Unionist smear campaign targets Scottish minister

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Sports minister Shona Robison has been attacked by the Daily Record, the Better Together Campaign and a small group of academics in what appears to be a co-ordinated smear attempt against the MSP.

Ms Robison had enquired about the suitability of Dundee University professor Chris Whatley to head the university’s ‘Five Million Questions’ project which seeks to shine a light on the independence debate.

The project’s website states that:

“At our best the Universities are ancient repositories of the knowledge, and hopefully some measure of the collective wisdom, of Scotland. In what is an impassioned and partisan debate the objective neutrality of academia is ideally placed as a forum for illuminating discussion.

“Indeed, at the University of Dundee, we see such a role as the duty of our institution at this pivotal and exciting moment.”

Ms Robison was concerned about the implications for the project’s stated “objective neutrality” after its chair of the steering committee, Prof Whatley, author of the 2006 book The Scots and the Union, chaired the inaugural meeting of the Better Together group in Dundee.

However her concerns have resulted in a co-ordinated attempt by opponents of independence to portray the Minister as an opponent of free speech and as having tried to silence Professor Whatley.

It has also resulted in the anti-independence campaign Better Together running an online campaign encouraging people to make public similar accusations against the SNP.

A spokesman for Ms Robison responded to the attacks by highlighting the so-called impartial nature of the project the academic was involved with and insisted that it was appropriate to ensure its work was not being compromised.

“The 5 Million Questions project at Dundee University, headed by Prof Whatley, is intended to be an impartial academic exercise and not allied with one or other side of the referendum debate.

“Ms Robison simply inquired about Prof Whatley identifying himself as a No campaign supporter by chairing the inaugural meeting of Better Together in Dundee, and how that could be compatible with the stated neutrality of the project.”

Her intervention provoked the wrath of Better Together staff and unionist newspapers alike who claimed they now feared for freedom of speech among academics.

However critics have pointed out that this concern was strangely absent when Dr Eliot Bulmer was recently vilified throughout the mainstream media for writing an article supporting independence in the Herald newspaper.

Prof Whatley is joined on the project’s steering committee by associate director, David Torrance.  Mr Torrance’s support for Scotland remaining within the UK is well documented on social media.

Several academics have joined the witch hunt including Better Together member Prof Hugh Pennington and Prof Susan Shaw, both well known supporters of the union.

Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw claimed that Ms Robison’s intervention would be “more at home in North Korea than Scotland.”