NICOLA Sturgeon last night condemned those who resort to abuse after a leading journalist said he witnessed “dark nationalism” at an SNP rally.
The First Minister acted after Sky’s Political Editor Faisal Islam claimed that an independence supporter had questioned his suitability for reporting on the rally because he was not Scottish.
Islam’s claim, which was made on Twitter, was accompanied by a similar complaint by his Scottish Sky colleague Niall Paterson, who said he had been described as a “quisling p****” by a Yes activist while covering the referendum last year.
Last night Sturgeon’s spokesman said: “The First Minister thinks Faisal is a fantastic journalist – tough but fair – and as she has made clear on a number of occasions denigration of people has absolutely no place in democratic political debate.”
Islam said questions were raised about his nationality when he was covering a SNP rally in Aberdeen at the end of last year, which was part of Sturgeon’s post-referendum tour of Scotland to connect with new SNP members.
The incident came to light when Islam tweeted: “Only place in the world I have been questioned about suitability to report a story on basis of nationality – not UKIP, an SNP rally.”
He then elaborated by saying that he had been asked why Sky had not sent a Scottish reporter to the event.
“Some straight forward dark nationalism, not just on here, at an SNP rally: e.g. ‘Why don’t Sky send a Scottish reporter?’ in Aberdeen,” he tweeted. When he was asked by another Twitter-user who the culprit was, Islam replied: “Someone in the front row of a Sturgeon rally in December.”
Islam then responded to a tweeter, who asked him why he thought that wanting a Scottish reporter to cover the event equated to dark nationalism.
Islam tweeted: “Saying I shouldn’t be reporting because of nationality is nationalism clearly and dark, yes.”
Paterson joined the discussion saying: “even Scottish reporters’ suitability is questioned when their home is in London, despite moving back north for eight months”. Paterson then tweeted that he had been called a “quisling p****” at the Glasgow CBI dinner, an event during the referendum that had seen a large crowd of Yes supporters demonstrate outside.
Last night Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary, Margaret Curran, said: “No one – whether senior politician or a grassroots activist – should engage in the online abuse of journalists, who are simply doing their job.
“Social media IS a wonderful thing for our democracy, encouraging debate and supporting people to engage with politics on their own terms.
“But when a mob uses these tools to try and silence journalists we need to ask serious questions about the state of Scotland’s political culture.
“Abuse online doesn’t just affect the people who are targeted – it introduces a chilling effect that makes people think twice about getting involved at all. That’s bad for debate and bad for democracy.”
Islam’s claims were made on the internet as it emerged that Conservative and Labour offices in Aberdeen had been attacked by vandals.
Police are investigating the incidents, which saw a swastika and the word “scum” spray-painted on the Tory office. Both offices had the letter “Q” painted on them – presumed to stand for “quisling” – a reference to the Norwegian traitor Vidkun Quisling, who collaborated with the Nazis.