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Tuesday, October 20, 2015 

Impotence before the SNP juggernaut.

If there's one thing other than politics guaranteed to bring out the worst in some people, it's competitive international sport.  Orwell might have said that only English intellectuals were ashamed of their nationality, but then he died long before anyone dressed up as a crusader to attend a football match, chanted about not surrendering to the IRA, singing that goes on to this day (and was just last week targeted against James McClean in the Premier League), or booed the opposition's national anthem.  Obviously, you shouldn't hate the player, you should hate the game.

These things are though all but indivisible, at least to some.  After Scotland's last minute defeat to Australia on Saturday, dear old JK Rowling tweeted Scottish Rugby to say they did the country proud.  The response of Stuart Campbell, of the Wings Over Scotland blog, was to tell her and Muriel Gray to "fuck off, as you don't think we're a nation at all".  Rowling, who no doubt gets plenty of such tweets since she has both donated to Labour and opposed the Yes campaign last year, could have just ignored it.  Instead she responded to Campbell and then others in a calm and measured way.  She comes out of it once again looking the model of benevolence, while Campbell in his often obtuse fashion has responded to the wider media coverage of the exchange by focusing on the "fuck off" part, rather than his implying that Rowling cannot support Scotland and oppose independence without being a hypocrite.

Is an online exchange between a political blogger and the Harry Potter author really front page news, however, as it was deemed to be by the Scotsman and the Telegraph?  Campbell might continue to laughably claim that Wings is an independent site when it has never featured a critical word about the SNP, but the idea Nicola Sturgeon has any kind of control over what the most ardent and belligerent independence supporters get up to is nonsense.  That was proved by the reaction of some to Sturgeon's address to the SNP conference, all but ruling out another referendum if as expected the party repeats its success of last May in the Holyrood elections next year.

Such coverage is in fact grist to the SNP mill.  Any other party that has been in power for the past 9 years would be expecting the public and probably even its own supporters to be starting to tire of it.  With the SNP the opposite is the case, and part of the reason for that is the sense of grievance and victimhood that soon bubbles to the surface when the slightest heat is applied.  Fringe gatherings at the conference saw all the old canards voiced: the biased BBC, with even the weather map favouring England, everything being against the SNP despite its success in the face of such apparent adversity, and the odd whinge about not being given their due internationally just to lighten the tone.

To an extent, all parties complain of how unfair the media is to them, and to an extent they occasionally have a point.  When it's a party of government doing the complaining, even if it's just the supporters and MPs rather than the leader themselves, especially one so popular, it becomes that bit more sinister.  And yet it would be perverse to argue that the vast majority of the media wasn't diametrically opposed to Scottish independence, just as it would be to claim that the Better Together campaign wasn't based around fear.  It's this sense that because the SNP's very raison d'etre is so ferociously fought against, even if in truth it took the YouGov poll suggesting the Yes campaign had pulled ahead to really concentrate minds in Whitehall, that drives the ongoing belief the SNP is still an insurgent force rather than an accountable and responsible party of government.

The continuing focus on Cybernats is more than anything a reflection of the impotence of the media.  Independence was defeated, and yet the SNP emerged victorious, having lost the economic argument but won the emotional, patriotic one overwhelmingly.  Having made its case in such terms, convincing if not the 45% then a substantial percentage that opponents of independence are siding with the Westminster elite or are even actively traitorous, it's not surprising when the most vociferous then lash out in response to what to everyone else will see as completely innocuous.  The apparent belief on the part of the media, that by linking Sturgeon to such people she and the SNP can begin to be undermined just doesn't follow.  Even if most weren't of the opinion that the wider media is hopeless biased, it's just another instance of journalists seeming obsessed with themselves and the medium rather than the reality.  Most Scots will have had just as virulent if not more so arguments during the campaign itself; why would they be so disgusted by the abusing of someone as liked as JK Rowling when they will have experienced as much themselves?

Instead, it's far more likely to serve as further reinforcing of already entrenched positions.  More evidence of the media focusing on the irrelevant, trying desperately to link a political leader to online idiots as it can't lay a finger on her otherwise.  Alternatively, more proof of how the SNP has succeeded in splitting Scotland down the middle, to the point where it can't even come together over a rugby match without fingers being pointed and insults being thrown.  Most delightfully of all, we've got our own version of this fast approaching.  I don't know about you, but I can't wait.

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