An open letter to Jim Sillars

Dear Mr Sillars,

I would first of all like to acknowledge the long and great service you have done for the people of Scotland during your life in politics and for the excellent work you continue to do to this day. I have never seen you speak in person but have thoroughly enjoyed your powers of rhetoric as well as your vision for Scotland’s future via YouTube and radio. I sincerely hope that your contributions continue long into the future as you help to shape the new Scotland that will emerge. That said, I don’t universally agree with everything you say and I have two very specific bones to pick with you.

Today you wrote an open letter to the ‘useful idiots’, the so-called ‘cybernats’ who were foolish enough to offer less than polite comments towards Clare Lally and JK Rowling. I see the letter has been reposted in several places but this is the link I followed from your own Twitter feed, so I assume this  is the original letter.

In it you quite rightly tell the idiots who would rather swear and abuse that their input is not particularly helpful but then I am afraid you over step the boundaries somewhat. You write that Deborah Water’s speech was over-shadowed by the reports of the cybernetic abuse and state that the reason she didn’t receive coverage in the national media was down to their actions. Come on now, really? One of the hallmarks of this entire campaign is that the Yes campaign’s actions are rarely, if ever, reported in the main stream media and last night would have been no exception. I do totally agree that giving the No campaign ammunition to hurl at us is somewhat stupid but the blame for bias in the media needs to be firmly aimed at the media and not diverted away on the 2% (by your estimations) of evil cybernats who are giving the rest of us a bad name.

You then ask if people are naïve and ask if they have no knowledge of the nationalist movement and the security forces. It may come as a surprise to you that it would be a rare thing indeed for people outside of Scottish nationalist politics to be aware of the incidents you allude to. I am 40 this year and am no stranger to state propaganda, police and military intelligence and I am not aware of those incidents you refer to so I very, very much doubt that many younger people have even considered that MI5 or Special Branch (who are they anyway? I know, but I bet a lot of readers haven’t a clue) might be taking an interest in this issue. Don’t they fight terrorists? Why would they be interested in Scottish independence? You mention false flag operations and the fact that Dignity Project was hacked so the abuse it levelled at JK Rowling was unlikely to have been typed by a Yes supporter. Has it crossed your mind that your 2% may in fact be more like 0.2% and the other 1.8% is actually our ‘enemies’ at work? You warn of such things yet come out and berate the Yes side for perpetrating the abuse of JK Rowling and Clare Lally. Perhaps you are pointing at the wrong crowd again?

You are in danger of sounding like one of the senior figures of politics who tells the rest of us to sit down, shut up, listen and do exactly what you tell us to do without any consideration that ‘we’ might want to do something different. Isn’t that what we accuse Westminster of doing to all Scots? Personally I am very interested in the socialist vision that you have for Scotland but I am kind of old fashioned in my politics and I am very aware that a lot of the people my age and younger, are totally turned off by the old-style socialist rhetoric that your generation are so good at. A lot of people who are keen on Scottish independence do not share your idea of how a campaign should be run or who should be getting to make noises about issues that arise.

Perhaps also, the reason there has been an apparent increase in the cybernasties is that there is very little firm talk coming from the leaders and the thinkers of the Yes campaign. Who in a position of authority is taking the BBC to task regarding its coverage of the campaign? Why are questions not being raised in Westminster parliament about the BBC’s failure to abide by its own charter? Why are demands not being made for a public enquiry? Why, in light of the comments directed towards JK Rowling, has nobody of ‘substance’ made reference to the vile treatment the Weirs received when they donated to Yes Scotland and the SNP? Why are the big names not expressing outrage that the very idea of Nazism is being linked – by anyone – to the referendum process? Why has nobody stepped up and said that it is totally unacceptable to compare regimes which killed millions of people to what is going on in Scotland? Or to comparing Alex Salmond to the despots who ran those regimes? These points have been raised very eloquently by various writers and speakers online but why does the independence ‘establishment’ not challenge these statements? If you top dogs leave such commentary to the ‘useful idiots’ you run the risk that the idiots are going to start thinking and acting for ourselves.

