Along with tens of thousands of other independence supporters, I took part in the Glasgow march last Saturday, an event full of good spirits that passed off with no serious problems, save the small number of unionists who shouted abuse at the marchers as we passed through George Square. Disappointingly, there was only a very small official SNP presence, a trend that seems to have accelerated since 2014. However, the vast bulk of folk left the event energised and excited, ready to get stuck in to the next phase of independence campaigning.
The following morning, everything changed. We were presented with an article in the Herald written by Neil Mackay which characterised marches as a waste of time, something in which only the extremists, the cybernats, would take part. More worryingly, the article contained quotes from Angus Robertson, Alyn Smith and Stewart McDonald, appearing to support this point of view. Even worse, both Angus and Stewart tweeted other comments, attaching the Herald article, as an attempt to justify their point of view. There was also a follow-up tweet from Mackay on Twitter which said that SNP top brass had described cybernats as “cowards”, “weird”, “creepy”, “snarling”, “vicious”, “poisonous” and “vile”.
Now, while I think Neil Mackay’s article, and his tweet, might have contained at least a little ‘poetic licence’ (some might call it lies), there has been no attempt by anyone in the party hierarchy to dissociate the SNP from these remarks. While I certainly hope the remarks aren’t true, they do come on top of quotes from other SNPers, such as Mhairi Hunter describing people in the party that she doesn’t like as trash. Comments such as these are particularly unfair to the huge majority of independence supporters who never tweet abuse. The use of the catch-all “cybernat” has come to mean any independence supporter saying anything on Twitter that a BritNat doesn’t like, so cybernat effectively means any of us, myself included.
Why the SNP wants to take ownership of a problem which can be reasonably applied to any and all political parties is a mystery to me. If they want to hold themselves to a higher standard of behaviour than everyone else, that’s a strategy that’s bound to fail as virtually no one will be aware that they’re doing it. Is it sensible to provide ammunition to opponents of independence, allowing them not only to repeat the comments, but to point out that the party accepts they are true? Think of examples from the recent past when members of the party were suspended or expelled because unionists complained about something they’d written or done. Grousebeater and Michelle Thomson come immediately to mind where no attempt was made to support a member of the party accused unfairly by opponents.
What particularly annoys me is the lack of response from the SNP to obvious lies from unionist politicians, the most recent example being the total lack of response to David Mundell’s lie when he described the No side’s argument from the first IndyRef that a vote for Yes was a vote to leave the EU as an SNP myth. They also seem to have completely ignored Michael Gove’s threat that Westminster would retain part of the Scottish Government’s budget so the Tories can decide what to spend it on.
These examples, however, are just the tip of the iceberg as far as the lack of response to unionist “mistakes”. Are these not the sort of comments that the SNP media team are supposed to respond to? Have they just gone to sleep or are they too frightened to argue with Tories? In fact, without the efforts of the much maligned cybernats, many unionist lies and many cases of unionist abuse would go unanswered.
However, no matter how much I would like to see the SNP do better, I’ll still vote for them in the Euro election as I can’t see that there’s any choice if you don’t want Brexit. Votes for Greens, LibDems and Change UK are wasted as none of them stands a chance of electing an MEP. What I’m saying is when will the time come when the SNP get back the fire in their collective bellies, start challenging the lies of their opponents and start documenting the advantages of independence. Surely, to convince people to support independence, the best way is to show them how much better off they’ll be under independence than under the current pathetic Westminster government. Get your fingers out, SNP.