It is alarming how much of the media and political establishment have been quick to vilify, without any sense of balance, Campbell Gunn for his supposed e-mail “attack” on Clare Lally.
While Mr Gunn has rightly apologised for the mistake in his e-mail – that Ms Lally was related to Pat Lally, the former lord provost of Glasgow – the bulk of his e-mail would seem to be factually correct in noting that she is a politically active Labour Party member.
And yet apparently no apology has been offered by any of those involved in the No Thanks campaign launch for misleading the public.
What is even more worrying though, are apparently unsubstantiated allegations by John McTernan, a Labour Party political strategist, on Scotland Tonight (11 June), that subsequent hostile reactions resulting from the revelations in the infamous e-mail formed part of an orchestrated campaign by the SNP.
It seems that Mr McTernan, and others in the Labour Party who are negatively consumed with everything to do with the SNP, are now openly attempting to smear that party by trying to portray regrettable comments by individuals as signifying a one-sided war conducted by “cybernats” who they scurrilously claim are following the direction of the SNP.
No mention is made of equally vociferous “Britnats”, who are perhaps now likely to express even more disturbing views, given the tone of some of the recent remarks from those in the No camp, including Alistair Darling.
In the electronically connected world we inhabit today, it is naïve for people to enter into public debate and make misleading or overtly subjective statements and not expect that these will generate negative reactions, some of which may be extreme.
This is not the fault of the internet, and personally abusive language should be strongly condemned whenever it arises. But at some point, all politicians, and particularly those who are not shy about voicing patronising comments on so many other subjects, should work harder to raise the honesty, as well as the tone, of our referendum debate.
The First Minister has attempted to defend the actions of his special adviser Campbell Gunn simply as a “mistake” and a “misjudgment”, adding that Mr Gunn was not responsible for any “vile and abhorrent” abuse directed towards Clare Lally.
What the First Minister fails to realise, or indeed wants not to realise, is that the e-mail sent by Mr Gunn became the catalyst for the abuse and, without doubt, the First Minister and Mr Gunn will be fully aware of that fact.
The most sinister aspect of the whole affair, however, arises from the question that was not asked at First Minister’s Questions, and that is why did Mr Gunn send such an e-mail?
Is it not plain democracy that somebody such as Ms Lally, or anybody else, is at liberty to express a view in a national debate without the fear of a so-called “special adviser” looking to discredit the personality of such an individual, as Mr Gunn clearly intended to do by issuing the e-mail?
The First Minister’s supposed loyalty in defending Mr Gunn displays a complete lack of understanding about his behaviour, but, more worryingly, a total lack of judgment in not sacking his adviser.
I wonder if Mr Gunn would have had the backbone to apologise himself, rather than being “instructed” to do so by his boss, the First Minister. Mr Gunn can redeem himself by resigning without further delay.
I must agree with the First Minister that the content of Campbell Gunn’s e-mail regarding Clare Lally was not vile and offensive.
However, the reason for sending it in the first place does give cause for concern.
Mr Gunn appears to have wanted to smear Clare Lally and as Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has said, silence Ms Lally and I presume anybody else who challenges the Yes campaign.
It is for that reason he should go; he has broken the code for special advisers but, worse, he has demonstrated that he has little concern for basic humanity.
Nobody who saw how distressed Clare Lally was can credit that this was caused by a senior official, an adviser to a national leader, paid for out of the public purse.
It is his intent that the First Minister failed to address.
(Dr) Roger I Cartwright