In the teeth of the gale


  By Alex Robertson
The pictures of the devastation wrought in the North East of the USA by Hurricane Sandy show just how powerful a force a mighty gale or storm-force wind is.  And somehow this past week has felt as if the pro-independence cause has been subjected to its own version of a gale.
But this time it is a gale of wilful and at times violent abuse and allegations.  I have just emerged from a sixteen year MI6 inspired case of allegation and persecution along the lines of Matrix Churchill, so I know what it is like when allegation or assertion is given credence far beyond any evidential base.

It has felt that way watching and reading the outpourings from the pro-union parliamentarians.  Paul Martin, Johann Lamont and Philip Hammond have all been at it.

The first two indulged in wilfully misunderstanding and not listening to the entire BBC interview between Andrew Neil and Alex Salmond.

If you read or watch what he said, it is totally clear that the First Minister amidst constant interruption, and navigating his way around the restraints placed by parliament upon him in the Ministerial Code and trying to answer the question put to him, makes it very clear that his government has indeed sought legal advice and also that that advice applied to the general case of documents published by the government and general information issued by the government in the debate.

All you have to do is to listen and engage your brain to understand the qualifications he applied on his saying “Yes, we have.”  Is listening and comprehension beyond us all now?  Comprehension depends on listening.  And words have meaning.

Now Johann Lamont, whatever her other faults may be, is not stupid.  She has a university degree in English and History, and was trusted enough to teach schoolchildren prior to her career as a politician.  I have no idea about Mr Martin’s mental abilities, but I presume he has the ability to understand plain English.

So they have no excuse, any of them, for not understanding and for deliberately distorting what the Scottish government and its minsters have said.

They, and now we, live in a world of “sound bites” and rampant unrestrained sensationalism.  ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story’ is their watchword.  And any chance of a reasoned debate on the most important decision for our nation in three hundred years is blown away.  And that is a very sad reflection of the so-called ‘benefits’ of Britain.

Same goes for Mr. Hammond.  He deliberately put up a scare story denying the Scottish government claim that it could be a nuclear free NATO member.  He has no competence to make such judgements and he went on to proclaim that he has not commissioned any planning at all for relocating the nuclear subs and weapons in the case of Scots voting YES for independence.

Either he is lying or he is guilty of the most flagrant dereliction of duty given that it is obvious that such a case is at least possible.  Now who is playing silly games with Britain’s nuclear defences,  Mr Hammond?

But this is not the end.  It is just the very beginning of what is likely to become a howling gale of distortion and scares and lies to try to discredit the pro-independence viewpoint.  Explanations and clarifications by those accused are simply ignored and swept aside.

It must be a source of great dismay for pro-independence supporters to see the abandonment of reason and any attempt at comprehension by the pro-unionist brigade.  All attempts at listening and understanding are abandoned and bawling abuse has replaced exchange of views.

Dismay and a deepening sense of bitterness are the only possible reactions of we who argue for independence.  And Scotland, once famed for its adoption of acquiring wisdom through disputation has been besmirched by the experience of being British.

For my part I am heartily sick of this Union and the quicker Scotland can escape from it the better it will be.  I am ashamed to be British and feel utterly alienated by the current behaviour of its leaders and apologists.

But there is a twist to the tale.  Any political debate is almost bound these days to be characterised by accusations and assertions of dubious provenance.  But these are currently being picked up and amplified many times over by the media in Scotland.

On any day you choose, the Scotsman has an array of headline stories with little or no factual basis, often indeed several on the same topic and repeating the portrayal of assertion as fact.

The BBC is ultra selective and seems to suppress any stories favouring the case for independence.

That is extremely serious in any democracy.  The media have a genuine role to play in giving voice to all kind of views, agreeable or disagreeable to any reader or viewer.  But it becomes a matter of great concern when reasoned debate is distorted by the media for evident political reasons.  Then the media is actually taking positions in the debate instead of reporting it.

It strikes me that something sinister and dangerous is happening.  It also seems to me that an Inquiry is needed, much like that of Lord Leveson, to examine the role of the media in distinguishing between reporting and inserting the editors’ or owners’ own political views.

A fair debate is what we all want.  But right now that seems to be a virtual impossibility.

So why shouldn’t the First Minister establish a similar enquiry now?

It might at the very least fire a warning shot across the bows of those in positions of trust who are abusing that position to the detriment of the public interest.  Now who could disagree with that, I wonder?