Wings Over Scotland
Wings Over Scotland is one of the most influential political blogs in Scotland focusing particularly on the media – whether mainstream print and broadcast organisations or the online and social-network community – as well as offering its own commentary and analysis. In May 2021, Scottish independence campaigner Stuart Campbell announced he is ending his involvement with the Wings Over Scotland blog.
Wings is over
On 12 May 2021, Stuart Campbell, founder of Wings Over Scotland, wrote a post entitled "The Ship Song":
Ten years ago this month I was in a pub called The Porter in Bath with my girlfriend and her family, buying everyone whiskies and gabbling deliriously (I’d been up for over 40 hours at that point) about the significance of what had just happened.
Alex Salmond’s SNP had just broken the Scottish electoral system, winning an absolute majority of seats in a Parliament designed expressly to stop that from ever happening. A total of 72 pro-independence MSPs had been elected, and it was already clear that an independence referendum was going to happen despite the Labour Party’s best efforts. It was impossibly exciting.
This month I sat and watched 72 ostensibly pro-indy MSPs be elected again, but this time with my heart breaking, knowing that they would achieve nothing and indeed had no real intention to even try.
And I’ve had enough of feeling that way.
I’m not going to rehash all the blindingly obvious reasons why there isn’t going to be independence referendum in the life of this Parliament, because we’ve explained them a dozen times and anyone who was ever going to listen already knows. Boris Johnson – or any other Tory leader – has absolutely no reason to allow one and nothing to fear from refusing.
Scotland has no influence over him whatsoever. The mad fantasy of him bowing to pressure from an international community that stood back and watched Spain beat up and imprison peaceful democratic campaigners doesn’t deserve the dignity of a moment’s consideration from anyone even halfway sane. We told you in May 2016 that the election result took an indyref off the table for five years and we were proved right. We’re telling you again.
The only time in history the independence movement has ever held any meaningful leverage over a UK government (Theresa May’s lame-duck minority administration of 2017-19) Nicola Sturgeon squandered it on a futile and immoral attempt to deny England and Wales the Brexit that they voted for of their own free democratic will, and then helpfully handed Johnson the election that gave him the 80-seat majority which now renders him totally invulnerable on the constitution.
So what’s coming now is five miserable years of deja vu. A Holyrood with a pro-indy majority but no will to do anything with it, just like the one we’ve had since 2016 when Sturgeon lost Salmond’s majority and became beholden to the foul, racist, misogynist paedophilia sympathisers and enablers of the Scottish Greens – a situation that it’s now possible with hindsight to see absolutely delights her.
I want no part of the lie they’re going to foist on indy supporters for the next few years. I want no responsibility for how people are going to feel as it slowly, gradually dawns on them that they’ve been conned and taken for fools in exactly the same way Tony Blair did to Labour voters 20 years ago.
Blair won three elections, but burned Labour and all its values to the ground in the process, leaving the party an unelectable, bitterly factional mess that still trails even the current monstrous, farcical atrocity of a Tory government in the opinion polls, 13 years after Blair left office to concentrate on building his colossal personal wealth.
That day is coming down the line for the New SNP, make no mistake about it. Given the ludicrously inept state of the opposition parties in Scotland it looks a while off yet. But the Tories under William Hague and Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith were a joke of a party that looked like it was dead and buried forever, but politics abhors a vacuum and eventually someone came along capable of reviving it.
The price that’ll be paid for Nicola Sturgeon’s betrayal of the SNP for the sake of her personal career will be years and years in the wilderness for the independence movement. The 80 years of work by her predecessors leading to the high water mark of 2011-14 have been turned to ashes and it takes a while for anything to grow back from ashes.
I’m already 53 and the men in my family rarely get much past 70. I don’t intend to waste the rest of my life waiting for that to happen, and unlike some I’m not prepared to lie to people in the meantime for the sake of a paycheque or a cosy wee country cottage or a pathetic delusion of relevance like some broken-record bloggers or media pundits who should have been pensioned off a decade ago.
Nor am I willing to destroy my health and happiness by putting myself through the fury of being lied to every day, never mind all the accompanying abuse.
