Hope Over Fear?

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Photo by @jamesdoleman, with thanks

By Robin McAlpine

I never really wanted any front-line political or public role and avoided it for most of my career. One of the reasons for this is that as soon as you are any kind of public figure, people seem to want you to take sides all the time. I’ve never been much of a ‘black and white’ kind of person so ‘sides’ don’t sit easily with me. However, I am now in a position (whether I like it or not) where this is being asked of me. So I want to explain my position.

This is all because I spoke at the Hope Over Fear rally on Saturday and, as Tommy Sheridan was on the platform, some people wanted me to boycott the event. So before I write another word there are three things I want to make clear. First (and above all), as I said in my words to the rally, I meant no disrespect to anyone by attending. I was there to engage, not provoke, and I hope people will at least understand that even if they don’t agree. Second, this piece is likely to have an undue number of caveats and parentheses, purely because I am desperately trying not to make value judgements or draw conclusions. None of this is about my personal opinion of anyone or any organisation. Third, I try never to present myself as talking ‘for’ Common Weal but ‘about’ Common Weal. We’re trying not to be a centralised, top-down organisation where there is a ‘line’ for me to transmit. Me talking somewhere is never meant to mean Common Weal endorsement or support. I’m just talking…

But I need to start my response by saying that, as a matter of principle, I oppose blacklists. I have thought often whether there is anyone I would point-blank, categorically refuse to engage with irrespective of context. In the end I think – I think – that if the BBC phoned me up and said ‘we can’t avoid putting on a holocaust-denying neofascist and no-one else will come on so if you don’t come on he’ll be heard unchallenged’, I’d probably do it. Probably. That’s a question of personal judgement. What bothers me about blacklists is that they take away people’s personal judgement, their ‘right to be wrong’. That and the fact that they fundamentally suppress debate and have a dreadful habit of getting out of control.

And if you’re going to have blacklists, then it seems to me you have to be above reproach in your process of compiling them. You need principles and criteria for exclusion and they need to apply to everyone equally. In each individual case you need a strong burden of proof that these principles and criteria have been breached. And as a matter of natural justice, the individual concerned must have a right to respond to the evidence presented. Please don’t take these as criticisms – I’m precisely not telling anyone else how to do their business. I’m trying to think through a complex issue so I can come to a conclusion – for myself – with which I feel comfortable.

Now of course it is perfectly possible and perfectly reasonable to not have a formal exclusion policy but to politely decline an invitation for reasons of not causing offence. Heaven knows my weekend would have been a helluva lot more pleasant had I done just that – politely declined Hope Over Fear’s invitation and spent the day in the garden. The reason I didn’t is at the heart of the matter for me.

I know many of the Hope Over Fear people (both organisers and followers). I met many of them over the course of the referendum campaign in the working class schemes and towns where I was invited to talk. They are lovely people – principled, kind, passionate, caring, committed. The caricature of them all as someone’s stooges or dupes, or as all having some ulterior motive, or as simply failing to understand the bigger picture just does not tally with my experience. I chatted to a lot of the organisers on Saturday and they simply don’t get why they are pariahs in the movement, they don’t understand why they are treated the way they are treated – Paul Hutcheon’s disgraceful coverage in the Sunday Herald shows that they can’t even get a fair hearing in pro-indy media (though well done to The National yesterday). The crowd on Saturday was to my eyes substantially bigger than the anti-Trident demo from a couple of weeks earlier that the Sunday Herald described as being ‘up to 6,000 people’. To describe Saturday’s event as ‘over 1,000’ people is something other than journalism.

Does it matter that they are excluded from our usual narrative? Yes, for three crucial reasons. Like it or not, Hope Over Fear is the only really truly working class part of our wider movement. They are exuberantly, unashamedly gallus. They dress up, dress up their kids (often in kilts nearly dragging along the ground so outsized are they), bring flags and banners, paint their faces. They sing and dance, shout and cheer – and smile. A lot. They pop over to the pub for a pint and come back. They hug you, take selfies of themselves with whomever they can find. This is not grim workerism, this is a joyful, carnivalesque celebration of who we are. And it is enormous, infectious, contagious fun. We need that. We can’t afford to cut ourselves off from that. The world of the independence movement cannot and must not start and finish at wish trees.

