By G.A.Ponsonby
Better Together are in a mess.  As I write that sentence I have to double check to see what they are really called, are they still Better Together or are they No Thanks?
There have been so many rebrands and re-launches I’m not even sure any more.

To be honest it doesn’t matter what they call themselves, they’ve never really had a campaign to brand.  Better Together’s strategy has been to flood the compliant Scottish media machine with claim after claim.  They’ve a new vehicle now to go with their rebrand in the shape of Scotland 2014.

The media strategy though isn’t working and, devoid of the boots on the ground that make up Yes Scotland’s optimistic army, they are left with the sobering thought that the debate is lost.  The polls are closing as people start to tune into the real issues and tune out of the scares.

If you are losing the debate then the only thing left is to close it down.

Lally rally

That’s what happened last week when an innocuous but politically damaging email was sent to a reporter.  Campbell Gunn pointed out that the ordinary mum paraded by Better Together at a rally, was actually a member of the Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet.

Gunn also mistakenly said the lady was the daughter-in-law of a former Labour Provost.  Untrue, unwise and a cue for a media led assault on Mr Gunn and pro-independence contributors to the independence debate.

Make no mistake, this was a media led witch-hunt against one side of the independence campaign.  If anyone doubts this then ask yourself why, despite appalling abuse being perpetrated by a minority of both sides, the headlines have focused almost exclusively on the Yes campaign.

The term ‘Cybernat’, when used by the media or those who favour the Union, is a term of abuse against people who favour independence.  It is a term that has no Unionist equivalent.

So prevalent is the use of the word that the BBC does not think it unacceptable.  The corporation has frequently used the term when referring to people who post pro-independence opinions online.

Indeed last week, when the BBC was promoting the Clare Lally story and trying to conflate online abuse with Campbell Gunn’s email, Newsnet Scotland was invited to take part in an interview with the Newsnight Scotland replacement, Scotland 2014.

The message containing the invite was interesting, here it is:

Hello, I was wondering if you could please assist me?

I am working on a film for tonight’s Scotland 2014 programme on cybernats following the article in today’s Daily telegraph about the mother of a disabled child who has accused the First Minister of leading a smear campaign against her after she spoke at the launch of the Unionists campaign earlier this week.

As I am keen to get a balanced view, I am aiming to get both sides of the argument on whether cybernats are an act freedom of speech or harassment?  I would be really keen to interview a representative of your organisation this afternoon with your views and was hoping somebody could get back to me as soon as possible.

Twice in this short message the BBC researcher refers to ‘cybernats’.  Indeed the programme was specifically about this group of people.

When we called back to accept their invitation, an excited and very happy researcher informed us that a film crew would be despatched to our editor’s home a few miles away.  The invite lasted less than ten minutes before it was pulled.  Time constraints we were told.

Anyone who sat through Sarah Smith’s one sided item would have thought that Campbell Gunn had been ordered by Alex Salmond to beat Clare Lally up.  I formed the impression that Smith, herself the daughter of the late Labour leader John Smith, had allowed her own connections to the Labour party to colour her handling of the issue.

The story rumbled on towards the weekend before fizzling out, although an announcement by Police Scotland that they are investigating alleged criminality involving the online messages sent to JK Rowling may give the BBC and some other outlets an excuse to keep the story going.

But what about claims this is an issue that afflicts the Yes campaign?  That’s when the story gets interesting and rather uncomfortable for the No side.

It’s worth reminding ourselves just what Campbell Gunn is being vilified for – mistakenly believing a Labour party spokesperson was the daughter-in-law of Pat Lally.

It’s not as though he had made offensive remarks about the Holocaust, Child Rape, Hillsborough, Child Murders and the Mass Murder of teenagers.  Had Gunn, or indeed any SNP politician, made offensive remarks on these issues then they really would face having to resign.  The Yes movement would have demanded it without the BBC’s help.

But some politicians have indeed made offensive comments using these issues in an attempt at scoring political points.  Why, you may ask, haven’t we heard about these incidents?

Because the politicians were all Scottish Labour politicians.


Michael McMahon
In September 2012, the Scottish Labour politician used the deaths of 96 people in the Hillsborough disaster to launch an attack on Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.
McMahon published a photograph of Mr Salmond standing alongside media mogul Rupert Murdoch with a caption that read “Remember the 96 Mr Salmond”.

The ’96’ was a reference to the 96 people who died in 1989 during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.  Mr Murdoch’s Sun newspaper notoriously blamed Liverpool fans for causing the deaths of the victims and claimed that some fans had pickpocketed the dead and dying.

It wasn’t the first time McMahon had sought to use a shocking event that led to the deaths of scores of people in order to attack the SNP.

Weeks before his Hillsborough tweet, the MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill posted another message claiming that Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill would not have jailed Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, despite Breivik having been convicted of killing 77 people.

