Post referendum reconciliation will not be possible unless we address the poison now


By G.A.Ponsonby

The Church of Scotland has announced a reconciliation service is to be held days after the independence referendum, in order to bring all sides together.

The service, at Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral on 21 September, will – according to the BBC – focus on healing divisions and building the future together.

By G.A.Ponsonby

The Church of Scotland has announced a reconciliation service is to be held days after the independence referendum, in order to bring all sides together.

The service, at Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral on 21 September, will – according to the BBC – focus on healing divisions and building the future together.

Moderator Designate Rev John Chalmers said there was a danger the referendum would set people against each other.

When I heard this yesterday I have to admit to feeling pretty depressed.  Not because such a reconciliation service is necessary, but the suggestion that somehow the people of Scotland are and will be engaged in some kind of civil-war.

It’s true that there are elements of both sides who show no restraint and for whom the referendum is an opportunity to engage in the kind of football like baiting we see on terraces.  To these people there will never be reconciliation – fundamental Unionists and fundamental nationalists baited and hated before the referendum became reality and will do so afterwards, regardless of the result.

But to suggest these obsessive antagonists are representative of the Scottish public is ridiculous.  And to imply that somehow Scottish society will erupt in a hate-fest that will put brother against brother and neighbour against neighbour is equally ridiculous.

People will get up and go to work the day after the referendum.  They will laugh, converse and co-operate the same as they always did.

There is one element of Scottish society that will require considerable searching of the soul and the forgiveness of a large section of Scottish society – our media, or rather the media for it is anything but ours.

If any one group has been guilty of sowing the seeds of discontent it is those whose role it should be to inform and analyse.  Journalists are the gatekeepers of democracy, without them corruption reigns, and lies become reality.

To report and analyse without fear or favour is their role in society.  They become the voice of the powerless against the powerful.  They articulate the frustrations of all.  They are meant to be us, in all our forms and they are meant to question on our behalf.

If that had happened then the independence debate would have enriched the nation.  Both sides would have been allowed to express their views but would have been challenged equally.  Crucially, neither would have been protected from honest scrutiny.

Sadly the independence debate has witnessed an absence of the kind of journalism that could have provided a rich and diverse examination of where Scotland is going.  It was always obvious that the 2011 landslide for the SNP meant Scotland would change, what kind of change though had yet to be established.

There are journalists operating in Scotland right now who have soured their profession by allowing their own personal agendas to infect their reporting.  They work for organisations who day and daily allow the worst journalistic excesses to go unaddressed.

Headlines are twisted and details contorted in order to ensure ‘their’ side is seen in the best possible light.  Worse, unwilling to admit they have taken sides, they commit the unpardonable sin of presenting themselves as impartial.

Without realising it, they are cultivating a poisonous harvest that is yet to be reaped.

Almost universally opposed to independence, Sunday Herald the exception, and antagonistic towards the SNP … usually until weeks before an election … these organisations and their paid scribblers and reporters are hell bent on ensuring Scots remain the most ill-informed electorate of any western democracy.

Newspapers and broadcasters reject accusations that they are anything but scrupulously fair.  Yet time after time the evidence challenges this assertion.

Putin, Robertson and NATO

Ten days ago Newsnet Scotland ran a story detailing how the BBC in Scotland was removing references to Lord George Robertson’s call for Vladimir Putin to be invited to join NATO.  The broadcaster had also employed a news blackout on comments from the Ukrainian Association of Great Britain (UAGB) who called Robertson’s comments an “insult”.

This followed several days of attacks on First Minister Alex Salmond who had given an interview to a magazine in which he had condemned Putin’s policies but said there were areas of Putin’s character that he admired.

This weekend we were presented with more evidence of the same agenda at work when, on the same day another secret report revealed the Labour party’s culpability in the lack of an oil fund, a BBC Scotland reporter resurrected the Salmond smear.

The reporter in question was Glenn Campbell.  Campbell is probably one of the most insidious political reporters anywhere on the British Isles, and beyond for that matter.

Days after he reported the Salmond smear story on a Reporting Scotland news item, Newsnet Scotland sent him details of George Robertson’s video calling for Putin to be invited into NATO and a copy of the official response from the head of the AUGB.  He failed to report either.

