By Jason Michael

Common Space’s decision to platform pot shots on the side of Kezia Dugdale at Wings Over Scotland is naïve and dangerous. Stuart Campbell is more than “a man with a blog.” He is – for good or ill – the voice of thousands.


Stuart Campbell, the Bath-based independentista behind Wings Over Scotland, has sparked a storm. Maybe it’s better to say that he has sparked another storm. That’s what Scotland’s biggest pro-independence blog does. It’s a rabble rouser. We’re used to that, and we love it and hate it in almost equal measure for this. It’s undeniably the Marmite of Scottish politics, but even with its astounding ability to get people rattled, neither it nor its founder Rev. Stu Campbell is above reproach and criticism.

Back in March Wings tweeted: “Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner.” The Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, father of the Dumfriesshire Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell, recently came out as gay. Wings’ tweet thus became easy ammunition for the Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to label Campbell “homophobic,” leading Campbell to threaten legal action. In defiance Dugdale repeated the accusation in the Scottish parliament whereupon Wings’ launched a fundraiser to cover the costs of going to court – now seeking more in damages.


Not being gay, I am not going to start straightsplaining what does and does not constitute homophobia. It doesn’t read to me as an abusive comment. Not every mention of homosexuality is homophobia. “What Stu Campbell said about Oliver Mundell was not homophobia,” writes Paul Kavanagh on his Wee Ginger Dug blog. He continues:

Homophobia is founded in the sentiment that gay people are less worthy. What Stu Campbell said about Oliver Mundell was based in the sentiment that it would have been a good thing if his then-closeted father hadn’t been closeted but had instead been proud and accepting of his sexuality. That’s not a homophobic sentiment.

Paul is gay. He is a man who has suffered on account of his sexuality through some of the ugliest days of social, cultural, and legal homophobia in our country. I’m going to listen to the opinion of the wee ginger dug on this one, but – given that opinions vary, and they do – we can maybe settle on Wings’ tweet falling in the grey area, though, personally, I do not think that it does. What we do know, however, is that Dugdale’s use of it was political. She deliberately weaponised a comment that was dubiously homophobic at best against an opponent because she “knew,” again quoting Kavanagh, “she’d get more traction by accusing him of homophobia than she would if she’d simply called him out for being crass.”

As was to be expected, this being all about the politics of national division, the unionist establishment press has been working overtime to make a hatchet job out of the tweet; hoping to undermine support in the independence movement for Campbell’s legal action. Then this afternoon we find Common Space has decided to join the fray with an opinion piece from Jordan Daly. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time here and hide my thoughts on this piece or indeed Common Space’s decision to publish it. “Why we should back Kezia Dugdale and send Wings Over Scotland packing” is the most in-your-face fifth columnist attack by one “pro-independence” blog on another I have ever had the misfortune to read. Daly is entitled to his opinion – of course he is, but FFS!


“When it comes to Wings Over Scotland and his controversies,” says Daly in his opening paragraph, “I generally try to stay detached. He’s nothing more than a man with a blog, who has gained some notoriety, a bit of a strange cult following and whose online behaviour is akin to trolling. All in all, not someone I really want to discuss.”

How’s that for an attempt at impartial positioning? It’s enough to do the Daily Mail proud. I don’t want this to be another assault on Common Space. It has lost enough love over the head of this. Common Space is important to the independence movement too, but it would be wrong for me not to fire a shot across its bow. If its editors bother to read this I want them to accept it in the spirit in which it’s intended.

There is a fault line running through the Yes movement. It’s no secret that there’s a class divide between the more polished, vaguely hipster blogs of the typically Glasgow University-educated middle class independence supporters and those with an often less chiselled working class vibe. Scotland has a class divide. It’s no big deal, and it’s only to be expected that this divide is largely reflected in what people read. Considering – as no real progress on anything is likely without independence – that the campaign for independence should take priority over all other issues and antagonisms within the movement, one would expect class resentments to be on ice for the sake of our common goal.

