The Invisible Wings

Campbell Gunn emailJim Sillars writes in an open letter:

Bear this in mind: Scotland is involved in a great debate conducted democratically. That means freedom of thought has to be matched by freedom of speech, and that right respected by all. Freedom of speech does give licence to abuse. It is a wise person who does not use it for that purpose. Don’t start to respond by saying the other side are at it too. They are not going to get media coverage. You are.

In every campaign there comes a tipping point. Those of us engaged intelligently in this campaign, yes intelligently, can only hope that your stupid contributions through personal abuse do not lend themselves to a tipping point towards a Yes defeat. Stop playing the game that suits only the No side.

In this letter Jim Sillars recalls incidents of “false friends” – undercover policemen who infiltrated the independence movement and encouraged young enthusiasts to commit crimes with a view to making Scottish independence look like a bad cause. He says bluntly:

In 1979, with only a very weak assembly on offer, MI5 and special branch were involved, as was the CIA – with the US Consul in Edinburgh coming from the CIA stable. That was for a weak assembly, do you think that they will not be more engaged now that independence is on the agenda? Has it ever crossed your mind that by conducting a campaign of abuse, which plays into the hands of the No media, you are opening the Yes side to a dirty tricks campaign?

(There is a response to this letter from within the Yes campaign here.)

Robin McAlpine wrote recently in Bella Caledonia:

The Better Together campaign has been one extended smear operation and the permanent attacks on Yes supporters as abusive and aggressive has been part of that campaign from day one. They have sought to portray the independence debate as a nasty, hostile and scary one because they are actively trying to put people off from getting involved. It is a fundamentally anti-democratic practice and is beneath what is a wonderful and inspiring campaign.

Setting aside the professional party politicians with their focus on playing catch at First Minister’s Questions, most ordinary Scots involved in the referendum debate are largely willing to acknowledge that everyone living in Scotland has a right to their own views and that we all want what’s best for Scotland, even if we disagree wildly what that is.

J. K. Rowling’s views on independence were bound to attract public notice (especially followed up by a donation of a million pounds to the Better Together campaign – it may be dwarfed by the £100M+ she’s given to support single mothers and children in need, but it’s more money than most people who aren’t Euromillion jackpot winners or Sir Brian Souter could give). Rowling lives, works, and pays taxes in Scotland: unlike David Bowie or Eddie Izzard or Sean Connery, she’s no outsider or tax exile. But she’s also – especially for all voters under 26 – one of the most famous and most liked authors in the world.

Clare Lally, on the other hand, isn’t famous*. Nor can she rightly be said to be among the “political elite”: if that means anything, it means the kind of person who leaves university to be placed into the kind of job that will lead to being selected as a political candidate: often being selected early for a safe constituency because of who your family is. Jeremy Hunt and Ed Miliband are both members of the political elite. You could also argue that anyone who has been fortunate enough to become an MP has joined the political elite: one in twelve sitting MPs are from “politician families”. (I don’t think it would be wise to assume Scottish politics is immune from this just because we’ve only had MSPs since 1999.) Clare Lally entered politics not as a member of the elite but as a campaigner on carer support and for children with disabilities, not from university into a cushy intern job but as a woman who’d had to become a full-time carer for her disabled child.

(*You could say she’s becoming well-known in Scottish/UK politics. But famous, like J.K.Rowling or Eddie Izzard? No.)

Stuart Campbell, the games reviewer and designer from Bath, posted at 10am on 10th June on the Wings Over Scotland blog, taking offence at Clare Lally describing herself as an “ordinary housewife”. He felt she should have described herself as

“part of what the Record calls ‘the political elite’, a member of the Scottish Labour shadow cabinet, an experienced media performer or generations deep in the Glasgow Labour oligarchy”

His fans think of Stuart Campbell as a “balance” to “the pro-Union bias in the MSM” and claim he is “a better journalist than most”.

Stuart Campbell found that Clare Lally is living with a man named Derek. He swiftly concluded this meant she must be Claire, the wife of Derek Lally, the son of Pat Lally. Had he been a good blogger, even, he would have looked into this a bit more effectively and discovered that Clare’s partner’s name is Derek Steel, and she’s not even the same age as Pat Lally’s daughter-in-law Claire. (Campbell claimed later that “despite much confusing and contradictory information” (amazing, there being more than one Clare Lally in Scotland*) “after further investigation we’re now more or less sure” that, well, he goofed.)

(*It’s not as if Clare/Claire was something like the 15th most popular name for girls in the 1970s. Oh wait.)

Is Clare Lally actually a member of the Scottish Labour shadow cabinet? Not according to their own listing. She is not a spokesperson for the Scottish Labour party. She sits as a non-MSP on two cross-party groups, for Carers and for Children and Young People. Doing so isn’t a ministerial or a junior ministerial role. Clare Lally seems to be “in politics” in exactly the kind of grassroots way it was envisaged more ordinary Scots would get involved thanks to the Scottish Parliament. Whatever meaning “the Labour Shadow Cabinet’s Carers Champion” has, it does not appear to have any official Parliamentary or Scottish Labour party standing.

Go back and re-read Jim Sillars’ letter. Go on. I’ll wait.

You are helping the media ignoring her and other voices. If you were being paid by the No side to be cyber louts bringing the Yes side into public disrepute, you could not do a better job. With supporters like you, the Yes side needs no external opponents. Alastair Darling, must be smiling as he views you in the role of what Lenin called ‘useful idiots.’

What exactly did Stuart Campbell accomplish by kicking up a fuss about Clare Lally?

Multiple commenters to his blog kicked her name around a few times, accused her of obtaining a council house by fraud, accused the Better Together campaign of lying, and so on and so forth. Greatly pleasurable for them, no doubt, but how did this advance the Yes Scotland cause? “Clare Lally described herself as an “ordinary housewife” and Stuart Campbell says she isn’t, so I’m going to vote Yes” – said nobody, ever.