I could spend the next decade documenting that alone, but a few weeks ago Paul “Wee Ginger Dug” Kavanagh did something so indescribably despicable I can barely bring myself to refer to it even obliquely. Out of sheer demented hatred of me and loyalty to Nicola Sturgeon, and based on a complete falsehood, he harassed a friend of mine so grievously and so disgustingly (he was trying to get them to help him have me put in prison) that they ended up in hospital in intensive care and very nearly lost their life – something for which he’s shown no remorse whatsoever.
I’m not willing to be a catalyst for that. I’m not willing to see other people dead because of how much somebody hates me.
(I have my friend’s permission to publish the above paragraphs.)
Kavanagh and I are both fortunate that lockdown restrictions prevented me from going to the nice new home he’s bought with Yes voters’ donations and doing something I’d have regretted. (I’ve calmed down enough not to do it now.) The repulsive, wretched piece of slime can also consider himself very lucky that to spare my friend any more trauma I didn’t call the police over what he did.
But he’s only, and by a distressingly narrow margin, the very lowest of the grotesque, grifting, self-serving sewer scum that now infests every level of the independence movement. I said a few weeks ago on Wings that in the highly unlikely event of another indyref Yes would need to start with a clean slate of new faces, so irretrievably toxic are the relationships between those who campaigned in 2014, so as one of them I’m taking my own advice and setting an example in vacating the stage.
(Can you imagine going into a second referendum with nothing to offer as persuasion to undecided voters but Pat Kane, Lesley Riddoch, Gerry Hassan and Elaine C Smith again? Christ have mercy on our accursed souls.)
To be honest, the thought of those people celebrating Wings’ demise was the only thing that nearly stopped me from walking away. But carrying on to spite them would be letting them control my life just as much as if I’d let them shut it down before now, and I won’t give them that power.
In truth this would have happened weeks ago, over Kavanagh and when two crooked and hopelessly hamstrung inquiries whitewashed Sturgeon and her government over their criminal attempt to put Alex Salmond in prison with false sexual-harassment allegations. It was only the creation of the Alba Party that offered Scotland one last-ditch chance of salvation.
But an unholy alliance of the SNP and the Unionist media – sweetened by a tasty £3m bribe from the former to the latter – successfully managed to smear and silence ALBA and ensure it had no voice in Parliament, and most crucially no base from which to build an alternative.
The party intends to carry on, which with the deepest respect and regret I consider a futility. We learned last week that Sturgeon has simply done too effective a job of poisoning its name and in particular that of its leader. Alex Salmond has been in the form of his life in 2021 – rejuvenated and ebullient, eloquent and fearless, despite the ordeal he’s endured in the last couple of years which would have crushed a lesser man to whimpering dust – but all to no avail.
The absolute hatred with which ALBA was treated by brainwashed, goldfish-memoried SNP members under Sturgeon’s direction was jaw-dropping and horrifying. Even six months ago I would never have believed a pro-indy party led by the man who took the SNP from a nutter-fringe irrelevance to the all-conquering behemoth of Scottish politics could have secured less than 10% of the list votes of SNP supporters (especially when the alternative was completely wasting those votes), but in the end it never even got close to that figure because Sturgeon has turned the SNP into a hyper-obedient Stalinist personality cult.
(On the rare occasions the membership does try to summon up some courage, as with last year’s NEC elections, Sturgeon and her husband simply steamroller it, slashing and burning their way through all the party’s procedures and rules until they get the result they want.)
No matter how much passion, energy, reason, decency and dignity ALBA continue to campaign with, I don’t think they can overcome that ugly collaboration of smearing between the SNP and the Unionist media. The defining characteristic of Sturgeon’s reign as First Minister, and just about the only thing she’s done with any competence or efficiency, has been the ruthless crushing of anyone and anything she considers a threat to her personal power.
So, since I haven’t actually spelled it out yet: Wings is over. We’ve said everything there is to say and I’m not going to spend the next five years pointlessly repeating myself while Nicola Sturgeon busily turns Scotland into a vicious, spiteful, intolerant, authoritarian and misogynist country I’ll be ashamed to come from and am already afraid to live in. The tragedy is just going to have to play out and the pieces be picked up afterwards, whenever that is and whoever’s left to do it.
So unfortunately you’ll have to wait for someone else to report on Bella Caledonia’s links (via its “poetry collective”) to the British Council, an organisation identified by the Sunday Herald a few years earlier as a wing of the British security services.
(The Herald is/was the paper of David Leask and Neil Mackay, so who’d know better about the activities of the British security services, right?)
