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Wings Over Scotland

2012: Repeat Fee Of The Year

Posted on December 30, 2012 by

This’ll probably come off sounding sarcastic and snide, but it honestly isn’t meant that way. In a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to get paid for journalism, we’re genuinely full of admiration and no small amount of jealousy that weel-kent pundit Gerry Hassan yesterday managed to extract yet more money from the Scotsman by writing the same article for roughly the 50th time* this year.

The piece, in which – shock of shocks! – Gerry calls for a more mature, serious and respectful kind of debate about independence, comes at the end of a year in which the publications who keep commissioning him to write that same piece have determinedly undermined any possibility of that more mature, serious and respectful debate about independence ever happening, by engaging in a concerted campaign of smear, innuendo and malicious spin directed almost entirely against one side.

In addition to regular opinion columns of poisonous, hate-filled bile from the likes of Brian Wilson and Michael Kelly, as recently as this week we also highlighted the Scotsman’s regular habit of cheap and dirty tricks in its news coverage. It’s probably the Scottish media’s worst offender – the Herald’s outright lies are more egregious, but if you ignore anything with Magnus Gardham’s name in the byline it’s a more balanced paper overall, and the Daily Record at least doesn’t pretend to be anything but biased, while still not running anything as nasty as Wilson and Kelly’s outpourings.

(The Scottish Sun, meanwhile, despite being owned by The Evil Monster Rupert Murdoch, carries some thoughtful and insightful reporting despite being indy-sceptic.)

The reality is that the debate over independence is going to get uglier and uglier in 2013, and the truth is that the vast majority of it – in political terms – will come from one side. The Yes campaign is committed to a positive message, and its less savoury advocates tend to be anonymous individuals scurrying around the darker corners of the internet. The No camp, on the other hand, puts its attack dogs front and centre and right under the official “Better Together” banner.

Whether it’s Labour MSPs openly and repeatedly calling the First Minister a “bare-faced liar”, or a string of Unionist parliamentarians and commentators calling the SNP fascists and Nazis, the anti-independence camp has embraced the tactics of abuse, and it’s naive to expect anything to change as the referendum gets closer. As the opinion polls stubbornly refuse to move their way even in the most propitious of circumstances, they’ll retreat and entrench themselves even more doggedly into the only strategy they know – negativity and fearmongering. There is no Plan B.

The absolute and obvious futility of Gerry Hassan’s constant calls for a decent and honest debate, of course, only makes it all the more impressive that he manages to keep getting paid for saying it. We salute, entirely sincerely and from an envious professional perspective, his powers of pitching. We hope the Wingy is some small consolation for the hopelessness of his dream.


To be honest, we stopped counting back after the first five months or so. You get the idea – Gerry wants a different kind of debate.

22nd DECEMBER (The Scotsman)
“Tackling such problems will not come from the narrow name blame game of Labour v. SNP, unionists v. nationalists, or even left v. right”

8th DECEMBER (The Scotsman)
“The Sturgeon speech represents a significant changing of gear in the independence debate and a challenge to all sides. We need to hear more of it”

5th DECEMBER (National Collective)
“Engaging in genuine dialogue and exchange where you might have your opinion or beliefs changed or change others, matters. In a real exchange of ideas, people on any side should be able to understand, recognise and empathise with opposing views.”

4th DECEMBER (Scottish Review)
“There would be in a culture shaped by popular sovereignty a whole raft of processes and practices by which the peoples’ will and voices were expressed: referenda, deliberative and participative forums, and a diffusing and dispersing of power beyond the political realm and classes; that is not the Scotland of today.”

17th NOVEMBER (The Scotsman)
“They are weakening the democratic debate which Scotland needs to have about its future as a society and nation. They have to change their tone for their own sake otherwise they will not only undermine what little respect for politics there is left, but wider democracy and public engagement.”

27th OCTOBER (The Scotsman)
“The above characteristics are reinforced by how we debate politics and ideas most of the time, concentrating on abstracts and process. Taking about social justice, or even NATO and the EU without much detail doesn’t mean much to most voters. And it aids the incomprehension of the tribes for each other as they refuse to engage in the messy matter of facts.”

11th OCTOBER (Scottish Review)
“What is damning is the lack of proper debate in large parts of the media and in public life in Scotland, beyond thinking by soundbite and insult.”

29th SEPTEMBER (The Scotsman)
“Is this a debate we are capable of, or want to have? Part of Scottish politics is dominated by name-calling, labelling and a sense of self-righteousness which seems motivated by living in a bunker, oblivious to detail… The debate about independence has to rise above the black-and-white thought police and the pseudo-social democracy of much of public life.”

13th SEPTEMBER (Scottish Review)
“Let’s begin a mature, reasoned debate on the many ‘divided Britains’ and what can be done about it. Otherwise defenders of the union are really engaged in the politics and psychologies of faith based politics; and at the moment we seem to have two campaigns and ‘visions’ of Scotland which inhabit such terrain.”

