As 2013 draws to a close there is that feeling of calm before the storm.  The festive celebrations have pushed the debate on independence into the background for a few days.
This political ceasefire will end with the sounding of the bells at midnight on December 31st.  The ending of Hogmanay will mark the beginning of a new year and a near nine month campaign that will culminate on September 18th with the referendum to end all referendums.

The world's eyes will fall on Scotland that day as one of the most enduring political unions ever seen faces being brought to an end.  No one knows how the chips will fall but in the weeks and months leading up to the vote, many will be trying to influence the result.

Newsnet Scotland hopes to play a role in that process by informing, as best we can, the debate on Scotland's future.

Our own journey started in the spring of 2009 when as a small newsletter we arrived in the in-boxes of people who had registered to receive Newsnet Scotland.  We end 2013 having become one of the most successful online news outlets in Scotland with a regular monthly readership of over 125,000.

As has been acknowledged by us before though, our readership total, though impressive, gives us little by way of real influence.  To achieve that, we need to increase our profile and penetration levels significantly.

Our crowdfunding appeal ends at midnight on Hogmanay.  At the time of writing it has raised an impressive £12,000.  As we enter the new year Newsnet Scotland will begin the task of honouring those donors who selected from our crowdfunding list of perks.

The appeal target was £40,000 and clearly that target will be missed.  The forty thousand pound goal was very ambitious but so too were some of the ideas that led to us choosing this figure. 

One such was a dedicated film crew whose role, as well as filming Newsnet Scotland organised debates, would have included pressing leading pro-Union politicians on issues mostly avoided by the traditional broadcast media.  Another included a hard-copy Newsnet Scotland, printed monthly and distributed door to door.

These ideas have now been shelved and thus our focus is now centred on what we can realistically achieve.

That includes publishing regular articles from established commentators.  We can reveal that we have commissioned two of Scotland's most respected commentators to write regularly for Newsnet Scotland.

In a new monthly column for Newsnet Scotland, Lesley Riddoch will give her views on topical events as we head towards referendum day.  Joining Lesley will be David Torrance who has also agreed to contribute regularly.  You can read David's review of 2013 in a specially commissioned end of the year feature to be published next week.

The contributions from Lesley and David will be framed by news articles from our freelance writers and other opinion pieces from our regular commentators including G.A.Ponsonby and Mark McNaught.

However good the content of any outlet, there is little point if those who would benefit most are unaware of the vendor's existence.  This is especially true in the case of non-traditional online outlets like Newsnet Scotland.

The need for citizen journalism as Scotland enters the final phase of the independence debate is starkly demonstrated by our exclusive revelation that the BBC had been found guilty of misleading the Scottish public over one of the key issues of the independence debate.

The media in Scotland is pro-Union and those who report on events will reflect the editorial line and culture of their respective employer.  This culture can sometimes lead to reporters indulging their own prejudices and deliberately lying as they pursue a pro-union agenda.

Many of these media commentators and bodies will be presented by our broadcasters as 'neutral' in the independence debate, when in fact they are nothing of the sort.

The strategy of Newsnet Scotland therefor will be to raise our profile and increase readership through a series of targeted leaflet campaigns.  We are currently looking into how best to achieve this and, if successful, we hope to double Newsnet Scotland’s readership to a quarter of a million before the referendum.

Other forms of advertising have not been ruled out, but we are mindful of the need to spend wisely.

Our Duggy Dug series of animations is almost complete with the fourth, on EU membership, about to enter production.  The first three dealt with oil, borders and currency and all three can be viewed here.

The first three animations were already funded prior to the crowdfunding appeal and the fourth had been commissioned with funding partly in place.

The crowdfunding appeal will allow one more animation, a fifth, to be commissioned.  This will focus on the possible consequences of a No vote and will see Duggy step into a future Scotland where free prescriptions, free bus travel and free tuition have all ended and welfare cuts imposed, but billions spent on a new nuclear weapon system that sits on the Clyde.

The Duggy Dug animations are designed to appeal to those people who might best be described as less engaged in the independence debate.  Those members of the electorate who turn off when the latest report from the OBR or CPPR are headlined by our newspapers and broadcasters.

