By G.A.Ponsonby
Two BBC Scotland reporters were criticised this weekend, the journalistic impartiality of Chick Young and Derek Bateman was questioned.
Neither of these two 'attacks' came from pro-independence campaigners.  The first was from Dundee FC Chief Executive Scot Gardiner who was less than pleased with the behaviour of BBC Scotland football reporter Mr Young.

The second was contained in a tweet from Labour peer George Foulkes who attacked the integrity of one of the few BBC Scotland reporters trying to provide decent mature coverage of the independence debate. 

According to Mr Foulkes, BBC Scotland’s Derek Bateman is biased and his Saturday morning show is nothing more than "Nat bias".

The two examples come as the Scottish media ramps up its campaign against what it claims is online abuse from supporters of independence.  The criticism of online independence supporters followed claims by a pro-Union comedienne that she received death threats after mocking the SNP’s currency options post-independence.

The claims by Susan Calman have featured prominently across BBC Scotland programming and led to headlines from several pro-Union newspapers linking the SNP and independence campaigners to the alleged death threats.

However at no point has anyone produced evidence of these death threats, although there are examples of obnoxious and offensive posts having been made towards Ms Calman.  Indeed even Newsnet Scotland had to delete some posts from our Facebook page after several were deemed unacceptable by our social media controller.

BBC Scotland has gone into overdrive this last few days with several programmes providing a platform to guest commentators who have used it in order to mount attacks on supporters of independence.  There’s no doubt that there exists those who are not able to exercise restraint and discipline when posting messages, but the narrative from BBC Scotland has helped those with an agenda to portray the problem as one exclusive to the pro-independence online community.

The narrative of course serves the pro-Union campaign well.  The traditional Scottish media are overwhelmingly pro-Union and as one would expect, journalists who adopt a pro-Union stance are afforded a higher profile than their pro-independence counterparts.

If the only vehicle outwith the control of the Unionist media, the internet, can be discredited by lumping the small number of loons together with the more eloquent online contributors then the intelligent and legitimate questioning of output from pro-Union media loses credibility and impact.

Unionism has its own problem with online abuse as the death threats aimed at Nicola Sturgeon and other SNP leaders testify to.  Newsnet Scotland has also been on the receiving end of puerile threats and abuse, we deal with it by binning it.

There’s a danger that by allowing this demonisation of one side in the independence debate, that they then become dehumanised.  Currently the pro-Union commentariat are promoting a term first coined by George Foulkes 'cybernat'.

The term, when used by the media and Unionists, is one of abuse.  Like terms used throughout history the aim is to dehumanise whole swathes of people and thus render them less worthy of respect than 'normal' people.  It's a sad irony that those alleging abuse are adopting abuse in order to de-legitimise their political opponents.

'Normal' people are allowed to participate in the great debate, the terms of which are being dictated by those who control the media.  But the 'cybernats' are foul, abusive and obnoxious bullies – their views are unworthy. 

The tactic draws in the SNP by accusing the party hierarchy of controlling and coordinating these 'cybernats'.  It is of course false, but reported as credible nonetheless.

Closing down debate

The 'cybernat' is trying to stifle debate, trying to 'bully' decent, hard-working reporters into silence.  They attack 'honest journalists' who are only reporting the 'facts' and 'threaten' those who disagree with them.  It's straight out of Orwell's 1984, and reminiscent of Animal Farm where all are equal but some more equal then others.

In this Orwellian media world British nationalism is the 'victim' and Scottish nationalism the 'bully' trying to silence its opponent.  That the only examples of silencing thus far has been the attempts by the No campaign to block a satirical video and the closing down of an Arts site after a legal threat by the No campaign’s biggest donor, is ironic.

Ian Taylor's legal threat against National Collective, Wings over Scotland and the Herald newspaper was an example of just such an attempt at silencing criticism. 

Mr Taylor’s half million pound donation to Better Together after he held a secret meeting with its head, Labour MP Alistair Darling, has cause the No campaign embarrassment after Taylor’s company, Vitol, was revealed to have paid a war criminal one million dollars.  There were also business links to the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein as well as Libya, Iran and Syria.

Strangely, despite the donation being raised twice in Holyrood and once in the House of Commons, it has featured less in the BBC’s news coverage than the Susan Calman issue.  Indeed in a rather bizarre and very short item on the Taylor donation three weeks ago, Newsnight Scotland managed to turn the story on its head by attacking pro-independence web sites.

The journalist who made the claims complained to Newsnet Scotland (an attack?) that he had not been contacted prior to us publishing an article that crtiicised the item.  We invited Severin Carrell to draft an article containing his own views and we would publish ... we are still waiting.