Campbell Gunn, Special Adviser to Alex Salmond, read the Wings Over Scotland blog and did a very foolish thing. He assumed – without checking – that Stuart Campbell had got the facts right. And based on that erroneous assumption, he emailed the Daily Telegraph to correct them. The BBC timeline acknowledges that Wings Over Scotland’s blogpost was the primary source for the misleading information.

But the story the Daily Telegraph made out of that injudicious Gunn email reversed the information flow, claiming that Campbell Gunn’s story was echoed by Wings Over Scotland, which they do not link to or name:

But Campbell Gunn, a senior special adviser and political spokesman for the Scottish Government, emailed this newspaper that she was a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and the daughter-in-law of Pat Lally, a former Labour Lord Provost of Glasgow.

His attack was echoed by a prominent nationalist website and other separatists on social media, one of whom described her as: “A liar now and forever whatever the outcome of the vote, a known Quisling and collaborator.”

Stuart Campbell himself, in a comment on this blog:

I have, to the very best of my recollection, never had any contact of any kind with Campbell Gunn. I’ve certainly never met or spoken to him, or emailed him or had an email from him, and if we’ve exchanged a tweet or anything else I don’t remember it and it certainly wasn’t this month.

Stuart Campbell apparently made a bit of a name for himself within the gaming community – such a name that at this point, one online games mag summarises their Stuart Campbell era as: “You useless cretinous morons”.

Wings Scotland Girls And Homosexuals

Another magazine let him go because he wanted to run a front cover pic of a red poppy with the strapline “War has never been such fun” to hit the shelves on Remembrance Day, and when the British Legion objected, Stuart Campbell reacted publicly “Old soldiers, I wish them all dead.” He wrote a blog which he has since deleted about his legal campaign against former employers, and a blog still extant called “Wings Over Sealand” in which he describes himself as “the Rev. Stuart Campbell, a semi-obsolete neo-culture journalist.” (Reverend of what sect? Apparently he’s never said.)

But in 2011, he launched Wings Over Scotland. This is presented – and believed by its fans, who up until 10th June undoubtedly included the unfortunate Campbell Gunn – to be a credible alternative to “mainstream media journalism”. Stuart Campbell ran two crowdfunding campaigns to support his writing for WoS, and seems to have used at least part of the money to launch ads for his blog on Strathclyde Public Transport, which were pulled because Wings Over Scotland had been incorrectly described as a charity. (Who by? No one seems to be quite sure.)

In any case, by March 2014, Stuart Campbell had run the most successful crowdfunding campaign for a blog in history – more than £100,000 in about two weeks, breaking records. On 5th June, Wings Over Scotland was registered with the Electoral Commission as an “Unincorporated Association”. This means that any and all “donations, loans, and spending” made to or by Wings Over Scotland from 30th May to 18th September, must be reported to the Electoral Commission. The two hugely successful crowdfunding campaigns and the attempt to buy ads on SPT do not fall inside that period and so need not be reported.

Wings Over Sealand - misogyny

I don’t read Wings Over Scotland. I don’t like Stuart Campbell’s homophobia or his transphobia or his misogyny, and I don’t choose to give him my clicks.

But over the past few days I have been looking at his blog, and it feels like reading the Daily Mail. There is the same sense of constant anger and outrage. The commenters mostly seem to enjoy the rage and share it. If Stuart Campbell’s goofy lack of research about Clare Lally is typical, how could anyone have ever got the idea he was a good journalist?

Because he feeds them the feelings that they want. Not the positive side of the Yes campaign, the people who are thinking of a better Scotland and who hope that a Yes majority in September will be the first step on the way to achieving it: but the kind of people who look at a council house with a wheelchair ramp for a disabled child and assume it was obtained by fraud.

Bill WalkerStuart Campbell worked himself up into a rage in 2012 at the injustice of MSP Bill Walker being called on to resign just because three ex-wives and a stepdaughter all said he had beaten them.

Reading Jim Sillars’ letter, of course I’m not suggesting that the videogames journalist turned from a failed career as a games reviewer [Update: Stuart Campbell has left a rather intemperate comment: I am happy to correct this from information received that he was in fact “a very successful” games reviewer.] to become an undercover agent provocateur for the British government. I’m sure he got his funding via indiegogo quite honestly. But seriously: how can you possibly suppose that a man who makes a huge angry deal out of Clare Lally describing herself as an ordinary housewife is even a good campaigner, let alone a good journalist? It’s a kind of backbiting bitterness, a how dare she reaction.

If you compare a wordle of Wings Over Scotland with wordles from other Yes-supporting websites, there is an interesting contrast. (Wordle gives more prominence to the words that appear most frequently in the source text.) I chose A Better Nation, Bella Caledonia, Lallands Peat Worrier, National Collective, and Newsnet Scotland.

Bella Caledonia Wordle

A Better Nation Wordle

Lallands Peat Worrier Wordle

National Collective Wordle

Newsnet Scotland Wordle

Wings Over Scotland Wordle

Which one is the Wings Over Scotland wordle? It’s the only one where the word Campbell has more prominence than the words Scotland, Scottish, independence, or referendum.

I have made clear which way I intend to vote on 18th September, and why. But I’m not in fundamental disagreement with any of the blogs listed above: I respect their convictions very much. I hope that the imagination and political will expressed by those who are imagining a better Scotland continues to work in Scottish politics after the results are in.

One thing I am sure of: if Yes gets the majority, J.K.Rowling and Clare Lally will stay in Scotland, will continue to live, work, and campaign as they have done already for a better nation and a better world. On 19th September, whether Yes or No gets the majority, Stuart Campbell will still be in Bath, still writing his poison-pen blogs, finding a new cause for hate.