The second reason is straightforward – numbers. If we were being honest, other than the SNP, no-one in our campaign can really turn out the sheer numbers that Hope Over Fear can. Of course there is massive cross-over (there were lots of SNP banners, Palestinian banners, a RIC banner…). But my guess is that in the incredibly long running order (it went on for hours, though much of that was taken up by the parade of wonderful musicians) six or seven thousand people at least will have passed through that square. If there was one message that organisers gave me more than any other it was ‘can’t people look outwards from our stage to see the people who are here; must they look only at the stage and obsess with one person’.

But it is the third reason that is the one I think we must dwell on. As far as I can tell it seems like National Collective is over. Without attributing blame anywhere and in as neutral a phrasing as I can muster, National Collective died (collectively, as a movement, not as a group of organisers) because it did not find a way to manage some very real differences in opinion on how to move forward. If we cut Hope Over Fear out of the ‘agreed canon’ of the movement we are smaller and lesser. And then we’ll all be looking over our shoulders to try and guess who is next. Wings Over Scotland? Every member of the Catholic clergy (which is undeniably homophobic)? Neil Hay (for making a joke against pensioners)? Me? You? Solidarity and tolerance are easy when you agree with each other and like each other. It is when you disagree and don’t like each other that solidarity is really put to its test. I am overwhelmingly committed to solidarity and tolerance. I don’t mean we should accept bad behaviour, but we need to accept that we’re all sinners, capable of bad behaviour and that we need to find a way to balance condemning that which is wrong while still leaving space for the reality of human frailty. A running commentary on each other’s flaws is going to lead us nowhere.

Which, with all the reluctance in the world, brings me to Tommy Sheridan. I have spent ten years scrupulously not expressing any view or opinion and I shall continue to do that here. I can only repeat than in explaining that there are two sides to this tale does not mean I am endorsing one of them. The charge is that Tommy acted in an abusive and misogynistic way. I do not doubt the sincerity with which this view is held by many. But we also need to recognise that many do not agree, that their experiences have been different. I recognise that those who feel Tommy is outside the bounds of political debate in Scotland have a right to say so and to express distaste. But do others who don’t agree need to be exposed to campaigns of isolation and marginalisation? Can’t we manage this a different way?

(And in a very brief parenthesis which is the most risky thing I will write here, it is worth just noting that Tommy Sheridan has been unable to answer any of these allegations because the court case of Andy Coulson begins on 12 May. I am trying not to place any judgement on what that means, simply reiterating that I think everyone – anyone – has a right to defend themselves before the discussion is over.)

But for me this is not and has never been about Tommy Sheridan. It is about Hope Over Fear. I am greatly worried that the predominantly middle class part of the movement has a tendency to assume that there is something lesser about Hope Over Fear – because they paint their faces, because they don’t always agree with us, because some of them ride motorbikes (and can I just give a shout out for the cavalcade of bikers on Saturday who were just brilliant). They don’t really do wish trees and coffee mornings and performance poetry and deliberative conferences. Which means that we often don’t do much for them. So they do it for themselves. Amen to that. Those who believe it’s really all a front or a con-trick need to talk to John Park or Sharon Anderson (of the wonderful Indy Girls). They are every bit as honest and sincere as any of us. This is their contribution and, frankly, I would rather take a weekend of intense pressure from social media than turn my back on them (Hope Over Fear people don’t seem to me to be particularly active on Twitter – but that doesn’t mean they’re not real).

Do I wish they hadn’t chosen Tommy Sheridan as one of their leaders? Sorry, but it would not for a fraction of a second occur to me to tell someone else who their leaders should be. For the absolutely solid reason that it is not my business. Not even nearly. Hope Over Fear is an organisation in its own right with a diverse organising committee and many, many committed followers. I believe that the only legitimate way for me to engage is with respect, not to set conditions or ultimatums.

