By Derek Bateman

There’s no escaping the irony. The people who accuse nationalists of abuse have turned to vilification in place of argument. There’s always going to be a background of jibe and accusation and it’s a key part of what we call debate, although it is dismissed as contemptible by the pious who nevertheless find space in their condemnation for the odd dismissive barb themselves.

Personally, I enjoy it. My rule of thumb is not to write anything I wouldn’t say to someone’s face and that mostly gets me by, allowing tart, sour and borderline hurtful comments while making sure I could justify them if challenged.

I also believe the internet allows a more expressive form of writing than the mainstream and is closer to a conversation reflecting what real people actually say to each other away from microphones. You have to be there when the camera lights go off and the microphones are removed to hear what politicians really think. The rest is mostly an act.

I reconsidered my Twitter opinions in the light of Alistair Darling’s remarks that some of us had shamed Scotland (over Bill Munro of Barrhead Travel’s staff warning) at a time when the eyes of the world were upon us, a businessman was entitled to speak out and everyone had to have a say. “Frankly, the sort of behaviour, the sort of things that have been said in the last 24 hours have no place in a modern Scotland of the 21st century.”

Here are my tweets.

‘Jim Murphy backs Barrhead boss scaring staff into voting No with a lie-laden document. The No campaign in miniature. Labour in microcosm.’

‘How will Barrhead Travel fly me to Europe if we’re outside the EU? We won’t get landing clearance. It’ll be Millport again. Vote No’

‘Barrhead Travel offers Better Together holidays in sunny Ruritania. Use the Pound. Meet the Royals. Boss the locals. Watch the Proms. Bingo!’

I daresay others were more forthright but do these statements amount to abuse?

Possibly they do, if you’re in awe of employers…if you believe that a boss has the right to influence the votes of staff – in “modern, 21st century Scotland” – and if you accept at face value any inaccurate, biased information presented as fact and over-written with hyperbole. And if you are the kind of stuffed shirt conservative who reveres management, corporate pork barrels, the markets and the right to rule.

Companies have a duty to consider the implications for their business and their staff, although it’s interesting that Standard Life made much of the threat to the profits and virtually nothing of the threat to jobs. The problem Bill Munro has is that he didn’t get an objective assessment, something that could be offered as balanced and fair on the facts of the case, caveats and all, to which he could reasonably offer a personal indication of his preference. No workers would be surprised that a millionaire businessman wanted everything to stay exactly as it is.

Instead, he complied his own data based on his prejudice and issued dire warnings of the consequences including the inability to trade for three years, displaying a depth of ignorance for which he should be disbarred as a director. He presumed the right to let his ill-informed and bigoted opinions influence his staff in a democratic vote about the future of our country.

Was he justified? Of course not. We know that from the desperate rescue operation mounted by the company to claim corporate neutrality and the promise that these were personal views, which, if true, is exactly why they should never have seen the light of day in a company document. From their own mouth, they are guilty as charged.

This was a little disaster for the company just as we head into holiday-booking time and Scots, already wound up by the debate are in a febrile mood and unforgiving of business bullies, as we see from the minimal effect of financial sector scaremongering. Many Yes people will refuse to give them their business and they. Will now be associated in customers’ minds as a pro-Union firm. That is divisive and I suggest Barrhead will, as we speak, be upping their marketing budget to counter the ill effects.

Is this all the result of cybernat threats? Surely what we are seeing is democracy in action. People are voting with their keyboard and telling the business big shots who assume so much moral authority that they have a single vote like everybody else and if they choose to misuse their position, there are consequences. It’s what Brian Wilson calls sinister – people making up their own minds and instead of saying silent and accepting what their elected betters tell them, pushing back and being heard.

Darling was speaking at another company when he objected to people using their rights in a free country. It is White House Products in Renfrewshire which makes hydraulic machinery. Its boss, Alastair McMillan, sounds horrified at the idea of his country being independent as it would be ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ and would ‘create trade barriers’. If you look at his website you’ll see it is translated into Spanish, French and Portuguese because of course Alastair exports across Europe. It’s just that he won’t be able to export from Scotland…that’ll be because were uniquely un-European or cut off or nobody will want us, or something… so his master plan is to relocate to Northumberland.