Filed under J. K. Rowling, Scottish Politics

71 responses to “The Invisible Wings

  1. Ronnie Smith

    Simply excellent.

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  4. I’m presuming that in compiling the wordles that represent the content of the sites, you carefully excluded the metadata (eg bylines of posts and comments) to ensure that contributors who identify themselves (A Good Thing) are not confused in the analysis with those who talk *about* themselves (A Not So Good Thing)?

    Although I’m not convinced that a bit of narcissism is a hanging offence either.

    • The Wordle software doesn’t pick up on comments.

      I wondered when I tried it out on the Wings blog if it was giving “Campbell” extra prominence because it’s a one-person blog, which was why I added in Lallands Peat Worrier to the mix, as that’s also a one-person crowd-funded blog with regular posts.

      It would be interesting to try the same experiment again in a week or two.

    • Actually, Martin, no she hasn’t. If you search for the word “Campbell” using the Wings search facility, you get exactly *60* entries returned, from 2500 posts. Many of those are actually references to other people, including Campbell Gunn and Menzies Campbell.

      If you search for “Stuart Campbell” you get *15* results from two and a half years, including ones where I’ve published correspondence ie letters which are either signed by or addressed to me and therefore inevitably have my name in them.

      The remaining handful are where we’ve quoted personal attacks on me in the press. You’d have to stretch reason a fair distance to classify any of that as narcissism, but then evidence is clearly a tiresome chore for Jane when she’s determined to smear someone.

  5. Robert Graham

    “Show Us The Proof” its that simple rather than assist the NO lot in their attack on so called cybernats (a) evidence of this industrial scale vile abuse (b) where it originated from .the proof won’t be forthcoming because its mission accomplished and it serves their purpose for people in the “YES” campaign to have a go at each other don’t fall for it and continue to ask where is the evidence just a thought

  6. “Had he been a good blogger, even, he would have looked into this a bit more effectively and discovered that Clare’s partner’s name is David Steel”

    His name is DEREK Steel, so it looks like you’re perhaps not the hottest blogger yourself, smartarse.

  7. Goodness, so many lies and inaccuracies in this smear pish.

    1. Clare Lally IS a member of the shadow cabinet. The Daily Record said so explicitly, so does Jackie Baillie’s website, saying:

    “Clare attended her first meeting of the wider Shadow Cabinet on Monday, where she was also joined by Patrick Maguire, of Thompsons Solicitors.
    The duo are the first two appointees to Labour’s shadow cabinet.”

    2. “Campbell Gunn, Special Adviser to Alex Salmond, read the Wings Over Scotland blog and did a very foolish thing. He assumed – without checking – that Stuart Campbell had got the facts right.”

    Because I’m a *good* journalist, I *didn’t* say Clare Lally was Pat Lally’s daughter-in-law. I suggested that she might be. When more information came to light, I added an edit to the page saying she wasn’t. At NO point was there ANY inaccurate statement on the page.

    3. “Another magazine let him go because he wanted to run a front cover pic of a red poppy with the strapline”

    “Another” magazine? I was only ever a staff member on one magazine, and I was NOT “let go” from it, over the poppy story or anything else. I remained on the magazine for six months, then chose to leave when offered a job elsewhere at twice the salary. In the intervening time I’d been offered a promotion, but turned it down because it would have meant my best friend being effectively sacked while she was recuperating from a massive, near-fatal brain haemorrhage.

    4. “which were pulled because Wings Over Scotland had been incorrectly described as a charity. (Who by? No one seems to be quite sure.)”

    Actually it’s extremely clear, and I published the emails to prove it several months ago. I explicitly and expressly told the advertising agency that Wings was NOT a charity, after noticing that they’d erroneously put us down as such on a form.

    5. “The two hugely successful crowdfunding campaigns and the attempt to buy ads on SPT do not fall inside that period and so need not be reported.”

    Actually, donations made in March (or any time since December 2013) for campaigning purposes DO need to comply with Electoral Commission rules. Of course, you’d have had to do at least two minutes’ research to find that out.

    Click to access to-ris-ref-donations.pdf

    (Section 4, page 6)

    6. “Stuart Campbell worked himself up into a rage in 2012 at the injustice of MSP Bill Walker being called on to resign just because three ex-wives and a stepdaughter all said he had beaten them.”

    No, I got annoyed because a cowardly journalist called him a “wife-beater” BEFORE he’d had a trial. (Cowardly because he waited until Walker was expelled from the SNP and therefore would have had no chance of bringing a defamation action without party support.)

    In Scotland, and most civilised countries, the accused is still innocent until proven guilty. I get that YOU think all men are rapists and that women are pathologically incapable of ever saying anything untrue, but old-fashioned fool that I am, I prefer to wait until a judge and/or jury has weighed the facts and the evidence and come to a conclusion rather than just lynching people on the spot.

    7. “a failed career as a games reviewer”

    Actually, a very successful one. Unless it failed for 20 straight years, I suppose.

    8. “Which one is the Wings Over Scotland wordle? It’s the only one where the word Campbell has more prominence than the words Scotland, Scottish, independence, or referendum.”

    Because my name’s at the top of every post, y rdcls fckng dt
    . I don’t write as a “collective”, and there’s a byline on every one of the 2300 or so posts I’ve written. Please find me instances of it appearing in actual text in reference to myself.

    But hey, apart from that, and getting DEREK Steel’s name wrong while raging at me for NOT getting it wrong, and excluding all your baseless personal judgements of someone you’ve never met, you hardly got anything else wrong, so give yourself a biscuit.

    Y cllss, ffnsvly stpd, lyng fckng rshl.

    • Thank you for sharing your views.
      I shall be happy to add a correction that you are a very successful games reviewer.
      I have disemvowelled parts of your comment because I do not permit abusive comments.
      Please note that if you cannot debate civilly, you will be banned from commenting on this blog.