And as for being embarrassed of Hope Over Fear? Not a bit of it. You may not like politics with painted faces and bawdy humour, but that is their politics. And let’s be honest, the politics we have – the one without the painted faces – has been fucking awful. Yes, in history painting your face has occasionally led to division and violence. But in my experience pulling on a suit almost always leads to selling out at least some of your principles. No-one is perfect.

And so to conclude, a couple of pleas from me. First, please don’t caricature Hope Over Fear just because they’re working class. They’ve thought through the issues just like you have and they’ve come up with their conclusions and who is there has a right to tell them they’re wrong? Get to know them. Invite some of the organising committee to attend your meetings and talk to them. Go to an event (because if nothing else I suspect you’ll have a great time). Please don’t isolate them as an abstract concept. They are real and they have a right to be treated as such.

Second, without even beginning to propose a specific solution, can I make a plea that we try to find a way forward. Whatever that is I don’t believe it can trample over people’s feelings but nor do I believe it can be based on ultimatums. We can’t just wish people gone – on either side. We are diverse but we are still one movement and we need to reach out and join our hands over barriers.

Third, a generic plea. Anyone who thinks that our movement is so robust that it can survive absolutely anything needs to look at history. No movement is immortal. No movement can survive division after division. Please let us not start that precedent now. Please let us find a way to balance our ethical and moral purity with tolerance, accommodation and solidarity.

And my final plea? Imagine what it would be like if we could fix this. Imagine there wasn’t this problem. Imagine we added to the riot of colour on Saturday the green, the red, the yellow. Imagine if Women for Indy could have joined the carnival. Imagine if RIC could have been there in strength. Imagine if we could have been hugging each other rather than tweeting about each other.

I know all of this arouses very strong feelings and I know there is almost no chance that I could find a form of words which will make everyone happy. I hope that no-one thinks I am dismissing how they feel or what they think. But I don’t make my decisions based on who shouts loudest at me on social media.

We will win through love. We will lose through hate. That’s all I know for sure.



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185 replies

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Robin. I welcome all expressions of hope in these times, be it cheerful face painting or ardent activism. I do not want ANY voice of hope and desire for a progressive Scotland cut off.

  2. You get snobs in all movements. I would have a pint with farage as I would welcome the discussion. Exclusion only ever leads to hatred.

  3. Hope Over Fear isn’t marginalised by every other group in the Yes movement because they’re working-class.

    Hope Over Fear isn’t marginalised by every other group in the Yes movement because they paint their faces and ride motorcycles.

    They’re marginalised and isolated because their chosen leader abuses women. Not because they’re working-class. It is utterly shameful to insinuate that the widespread boycott of Hope Over Fear events is out of some class of snobbishness. It’s not. The boycott is about whether one embraces and legitimises a man who abuses women, a man who stood in a courtroom and demanded a woman recite her private sexual record in public, for no other reason than one agrees with him on the constitution.

    I won’t embrace that. And I’m pleased that neither do the Socialist party, the Green party, the SNP, RIC or Women for Independence. And I’m pleased that I’m on their side of any Sheridan v Yes “split” instead of finding myself desperately trying to justify a decision to legitimise Tommy Sheridan.

    You say: “Imagine there wasn’t this problem. Imagine we added to the riot of colour on Saturday the green, the red, the yellow. Imagine if Women for Indy could have joined the carnival. Imagine if RIC could have been there in strength.

    I say: the reason we couldn’t add the green, red and yellow, RIC and WFI to the “carnival” wasn’t because they are snobbish, or divisive. It is because – rightly – the progressive movement in Scotland has placed a cordon sanitaire around this abuser – a man who took £25.000 from the Daily Record to gloat about what he did – to ensure that women in our movement are safe, and feel safe. I regret that you have chosen to breach that cordon sanitaire.

    You started off defending your decision to stand with Tommy Sheridan. You finished by imagining a country where everyone could just forget what Sheridan did, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

    Imagine if, when told the best interests of the Yes movement and the progressive Left were best served by him staying at home, he had actually listened instead of going on an ego trip which is intended to have one result – splitting the Yes movement – just as a decade earlier he’d made the conscious decision to split the Socialist movement.

