(Tory Hoose had also attracted attention during 2012 for some questionable content calling on the Conservatives to forge stronger links with the Orange Order.)

While the nationalist cause is now represented by a wide spectrum of online entities, from the culturally-focused National Collective and the broad-based Bella Caledonia to more news-oriented organs like Newsnet Scotland and commentary-based sites like the Jimmy Reid Foundation and the one you’re reading now, there’s a strange yawning chasm where their Unionist counterparts ought to be.

While one could of course argue that the mainstream media is effectively fulfilling the function, it still lays claim – however unconvincingly – to impartiality, and it’s decidedly odd that there’s almost nowhere offering frequently-updated content from an openly Unionist perspective. We’ve recently added Think Scotland to our blogroll, which features a grouping of high-profile right-wing commentators including David Torrance, Alex Massie and Bill Jamieson, though it seems to be little-read. But on the left side of British nationalism in Scotland, there’s pretty much nothing.

We can think of a whole range of possible explanations for this curious absence, but frankly they’re all a little cynical. Scottish Labour are now famously short of activists on the ground, and it could be that the handful they have – almost all of whom were Labour Hame contributors – are too fully occupied with firefighting/trolling on Twitter and newspaper comment threads to handle running a website too.

Alternatively, it could be that Labour Hame proved the difficulty of actually defending the Union cause when people are able – occasionally – to get through moderation and challenge the arguments. Facebook, where the remnants of online Unionism appear to have mostly retreated, offers hosts far more control and far greater ability to hide their tracks in terms of censored, edited and deleted content. (But even then, the Better Together official FB page is a sparse and thinly-populated effort, bereft of content and mostly consisting of links to mainstream media stories.)

Or it may be that the sheer effort of constantly contorting and twisting facts to uphold a fundamentally indefensible case has simply exhausted the UK side. Unceasing negativity is a tiring and depressing business, and it would certainly explain why the London parties suddenly became so desperate to hold the referendum as soon as possible after years of blocking it at every turn – perhaps they knew their troops simply couldn’t keep it up.

As we say, those are all rather cynical and partisan analyses. But we honestly can’t think of a more plausible one. The death of online Unionism in 2012 was one of the year’s more curious events, and the fact that we’re not expecting a revival in 2013 as the referendum campaign gets serious only serves to underline it. It’ll be interesting to see if we’re wrong.

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38 to “2012: Death Of The Year”

  1. They’re all on the Scotsman comments pages if anyone’s looking for them.

    As for Tory Hoose they’ve migrated to  

  2. james morton says:

    Toryhoose for the most part consisted of intense naval gazing contrasted by fantastic brainfarts from what seemed to be the youth wing of the party. Trying to reclaim William of Orange as a hero of Union for instance, or holding to unpopular policies as a matter of principle, which would then win over the Scots. Claiming John Major as being quite popular etc etc.

    Read labour Hame but once. Deranged and idiotic are the first two things that came to mind, and I left right there and then.

    There is another Pro unionist site being run by one C. H. Hill (i think thats the gentlemans name) An Irish Unionist, he is running a one man site to save the Union and Scotland. Its a mix of the usual nonsense, with a rose tinted lens looking back to WW2 and chocolate box tin image of the UK. Oddly the bulk of replies are from English nationalists, not Scots. You get the impression they were not really expecting to be attacked from that direction. Subsequently they don’t seem able to frame any convincing defence of their posts. 

  3. Speaking of things that died: whatever happened to Voters Alliance for Scottish Independence at  I think they got hacked once a wee while back, but checking their link from my own site over the last 2 or 3 weeks it looks like they’ve gone.

  4. Bill Pickford says:

    James, this C. H. Hill fellow, would he be the AM2 construct who was present on the Scotsman’s comments section? (he might still be, I haven’t been on that site in yonks.)
    If so, he was another one who would always seek to take the discussion off on a tangent when quizzed regarding union ‘benefits’.  