      • I couldn’t give any less of a shit about whether I can comment here or not – I’ll be happy to have my solicitors deal with your defamatory lies instead, like they’re dealing with the Scotsman’s. Can I take it that you’re not going to correct any of the other falsehoods detailed above?

        • If you feel the corrections about the details of your career as a games reviewer are of significance, I’ll be glad to edit them into the blogpost if you can provide some external evidence. No problem.

          I’ll be checking with the Electoral Commission about the rules for reporting donations on Monday, and will add a correction then if necessary.

        • Michael

          I’m loathe to save you the legal bill, but as a lawyer myself I can tell you now that you would get no money from this website, only a big old legal bill for yourself.
          Surely you know that, after your last unsuccessful trip to court.
          Y r smply vndctv blly wh trs t ntmdt. Alas, this blogger is onto you.

          • I’m sure Stuart Campbell appreciates your advice, but please refrain from personal abuse in comments. Stay civil.

          • Would he sue in England or Scotland? The law is generally stacked higher against the pursuer in Scotland. He could change the name of the website to “Wings Over Scotland and Lawyers in England.”

            I’m still trying to get my head around ntmdt.

          • Alec

            Tychy, intimidate.


        • Alec

          I agree. The Scotsman should not have said you blame the 96 dead at Hillsborough for the disaster. It should have said you blame the survivors (although whether or not, on death, a live fan underwent some mystical transformation from guilty to innocent is a question for theologians) instead of catastrophic failures by South Yorkshire Police as the Conservative Party, Kelvin MacKenzie and South Yorkshire Police all have accepted.


    • Michael

      A couple of for instances because this nutjob can eat up time better spent washing the car.
      4 Wings wasn’t clear and express about his charitable status. He was partial. When asked if he was a charity, Wings said “actually, we don’t know what we are”. Which isn’t even close to clarity. He certainly didn’t say “actually we’re a vituperative pro-independence blog that poisons the well of the YES cause”
      6 Everyone knew about Bill Walker, especially in the nationalist movement. Wings says he was ignorant of this. and yet still went in to bat for Walker, without doing the slightest check. How can we believe anything this guy writes?

    • Wings Over Reality

      You wrote an innuendo-laden blog suggesting they were related. That you didn’t come out and say is it no defence in Scots law, or English law for that matter. Much of your *good* journalism is nothing more than conjecture, after which you manufacture a reality to suit that conclusion.

    • Wings Over Reality

      That’s a really low high ground to take with Bill Walker. He had already admitted striking a wife and a step daughter in divorce papers. There is no criminal charge of wife-beating so the paper would have been no more or less to describe him as a wife-beater after his conviction for assault. Did you notify the SPT as agency your were a single-goal political website?

    • Laura

      Stu, I’ve been an avid follower of your blog for the last year and a bit. I’ve been a huge admirer of your work. I do sometimes wish it was less angry. Could you clarify what “Y class,ffnsivly stpd, lyng fckng rshl” means? It’s kinda made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

      • I’m sure Stu could, but if he did it in comments on my blog, I’d only have to disemvowel it again.

        As I recall, Stu expressed intemperately a negative view of my intelligence and ethics.

  8. Mary Bruce

    Hope your lawyers are having a look at this site too, Rev Stu.

  9. I’d concentrate more on actually addressing Stu’s comprehensive disembowelling of your tawdry smear fest than primly “disembowelling” his response. Like so many agents of unreason in the indyref debate the red mist seems to descend whenever Wings Over Scotland is mentioned, and all rationality flies out of the window. Whether it’s self-aggrandising wet-nats like Kate Higgins or James Mckenzie giving comfort and ammunition to the opposition, or out and out #projectfear merchants in BT and their useful fools in the media, it’s all of a piece.

    No doubt as the polls continue to get worse for the No camp, the hysterical attacks will increase in number and severity. How’s that been working out for you all so far…?

    Keep up the good work; a few more weeks of self-awareness free hyperbolic nonsense like this will help convert more undecideds and No voters to the benefits of a Yes vote!

  10. Give the forced moral indignation a rest and stop stirring the shit pot.

    Your post is incredibly poorly researched and you’ve fallen for many of the same old smears that have been floating around since Wings started. You’re playing right into their hands by continuing to circulate it. All this petty in-fighting is counter-productive and only gives more ammo to those who want to see us fail. What do you really think you’re trying to achieve here?

    Moreover, is ANY of this really relevant to the Indy ref? Why should anyone interested in Scottish Independence give two shits about, say, Stu’s personal opinions (which he is entitled to) on transsexuals? This twitter groupthink nonsense is precisely what Jim Sillars was warning against.

    I suggest aiming your sights on the No side, there is plenty to find fault with over there. Wings is a fantastic resource and I know first hand that it has turned many undecideds to Yes.

  11. Like many of your posts Jane, this is simply outstanding. Made all the more potent by the temperate, almost dispassionate, use of language.

    You’ll no doubt be aware that I’ve posted material on Wings from time to time, but I struggle to remain as objective as you clearly have here.

    The wordles are excellent.

    You’re right about the hate. He’s on record actively wanting people to hate him.

    I see he’s tweeted some of his forensic analysis regarding your good self.


    • Whenever someone is getting irrationally upset about Stu on the internet, the lovely longshanker is never too far away to chime in with some sycophantic words of support; no matter which side they’re on. It’s a bit creepy.

      • Indeed! The level of self delusion on display would put Tony Blair to shame: “..I’ve posted material on Wings from time to time..” from a guy with a blog creepily devoted to lame attacks on Wings and Stu Campbell personally, cheerled by an even creepier assortment of sundry wet-nats and britnat zoomers.

        • Fair warning: you’re stepping close to the line of mere personal abuse. Stop this thread here.