It's this level of news manipulation and selective punditry that is causing frustration and building resentment amongst pro-independence supporters.  Claims by Unionists that BBC reporters have been 'attacked' are not expanded upon - are all BBC reporters criticised or is the criticism more specific?

One name that has been mentioned is BBC Scotland’s business and economy editor Douglas Fraser.  In a Newsnight Scotland item last week it was claimed that Mr Fraser had been the victim of abuse after claiming the Loch Ness Monster did not exist.

If true of course, then one might be compelled to ask just how Mr Fraser knew that this abuse came from someone who supports independence?

We at Newsnet Scotland have criticised Mr Fraser, highlighting his comparison of the SNP with North Korea as well as his peculiar habit of mixing business news with politics.

Our criticism is always evidence based and one example of Mr Fraser’s habit of painting a pessimistic picture of areas of the economy crucial to the independence debate came just over a year ago with a claim that the Scottish government had withheld information relating to a decision by Doosan to postpone planned investment in Scotland’s renewables sector.

Newsnet Scotland questioned the handling of the news by Mr Fraser and other BBC Scotland presenters, who had claimed that the decision had been based on referendum 'uncertainty' and that the news had only just been announced.  We revealed that the decision had in fact been reported months earlier by industry magazine reNews and referendum uncertainty played no part in the company's decision.

Scotland's renewables sector is thriving and the future looks very encouraging with investment flooding in.  However take a look at Mr Fraser's item on Reporting Scotland from April last year to see how bleak a picture he painted.

There are scores of examples of such news manipulation from the BBC and it's this that is breeding resentment from licence payers who are unwilling to remain silent.  Some of course are unable to exercise the required discipline, and being less articulate than one would wish, are prone to vent that frustration in an angry email or online post.

It should also be noted that name calling is not the preserve of online amateurs who take issue with those hard working 'honest' journalists.  When at the Herald newspaper, Mr Fraser frequently penned articles thought to be rather less balanced than one might wish to have seen.

Mr Fraser's response to being regularly taken to task by online posters was to label them "vermin".  In 2008, when the newspaper was about to announce redundancies, Mr Fraser left and joined the BBC.

However not all BBC Scotland journalists are held in such poor regard.  Mr Fraser’s wife Isabel is one of the best reporters on BBC Scotland and has gained considerable respect from pro-independence supporters.  Along with the aforementioned Derek Bateman, they are two of the most respected journalists at Pacific Quay.

It’s rather telling that the two BBC Scotland reporters singled out for attack by Labour politicians have been Ms Fraser and Mr Bateman.  Following a shocking attack on her integrity by Labour MP Ian Davidson, Ms Fraser has been replaced as presenter of Newsnight Scotland and the Sunday Politics Show and now appears mostly on weekend radio.

Another who can expect to be sent to the Saturday morning salt mine by BBC Scotland chiefs is David Miller, who is fast establishing himeslf a reporter of integrity, questioning both sides in this debate with equal rigour.

There's been very little mature analysis of the role of the internet and just why independence supporters have embraced it whilst their pro-Union counterparts have a much smaller online footprint.

The reason is obvious, in that Unionism doesn’t require the internet to get its message across.  The BBC and newspapers do not require any persuading to run a story based on pro-Union claims.  The Susan Calman story is a perfect example of the almost subconscious synergy that exists between the print media and broadcasters.

Incredibly, we have yet to see concrete evidence of some of the accusations levelled by Ms Calman against the pro-independence online movement.  Bizarrely, evidence of shocking online messages and threats by Unionists is freely available, including threats made against another Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle on a pro-Union twitter account.

Also issuing sinister online messages threatening the Scottish comedian was far right Unionist group 'Britain First' who offered anyone who knew Mr Boyle's address free membership.  These kind of pro-Union groups are the ones that the Scottish media would rather we were not told about.

Curiously, or should that be predictably, these online threats weren't picked up by either the BBC or the Scottish press.

The fact is that Unionists fear the internet, it has allowed opponents of the Unionist Status Quo - not always nationalists - to challenge the views of people who hitherto were beyond scrutiny.

It’s rather telling that there appear few, if any, satirical comedic digs that have not had as their target, the SNP, Scotland and independence when broadcast by the BBC or published in main stream media.  Cartoons, magazine covers, satirical shows and broadcasts from Susan Calman have all taken an anti-SNP/independence stance when stepping into the referendum debate.

One of the worst examples still to be acknowledged by BBC Scotland was the shocking denegration of Scotland's flag by Scotland on Sunday which replaced the St Andrew's Cross with a nazi swastika.

When they insult us we are told to get a sense of humour, when we question them they complain of being attacked.

The internet is a godsend for the pro-independence movement and all attempts to demonise it and non-Unionist commentators should be resisted.  Without the internet then many key stories may never have seen the light of day.