    And regarding going off on a tangent, check this out to prove that Ed’s ‘One Nation’ really is England – poor Johann’s been jilted:

  5. Macart says:

    Well let’s face it, they’ve had years to come up with this positive case and predictably failed. They’ve had to try and defend Westminster austerity measures, illegal wars, economic disasters, theft of public funds via expenses scandals and still try and portray an independent Scottish government as somehow being a worse choice. Despite their best efforts, they’ve watched as their support and readership have dwindled, stood slack jawed as the SNP swamped into majority government and presided over the joining at the hip of Labour to Conservative.

    I suspect most people in their position would like to quietly slip into obscurity. 

  6. Ronald Henderson says:

    There are a whole lot of other things happening out in the ’email ether’ supporting the independence campaign.
    There is an American website called Celtic Guide. ( It’s a free monthly online magazine about the Celtic countries and they carry their own advert for the Yes Scotland campaign. They will be featuring the constant battle of the Celtic nations for their liberty in a forthcoming issue in April.
    They are also on Facebook.
    Things are moving our way and we have lots of friends out there.

  7. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Well, Labour Hame is in London.  i.e. the home of Labour.  There’s no such political party as The Scottish Labour Party. Therefore from a purely scottish perspective it can’t be either of those.

    Tory Hoose? Again that’s London.

    I would vote for a no score draw between The Scotsman and Herald(you forgot Tom Gordon)  bloggers. All useless, lying buggers. Their only worthwhile journalistic  contributions will be to write the papers’ obituarys.         

  8. heraldnomore says:

    Gosh Stu, when you started out with death I thought for a moment you were giving it to the MSM, you know, our quality newsprints in these parts.  But then I caught the bit about starting the year in full of health, which kind of ruled them out.

    But that’s maybe why the unionist bloggers gave up; surplus to requirments, when they’ve got Gardham and Co to do their dirty work for them.

    Anyone know when the next six-monthly regional rag figures are due out?    

  9. Iain says:

    I wonder if the retreat of the CyberBritnats is simply a pragmatic decision? Engaging in real arguments just reveals weaknesses, so they cluster in their own half tappin’ the ball to each other, occasionally sending a foolhardy single striker up the park.*
    We all know how well that works.

    *Apols for clumsy fitbaw metaphor. 

  10. james morton says:

    @Bill Pickford

    Couldn’t say if he was posting as Am2 but the chaps full name is Henry C H Hill and runs a site called Open Unionism – Apparently he has had many laurels heaped upon his brow and runs the longest Unionist site called “Open Unionism”. At least thats what the PR says. He is an Irish-Brit nat who has decided to make Scotland staying in the Union his personal project.

    His stuff is as I said on the Banal side of the unionism debate. He makes strawmen arguments that have come to nothing and can be easily dealt with. Of late he is obsessed with the SNP and Salmond, but as I said, banal strawmen with little hitting power and blown away with the slightest puff of wind.

  11. Cuphook says:

    How many types of Unionist are there?

    I’ve tended to lump them into the opportunistic and the jingoistic camps, but there could be more.

    The former are those who have a tribal loyalty to a political party and/or philosophy and hope that a No vote will damage the SNP, and thereby increase their own chance of furtherance, while the latter are those who have an undying love of the UK (Great Britain) and have made the mistaken assumption that the fight for Scottish independence is based on the same outmoded 19th century concept of nationalism as their own.

    I think they struggle for those very reasons; their output is either mendacity or I’m alright Union Jackery.

  12. Marcia says:

    My definition of a Unionist is -‘ someone who has a problem for every solution.’ All their websites past and present have shown this tendency.

  13. Juteman says:

    There are all types of Unionist.
    I met an old relative at a family funeral recently. At the reception afterwards, the subject of the referendum came up. He was an angry No. When i asked him why, the answer was mind boggling.
    He married an Irish girl back in the 50’s, and seemingly saw a horse in a garden in Dublin. “That’s what independence does, horses in gardens of your capital city”.
    I don’t think any reasonable arguments would work with him!

  14. Cuphook says:

    Arbitrarily dividing up the independence campaign it strikes me that there are three camps.

    There’s the romantic Scots, those who believe that better governance comes from Scotland running its own affairs and those (from the Left and the Right) who see this an opportunity to further their political philosophy.

    The interesting one is the middle one as the counter argument that Scotland is better governed as part of the UK falls flat due to devolution. If the UK is so good for Scotland then why do we need Hollyrood to defend us against Westminster?