          • Yeah. Personal abuse on this blog is YOUR job.

          • Moderating this blog is my responsibility, Stuart. I have a fairly narrow definition of what counts as personal abuse and a pretty broad definition of what constitutes civil discussion. Mentioning that Longshanker is a regular critic of yours is reasonable – Longshanker is likewise welcome to correct or concede that point. Mere vituperation about Longshanker is not a useful contribution to discussion.

  12. As you say, you’re quite free to moderate your own blog as you see fit. A cursory glance at Longshankers blog is enough to convince any reasonable person however that his obsession with Wings Over Scotland is, if not actually psychologically significant, certainly creepy by any normal standard. No doubt this qualifies as vile cybernate abuse in your circles.

    The handful of people who cheer him on (ask yourself in passing why there are so few, and why the same handful habitually appear?) show the limited appeal of his personal hobby horse, and amply demonstrate the difference between a truly grassroots phenomenon, and the new media equivalent of a self published conspiracy theory tome.

    Good luck with your blog however; each negative attack piece on the Yes camp adds to the chances of a Yes vote, as Prof. Shepherd’s work at Strathclyde showed.

    • I think it takes some doing to regard a blogpost which praises A Better Nation, Bella Caledonia, Lallands Peat Worrier, National Collective, and Newsnet Scotland, and which has been positively linked to by Kate Higgins of Burdzeyeview, as a “negative attack piece on the Yes camp”. But I suppose if the “Yes camp” in your view consists entirely and exclusively of “Wings Over Scotland”, you’d be right there. As has been noted elsewhere, I have now expended something like 0.29% of my blog on Stuart Campbell, and it already begins to feel like too much.

      (One of the reasons I wrote it was straightforwardly because I felt it unfair that Alex Salmond’s office should be accused of orchestrating an attack on Clare Lally, when it seemed quite clear to me that the responsibility lay otherwhere.)

  13. Kate Higgins is of course a fully paid up member of the Wings Over Scotland hate club and famous (infamous?) for being one of the leading “wet-nats” (yeah, I know, more vile cybernate abuse, but useful and accurate shorthand in her case) who never tire of raining on any Yes campaign parade. You’ll forgive me if I don’t take her approbation remotely seriously!

    You’re right, it is unfair that Alex Salmond’s office should be so accused; not of course that it has stopped the baying hounds of BT and their sock puppets in the Scottish MSM and unionist blogosphere more generally claiming exactly that. The issue with “Lallygate”, as even some in the No camp must see, was the initial misrepresentation of her position. Any abuse of her as an individual, attributable to random internet nutters, is shameful and to be condemned. Calls for Gunn’s head in relation to this are hysterical over-reactions.

    The Yes camp as you say consists of much more than just high profile web-sites. Unlike BT/NoThanks/UniteWithLabour etc, and in marked contrast to groups like VoteNoBorders, it is a genuine grass roots mass movement. Yes, I happen to think wings does a great job, even if I don’t always agree with everything in it; you see we’re not some cybernat hive mind, much as the Daily Mail would have folk believe otherwise.

    From the evidence of your hatchet job above, and Stu’s pretty comprehensive (if sweary) rebuttal, I know where I’d rather be looking for accurate information.

    • Interesting that in your view Kate Higgins is part of the No camp, even though she’s planning to vote Yes. Apparently merely planning to vote Yes is not enough to qualify her? Are you sure this is really about Yes getting the majority/independent Scotland for you? Because, just as Wings blog doesn’t appear to be much concerned about getting independence for Scotland, you appear to be more interested in supporting Wings than getting a Yes majority in September.

      Obviously, the only parts of my blog for which Stuart offered a rebutall was the bit about his career as a games designer: it was fair of him to point out that a career by which he earned his living for 20 years can’t be said to be a failure, and I was happy to insert that correction. To rebut any of the rest of it he would have had to show I’d got it wrong, and as he really couldn’t, no matter how much he swore, it’s still not a rebuttal.

      • Try interacting with what I actually write, rather than what you think I mean, and we might get a bit further. I’m fully aware Kate Higgins is a supporter of Yes. My concerns (which you will find are pretty widely shared even from a cursory glance at the below the line comments on her blog and on twitter) relate to the fact that her interventions are often seen as giving aid and comfort to the No camp.

        She is of course entitled to her views, as the Yes camp is a pretty broad church, just as those of us who disagree with her are entitled to point out what we see as the dangers of her aiding and abetting the No camp. Like so many “wet-nats” of course, the root of their problem is often some past disagreement with the SNP, or personal animus against that party. Given the diversity of the Yes movement, nobody is expecting slavish obedience; what is harder to comprehend is taking lumps out of your own side and insisting it is for their own good.

        How you can think Wings blog isn’t concerned about independence escapes me; there is simply no logic in your statement. I’m totally committed to seeing a Yes majority in September. the resin my posting here concentrates on Wings, is that’s what this article concentrates on.

        The rest of your points relating to Wings have already BEEN comprehensively fisked. You obviously didn’t (and probably still don’t) understand wordles, and every other item about Stu/Wings has already been proven inaccurate, or you’ve simply misinterpreted them to suit your own prejudices.

        • I’m fully aware Kate Higgins is a supporter of Yes.

          Oh good. You didn’t seem to be quite sure.

          her interventions are often seen as giving aid and comfort to the No camp.

          By whom, I wonder?

          Stuart Campbell’s “interventions” are often seen as giving aid and comfort to the No camp. Certainly I’ve encountered no one who can explain why attacking Clare Lally for describing herself as an “ordinary housewife”, then being the cause of damaging Alex Salmond’s office by Campbell Gunn’s injudicious email passing on the false information about Lally, is supposed to be good for the Yes campaign. Who is going to be inspired to vote for an indy Scotland because Stuart Campbell said Clare Lally shouldn’t describe herself as an ordinary housewife?

