The Cheque’s in the Post

Is it over? Is the end finally in sight for the national call on our support that’s been going on across the media for weeks and which has become unavoidable – the relentless arguments For and Against made by famous faces telling us how our European nation’s future will be shaped. Are you In or are you Out?

Not the referendum, of course, but the Bella crowdfunder.

I can’t decide which has taken up more space on my timeline nor which has irritated me more. Just as the EU referendum should have been a chance to discuss what kind of Europe we want but instead descended into rancour, so the fundraiser should have been a straightforward appeal for a good cause. Instead, others of us out here in the new media have been abused and accused in a totally unnecessary way as the Bella outfit trampled on its own side in the search for cash.

Snide asides and naked attacks* have marked the march of Bella as it positioned itself as pre-eminent…the largest Scottish based site I think I read…(whatever that means…presumably another way of saying much smaller than Wings). According to Mike and Kevin Williamson the rest of us can be dismissed as SNP cheerleaders, we speak in an echo chamber, engage in circuitous arguments, lack ideas and don’t deserve support.

I had no idea we were in competition.

I had thought all of us in the alternative media were equal – part of the same movement for self-government but with different approaches and a different cast of characters. We appeal to different groups and sub groups. Not all readers of my blog also read Newsnet. I ignore some outlets, dip into others, come and go according to taste and think of us all as an organic and complementary service. I have no desire to tell Bella what to publish or how to develop and wish it only success. If it moves into non-indy issues, that’s fine by me. Newsnet has covered poetry, art, broadcast news analysis, refugees and given voice proportionately to more Greens and Rise supporters than anyone else. We even hear regularly from a Labour Party member…!

The tired label of cheerleader doesn’t account for any number of doubts and criticism of SNP policy and approach we publish. But what is true is that I personally think, like half the voting public, that the SNP is the strongest vehicle for achieving independence. No one I know says that excludes other voices. It doesn’t. But we’re all entitled to vote whichever way we like in a democracy and we can do without the judgmental opinions of self-selecting blogging elites when we do so.

I can’t tell how how disappointed I’ve been with the censorious mentality displayed by Mike Small to those with whom he disagrees. He’s even tried to tell us who we should drop from Newsnet. His satirising of my own stance on the SNP budget was just insulting as if he expected us all to fall into line with what I assume to be his personal outlook. It strikes me as weird that someone who publishes such a diverse and creative site struggles to tolerate anyone else in his space…more Philip Green than Vote Green.

I’ve shut up ‘til now for fear of intruding on the fundraising effort and agreed with Alan Bissett’s peace plea, published ironically on Bella. But I’m no doubt that the acrimony has its roots in Mike’s determination, however undeclared, to promote Rise which in turn has curdled into a sour approach to the SNP and those who support it. Well, we can’t expect everyone to agree but neither can he appoint himself the Compliance Officer of the new media and dictate to us all. It may be his burgeoning ambition to be Biggest and Best that leads to getting above himself, as his motto says.

I simply fail to see the need for the trashing of the efforts of others as if only one site truly deserved support. The one-dimensional pursuit of some kind of ‘we’re better than you’ domination is surely a corporatist trait rather than a collective one. Newsnet has never even had an organised fundraiser and gets along on a tiny fraction of Bella’s budget. That’s the way we do it and we know, because it’s low cost, it is sustainable. We don’t have to make Brexit-style threats of closure if you don’t get your hands in your pocket.

Now he’s got the money in the bank** can Mike Small get back to editing an excellent and eclectic website in the spirit in which all this started – people-based, organic and tolerant. More than thirty grand is a huge sum to run a website in Scotland so there should be no further need for smearing others. It’s a real pity it came to this and I know how it disappoints many readers but, as Scotland itself has discovered, the time for shutting up is long gone.


*Kevin Williamson

Difference of approaches have opened up between the likes of Common Space/Bella who want to explore ideas and take bolder more radical approaches and the fundamentalist axis of Wings/Newsnet who act mainly as SNP cheerleaders while critiquing the media/Unionists in showboating circular arguments.