Truth will out and facts will prevail.  The BBC in Scotland and its favoured political pundits will have to get used to being scrutinised, questioned, challenged ...

... and satirised.


# thejourneyman 2013-05-05 22:55
Just watched Isabel Fraser interviewing Ian Davidson again and cannot for the life of understand why the BBC, assuming it has a balanced approach to reporting politics, would remove someone so capable to replace them with the wee boy just out of Uni that is Andrew Kerr. For god's sake he struggles to read questions that are written down and has no gravitas whatsoever. Bring back Isabel.
# foggyFTW 2013-05-06 00:41
Does anyone know why Isabel Fraser was replaced?
# clootie 2013-05-05 23:08
The BBC's reputation is a myth created by them. They do have good reporters but the establishment(W hitehall)is in full control of the output and the slant of any story.

I would trust FOX news more than the BBC now.

Thank goodness for the Internet and I mean that in a far wider context than the Independence debate.

A state controlled media is a bad thing in any country.
# Adrian B 2013-05-05 23:37
Ian Smart (ex President of Law Society & Labour man) has been miss behaving on twitter again. Jack McConnell also waded in earlier tonight.
# From The Suburbs 2013-05-06 07:45
Double standards from BBC and MSM.

No coverage of this or "death threat" to Frankie Boyle who is far better known than Susan Calman.
# Jamieson 2013-05-06 11:30
Surely Smart should be charged with making a racist remark in his tweet. I noticed Aamer Anwar queried what Smart has said. And I hope he takes it further.
# Ysabelle 2013-05-05 23:39
The BBC are a disgrace, and it's not just the Scottish independence issue. They've completely failed to stand up to the UK government or report the really important stories. I doubt most people in England know what's happened to their NHS. What's galling is that people are expected to pay for state propaganda and for the burying of important news. There's far too many privately educated people at the top who have no idea how ordinary people live. They are completely out of touch and their journalism shows it on a day to day basis.
# Independista 2013-05-06 00:29
Excellent analysis by Mr Ponsonby.
But why should it surprise anyone that the BBC, who for decades, not only employed sex offenders and perverts, but who actually covered up their activities, would shy away from shunting their most talented people to the ‘Saturday morning salt mine’?
The surprise is that they managed to actually report that the latest outrage to emerge is likely to cost us – the licence payers, a fortune in compensation to the victims.
How glad must BBC Scotland be that they have Susan Calman’s brush with nasty cybernats to muddy the waters up here in North Britain.
The victim in this case is the truth.
# oldnat 2013-05-06 00:55
BBC Scotlandshire has a view on this issue.
# cuckooshoe 2013-05-06 17:42
An excellent piece.. Hope someone brings it to the attention of Mr Foulkes, Ms Calman and Mr Smart.. Would like to have their thoughts on the tweets reproduced at the end of the article..
# Robabody 2013-05-06 18:03
And a fine example of a 'responsible' unionist website contained therein too!
# G. P. Walrus 2013-05-06 06:42
NNS coverage is so valuable in documenting the failure of mainstream media organisations to cover the independence issue objectively (and there are so many other issues similarly badly covered).
# Marian 2013-05-06 07:04
The BBC charter is just a fig leaf to try and give some legitimacy to what is in reality a state-sponsored propaganda machine.

That is why complaints to the BBC are fobbed off with disdain and why they can operate with impunity free from Freedom Information legislation and any other scrutiny that could expose their close links with Whitehall's spooks who routinely plant stories via the BBC and MSM "in defence of the state".

The sooner Scots wake up to this the sooner we will have a fair fight on our hands.
# Macart 2013-05-06 07:23
According to the likes of Mr Foulkes an unbiased media is one in which Westminster and in particular Labour facts go unchallenged. Which is a peculiar view of unbiased in my opinion, but there you go.

Either way 'in his dreams' comes to mind. The internet is the last 'free' soap box where opposing views can be heard. Barking bigots of any stripe can easily be dealt with, thats what mods and site rules are for. That certain elements within the union supporters, leadership and media have been by far the worst offenders in this bracket will remain an unpublished fact. That's just the way the opposition operate and that's why we want shot of them in the first place. What we can do to help is basically 'keep the heid' regardless of provocation. Their own mouths and actions will do the rest, as evidenced by the likes of Davidson, Foulkes and other prominent unionists. Bullies and bigots can't help themselves, they have to be seen to be large and in charge, even when they're not.
# pomatiaH1 2013-05-06 08:05
Many of the politicians on the Unionist side seem to have completely lost sight of the fact that after the Referendum there is a General Election, and they, and their Party, will be judged by what they are doing now.
BBC Scotland and BBC should do a little research into Brand Names. If one part a brand is tarnished the whole becomes affected.
The BBC trades on it's 'fairness and balance' label throughout the world.
Already there was the Luxembourg letter about the BBC complaining of bias in reporting it's reply about Scotland in the EU.
BBC UK should be paying attention to what its BBC Scotland reporters are doing and the affect they can have on its reputation worldwide.
# Robabody 2013-05-06 08:42
Excellent article, well put and timely.
# Breeks 2013-05-06 08:44
I believe the blame for the UK's attitude towards Europe which in turn has led to the rise of UKIP, can be laid squarely at the feet of the BBC and mainstream media.

