Robin McAlpine: Kindness or cruelty, it's your choice

CommonSpace columnist and Common Weal director Robin McAlpine calls for a return to solidarity and kindness in the independence movement after a week of arguments and infighting

WHAT DO you want? What kind of Scotland do you want? What kind of independence movement do you want? What kind of world do you want?

I came back from four days working in the north of England (my poor kids think Sheffield is a summer holiday destination) to what is euphemistically called a 'twitter storm'. If I didn't know better I'd think that there was a substantial minority of you who want to live in a world of bitterness and mistrust and poison and smears and hatred and bullying.

Me? I love the independence movement. I've loved it since it sparked into real, beautiful, autonomous life during the referendum. But like every love affair, sometimes it really hurts.

I grew up with Bill Hicks and Chris Morris and Jerry Sadowitz and Irvine Welsh. I struggle with what seems to me to be the somewhat prissy standards of our time.

And yes, I kind of know that I'm a man out of time. On the one hand I grew up with Bill Hicks and Chris Morris and Jerry Sadowitz and Irvine Welsh. I struggle with what seems to me to be the somewhat prissy standards of our time. I'm probably wrong.

On the other hand, I was brought up believing that basic courtesy is the least another person is due and biting your tongue when you're angry is a small price to pay for decency. That may not be the fashion but I don't think that it will ever be wrong.

I managed a small team working at the sharp end of public affairs in Scotland for about 12 years. During that time I can't remember once having to comfort a distraught member of staff facing a public lynching.

Now? It almost feels like part of my job description. Cruelty is the new normal (and if you think this makes my team sound soft, you haven't met them...).

I don't think I've met anyone who has received such sustained, personalised hatred as Angela.

Angela Haggerty is, as you all know, editor of CommonSpace and a “self-promoting, arrogant bitch riding on the back of the independence movement to personal glory and riches”.

Except I know Angela well and she isn't. She's a kind and hard working and dedicated person with the highest personal moral standards. I don't think I've met anyone who has received such sustained, personalised hatred as Angela.

I didn't entirely agree with her Sunday Herald column, but that's just a personal opinion. She was hardly malicious.

There are no campaigners in Scotland I admire more than the Tie (Time for Inclusive Education) campaign which has been simply amazing, but I didn't entirely agree with my pal Jordan's article in CommonSpace either. But it doesn't represent an editorial position, we didn't commission it, he just submitted it and it met the criteria for publication.

Apparently people can't tolerate so much as a single article that they don't agree with without kicking off a campaign to de-fund the platform.

Apparently people can't tolerate so much as a single article that they don't agree with without kicking off a campaign to de-fund the platform. We were 50 donors short of our target for giving a job to another young journalist. Now we're closer to 100 donors short.

There were times in the past when money was tighter and I might have had to make a young journalist redundant. Is that really what you want? Perhaps its the social media age – we could tweet a picture of the three of them sitting against a wall and you could vote on who loses their livelihood.

We could even livestream them tearfully heading off to apply for Jobseekers Allowance. The thrill, the rawness, the sheer inhumanity, the clicks!

But I'm every bit as sick of Wings-bashing. On the basis of my personal communication with Stuart Campbell and anything I've read on Wings I simply don't believe he's the monster of lore.

On the basis of my personal communication with Stuart Campbell and anything I've read on Wings I simply don't believe he's the monster of lore.

Most of my personal friends are 'civilians' – construction, teaching, hairdressing, sales – and if I showed them the kinds of stuff that is supposed to make Wings 'untouchable' they'd stare back uncomprehendingly.

My partner Cristina is not white, not male, not British and not straight – she's told me many times that she's sick of being told she's too weak and timid for Wings.

This is just a vendetta masquerading as virtue (although even his biggest supporter would accept that Stuart sails too close to the wind sometimes). You may hate Wings – I'm not asking you to conclude that you're wrong. I'm wondering if you can't accept that others don't feel like you do and show them some respect and restraint.

In my head I wish people would stop submitting critical articles about Wings to CommonSpace, and also that Stuart would just take ten per cent off his extreme edges so they didn't feel they had to. But it stays in my head, not a running commentary.

Meanwhile Ross Greer is ripping into The National. I'm speechless. My admiration of what Callum is doing there with very limited resources is enormous.

Meanwhile Ross Greer is ripping into The National. I'm speechless. My admiration of what Callum is doing there with very limited resources is enormous. If you haven't met him, his commitment and effort are way above and beyond the call of duty.

Ross, you could have phoned Callum – he'd have taken your meeting and listened closely to your concerns. Not everything has to be a performance.

So cumulatively, between you all, once you've closed down CommonSpace and the National, what then? We're the only two independence-supporting daily outlets who employ journalists writing news (as opposed to platforms for opinion and analysis).

[In the original version of this article I said that Women for Independence had issued a tweet using the term ‘misogynist’ in relation to CommonSpace’s summer interns. This was a mistake on my part (I do not do social media). In fact WfI retweeted a tweet which criticised us. While I think the criticism remains a little unfair, it was made fun a perfectly respectable way and so bore no relationship to the purpose of the column and I am therefore very happy indeed to correct the record and apologise immediately for my misunderstanding.]

