By a Newsnet reporter
A former Labour First Minister has been caught up in a twitter row after claiming that the SNP’s civic nationalism was a sham and that scratching beneath the surface exposed a “nasty underbelly”.
Jack McConnell made the claim in a series of tweets in which he appeared to imply that “too many” independence supporters were racist Nazis.

The former Motherwell MSP who once described his constituency as a "pigsty", and is now a member of the House of Lords, posted the tweets after being challenged to back up earlier claims that his twitter in-box was full of “bile” from independence supporters.

Responding to messages challenging some very serious allegations made by the Labour peer, McConnell tweeted to pro-Labour blogger Ian Smart: “I have had a quiet time from the cybernats recently - then I comment on your tweet today and they go ballistic! Or colonistic?”

He added: “My twitter in-box full of bile tonight. Do you get this reaction every time?”

The row started after an attack by Mr Smart on Rory Scothorne who is a student and the co-founder of independence supporting arts site, National Collective, after the latter had written an article on reaction to the debate over why so few indigenous Scots are to be found at the top of many Scottish organisations, especially arts bodies.

Mr Scothorne’s article followed controversial pieces from Scottish authors Alasdair Gray and James Kelman which dealt with a similar theme.  Mr Gray’s use of terms such as “colonists” and “settlers” to distinguish ‘transient’ career-driven heads from those who are willing to make a more long term investment in Scotland, has led to an outcry with many commentators denouncing the use of the terms.

However the heated debate has also led to Scottish Unionists accusing Mr Gray and other commentators of displaying an anti-English sentiment they claim is inherent in Scottish nationalism.

Responding to Mr Scothorne’s article, Ian Smart described it as “Truly bizarre and ignorant analogy even from the SNP”.

The tweet led to an exchange between Mr Smart and Mr Scothorne that eventually saw former Labour MSP Jack McConnell wade in by ridiculing the education of Mr Scothorne.

Responding to Mr Smart’s attack on Mr Scothorne, the unelected Labour peer tweeted “and he says he is a student of history and politics.....“

Ignoring a request for an apology from the student, McConnell followed the personal attack by accusing Mr Scothorne of excusing anti-English sentiment in his article and tweeted: “Poorly disguised anti-English sentiment is not 'civic nationalism' it is crude, divisive, inaccurate and wrong in principle.”

When pressed by both Newsnet Scotland and SNP MP Pete Wishart to provide examples of the “bile” he claimed had filled up his twitter in-box, Mr McConnell refused, claiming that he did not want to offend his “decent followers”.

However Mr McConnell then went further by suggesting that some independence supporters were racist Nazis.

“Sadly there are many who hide behind a guise of 'civic nationalism' but if you scratch beneath the surface... “ he tweeted.

Asked to clarify his innuendo by another tweeter, Mr McConnell then replied: "No innuendo Edward, I think what I said was quite clear. And true. Depressingly."

Then, in an extraordinary reference to a ‘racist nazis’ tweet by Mr Smart, Mr McConnell said: “… "many" is NOT 'all', but there are far too many I'm afraid.”

This was a reference to an earlier message from Labour blogger Ian Smart who, in a reply to an angry independence supporter, tweeted: “Keep calm. Nobody said you were all racist nazis. Patently many of you aren't. “

In a statement to Newsnet Scotland, Mr Scothorne said: "Mr McConnell has clearly misunderstood my article.  In it, I condemn both anti-Englishness and Alasdair Gray's use of the terms "settler" and "colonist", calling for the debate to move back to the far more important and relevant critiques of privilege, elitism and inequality that inform Gray and Kelman's essays.

"Sadly, he chose to throw around unfounded accusations of racism instead of looking for something constructive to take our of a rather uninspiring debate.  He need only take a quick glance at National Collective's website to see that supporters of independence are passionate about breaking down barriers between people, not building them."

It isn’t the first time Jack McConnell has been embroiled in an ‘anti-English’ row.  In June 2006, prior to the World Cup, the former Labour First Minister was at the centre of a row after claims he had fuelled anti-English racism by snubbing the England football team.

Asked prior to the tournament kicking off whether he would be supporting England, Mr McConnell said: “No, I will not.  Scotland is not there and that’s disappointing.  And there are people who think that as First Minister I should automatically support England instead.  But football is not about politics, so I will not be.”

Scottish tourism chiefs were reported to have been concerned that the then First Minister’s remarks would hit the industry amid reports that trips from England had been cancelled as a result.

Anti-English – Anti-Scottish

The twitter comments from Mr McConnell are similar in tone to many attacks by Unionist politicians and commentators in recent months.  In a recent speech on Scottish education Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont claimed the SNP’s policy on free education was “anti-Scottish”.