One of the great strengths of this Yes campaign is that it is genuinely ‘of the people’ and not entirely about  the leadership of the Yes politicians such as yourself. But it is also one of the weaknesses of the campaign because if those of you (and by this I primarily mean the senior SNP MSPs) who have power and authority fail to use it, your followers and hangers-on will exert their own ‘leadership’ and this could backfire as we have just seen. Perhaps you lot have got a ‘big event’ up your sleeves but some of us are beginning to wonder when the campaign is going to actually start…(and I don’t mean me, I will get worried in about six weeks’ time though, if nothing changes).

This point about leadership leads me to my second major gripe with you. In May you published another article, this time about the leadership being exerted by Alex Salmond. In it you publically called him a liability to the Yes campaign because he was too busy being too statesman-like as First Minister and not spending enough time being the personable man the voters can like if they get to meet him. You said that you, and other speakers like you, were constantly having to address the issue of whether Mr Salmond was a nice man and whether the vote for Yes was a vote for Mr Salmond. You appeared to blame Mr Salmond’s behaviour for alienating the voting public. Again, I think you are pointing a finger at the wrong target.

The reason much of the Scottish public don’t ‘like’ Alex Salmond is because of two things, and neither of them are Alex Salmond: As you well know, the Scottish Labour Party hates the SNP and Alex Salmond and everything they stand for, regardless of what it is they stand for, and they are not shy about saying so. The mainstream media which, as we all know, has taken up this message and spread it far and wide so loads of people get exposed to it. Mr Salmond is criticised for being too statesman-like, he is criticised for being too keen on seeking publicity and he is criticised for actually being smarter than many of the other politicians in the Scottish Parliament. On the other hand, if he was a stay at home FM with a shy and retiring nature and a room temperature IQ, don’t you think that he would be criticised just as roundly and just as many people would dislike him? In other words, it isn’t Alex Salmond who is to blame for not being liked, it is the media and the No campaign who are creating that image and the job of every Yes campaigner (from the big dogs like you to the puppies like me) is to counter this belief and not reinforce it by calling Mr Salmond a ‘liability’.

Your decision to write that article was more of a shot in the foot of the Yes campaign than anything the ‘vile cybernats’  did in recent days. I read about your intervention in the Daily Record, which splashed their headline “Alex Salmond has become a liability to the Yes campaign – and could cost them the referendum, says Jim Sillars“ across its pages, and wanted to throttle you. You may well be totally on the money about what Alex Salmond should or should not be doing and you may have genuine criticisms of the way in which the SNP structure is enforced, but please, please do not give our opponents such ammunition by making those views public.

All of us in the Yes side need to remember one key thing: The only thing that matters is that on 18th September 2014 the majority of the voting public in Scotland votes Yes. Everything else is immaterial. It doesn’t really matter if any one of us is in favour of sharing the Pound, nor does it matter who we want in Government in an independent Scotland or who should be drafting the constitution or on the negotiating team. None of these things matter a hill of beans unless we win. Let’s all keep putting forward our positive visions for the future and lay off criticising any other Yes ideas (come on, let’s all support ‘Conservatives for Yes’ even if they want to privatise the NHS an keep Trident) because will be in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory if we continue blaming and criticising individuals or groups within our collective movements.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh Wallace


About Hugh Wallace

Soldier, sailor, policeman, engineer, scientist, democrat, socialist, environmentalist, advocate of Scottish Independence
This entry was posted in 18th September, independence, yes scotland and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to An open letter to Jim Sillars

  1. Alan Wyllie says:

    Im more inclined to agree with Jim Sillars but there are some good points in this article.

    Any abuse from the pro-indy movement needs to be immediately condemned otherwise it leaves the whole movement open to allegations of being bullies and being undemocratic. We should listen to folk who have more political experience than us.

    I don’t agree with your issue with Jim Sillars criticising the SNP. If we accept that the IndyRef is not about the SNP then people should be allowed to criticise failings of the SNP without fear or favour. If we don’t have any dissenting voices (or dissenting voices are throttled) then we will will be a turn-off to the members of the public who do not like the SNP/Salmond.