The blogs close to the SNP are so devoid of new political thinking they’ll end up circling the wagons around an ever-decreasing readership. Such is the nature of movements when they ebb. Common Space and Bella have a future because they go beyond indyref politics.

Its what makes these websites necessary. Scotland needs radical ideas, fresh thinking and the questioning of power much more than it needs pro-Indy government cheerleaders.

Mike Small

-I suppose where we differ is that some other sites focus exclusively on one party as the road map to independence and we think the issues are more complex than that.

I’d ask you to read the list of writers in the blog above and ask yourself where else has such diversity?

From our very beginnings a decade ago till the end we have independence at our very core. We think it’s fair enough to hold a forum for this debate. Ultimately if people just want to support the blogs and writers who support the SNP exclusively then I guess we will close down. We should know within a few weeks.

-If you want an alternative media that comprises largely of exclusively pro-SNP voices, who often don’t consider any critical thinking or dissent then that’s OK.

Too many of the existing new media exist just for speaking to their own people. This results in circular self-confirming articles and comments: ‘Great post – I agree!’ The challenge is to reach and engage with new audiences who don’t agree with you. The political challenge is to take a 45% for Yes to a 60%. That won’t happen with closed minds and echo chambers. It will happen with fresh thinking, critical thinking and open forums about how to go forward.

**I donated.




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41 thoughts on “The Cheque’s in the Post

  1. I’d much rather see pluralism and critical thinking within SNP circles. How will small u unionist Scotland be connected with? (Evil Tories, Tories evil will not do it.) Why is the SNP’s default mode seemingly mind-numbing conformity on an intellectually vapid consensus (oh the EU is inherently a good thing no matter what the evidence suggests etc)? Why is the line “it’s our pound” the only line the SNP have got on currency questions? And so on. Why isn’t a radical devo-max proposal being put to the Scottish people (we asked them and they don’t want independence).

  2. I thought Bella was bigging up the greens for the Scottish election but if it was really all the stops out for Rise then they failed very badly. I totally appreciate the Bateman contribution. We need some strands of stability in this changing process. One of the things you do really well Derek is regularly remind us of how we collectively got the independence movement to where it is now. SNP were not and are not the be all and end all but they were and still are the fundamental backbone of this movement. Without them Mike Small would still be farting against the wind in an internet black hole somewhere and we would be able to save the air freshener for more important matters than the need to fumigate a very irritating, over bearing, ego.

    Thanks for your interesting, forward looking blogs and your very valid contribution to the big debate.

  3. I too eventually donated because there are some very good articles on Bella, as well as some dross. But the main problem is the editor, imho, his hubris, his lack of humility, and his total lack of self-awareness. Too often a reader’s opinion meets with a sarcastic put-down rather than a reasoned response. On his multiple “I’m Backing Bella” pieces there are lots of folk making critical remarks about him and the direction of Bella. If he doesn’t take heed and develop a greater empathy with those who disagree with him then I won’t be donating again.

    I too get a bit frustrated with the apparent “don’t frighten the horses” attitude of the SNP, but to respond to Joe, I don’t think they say the EU is an unalloyed blessing, and it is “our pound”, but they had 4 options for the currency and I thought at the time another option would have been easier to defend. But why should they offer “devo max” when they have always argued for Independence? And are more radical, left-wing policies (which I’d like to see implemented in an independent Scotland) really going to persuade the voters come IndyRef2? The radical left went nowhere and are going nowhere.

    But yes, I want the SNP to produce a roadmap to independence and a programme for what an Independent Scotland would look like.

  4. I’ve found that if people like a thing they say so. That if they find a product they enjoy, they continue to buy it or contribute and if, as in this instance, they find a meeting place where they can find like minded folk, then that’s where they’ll go.

