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By G.A.Ponsonby

Late last year, December 31st to be precise, I suggested the polls were slowly moving in favour of the Yes campaign.  I also opined that this trend would continue and that we would see a change in approach by the Better Together campaign.

Here is the paragraph in question:

Better Together will continue to play the scare card.  If polls are to be believed then it has proven effective to date.  Polls though, despite what David Torrance says, are showing movement from No to Yes.

I predict that this will continue and the No campaign will become increasingly desperate.  This will manifest itself in a drift towards smears.  These have been part of the No campaign already, with attacks on Alex Salmond, but will increase dramatically in 2014 if the polls continue to show an erosion of the No campaign lead.

Like my prediction that currency and the EU would dominate as Better Together ran out of steam, the prediction above was not rocket science.  Smears against Salmond pop up as regularly as Donald Trump's hair does on a windy day.

The latest, or rather the favourite this week appears to be the Putin interview.  I say the favourite because this week has witnessed several smears running in tandem.  If you believe the media in Scotland, Salmond has threatened Europe over fishing, called Scotland a ‘nation of drunks’ and stolen an old lady’s seat on a bus.

The last one is a joke of course.  In fact they all are.  There are some who have claimed our First Minister should have said nothing when asked about Putin.  Imagine the field day our loyal media would have had if the First Minister bolted for cover and refused to answer a question about Vladimir Putin?

This was the guy Unionists were salivating over when he announced in a BBC interview that small countries were better in larger states.  Yes the BBC invited the most evil man on earth to give his views on Scottish independence and he didn’t disappoint, it was broadcast on the BBC Scotland Sunday Politics Show.

Of course Putin’s helpful statement followed news reports claiming David Cameron had sought the Russian President’s help in order to defeat Salmond in the independence referendum.  The Foreign Office was implicated in these discussions and an official almost spilled the beans in front of a Holyrood Committee before Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael stepped in and silenced the hapless individual.

The smears against Salmond have been common currency for years.  Indeed I had a quick look through my wee note book when the latest round got under way.

The list of stories attacking Salmond are legend and some, when you look back, do the journalists who ran them no credit at all.

  • He’s been accused of cow-towing to Donald Trump … that was until Trump declared Salmond persona non-grata over some wind turbines off the Aberdeenshire coast.
  • There was the episode that saw the Herald overreact when Mr Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon invited a few backers to join them for a meal in the Holyrood canteen.
  • Salmond was attacked when he invited two SNP supporting lottery winners to a cup of tea at Bute House.
  • The First Minister was targeted by one Herald journalist after the long accepted process of clearing records of visitors to Bute House every three days was attacked by opponents.
  • Correspondence with Brian Souter, backing for Amazon and … accused of withholding information on energy company Doosan have all featured in a seemingly never ending conveyor belt of Unionist smears.

The worrying aspect of this latest smear though is the behaviour of the BBC.  The broadcaster is falling apart before our eyes and its link to the pro-Union CBI has provided more evidence of an institution hopelessly compromised in this febrile referendum atmosphere.

It's been all too eager to carry several smears this week, from misrepresenting Salmond's observation on the importance of Scottish fishing waters to Europe to a bizarre report by Laura Bicker who appeared on Reporting Scotland to repeat a smear from Better Together regarding campaign funding for Yes groups registered with the Electoral Commission - all without one iota of evidence.

BBC Scotland though, against better judgement, has decided to promote the Putin smear with typical gusto.  It started on Monday when Glenn Campbell infused it into his report of the First Minister’s speech in Bruges and managed to spoil what should have been a positive and enlightening days news.

BBC Scotland has followed this up with numerous sound bite items of pro-Union politicians attacking Salmond and supplemented the attacks with news reports after a Ukrainian group based in Edinburgh waded in.

The BBC has come unstuck after Newsnet Scotland uncovered video footage of Lord George Robertson calling for Putin to be invited to join NATO – the broadcaster ignored the story.  Bad enough, but when the parent group of the aforementioned Edinburgh organisation issued its own condemnatory statement of Robertson’s comments, the BBC decided that Ukrainian views weren’t news after all.

Once the broadcaster had decreed comments about Putin, made by key figures in Scottish politics, to be newsworthy then it should have reported all such comments.  Lord George Robertson was given plenty of airtime when he attacked independence so is certainly viewed as a significant figure by the BBC.

As with Salmond, a UK based Ukranian group has criticised Robertson calling his comments an insult to their home nation.  Unlike Salmond, the BBC refuses to report Robertson's Putin blunder, even going so far as to edit out Salmond's own references to Robertson in its news bulletins.

Attack Salmond and headline coverage is guaranteed but criticise a Labour politician and its 'don't call us we'll call you'.

The BBC in Scotland is not in a good place at the moment.  Some of its own journalists have accused it of damaging their reputation and its own impartiality through its membership of the pro-Union CBI, its paid hundreds of thousands of pounds of licence fee cash to the right-wing organisation.  That particular story was looking to cause BBC management no end of difficulty until the face saving Salmond smear presented itself.

According to someone who recently spoke to a well-known figure within BBC Scotland, the place is in "turmoil".

Turmoil could also be a particularly apt description for the Better Together campaign.  It has all but disappeared in recent weeks, and is now refusing to send people to participate in debates.

A new poll from Yougov shows a further drop in support for No, and this was partially conducted when the Salmond/Putin smear was rolling along.  Reports last week suggest a Labour MP called Frank Roy has been drafted in to try to turn the No campaign around.  If its smears you want then Frank Roy is a limitless source as reformed gangster Paul Ferris would tesfity to.

The smears are evidence of a Unionist establishment frightened out of its wits that it is about to lose Scotland.  Smears against Salmond always materialise when things are not going well.  It’s a kind of kneejerk response and lacks any kind of political strategy.  Like a dog barking, Unionists do it when they sense danger.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the descent into the mire of the No campaign and its media sympathisers.  They are running out of ideas.  They are desperate.

The tactic failed to stop the SNP majority in 2011 when the electoral system itself was designed to prevent such an occurrence.  Will smears , married to scares, cause the No campaign to fare any better?

I don’t think those yet to make their minds up will be swayed by this latest Salmond hatefest.

Here's something else I wrote back in December:

Expect attacks on the SNP by Scottish Labour to increase and for BBC Scotland to run with them.  Johann Lamont’s party are not set up to challenge for government, the job of Scottish Labour is to sabotage governance in Scotland, her Holyrood Labour group is a political guerrilla squad.

The No campaign is now relying to an even greater extent on the esoteric issues of the EU and currency.  BBC Scotland will play its role in keeping these issues simmering, to the exclusion of the real referendum issues of welfare, opportunity and a fairer society.

Please have a read of my full predictions I made last December and see how many actually came to pass.  I'm off to buy a lottery ticket.

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