People who have never heard of Barroso or Rajoy and have no idea what a lender of last resort is.  Most may vote Labour because that's just what they have always done … and some may not even vote at all.

What the animations are not designed to do is to inform those who are already immersed in the independence debate.  We will be actively promoting Duggy Dug when all five animations have been completed.

We have one area that needs addressing and that is the area of research and communication. 

Newsnet Scotland has, for some time, urged those who inhabit the online community to try to contribute positively to the independence debate.  Today we appeal to those who have the time, to consider becoming members of the Newsnet Scotland team.

We are particularly interested in people who are articulate and can communicate effectively.  Our aim is to have two or three individuals capable of telephoning organisations on our behalf in order to seek information and or quotes.

These organisations may from time to time be pro-Union politicians and/or their party spokespeople.  We need people who are polite but firm and who are calm when pressing these parties for a response.

Another responsibility for such volunteers would include the sending off freedom of Information requests to various bodies.

Newsnet Scotland has evolved into a respected news outlet.  People visiting our site will be met with high quality content beneath which lies commentary that is abuse free.  This is key if we are to influence those yet to make a decision on which side to give their referendum support to.

Producing quality content free of misinformation married to interaction devoid of abuse is absolutely vital for Newsnet Scotland.  One of the areas of weakness for the pro-independence campaign is the occasional thoughtlessness that pervades online messages.

Despite this, the site has found itself under attack and attempts at discrediting our content has been made by several high profile Unionist politicians and media commentators.  Such attacks will increase as the referendum nears if we are perceived to be a threat.

However in recognition of the fact that many people wish to engage in the independence debate in ways that allow more forthright and robust language, we are currently in the process of setting up a stand alone Newnet forum that will allow people to post comments on issues and topics they feel strongly about.  The NewsnetForum will be based on the Newnset brand and, we hope, will become an important addition to the thriving online social media community.

We hope to become bigger, better and more widely read.

Newsnet Scotland is taking a bit of a festive rest at the moment, it's battery recharging time.  We aim to hit the ground running in the new year.

[Newsnet Scotland had planned a feature article based on some of the worst political broadcasts by the BBC in relation to Scotland.  This feature has been delayed but will appear in the near future.]


# ScottyC1314 2013-12-26 22:33
David Torrance!.....not sure what to make of this. Should funds not be directed towards pro-independence writers & commentators? Torrance is capable of a thought provoking piece from time to time but finding little snippets of interesting insight in an article penned by a unionist commentator is not - in my humble opinion - a good use of our / my funds.
# Union City Blues 2013-12-26 23:06
I love the sound of the things you want to do so bunged in £100. I hope your plans encourage others to chuck in something. It is a small price to pay for winning the fight!
# WRH2 2013-12-26 23:22
I think what you have done so far is exceptional in the short time NNS has been online. Duggy is a real favourite of mine as he just gives the short and clear answers that we need. Simple and easy to understand. I look forward to seeing his next outing! It's disappointing that the appeal didn't get nearer the target but I suppose it's the festive season and people have less cash to spare. I hope everyone who reads NNS daily might think of giving a little through your own online donation route. Keep reminding everyone and also about any help needed for the leafleting campaign.
# cjmasta 2013-12-27 00:12
I have bought Newsnet leaflets before to distribute in my area and contributed many a time also(more cash on its way too. As soon as i`m back from my holiday in the new year I will be spending much of my spare time doing what I can for the YES campaign right up to the referendum.
Keep up the good work Newsnet, all the best for the new year. Lets hope it`s one to remember for all the right reasons.
I really think you should get some extra cash by advertising if you can. Every penny is gonna count in the coming year and by god it will be worth every one of those pennies if we achieve our goal of a free Scotland.
# creigs1707repeal 2013-12-27 00:43
Bravo NewsnetScotland . The London-controlled MSM in Scotland is an utter disgrace. They are certainly free to present their unionist argument but they are not free to spin and misinform and downright lie to people. Scotland absolutely NEEDS a pro-Scotland News vendor to counter the the blatant lies of the unionist press in Scotland and, most especially, the BBC. (I look forward to the day NNS has its own video News bulletins to combat the drivel from misReporting Scotland). The MSM & BBC must be challenged at every opportunity and alternative opinion (i.e. the actual truth) presented to people. The referendum debate has to be balanced--undecided voters need BOTH sides of the argument. We cannot be cheated from victory simply because the MSM & BBC have louder voices. We must all work to 'growing' NNS and have it become the news vendor of choice in Scotland.