    Simply because there are many titles on the shelf doesn’t mean you buy them all. You read what suits you and you go where you feel most at home. Bella is needed for the folk it most appeals to and likewise the others are needed for the very same reason.

    Not a fan however of being told that because I’m not a reader of the Bella site that somehow this is wrong or waste of my time. Surprised and disappointed.

  5. I used to read Bella, but not any more. If I want to be dictated to I’ve got a wife who will fulfill that role quite admirably, and on those occasions where we agree there’s always Davie and his pals.

    I want to reach a particular destination. There is one bus going there in a fairly direct route, and others who want to wander down byways. I too want a more left leaning Scottish Government, but lets get to our destination first.

    Bella, you’re running your own style of Project Fear, and that will lose you support. Pull in the same direction and detour later.

  6. Bella publishes some excellent work, and I still try to visit, but both Small and Williamson can be arrogant, intolerant and even down right nasty to comment contributors.
    OK that’s their right on a site they are editing, but in the end unproductive and off putting.
    As an leftist independence supporter who is not an SNP member, I have some sympathy with some of their views, but their certainty of rectitude, and rejection and vilification of other contributors to the cause, including Derek and Wings, is just annoying.
    They should get their heads out of their own arses.

  7. It has been obvious for a considerable amount of time that there are splits and cliques in the independence movement, particularly here on the internet. I suspect it is a combination of rivalry, ego, possibly some jealously, and the that fact that there is a genuine difference in approach among the independence supporting websites. To be honest I tend to switch off nowadays whenever these disputes come up. I reckon things will settle down again now that the general and Holyrood elections have passed by.

  8. The Yes tent has to get bigger, folks. And by that I mean Yes has to appeal to the centre, not just the left.

    Methinks that Bella does tend to go its own way and not in one that will help deliver the desired end. If there ever was a self-serving echo chamber, it’s the fringe hall meeting.

    Get out in amongst the bungalows! Leftist purity is not really helping!

  9. Thank god someone of stature and credibility has voiced what me and I suspect many others have thought. Bella has badly jumped the shark.

  10. I supported Bella previously but declined on this occasion because of the constant harping on about RISE and the bitching directed at all things SNP. A pity because there were some good contributor articles on the site. Mike Small has completely lost the plot. It is disappointing that he managed to raise the cash he has albeit well short of his stated target. The SNP is the only credible route to an independent Scotland. Mike and his tiny band of followers should get over themselves and accept reality.

  11. I have to admit that Bella has never been one of my favourite sites. I have enjoyed a few articles in the past and have contributed to their fundraisers are they are a part of the wide Indy campaign.

    But their recent attacks on other Indy sites around the Scottish elections and since have completely put me off. I went and read the comments from both sides to see what it was all about and as far as I could see everyone was supposed to bow down to their self proclaimed superiority. It all came back to they were right and everyone else was wrong. Their articles were hailed, by them, as superior to everyone else’s. I do not recall seeing Indy sites openly attacking each other before this and the only one attacking rather than defending/retaliating was Bella.

    Even this fundraiser has been punctuated by a series of attacks on those they wish to donate to them, along again with claims of their superiority. Not an atmosphere that attracts me to the site and I did not donate this time, as is my choice not theirs. Readers do have a choice what they read and what they donate to and Bella has to attract readers and donations like everyone else.

    Still enjoying Bateman, Newsnet, Wings, WGD, Scot goes Pop and more. So glad you all are still here.