A blog accuses the open and inclusive Scottish Independence Convention of being crooked – fill in your conspiracy theory, use the word 'elite' a lot, click publish.



Meanwhile, Cat Boyd's ashes still smoulder by the stake she was burned at (again, I think she was wrong but deserves much better than to be publicly humiliated). And then a blog accuses the open and inclusive Scottish Independence Convention of being crooked – fill in your conspiracy theory, use the word 'elite' a lot, click publish.

This is all in the last week.

When, as people, did we become so narcissistic that we decided that destroying other people was a necessary price for us to 'get it off our chests'?

When, as people, did we become so narcissistic that we decided that destroying other people was a necessary price for us to 'get it off our chests'? What is so wrong with shutting the fuck up, just now and again?

There are people in the indy movement I can't stand – some genuine horrors, vindictive, nasty, snide, the whole works. Do you know when you'll find out who they are? Never. Not from me.

Why? Because once we've destroyed Cat Boyd and Angela Haggerty and Stuart Campbell and Jordan Daily and Callum Baird and Mike Small and Robin McAlpine and Bella and the National and CommonSpace and whomever is on my naughty list – what then?

The poison-mongers say someone from the 'real' movement will step forward. What do you think is going to happen to them?

The poison-mongers say someone from the 'real' movement will step forward. What do you think is going to happen to them?

I'm going to do something I seldom do which is veer into my personal life. I have now worked ridiculous hours since 2011. In that time I've had one holiday that lasted as much as seven days, none longer. I get paid £24,000 and don't claim a lot of my expenses. Cristina has volunteered for Common Weal tirelessly but unpaid, raising thousands in merchandise and doing our film work.

At times I have so many evening and weekend meetings that I don't see enough of my children. Many of these meetings are not fun – often they are long, gruelling and frustrating. But that's the price of building things.

(Of course, knocking things down can be done from your sofa. Well done.)

I'm exhausted. We're a 'just about managing' family – sometimes with the emphasis on 'just'. I've kept going because of the things I believe.

I can almost cope with the knives in my back, but pulling them out of the backs of friends and colleagues is starting to get to me.

I can almost cope with the knives in my back, but pulling them out of the backs of friends and colleagues is starting to get to me. Quietly, I sometimes wonder if I can do this for ever. If I should.

And if you're at this moment celebrating my demise, be aware that I can't think of a single figure in the independence movement who has done anything worth a damn who hasn't told me (sometimes in some distress) that at some point they have felt the same.

We all fail, we all make mistakes, we're not perfect. We're not even nearly above criticism. But we're not your punchbags on which you can take out your frustration at whatever the hell is bothering you today.

I despise nastiness, I hate bullying. Above all I value kindness and trust and good will. I'm really genuinely scared that I am woefully ill equipped for this new world of narcissism and routine cruelty which seems to grow unchecked.

“An old man howling at the moon” someone called me the last time I asked why all this nastiness is necessary. Fine, hear me howl.

“An old man howling at the moon” someone called me the last time I asked why all this nastiness is necessary. Fine, hear me howl:

Unless this changes it will corrode everything it touches. People cannot cope with being broken down and battered day after day, clinging to their friends and loved ones and wishing there was a safe bubble where they could just stay like that forever.

I know people from every part of the indy movement. Virtually everyone I know is basically honest and has good motives, whatever their flaws. It is those who call them liars, traitors and cheats who are the enemy.

You can't change people's minds with bullying, victimisation and persecution, you can only break them. Thugs don't win over neutrals. 'Pour encourager les autres'  is hurting innocent people to keep the others scared. Its disgusting.

Cruelty infects everything it touches, kindness transforms everywhere it reaches. Do you want to be a bringer of cruelty or a champion for kindness?

Cruelty infects everything it touches, kindness transforms everywhere it reaches. Do you want to be a bringer of cruelty or a champion for kindness? That's for you to choose.

Before you tweet, post, blog, ask yourself a question – how will this make the other person feel? Do you really mean to humiliate and hurt? If not, why not err on the side of discretion.

There is no part of the independence movement that I do not recognise as a thread of the wonderful tapestry that makes us what we are. I beg you to mistrust those who say this bit or that bit isn't the 'real' movement. 'We need each other' isn't a slogan but the truth.

I beg you to mistrust those who say this bit or that bit isn't the 'real' movement.

'Be kinder and more patient' is not a fantasy. Every single one of us without exception can make that choice – again and again, every day.

What do you want? What kind of Scotland do you want? What kind of independence movement do you want? What kind of world do you want?

It's entirely up to you.

Picture: CommonSpace

Look at how important CommonSpace has become, and how vital it is for the future #SupportAReporter


Alan Ferrier

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 17:12

Hi Robin,

I have no issue with commentators criticising Wings Over Scotland. Stuart Campbell is undoubtedly a talented yet divisive figure who engenders strong, sometimes visceral reactions in his readership, and across all shades of the Scottish and wider political spectrum, but he is, I would suggest, more than capable of fighting his own corner when required. There are a number of areas where my own views diverge from Stuart's quite sharply, but I believe his value as a political commentator and debunker is nonetheless significant.