    • Hear, hear! Well said, that man.

    • I think you need to be very careful as to your choice of language. Whatever the merits of the court case ‘women being abused’ played no part in them, nor any of the case.
      What some can’t stand is that the ‘working class’ sections of the movement have their own mind and have made the decision as to who they wish to ‘lead’ their organisations despite spurious allegations.

      • Well said Lyn! Who knows what the outcome of the Coulson trial will be and the consequences for those who aided the News of the World and those who continue to demonise Tommy? There must be a good few high profile Indy people who are losing sleep over the upcoming Coulson trial.

    • Tommy Sheridan has been doing good for Scotland long before RIC and WFI it grinds my gears that people kick a man when they are down, one I don’t believe the accusations against him and two if they are true I believe they are a mistake he regrets or being over played by people with an agenda.

      Tommy Sheridan creates the SSP, he banned the bailiffs in Scotland, something still scarring England and he made the campaign against nuclear weapons the movement it is today, I think that annoys people more than anything else.

      Tommy Sheridan is a working class hero in my eyes.

    • Hear, hear.

      Citizen Tommy has had plenty of opportunity to apologise to those women to whom he behaved so atrociously. He still can – and when they have accepted his apology, that’s the time to stand on a platform with him.

      Until then, however, he stands unrepentant as a man of utterly atrocious character.

      This is not a question of who he has or has not had sex with. Consensual behaviour between adults is none of my business. This is about him putting women with whom he had formerly been intimate on a stand in court and publicly humiliating them, because they would not lie for him.

      Robin, seriously, are you really prepared to legitimise a man is unrepentant of that? If so, I shall find it very difficult to support the Common Weal in future.

      • Well the point being made is that sharing a platform is not an attempt to legitimise Tommy Sheridan. It’s not anything about Tommy Sheridan. It’s about engaging thousands of people and talking about the Common Weal. As simple as that. posturing and hand wringing lead to nothing but division – all based on the abstract premise that speaking to people while Tommy Sheridan is nearby is in some way an endorsement of his personal misgivings.

    • You have summed exactly up how I feel.

  4. I think it’s a divisive piece and slap in the face to those *within Common Weal itself* who have expressed disquiet. The constant insinuation is that naysayers are driven by class snobbery. It ignores the very genuine problems with Sheridan himself – and The Boy Wonder’s on-stage body language amounted to a gesture of solidarity with the man, not the movement. The problems are not sub judice: we know how he treated the members of his party, especially the women. And we also know, swinging apart (each to their own) that a space containing Citizen Tommy is not a safe space for women. There’s tons of stories from women. Ask around.

    Frankly, the article is an insult. It goes on the attack and attempts to lay charges (snobbery; miserabilsm) against Sheridan dissenters without listening to what they are actually saying.

    • Having seen some of the comment on social media the night before the event I can assure you that there was a great deal of snobbery being displayed there. Sneering at something as common as standing on a platform and speaking to people. Lots of people.
      It is unfortunate that any reasonable debate is lost in a torrent of hate as soon as the name Tommy Sheridan is mentioned.
      I am not alone in recognising the great deal of work carried out by Mr Sheridan pre and post referendum. His words were powerful and resonated with many across the country. He was a more effective speaker than many of our so called professional politicians who were taking a wage for it, he was inspirational where the professionals were at times insipid. From a motivational, if not moral sense, we need MORE like Tommy Sheridan.

    • Sounds like you have never heard of Chinese whispers, maybe most folks prefer the courts to decide rather than starting a witch hunt.

    • Well put. It’s seems Robin McAlpine is fine about throwing women under a bus to protect and enhance the standing of a liar, criminal and an abusive man. His patronising charactisation of working class betrays his own ignorance. Stupid, stupid man. I would like to see a bit of transparency from Hope over Fear about how they are funded, who the organisers are and what their aims are. Or maybe someone could do a ‘piece’ on that.