I accept there are some difficult issues with Europe, but in my own experience, if you probe a little deeper, the frustration and antagonism which many people feel towards Europe is deeply felt, but it often has the shallowest and insubstantial foundation.

Just as a unionist cannot articulate the positive case for the Union, so a Euro-skeptic can often struggle to articulate the real reason why they don't like Europe.

Just as the BBC doesn't like to report good news about Scotland, when was the last time you heard a positive and constructive story about Europe?
# proudscot 2013-05-06 09:25
George Foulkes, the blinkered anti-SNP, anti-independence, unelected House of Lords champagne-socialist member. This person, who has abused Alex Salmond both verbally and in print, now complains about criticism being aimed at unionist press and supporters who talk Scotland down. Pot/kettle/hypocrite spring to mind!
# Clydebuilt 2013-05-06 09:45
re articles in Wings Over Scotland, casting doubt over alleged death threat, why are pro independence Journalists such as Iain Bell and Fiona Hyslop Msp accepting the accusations. Surely the pro Independence side are missing a trick here. If the listening public heard the requests for evidence being made and that no approach has been made to the police then seeds of doubt in the MSM would be sown.
# Dcanmore 2013-05-06 09:47
Of course one of the reasons with the ramping up of the faux outrage of cybernattery by the MSM and Labour is to get sites like NNS, Wings, Bella and NC taken down. They are a threat, especially with the recent very successful fundraising campaigns and large jumps in unique visitors per month.
# Breeks 2013-05-06 10:27
Regarding threats and intimidation, let's not forget either:-

"All the rallies have been peaceful but enough's enough. Sturgeon is forgetting her history and needs reminding".

- Acutely sinister comments followed by Unionist protestors appearing outside her constituency office.
# Taysider 2013-05-06 10:48
Might someone produce wee badges or lapel pins of Cybie the cybernat?
# gus1940 2013-05-07 11:36
Good idea - I would buy one and a car sticker.
# call me dave 2013-05-06 11:11

Odd story until you see that personal ambition plays second fiddle to operating in a team for the interests of the electorate that voted for him. So much for his principles then.

'Sinking ship haven for rodent as it abandons lifeboat'
SNP councillor Fergus Hood moves to Lib Dems
# Viking Girl 2013-05-06 15:41
I'm suspicious about this sudden surge of criticism against Cybernats. It comes in the week after all the political scaremongering, and seems to be suggesting that negative or abusive on-line activity is solely being generated by pro-independence folk. Could this be part of a black propaganda exercise? Call me a conspiracy theorist if you like, but I wouldn't put anything past the folk in whose best interests it is to keep the U K together.
Lord Foulkes. Well, that's a strange title for a Labour man. I recall when Michael Foot retired, he was asked if he would be going into the House of Lords. He replied that he wanted to bring it down, so why would he want to go in there! There's Labour and there's Labour.
I miss Isabel Fraser. Her gentle but incisive questioning is necessary at the moment. It's a scandal that she seems to have been sidelined. Bring her back please.
# brusque 2013-05-06 16:15
I am totally disgusted about the comments made by Ian Smart; which have been completely ignored by the MSM!

Seems a good time to remind people of this particularly interesting report:-

A report presented in April 2012 in the House of Commons entitled "Discourse on Scottish Independence - Politicians versus Publics". Dr Mark Shephard who hosted the discussion was investigating social media comments on the Scottish independence debate. Here are some of the findings. "based on analysis of online comments under articles on independence, show the vast majority of posts are anti-SNP/independence and anti Salmond rather than anti-English/anti-union" "in terms of language, too, comments about the SNP and independence are much more vitriolic than about the union and UK.

Nothing has changed, that was a year ago, and if anything things have gotten worse.
# ButeHouse 2013-05-06 21:34
People in Power for Power's sake always fear that which they can't control.

This article effectively pays those of us in the Cybernat camp a huge compliment, we are clearly upsetting their carefully laid out Apple Cart by removing the very thin layer of good apples to expose huge numbers of vile rotting layers of festering fruit which withers and dies as soon as light hits it.

Nothing worse than having your carefully constructed lies exposed by people you can't control, thus this current hue and cry in an effort to shut us up.

On the other hand some of us give them numerous hooks to hang their complaints on so let's keep our arguments wholesome and above all truthful.


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