This situation crossed a line for me when Ms. Haggerty and her junior colleague circulated on Twitter a list of various tweets, one of my own amongst them, that mentioned Wings and which had been “liked” by Mhairi Black who is, as I’m sure we’re all aware, a young, gay, female, independence-supporting MP, with the strong implication that Ms. Black thereby condoned transphobia.

My wife and I have been stalwart supporters of the Common Weal / CommonSpace for a number of years, to the tune of many hundreds of pounds. I have an “All Of Us First” “twibbon” on my Twitter avatar, for goodness sake. Yet none of this deterred Ms. Haggerty and her colleague from using a tweet of mine, which stated my belief that Stuart Campbell was within his rights to defend his reputation in court, to traduce both my own reputation and, much more significantly, that of Mhairi Black. When a so-called independence-supporting new media outlet starts vilifying people on the basis of “do you now or have you ever read a particular blog”, I’m afraid it’s becoming WAY too McCarthy-esque for my liking.

Out of respect for you and the sterling work that the Common Weal team does I will be reinstating my contributions in September. Consider the missing August contribution to be my own wee protest about a situation which could and should have been handled much better.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 14:42

I understand how you feel. The last week has been horrific. I didn't agree with Jordan Daly's article, nor did I agree with the promotion of that article by CommonSpace because in doing so the editorial supported Kez Dugdale who, as far as I am concerned, abused her parliamentary privilege in her rant at Nicola Sturgeon during FMQs. Her reason for raising it was, I believe, purely and simply to embarrass Ms Sturgeon and by extension the Indy movement. In practice, that was successful as we turned on ourselves. However, those are my opinions and I recognise them as such, and I acknowledge that others feel differently.

I thought the ongoing nastiness of the "I'm more gay than you" brigade, the "I understand gay rights and transphobia better than you" people and the "ban Wings" lot absolutely terrifying. And equally so, groups on the other side of the argument. Many of the arguments were vile, and all of them I felt missed the original point about Ms Dugdale's politicising of Wings tweet. People who tried to be rational were demolished by literally hundreds of tweets across the feed. It was grotesque, and you are quite right to raise the issues.

I did consider cancelling my subscription on one day when I was very angry, but was able to step back and acknowledge that CommonSpace is getting better, the articles are more in depth, they are varied and relevant, critical and fairly balanced. I enjoy reading it. And you are right. Given how the ScotGov is reviled by MSM, what else other than CommonSpace and The National do we have?

It seems to have become the norm to bully, harass, victimise, demean, humiliate and belittle people who have different views on social media. I have never understood why people have thought that it was acceptable to do so. In fact I was trolled a few years ago and cannot express how that made me feel. The person trolled me professionally, too, which caused very personal problems. Consequently, my profiles have no information. My son, ever pragmatic, says it happens because people can. They are anonymous, and no-one can challenge. Perhaps not, if you then become part of the Twitterstorm. But we can chose not to engage with it.

Keep going! Scotland needs you.

Sean Dodds

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 14:49

Good point
Hissy fit over and started S/O again.
On the plus side iScot has a new subscriber too.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 15:14

I was so angry at what I viewed as being both preached at and excluded by the article from Angela Haggerty,as well as the follow up tweet from Caitlin Logan ,endorsed by Angela Haggery about Mhairi Black.I remember the way Angela was treated by the Sunday Herald and cancelled my subscription to the paper due to my outrage on that,and yet ,here was Angela seemingly telling me that if I listened to anything Wings said made me persona non grata.
You have redressed the balance...thank you,I have restarted my contribution to twice it was before because I feel,and have always felt,that all voices for Independence are necessary for the debate.I will not stop reading Wings,nor will I stop criticising him or any other columnist if I feel they are wrong,but I will no longer be silent on any journalist,columnist or whatever ,who tries to tell me I am doing the Independence cause a disservice if I don't follow their rules.I have been doing this for over 50 yrs and have been very concerned recently at the perceived hierarchy of those fighting for self determination.Independence is for all of us,a great deal of commentary these days smacks of a sort of class distinction..that those of us who don't follow certain rules are on the lower scale and need to be educated.
That may not be the intent,but it is the result,certainly in my case.
I welcome measured views such as yours,and I agree with them.People like you are needed to guide us...but all views should be welcome...some of us have a wealth of history to be mined.
Thank you again for being a calm voice of reason.

Andrew MacGregor

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 15:29

Hi Robin,
Well made argument and I do feel sympathy regarding the reduction in subscribers and options for employing a young journalist, however for me CommonSpace has become an unpalatable site allowing people I regard as generally malicious to pursue their own agenda.

I am not of course referring to AH, whom I gave defended on many occasions from trolls and abusers in the past on twitter and on the Herald site and threw my support behind SC's position when she was 'let go' from that publication.

In terms of my position currently, AH has now published two articles which have made me question her intentions. The first over Cat Boyd was counter-intuitive and seemed to suggest no one should challenge Ms Boyd over her irrational position regarding voting Labour as a path to independence.