    For all of its support in the media Unionism is actually very weak. The majority of the country want our own parliament and further powers for it. Independence is ours to win.

  15. Cuphook says:


    That’s one thing that they haven’t threatened us with – a plague of horses.  

    I’d place your relative in the jingoistic (for want of a better name) camp though.  ‘When Britain was great we didn’t have horses in gardens’, sort of thing.    

  16. pmcrek says:

    Some copy pasta rankings from Alexa, note Alexa stats may not be entirely accurate however I would say there is a very noticable trend. In order we have:

    Newsnet Scotland, global rank: 165,515 reputation: 459, global rank: 954,261 reputation: 848
    Yes Scotland, global rank: 966,436 reputation: 244
    Bella Caledonia, global rank: 1,150,269 reputation:316
    Bitter Together, global rank: 2,101,033 reputation: 123
    Toryhoose, global rank: 5,246,543 reputation: 58
    Labourhame, global rank: 6,784,587 reputation: 62

  17. DougtheDug says:

    I suppose the main problem the unionists face is that they’ve never had to justify being British before and never had to think about it before except in the context of Northern Ireland where it’s defined as the opposite of being Irish.
    They can’t use that same NI idea of British as the opposite of Scottish in Scotland as they are trying to out-Scottish the Scottish nationalists by declaring their undying Scottish patriotism as a regional part of British patriotism.
    The unionists have been trying ride the two horses of Scottish and British nationalism at the same time and they simply can’t keep it up.
    As an aside, in one of those ironies that you couldn’t make up, the domain used for the now defunct Tory Hoose site is registered to an address at 21 Sir William Wallace Court.

  18. HenBroon says:

    Unionists claim to wish to give a hearing to other views, but then instantly become offended and sarcastic when they are presented with these other views, as if they cannot believe the impertinence of the people holding them.
    You only have to listen to the arrogant colonial thinking that motivates the likes of Michael Moore when he appeared in front of the Lords who even by their colonial standards were left astounded by his incredible arrogance. See it here:
    Someone mentioned Labour Hame and Duncan Hothersall. I am convinced he is the same one who used to shriek all day long on The Scotsman forum as Duncan in Edinburgh. I remember when the Forth Tolls were about to be cancelled, how he wailed and shrieked and screeched for weeks that Edinburgh and the Lothians were about to be destroyed for ever because of this action by the SNP. Weeks and weeks of it we got, and then nothing, he would give the Mayans a red neck. They are all cut from the same cloth, and all they have is poisonous rhetoric, lies, propaganda and dirty low down visceral hate.
    However as this excellent article has just pointed out it is all subject to the laws of diminishing returns, as slowly but surely these excellent blogs turn over and expose the ugly belly of the beast that drips with sectarian hate and undiluted anti Scottish racism.
    What exposed it for me was the recent debate in Holyrood on the last FMQs when it was suggested that Scotland could one day like Cyprus and Ireland take the chair of the EU council. The hooting and jeering and sarcastic laughing from the Labour benches was enough to turn your stomach. That these clowns, and they are clowns, have such low opinion and ambition for Scotland tell us if we needed to know why we have for so long languished as an economic backwater in the UK. For Gods sake Scotland vote YES and rid us of the clowns.

  19. Juteman says:

    Nail on head HenBroon.

  20. muttley79 says:

    Unfortunately for the No campaign they have to address two major problems.  Firstly, they have no clear vision for the future of Scotland (which is very ironic as they always accuse Scot Nats, supporters of independence of being obsessed with the past).  For evidence you just need to look at how they spent the time from the results of the 2011 election to the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement.  Their engagement with what further powers the Scottish parliament should have was zero. 

    Their other major problem (and it is another fucker) is that they have no idea what the positive case for the Union actually is.  All they do is talk about the SNP in abusive terms and deny blindly that some of their own voters support independence, when all the evidence points to this (they have even taken to telling their own supporters to effectively fuck off – see Patricia Ferguson).  I am starting to think that they themselves believe the positive case for the Union is in fact to direct as much hatred towards the SNP and Salmond as they can muster (without spontaneously combusting in the process)…

    I think the main reason why there is not a positive case for the Union is that essentially they are campaigning for anti self-determination, anti self-government.  They are essentially saying that they do not trust themsleves, or the nation they are from, to govern itself.  Another reason I reckon they are getting so angry is that they would never think of going up to people in other countries, particularly small ones, and asking them why they govern themselves?  I reckon that some are aware of how unrational their attitude is towards Scotland, even if they will never admit it.