He has 22 employees who are loyal and they shouldn’t have to suffer because of the ‘vanity of politician’. Are you getting a picture of what we’re dealing with here? First he thinks Scotland won’t have access to the Single Market so he’ll move to England where, whether Scotland is in the UK or not, they plan an in-out referendum on the EU in 2017. Does he know the result in advance? Or will he find himself stranded outside his export market?

Second, how loyal is it to your workforce to relocate 90 miles away from their homes?

But it’s his last point that tells it all. Independence is the vanity project of Alex Salmond…that is everything No stands for boiled down into one vicious little lie. It’s the same lie Labour tells at Holyrood and the one John Robertson uncovered in his research into BBC and Scottish coverage of the referendum…personalise and deride. You know what that is? It’s political abuse, not from online amateurs but from one of those pillars of the British state, the businessman.

Out of touch may be overused as a phrase but reading what Bill Munro and Alastair McMillan think confirms that parochialism and deep-rooted anti-Scottish sentiment is alive and kicking throughout our country and a clever company would ensure a measured response – either way – instead of letting supercilious executives spoil their image.

The other irony today of course is that just as Alistair Darling was pretending to be appalled at the threatening behavior of cybernats, his Edinburgh Labour colleague Ian Murray was being exposed by Wings as a charlatan ready to use a political motive to whip up division. His laughable and pathetic efforts at blaming local ned vandalism on the Yes campaign exposed him as an exponent of what Alistair calls Scotland’s shame.

We’ll await Darling’s condemnation of Murray’s behaviour as unacceptable…and we’ll wait. Remember, these are Labour MPs, committed to, as the party states: social justice, strong community and strong values,reward for hard work, decency, rights matched by responsibilities. Well done, Ian. Well done, Alistair.

What the MPs and the bosses are really complaining about, as one of my posters says on the right, is that through the internet citizens have found a voice and use it to expose the lies and hypocrisy of the machine politicians who rarely face scrutiny in the conventional media and use their elected position as a cow catcher to force their passage through the inconvenient blockages like accountability and telling the truth.

It isn’t cybernats they hate, it’s the internet and its ability to find them out and hold them up to ridicule on an hourly basis, not just once a week at PMQs. This has shifted the power away from them and loosened their control and in this debate, where they are singularly outnumbered and weak, they can only moan and object as they take a beating.

Incidentally, if Alistair’s worried about shaming Scotland maybe he’ll tell us if, as an advocate, he asked to see the legal advice on invading Iraq before voting for the war. If not, I suggest that is a cause for real shame.

Courtesy of Derek Bateman


Auld Rock
2014-04-02 17:09

Another excellent piece from Derek. Is Alistair McMillan really serious, vote ‘YES’ and he’s off to England, in 2017 when Little Englanders vote ‘OUT’ will he march his workers back north because we will still be in the EU and probably doing very nicely thank you very much. The man wants to take a ‘GET REAL’ pill and stop spouting such a load of rubbish and the same goes for Bill Munro at Barrhead Travel who could have done untold damage to the jobs of their staff through lost bookings.

Auld Rock
Neimo Fakir
2014-04-02 18:09

Good article, Derek.

As an IT professional who has been a user and host on the internet for 22 years, I cannot help but roll my eyes at these keyboard warriors. To me, they are the embodiment of Sillars’ 90 minute Nationalist in the age of social media.

But maybe, after all the years of verbal & physical abuse, we have become inured to what the online age has presented us with – ordinary, average people with no experience in politics making these comments which verge on slander or threatening behaviour. Those of us who have campaigned for so long wouldn’t be as daft as to put a sticker on an opponent’s office door because we know that it gives them fuel. And while they cry foul repugnant, narrow-minded individuals like @KiltedKelpie or Facebook’s AS-is-a-deluded-w*ker can happily peddle their poison wares with no media watching.
2014-04-03 05:20

A word in defence of the little guy.

“ordinary, average people with no experience in politics making these comments which verge on slander or threatening behaviour”

Well, what’s an average, ordinary person to to do, come to you or me or to Darling for advice on how they should exercise their right to participate in the political process?

