Well, my post on ‘Get ’em young’ – the SNP’s approach to schoolchildren unleashed a barrage of comments. With one exception (see the original post) it was all on Twitter. So rather than let it disappear into cyberspace I thought I’d do a round-up and response here, where it’s easier to set out a full argument (I’ll ignore the usual Twitter fringe of abuse and idiocy).
The first point is that I was very careful in the language I used to describe the allegations that had been made. Some of my challengers were much less so, and I suspect many had not read my article. A number of people posted the same image listing school visits made by Mr McCann (‘Here’s one I prepared earlier’) ignoring the fact that I described many such visits by any MP/MSP as entirely legitimate.
Some, as always, played the man not the ball. McCann had ‘form’ (unspecified). His informant, shock horror, sold ‘stripper dresses’ online and was ‘drunk.’ No evidence provided of course and all irrelevant.
A fair number thought, completely erroneously, that I was talking about the teaching of history in Scottish schools. As the parent of three children who studied history at secondary level I have views on how it is taught, but probably not the same as my interlocutors. I was also asked if my parents were beaten at school for speaking Gaelic. I can confirm that the answer is no. Since they both went to school in London before 1930 an outburst of the Gàidhlig might have caused some confusion.
The most substantive comment made was that McCann’s claims were false. Several people cited a statement that South Lanarkshire council had made, in these terms
Sth Lanarkshire council have investigated it & found the allegation groundless … you do know the labour council has called his allegations tosh? … even the Labour council says this is bullshit … councils bosses state no such meetings happen, council bosses are labour.
It’s worth quoting what the council actually said. I can’t find a press release on their web site so rely on STV’s version of it
Jim Gilhooly, executive director of education resources, said: “It is worth noting that these allegations are anonymous, so must be treated with caution. Furthermore, our secondary schools have all confirmed that there are no such political meetings organised within school premises at lunchtime or any other part of the school day. The council does ensure that as part of the curriculum there is an appropriate level of democratic debate and understanding at its schools, but we are also committed to ensuring that no pupils are subjected to any sort of undue influence. That is also true of other facilities run by the council.”
That’s not quite what was claimed on Twitter but it’s fair enough and I wouldn’t criticise it as far as it goes. The council is right: the allegations are anonymous in the sense that individuals who are said to have made claims at an SNP meeting have not been named. As an ex-council employee I know that anonymous claims are always more difficult to deal with. They may be malicious but there may also be valid reasons why a complainant wishes to remain unidentified. This case is slightly different in that (see screenshot below of a local press cutting) there is said to be a recording of all this and the complainant (McCann) is not anonymous.
East Kilkbride News 25 March 2015
That leaves three possibilities.
- McCann and/or his informant are lying about what was said. We must assume not because of the recording and the fact that no-one said to be at the meeting – including Linda Fabiani MSP, her partner, and the local parliamentary candidate – has either denied the meeting took place or what seems to have been said at it.
- The claims made at the meeting, or some of them, are false or exaggerated. This is possible. It’s something we may all be prone to, especially in circumstances where we want to make clear our own role in a favoured cause.
- The claims, at least some of them, are true.
The interesting point for me is that although Linda Fabiani is quoted by STV as saying McCann’s ‘extraordinary and offensive comments are completely unacceptable’ she does not say they are incorrect. I noted previously the claim that ‘Linda Fabiani and their parliamentary candidate were both present and they didn’t take exception to any of this.’ I believe there is still a case to answer and Ms Fabiani could do so very easily with a brief statement along the lines of
What some people said at the meeting was wrong. There are strict rules about what political activity is acceptable in and around schools and I agree with them.
I await with interest but, as usual, without much hope.