'Vermin and trash':
abused at the hands
of the CyberNats
I often joke that after my four-year stint as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, everything else – the Balkans, 9/11, Macedonia, Russia, Saddam – was a piece of cake. After all whatever you say about Milosovic and his poisonous crew they never pretended that they were on your side.
As Shadow Scottish Secretary I had death threats, was sent incendiary devices, had hate telephone calls and was likened at the SNP conference by a prominent nationalist (now in the Scottish cabinet) to a Nazi collaborator.
I was denounced in the most violently personal terms (by the SNP especially but even some of my own 'allies') when Donald Dewar and I announced that there would be a referendum to anchor permanently a devolved Scottish parliament. I remember with no affection the Scottish Sun's front page 'U-Turn coats!'. Now everyone regards it as an act of genius, making devolution irreversible. But not then.
In my political life in my native and much loved Scotland I have been spat on, jostled, abused and vilified. Even on the night I won Hamilton for the first time the police said it was unsafe to leave by the front door. So I am no shrinking violet. I have seen the hurley-burley of politics and my political skin is thick. I know that people have deep passions about race or tribe or nationality and often patriotism can turn to bloody violence. I saw the miserably extreme legacy of that in the unimaginable horrors of Bosnia and Kosovo.
But I truly believed that Scotland had grown out of that nonsense. The nationalists have after all been the government of Scotland for nearly five years. They are the new establishment; our first minister absolutely expects to be interviewed on UK TV about rugby. They even have the, albeit much delayed, opportunity of putting their separatism to the test in a referendum. It should be a cue for the end of hysterics.
Remember this if you dare – there will be two and a half years for this
cesspit to ferment before we are allowed to cast a ballot on the future existence of our country.
But the fringe does not give up, and is not a pretty sight. I wrote an article for the Scotsman recently, acknowledging that I may have been premature in my 1996 prediction that devolution would kill nationalism stone-dead. It's not the first political forecast to look a mite optimistic in the cold light of electoral day but time will yet tell. But under that article on the Scotsman's admirable website, under 'comments', was planet CyberNat in full cry. Wired to the moon most of them might well be, but the nationalist leadership does not condemn them. One has to wonder why?
Here's a small selection responding to my article; other comments were removed by the moderator. Just imagine what they said.
'Robertson is an idiotic, pompous traitor to Scotland and the Scots', 'the vermin who inhabit the House of Lords', 'establishment lackey', 'Westminster traitor-jock-Lords', 'keep his Westminster polished nose out of Scottish politics', 'two-faced liars and deceivers', 'unelected hypocrite', 'American puppet', 'inbred arthritic Labrador attempting to complete the Total Wipeout course', 'Lord Gormless' and, I kid you not, 'yoos Unionist trash'. There was much more.
Remember this if you dare – there will be two and a half years for this cesspit to ferment before we are allowed to cast a ballot on the future existence of our country. So these CyberNats may indeed be a bunch of demented, screwed-up untypical bigots sitting in the middle of the night abusing their opponents but they do show a sordid underbelly to the debate that good people in all parties and none should condemn and revile.
Strange is it not, that if I were a football manager and they said all that about me on the web, a new law might be introduced. Well, I'd settle for a simple word of chastisement from our new establishment.
George Robertson, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, was Labour MP for Hamilton, Shadow Scottish Secretary, UK Defence Secretary and Secretary General of NATO