Dogs, trolls and #indyref politics on social media

There’s no doubt that the issue of Scottish independence is the most contentious issue north of the border since devolution. In fact, since before devolution.

There’s no doubt that the issue of Scottish independence is the most contentious issue north of the border since devolution. In fact, since before devolution. Nearly 70 per cent of Scots opted for Scotland to have its own parliament – feeling that Westminster did not adequately meet their needs.

Persons south of the border may wonder, given this, if a push for Scottish independence is a damning indictment of the Scottish parliament’s failure?

It isn’t. The Scottish Parliament has been successful in creating Scottish solutions for Scottish problems, or problems that might otherwise have been overlooked: seatbelts on school buses and subsidised ferry fares to the Western Isles being two such examples.

So, who’s it between?

This debate is about whether Scotland needs more powers, and it can get pretty nasty at times. For the uninitiated, there are two sides. ‘Yes’ and – no, not ‘No’ – but ‘Better Together’. The reason for the choice in name for the no campaign comes off the back of Scottish Labour’s dismal 2011 election campaign, which was theirs for the taking but ended with an SNP majority.

Part of this was the SNP’s ‘Labour negativity’ line which stuck. For years the SNP had criticised Labour in their materials, and it worked to some extent. When Labour tried it, the SNP changed their tack and attacked the SNP for being ‘blinded’ by their campaign against the nationalists and ‘failing’ the Scottish people.

Therefore, the ‘no’ campaign had to somehow discourage people from voting for independence whilst being positive.

The ‘positive’ cases

Anyway, if you want to see this positive case, you need to get online. Facebook, and especially Twitter, are some of the biggest battlegrounds in this ‘debate.’

#indyref is where it’s all at, and it’s a bit of a bear pit. Like a police statement, what you say can and will be used against you.

Let me explain. I once had the pleasure of curating an account called @ScotVoices, an account for Scots to share a week of their lives with complete strangers on twitter. The account was open to anyone who lived or worked in Scotland, despite being run by pro-independence arts group National Collective.

On my second last night at the reigns, I used the word ‘cybernat’ – a derogatory term used to describe anonymous nationalists who tweet troll pro-union figures or, on occasion, anyone who expresses a wish to remain in the union.

The result was many of said ‘cybernats’ descended upon me, calling me ‘vile’ and a ‘bigot’. One even said what I said was as bad as the ‘n-word.’ O-kay then.

It is worth pointing out at this point that there equivalent ‘BritNats’ but they don’t quite seem to be in the same numbers of their nationalist counterparts…or arch-enemies. Many of them seem to take as enjoyment in debating with each other as they do attacking journalists who reporting things they don’t want to hear.

Here’s some of their work:

@RadioGuyGlasgow: Oust this man immediately. He is a traitor & is only interested in his Westminster income. Cozy. #indyref #yes [Attached: picture of Better Together leader Alistair Darling on BBC Parliament]

‏@PerditaMDurango: @NicolaSturgeon you are a bloody TRAITOR like the Duke of Hamilton 306 yrs ago. I will not forget and I will not forgive! #IndyRef #IndyDef

@Durninho: @Death_1135 When you’re ready to join the real world let me know ok? Until then, fuck off you elitist prick. #VoteYes #indyref #ToryScum

Meanwhile, the main campaign accounts are relatively tame. With so many activists acting as amateur spin doctors, they tend not to directly engage with their audiences.

Both accounts have a very distinct style: Yes Scotland (@YesScotland) tends to post policy in graphics or links to supportive news articles, while Better Together (@UK_Together) prefers to retweet support and endorsements of the campaign. They’re actually rather boring accounts to follow, as there’s so much spin and very little fighting talk, although yes has the edge in terms of content.

Of course, there’s also the party activists who just tweet what they get up to and their respective cases. Sometimes they’ll engage in a bit of political point scoring. These occasions are almost always petty and soul-destroying to sift through.

But then you get works of genius like this.

If you actually want to try and keep up with the referendum on twitter, the best thing to do is look up #indyref and immerse yourself in it. You’ll get used to the tone and the volleys of links fired in to the twittersphere by activists. 

Hell, you might not understand it, but it becomes soothing after a while.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.