Most recently though, Angela's article about SC's decision to pursue a defamation case was framed so poorly, it seemed to be a personal attack on SC rather than an article about pitfalls. The comparisons she attempted to draw were so poor, I doubt even David Torrance (a man renowned for poor use of analogies) would have used them. Furthermore while it questioned anyone's right to query whether a gay person felt SC's tweet was homophobic, she was quite happy to question whether SC felt defamed and his right to pursue a case.

I'm happy to donate at some time in the future when finances allow, but I suspect the editor needs to be a bit more measured in their own articles.



Thu, 08/03/2017 - 15:40

When one goes to the Jordan Daly article, one of the first comments we see is "You're all stupid twats." from Stewart Campbell. Followed shortly by "On that note, get to fuck with telling someone you've never met or spoken to that they're 'clearly not a nice person'."

No influential separatist ever dares to challenge him on his clearly unacceptable conduct and language, on the spurious assumption that somehow he is good for the movement.

So is it really surprising that his attitude permeates the masses, and they also assume that dishing out personal abuse is somehow good for the movement?


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 16:00

At least I'm not the sort of rude twat who can't even be bothered to spell someone's name correctly, Morris.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 16:12

It would be more apt if you could address the comments made against him.Me ? I do not believe he was homophobic in his comments,insulting ?..yes,they were meant to be,do I approve ?,but that's me,I don't like to be confrontational,that doesn't mean that Stu should be under attack for something he didn't do.
It certainly doesn't mean that we should be condemned for supporting or reading his site..he remains a valuable source of information to us,we don't all have to approve everything he says to appreciate his contribution to the Independence cause.
If you were to force me to choose between you and Stu for unbiased information...I would choose Stu. He doesn't tell me what I should think...he leaves it up to me.
You could learn from that.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 18:06

Alan Ferrier, you have perfectly described how I feel and I too will be reinstating my subscription in September

Robin, as unhappy as I was with AHs comments re Wings and Mhairi Black, I value what you and Common Weal are doing so I want to continue to do what I can, even if it's not a lot, to support that.

Please ask AH to consider what she is achieving by attacking pro Indy people simply because of who they support.

Patsy Millar

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 18:25

Thanks for your article. You have, as usual, got right to the nub of the problem. Hopefully, others will take their cue from you.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 18:58

Thank you Robin, I agree with every word of what you are saying, so much so that I have decided to give you a monthly donation.

The Yes campaign was a most beautiful and unforgettable experience for most of us who were involved. This was because of its positivity and inclusive nature. The problem at the moment is a lack of leadership and direction.

However I think most of us will agree that there are several big contributers around including yourselves, Wings, Bella, WGD, Women for Indy, Derek Bateman, Scotgoespop and so on, there are others too. If you guys start ripping into each other, then those of us on the ground do as well. It is just natural to defend and take sides.

How about between you all, there should be some unspoken rule or code of conduct agreed not to be publishing articles which will damage the movement. This does not exclude constructive criticism, but excludes inflammatory articles which are going to do the Yes movement more damage than good. Maybe these should not be published or should be amended before publishing to use more constructive language.

You guys are the leadership at the moment whether you like it or not. Surely between you all, a code of conduct could be drawn up, in order to help build the movement and not destroy it.

Once agreed by you all, it could be spread far and wide through the IndyApp and nationalyesregistry.

I read something on twitter today which said something along these lines 'once you decide to be kind, you forfeit the right to be right' - meaning I think, it is more important to be kind than to be right. We al think we are right, sometimes however it is better to keep our corrections to ourselves,

Jean Nisbet

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 19:05

I'm so sorry that all this is going on. Good people are being sickened by the in-fighting - including me for a wee while earlier this year, when someone took exception to a comment of mine on the FB page for the over-60s and I got booted off. Ironic, since I was one of the more enthusiastic members. I for one never thought getting independence was going to be easy and the in-fighting is to be expected. Our problem is we don't have a focus: we don't know when the second referendum will come along. But I feel I have to remind people: a unionist friend recently posted smugly that Quebec had 3 votes before they finally 'gave up.' She obviously has adopted the stance that that's all unionists have to do - sit it out and the 'separatists' will go away. I'd prefer it if her wish didn't come true.

James Mills

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 19:09

I fully endorse your sentiment , Robin . I hope that the independence movement will get over these recent 'spats' as they are self-harming .If I did not know better I am paranoid enough to believe that there is some evil unionist mind behind them directing operations - but no . This is family falling out - and some bitter things are often said when that happens .
In common with many Indy supporters I support CommonSpace and Wings and see the need for their very different approaches to independence but not everyone is so fair minded . We all know people who could cause a fight in an empty room and , unfortunately , some are nominally independence supporters .
We all need to speak to each other as if we were sitting in the same room facing one another . The anonymity of modern social media is at times a blessing but it is clearly a curse too , and it is generally the anonymous creatures who inhabit this realm that are the vilest in their comments . We have to try and ignore them as they are simply deflecting us from the ultimate aim of being united in our struggle for a better Scotland - an Independent Scotland .


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 20:12

Thanks Robin, I can't imagine how you and the team cope when the skies go dark, and I very much appreciate the tone, your emotional honesty and the plea for compassion. We all get it wrong sometimes, and that is not a judgement on anyone's actions recently, just a truism that should allow for more kindness.

Thanks to you and the team, the recent kerfuffle spurred me to back CS at last. More power to you.