Yet I have long suspected knives have been drawn for Wings in the polished blogs and precisely because of his appeal to the ordinal working Scots of the Yes movement; the “strange cult following” of trolls as Daly calls them. Second guessing myself, fearing this was just my own – possibly paranoid – hunch, I decided to ask Campbell for his thoughts.

“It’s very much that,” he replied.

So why’s this a problem? Well, for a start, there is a level of mistrust among the ordinary Yessers for those described as “carving out a media niche” for themselves by Wings. Let’s remember it was National Collective, in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 referendum, that published an article about how we can still get everything we want within the union. In this Declan Walsh argued that the fight for a fairer society – what we were really fighting for – “can be achieved with the rest of the UK” and this is, after all, “even more important than independence.”

The thinking of a great many of Wings’ fifty thousand followers – compared to Common Space’s twenty thousand – is that the middle class is a class of survivors. It is. As the “increasingly dominated fraction of the dominant class” – à la Pierre Bourdieu – in every state the middle will be looked after. Working class Yessers were fighting and are fighting still for more than some idealised notion of a fairer society. We are fighting for the only society in which that notion can even nearly be realised – an independent Scotland. So long as we can all work together in that common cause then working class independentistas are content to set class antagonisms aside.

When Common Space opens full salvo on Wings Over Scotland, yes there is a deep suspicion that it was biding its time for just such an opportunity. But going for Wings isn’t – however much some will argue otherwise – a matter of going for and taking down one man. It is attacking an instrument of the independence movement the overwhelming majority trust and to which they are ferociously loyal. Stu Campbell is not the messiah, but he is a great deal more than “a man with a blog.” If Common Space wants to go gunning for Wings – especially on the back of such a flimsy and obviously politically motivated accusation – then its producers have to know they are instigating a serious and probably catastrophic split in the entire movement.

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28 thoughts on “Common Space – What Hast Thou Done?

  1. As far as I am concerned this is just another instance of Common Space telling me what to think because it is what they think. That habit is what causes me to read their articles only occasionally.

    I do read a lot of Wings because I get facts presented for my consideration. Stu does say what he thinks but does not expect me to “obey” by slaviishly following his pronouncements.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. What grinds my gears is the sanctimony – anyone who disagrees with them publically on this, or who questions the value to the movement of attacking someone so useful over something so petty, is branded as some kind of ignorant, mouth-breathing anti-intellectual who’s simply constitutionally incapable of exploring other opinions.

      I disagree with McAlpine fairly often on this or that point, but I still read all his articles because he writes well, considers what he writes carefully, and has often given me new perspective. At the moment though, his op-eds are about the only thing of value CS publish, especially since Somynne took his international affairs coverage independent, while Haggerty seems content with becoming the darling of the Quinoa Brigade especially when it gives her an opportunity to tear down a competitor.

      There does seem to be a fairly huge sense of “entitlement”(a term I normally despise, but it applies) about the media arm of the Quinoa Brigade, this idea that their proleier than thou sanctimony and affected intellectualism should make them the premier organs of the independence-supporting media, and they get genuinely enraged at the idea most folk apparently prefer a more aggressive, ascerbic style with a focus on takedowns and media fisking over high-concept thinkpieces. What’s perhaps most bizarre is that they seem even *more* enraged when they run into people like myself who were quite happily consuming and enjoying both styles; they talk a lot about diversity of voices and not being affraid to publish controvertial views, but the idea someone could read what they publish and still disagree seems to genuinely offend them.

      This kind of garbage is why a lot of folk stay away from politics.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. The current atmosphere in the ‘yes movement’ right now is bad. Cat Boyd voting labour, Ross Greer slagging the existence of the National (who he writes for) and now Common Space criticising Wings and more. It feels like end of ‘the fellowship of the ring’ where egos take over and everyone goes their separate ways. Difficult people, difficult days. I still think we will get there in the end…..because it is a good thing for people in Scotland…..but this stuff and nonsense is really off putting to anyone who is on the outside looking in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scotland needs “Yes”Groups to “Pull and Haul” together and work for the same aim of Independence! To much petty stuff is very off-putting, and does not help the cause! Lets keep Politics out of it until we get that YES!

