I don’t know what has got into the water supply but for the last week I have been under attack for things I haven’t said and don’t believe.. That’s Twitter for you, I suppose, but it’s incredibly frustating to read stuff which is simply a lie. It all stems from the interview I did with Nicola Sturgeon last week and then the Telegraph column I wrote today. 99% of the critics weren’t at the event in Edinburgh and most won’t have read the Telegraph column as there’s a paywall. So I thought I’d put the Sturgeon bit of it here.
It’s not Liz Truss that is the Margaret Thatcher de nos jours, it’s Nicola Sturgeon. I’ve spent the last week at the Edinburgh Fringe hosting a series of political conversations. One of them was with Scottish First Minister and the vitriol both she and I attracted had to be seen to be believed. We hear a lot about the bile spewed out by the so-called ‘CyberNat’ trolls, and I have experienced it myself. What I hadn’t realised is that the Unionist side of the Independence debate has their own equivalents. They’ve been dubbed the ‘BritNats’ or BritYoons’. They literally hate Nicola Sturgeon more than they hate the independence cause she espouses. It seems to be a phenomenon that female politicians experience more than male. Margaret Thatcher had it in spades, and within a very short time so will Liz Truss. My mistake was to tweet that Nicola Sturgeon was one of the most impressive politicians I had ever interviewed. The wrath of the ‘BritNats’ descended on me rather quickly. Rather than explain to me why I was wrong, it was just a stream of insults, but they were nothing to what she has to put up with every day. The most mild criticism I got questioned why I didn’t skewer her on her government’s failures on drug deaths, energy, Ferries. Er, I did. But apparently I should have shouted at her and been gratuitously rude. What last week brought home to me was that the divisions in Scotland over independence run far deeper than most commentators in England realise. It’s Brexit all over again, and then double it. Any journalist or commentator who writes about Scottish politics should do so very warily over the next year or so. I don’t think it’s possible to be fully informed about what’s going on in the undergrowth of the independence arguments without actually spending time there, and in my case nine days was not enough.
Nicola Sturgeon has now been in power for nearly eight years. She has precious few domestic policy achievements to her name, but remains mistress of all she surveys. She remains a political titan in the independence debate, and she clearly hopes that her legacy will be defined by it. If she doesn’t achieve independence, her legacy will be defined by both that failure and the failure to improve the quality of education, the failure to bring down drug related deaths, alleged corruption within the SNP, incompetent procurement and much more besides.
So, no, I didn’t call ordinary unionist supporters, BritNats, I explained that the more extreme side of that argument has its Cybernat equivalent, and they are equally as vile and viscious. That’s not an opinion, it is a statement of fact. Nicola Sturgeon has disassociated herself from the more extreme Cybernats (She did so in my interview with her) and any self respecting unionist should disassooiate themselves from the vicious insults hurled by the so-called BritNats.
NB The full Nicola Sturgeon interview will be on the Iain Dale all Talk podcast from tomorrow, 17 August.