  12. Great article, Derek! I agree! 😉

    I lost a lot of respect for Bella when Small put that whiny, bitchy, self-righteous disclaimer at the top of the article James Kelly wrote for the site. If they have an editorial line to support causes further to the left than the SNP, that’s totally fine. Indeed, it’s good to have some radical voices getting heard and getting some radical ideas discussed. The sniping at Kelly was just nasty though, and to attack you and Stuart Campbell for being too narrow – well, you’re just blogs by a single author! Of course you’re going to promote your own angle! Moreover, particularly with Wings, it’s a blog performing a very specific role – debunking poor journalism and in a way teaching media literacy to an audience that is crying out for such a service. I don’t think anyone can deny that Campbell is an excellent (and incredibly prolific) writer and without him and his real-time demolition jobs of bullshit stories we might not have got as close as we did in 2014. James Kelly helped us all understand what the polls were actually telling us rather than what newspaper editors wanted us to think they said. Your own blog doesn’t fill such a specific niche but, like WGD, I think it’s been a great source of encouragement and insight for lots of us. I can’t for the life of me think why anyone would want to take shots at any of them. After all, if you’re going to talk about what a “big tent” is needed, why the hell would you use your bully pulpit to attack some of the most popular and widely read sites the movement has? I’m not saying we need to all agree on everything – that would be absurd – but I think when it comes to people who are basically on the same side as you, you ought to stick by the mantra my mum taught me: if you can’t think of anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.

    The irony, of course, is that by taking his moral high ground, Mike Small cut off the support of the likes of Stuart Campbell who has directed his many readers to all manner of crowdfunding initiatives on top of his own massively successful donation drives. Had Mike managed to be a bit more diplomatic, I’m quite sure the Rev would have done the same again for this campaign and Bella would now be comfortably past its target. I hope he realises just what an idiot he’s been.

  13. My cheque is not in the post this time.

    I have funded most of the Indy sites regularly including Bella and we went to their Oran Mor fund raiser which was a great night. Also met Mike Small there along with lots of others.

    Sadly I have been disappointed with Bella’s recent stance so I have not funded it this time. I suspect I am not the only one.

    Perhaps I will fund them in the future if they have learned some sense over the last month or two? We will see…

    However, I still carry my “Wines of Burgundy Wine Club” card. Proud to have donated to that one – Hic!

  14. There is good stuff on all the online platforms and I hope we’ll continue to hear from people like Jack Foster and Carlolyn Scott one way or another. Some comments during and after the Scottish Parliament election were unnecessarily abrasive, and that’s true for both sides of the list vote debate. I think there are lessons to be learned from this episode and it’s best to move on in a positive frame of mind and a spirit of mutual respect.

  15. I thought Mike Small needed £35K for his salary?

  16. Those of us in the SNP must challenge our own establishment but continue to accept the settled will even if some of that sticks in the craw as an individual. We need 60% to believe that Nicola can lead a better and a fairer Scotland. There are some who cannot cooperate and collaborate for a broad common weel. C’est la vie.

  17. Jonnny come lately

    I’m not really into the names or personalities at Bella, I take as I find. I had commented some months ago that I visit the site less and less and would not be giving it clickbate in the future. I find the attitude of the staff downright rude and confrontational to say the least. Nearly every time I read of Bella outside of its own site is because of a spat with authors of other sites.
    My own opinion is that the site has went drastically downhill since after the indiref.
    I find many of the articles long winded and theoretically relevant to early in the last century. Perhaps Bella should just enter into a dialoge with Gordon Brown and they can bore each other to death. Personally I think that the site is now becoming a liability with regards to independence, and it would not be a bad think to see it go to ground.

  18. I am concerned about the anti-SNP undercurrent that seems to pervade many “leftish” supporters of Independence.

    I have sensed it at otherwise good and worthwhile Common Weal evenings locally.

    I did not contribute to Bella for the reasons given above by many on Small’s attitude.

    Even the thought that RISE could make a break through after about 6 months in existence was politically naive. In the South Region both SSP and Rise were on the list splitting the infinitesimal vote. People I asked pre Holyrood elections said they had never heard of RISE.

    Several weeks ago there was a long letter in the National by someone demanding that the SNP show respect for non-SNP supporters of Indy while the bulk of the letter was a diatribe about what the SNP had done wrong before the referendum and almost implying that it was the SNP’s fault that the referendum was lost.

    I am sceptical about the efforts to create a Yes registry since I expect it’s members to end up attacking the SNP rather than working with the SNP for the cause of Independence.