And someone else will have to take you through the Scottish Government’s disturbing new Stonewall-driven “diversity curriculum”, including its now somewhat off-message and probably transphobic suggestion that there are in fact only two sexes.
And perhaps most upsettingly of all, it looks like we’ll tragically have to go before we find out from James Kelly what our dastardly masterplan was.
Wings would have been 10 years old this November. At that point, for the sake of one last straw-clutching chance to be proved wrong (or if Police Scotland finally do their job and arrest Sturgeon and Murrell for stealing the ringfenced fundraiser money) I’ll reassess the state of play and make a finally-final decision, but in truth I can’t imagine anything will have changed, and certainly not for the better. It’s time to find something else to do with my life, and having not done a Wings fundraiser in two years I need to pay the bills too.
The Titanic was irretrievably doomed two hours before it actually slid beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic, and as far as the campaign for Scottish independence goes this Parliament is simply going to be a more drawn-out recreation of those strange, surreal moments as the lights went out and hope drowned.
In our version of the band playing on, the site will remain live and you’ll even still get weekly cartoons until that point. Comments will be open for people to chat, but the actions of trolls have already ended the approval of new commenters and that will continue (along with any comments that get caught in the filters, so watch what you say). But we’re not going to spend thousands of pounds a year keeping it online indefinitely, so use the time to archive anything you want to preserve.
There also remains the question of what should be done with the money left in the Wings Fighting Fund (still a not-insignificant sum) and we’ll address that then. In the meantime I’ll resist the temptation to stuff it all into a rucksack and bugger off to Rio forever, and hope that Britain manages to come up with a nice summer to enjoy. After the last 14 months you’d think we’d all earned one.
The last nine and a half years have been an incredible honour. Thanks for everything. Between us, readers, we scared the living daylights out of the bad guys – the true measure of anything’s worth is how much its opponents attack it, and by that metric Wings was beyond price. Like the Spartans at Thermopylae, though, our true enemies wore our own colours and we didn’t see what they were doing until it was too late.
But I’ll remain proud of what we achieved until my dying day, and of the fact that we tried our best to warn everyone about the looming iceberg when it would have been a lot easier and more lucrative to stay silent and play along with the charade like the rest of Sturgeon’s tame shills.
(The honourable exceptions remain listed in the Wings links bar. Treasure them.)
David Baddiel used to do a routine – based on real events, he told me – about how much worse it is to be beaten up by the police than by a bunch of skinheads. (The word “skinheads” gives you an idea of how long ago the routine was.) Because when you’re getting beaten up by skinheads you can always hope the police come along, but when the police are beating you up in the back of a van it’s no good hoping for a load of skinheads to appear. If 19 September 2014 was getting beaten up by skinheads, last week was getting beaten up by the police. No saviours are coming.
Sometimes the odds are so stacked against you that you simply have no chance of winning. But there’s no shame in losing if you left everything on the pitch. The shame belongs to the betrayers, who threw the game for some ministerial baubles and a few more years of nice fat pension contributions from the taxpayer.
We’re entering a long period of darkness for the Yes movement. I hope we get through it. Goodnight, readers, and may your god and your guardian angel go with you.
Media expert comments
“Stuart Campbell seems to have shocked quite a lot of people by doing this.
“Blogs in general do come to an end because they are very much driven by a passionate interest, whether it is politics or fashion or whatever, and it is consumed by that interest and the enthusiasm of the readership.
“I think Mr Campbell has also got an eye on Craig Murray because that case might have implications for bloggers going forward.
“Craig Murray’s case has probably made many bloggers on contentious political issues consider their own position and it is quite a coincidence the announcement on Wings Over Scotland comes at the same time.
“Stuart Campbell is probably not the only political blogger to start thinking about what they are saying.
“There are ethics on what you can and can’t say, and backing up what you say with evidence, and that is now perhaps being brought to bear more on social media.
A document sourced from Wings Over Scotland
|Document:Towards the future||Article||Alba Party|
Scottish National Party
2021 Scottish Parliament election
|12 May 2021||Neale Hanvey|
|Attendance in the House of Commons will be when it affords an opportunity to promote Scottish interests, not a routine sojourn to London. There’s plenty work to be doing in our constituencies and across Scotland, and that’ll be our focus. We’ll vote when appropriate on issues as they arise.|