# gregalach 2013-12-27 06:15
Why Torrance? We have to endure enough frustration caused by cascades of unionist propaganda in the usual media. I can think of far better uses for the
donations you are receiving. Riddoch is also questionable - she often sounds like she is confused about her position re independence and far from committed. I cant see either of them doing much to help the YES campaign over these vital final few months.
# ds12 2013-12-27 06:50
I can see the argument in using a unionist commentator however given the overwhelming bias in the Scottish media against Scotland becoming a normal country I can't see the sense in wasting money on having the unionists argument on here. We can get it by turning on the BBC.
# Hersel 2013-12-27 07:30
I have great doubts about the choice of both Riddoch and Torrance. From what I’ve heard so far from either of them I’m not at all convinced they are the right people for the job. Torrance especially comes across as pro union and Riddoch is not convincing enough with the Yes message. I get the feeling she is more Devo Max than 100% independence. That’s what the Yes message has to be, fact based and told with passion and conviction like you get from the likes of Elaine C Smith and Dennis Canavan and I don’t get that at all from either Riddoch or Torrance.
# VarisLoon 2013-12-28 14:23
Lesley was a Devo Max supporter until it was off the table. She is undecided which is a good place to be when investigaing the case both for and against Independence. Having heard her talk I have no doubt that her honest assessment of each story that that emerges and evolves will win over many undecideds to our cause.
# gus1940 2013-12-27 08:17
I shall never forget the time Lesley Riddoch and Nicola Sturgeon combined to humiliate, ridicule and destroy Jim Wallace on one of the early BBC debates.

I therefore have no doubt that Lesley will be an asset but have doubts re Torrance.
# taimoshan 2013-12-27 09:25
Under normal circumstances David Torrance would be a welcome asset to any news deliverer. However, Newsnet must consider that no unionist blog has a Nationalist contributor and instead of being fair, which they definitely are not, Newsnet contributors should be supportive of our cause. Just finished Torrance's biography of Alex Salmond - I found it contradictory and ever time he praised Salmond he followed it up with criticism. Why encourage the enemy into the tent - their tents are exclusive, smelly and riddled with holes!
# Leswil 2013-12-27 09:38
I agree with 90% of what you are intending to do,we do need to up our game as you say, because, well this IS IT, for us.
However,while Lesley Riddoch is an proclaimed YES voter, we cannot say the same for Torrence, who definitely does come across as pro Unionist, while sometimes fogs the line to make us doubt this.
Sorry, I do not see him making a YES contribution more especially as the referendum nears. I cannot imagine a positive from him, and that will not be helpful to our cause.
# G. P. Walrus 2013-12-27 09:48
I'm delighted to hear that Leslie Riddoch will be writing regularly for NNS. I am currently reading her book Blossom. She is not afraid of highlighting uncomfortable truths but each time I have found my hackles rising a little I have realised she is saying things that absolutely need to be said. She is an outstanding journalist and will undoubtedly be a great asset to NNS.
I am agnostic about David Torrance but do not in general expect to be in agreement with everything anyone writes. NNS should be about constructive well-argued debate and discussion, not dividing people into friends and enemies.
I look forward to reading all of this new output in 2014.
# X_Sticks 2013-12-27 10:15
I'm looking forward to 2014 with a feeling of optimism. Why? Because I have faith that the people of Scotland will vote to reject an increasingly remote and alien Westminster rule.

Newsnet Scotland will play a big part in that along with the other pro-independence websites and blogs. Just imagine where we would be if there was no internet - blind, un-informed and isolated. Just the way things used to be. Bombarded by a MSM that has only one goal; to perpetuate the rule of Scotland by westminster.

Much as I would like to contribute more to NNS I cannot. There are many things competing for support, both for our Scottish issues, and internationally . But be assured NNS that the support I do give will continue.