This morning he turned up on Radio Scotland running the same reheated smear – the presenter helping to stir the pot by claiming rather bizarrely that the Salmond row “continues to rumble on”.  Only in the minds of those with an agenda would this quite obvious one sided smear campaign take precedence over the emergence of secret documents shpwino once again how Scots had been let down by the Labour party over oil.

Campbell has already been exposed by Newsnet Scotland after he pursued a campaign aimed at promoting the idea that a newly independent Scotland would not be able to continue its current membership of the European Union.

On at least two occasions, Newsnet Scotland discovered broadcasts made by the BBC Scotland reporter had been challenged by foreign officials from whom he had sought views on the issue of Scottish independence and the EU.  These complaints never made it onto the pages of any newspaper and were ignored by STV.

Campbell’s tearing up of the SNP manifesto on live TV after the party won the 2007 Scottish election is still remembered by many, as was his description of Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill as the “Toast of Tripoli” on the day a dying Megrahi was compasisonately released.

Surveys and stats

STV is also capable of running similar contrived rubbish as was seen on Sunday when they reported a new poll as showing a rise in support for the No campaign.

It reported: “The campaign to keep Scotland in the UK appears to have gained support as a new poll suggests more than half of voters could reject independence.”

The survey in question had been carried out by Progressive Partnership and actually showed a gain for Yes of seven points and a fall in support for No of two.

STV later amended the earlier report to: “More than half of voters could reject independence for Scotland in the referendum, a new poll suggests.”

How did this happen?  The broadcaster may have been innocently duped by the anti-independence campaign Better Together after the organisation itself reported its support had risen.

Not for the first time, Better Together had wilfully misled in its campaign material.  If, as appears, STV were duped then surely the broadcaster has a responsibility to expose these tactics?

The lie was based on a misrepresentation of two polls.  A Channel 4 poll carried out by Yougov had been used as a comparator with a Progressive Partnership survey.

The Courier, the Herald and the Scotsman all carried the same report using the same flawed comparison.  Who circulated the press release is not at all clear.

Better Together are openly lying and getting away with it because there is no will to pursue them.  It’s lies like this and the refusal of what appears to be compliant elements within a media to expose them, that is stirring up resentment.

Bogus ‘grass roots’ organisations backing No are given hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of free publicity by the BBC and nobody bats an eyelid.

The ‘Vote No Borders’ organisers removed comments from the site and declared they have been forced to do so because of abuse.  Screenshots taken by Yes campaigners exposed the claims as dross, but they were printed in newspapers anyway as another propaganda move against so-called ‘cybernats’ was breathed life.

On the same weekend that the latest manufactured campaign against ‘cybernats’ materialised, we learned that a man had been jailed for threatening to slit the throat of Alex Salmond.  On BBC Scotland news the story was tucked away in the North East and Shetland section.  Just imagine if someone had been jailed after threatening either Alistair Darling or David Cameron in the same manner – would it have been played down?

The revolution will not be televised

Away from media news manipulation and smears, Yes campaigners are currently engaged in the biggest social revolution ever witnessed in Scotland.  Tens of thousands of people are knocking on doors, holding meetings and manning stalls in every district, town and village.

They are angry at the media but their energies are being channelled in a positive fashion – ordinary people are engaging their peers.

The day after the referendum if there is a No vote these people will still be angry.  They won’t blame the No campaign, for it will only have been doing what it knew the media would allow it to do.  The news of the vote will be reported by the same media who set out to ensure it would be so.

Will these Yes campaigners pop along to a church service smile, open up their hymn book and start singing kumbaya?

I don’t think so.  I think they will seethe with anger.  I think they will resort to address the stinking corrupt institution that is controlled from outwith Scotland and which has effectively imposed a de-facto colonial rule through mass propaganda.

How will they address this?  I honestly have no idea.

But here’s a thought.  What if, instead of planning to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted, the Church of Scotland – and others – sought to examine why they feel resentment is growing?  Not every dispute has equal culpability.

We need men and women of honour to stand up and demand an end to corrupt journalism.  To pretend it isn’t there is to ignore the evidence that is as plain as the nose on your face.

Democracy is taking a savage beating right now, why wait until it is dead and implore forgiveness towards the guilty.  Would it not be better to step in, confront the assailants and save the victim?