In a tweet, McMahon claimed that Breivik would have been given only a “few hundred hours community service” by the SNP Minister.

In 2011, Breivik murdered a total of 77 people.  Sixty nine people, mostly teenagers, were shot dead by the lone fanatic at an island summer camp after a bomb planted by Breivik had exploded in Oslo, killing eight others.


Duncan McNeil
McNeil caused fury after claiming that the tragic deaths of three children, who had been stabbed to death by their mother, may have been caused in part by SNP complacency over home-schooling.

The MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde claimed that allowing the children to be schooled at home may have left them vulnerable.

The bodies of the three Riggi children were discovered by firemen who were investigating a gas explosion at the block of flats where they lived, the children had all suffered stab wounds.  Their mother, Theresa Riggi, was to commit suicide several years later.

Furious supporters of home-schooling demanded the Labour MSP apologise.  McNeil refused saying: “I make no apologies for doing my job as an MSP.”


George Foulkes
In February 2012 the Labour peer caused outrage after suggesting that any scepticism of the Labour party’s historic claims on Devolution was “akin to holocaust denial”.
Former Labour MP and MSP, Foulkes, posted the remark in response to an opinion piece by Dr. James Wilkie of the SDA in which he cast doubt on claims by the Labour party that it was always fully committed to Devolution for Scotland.

Tweeting in response to the article, Foulkes said: “CyberNat myth that Devolution was forced on the Labour EU or Council of Europe (stories vary) is akin to Holocaust denial”

Foulkes is widely credited as the person who coined the derogatory term ‘Cybernats’ in order to describe those he termed “insomniac Nationalist bloggers”.

One year later Foulkes again caused outrage when he used the shocking rape of a 14 year old girl in order to attack the SNP.
In a tweet, the Labour peer said: “Horsemeat in school dinners,14 year old raped in City bus & Orkney firm in administration yet all we hear from SNP Govt. is more on Indyref!”

The tweet followed news that a 14 year old girl had been raped on a Glasgow bus by two men.  The shocking story emerged one week after the alleged offence took place.

However the defiant former Scottish Labour MP and MSP refused to apologise for the tweet and responded to criticisms of his online comment by launching a further attack on Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, saying: “Many people are getting fed up with Kenny MacAskill’s complacency as our so-called Justice Minister.”

The examples above are shocking and all have another thing in common in that they never resulted in front page headlines.  Not one national newspaper or broadcaster has ever reported these appalling comments from serving Labour politicians.

Yet these same journalists and presenters went into a frenzy when Campbell Gunn mistook Clare Lally for a relative of a former provost.


Johann Lamont
But just how far the media will allow senior Labour politicians to go in their quest to smear the SNP was demonstrated in 2011 when the then deputy leader of Scottish Labour, now leader, used a rape case in order to attack the Scottish Government’s record on rape convictions.

The video below shows Johann Lamont describe the harrowing experience a young rape victim went through when giving evidence at the trial of her alleged attacker.

Lamont detailed the shocking tale of a 21 year old rape victim called Louise who had attempted suicide after being subjected to humiliating questions and being forced to hold up her underwear whilst giving evidence in court.

There was only one thing wrong with Lamont’s graphic description of the episode … it was fabricated… it never happened.

Following investigations by the Crown Office it transpired that there was no such recent case.  A statement released by the Crown Office described the story of the rape victim as “unsubstantiated” and added:

“Should it be the case that this story has no substance it is clearly a matter of serious concern as to what the impact of this might be for those who are the victims of such crimes, but might now be discouraged from reporting such crimes as a result of what they have read in this story.”

The episode resulted in the original Evening Times article on which lamont had based her comments, being condemned by Rape Crisis Scotland who described it as “fabricated”.  The organisation also criticised the wording of a subsequent apology from the newspaper as “just as damaging”.

The fabricated rape case was believed to have lifted details from a very real case from nine years earlier that ended with the tragic suicide of the young victim.

No news coverage, no media scrutiny, no BBC bulletins, no with-hunt … nothing.

There’s one rule for the Yes campaign and its politicians … but no rules for No.


2014-06-19 07:49

This attack is on going and should be of great concern to all of us.
As we speak, the knives are out for Wings over Scotland, and the Unionist media want revenge for not being allowed to sweep their dirty deeds under the carpet.
Who’s ‘next’ after Rev Stu? Alex Salmond again? Cambell Gunn? Nicola Sturgeon? Blair Jenkins?

These cowards cannot deal with the YES campaign. They cannot answer the questions WE ask, they cannot articulate ANY progressive argument for the Unionist drum they beat. All they can do is pick us out one at time and throw such mud just to see what sticks.

BUT… A small word on perspective. Perhaps we should count our blessings. We still await the truth about Willie MacRae in 1985. And being outspoken in the wrong part of the modern world can earn you an appointment with a drone strike. Spare a thought for the type of campaign we could be fighting.

