‘CyberNats’ out to shut down debate on Scottish nationalism


David Bowie, the reclusive star man, made an unexpected, if modest, contribution to the debate on Scottish independence.

His acceptance speech, read by model Kate Moss, at the recent Brits music awards ceremony concluded with the simple message: “Scotland, please stay with us.”

Less unexpected was the response by the ‘CyberNats’, a vociferous brigade of on-line trolls who deluge the internet with foul abuse and invective in response to anyone who ventures an opinion out of step with their own. Inevitably Bowie quickly became the target of their vulgar ire.

As the internet infantry of Scottish nationalism, the CyberNats do a great job of shutting down debate.

As an Englishman in New York, Bowie is an easy target, however the nationalists even get snippy when Scots do not toe the line. In an extraordinary rant Joan McAlpine, an SNP member of the Scottish Parliament wrote of one unionist supporter: “Quite why he thinks he has the right to come to Scotland and lecture us about how to run our affairs is breathtaking in its arrogance.” Her target? The Scottish Labour MP for Edinburgh South West, who runs the anti-independence Better Together campaign.

Opinion polls suggest that the majority of Scots will opt to stay with the union, but the outcome for the referendum is by no means certain and the decision will depend on whether people think that an independent Scotland would thrive or merely survive.

As the vote draws closer, the nationalist prophecy of a path of open gates leading to independence has taken a bit of a battering. In response the nationalist rhetoric often descends into abusive barracking.

Gone are the days of the SNP selling a positive vision of Scotland being a jewel in the crown of a euro denominated “arc of prosperity”, that included Iceland and Ireland, two nations who subsequently had economic meltdowns.

When it became apparent that the euro had its problems, the SNP quickly decided that there was “overwhelming support for Scotland to keep the pound” and switched their post-independence currency policy quickly to one of a “sterling currency union.” In their normal swaggering manner, the nationalists declined to ask anyone if that might be OK.

When all three of the UK’s national political parties said it would not be OK, on the grounds that an independent Scotland could do to sterling what Greece, Spain and Italy did to the euro, the nationalist response was to accuse the UK parties of “bluster” and “political posturing”.

When José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, pointed out that an independent Scotland would not have an automatic right to EU membership, the nationalist response was to brand him a

“preposterous” man.

The EU is a sensitive subject for the SNP: it has previously been caught out lying about whether it received legal advice, and if an independent Scotland were to apply for membership it would probably be obliged to commit to adopting the euro and the Schengen Agreement on open borders, raising the prospect of passport controls at Scottish borders.

Scottish business leaders who raise concerns about economic merits of independence have been largely silenced by fears of boycotts and threatening phone calls from SNP ministers.

One chief executive is reported to have said: “Most business leaders are keeping their heads down on this issue mainly due to the aggressive reaction any expressed negative opinion provokes from Alex Salmond and his cohorts.” Another business leader described the response as “rains of bile and ire”

As the reality of the referendum draws closer so the claims for Scottish independence are coming under scrutiny. It is becoming apparent that if the Scottish people opt for independence then they have to deal with everything that their decision will entail.

An independent Scotland will have to negotiate agreements with other countries and international organisations, it will not be able to unilaterally pick and choose the bits that suit the SNP, such as the suggestion that Scotland would remain in NATO while having a constitution banning nuclear weapons.

The claim that Scotland could exist as an independent country is reasonable, many smaller nations with lesser economies and fewer resources get along fine, so the aspirations of Scots nationalists are far from fantasy, but the nationalist lie is pretending that it would be straightforward.

Throwing abuse at everyone who flags up the potential difficulties ahead is not the way to go about making friends and influencing people.