    • Tommy Sheridan whatever he has done has served time, HOWEVER he did not rape or attempt to rape any woman -as far as I am aware of nor try to evade justice by hiding in the Ecuador embassy unlike some, who the Common Weal and every other shade of YES seems to have no problem welcoming.

  5. When did Hope over Fear “choose” Tommy as their leader? What are the democratic mechanisms they have in place to do this? The idea that this is a spontaneous movement that chose Tommy is the exact opposite of reality.

    Robin’s attempt to paint himself as somehow on the side of the working class with Hope Over Fear against the likes of National Collective and the rest of the Yes movement (which excluded Tommy) is low politics indeed.

    As to the Andy Coulson court case red herring . . . . there were several years when Tommy could freely have admitted that he should not have dragged his erstwhile comrades through court, with the threat of a jail sentence hanging over their heads for years, that he was sorry, and that he wanted to make amends. The idea that he has been silenced by the Coulson case is nonsense.

  6. Well said Robin. We have experienced the forces against change at the referendum. They won. Division is highly undesirable and detrimental. It is also very difficult to reverse. Balanced reactions are necessary to leave room for reconciliation. Your description of those you met on Saturday has particular resonance. Lets all heed your words

  7. I must admit that my initial reaction to hearing that Robin had shared the platform at this rally with Sheridan was one of disappointment. That Tommy’s fronting of HoF is as much about reviving the political fortunes of Tommy as anything else seems pretty self-evident to me. As to the contention that he is unable to defend himself due to Coulson’s impending court case, the charges of misogyny against Tommy do not stand or fall based on the reliability of Coulson’s evidence, many others gave evidence against him and there is no current challenge to their veracity. He had his day in court to defend himself (literally) and lost.

    However, there is absolutely no doubt that Sheridan inspires many who listen to him, and having spoken to some who enjoy meetings and rallies where he speaks, it has become clear to me that, though he may indeed have some fawning acolytes, most who take inspiration from his words are not really terribly interested in Tommy himself. It is the message he gives them, in a way that reaches and appeals to them, that they are interested in. In fact, I have even had people say to me that they wouldn’t vote for him because they “don’t quite trust him as a man”, but ” jings, what a speaker he is!”

    I’m generally with Robin on the issue of “blacklists”, as I was in agreement with Patrick Harvie when he shared a debating platform with George Galloway on condition that he would not be prevented from challenging him. Patrick was criticised for that decision before the event, but in the end was able to show Galloway up for the type of man he was, something which would have been impossible if he had refused to attend.

    Most importantly, don’t demonise those who take their inspiration from Tommy Sheridan, but don’t be afraid to explain to them why you don’t. Most are not hero-worshipping him, for if they were he’d be First Minister by now. Just because I don’t enjoy being shouted at by a man I suspect has a less than healthy attitude to women and an over-inflated opinion of himself doesn’t mean I have fundamentally different aims and aspirations for our country to people who don’t see him through the same lens.

  8. We have to stick together, and whatever Tommy Sheridan has done or not, his heart is with Scotland, so I’m not going to judge him. Like the last line says, “We will win through love. We will lose through hate.” and my last line, I wish all those Twitters would think for a second or ten before venting their thumbs – just saying..

    • Tommy Sheridan does not have Scotland’s best interests at heart but HIS OWN.
      He is hijacking the yes movement to gain support and will split and divide the movement in time.

      He never shouted for independence or supported the SNP in the past and I have known Tommy for many many years.
      A new party headed by him will emerge post GE.

      Watch this space !!!!

  9. I agree with all this and it’s a shame Robin has needed to defend his position. There is a place for Hope over Fear in the movement. Tommy Sheridan has substantially redeemed himself during the referendum, and particularly since the referendum. I wasn’t able to attend Saturday’s rally, but I did attend last October’s event in George Square. At one point I found myself positioned ‘half way up’ a monument and beside a Glasgow woman was could be described as both gallus and fu’. I felt she nailed it when she yelled: “Tommy, we love you! Ye’re a hoor, – but we love you!” Diversity is everything, and we have to believe in redemption.

