NOEL FOY calls for a more constructive debate, from all parties, amid an increasing lack of restraint in recent months.

 

In an interesting article published in the ‘Scotsman’ on the 7 February 2012 former Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister, retired NATO General Secretary and distinguished Scot George Robertson complained of the vitriol heaped on the head of those who spoke out against the push towards Independence. Others, in similar terms, have written of the ‘Cybernat’ attacks which invariably follow anyone who, as Lord Robertson says “puts their head above the parapet”.

I would strongly recommend a visit to the online comments in the ‘Scotsman’ that follows George Robertson’s article. The great god Google will prove very helpful here. At the last look there were 19 pages and over 275 comments. A good number of the comments have been deleted or amended by the site moderator which says something in itself. Much of what is left on the site is aggressive, bitter and often openly vicious. Are these comments meant to wound, intimidate and silence? Yes, as I see it – but visit the site and make your own judgement.

Some may be inclined to dismiss Lord Robertson and this piece as a bit of a whinge by the Party which lost badly last May.  This would be to misunderstand what I am getting at and the issue I am trying to address. What I am seeking is common cause against unacceptable behaviour regardless of its origin. We can all surely agree that the right to be heard with a reasonable degree of respect is a given and above the cut and thrust of partisan politics. And even if nothing can be done about abuse and open political malice on the web mainstream politicians and Party activists of every stripe should condemn it.

Scotland has a great democratic tradition and the vast majority of Scots are fair minded, reasonable and liberal in the literal, open minded sense of this essential and much abused word. The vast majority of Scots hold steadfastly to the belief that the best and indeed only way moving forward and resolving strongly held differences of opinion is by persuasion, dialogue and democracy. And it fair to assume that the vast majority of Scots, if consulted and given a choice on the matter, would deplore the misuse of the internet by a few who apparently believe in none of the above.

Sooner or later there will be an end to all this toing and froing and the people will decide. Regardless of the outcome the decision will be life changing, final and (hopefully) decisive. There will be no second act, no re-run, no re-match and the winner will take all. Being on the losing side will be a very, very hard place to be. With so much heat, passion and emotion so clearly on display, some of it distinctly unpleasant, perhaps all of us ought to thinking now about what Scotland might be like after the referendum.

No-one knows how long Noel Foy worked as an organiser for the Scottish Labour Party, but rumours abound that his relationship with Keir Hardie was not good. He’s now retired, lives in Haddington and is still fighting the good fight.