The sands are running out for Unionism, and they know it.
2014-06-19 08:09

The No campaign has lost the argument and is now solely relying on lies and misrepresentati  on, content in the knowledge the unionist media will gleefully regurgitate such propaganda.
Thank God for the internet.
From The Suburbs
2014-06-19 08:31

You have to look very hard for The Scotsman’s apology to Wings over Scotland.…/…
2014-06-19 08:31

A very good article, there is no doubt about the media bias, we all know that.

Yet, they appear untouchable. Particularly the BBC who can govern itself. They seem to easily twist the rules to suit the agenda of itself and the Unionist crowd with impunity. We are more and more aware.

Nevertheless, YES is gaining ground, BT is falling apart, the smell of victory is starting to rise in the air. The cringe is slipping, confidence is rising.

It seems that people power can to a large extent nullify all the bias, manipulation, and outright lies we endure. Yet, we are within striking distance.

We should be proud of our online community and our real, grass roots people, of all descriptions. They are winning.
2014-06-19 09:05

There’s only one answer to this appalling litany of demonisation perpetrated by both representatives of Westminster government and a compliant and compromised media. Put your cross in that YES box on September 18th.

Lets remind our public servants and our public service broadcasters of who they are supposed to serve and how they are supposed to serve.

In Scotland, the people are sovereign. Not the crown, not the state, but the people.
mike g
2014-06-19 09:29

Good article.

Add to that Darlings comments re ‘Blood and soil’ and likening Salmond to the North Korean dictator.
2014-06-19 09:58

The lack of balance in media reporting has once again recently been demonstrated in the fabricated “outrage” over comments and criticism of JK Rowling’s £1million donation to NO. Compare this to the blackout of any news coverage or condemnation of Tory MSP Alex Johnstone’s smearing of Colin and Chris Weir’s similar donation to YES.

He suggested that the Weirs had been “duped” or “solicited” by the SNP, but apparently he doesn’t seem to think the same of Rowling. The Weirs have demanded – and are still awaiting – a retraction and apology from Mr.Johnstone.
2014-06-19 10:51

BBC new program….Scotland 2014
Last night….we won’t get into EU
Purpose….Destroy the Yes campaign.
Don’t believe me…… then try watching it without getting angry!!!
Dundonian West
2014-06-19 11:29

Just heard that Kezia Dugdale MSP,Labour’s education spokesperson has withdrawn from the BBC political programme ‘Crossfire’.
Scheduled to start on Sunday as a paid presenter.
She’s to be replaced by a journalist.
2014-06-19 11:42

You mean there’s a difference at the Beeb? :-O
2014-06-19 13:00

Where will the BBC find a journalist?

2014-06-19 11:34

Great article
2014-06-19 12:25

I,m absolutely disgusted,by the media, and the tactics of the unionist politicians, they’re using smear tactics, as opposed to trying to justify their cause legitimately, this is a sign that they’re losing the referendum battle, and they know it.
From The Suburbs
2014-06-19 12:34

I hear John McTernan is lined up by the BBC as a measured journalist. LoL
2014-06-19 13:44

The Project Feart version of a Cybernat is a CyberNOT!
2014-06-19 16:38

Well said.

‘Our’ media will never hold to account or expose these disgraceful Unionist politicians.
2014-06-19 16:42

The vast majority of Scotland’s artists, writers and other creative people of the intelligentsia are in the Yes camp. These are positive, forward thinking and creative people. The Brit media is making a fool of itself, the people of Scotland are not so dumb
2014-06-19 19:13

The Weirs were attacked viciously on social media. Alex Johnstone an elected MSP even joined in on the attack on them with the aid of the media. There was never any outrage in the media over this, no one batted an eye, but before I even know that JK rowling donated to better together I am reading on every news outlet (bbc, itv and newspapers etc…) that she has been rounded on and monstered by the evil cybernats before the day has even past.

Frankly I am amazed that Alex Johnstone even had the nerve to make this complaint to Yes Scotland: “If describing an MSP as a ‘fat, troughing scum’ is your idea of a well-made argument or a clever way to debunk myths, then the standard of our national debate really has fallen into disrepair”, when he and his colleagues regularly make similar if not worse comments about Alex Salmond and YES campaigners.
2014-06-19 22:39

The use of the term ‘cybernat’ is one of the most sinister aspects of the ‘No’ campaign. It portrays people like myself, who happen to support independence, as part of an organisation or a conspiracy; Someone who’s views can be safely ignored as they are are not the views of an ‘ordinary voter’. On the other hand anti-independence views (even those of activists such as MS Lally) are ALWAYS the views of ‘ordinary voters’.
I’ve read a little history and I know that in Stalinist Russia terms such as ‘Wreckers’ and ‘Rootless cosmopolitans’ were used against innocent citizens to portray them as enemies of the state. Does anyone know if there is a name for this deliberate demonisation of citizens?

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