Tom Peterkin: The independence debate online

Independence: debated on Twitter. Picture: PA
Independence: debated on Twitter. Picture: PA
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THE majority of the online stushis that have characterised this referendum campaign have tended to be inconsequential – the splutterings of a bunch of cyber warriors spewing forth bile from their entrenched positions on opposing sides of the constitutional divide.

As their ill-mannered spats foul up the internet, one cannot help wondering if all that time honing their ability to regurgitate mindless party propaganda in the most provocative way possible in 140 characters or less could be better spent. Surely a more profitable use of precious time would be for the constitutional twitterati to lay down their keyboards and do something more improving, such as watching a soap opera or rearranging their anorak collections.

Twitter activity this week, however, has been slightly more entertaining than the usual pointless nonsense. For this observer (who really ought to get out more), some innocent amusement has been derived from the angry tweets billowing forth on the subject of the pro-independence group Labour for Independence.

Some persistent sleuthing by the Scotland on Sunday columnist Euan McColm led him to the conclusion that Labour for Independence, a group that has received column inches and broadcast time on the BBC, was not all that it seemed.

McColm wrote a blog on the subject claiming that far from being an organisation campaigning from independence from within the Labour Party, a significant number of Labour for Independence campaigners were actually SNP members.

On the Think Scotland website, McColm produced photographs showing SNP people standing under a Labour for Indy banner.

Needless-to-say, the dark corner of Twitter devoted to Scottish politics went into meltdown.

“Anybody got a picture of people holding a Labour for Independence banner that doesn’t rely on SNP members and supporters to boost numbers?” tweeted a Dave Smith in one of the more measured contributions to the debate.

Bill Duff, a Yes campaigner, countered: “Anyone who has done any canvassing in Scotland knows that there are many Labour voters who back Indy.”

For all the protestations about independence support cutting across the parties, the point is that Labour for Independence now does not appear to be quite what it says on the tin.

On the face of it, the idea that there is a sizeable proportion of Labour members who believe in independence would be a great asset to the Yes campaign.

Now, however, the row over the make-up of the Labour for Independence organisation has become unhelpful for Yes Scotland.

The difficulty for independence supporters is that the Labour for Independence brand has become contaminated and will struggle to regain credibility.