The claims that free University education is anti-Scottish followed accusations made last year by Senior Scottish Labour MP Jim McGovern who said the Scottish government’s decision to offer free education to students domiciled in Scotland was in fact anti-English.

He said: "I've got serious concerns about the Scottish Executive [sic] saying that we will not charge Scottish students to go to university, but we will charge English students,'' he said. ''You know, for me, that does not smack of patriotism — that smacks of racism."

When later challenged to explain his remarks, the Labour MP suggested that the SNP based their policies on a “hatred” of the English.

Earlier this month despite anti-English racist attacks falling by 17% over the last twelve months, some Scottish newspapers claimed that there was a rise in anti-English sentiment.  The headlines led to a recent BBC Scotland programme ‘Call Kaye’ broadcasting a live Radio discussion on the apparent increase that witnessed many people phone in to attack the SNP accusing the party of causing the ‘rise’.

In February 2010 Scottish Labour MSP Cathie Jamieson accused the Conservatives of having an “anti-Scottish agenda”.

Ms Jamieson, who left Holyrood for Westminster that same year said: “The Tories’ mask has slipped. They have an anti-Scottish agenda and they simply can’t be trusted to treat Scotland fairly.  A Conservative Government would turn back the clock to the 1980s and be a disaster for Scotland.”


# Old Smokey 2012-12-28 00:00
Sad thing is McConnell actually believes he is that important, just because he is given a peerage. You can take the man out of Wishaw, but you cant take Wishaw out the jumped up pratt
# Barontorc 2012-12-28 00:47
Aye - politics can be a very sad old business in the wrong hands.

Is there even one erminated toady who would stand up for Scotland when it is independent - or does the auld claes and parritch go oot the windae wi the ermin takin o'er, mind soul and body.

Just watched the movie Dorrian Gray - and little bells were wringing.

Now, how about it Jack? - I won't think of you as a jumped up inconsequential trougher - if you will in turn - let me get on with my democratic rights and dump the whole cess-pit of Westminster for much cleaner and better things under independence - in my opinion [may, I add]!

Racist, Nazi, Racist nazis! - come on fella play the game and dinnae forget - you're hingin' yer ermine ontae a gey shoogly nail.

You're letting rip some pretty atrocious comments.
# WRH2 2012-12-28 01:05
I think it's time the Better Together lot gave it a rest. The perpetrators of this infantile behaviour need to grow up and learn to respond to tweets in a more adult way. Jack McConnell may not need to worry about voters any more but I would have expected his self respect would have prevented him from descending to gutter level jibes and language.
This highlights once again the sham of the "honours" system when people who are "elevated" show themselves up like this. He is yet another wonderful example of the so called "great" and "good". I'm so pleased I'm not numbered amongst them!
# Ian Brotherhood 2012-12-28 01:17
McConnell - what a blast from the past, eh? We should expect more of these has-beens to raise their faces over the coming months.
It isn't clear whether or not 'Jack' has actually read Scothorne's article - perhaps he should, and formulate a response more substantial than a 'tweet' (you can imagine him buttering-up the missus for a wee hand with the wording - she'd end up having to do the whole thing, as usual).
Jack McConnell can safely be ignored - he contributed nothing to this country, and looks as haunted/hunted as he ever did, even with that ermine tickling his ears.
# Jim Johnston 2012-12-28 09:37
Yes Ian, we can look forward to many more of these cheery wee souls popping up, a bit like listening to I.M Jolly, without the laughs of course.

I'll say one thing for them though, they all meet Burns criterion, "Conceited gowk! puff'd up wi' windy pride!"
# fred56 2012-12-28 03:27
This is shocking, My father fought against the nazis in the ww2, he believed in independence, what did that does that make him, he is not here now but i know he would be shocked by this, this man is a disgrace to his country, I dont know what else to say, this leaves me so angry, the day of reckoning is nigh for a lot of theese people.
# Jimbo 2012-12-28 04:56
Obviously this is part of the ongoing concerted effort by the Unionists to discredit the whole independence movement. Tactics straight out of the Labour Party handbook - If you are bereft of policies and you have nothing positive to say or offer then play the man, not the ball.

Mark my words - These messages of division and hate issuing from the Unionist camp could one day lead to a violent attack on some person/s from the independence movement.
# jurist 2012-12-29 00:32
I agree with you Jimbo. If the no campaingers win (or even look as if they're going to win) by scaremongering, lieing, misrepresentati ons and vilifying the FM and independence supporters, then there is a real possibility of, as you say, violent attack.