Thu, 08/03/2017 - 20:21

Its a reasonable article, except where you say "Apparently people can't tolerate so much as a single article that they don't agree with without kicking off a campaign to de-fund the platform". If you think the recent anti-wings venom is a "single article" rather than "the straw that broke the camel's back", then you fail to understand just how much the anti-SNP, tone policing weeds have grown beneath your feet. Common Space is now borderline as to whether it helps or hinders independence. From where we stood a year ago, that's an appalling state of affairs...

A Scot in Canada

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 20:40

Ms.Dugdale ruthlessly appropriated this issue for the specific intention of attacking the independence movement as a whole. A deaf, dumb and blind person could see this. Why not these columnists?

Might your journalists not have better used their time having a go at a Union leader who actively encouraged the citizens of Scotland to vote for a Conservative and Union party? A party that openly recruits members of the Orange Order, and other right wing extremists, to represent their own blinkered interests in Westminster.

Perhaps they felt Ms. Dugdale was being insufficiently supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls, what passes for public radio in our parish, all those busy little operatives in Pacific Quay and London, and virtually the entire Union establishment.

Given the recent success of the Unionist parties in the last election, I would have been far more interested in understanding why so many of my fellow Scots are deluded enough to believe these types in the first place. A solution to this Gordian Knot must be found if we are ever to free ourselves from the United Kingdom.

I must admit I was astonished and angered by the articles vilifying Mr. Campbell and the many independence supporters who visit his site. Did the authors really believe it was in the interest of our community to organise a purge of the movement at this particular time? For the benefit of the leader of the Scottish Labour in Union party? To protect a Conservative and Union MSP from an off color tweet?

A lot of folks are despondent at the losses the Independence movement endured in the recent GE. There is growing concern and fear about the fiasco that is Brexit. Emotions are raw. Common Space choosing this moment to turn on Wings just felt like rubbing salt in our collective wounds.

If you are going to subject yourself to a twitter storm in future for a principled stand, perhaps it would be wise to ensure you are not also lending yourself to the ulterior motives of the forces of Union.

Brothers and Sisters in Arms should treat each other better than this.

High Lander

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 20:56

Awesome bit of bridge-building, Robin. I confess I did get caught up in it, but on reflection deleted everything & chose to STFU for a bit.

The unifying mission of the Yes movement is far more important than these personality clashes.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 21:53

Great article - agree with it entirely.

One thing I think does need pointed out though, and I haven't seen said is that journalists, including "new media" ones need to quit complaining about loads of people responding to them on Twitter. I don't mean really threatening, abusive, nasty tweets - I realise people like Angela, like every other successful women with a voice - do get those and they should be reported to the police if serious, blocked and ignored if not. No one should have to put up with those.

What I mean is all the whinging about "Oh I've said something controversial and now I've come back to hundreds of notifications. Woe is me. It's a horrid pile on of cultists" etc, etc.

Fact is, most normal people on Twitter - normal as in non-famous, non-platformed people - have maybe a few hundred or a few thousand followers. If we tweet something really funny, controversial or interesting, or get involved in a debate, we may come back to 100+ notifications we can't catch up with, some of them almost certainly a bit nasty. If you're a journalist with a voice and a platform, and 22,000 followers, OF COURSE you're going to get even more. It's how social media works. There is a real arrogance, and also a lack of understanding about your own position of power if you're complaining about that.

The old media journalists do it all the time, because they're not used to social media and people being able to answer back. If the "new media" journalists are going to start the same thing, new media has a problem. The measure of success on social media is how many followers you have and how much they engage with you. If you call loads of your followers a cult or suggest they're homophobic or whatever, of course they're going to respond.

Many of our MPs, Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf in particular, suffer massive abuse on social media day in day out. How they deal with it, I have no idea - I couldn't. But they don't make a huge fuss and continually write articles about it, even though that really is massively threatening abuse. While we have new media journalists who's career is literally social media complaining endlessly simply about a lot of their own followers engaging with them.

So when you say, "staff who face a public lynching" it would be worth examining just what's meant by that, in the context of being a new media outlet with journalists who presumably want a high number of twitter followers and would prefer their writing and opinions not to be totally ignored. If it just means 'a lot of people responding to something controversial and which offended them,' then that's social media, nothing else. It's not "the independence campaign" and it's not real life". People have a right to - and do - respond to Wings that way all the time too on Twitter: it's what Twitter does.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 22:09

A really good article Robin. I'd like to make a few points. Firstly, not only am I a subscriber but I have also written a fair number of Opinion pieces for Common Space. In many ways I feel very defensive about and loyal to CS because of that. One of my frustrations when I was reading lots of the twitter comments slagging off Jordan Daly's article was thinking "Well if you disagree then write a counter piece and send it to bloody Common Space". i know Angela tries to point out on many occasions that it is an open forum and invites comment. However I'm not quite sure just how known or understood that actually is.

In saying that, I drafted up about 850 words of an article basically saying "Why I want Wings to Beat Kez" but really couldn't be bothered getting into the entire shitstorm. I'm not a journalist, I've got a full time job etc and although I've enjoyed putting my point over via CS there's a line over which I really don't want to go.