          How you can think Wings blog isn’t concerned about independence escapes me

          Because it seems to be primarily concerned with attacks. The top five most-read stories of the past week were: The attack on Clare Lally for presuming to describe herself as an ordinary housewife: The attack on Alastair Darling for his comment about Alex Salmond (I am a fan of neither one of them, by the way, but I can’t see what Darling may have said about Salmond as having any connection to whether-or-not to vote for independence): the attack on the Scotsman for “smearing” Stuart Campbell: Stuart Campbell’s fisking of the “smear” in the Scotsman, including his quibbling about whether or not he really blamed Liverpool fans for Hillsborough: and Stuart Campbell’s own report on his appearance on Scotland Tonight.

          What do any of these stories have to do with the campaign for Scottish independence? Darling vs Salmond the most, perhaps – but Darling’s viciousness about Salmond matters less to me than Darling’s attachment to the gravy train of Westminster expenses.

          (My “top five” for the past 7 days are: The Invisible Wings & Cybernats, Cybernaws, Clare Lally (though I will admit Stuart Campbell has as much to do with getting them traffic as I do), a story I pubbed yesterday “Ukip talking Turkey”, a blogpost I wrote on currency union “A better nation…?”, and a regular favourite, “Iain Duncan Smith: the quiet man with so much to be quiet about”. A close sixth is a blogpost I wrote a while ago, “Magnetic Girls Talk”.

          This represents is a fair picture of what I write about: current politics, issues around the referendum, feminism, and attacks on right-wing politics, politicians, and parties.)

          Whereas it appears people are going to Wings Over Scotland to read about Stuart Campbell attacking people and complaining about being attacked.

          This may be an outlier week – all blogs have them sometimes. But that’s certainly the current picture of what Wings does, and what people go to Wings to read about.

          The rest of your points relating to Wings have already BEEN comprehensively fisked.

          Really? Where? Because all I’ve seen so far is Stuart Campbell doing a swearie comment in which he failed to debunk a single point I’d made in my blog, including his continuing to repeat the unevidenced claim that Clare Lally is a member of the Labour Shadow Cabinet. (Which she isn’t. There are any number of official lists of the Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet and official Labour spokespersons, two of which I referenced in the blogpost: Clare Lally isn’t listed.) Campbell fairly pointed out an issue with my description of his game design career, and a typo of Clare Lally’s partner’s name, both of which I corrected.

          As for the objections to Wordles: It will certainly be interesting to re-run them in a few weeks and see how they compare then. It will be interesting to see if Stuart Campbell is writing any more about Scotland/the referendum then as the referendum itself approaches.

          • 1. No, I was always quite sure about Higgins’ views. Nothing I’ve written suggests otherwise, you just assumed it.

            2. Many Yes supporters share my view of the damage her ill-judged interventions do. The fact that you aren’t aware of them +/or don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or that they aren’t sincerely held or of value. The same goes for “Lallygate” – I’ve seen & read lots of coverage and discussed the merits of the issue with quite a few myself. Plenty of them, even including some on the No side, are horrified by the hash the No camp are making of it, and the calls for Gunn’s head. In truth few people will alter their opinion either way on the basis of this one issue; the deliberate misrepresentation of her by the No camp however is far more significant than the faux outrage about Gunn’s involvement.

            3. Wings frequently responds to unionist misinformation in the MSM – that’s hardly new. Your’re avoiding the issue that your Wordle analysis is fundamentally flawed, and your attitude towards Wings as a site, and Stu Campbell as a person, totally skewed by your hostility to both.

            4. All the points of your article HAVE been rebutted; sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “Lalalala” isn’t convincing anyone. Semantics aside, Lally IS co-opted in the shadow Cabinet…even Jackie Baillie said so. The issues about Bill Walker, the presumed charity status etc. are simply dog-whistle anti-Wings lines which have been addressed and disproved, but you see fit to rehash. They don’t get any more convincing for you parroting them over and over again.

          • 1. I see. So, the problem is that Kate is Judean People’s Front, and you are People’s Front of Judea. Got it.

            2. Many Yes supporters share the view of the damage Stuart Campbell’sr ill-judged interventions do. The fact that you aren’t aware of them +/or don’t agree with them doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or that they aren’t sincerely held or of value.

            3. This blogpost, and the previous one, are the first two in which I ever wrote about Wings Over Scotland, because I do dislike Stuart Campbell: he’s a misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic bigot – why would you think I would like him? He’s not someone I enjoy writing about: he’s someone I’m happy lives in Bath, and I hope stays there.

            Key in decision to write the first post was to defend Clare Lally: Stuart Campbell’s attack on her was really repellent, and the follow-up libellous attacks on her in the comments (screencaps linked to in blogpost) were rather revealing of the kind of people who read/comment at Wings. Key in decision to write second post was to make clear that blaming Alex Salmond for “orchestrating” the smear of Clare Lally was a distorted untruth: the person primarily to blame was Campbell Gunn, but the source of Gunn’s email was Wings Over Scotland, not Salmond’s office.

            4. Clare Lally is not a member of Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, and sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “But Jackie Baillie SAID SHE WAS” won’t make her so. Always go to the primary sources for fact-checking. I noted in my blogpost that no-one seems to know where the idea that Wings Over Scotland is a charity came from: if you know how they got the idea that Wings had charity status, do tell. And regrettably, it is perfectly true that Stuart Campbell objected to the idea that just because Bill Walker was known to be a wife-beater that he should be described as such. Your defense of his outrage that women who had been beaten by Bill Walker were being believed, doesn’t make you look any better, either.

    • Alec

      Kate Higgins is of course a fully paid up member of the Wings Over Scotland hate club […]

      You make that sound beyond the pale. Almost as if no dissent is permitted given Higgins’ polite – but appalled – response to Campbell’s goading.