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  3. Not sure where Common Space are going with this as it seems a bit pointless to get involved in a spat between Kez and Stu. Angela has form for going off on one from time to time like the spat she had with a black lassie who called the anti Irish racism Angela has suffered as not true racism as she was white. I was with Angela on that one but not this time. Common Space with its lecturing tone on what the Yes movement “must do now” lost me as a reader and supporter a long time ago about the time they were cheerleading for RISE . As above I think CS has been looking for a chance to have a go at Wings and it may even be personal as Angela has been less than kind to Wings for a long time . Whatever the reasons behind it I think it was ill advised so perhaps McAlpine can produce an over long blog on “what we must do now ” to move on.

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  4. Wings comments were obviously not homophobic and Kezia was wholly wrong. That makes this a poor time to attack wings but the attacks have a fundamental basis that this article misses.

    I don’t think it’s really about class, it’s essentially that they think wings is an *rse who puts more people off than he wins over. There is not enough recognition from his critics of the power of work wings did for Yes in indyref1 but there is also no recognition from his supporters of how damaging his various follies are among the soft no voting community that will swing any future referendum. Wings won over and energised a base but will things like his court case help win any new voters or just alienate opponents further and please a small band of fans?

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    1. Stu is not doing this to please a small band of fans. He wrote to Dugdale (via his lawyer) calling out her slander, and a chance to settle out of court. She used the letter at FMQs to call him homophobic, and to invite the FM to get involved in slandering him. Sturgeon, having a much higher IQ, refused to get involved. Note neither did Mundell snr or jnr.

      So, Dugdale has now slandered him in her Blog, in the Daily Record column, and on BBC1 televised FMQs. Stu then ran a poll about whether he should pursue a crowdfunder for legal action. The poll was in favour, and the crowdfunder was funded within hours.

      This man is a trained professional journalist, so it’s how he makes his living. No one is forced to contribute, and I’m sure many read his articles for free, for years. So, it’s his professional reputation he is fighting for, and you can bet if it had been a politician of Indy hue, he would be doing the same thing.

      What is he supposed to do? Just lie down to the accusation? He is a citizen exercising his legal rights to redress – whilst we still have them in this country.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I know why he’s doing it and I happen to think he’s well within his rights and has a good case.

      That’s why I said this was a bad time for his opponents to launch their attack on him. Alongside the skill of succinctly dissecting the worst of the unionist press he also has many flaws and has presented numerous occassion in the past and will likely again in the future where he can legitimately be attacked.

      My only point was that their only point is this case has the potential to backfire in eyes of the public for wings (and yes movement by association). I don’t agree that this risk means he shouldn’t pursue the case but it exists nonetheless…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Stuart Campbell is”nothing more than a man with a blog, who has gained some notoriety” in the same way that Andy Murray is”nothing more than a man with a tennis racket, who has gained some notoriety”. I don’t know Jordan Daly but I suspect he’s a very silly boy!

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Well said. As a working class person who does a lot of things that are now considered “middle class” I hadn’t really thought of the split being along those lines. Seems bloody obvious, now that you point it out. These middle class twees seem to think that if you don’t have a degree then you are not capable of political thought or reasoning and need their superior minds to inform and instruct you. They’ve forgotten their roots and seem to believe that the only way to improve the lot of the working class is to make them middle class. iec compliant and “nice”.
    What really pisses me off about the whole incident is Dugdale abusing and misusing her position in our national parliament over what should have been a petty personal dispute (although I fail to see why she should have been offended in the first place – faux outrage, methinks). Our parliament is more important than that, even if she and her ilk don’t consider it so.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Wings style of journalusm suits the modern era. It well researched and, crucially, very well referenced, and slices through the msm narritive very effectively. Readers are encouraged to research the primary sources for themsreves and draw their own conclusion. It is in essence very democratic. Wings on twitter is a slightly different animal to the wings blogs. Although pushing the common accepted boundaries , wings is an invaluable resource for the independence movement.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. The Yes family is as flawed and dysfunctional as most families are. It’s made up of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people. The Yes movement belongs to everyone and no-one. It includes people who have fought for independence for decades and those who have come to the movement recently. It includes people who have different opinions, personalities, belief systems, life experiences, social backgrounds, sexualities, religions, and skin colour.