I do have to say that I have became more frustrated with CS recently. I think I speak for a number of people when I say the following. CS was originally set up as a pro Indy platform. Recently however it just doesn't have that feel any more. I realise that it's difficult when no Referendum is imminent and that you need to have broader news coverage if you are employing journalists. That doesn't take away from the fact that you've got a core audience and a core group of subscribers who are motivated by a Pro Indy stance.

I'm not saying that you go as full on as The National but there's a level of criticism of the SNP that sometimes grates and - to me - the drift away from the Pro Indy outlook leaves me a bit alienated.


Thu, 08/03/2017 - 22:36

Robin, your article is wonderful and necessary and I hope it will go some way to stop the divisiveness, intolerance and hate mongering which is tearing Scotland apart. If we cannot achieve that within the independence movement what hope is there within the wider Scottish society?
More than half of us are anti-independence and anti-SNP and at least a quarter of us are Tory. A significant proportion of us are pro Brexit.
There is something very wrong, very dangerous and very disturbing about a situation where you are demonised and persecuted for criticising, not just SNP leaders, but those who support the SNP. It's beyond awful when a great independence activist & socialist like Cat is all but burned at the stake for voting for Labour, currently the only socialist party of any worth and whose socialist members contributed enormously to the independence movement and swelled the ranks of the SNP. What utter insanity! (The SNP doesn't even claim to be a socialist party.)
It seems to me that unless there's an enormous change in the ugly culture of the Indy zealots the Indy movement will be completely destroyed. When you turn upon your brightest and best as you have upon Cat Boyd, you are done for.
Good luck in your attempt to turn this around. It's a real crisis, not just for the independence campaign, but for Scotland.

Joyce Smart

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 23:43

Great piece Robin, thank you. Let calm prevail....

And when we all look back, we can perceive the simple fact that no fair mind on earth can fail to be in just accord with …
that this sage nation took the only path that recognises everyone for family that they are. Saving dignity.
Knowing the basic principles of peace are held in understanding that we all have equal rank when seen in conscience.
So surely did we rally in this mode, maintaining all respect for woefully contemptuous tongues beyond our release.
Now optimistic backing in their stead (as to all ventures starting out, in need of faith and heart), redeems the cynic.
The fury that inevitably seethed, among those who could not conceive of change, or status quo, served no good purpose.
It satiated some, who would exult in seeing mass disorder and the misery of all. But insight prevailed; by stepping back
and seeing how this was, and cordial acceptance of deliberated views, douce calm was retrieved. And in this way we have made clear the point, which is that we do not condone war mongering, in this haven we achieved. If fear and trepidation still remain just look
to what your inner wisdom tells you, when you think of how life should be … then see the opportunity well met – a cutting loose
from distant land Lords who would not debate - and view in that vein. If worried of a bare naivety that risks inviting damning isolation to us all, be certain of this - we only grow through listening to our hearts, and we are infinitely blessed in having chosen
not to heed foul threats of hellfire and catastrophe. With all now said and done, the way can be a rightful living,
tendered on a manageable scale, in which we matter.. no more the fracturing of humankind through disregard
for democratic voicing of the throng and shameful hubris. The hoard does not need saved, as some would have,
but from indifference and greed which cannot follow here to folk enlightened. In time a fully independent state, industrious and caring for the earth and all its kind, we will be well led by choosing who is right, among the folk who demonstrate intent on listening
to the country’s voice, needs no sycophants, and honours the duties bestowed on them; whose hope for us is not supremacy
but earned respect and full contentment. And walking into this new life as one, in demonstrating kinship in this way we can embrace our founding ethic, a testimonial for all the land, by welcoming the world to work with us in honest ways, sharing of the fruit …
the future for our children now once more a buoyant hope, that they can have what matters from the start, as divinely planned.

September 2014

Clarence Boddicker

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 00:55

Thanks for this fair-minded and honest article. I agree with most of it.

However, I do think you're a little quick to dismiss, as cruel deniers of employment to young journalists, people who consider withdrawing (or actually do withdraw) financial support from things like media outlets based on their output. A lot of people don't have a lot of money to donate to things like supporting journalism, and they do so because they see a particular journalistic outlet as particularly valuable and worth supporting. They probably think this because they see a difference in the behaviour of that outlet and the mainstream journalism that has so consistently let them down.

If you see an outlet you support, not just disagreeing with your particular views, but actively engaging in behaviour you think is reprehensible, it becomes very difficult to justify paying that scarce money that could have gone elsewhere.

Commonspace has done good work, and I don't want to rehash all the stuff that's been complained about already, but I hope that the team at commonspace have a serious think about what's happened over the last while and endeavour to avoid some of the more egregious bits of it in the future. I really want to put money into things like commonspace, but I really don't want to feel like I'm just paying for some of the behaviour that I've seen recently.


Fri, 08/04/2017 - 00:50

The 'Yes' campaign was made up of dozens of disparate opinions, prejudices and agendas who all united under a common desire for independence. After 2014 the group held together in the belief that the momentum was unstoppable and change was inevitable. Neither proved to be the case and now that the chant is 'Free in 23' the factions are drifting apart.