    Until Mike Small and his ilk find it in themselves to show some respect for the SNP and its members and the fact that without the SNP they will be going nowhere I fear for a broad successful Indy2 campaign

  19. I stopped reading Bella when they tried to stich James Kelly up. Disgraceful behaviour.

    I won’t give them a brass farthing of my money.

  20. its unfortunate the we are all in this together feeling of Hope and goodwill that we all experienced during the Independence Referendum has and is being gradually eroded , there is only one beneficiary the UK Establishment their work has never stopped and they have access to an unlimited supply of money and Media onside help to make sure Independence never happens we are taking on a adversary that will do anything to win , on a brighter note we can make it so unpalatable for them to continue , that they simply want shot of us as not worth the effort this will only happen when they suck all usable value from us .
    Our job is to get out before they remove all assets from us .

  21. katherine hamilton

    Bella used to be good. I can’t comment on the last 3 months because of the 3 months before that. It became rude, even to me when I made a comment.
    The proprietors are a classic pair of left wing Stalinists. Do and say what I approve of. Oh, but pretty please give me money.
    Who were they kidding.
    Sorry to hear it’s continuing.
    “Scotland needs new ideas and radical thinking” they say. OK, why then do they tell anyone outside their Groupthink to fuck off?

    Ignore them and don’t give them any more money.

  22. I totally understand the comments towards Bella I felt exactly the same. I used to visit the site daily but now not so much. Some contributors were more like unionist agent provocateurs. I just couldn’t face another article from that tool Loki. That all being said I still gave what I could and the reason why was because it still has some hugely informative articles about issues in Scotland and the wider world that we would never hear on the msm. I posted much the same on the comments which are sometimes the best bit. I understand they have principles that are close to them but rubbing people up the wrong way has hurt them so maybe this will hit home to them now. The site has fallen low on the order and I rarely visit once a week now but in my opinion it had to keep going, it was one of the originals and the glee from the unionist trolls would have been to much to bear if it had folded. I wish it well but they must realise the carry on with James and the Rev means they are in last chance territory.

    • Loki is a provocateur. The clue is in his choice of tag. Loki is the Norse god of mischief. Provocateurs provide a valuable service to society by discomfiting and challenging group think.

  23. D’you think next time they make a snide, sarcastic, put-down when I make an unapproved comment I can ask for my money back?

  24. I was shocked at the direction Bella took during the SE,

    Really shocked when i read the disgraceful arguements with James kelly. The pops at Wings and yourself were the last straw .

    I am a Winger through and through . Wings brought me from strong unionist to hard core indi., dare i say , at any cost because things down south and in Westmidden are such a shambles and being run by the toffs club will ruin Scotland eventually .

    I agree with all the commenters here as i do your piece Derek . Bella had a little of the spotlight during the indi ref and have changed to lefty luvvies stuck in thier own little bubble.

    The site can close for all i care now. We have enough anti- SNP nonsense pumped out daily and whilst most indi blogs share information and thoughts Bella has turned in to a self opinionated ,and to be honest quite boring site.

    Thank goodness for the like of You and WGD, POP, and the host of others out there with the single aim of freeing Scotland and it’s people from a self serving anti-Scottish govt and media.

    No more pennies from me Bella . A site i rarely visit now as the majority of stuff on offer has little interest for me and many , by the comments, agree.

    Sad that even after the lies and the underhand tactics of the BT mob we have some in the movement desperate to fight and arguement with their own supporters.

    Bella has two faces noways and i dont like either one.

    well said Derek and all


  25. OK Derek, best thing to do [just to bug the hell outa Bella] is choose one or two of your favourite bloggers and have them write a few guest articles on your site. After all, we’re all in this together and hopefully travelling in the same direction. 🙂

  26. I used to read Bella every day, even contributed occasionally, if I remember correctly. But those days are long gone, for all the reasons discussed above. Shame. It used to be good.

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