A Scottish comedienne who claimed to have been the victim of death threats, made after she appeared on a BBC Radio programme at the weekend, refused to appear on BBC Newsnight Scotland to discuss the issue.
Susan Calman is at the centre of a row after claiming to have been the victim of death threats at the hands of pro-independence online critics.
However, despite providing quotes to a pro-Union newspaper making the claims, Newsnet Scotland can reveal she declined to appear on a programme that evening where the matter was discussed.
The death threat claim followed an appearance on a BBC Radio 4 comedy show ‘The News Quiz’ in which the comedienne poked fun at Scotland and also lampooned First Minister Alex Salmond’s policy on a shared currency.
According to Ms Calman, who has a history of attacking independence in her BBC shows, some listeners reacted by sending her abusive messages. She has also claimed death threats were made.
The story featured on Newsnight Scotland and also led to an article in the pro-Union newspaper the Scotsman which also claimed the comedienne had suffered “death threats”.
The row has led to claims the attacks are the work of so called ‘cybernats’, a derogatory term used to describe people who support independence, a claim also levelled by BBC Scotland presenter Gordon Brewer. Mr Brewer went further last night and claimed the alleged abuse was the “full ire of some pro-independence campaigners”.
Yesterday an online comment from the Scotsman, apparently from an administrator, claimed the matter was now sub-judicial, leading to speculation that the matter was under police investigation. However despite being contacted by Newsnet Scotland, the Scottish police could not find any evidence of a police complaint having been filed.
Newsnet Scotland has also contacted the Procurator Fiscal’s office seeking clarification if any complaint is being investigated – we are awaiting a response.
Writing on her own blog, Ms Calman herself cryptically described the death threats as “real or otherwise” and called for them to stop.
Some online commentators have questioned whether death threats were received at all and have asked the comedienne for evidence. There have also been questions over claims by Ms Calman of “a blog which is pretty abusive towards me”, with many people claiming to be unable to find such a blog.
Newsnet Scotland has contacted the Scotsman newspaper asking if they had seen evidence of the death threats.
Ms Calman’s facebook page has since been taken down.
In a tweet to Ms Calman, Newsnet Scotland condemned unequivocally any and all online abuse and threats. We also asked the comedienne to clarify the nature of the alleged death threats, but have yet to receive a reply.
We also contacted Ms Calman’s agent who confirmed that her client had been invited to appear on Newsnight Scotland to discuss the issue, but turned down the invitation.
Vivienne Clore said: “Newsnight Scotland invited her to appear on the show and she declined because she doesn’t want to make any further comment on the matter at the moment so I really am sorry but I cannot help you.”
Ms Calman’s agent’s reply suggests that the comedienne may well make a further comment at a later date.
Some BBC personalities have come out in support of the comedienne, include Kaye Adams. Ms Adams who is host of Radio Scotland ‘Call Kaye’, tweeted:
“Chucklebum! I have scoured the twitter sphere to tell you you’re a funny little thing and I love you!”
The presenter has herself faced criticism with accusations that her morning Radio phone-in show reflects her own pro-Union views. Earlier this year the BBC admitted that a claim made by the presenter, that anti-English attacks had increased in Scotland, was untrue, but insisted it was not deliberate.
Another to lend his support was impressionist Rory Bremner who told the Times newspaper:
“The tone of this debate is unlike anything I have ever come across before in terms of the menace,” he said. “Both sides must take responsibility because the stakes are too high.
“I’ve been quite careful not to take sides but I do not want one of the funniest comedians around to be subjected to intimidation like this. The majority of Scots have a sense of humour. We joke about politicians all the time down south. They should not be off limits.
“We need to have a sense of humour about this. It is down to party leaders to rein in their shock troops.”
However, Mr Bremner’s claim not to have taken sides is at odds with comments attributed to him by the Scotsman who quoted the impressionist as saying: “I love the idea of being a separate entity within the whole. I think independence is an idea whose time has come and gone.”
He said he wanted his children to feel Scottish, adding: “But not in an Alex Salmond, independence kind of way…”
Mr Bremner was himself embroiled in a row last year after Newsnet Scotland reported that he was planning a satirical look at the independence referendum.
The comedian angrily denied the story and launched an attack on Newsnet Scotland, tweeting: “Newsnet’s not exactly unbiased. I sent two posts responding to insults and correcting inaccuracies. They published neither.”
In January this year, the impressionist also publicly attacked Newsnet Scotland in an interview he gave to Classic FM.
In fact not only did Newsnet Scotland publish all comments received from the impressionist, but he has now confirmed he will appear in a satirical documentary looking at the Scottish referendum to be broadcast later this year.
[Newsnet comment – Newsnet Scotland has always employed a policy of non-abuse when it comes to posting comments. We do not tolerate abuse and condemn it in whatever form it takes and from wherever it originates – we close the accounts of persistent offenders.
We do not know what abuse Ms Calman suffered, but the level of media profile afforded her claims has elevated this story to a level that makes it incumbent on all to investigate both the veracity of the claims and, if they are true, the source of the threats.
If death threats have indeed been made then those responsible need to be pursued with the full weight of the law, the referendum debate requires nothing less. Such serious allegations must also be accompanied by proof and requests for proof must not in themselves be dismissed as ‘attacks’.
Newsnight Scotland has now covered this issue twice, with presenter Gordon Brewer himself levelling very serious allegations that pro-independence ‘campaigners’ are responsible for the threats. BBC Scotland must now provide proof to back up this claim from a senior presenter.
Abuse comes from both sides in this debate and vitriolic exchanges are to be seen not just in Scotland but wherever there is allowed free and open discourse. However in Scotland, we see a filter adopted when it comes to online abuse with pro-Union examples rarely if ever commented upon by our Unionist dominated media.
Indeed, much of the inappropriate comment from Unionists comes, not from anonymous individuals, but from elected representatives. SNP and independence supporters have been described as ‘swive eyed anti-English bigots’. Scots have been accused of commemorating Bannockburn because hundreds of thousands of English people were murdered. Alex Salmond has been subjected to levels of abuse that are off the scale. Even the BBC is not immune from the gratuitous ‘nat bashing’ with Douglas Fraser recently comparing the SNP to the dictatorial regime in North Korea.
There is also an insidious and very unhealthy ‘Jock Bashing’ agenda creeping into BBC broadcasts that was exemplified this weekend by ‘Have I Got News For You’, where Scottish culture was insulted and Scots denigrated as “tramps”.
This xenophobic culture prevalent within the BBC needs to be exposed and condemned. Thus far a blind eye is being turned to one side in this examination of those who post and broadcast extreme and obnoxious views.]