Letters: Yes campaign leaders must act over this toxic culture

WHEN Sarah Smith recorded the bile and hatred directed at her (“SNP MSP accused of ‘dismissive’ attitude to abuse claims by broadcaster Smith”, The Herald, February 18), she was telling the truth. The reaction to that truth was more bile. Both episodes should be seen by those, like me, who wish Scots to vote in a solid majority for independence, as a cause for serious reflection.

To win we have to persuade unionists to change their minds. Leaving aside the repugnant practice of abuse, do those who engage in it believe it is possible to convert someone by shouting “traitor” and much worse at them? Perhaps we can start on a new path of civilised dialogue by acknowledging that, while we think differently on the constitution, adherence to the Union is a legitimate position, which is not surprising considering the 315 years of its existence.

The present toxicity in our body politic requires the leadership of the independence movement to lead us away from it, because of its potential malignant effect upon the character of the future Scotland we hope to win. Getting a majority is vital for that objective, but if that independent Scotland is to progress and flourish, all of its people, including those who lost the argument, have to be willing to trust, cooperate and work together. Success will not come if a significant minority feel aggrieved at being singled out as “treasonous” and “scum”.

Robust and biting debate is inevitable on such a momentous issue of Scotland in or out of the Union. But if an independent Scotland is to be successful, it will need a high level of harmony and agreement among its people; and for that we need to recognise red lines that should never be crossed. Disrespect for the views of others, dressed in bile and hatred, is corrosive of democratic life, and will be a malignant legacy in the Scotland we want. It is time for some to look beyond the present and contemplate the future, and realise that they must now desist from their present practices.

Jim Sillars, Edinburgh.

* IT says much about the state of our politics that the allegations of abuse brought into focus by the BBC’s Sarah Smith have been instantly weaponised by unionist politicians from the Scottish Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to condemn “nationalism”.

It’s abundant from many a newspaper headline and the Twitter accounts of opposition MSPs and their parties that the bile, hatred and misogyny called out by Sarah Smith is also meted out on a daily basis to Nicola Sturgeon and Kate Forbes, who thankfully appear to have a much thicker skin than journalists.

In a healthier political climate, opposition politicians would make this balanced observation for the greater good, but their party lines and allegiances clearly negate this option.

Alistair McBay, Perth.


SARAH Smith reveals that she is relieved to be out of Scotland and in the US after the abuse she received while BBC Scotland Editor. She named no names, but did mention being “demonised quite heavily… amongst certain parts of the population”. This is a very sorry comment on the state that Scotland has developed into, especially since 2014.

Ms Smith was in the news during the pandemic for saying that Nicola Sturgeon was “enjoying” the extras powers she could exercise. Ms Sturgeon tweeted that she was not enjoying the pandemic at all, and her hurt tones were taken as a signal by her nationalist followers to retaliate. They bombard Ms Smith with aggressive and insulting messages on social media. The better-educated among us know that “enjoy” has various meanings, including “possess”. That was lost on the social media warriors, and, apparently, on Ms Sturgeon herself.

Ms Smith says that that was not a one-off, that she received “vitriolic attention most of the time”. What kind of country has Scotland become that that it is now acceptable “amongst certain parts of the population”? The answer is: a nationalist one.

Jill Stephenson, Edinburgh.


RESEARCH I conducted in a Clydeside engineering plant (now sadly closed) for my doctoral thesis 45 years ago included asking respondents what newspapers, television news and current affairs programmes they read/watched and whether they perceived any political slant in those read/watched. With newspapers a political line was often observed, but television was identified as neutral. I wonder if I would get the same answers today?

Of course, in the late 1970s, consumption of media reports was largely passive, opportunities for the reader/viewer to respond being limited to such as Points of View and Letters to the Editor. This though is no longer the case, with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as the legion of bloggers, making passive consumption something media commentators can only look back on.

For instance, Sarah Smith claims in a tweet to have tried “to be fair and impartial”, which she may well have considered herself to be, but part of her audience didn’t. And sometimes they had good reason, such as when she reported the annual figure for patients waiting four hours in A&E (“over 100,000) as a weekly figure. Of course, mistakes get made, but how likely is that almost two per cent of the Scottish population were even in A&E in a particular week, never mind having to wait more than four hours?