Just as the union support has been fractured in the elections over the past 10 years, the independence movement will more and more have to cope with the differences being greater than the similarities.
Take a look at what you experience within the movement and consider for a minute what we on the other side have to put up with. For every sensible, considered response I get in a discussion there are dozens and dozens of offensive, abusive or just plain ignorant replies.

What chance is there of constructive debate and changing the minds of No voters if there is internal hatred? Your issues are bigger than you think…

On a different note, though I admire your commitment and the effort you clearly put into this venture your claim to be one of “…the only two independence-supporting daily outlets who employ journalists writing news (as opposed to platforms for opinion and analysis)” is unsupportable. Every news article and opinion piece you publish has a slant for independence. A news outlet reports the news without filters – you guys don’t.

Taysider's picture


Fri, 08/04/2017 - 01:01

I completely agree with Sheena and of other comments made.
I cancelled my s/o because of Angela Haggerty telling me what I should and should not read or think.
If AH doesn't like Stu then that's fine but don't tell me to feel the same.
I don't agree with what everyone says all the time but, that doesn't mean I should stop listening to what they say.
As a retired person my funds are limited but I will reinstate my S/O soon


Fri, 08/04/2017 - 07:25

A very welcome contribution and one that hopefully can take some of the heat out of what has been quite a dispiriting few weeks. The strength of our movement is diversity. How we respond to those within it but with whom we disagree with is also important. Well-meaning but incendiary responses to provocative articles have only made an awful situation more intolerable.

This is a time of frustration. Some people are still looking for a replay of 2014 but with a different outcome but the landscape has completely changed. We must recognise that and not become disorientated. We must not not replace healthy and credible criticism with personal attacks and online rammies.


Fri, 08/04/2017 - 08:56

My_opinion, you say a news outlet reports the news without filters. I am sorry, but this statement is just SO wrong, Scotland has to put up with news all the time, which is spun in a way to damage any aspirations we may have, to make Scotland seem as if it is failing, and to damage the SNP and whatever leaders they have at the current time. This is partly why people who are Yes are so frustrated and angry much of the time.

I always find it amazing how much Scotland is loved and admired by people who come here from elsewhere, and yet our own people generally don't have a high opinion of their own country. Well this is because of the continual negative propaganda we are fed. People need to wake up to it and we need to put out a positive and constructive vibe instead.

Justin Kenrick

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 08:58

Thanks Robin

For kindness
Against cruelty

When we hit out at others we do so because we feel crap about ourselves.

When we reach out to others to raise our concerns but treat them with respect as we do so (whatever their response), it's because we feel ok about ourselves.

Let's feel ok and help others feel ok (being able to feel ok is a precious thing)


Fri, 08/04/2017 - 11:44


You have fallen into the trap of assuming that I have a low opinion of Scotland because I don't support independence. That is simply not the case. I am fiercely proud to be Scottish, British and European (whether Brexit happens or not). It's not an either-or choice for me.

From my perspective the people who consistently talk down Scotland are the nationalists. According to them we have been subjugated for 300 years, have no say over our own affairs, feed off scraps from the Westminster table (Westmonster usually), the list goes on. It is only by being free that we can realise our full potential, though they never say how that will work...
Nationalists never make a positive case for independence. It's always negative. It's always 'when we are free we can do...'

I don't feel like that about Scotland. Yes, power is centralised in London. Every nation on earth has the same issue of a central power base and discontent on the periphery.
We spent 2 weeks touring Scotland this year for our summer holiday. Caithness was devoid of Saltires and SNP logos but had the Caithness flag everywhere. The locals complain of the persistent deafness of central government and the lack of understanding of their needs. It's Holyrood they are complaining about, not Westminster.

For real debate, everyone needs to see beyond their own prejudices. can't work for what is best for Scotland. They can only work for what's best for Scotland in the context of independence. They can NEVER take the step back to see if independence is actually what's best. That colours every article written and every opinion stated. It is no more objective than the new media you complain about. Spin is spin and ALWAYS twists truth.

florian albert

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 15:24

Two points come to mind after reading Robin McAlpine's article.

First, there has been a culture of denunciation amongst a minority in the pro-independence camp since the referendum was announced. It was directed outwards at a multitude of 'villains', particularly in the media.
In fairness, Robin McAlpine - and others - noted this and make their disapproval clear.
Second, it is hard to disconnect recent events from the wider political climate. The general election in June was a major setback for the independence campaign.
Political parties and movements are judged by their response to failure as well as to success.


Fri, 08/04/2017 - 15:57

Hi My_Opinion my reply to you was about media, which you inferred wasn't biased whereas CommonSpace is. Let's both agree that nobody is 100% impartial. I wasn't talking about you yourself. The SNP has done great things for Scotland, but they rarely make the headlines on the BBC or in our newspapers. That is my point. Mostly we get Scotland's failings. Independence will be refreshing and uplifting for us all, not least because the media will change and the country will start to have a different outlook.


Fri, 08/04/2017 - 17:05

I didn't agree with Angela's article, but she has every right to say it, just as I have every right not to like it. If I agreed with everything published by Common Space, I wouldn't waste my time reading it. I didn't cancel my subscription for the same reason. It is only by reading those that we don't always agree with that we learn anything. Keep up the good work and don't be disheartened by the detractors, there are more of us who appreciate all the work you and your team do on behalf of the Independence Movement.