Fully support Leslie Riddoch, remain to be convinced about Torrance, but no doubt he'll spark some debate!

More power to you NNS, 2014, here we come!
# macgilleleabhar 2013-12-28 16:41
X Sticks

I agree wholeheartedly with your comment especially your point about Torrance sparking debate.
One of the the many things I like about NNS is that it is not "An echo chamber" but has a variety of opinions in the comments.
As for other contributors may I suggest Michael Fry, as in the days when the Herald was a quality newspaper, I used to enjoy his writing.
# farrochie 2013-12-27 10:58
Torrance, Riddoch and others live in that unique talking heads bubble that comprises politics and the media. They are reflecting what they hear in the tv studios and what they need to deliver to editors for their fees.

There are many writers in Scotland who can deliver analysis of the arguments. We need those who can present the complex legal, economic and currency discussions in terms that people understand and can develop the emotional side of the argument to counter the jingoism of the British media. In the end, everything is achieved by negotiation; scaremongering in the end is self-destructive.

Newsnet Scotland has been a great resource for the debate.
# Henderson 2013-12-27 11:19
David Torrance - why ?
# taimoshan 2013-12-27 12:03
GP Walrus - I agree we should not divide people into "friends and enemies" but in the real, stark, scary world of this debate the unionists have already done that. Think of what they call us, what they call Alex Salmond. Try to post a sensible riposte on one of their sites and see how much "constructive, well argued debate" you get!
# Henderson 2013-12-27 12:21
Ok 3rd time lucky ?

Would be interesting to know the reasoning of choice of David Torrance as a regular contributor.

What will he bring to the debate ?
# Breeks 2013-12-27 13:36
I know I've been busy over Xmas and away from the PC quite a bit, but I didn't know about your crowd source appeal.
£40k is quite a lot to raise in 5 days, but with respect, you need to raise the appeals profile and cast the net as wide as humanly possible.
People I think are getting a bit complacent about crowd source funding, but NNS is a safe pair of hands to see the money well spent.
I hope Wings, Bella, and all the other the other pro indy websites spread the word and inject some more momentum. We are running out of time to get the programs we might want to see being made, let alone being broadcast.
# alanski 2013-12-27 15:44
Breeks: the NNS crowd funding appeal started about 40 days ago, so i think they are just trying to raise as much as possible. £12,000 so far isn't bad considering the time of year etc, and I agree that they will spend the money well.
# colin8652 2013-12-27 15:51
Whilst i'm sure many of us who have been here from the start, would if they won Euromillions or something, donate more than enough to get the things newsnet Scotland needs. There are many very rich Scots out there who will benefit greatly from independence, who could easily dip into their pockets and not miss 40K. Its sad they have not. Anyway, bought a ticket for Friday night, i'll keep my fingers crossed :-)
# Shooie-B 2013-12-27 17:54
Too late to post on BBC article, even if you don't publish you will agree.

Swap Tea Party for Better Together and Fox News for BBC News, what a perfect match.
# pinkrose 2013-12-27 17:57
I think what is needed more than anything now is inspiration. Inspiring, uplifting articles which make people feel positive about a YES vote and all the possibilities which will open up to us as an Independent nation.

The strong emotion of fear has to be overcome with inspiration, excitement and hope. Facts alone won't do it. Will David Torrance do it, I personally don't think so, and Lesley Riddoch, very good though she is, can very often be negative and critical. What about Alan Bissett, or Derek Bateman, both very committed to YES, and both very inspiring.
# Edulis 2013-12-27 18:42
Various contributors are making the case for purity in terms of professional contributions but that is to miss the point that Newsnet is a blog where comments are every bit as important and sometimes more important than the
original article. So I say that it is up to those who comment to demolish any false argument or weak perspective that David Torrance expresses. That way we will better armed for the fight. As for Lesley she brings real quality to any forum. Any media outlet should be proud to have her on board.
# Hillside 2013-12-27 21:02
I've just read a long article over at the Guardian with predictions for next year. The predictions are by their foreign correspondents, but you would still think that the independence referendum might have warranted a mention, especially as David Cameron's (not definite) 'in or out of Europe' referendum was included. Seems that our own little country is barely noticed by the London media. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see how a YES vote would shake up their comfortable world of politics and change it beyond their recognition? Here's hoping.........
# dadsarmy 2013-12-28 01:26
Good choices Lesley Riddoch, half a YES, half a Devo-something, half not too sure. And David Torrance who wants change, but it's not the sort of change that's possible.

