It’s extremely rare for blogs or online publications to have any great effect on offline politics which makes the influence of the pro-independence website Wings Over Scotland all the more remarkable. I cannot tell you how many Scots I have had conversations with who have pointed to the discovery of WOS as key factor in their transition to progressive nationalism. The publication of The Wee Blue Book by the site, a detailed seventy-two page answer-and-question pamphlet outlining the steps required to establish and sustain a sovereign nation-state of Scotland outside the United Kingdom, became a significant – if only latterly acknowledged – asset for the Yes side during the 2014 referendum debate with nearly a million copes distributed in various formats across a country of five million people.
The owner and principal author of WOS is the former computer games journalist Stuart Campbell, and the success of his news and current affairs website has earned him the enmity of the more politically engaged elements of the unionist bloc in the UK, including a number of politicians and journalists, resulting in regular criticism of his publication. Indeed I can think of no other figure in Scottish politics who has been subject to the same level of vilification by the local and metropolitan press aside from the ex-leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond.
Appropriately enough, both men can be seen in this forty-two minute discussion published on Salmond’s YouTube channel, a shorter version of which was originally broadcast by the Russian Federation’s admittedly slightly suspect international broadcaster RT. Don’t let that put you off, or indeed the media-driven controversies associated with Stuart Campbell or Alex Salmond’s rather more recent and perhaps more substantive troubles, and give it watch.
The Wings Over Scotland author provides an excellent reason for the existence of his occasionally pugnacious website when he points out that despite nearly half of Scottish voters supporting an independent Scotland most of the nation’s news media is actively anti-independence. Which is remarkable in its way. And of course, a similar point could be made about our own press here in Ireland which is overwhelmingly opposed to the ending of partition and the reunification of the country despite successive polls showing a majority of Irish voters in favour of that outcome. Can anyone name a single editorially pro-unity national newspaper in Ireland? Just one? And if no such title exists what does it say about the position and purpose of the news media in our democracy?