Of course, as in “the old days” a “correction” was made, though damage had been done at the time. Another instance is, though, more concerning, her claim that Nicola Sturgeon was “enjoying” the Covid pandemic. This was explained by Ms Smith on Twitter, that she meant to say “she [Ms Sturgeon] has ’embraced’ the opportunity to make a policy unique to Scotland. I said ‘enjoyed’ by mistake”. Perhaps, given that her error had started the whole process, an apology, prior to withdrawal, might have been more in order? But no, the political point just had to be made.

Lastly, might I point out that Ms Smith, like many other journalists, some of whom make similar complaints, plays the social media “game”. As an experienced “player” did she really imagine that Thursday night’s tweet “Sharing this will no doubt invite all my *fans* on Twitter to take another shot” was going to be welcomed positively and warmly? Or did it get the reaction she wanted?

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.


I FOUND your report on Sarah Smith regarding bile, hatred and misogyny in Scottish politics an interesting read, but I do hope that she is not naive enough to believe that by relocating in America as the BBC’s correspondent that she is entering a country that is bereft of the self-same problems she is leaving in Scotland.

Our politics are not perfect by a long way. I wonder how long she will tolerate the ballyhoo and razzamatazz of America, before she returns to our shores as a less naive person.

Neil Stewart, Balfron.


IT is disingenuous for any politician to echo the term “divisive referendum” when the reason for holding a referendum is when opinion is clearly split on a significant issue, such as Scotland’s constitutional future. What is more “divisive” is when our self-proclaimed impartial public broadcaster fails to provide balance in its news and political programmes.

With the resumption of BBC Scotland’s Debate Night the BBC has an opportunity to improve upon, if not fully rectify, the mistakes of the past, but instead on Wednesday night the public was subjected to the views of another predominantly anti-independence panel (why, when both sides of the constitutional debate are currently almost equally supported are there not four panel members instead of five?) and another seemingly contrived pro-Union audience with a host in Stephen Jardine who still insists on interrupting SNP politicians while content to facilitate more propaganda from anti-independence advocates. Anas Sarwar of the Labour Party was repeatedly given free rein to voice his shallow sound-bites without being held to account by our intrepid host. When Pete Wishart of the SNP attempted to return Mr Sarwar to fundamental realities by stating the facts that only the UK Government could introduce a windfall tax and that this was not going to happen any time soon under the Tories, Mr Wishart’s contribution was abruptly curtailed by Mr Jardine.

Perhaps if the BBC were to host serious and balanced debates on Scotland’s constitutional future any sense of “divisiveness” might disappear as the Scottish public becomes convinced of the merits of self-determination, but perhaps this is why the BBC and anti-independence politicians will continue to deny the people of Scotland a truly impartial public broadcasting service and why a referendum, or constitutional change vote in the next General Election, is now a democratic necessity.

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry.


DOUG Maughan (Letters, February 18) says he has “never understood the safety concerns about nuclear power”, to which I would reply succinctly: Chernobyl.

I could expand by adding the fact that more than 60,000 people were forced to leave their homes in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster and 30 years later, many districts of Norway were still having to test animals for radiation.

More generally, there is no case for nuclear energy in Scotland – we are already creating so much energy from other, cheaper, renewable sources that it is simply unnecessary.

David Patrick, Edinburgh.


I SEEM to recall a UK minister telling the people of the Highland that they did not deserve an enhanced cold weather/ winter payment, because “they were used to the cold”. Now we have the BBC asserting 80mph winds are more serious in the south than in the north, because “Scotland has these high winds every winter”. That’ll be a relief to those in the north-east of Scotland and England who were without power for a week. I suspect any power outages in the south will be remedied long before a week is out – probably led by Boris Johnson with hard hat, and glib, exculpatory (it wisnae me) excuses.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.


ON the basis of a little of what you fancy does you good, I have no quibble with washing down my top gastronomic delight, fish and chips, with an infusion of camellia sinensis, (“Top tip for best fish and chips – have a cup of black tea, too, The Herald, February 18), but I admit surprise at the omission of enhancing CH3COOH, ( vinegar ).

And good luck also to Embra devotees of their special brown “chippy sauce”.

Live and let live.

R Russell Smith, Largs.

Read more: Why many in Scotland hold Nicola Sturgeon in contempt

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