8th SEPTEMBER (The Scotsman)
“The language issue isn’t just a media or communications problem. It is also about values and philosophy. Our politics have been reduced to a spectrum of talking policy jargon at voters, or telling them they have no option but to change, and at worst, insulting and patronising them.”

26th AUGUST (The Scotsman)
“Part of our constitutional debate encourages on parts of the pro-union and pro-independence camps, a denial of the validity of the other side which is harming our public life. At times it boils over into aggression, intimidation and personal attack. It isn’t helping or aiding anyone and only turns voters off.”

22nd AUGUST (Soundbites debate)
“We need to stop the claim and counter-claim of people arguing that we should debate social policy or the constitution. We need to debate content and structure, social policy and the constitution, while also developing a distinct debate on political economy. The Labour-SNP dysfunctional relationship has hindered this.”

18th AUGUST (The Scotsman)
“We have to have a more pluralist notion of what politics, change and what being a political actor is. If we could begin making a start in this we could begin to have the kind of debate we need to have in the next few years.”

28th JULY (The Scotsman)
“We need a unifying, edifying clarion call for 21st century Scotland to animate our national debate beyond the partisan, hollow posturing we have seen so far.”

21st JULY (The Scotsman)
“To even begin daring to dream of a different Scottish Labour politics requires a different party culture. One where party members discuss, argue, come together, form party pressure groups, and do all this in a comradely, respectful manner, contributing to the remaking of their parties, changing their cultures, and how their leaderships act.”

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19 to “2012: Repeat Fee Of The Year”

  1. peter

    thank you; at last.
    been saying it for months; gerry ‘cliche’ hassan.

  2. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    It’s really not Gerry I’m having a pop at. If someone’ll pay you for stuff, you take the money. It’s sheer weariness at the relentless negativity of the No side, though I do wish Gerry would stop asking for a better debate and actually bloody start one.

  3. AndrewFraeGovan

    Seems to me Gerry’s role is not so much “let’s have a proper debate”, but “they’re all as bad as each other”.

  4. Dave McEwan Hill

    Gerry represents the one time radical left in Scottish politics and its struggle to reach the higher ground loaded down with the baggage of a previous committment to the Labour Party and the Labour movement.
    Do not underestimate how difficult this journey is for some good people or how important it is for us.

  5. dadsarmy

    I agree with Gerry, and if keeping on saying the same thing over and over and over helps to achieve a fair, open and reasoned debate at some time in the next two years, he’s worth every penny I don’t provide because I don’t buy newspapers.

  6. kininvie

    La Riddoch has been saying much the same for much the same length of time. Neither she nor Gerry are wrong – it’s gruesome, unedifying, and undignified that such an important issue is being debated – if that is the word – at such a debased level. Without banging the drum too much for my party, the NATO debate at the SNP conference proved that democracy, rational argument, and ability to address contentious issues without degenerating into slanging matches are not beyond us.
    I think much of the problem lies in the fact that the argument for or against independence does not actually lend itself to the kind of instant sensation that the MSM demands. Add to that the continuing non-appearance of the ‘positive case’ and you get a vacuum where journalists are scrabbling to find anything that will get their readers to look beyond the headline. So Gerry’s appeal is falling on stony ground – but I would not for a moment ask for him to cease appealing.
    I sense that the real debate is being carried on in pubs, workplaces, family gatherings, and sometimes on the street. That is where the vote will be won or lost – not, with no disrespect to either Gerry or yourself, in the MSM, the blogosphere, or Twitter.

  7. Iain

    On Gerry, harsh but fair.
    I think it’s time for him to pin his colours to the Labour for Independence mast; they seem to represent the idealistic Labour he yearns for, and they could do with a bit of big(gish) name support.

  8. Marian

    Gerry Hassan’s long-winded and repetitive articles sound like a gramophone record that’s stuck in the groove and add not much of value to the real debate on independence and quite why NNE keeps re-publishing them is mystifying to say the least.

    We won’t get a real debate until the YES campaign comes out and starts campaigning properly with their gloves off. 

  9. Macart

    Poor old Gerry, seriously overthinks and over complicates, so much angst. I still like to read his articles though. Unlikely we’ll get said reasoned and civil debate from either the politicians or the media. Most of the debate is being held online, in the workplace, in the home and in the street. I’ll be delighted if we can just get the facts we require from both the SG and the YES campaign out there so we can start getting an effective and organized approach to fighting lies and propaganda. The SGs whitepaper will go a long way to combat media and opposition attacks on lack of detail and mechanics on how an independent government will work. This detail should also give many a poster, particularly those into party politics, a stick to beat the opposition with. I’m more looking forward to what Blair Jenkins and Dennis Canavan are going be about in 2013 though.

