I’m kind of used to waking up most mornings to a stream of cybernat abuse on Twitter. It’s become an occupational hazard of sticking my head above the parapet in support of staying in the UK. I’ve been told I’m everything from stupid to treacherous. The clear aim is to shut me up. Like that’s going to happen.
My view is that people should be able to take part in politics without being subjected to personal abuse. It would never dawn on me to have a personal go at a supporter of independence or question their motives for supporting independence. It’s their right to campaign for their sincerely held beliefs.
This campaign should be about a flow of ideas, seeking to inspire and engage. Sadly, some think it’s ok to ridicule and intimidate.
The SNP know that they have a problem with abusive cybernats. So it was reprehensible that Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham should retweet a picture letter from an 83 year old retired general to people he knew asking them to vote against independence. This picture had his full address, phone number and email address on it. Within hours, he had some nasty emails from cybernats as today’s Telegraph reports:
Earlier this week the 83-year-old was targeted by Cybernats, a notorious wing of the SNP that specialises in online abuse of Unionists, after his home and email addresses and phone number were published on a social networking website.
Sir Norman told this newspaper he contacted the police after receiving around half a dozen emails, some of which were abusive and contained expletives. One warned him to “shut the f*** up.”
They were sent after Ms Cunningham posted a message on Twitter mocking a letter-writing campaign the general has started to drum up donations for the pro-UK Better Together campaign.
Now, anyone can say or share something they shouldn’t on Twitter. Personally, I’d rather politicians spoke freely and mucked up occasionally. But, like anyone else, including me when I’ve done it, when they do muck up, they need to take responsibility.
Cunningham’s response is that as the General’s address was available in Who’s Who. I have my doubts that many cybernats roaming the internet late at night looking for prey would have a £350 subscription to the publication. Sure, they could go to the library the next day if they had thought about it, but she put those details in their line of sight. She was indirectly responsible for him getting distressing abuse. She should have foreseen it.
A fulsome apology is the very least that’s appropriate in the circumstances. If she can’t do that, then she surely has no place in Government and should resign.
The behaviour of some SNP ministers is falling well short of appropriate at the moment. Last week Kenny MacAskill made an extraordinarily awful speech at the end of the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill. He basically said that anyone who opposed his plans to remove the ancient principle of corroboration from the judicial system was a rape apologist who was part of a unionist conspiracy.
If those are the sorts of attitudes we’d have to deal with from the SNP in an independent Scotland, I’m more determined than ever to work for a vote to stay in the UK.
I hope that someone questions Alex Salmond on Cunningham’s behaviour at this week’s First Minister’s Questions.