I think it will be interesting to see how both make the journey over the next 8.5 months, because I think it's a journey that as much as 50% of undecided Scotland will be able to empathise with, as they agonise over whether to stick with the "safe" NO, or take the plunge.

For them, perhaps to keep in mind that Independence is just the first step.

Happy New Year to all, keep the head as the article says, you attract more bees with honey, and there's no such thing as a NO voter!
# derick fae Yell 2013-12-28 10:38
I am delighted to hear that Lesley Riddoch will be contributing. Also don't have a problem with Torrance. He is a 'No' at present, but one of my criticisms of NNS is that it has been too pro-Yes. Just as unbalanced as the BBC, but on the other side. So a thoughtful No contributor makes sense - and will show the MSM up for the charade that it is. Good work on the BBC stuff btw
# Gin 2013-12-28 12:32
If the idea behind bringing in David Torrance is to broaden the appeal (and to some doubters the respectability) of NNS and other "online only" sites - then I congratulate your thinking.

The people who are currently NO or Unsure must be the target aduience to get engadged, as they need to be armed with the information to question what the MSM and BT want to focus on, and why they are doing so. It almost goes without saying, that those people are also more likely to know and get others of similar mind to take a look at something "new" than any committed Yes advocate could ever do.

If those who are already aware of David Torrance come to see what he has to say then read just one or two more articles, and the comments and ideas of others, then this might be much more successful in nudging opinions than bringing even the strongest Yes contributor on-board.
# jjmac 2013-12-28 16:14
I think that David Torrance has a more balanced view than say the likes of Alan Cochrane and i think that this forum needs a view from the other side.
Good choice NNS.
# carthannas 2013-12-28 17:00
Apart from greatly valuing Newsnet for myself, I also promote it to anyone interested in the referendum who wants to hear a positive case for Yes - a case many, as a result of reading the newspapers, and listening to or watching BBC Scotland, don't believe exists . For this reason alone, I too can't see the reason for inviting David Torrance to contribute to NNS. It will be a bit pointless referring people to the site, only to have opinions they've had thrust at them ad nauseam elsewhere repeated here. I personally don't see why NNS shouldn't be exclusively pro-Yes. There's more than enough on the other side to create a balance.

Sorry my first post is a moan. NNS really is a great site.
# Indy_Scot 2013-12-28 21:46
Maybe I am missing something, but I have to agree with many others, if we really wanted a unionist view off events surely we could just pay the BBC.
# chicmac 2013-12-29 20:27
I have made my views on this known before but as this is probably my last contribution, I will repeat them

It would take approximately 20 on line websites with similar 'readerships' and without overlap to that of NNS which were as unremittingly pro independence as the MSM is pro dependence, before you began to attain anything which might be described as a balanced written media in Scotland.

You would also need 3 or 4 equally pro-indy TV channels and a national radio channel plus umpteen other local radio and print outlets as well.

THEN you could say there was balance.

This latest attempt to introduce pro dependence opinion by NNS works against trying to redress the imbalance which clearly exists. It is a policy which cannot attain balance.

As such I personally no longer feel I can continue to support NNS, even if I acknowledge some of your writers still produce great factual articles.

So its bye from me.
# Guinphy 2013-12-29 23:33
Sorry NNS, I agree with a lot of the others that we don't need a unionist opinion writer on here to achieve 'balance'. Every single msm source is pro-union. This has been one of the few places where a fair pro-independence point of view could be seen. I also can't see how having a unionist writer carping on about Scots, Scottish independence and the Scottish Government (which David Torrance has done every time I've read something of his) is going to win over undecided voters.
# Lobby Dosser 2014-01-01 16:30
If you want another powerful and articulate journalist, what about Peter A Bell? He always seems able to hit the nail on the head.

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