I don't condone violence and will never support it. Equally, I'm not stupid enough to grab a Tiger by the tail. Unionist politicians, news media editors and commentators (even unionist John Q Public posters on sites) should be more circumspect in how they conduct the no campaign. Two years is a long time for hotheads to build up a murderous resentment where the future of the country is concerned.
# Boorach 2012-12-28 07:16
The biggest problem McConnell and the rest of the Scottisf branch of labour have is having been dragged so far right of the tories by their London HQ they now have to stand on the sidelines watching an SNP government successfully implement the policies they abandoned so long ago.
# Marian 2012-12-28 07:29
This episode demonstrates that Labour are so consumed with hate for the SNP that they are losing all semblance of reason.
# Angus 2012-12-28 07:39
The Scotsman, yesterday, there was an online battle with the commentors, as it has become apart that some of the hardline unionist comentors are in control of the forum, and have been deleting or even changing posts and banning pro Independence supporters at will and changing post ratings.
One of the 'moderators' recently attacked Scottish Poles and Gaelic speakers, when this was pointed out the article promptly dissappeared.
The Scotsman has become a very dangerous site, and the views of the online controlers are on the extreme and abusive. I m not sure if the Johnston press back this?
# Macart 2012-12-28 08:09
Folks, McConnell, Smart, Kelly and any other number of worthies given a soap box are merely following a brief. They are for all intents and purposes trolls. Their job is to incite argument and hysteria. The more they cause, the happier they are.

There is only one answer to those who would deliberately incite and invite such openly divisive contributions to this debate and that is to simply turn your backs on them. Walk away and let them rant into the ether. We know already who we are and what we want. Do we really need to engage with people who delight in this form of mischief? There is plenty of bile out there and with this current contribution, Mr McConnell has proven he's no stranger to using it himself.
# mudfries 2012-12-28 08:19
Shocking stuf from an ignorant little man, I had relatives who died in the last war fighting for countrys to run their own affairs without the threat of fascism, for mcConnell to even imply Independence supporters are Nazis is really really low, even by the labour partys standards, I'm disgusted with these unionists.
# Scaraben 2012-12-28 08:50
One question has just come into my mind. If Scotland becomes independent, will the English Establishment allow Scottish peers to remain in the Lords? Could McConnell be worried by the thought that he might lose his tasty attendance allowance and expenses?
# Galen10 2012-12-28 08:56
As one of those involved in the exchange with Lord McConnell (more particularly the one to whom he provided the inadequate response highlighted in the OP), I thought I'd respond.

Despite a number of calls to clarify his comments, the silence from Lord McConnell has been deafening. Indeed he goes out of his way to amplify that his comment specifically refers to the "nasty underbelly" of civic nationalism which he feels applies to "far too many".

Whilst easily dismissed as unionist hyperbole, it is worrying that he appears to sincerely believe this. His error is later compounded by wrapping himself in the flag, insisting it was the "duty of patriots" to strongly oppose something he's refused to define, and for which he's provided zero evidence.

A word of advice, Jack: Johnson pointed out that "patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel". I'd step smartly away from the shovel if I were you!
# johnnypict 2012-12-28 09:43
I'm sick of this infantile nonsense. It does highlight the unionist inability to present a positive case for the UK.

However if someone accuses you of being a racist, whether a nazi one or otherwise, when you are not there no legal recourse that an be taken.

I know there are those who would rather consistently present a positive case for independence and ignore the negativity, but at some point surely if someone slanders you they must be held to account.

Otherwise their bile (give the msm bias) will be taken as fact.
# ds12 2012-12-28 09:46
Mr McConnell would do well to look at some of his fellow travelers in the no campaign.There are some very unsavoury elements who have been rumbling away in the background. And while well over a year out from the vote they can only muster a few dozen at the no rallies I'm sure they will come to the fore as the vote gets closer.
# RaboRuglen 2012-12-28 10:16
Hi there,

I have no worries about this sort of abuse. It is so patently nonsense that virtually anybody hearing it will think a lot less of the accuser for making the accusation than the accused.

Rearrange into a well known phrase or saying :- McConnell Jack shot foot himself in has the again.

# proudscot 2012-12-28 11:36
If Jack McConnell wants to experience comments filled with real racist bile, he need only read the comments sections of the Daily Mail and Telegraph, while he's down south hobnobbing with the rest of the ermine-shrouded zombies in the unelected House of The Living Dead.
# Soloman 2012-12-28 11:36
The Mcconell's seem to be connected to The Arts and TROUBLE!
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-12-28 11:36
Joke McConnell, the man whose own party minister's didn't know his name.