And surely one is either guilty of slander (for which there are legal remedies available to the victim) or threatening behaviour (for which there are criminal sanctions), or one is not. Phrases like “Near slander” and “near threatening” are the newspeak of propagandists and mendacious pols, bent on silencing legitimate criticism.

Campaign politics is a contact sport and simple memes and robust language the currency of transaction. Always has it been thus.

The threat to the electoral process comes not from these “amateurs” but from the self-appointed who deign to judge them.

Mad Jock McMad
2014-04-02 18:31

Bill Munro has just had his Gerald Ratner moment and the rest of his board understand that.

As a non-executive board member Munro has misused his position to state his own personal prejudice to the employees of Barrhead Travel.

So just what are the board at Barrhead going to do about it
2014-04-02 19:04

You are doing the job of people who must be paid to deal with lies on an epic scale.
Crikey, the police in Aberdeen took the time to raid a shop selling T-shirts with ABE on them! What about this hellish discrimination against YES supporters?, perpetuated on a daily basis by people who are complete strangers to the truth! And worse, they are people who were elected to represent the wishes of their Constituents, many of whom will be considering a YES vote. They have given no thought to the fall out from their actions, whilst 98% of “CyberNats” have taken Mr Salmond’s words to heart, and bite our tongues from merely sharp (not abusive in any way)responses. The Darlings and Murrays of this world don’t care who they tread on, as long as the Expenses Office pays them for the time they take to lie through their teeth about the Scottish Government. I hope they are all writing new CVs for themselves, and wish Ian Murray well in his new Painting and Decorating Business.
2014-04-02 19:51

Good article as ever Derek. But the reason for the on-going vilification and invective being fired at the Yes campaign and in particular AS, is the collusion of your old bosses at EBC. Without Pacific Quay’s wholehearted support of reporting lies masquerading as pathetic pleas of bullying on a daily basis, and more importantly,omi  tting the truth of what the real facts are, the awful charade of propaganda presented as fact will continue unabated.
2014-04-02 20:36

Derek, Alastair Darling can’t say anything as an Advocate because he stopped being one some years ago when he resigned from the Faculty of Advocates. At that time it was widely thought that he did so to avoid any investigation by the Faculty into possible complaints of misconduct in connection with the Iraq war. ‘Nuff said.
Alien Act
2014-04-02 21:02

Would it surprise you to know that Mr Alastair MacMillan of White House Products was Eton educated, I wonder who he knows in Westminster? No prizes for guessing correctly.…/6a2

More scaremongering, lies and deceit, the no campaign is really getting desperate now.
Knowing that the government and the no campaign will stoop this low how can anyone be thinking of voting no?
If this is all they have to offer us now imagine what will happen to us after a no vote.
2014-04-03 05:47

No little irony when Labour pols defend the dickensian behaviour of an employer whilst excoriating those championing the rights of workers not to be intimidated and threatened with loss of their livelihood for freely exercising their franchise.
2014-04-03 14:47

It’s not very clever of Alistair Macmillan to inform his office, engineering and machineshop personnel by a daily newspaper, that he is preparing to move his company to England should there be a Yes vote for independence.

These skilled and experienced members of his company, (who could be difficult to replace), have now been forewarned. Some of them will be unsettled with this declaration, and might begin quietly to look for other employment
2014-04-03 15:05

At our Yes constituencey meeting last night (across the road from the Green door) a few people seemed to be indicating that they would prefer a Scotland which continued to be ruled by unelected elites.
One person,reading from the Project Fear bible,Warned that there would be no going back after we separated from England.
The point he and others miss is that in an independent Scotland,any constitutional change will only happen through democratic process and the ballot box and not decided by a handful of individuals with vested interests.
This will be the first time working Scots have ever had a say in the constitutional arrangements with England.
Businessmen and others have the same voting rights as everyone else.
One person one vote.
2014-04-05 19:33

Quoting Neimo Fakir:

Those of us who have campaigned for so long wouldn’t be as daft as to put a sticker on an opponent’s office door because we know that it gives them fuel.

Aye and maybe it was a daftie, new to the party. Then again maybe it wisnae. Maybe it was someone who realised that sticker could be used against the YES campaign! Why just because Ian Murray says it was us do we believe him without question. Last time I looked he wasn’t on our side!


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