  2. John Gourlay says:

    More than some good points. I do begin to wonder about Mr Salmond and Jim Sillers not getting appropriate Media coverage though. Especially Jim, as Alex sometimes seems to be on his holidays but then he does have a parliament to run.


    • Hugh Wallace says:

      I agree with much of what you say Alan, but on your last point I would add that it is not about the fact that people have views other than those of the SNP and are loudly shouting them from the rooftops but that certain individuals, in this case because of their former membership of the SNP, can have a disproportionate effect when voicing those views. I saw a Youtube video of Carolyn Leckie commenting on the fact that another speaker had claimed that the SNP vision wasn’t socialist enough. Ms Leckie agreed but pointed out that there was a far greater chance of establishing a socialist Scotland after independence so we needed to focus on that. Some people, in my view, are focusing too much on the shape of government in Scotland in 2016 rather than taking the longer term view.

      My own personal opinion is that until 19th September we all need to diminish our differences and talk up all visions of an independent Scotland, even if that means persuading people to like the SNP and their policies. On the 19th we can start the process of publicly clamouring for our respective voices to be heard about the shape of an independent Scotland but even then, the main goal has to be to break our ties with the UK in a manner that best benefits all of Scotland and not any particular political party’s view. Then, once we have achieved this we can get around to creating the Scotland we want.

      First we dig out the ground, then we lay the foundations and then we build the house. At the moment too many are squabbling over the layout of the foundations or the number of windows when we haven’t even got planning permission yet!


    • Hugh Wallace says:

      Hi John, what do you wonder about regarding media representation? Not quite with you…


  3. This letter only scratches the surface. If we make it to Independence, and believe me it may not seem a long way off , but an awful lot can happen in that time, if we get to independence and the truth finally surfaces, you’ll probably poop your pants to find out how close to Armageddon we came. A few of us, including our government have known for years the potential scale of west coast oil, which is set to dwarf any exiting production. That combined with existing assets, which again have been grossly underplayed … makes ‘ownership’ of those resources fundamental to the 1%. Such is its value, amplified by its strategic position in Europe, that those who funded and promoted illegal corporate wars in other regions, will as I type this, be considering their options. It will be comparatively easy for agencies acting for the 1% to false flag sectarian violence and civil unrest post a YES vote. With massive overplaying by the MSM they, Westminster would justifiably seek a UN mandate to send in a peace keeping military force to maintain law and order. Independence negotiations would be postponed until ‘order’ was restored. A 21 century NI which could be dragged on long enough to ensure every last litre, once and grain of profitable resource had been sucked out from the Last Colony… then a dried empty carapace of a nation would finally be allowed its independence !


  4. Marjorie says:

    Excellent letter Hugh, we must stand firm together.


  5. Cybernattery / Britnattery, basically unnecessary abuse, is not solely a feature of the Independence debate it appears all over the internet in many guises. However as the YES campaign is a significantly more grass roots style operation it does make sense for all of us to pause and think a little before making any post.
    If the message gets lost because of the delivery to what point is it made? No one is saying that we should be stopped from presenting our case strongly and forcefully but it isn’t necessary to use emotive language quite so often and although I enjoy a good swear myself swearing for effect isn’t exactly the way to get the message over.
    We don’t need to debate this issue interminably for the next few months we just need to show a little bit restraint at times – to greater effect.


  6. Anne Baird says:

    I actually revel in our differences. It’s the most hopeful aspect of the YES campaign. The thing that brings those disparate parties and groups together, the thing they all share, is a vision of a better, fairer Scotland. Social justice, however we go about achieving it, is the common thread that holds us together. So I reckon you’re right Hugh. It does us no good to focus on where we’re divided. We should be shouting loud and clear about what we, despite those differences, share as an aim.

    But I’ve also been in the SNP for thirty five years and am old enough to know that the dark forces Sillar mentions are hard at work. They will do all they can to keep our oil and we need to really grit our teeth and rise above this cybernat business. A clear positive message needs to be the only ting on the hymn sheet and we need to all sing like hell.


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