IN September, at a conference in Orkney, Better Together’s Ian Davidson MP declared that the No campaign had already won and all that was left was “to bayonet the wounded”.
Imagine if Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon had said that? It would have dominated the headlines for weeks. David Dimbleby would not have been amused. But even though I was present at the time, I refused to take offence at Davidson’s remark, which was obviously not serious.
However, now that the referendum campaign has begun in earnest, we all need to watch our words. UK newspapers are on alert for anti-English statements or nasty tweets about David Bowie, Better Together’s most glamorous recruit. This is now a hair-trigger media stand-off. There are elements in this debate who would like nothing better than to see the internet filled with Scottish people abusing English and vice versa.
Actually, it’s already happening. Look at the readers’ comments left on any UK newspaper website and you will often see Scots derided as educationally subnormal scroungers, whingers, dupes, drunks, parasites and much worse. There is a patronising, scolding tone to much UK newspaper commentary, which would be offensive were it applied to ethnic minorities. Cartoons in liberal newspapers portray Alex Salmond as a jumped-up oik in a kilt being put in his place by the big boys like Gordon Brown. But that is how politics is in a democracy, and while it may seem one-sided there is no point in getting militant about it.
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