It didn’t take long. A day after the last blog, the latest slew of last-gasp hysteria splashed across the page. On Twitter ‘STV digital reporter’ Aidan Kerr commends a Daily Record editorial: The political divide in Scotland is no longer between left and right. It is between Yes and No. He adds a hashtag #Ulsterisation.
I explained yesterday how the dafter and more extreme examples of anti-SNP messaging, increasingly now the norm, made me laugh rather than angry. I’m afraid I didn’t laugh at this disgraceful and unwarranted slight on Scotland’s political culture. It is an attempt to introduce sectarianism from Northern Ireland into the national debate – a tone and tribal venom we have mostly and rightly avoided, apart from the Unionist mini riot in George Square.
What possible justification can there be for deliberately stirring partisan division along Protestant/Catholic and UK/ Ireland lines? Can this seriously be viewed as an appropriate and intelligent addition from a mainstream broadcast organisation? Having your staff generate online storms with anti-nationalist, pro-Labour rants is already a dubious role for a regulated broadcaster. But bringing the politics of Ulster into the public domain without historical explanation or detailed justification isn’t just cheap. It’s despicable. Who’d have thought as the anti-Nat voices rage that they’d sink this low. On the same day, we read with horror of graffiti deriding the Ibrox Disaster. Among the retweets below Kerr’s dangerous outburst is one saying: This is the legacy of SNPIRA. It is from someone using the Red Hand.
And what could be the justification for STV bringing the Ulster troubles into our election debate? We have a political argument – something which exists in all democracies. Is it religion-based? Is it tribal as in one identifiable community against another? Is it geographical pitting one area against another? Does it require the Army to separate sides? Have there been any murders? Knee-cappings? Kidnappings? Shootings or barricades? Or is the suggestion from STV’s ‘digital reporter’ that is where we are headed – that all this talk of separation is leading us into internecine warfare? Who, could he tell us, are the terrorists? Which side is the IRA and which the UDA? Is he forecasting we move into enclaves with the like-minded and only use Nationalist taxis or Unionist taxis and employ private enforcers? There is not the slightest sign that the democratic will of the electorate is being subverted either through extra-legal resistance to the SNP majority or in acceptance of the referendum result. The very fact that politically, there is a row about if and when there will be another is the clearest evidence that the first referendum is done and dusted. No riots, no bombings, no killings. So just which aspect of Ulsterisation is he referring to and could he stand up and tell us instead of hiding behind STV whose ‘digital offer’ since the indyref has been characterised by juvenile agitprop. Is our political divide filled with genuine hatred so that one community is pitched against another and can never come together, never resolve differences or accommodate each other? We know conclusively that some Nationalists vote for Unionist parties and that the SNP has firm backing from those who don’t want independence, hardly irreconcilable positions. There are Twitter storms (STV’s real aim?) but that hardly accounts for majority opinion. We took pride in the indyref in being an independence movement without a hint of violence or threat. The in-your-face shouting from both sides was less than I witnessed during the poll tax demonstrations. Here we see again that for every rational Unionist-minded Scot there is a journalistic scavenger exploiting doubts and fears to whip up hatred. What a disgrace of a media we have.
It’s also telling that he is endorsing the Record’s line that Yes/No is a ‘new divide’. Really? This is new, yeah? I’m afraid that to anyone over the age of 40 the fault line in our politics has been glaringly obvious since the 70’s. There was a Tory-Labour fight until around the discovery of oil when the SNP began their rise and threatened them both. But it was Labour that realised the potential damage the Nationalists could do to their support and when they began to turn the Tory tide, making themselves rulers of Scots, the SNP became the main enemy. After Thatcher the Tories were finished and Labour dominance meant having constantly to repel SNP attacks. That has been the sharpest and most contested territory in Scotland for 40 years. The viciousness of this could be frightening but for all the spitting, intimidation and shoving, it was never like Ulster. The comparison with a Falls Road riot or Drumcree – or the sense of fear you could see in the eyes of the brave people of the North – is laughable and an insult both to the Scots and the Ulster folk themselves. The ignorance of our political journalism is bad enough. Marrying it to deliberately combustible comparisons is downright dangerous.
The other example today is normally cogent Alex Massie taking a serpentine journey through the pages of the Times to explain why, in essence, the SNP is bad. Awfy bad. It’s about democracy and how you can’t trust it and why it’s deceitful for Sturgeon to try to use it as a device to win independence. Not the strongest case for Unionism, you might think, this anti-democratic approach. It may be that he thinks by not committing to a referendum in all and any circumstance in the manifesto that the SNP have no right to call one after Thursday. As he himself would say: Poppycock. First because manifestos have no legal authority and have been shredded by every single government including the SNP when it suits. Second, there can’t be a single person voting SNP who doesn’t know what they stand for and what their long-term objective is. They may not want independence or may not want it soon but they can’t escape the consequence of the party’s principle aim. Having said that, the effect of yet another Unionist newspaper blast at independence succeeds in leaving the impression it is an immediate ‘threat’ and as soon as the Nats line up the target and it stops moving – Blam! No matter how often she says it, they just don’t hear. It’s as if the only way to confirm their own hysteria is to convince themselves she’s lying – if only you could see the lizard face under her mask!
Still, only one more Desperation Day to go until we get the power to do the one thing that silently and brutally trumps them all…by