David fae glesca

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 17:44

Well said and well needed, Robin. If I agreed with everyone on the Indy bus, I would know I am on the wrong bus.

nick gethins

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 08:03

Aye quite right Robin.

I understand that most people in our movement are by their nature passionate and stongly believe in their cause. Robust debate is part of a healthy poltical movement, something imo is not robust enough in the SNP ( I left the SNP, after being an activist for over a decade and candidate after NS backed Clinton).
The most important political development to come out of the Indy ref is this pluralistic and decentralised yes movement, it is vital we have a healthy movement based on respect and imo it is necessary for the yes movement to take up the mantle if the big vision is going to be put on the agenda. if we are in the gutter smearing each other then where will this get us?
I was pretty outraged with Cat boyd backing a unionist party, but demonizing her in the way some did shows a lack of maturity

. I've been living overseas for a decade so been missing out on a lot of the action back home. , What I can do is donate and I will be uping my donation to the CW as we need this more than ever.

Also, fair point re Jerry sadowizt, one of the most underrated comedians in the UK.


Sat, 08/05/2017 - 11:21

As a suggestion, don't touch political twitter/facebook with a barge-pole, and scrap the comments sections on Commonspace. The world would then be a more pleasant place.

Adrian Simmons

Sat, 08/05/2017 - 21:17

I very nearly cancelled my week old direct debit to Common Space because of that article. I found Jordan's arguments unconvincing and was disappointed at the extent to which he attacked other voices.

But as Robin suggests I bit my tongue, didn't comment and moved on.

Unfortunately the heavy promotion on Common Space's twitter feed kept fueling my annoyance, worse was Angela's apparent glee that it was driving so much traffic here.

I expect better from Common Space.

PS Can we add the world 'cult' as used by Jordan to the list of 'liars, traitors and cheats'.


Sun, 08/06/2017 - 05:48

Thanks Robin for another honest and insightful article. Regardless of the issues that gave rise to the recent round of cruel and aggressive responses, I think the question of why intelligent debate crosses a line to become vitriol and bullying behaviour is very worrying. I watched the movie 'I am not your negro' by black American author James Baldwin just before I read your article. Baldwin said that a race or group of people's inability to see themselves for what they really are is at the root of discrimination. The experience of discrimination in living memory should make us very very worried by this. I live in NZ where a current witch hunt is targeting the co-leader of the Green Party, who admitted giving false information to get more benefit as a single mother. That is of course illegal but to my mind the real wrong in that situation is that that was her best or only option - apart from letting her child go hungry. She is also a woman (Māori) who devotes her life to getting a better deal for others and for the planet we inhabit. Some people want her to resign. I'll repeat your question Robin - what then?

To me this endorses Baldwin's claim that those who discriminate - in this case against the poor - can't see themselves for what they really are. With the demise of the British Empire just a few generations back, is it any wonder they / we don't want to?

I'm already a contributor to CW and will consider if I can increase the amount. Voices of reason are critical in these troubled times and Common Space is one I really value. Stay strong and please don't give up.

John S Warren

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 09:24

This is the first time I have commented on CommonSpace. I simply wish to congratulate Robin McAlpine for a timely and much needed antidote to the rising tide of bad temper, ill-judged opinions, and badly written articles and comments that are washing up on the movement's shore. This will become easier only when we raise the standard of civilised debate that WE accept; not lower it. Otherwise we actually allow our opponents to set the standard of debate; and in my opinion they seem willing to exploit low standards that are certainly not acceptable to me.

All the media outlets which you defend are no doubt not perfect; but they do a good job in difficult circumstances and in a very hostile, often spiteful and sometimes repellant political environment.That is just how it is.

Incidentally I also liked your Newsnet podcast with Derek Bateman.

We are progressing, in spite of appearances, but be in no doubt; this task does not merely require conviction (which can be a problem among sometimes erratic supporters who too easily lose their cool, their sense and their judgement); but these pointless spats all too readily demonstrate that stamina and self-control is in short supply. The opposition likes your anger, and exploits it. It is their standard trope, and often the only effective tool in their armoury.

Keep going Robin; you have not only made a good point but established a standard. Insist on it. You will prevail.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 11:52

I'm for kindness.

But let's remember that there is no cruelty that has ever been tweeted that compares to the cruelty dished out routinely by Police Scotland when they arrest someone for peacefully expressing their political views.

Police Scotland - keeping people cruelly.

So let's have a robust debate but be ready to shake hands and give each other a well-deserved cuddle afterwards.

Peter Dow is a Scottish scientist and a republican socialist whose legal human rights are cruelly violated by the police and courts in Aberdeen, where he lives.

Peter Dow's political defence blog publishes the truth about the wrongful and unjust royalist arrests, prosecutions, convictions and punishments he endures.


Mon, 08/07/2017 - 23:55

Robin, with all due respect, this is the way a vocal section of indie supporters have been treating all but the most Saltirey-wavey citizens of Scotland for the past 5 or 6 years. The hate is just being focused inside the YesTent now.

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