Scottish independence: Cash for comment criticised

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A LEADING independence campaigner has criticised Yes Scotland for paying an academic £100 to write an article that made the case for a separate Scottish constitution.

Jeane Freeman, a founding member of Women for Independence, said Yes Scotland was “wrong” to pay Dr Elliot Bulmer, a research director of the politically neutral Constitution Commission, for the article, which was published by a Glasgow newspaper.

Freeman said the row over the article, which Yes Scotland submitted to the Herald, made it more difficult to persuade undecided voters to plump for independence. “I think Yes Scotland were wrong to pay for that article,” Freeman told the BBC.

Freeman said she was trying to persuade floating voters that “politics, democratic debate and what happens in our country is legitimate and they need to be engaged in it”.

She added: “I am sorry, [but] if they perceive that what they read is in some way skewed because of monetary transactions that does not help that case.

“It doesn’t help the debate, doesn’t help future political engagement and it is not the way we should behave.”

Freeman was speaking on Radio Scotland’s Brian Taylor’s Big Debate show. Her intervention is unhelpful for Yes Scotland’s leadership, which has been severely criticised during the “cash for comment” controversy.

Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins has taken to 
the airwaves to defend the practice, arguing that Yes Scotland was simply paying for Bulmer’s time and had no influence over the content of the article.

Some within Yes Scotland are concerned that the campaign is suffering from a lack of leadership, clear strategy and in-fighting.

Yes Scotland has claimed that the payment row has been manufactured by its opponents. And Jenkins has argued that this has distracted from a far graver matter – allegations that the Yes Scotland computer system has been hacked into.

Freeman agreed that the hacking issue was serious.

“If that [hacking] is proven to be the case, then it is a serious matter,” said Freeman, who is the partner of Susan Stewart, the former Yes Scotland director of communications, who left the campaign recently.

“We are all engaged in a significant and critically important debate for our country, ourselves, our families and our children,” Freeman added. “To have a situation where it is proven that any of the campaigns – and I would say this if it had been Better Together – are having their emails or their websites hacked – first of all it is criminal – but does us no service whatsoever.”

Yes Scotland made a formal complaint to Police Scotland alleging information about the fee to Bulmer came after a personal e-mail account was hacked.

Last week, it was claimed that police had traced the alleged hacking to a foreign IP address and the Yes campaign suspended its social media ­activity.