  21. Cuphook says:


    Pretty much. Unionism always seems to fall back on historical romanticism and revisionism or the prestige of being a world power which punches above its weight.

    Unionists tell us that Scotland should control some of its own affairs, and as the push for independence increases so does the list of responsibilities that we can be allowed, though they can’t help conniving to make the powers less than they seem. If the good governance of Scotland was their aim the necessary powers would have been put in place without their customary reluctance.

    The UK is their country and the fact that it is a union is an inconvenience for them. In the argument for devo max (where did it go?) defence and foreign affairs are the definite no-nos because they are the powers that define a country/state. They are prepared, if necessary, to give up all powers but for those.

    If Unionists agree that Scotland should exist then they should tell us to what purpose.

    This might prove difficult as they’re having trouble explaining why the UK should exist.

  22. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Some copy pasta rankings from Alexa, note Alexa stats may not be entirely accurate however I would say there is a very noticable trend. In order we have:”


    “Newsnet Scotland, global rank: 165,515 reputation: 459
    WINGS OVER SCOTLAND, global rank 340,149 reputation 303, global rank: 954,261 reputation: 848
    Yes Scotland, global rank: 966,436 reputation: 244
    Bella Caledonia, global rank: 1,150,269 reputation:316
    Bitter Together, global rank: 2,101,033 reputation: 123
    Toryhoose, global rank: 5,246,543 reputation: 58
    Labourhame, global rank: 6,784,587 reputation: 62″

    Tsk. Honestly.

  23. AnneDon says:

    Does anyone think the recent interview with Anas Sarwar might have some bearing on this? He is to ‘lead’ the Labour campaign against indy, apparently. (Still not letting Lamont loose, obviously), but it did suggest Labour had realised their ‘alliance’ with the Tories had backfired.

  24. muttley79 says:


    Literally every time I have heard Sarwar he has banged on about Salmond and the SNP.  I have absolutely no idea what he believes in because he never mentions policies, and has no vision at all.  I actually get the impression that he hates politics and that he does not want to debate or campaign. 

  25. Juteman says:

    Sarwar is into politics for the same reason as his father.

  26. Franklin says:

    doesn’t the alexa system rely on people installing their horrid toolbar? m amazed anyone would in this day and age. especially more internet savvy types.

  27. Commenter says:

    I think it is essential that we cybernats continue to visit anti-Independence sites and correct lies and misinformation. The worth of that over the last year shows up in the fact that we now very seldom get the stupid lies in the English media that, eg, Fraser Nelson of the weegie accent plus the English  aaaaaaaiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeoooooooowwwww vowel sound was/is wont to portray. We still get some racist comments but even those have reduced substantially.
    I have more or less given up on debating with individual BritNats on comments sites although if an easy opening is presented to put the metaphorical boot in I will use it. However I do make a big point of denigrating the journalists who write the drivel, like Johnstone, Cochrane and his wife, et al, at every opportunity. The intent is to devalue their opinions and make them out to be liars and worse.
    Finally can someone explain the above Alexa ratings, they don’t make sense to me.

  28. Bill Pickford says:

    Juteman says:

    ‘Sarwar is into politics for the same reason as his father.’

    What, to help the poor and needy? 

  29. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    I always remember my mother relating how, on her way to vote,she went into a Pakistani grocers shop near Ibrox to be told by the lady behind the counter “Please, madame, do not vote for Mohmmed Sarwar. Him very bad man. It is you Scottish poeple who vote for him, not us” 

    That Anas Sarwar has been put in charge tells you more about Johann Lamont than anything else as Anas has absolutely nothing to offer to the debate. Is he the only one foolish enough to be willing to take take the blame?