      […] and famous (infamous?) for being one of the leading “wet-nats”

      Ja, ye haf zis leetle leezt.

      Campbell’s coinage – which you’re repeating obediently – “WetNats” speaks volumes about your similarities with Thatcher (cf. “WetTories”).


  14. Jane

    Robert F. Kennedy wrote:

    “What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

    Worth a read in the context of this post and consequent discussion thread.


  15. 1. Disagreement happens, it’s in the nature of such debates. She is (thankfully) very much part of the minority. The mainstream Yes movement isn’t helped by some of her pronouncements, just as some Yes people don’t like Wings. Their relative followings should act as some clue as to which we should probably set most store by.

    2. See 1 above. We don’t all agree with everything Wings comes out with, or how he expresses it, but you don’t get that level of support and funding by being the the nasty piece of work the No camp love to smear him as.

    3. I wouldn’t like such a person either. He isn’t one, you’ve just fallen for the haters intellectually lazy othering of someone on the other side. It’s a tried and true tactic of the No side, as many of us have personally found. Gunn had nothing to apologise for except getting the relationship to ex-Provost Lally wrong. He didn’t wage a repellent attack on Lally. Any abuse of her by random nutters is to be deplored, and was very widely. It still doesn’t make the misrepresentation of her by the No camp any less wrong. To be honest, her refusal to accept the fulsome apology doesn’t do her any favours either.

    4. More semantics. Baillie’s own website specifically names her as an appointee to the Shadow Cabinet – how much more “official” than an MSP’s website do you want? Even your OWN link to the Daily record blows your ridiculous assertions about Lally out the water, the headline talking about her joining the political elite, the article has her “joining the Shadow Cabinet”, and directly quoted JoLa:

    “She said: “I want a cabinet of all talents which will tap in to the expertise and experience that politicians don’t have and offer a different point of view.

    “Clare will bring to us an insight into the everyday challenges faced by a young mother and carer and remind us all that politics should be about changing people’s lives for the better.”!”

    So she may not be a full member, but she’s patently regarded as part of it by both the leader of Labour’s Scottish branch and one of their MSP’s. As extra-orinary a woman and carer as Ms. Lally undoubtedly is, the misrepresentation of her by the No camp as some disinterested, non-party political figure is deeply disingenuous.

  16. To conlcude:

    4. (cont’d)

    It is on the contrary abundantly clear where the confusion on the charity status came from, as wings posted at the time and said above; the advertising company assumed it, and admitted as much. Your comment relating to his (or for that matter my) views of the Bill Walker case reflect rather worse on you than on either of us and are deeply unpleasant. Your position seems to be that any such allegations must be believed. I can see why you’d LIKE this to be the case, because then we’d all perforce be obliged to believe your claim that Stu Campbell is “a misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic bigot” just because you say so. Lord help us if you ever end up on a jury weighing up anyone guilt or innocence.

    We’re done here. I have no interest in debating further with someone so fundamentally blinkered and unpleasant.

    • the advertising company assumed it, and admitted as much

      So Stuart Campbell says, yes. But advertising companies (indeed, no company) just “assumes” charity status: they check.

      Your comment relating to his (or for that matter my) views of the Bill Walker case reflect rather worse on you than on either of us and are deeply unpleasant. Your position seems to be that any such allegations must be believed.

      Yes. I find your position that women who say they’ve been beaten by their husbands must be assumed to be lying, as unpleasant as you do mine. I think we’re not going to agree on this.

      Bill Walker was divorced from at least one of his wives with “domestic violence” listed as a cause on his divorce papers. This came into the public domain in 2012, along with testimony from his other two ex-wives and his stepdaughter. Your assertion that all four should be assumed to be lying is… unpleasant is meiosis, but it’s one word for it.

      I can see why you’d LIKE this to be the case, because then we’d all perforce be obliged to believe your claim that Stu Campbell is “a misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic bigot” just because

      …I posted screenshots of Stuart Campbell saying misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic things? Yes, I can see why you don’t want to believe that this makes him a bigot.

      In court, a special standard of belief applies: jury members are required to decide if something has been proved beyond reasonable doubt, and – rightly, since a criminal conviction/prison is a very serious consequence – unless someone has been proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt, they should be acquitted. In ordinary day-to-day dealings, we are not required to hold to this standard. Bill Walker had a right not to go to jail until he had been convicted in a court of law for wife-beating. He did not have a protected right to be a MSP: being an MSP is a privilege, not a right. And as for the assumption that until he was convicted, everyone should assume his three ex-wives and his stepdaughter were all lying… well, God help any battered woman who ever comes to you for help.

      • Anon

        There is a real difference between the fundamental human right of the presumption of innocence until proof of guilt, and accusing those pressing charges of lying. It is one of the founding principles of our legal system and democracy and protects not only the accused but the credibility of the claimants. To dismiss conviction in a court of law as an unnecessary formality before pronouncing damning and stigmatic judgement on anyone actively undermines the judicial process and does nothing to protect survivors of abuse. I say this as a committed feminist and certainly not to defend abusers, but to uphold principles without which society cannot hope to administer justice.

        • There is a real difference between the fundamental human right of the presumption of innocence until proof of guilt, and accusing those pressing charges of lying.

          Yes, there is, and I outlined that difference with reference to Bill Walker.

          He had the fundamental human right of the presumption of innocence until proof of guilt: he did not go to jail until he had been tried and convicted and sentenced in a court of law. (Note that the women he’d beaten were not the ones pressing charges, as you appear to think: domestic violence is a criminal offence, and charges are brought by the Procurator Fiscal.)

