Jim 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.)
“Please let some good come out of all of this” – the policeman finished his report on the Hillsborough disaster, only to see it heavily redacted for the judicial inquiry in 1989:
David Frost, who as a 21-year-old officer helped to treat fans in the Leppings Lane terraces, told the Lord Justice Stuart-Smith review in 1997 that his superiors made “wholesale changes” to the statements made by him and his fellow officers to “sanitise and protect themselves”.
Mr Frost told the judge how, three days after the tragedy, on 19 April 1989, he and fellow policemen were taken to a pub by a senior officer and warned: “It’s backs to the wall, boys. We’ve all got to say the same thing. Unless we all get our heads together and straighten it out, there are heads going to roll.”
The 16-page original testimony from May 1989, which at times reads like a diary from the trenches of the First World War, was cut down to six pages, the most heavily redacted statement out of all the 116 police statements that were altered. Mr Frost told Lord Justice Stuart-Smith he was ordered to sign the new redacted statement but refused. The final document shows what appears to be Mr Frost’s signature, but it is clearly different from his original handwriting, suggesting that someone involved in the cover-up forged his signature.
David Cameron made an excellent speech today in the House of Commons on the Hillsborough report:
The evidence in today’s report includes briefings to the media and attempts by the police to change the record of events. On the media: several newspapers reported false allegations that fans were drunk and violent and stole from the dead. The Sun’s report sensationalised these allegations under a banner headline, “The Truth”. This was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt.
News International has co-operated with the panel and, for the first time, today’s report reveals that the source for these despicable untruths was a Sheffield news agency reporting conversations with South Yorkshire police and Irvine Patnick, the then MP for Sheffield Hallam.
The Conservative MP Irvine Patnick reportedly told these stories to Margaret Thatcher when he was walking her round the Hillsborough football grounds. Kelvin MacKenzine says they came from Patnick and an “unnamed police source”. Irvine Patnick was knighted in July 1994.