    Having said that we have to understand that the Labour Party is not our opponent. They are now a construct that exists only in and through the media and are merely the conduit which the UK establishment uses to get its anti Independence message across (or not, as increasingly becomes the case)
    We have delicious melange here. We have UK establishment and media which does not understand Scotland operating here making up the bullets for the media to misfire on behalf of the NO campaign and destroying the remains of the Labour party in Scotland in the process. 
    I think the point is now reached where derision is the approriate reaction to much of the intelligence insulting effort against us and this is a completely destructive force in politics.
    It takes time for derision to become universal but it’s steadily getting there. As I posted before every time I see Johan Lamont I think of sausages. I can’t help it. I think it’s something to do with Francie and Josie.
    But I’m sure that’s not the image she wishes to project.    

  30. Naturally, we have our own take on this issue:
    “Unionist nutters leave the internet as they abandon Hoose and Hame”

  31. Davy says:

    I miss the labour hame site, in the early days we could have a full on battle with the unionist’s on that site before their so called moderators started to cull all the postings they did’nt like. It also showed the unionist’s that printing basic lies and half-truths as they did through the MSM did not work on the internet, because the truth was out there and we could show and prove the shite they were publishing was shite. Many of labours so-called bigwigs fairly came a cropper on labour hame as they were so sure that nobody would dare question any article they had written, but they soon found out different as they were regularly diced and sliced. 

    The tory hoose site never had the same energy as labour hame, you could easily see 10 articles on that site and be lucky to see one or two comments for the whole 10 articles. I suppose it really showed how insignificent the torys are in Scotland, plus they heavily moderated their site right from the start and it was very hard to get to grips with them to counter their arguments.

    So it appears that the unionist’s aka “Britnats” will no longer come out to play, unless its on a site that completely favours them, just incase the dreaded Cybernats steal their ball and tell the truth.

    Labour hame & Tory hoose, no guts no balls no chance, just fearties.

    Alba Gu snooker loopy!   

  32. Munguin says:

    What can one say about Labour Hame? Wasn’t it a vehicle for the inane frothings of the Great Administrator aka Tom Harris? Who blotted his copy book so often there was more blot than book. Dare I cynically suggest that as the beauty contest that is the Total Politics blog awards do not seem to have been run lately, that this might account for Mr H’s dwindling enthusiasm! And no gong in the new year’s honours list, which is amazing considering the number of right wing political failures that were “rewarded” with a bauble from the British Empire. Surely no bigger right wing failure exists than Mr Harris!

  33. McHaggis says:

    This FB page has plenty ‘likes’

    It is the usual combo of attack Salmond and the SNP on a daily basis without putting anything positive forward for the retention of the union.

    Hate to say it, but 17,000 likes, plus however many ‘shares’ means these articles will be appearing on a great deal of FB users timelines.

    I did try to engage one person in several debates on economics, defence etc but was staggered at just how childish they became. I think I discovered a very rare species – a dyed in the wool Scottish born and bred (Fife) Tory! Couldnae believe it!     

  34. Bob Duncan says:

    Nil desperandum, Caledonii!

    I am an admin on a FB site with over 21,000 likes:
    “Yes to an independent Scotland”!/HailAlbaGusnooker loopy!

    We are winning the war of this front too.

    (And we even manage some proper debate on this page.)   

  35. Juteman says:

    I’ve just been reading the latest effort from Open Unionism.
    Every time i visit that site, i’m transported back to the days of Rudyard Kipling.

  36. Andrew says:

    The prolem with the blogsphere/ Twitter is that it tends to preach to the converted rather than the undecided. I think WoS, BN, Bella and others do an excellent job of presenting the stories and facts that arent reflected in the mainstream media, however the wider YES campaign needs to be targeting people who have not yet made their mind up. The mass media is a major obstacle, and while I certainly don’t have all the answers I’m not sure how much the blogsphere infulences the undecided public.

  37. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “This FB page has plenty ‘likes’ It is the usual combo of attack Salmond and the SNP on a daily basis without putting anything positive forward for the retention of the union.”

    Heh. I tried a couple of experimental comments – nothing provocative or rude, just quietly noting a couple of statistics. Lasted about an hour.

  38. sneddon says:

    British Unity eh? (puts tin foil hat on) It keeps the spooks busy I suppose.

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