          But, substantially before the case came to court, it became public knowledge that all three of Bill Walker’s ex-wives said he had beaten them: so did his step-daughter: that in one of his divorces, “domestic violence” had been given as the cause for divorce. While Bill Walker could not be sent to jail (and rightly so) on the basis of what his ex-wives and his step-daughter said about him, the fact is: either you accuse all four of lying, or Bill Walker is a wife-beater (and beat his step-daughter, too).

          To assert that women who have been beaten by a man must not make public that he beat them until a court of law has found him guilty, is exactly how, in the past, survivors of abuse have not only not been protected: they have been vilified for smearing the good name of a respectable man.

          Your belief that a committed feminist can argue that women who say they were abused ought to be formally unheard and disbelieved unless the case goes to court, is a very odd case for feminism. In 2012, we all knew: either all four women were lying, or Bill Walker had beaten them.

        • Alec

          Speaking bluntly, your commitment to honesty in debate – not to mention feminism – doesn’t seem to extend to using an identifiable posting handle.

          When Campbell wrote that tearful defence of Walker’s inalienable right to remain an MSP, the brute already had claimed that smacking a 13 year old girl with a frying pan was self-defence ‘cos she was defending her mother – in what may have been the first time a woman ever had resisted him – from attack by him.

          Speaking for myself, I don’t think such a specimen would have a reputation to defend.

          Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t mean what you think it does. It does not mean innocent with no possibility of guilty. It means that an accused has the expectation of knowing what charges were made against him and a means to defend himself and a clear date set for the trial.

          I’ll say what EdinburghEye didn’t. Feminist? My gluteus maximus. I wonder also if you actually are a woman.


          • Alec, I’m in general agreement with most of your comment, and thank you, but just two points:

            doesn’t seem to extend to using an identifiable posting handle.

            In “Anon”‘s defence, while she opted not to use a posting handle, she had used an identifiable email address, visible to me but not to general readers. I respect the right of everyone to as much privacy on the Internet as they desire.

            I wonder also if you actually are a woman.

            …which speculation is entirely irrelevant.

          • Alec

            Re the first point, although I do consider such anonymous posting to be a snub towards open debate. I don’t use a real e-mail address for anti-spam purposes, but I do use a publicly visible posting-handle in the same way I don’t wear a bag over my head when talking face-to-face.

            On the second, this poster already had identified themselves as a feminist – ergo of a special higher sort of morality, with an extra big heart on their sleeve – so had thought it relevant and imparting on them extra kudos from being a woman… unless men can be feminists, which I don’t think we can regardless of how much we might seek to understand and find understandable feminist principles.


          • This is my blog, I’m the only one who gets to decide how anonymous anyone can be in a comment. The right to be anonymous in online discussion is a feminist issue.

            Please stick to criticising what “Anon” had to say, and refrain from criticising her choice of anonymity to say it.

          • Alec

            Out of absolute respect to you, fair enough.


  17. Pingback: Yes Together: Robin McAlpine, Wings Over Scotland, and the progressive whitewashing of misogyny « Better Nation

  18. When I paste in wingsoverscotland into I get Salmond, Better, Together, Darling etc and no Campbell – are you sure you were dealing with the same website?

    • Thanks for reminding me that I’d meant to do Wordles again on all of these sites a week or so later for comparison – as Stuart (justly) noted, he had mentioned Campbell Gunn more than once at the point I took the Wordle of his blog.

  19. Alec

    On 19th September, whether Yes or No gets the majority, Stuart Campbell will still be in Bath, still writing his poison-pen blogs, finding a new cause for hate.

    He might in fact be the original Internet troll. He’s been at it since the early days of UseNet.

    I cannot comprehend how someone can be consumed by such bitterness. It is quite creepy that he still is keeping the hate going after 25 years.


  20. Alec

    On Jim Sillars’ comments, even they smacked of a self-pity and reluctance to accept responsibility with which a more appealing campaign may result… which as an ardent NO, warms the foul cockles of my dark heart. The political thuggery of extreme YESes is not to be repudiated for what it is – breathtakingly unpleasant abuse – but ‘cos it’s playing into the hands of the NO. Elsewhere he said that such louts couldn’t be doing a better job is they were being paid by the NO-side… that is, even when it is solely and entirely the fault of YESes, it still is the fault of NO.


  21. Pingback: Wings Over Scotland Will Not Be Linked To On This Site. | dead clydeside

  22. Michael B

    The accusation of homophobia appears to be based on the tiniest shred of evidence. I certainly wouldn’t accuse someone of it on those grounds. I’m a 51 yr old gay man and I know what homophobia actually is. What bothers me most is the way in which you attempt to give your vindictive and spiteful attack substance by using accusations of homophobia as moral shield.

    • I’m a 51 yr old gay man and I know what homophobia actually is

      I’m a 47 year old lesbian woman and I know what homophobia and sexism actually are.

      Your belief that I am being “vindictive and spiteful” in calling out RevStu’s lack of research, homophobia, sexism, and transphobia, is certainly indicative of something about you,but I wouldn’t say it was any expertise in when a political campaigner should be called out for their nastiness and spite about women, especially trans women.

      However, the substance of my post about RevStu’s campaigning blog is how it has damaged the Yes Scotland campaign with his pointless, flailing rage. In this, his defenders continue to illustrate that I was right to do so.

  23. Pingback: Feminism in the Scottish post-referendum movement – #the45plus feminists rising | village aunties

  24. Graham

    Having read the comments on here it seems no matter what truth fact is writen there is always someone to deny it
    I have followed the vote with interest and blogged on wings–seems I am now barred as everything I write is spam .
    I have many fiends in Scotland and I asked many of them what they were going to vote. it was split 50/50
    Interestingly my gaelic speaking SNP voter friend on Lewis said he would vote no because AS had been evasive and wings was damaging the yes cause.He then said I will wait for a better opportunity.
    One wonders if the vote had been yes,and a site like wings was set up as a no vote site with the same attitudes as the current Wings.

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