A squalid sideshow – SNP MP denies involvement in silencing journalist, fails to prove case

The Nicolson/Wishart vs Daisley/Herald/STV, if that’s what it is, saga probably needs to come to an end soon. In yesterday’s The National newspaper Nicolson published what is in effect a defence of his claimed lack of involvement in the online silencing of Stephen Daisley. In it he managed sideswipes at one of the authors of the original Herald article and what someone else wrote about it and what the Herald writer did about that, and his view on what the writer did, and … and here am I worrying at it again (my first effort is here). This way madness lies in what is essentially a squalid sideshow to a much more fundamental and sinister issue I’ll return to before ending my small contribution to the saga.

The Nicolson article is worth a read. In my view it speaks for the man and ‘fit like he is’ only too well although you’ll draw your own conclusions about that. I just wanted to pick up a few contentious points he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with. I’ve rearranged them from the order in his article to suit my own thoughts. In each case his words are in italics together with my comment.

He says one of the problems about the print press in Scotland at the moment, it seems to me, is the blurring of the line between news and commentary. Note that he chooses to write this in The National,  ‘The newspaper that supports an independent Scotland’ – and that consistently blurs the line between news and commentary.

Quite egregiously, he also says I should state at the outset that I’ve never met [Daisley] and have nothing against him. But he has repeatedly challenged him on Twitter, as far back as 4 August 2015 when this observer at least, not knowing that the issue would develop over the course of the next year, felt able to ask ‘Is this SNP MP threatening a journalist?’ It was a reasonable assumption, even then, that Nicolson did have something against Daisley and still does – the something being that he sometimes comments in a way that Nicolson sees as critical of nationalism, the SNP, and indeed himself.

In short, Nicolson’s criticism is partial. As evidence, let me present two instances Nicolson does not cite:

  • in 2015 Daisley both tweeted and wrote approvingly about the nationalist web site Wings over Scotland. In March of that year an anonymous blog called ‘Ah Dinnae Ken’ wrote a highly critical article about that apparent approval called The Good, The Bad and The Daisley. It went so far as to ask if Daisley and STV could have been in ‘breach of broadcasting regulator OFCOM’s broadcasting code’
  • in May this year I caught Daisley taking what I thought was a partisan (pro-SNP) approach to the now illegal Australian immigrants championed by that party, urging the first minister not to ‘hand them over’ to the immigration authorities.

Note that neither in these cases nor any other would I call for the silencing of Daisley.

Nicolson has, or claims to have, his own theory on why Daisley was silenced – I suspect STV pulled the plug on Stephen Daisley because of his endorsement of the Twitter troll Brian Spanner … who spew(s) out a poisonous stream of misogynistic tweets of a grotesquely sexual nature …

How did he reach this conclusion? Entirely by himself, in which case based on what evidence? Or did he in fact have some contact with STV or their staff he has not revealed that led him to this suspicion? STV certainly haven’t mentioned anything in their opaque defence of their actions that suggests this might be a factor

Incidentally, at this point I was going to mount a defence of the very funny but occasionally extremely rude Brian Spanner Twitter account (@BrianSpanner1) but I see someone else has done so. I will say I don’t believe for one minute that ‘Spanner’ is a troll or a misogynist – Nicolson and other nationalists who make the claim should check the correct meaning of those words.

The whole Brian Spanner claim is at best a red herring, at worst a fabrication – unless Nicolson can produce evidence to support his alleged suspicion.

Finally, a few other statements Nicolson makes that may not be central to the Daisley case but merit comment:

  • The Herald accused me of bullying STV. No, the Herald was careful not to say that.  Their words were ‘“bullying” by the SNP’
  • [The authors] reported that I had set out … – to “intimidate” the company. No, the only time the word intimidate (note Nicolson puts the word in quotation marks) occurs in the article is in a tweet he quotes that J K Rowling sent Nicolson’s fellow MP Pete Wishart
  • … I enjoy political debate. A disingenuous assertion from an elected politician who blocks many unionists on Twitter.

What Nicolson’s article doesn’t provide is the one thing many people want – a clear and unambiguous statement that neither he, nor Pete Wishart, nor the SNP have had anything to do with the silencing of Stephen Daisley. I’ll help with a form of words that could fit the bill:

Neither I, nor Pete Wishart, nor the SNP, formally or informally, have done, written or said anything to STV or anyone else that was intended to impact adversely on the position of Mr Daisley or affect STV’s editorial decisions in relation to him or his work.

It’d be quite simple. He might have to check with Wishart and party HQ that the statement was true for their part but I’m sure people would be willing to wait.

Without that sort of statement, the Herald article and the increasing number of similar pieces on the subject by professional journalists remain credible.

In my introduction to this article I referred to the silencing of Stephen Daisley as ‘a squalid sideshow.’ But it is also indicative of that ‘much more fundamental and sinister issue’ I mentioned. Put simply, that is the SNP’s desire not just to govern but to control. We see it in many areas of national life. In the case of the media it reaches its pinnacle in their desire (thwarted praise the Lord) to have the regulation of broadcasting devolved to the Scottish parliament. Add that to their behaviour towards a sceptical media during the referendum, the constant feeling that ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us,’ and their sense of national mission, and I feel justified in my use of the word sinister.

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7 Responses to A squalid sideshow – SNP MP denies involvement in silencing journalist, fails to prove case

  1. Eric Sinclair says:

    Brings to mind the words of Albert Schweitzer: “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well Eric, thankfully Scotland’s nationalism is of the civic and peaceful variety. Thanks for the pointless contribution though which is as pointless as the article itself. Let me remind you of something Pete Wishart himself said:

    “Unused to having their views challenged many traditional journalists retreat into a self affirming huddle hitting out dismissively at a more demanding and critical readership.
    They cannot expect to be exempt from challenge when they have such a privileged position in the debate about our nation.”

    Sums the situation up well.


    • Roger White says:

      Thanks for commenting Craig. I don’t believe that all Scottish nationalism is of the civic variety – plenty of less pleasant aspects out there. Given a choice of quotes between Schweitzer and Wishart I’m afraid I’d go for Bert not Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Eric Sinclair says:

      Thank you, Craig. I am sure you are probably one of the “civic and peaceful” kind. However, there was plenty of evidence of a rather nasty (and infantile) kind during the referendum campaign. I have given your comment some thought, but I cannot accept that my response to the article was pointless – nor indeed was the article itself pointless since it seems to have stirred some mild interest among at least two readers.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. longshanker says:

    Thanks for the pingback Roger.

    You know I’m no fan of the SNP or their politicians, but in this case I believe Nicolson made some valid points. Daisley frequently crossed the line of impartiality expected of a broadcaster in his STV commentary. His pro-Thatcher, pro-Zionist and pro-right wing views permeated a multitude of his editorials and he even managed to out scorn the likes of the Daily Mail and the Telegraph at their finger wagging finger pointing worst.

    So I’m not surprised he got himself into hot water. Broadcasters, unlike newspapers, are legally bound to be impartial. Take a look at section 5 of the OFCOM rules.

    In Daisley’s favour, Wishart and Nicolson should have been told to sling their hook by STV, on principle alone. But I suspect future funding etc has been mentioned in a carrot and stick manner by the erstwhile SNP politicians.

    However, Daisley’s only got himself to blame, so I don’t have a great deal of sympathy. Which is a shame. He’s an undoubted talent. Some of his analysis bordered on the excellent.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Roger White says:

      Thanks for the comment. I guess we can agree to disagree on some of Daisley’s merits, although I recognise much of what you say. My concern in this case was the (do we still have to say?) possibility of political interference. Apologies for not checking it was OK to use your blog post.


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