The boy who cried “#SNPBad”
As an Independence supporter I occasionally criticise the SNP. Don’t get me wrong, they will be getting my constituency vote in May but I would prefer them to be slightly more radical and also liberal in their policies. It’s debatable, but I think a more radical SNP would actually set Scotland apart from the UK and attract more people to the cause. The SNP are going for the Don’t-Rock-The-Boat approach which, to be fair, is actually going quite well at the moment. Their trust rating is higher than any other Scottish Government since records began. This trust level could in part be attributed to a fatal flaw in strategy from the Unionist media who have insulated the SNP from criticism by creating a “Boy Who Cries Wolf” scenario.
When I do criticise the SNP or post a story that is critical of them, like I do for all Scottish parties (mostly the shambles that is Labour), I am often met by accusations of spreading Unionist bias. These accusations are usually accompanied by the #SNPbad hashtag. It’s a bit of a sad state of affairs which illuminates the worst aspect of both sides, the Unionist media and the more rabid SNP footsoldiers. While it is horrible that so many can dismiss all valid disapproval so easily it is also understandable as the Unionist media did lay the foundation for this with months of ridiculous overblown reporting.
There are so many of them it defies belief and would be hard to convey in one short piece. We have the accusations of moonlighting against Dr Philipa Whitford and John McNally: one for saving lives over Christmas doing heart surgery and the other for spending Saturday morning cutting the hair of his constituents. We have the tweeting scandals of Mhari Black and Paul Monaghan: the former sent some silly football tweets when she was a child and the latter expressed a reasonable opinion about the Union Jack and the royal family before he was an MP. We have the accusation that George Kerevan pays his wife £20,000 a year for working for him which ignores the fact that he only collects £27,000 of the £74,000 salarly he is entitled to. So he employs two people for less than the price of one. Or the charge that Patricia Gibson had the highest expenses of any MP, which is true, but the accusers omitted to mention she paid for her London accommodation a year in advance, thus saving the taxpayer money in the long run. The list is practically endless. You can see an extended dossier of examples here.
However, the phenomenon is bad for democracy.
The fact that such a high proportion of the SNP stories are absolute garbage means any reasonable objection is either lost in a river of detritus or is dismissed as #SNPbad. The media think they are damaging them but they are actually helping the SNP by being so desperate in what they are prepared to print. The thousands of pages of fake outrage only appeal to the section of society who already hate the SNP and the idea of Independence. The papers are preaching to the converted, that rabid brigade who think that all SNP supporters are brainwashed blood and soil cybernats.
This week there was a reasonable report describing the SNP Council Tax changes as regressive, and it was dismissed by thousands as an SNPbad story. However, the tax is still regressive in the sense that it still unfairly punishes the less well off. The story is made more forceful by the fact the SNP have promised to replace the Council Tax for over a decade. Now, it is true to say that their tax changes are a step in the right direction and that the UK government have put barriers in front of them making a radical overhaul difficult. However, it was a completely fair news report trying to hold a government to account. Not #SNPbad.
Another area of valid criticism would be the watered down Land Reform Bill that was voted on this week. Now, there may have been good legal reasons for the bill to be passed in a weakened form compared to what was originally proposed, and the bill is certainly a step in the right direction. However, unlike the original proposal, the bill does not stop large chunks of Scottish land from being owned by companies based in offshore tax havens. And it is perfectly reasonable for people to express concern about this. Not #SNPbad.
So too is it ok to criticise the failure to propose changes in Income Tax levels. Or the centrist way the government have dealt with local government funding. Or the amalgamation of the regional police forces. Or the reduction in college places. Or mandatory testing of primary school children. None of these things are fundamentally right or wrong. But there are well-founded arguments to be made about their validity. Many SNP supporters don’t like many of these policies, and if they were proposed by the Tories or Labour many would be up in arms about them. Debate is healthy in a functioning democracy. You know, the kind we want to have post Independence.
Thankfully, just as the power of the constant ludicrous stories about the SNP is counter productive so too, in the long run, will be the constant use of #SNPbad. Eventually the hashtag will lose its power. However, the media could hasten this by sticking to genuine well argued balanced pieces holding the government to account instead of the pages and pages of ridiculous clickbait that pass for journalism.
Some of the SNP support need to change too, as the victimhood and outrage displayed by many at the slightest criticism is playing into the hands of many Unionists. They are conceived by many as reactionary and narrow-minded bullies and trying to shut down all healthy debate with a hash tag does nothing to dispel that myth. Like many already do, start to take valid criticism on the chin and argue why you think the carping is misjudged.
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