  10. Luigi

    It is very difficult to maintain an intense, negative campaign for six months, let alone two years. People quickly tire of constant negativity, people lose their fear/sensitivity, people wise up. The Better Together campaign has been way too ferocious and constantly negative so early on in the contest. Can this be sustained for another 18 months? The lessons of 2011 have obviously not been learned. I believe there will be options for proper debate soon, once the white paper is launched and the Yes Scotland campaign gets into gear. Whether the Better Together lot are willing or able to engage in this debate remains to be seen. However, they will be expected to and will not be forgiven if they fail to do so. People are not so daft as the politicians suppose. Faced with a choice between an abusive,  negative campaign that started too early, and a polite, upbeat campaign that will be designed to build up gradually and peak at the right moment, I know which I will put my money on for 2014.

  11. Vronsky

    AndrewFraeGovan is right: Gerry’s agenda is “they’re all as bad as each other”.   Here’s an excerpt from his most recent piece:

    “We cannot afford to have a debate dominated by angry men, mostly of a certain age, trading insults and invective. It won’t change minds, convince many, and would be a defeat for democracy, and lessen the chances of radical change.”

    Who, on the independence side, are these angry men of a certain age, offering insults and invective?  I’d defy him to name even one, while anyone could quickly name a dozen from the ‘No’ side.  And as regards radicalism, his own is of an odd stripe.  Recall that he was alone (not counting Tories) in welcoming Lamont’s ‘something for nothing’ speech.  For a true reflection of his sentiments the above passage should read like this:

    “We cannot afford to have the case for the Union presented by angry men, mostly of a certain age, offering only insults and invective.  It won’t change minds, convince many, and will end the Union and raise a real risk of radical change.”

  12. Laura

    O/T for those of you who haven’t read it, I recommend reading The Sanitization of Scottish History, it’s in 5 parts from 1603 till 2012, Scottish Independence is restoration NOT secession, with historical references for futher reading.
    I was astonished to see the Union with Ireland cost somewhere in the region of £1m in bribes, not sure if that was the value then in 1801 or now.
    Does anyone know how much was spent in bribes buying the Union with Scotland?
    Shows just what we are up against in 2014. 

  13. douglas clark

    It always struck me that one of the problems with our country is that we are always provided with the same ‘talking heads’ not only in print but on visual media as well. It seems to me to be, ahem, quite incestuous.

    It is also pretty boring as we all know what they are going to say, more or less, before they say anything at all.

    It would make for a more interesting debate if, say, scottish skier was put up against Prof Curtis, would it not? Because they appear to look at the same data and arrive at completely different conclusions.

    Just out of curiosity, has OGH ever been asked to appear on the telly? And, if not, why not?

  14. Don McC

    “Oh, I agree with Gerry, I agree with Gerry”.  No, Andrew and Vronsky are right, the whole reason the likes of the Hootsman prints Gerry’s articles is because Gerry labels all sides of the debate the same.  They’re not, not by any stretch of the imaginaton and it’s time Gerry woke up and actually said so. 

    Of course, I suspect Gerry knows full well that all sides of the debate aren’t the same but also knows if he were to actually say so, those cheques he receives would turn to rubber quicker than you could say flubber.

    The Unionists have nothing, absolutely nothing, positive to contribute to the debate.  If they can convince the people of Scotland that the Yes campaign don’t have anything positive either, and Gerry’s articles helps them in that, they’ll win more than a small victory.

    “Bought and sold for English gold”.   Now who was it that said that?

  15. Derick

    A lot of good points on here.  One other – printing a small number of ‘reasonable’ or even ‘independence-leaning’ articles, amongst the torrent of NO propaganda, allows these organs to claim they are balanced.  Realistically the North Briton and the Glasgow Herald are not that relevant, given their miniscule readership.  The Record and the Sun are another matter

  16. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    ” if keeping on saying the same thing over and over and over helps to achieve a fair, open and reasoned debate at some time in the next two years”

    It won’t, though. It can’t, because the Union is simply indefensible by anything other than fearmongering.

  17. An Duine Gruamach

    I like Gerry, but as has been said above it’d be better if he spent less time calling for debate and more time debating.  The same goes for Lesley Riddoch. They both obviously have a good vision for Scotland, know what they’re talking about and have an understanding of what’s wrong and needs fixed. Standing at the sides wailing “please be nice!” ain’t gonna fix anything, though. (Which reminds me, I quite liked John MacLeod’s line about Gerry’s “Kumbaya Socialism”).

    BTW – has anyone here ever played “Drink with Gerry Hassan”?  It’s a dangerous game – you have a shot-glass in one hand and one of Gerry’s articles in the other, and you need to take a shot every time you come across the word “narrative”. 

  18. velofello

    I find Gerry’s articles labyrinthmic.

  19. Don McC

    Now that even Alastair Darling (of all people) is calling for the tone and level of debate to be raised, you can see exactly how the Unionists view (and intend to use) Gerry’s articles. In a couple of weeks, it’ll be the common view that it is the Yes campaign that is keeping the debate in the gutter whilst the Unionist side are bravely trying to keep the people of Scotland really informed.

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