Made a 'Lord' so he would give up on being the UK Ambassador to Malawi - 'See yon beltie ca'd a lord.
Wha struts and stares an a that.
Though hundreds worship at his words,
He's but a coof an a that.'

and in doing so save his New Labour Party from a humiliating bye-election defeat at Holyrood. Name calling - the last resort of scoundrels and villians.
# Dougthedug 2012-12-28 12:05
Ian Smart is the Labour blogger who assured everyone that the independence referendum wouldn't happen because it was all just a bluff as Alex Salmond didn't want it so his opinion is proven as not reliable.

"Lord" McConnell follows the standard trail of the Labour politician which ends in the House of Lords with an ermine collar, a good pension and a flunkey serving tea.

Their exchange is a good example of the irrational and deep-seated belief within Labour that the SNP are all inherently racist, xenophobic and anti-English.

Since there is no evidence of any of that they've invented the "cybernat" who fills their twitter/blogs et al with "bile". Unfortunately for them when asked to front up with evidence of the "cybernat" he turns out to be just as elusive as evidence of a nazi SNP.
# velofello 2012-12-28 12:23
Credit to him McConnell has got himself in the news again. It is a political craving is it not?
Last time he was in the news it was over a dispute with a 75 year old neighbour over the access and use of a coal bunker that she had been using for many years.He lost that case.
Noting his inferences posted on Tweeter re Independence supporters and being discussed in this article, maybe McConnell has a bunker mentality?
# pa_broon74 2012-12-28 12:32
Just read Rory Scothorne's article. I have no idea what McConnel etc are on about.

The article is interesting, the idea of a settler and a colonist... I know of both and its a gnarly issue and a tough one to cover with out some simple-minded daftie crying foul.

Other than that, McConnell and Smart are being massively hypocritical in silencing a relevent area of debate in place of their own narrow agenda, they are both guilty of the accusations they level at Scothorne.

Scothorne even points out; '...People have made sweeping statements about other people’s ideas without reading them in the first place...', its ironic, if McConnell and Smart had actually read the article they could've avoided looking like a pair of donkeys.

Instead they took the easy route and opted for the petty ill-informed soundbite.

Patronising stuff.
# FREEDOM1 2012-12-28 12:53
McConnell is just protecting his job and all the perks that go with it. Him and all the other ermined Parcel o Rogues from Scotland will probably be thrown out of the lords after Independence. They (the scots) know that the Aristocratic Toffs in the lords just put up with them and will be glad to see them go back to their barbarian scrounging shithole of a country.
# Seagetagrip 2012-12-28 14:37
I had sent e mail to GMS to suggest that they might read Newsnet Article "Untouchables". Gary R chose to reply and made reference to lack of writers identity. I replied that all was not quite lost as we still had Derek and Isabel to listen to on a Saturday.
He responded angrily and accused me of sending "bile". His word. Interesting?
# Independista 2012-12-28 17:31
Keep an eye on I sent the 'Untouchables' article for publication and comment, and reckon they will publish over the next few days. The BBC are bound to read it as Allmedia is the Scottish media industry's best read website. I also had it highlighted in the message board on Media Lens- one reply so far.
# Aplinal 2012-12-28 21:32
Without putting a dampener on media lens, I wrote to them some time ago suggesting that they look into the obvious media bias in Scotland, and did not get so much as an acknowledgement .

I find that rather poor, so will not be holding my breath.
# rhymer 2012-12-28 16:10
He made his " name" by using Scotland's money to give valuable help with some of Africa's needy and hungry people. Even though he only followed what London H.Q. told him to do, he was probably rated the biggest loser ever as F.M. - but following orders from Westminster does work - remember, after his turn as labour's F.M. he did get his ermine lords labour award, plus £300 a day for just turning up and a huge pension.
# sid 2012-12-28 17:13
Sticks and stones might break my bones but names will NEVER hurt me I take this as great news as that is all they have to put in the to the debate. Second rate politicians and no real policies
Only the usual fear and smear time is running out for them and they are panicking
# RevStu 2012-12-28 17:36
Why are people asking McConnell to provide evidence of the abuse that was allegedly sent to him? All you need to do is search Twitter for @LordMcConnell and you'll see everything anyone said.
# snowthistle 2012-12-28 22:05
It may have been sent as a direct message, I suppose
# mudfries 2012-12-28 19:42
Wasnt it Jack McConnells wife who when she was in charge of Kelvingrove Museum had the Jacobite swords taken off display because they had "Prosperity to Scotland and No Union" engraved on the blades? surely a Unionist couldnt be that petty could they????
# stewart kellett 2012-12-29 16:32
For a man that was once our FM to utter such comments is a disgrace and an insult to all thse who fought in the 2WW to defeat the Nazis. My father would turn in his grave he was a Royal Marine Commando so knew first hand what a Nazi was. How dare he.

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