For those of you who didn’t watch the Scottish leaders’ debates (which were markedly better than their British equivalents), one key moment you missed was when a self-professed undecided voter stated that Jim Murphy, the embattled Scottish Labour leader, had won her round.
What happened next, as recounted by Andrew Gilligan of the Daily Telegraph, is enough to send a little shiver down the spine.
The woman in question, Dawn Roger, was subject to a torrent of online abuse by Scottish Nationalist supporters, egged on implicitly by party figures suggesting – falsely – that she had been a Labour plant. It got to the point where she had deactivated her Facebook account and was neither eating nor sleeping.
To Gilligan, she said this: “I’m a massive fan of everything Nicola Sturgeon says. I stupidly said I’d back up Labour for reasons beyond me”.
As recantations go, it is so sweeping as to be totally unconvincing. But having public supporters of opposition parties harassed into publicly recanting their political views reads like something out of Venezuela, or Wolf Hall.
Nor is this the only evidence of Scottish nationalism’s burgeoning dark side. The Scotman reports that Faisal Islam, political editor at Sky News, was abused at an SNP rally for not being Scottish. Labour and Conservative offices in Aberdeen were vandalised and daubed with swastikas and Qs, for ‘Quisling’.
Meanwhile senior party figures have revealed that they intend to try to strong arm Labour into abolishing the BBC in Scotland, to be replaced by a new state broadcaster under Holyrood control. The BBC has had to issue a plea to stop people harassing its journalists after running stories critical of Nicola Sturgeon.
Meanwhile Alex Salmond, who whipped up his supporters against the Corporation during the referendum, has expressed some satisfaction that it has been brought to heel since.
Of course, it is perfectly possible to argue that all this represents a small and unrepresentative fringe. Yet there is evidence to the contrary: not only did Salmond direct the Nationalist campaign against the BBC last year, but the evidence of Gilligan’s article suggests that at least some of the SNP hierarchy can call off the cybernats when it suits them.
And when grassroots nationalists start ‘hunting’ and harassing Labour canvassers, SNP PPCs claim that they are legitimate targets of “community justice”.
Yet after her stellar turn in the debates the First Minister is now being held up south of the border as the great progressive hope. How often do we normally cut nationalist movements this sort of slack?
Surely Sturgeon should be held accountable for the nastier elements of her movement, just as Farage is for his.
DUP rule out pact with the SNP
For all that this offers the prospect of a wide range of political parties having a potential role in the government of the nation, in reality the political priorities of the smaller factions are boxing them into what are starting to look like pre-determined blocs.
This process advanced one step farther this week when Nigel Dodds, the parliamentary leader of the Democratic Unionists, ruled out his party’s participation in any formal arrangement that included the SNP (and presumably Plaid), on account of their wanting to break up the United Kingdom.
Whilst still clear that his party is first and foremost about securing pork for the people of Ulster, this move will further push the DUP toward the accommodation with the Tories that their conservative politics and hawkish stance on defence already suggested.
Naturally, this puts the DUP in the same bind as the Sturgeon’s party: by reducing their options they compromise their leverage.
Now that Dodds has talked up the importance of ensuring that “tide of nationalism that seems to be sweeping certain parts of the country is withstood and resisted”, can he justify allowing Cameron to fall if he has the power to prevent it – pork or no pork?
Conservative manifesto grants Welsh Assembly power to redefine itself
If the Tories win the next general election the Welsh political establishment is going to be granted, in addition to a new financial settlement, substantial new powers to aggrandise themselves, according to Wales Online.
Amongst the other matters that would devolved to Assembly would be the ability to decide its own name, size, electoral system and voting age.
Previously Welsh politicians, including Dame Rosemary Butler, the Presiding Officer of the Assembly, have expressed the desire to rechristen the body the Welsh Parliament and double the number of elected members.