    Why is Stu being targeted? Because he’s a threat. His research – backed up with original sources – exposes the MSM for the outrageously poor standard of journalism they give Scotland. “That doesn’t excuse him from making this, that and the other comment,” I hear people say. “Yessers should stop reading Wings and distance themselves from him”.

    I call bullshit. When you have people telling you what to think and do in order to be an “acceptable” Yesser and to exclude someone from the Yes movement based on perceptions of what he or she said, my antennae start waving. What better way to cut out out a hugely valuable and important source of information than to attack and destroy the person behind it. The unionists who want to keep us shackled to this dreadful UK relationship must be wetting their pants with mirth seeing Yessers doing their job for them.

    We either pull together in the same direction as an unstoppable force, or we allow ourselves to be split apart by those whose sole aim is to destroy us.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sensible words there. Unionists must be rubbing their hands together in glee. Ms Dugdale knows this. She stirs. People need to step back. And some journalists need to step off their ego platforms and appologise to the yes movement. Now.

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  9. Agree entirely. The comment by Mr Campbell was robustly witty and by no means homophobic. Some people on the Yes side seem to want to be apologetic at every turn for maybe causing offence to our political opponents. We must be aware, however, that our very existence causes offence to many unionists. Certainly, there is never any excuse for causing gratuitous offence, but if we want to make the independence omelette, some eggs will have to be cracked!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I can’t for the life of me how commonspace can take this view on Wings. There is some serious jealousy coming through from Angela Haggerty on this one

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  11. While I do not think Wings comments about Oliver Mundell were homophobic, they were certainly ill-advised and unnecessary. They simply gave Unionists a stick to beat us with. However, Common Space’s decision to take Kezia’s side in this and to berate Wings does not do the independence movement any favours. CS should concentrate on what they are good at – developing potential policy direction for an independent Scotland and leave Wings to do what they are good at – rubbish Unionist lies by presenting the facts. Both are needed if we are to win the fight.

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  12. As someone raised in a middle class family & gone on to lead a very middle class life, I am very firmly working class in my view on this particular incident & on the idea of Scottish independence. I rarely read Common Space in 2014 & have barely read it since because, all to often, it is so firmly up it’s own ar$e that I can’t bear it. Wings on the other hand: no idea with the guy is like as a person but you can’t fault his journalism for one moment. Unless you are threatened by it, of course…

    Liked by 2 people

  13. a bit off satirical humour at the two Mundell’s expense. Kezia saw a chance to make it an issue ,I think Stu should just have ignored her ,as most folk do ,but he chose to take her to court .All off a sudden a trivial statement is causing trouble between people on the same side .Oh how the unionists must be loving this.I don’t follow Common space but I do follow Wings over Scotland & all I can say is ,yes he can be a bit rude but his commitment to our Scottish independence can’t be doubted,his little Blue Book did more to inform people of the benefits of independence than any debates or leaflets,it was an invaluable help to those off us who campaiged.

    Like

  14. The Mundel remark was no more than a modern take of the old observation that “The midwife threw the wrang thing away when he was born!” which might be said of Murdo Fraser for example!

    Like

  15. Great thread,was going to have a rant but all my points have been brilliantly covered above,read the thread guys, it compliments the blog terrifically.

    Like

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