  10. “Hope Over Fear is the only really truly working class part of our wider movement”

    No they’re not, and the rest of the piece is an argument for expedience over anything approaching natural justice. That’s the type of politics we are aspiring “from”, not “to”.

    Tommy knows the way back, loads of us will welcome his recovery if it were ever to happen, but first atonement and acceptance. That’s how a compassionate society, movement and politics works Robin, not by pretending we’re all one happy dance troupe and anyone who speaks up should shoosh and jump on the bandwagon with everyone else.

    I am very alienated by the overwhelming “shoosh for indy” political culture we are developing and solidifying. This piece and the weekend’s events are part of it.

    • Sorry Stevie, can’t agree with the last paragraph. Reading the widely differing responses to the post, I think diversity and different opinions are loud and clear on Bella. If human beings can learn to disagree about deeply held views yet still show respect and tolerance – yes, and love … none of us are perfect – then we are doing well.

  11. I’d have been more on board with the writer had he swallowed his ineptness, and condemned without equivocation those southern voices…who seeing their entrenched privilege ebbing away in the tsunami of evets…. dare to tell us that exercising our franchise as “equal partners” in this rotten edifice of ‘union’ is an illegitimate act not worthy of that northern appendage who should be more grateful for being ‘allowed’ to scurry back under the petticoats of that 18th century solution to the governance of these islands in days of now-long-gone imperial empire.
    Even Humpty-Dumpty had to come of the fence eventually !!

  12. ..and here’s me thinking that we are all in this together. I honestly had no idea that the wider YES movement had a problem with the Hope Over Fear organisation, call me naïve. I,like most Scots these days, do not limit myself to one organisation’s rhetoric or opinion, I read everything I can, I watch everything I can and I discuss every time I get an opportunity.

    Many, many people put their lives on hold during the referendum to campaign for a YES vote, no one did this more than Tommy Sheridan. I couldn’t give a toss what he gets up to in his private life as long as he’s not harming anyone and I have the greatest respect for him and his ability to keep picking himself up and carrying on the fight.

    Without the working class, the middle-class, art school clique which is a wonderful, creative part of this movement, will, in short order, find themselves only talking amongst themselves.

    I find this to be the most telling part of your essay Robin, the fact that I, as a working class voter was unaware of this better than thou attitude from the middle class. I honestly feel like I’ve been slapped in the face and another layer to the movement has been uncovered which was hitherto unknown to me.

    The message that needs to be heard, as you are saying, is that we are all in this together and though strange bedfellows we may be, we all have fairness, equality and most of all Independence for Scotland as our shared goals.

    • Well said Gordon – I couldn’t agree more.

    • Great comment, Gordon. Especially about middle class froth and bubble chatter.

      Any and every working class activist has always had to fight an uphill struggle against chattering class corrosive gossip, for that class usually holds sway in the media. They focus on the personal, real or imagined. If they can’t find dirt, they’ll invent it. This allows them to diminish and obscure the big picture, to the loss of us all, especially working class people, ”who are always in line for that pie in the sky”, as Dick Gaughan sang.

    • ” I couldn’t give a toss what he gets up to in his private life as long as he’s not harming anyone”

      Unfortunately Gordon, the argument is that he has harmed people, It’s a whole can of worms that is quite difficult to follow. Discussing it at all or trying to work it out can be um “wearing” .

    • “I couldn’t give a toss what he gets up to in his private life as long as he’s not harming anyone.”

      Well that’s the point isn’t it, he has been harming people. People don’t object to Tommy because he sleeps around, they object to him because he dragged women through the courts to answer questions about their sex lives, and because he tried to get his comrades to lie in court and when they said no, they were called scabs. Because he split a movement rather than show any remorse.

    • “As long as he is not harming anyone”
      OMG have you no idea what he put those women through. ???
      Nobody gives a shit about his personal sex life. It’s the woman during the trial, His very own “comrades” that he took to hell and back.

      You have this story all wrong.

    • But Sheridan is harming people, or at the very least, has done frequently in the past. Both with his misogyny and sexual aggression, which have been witnessed by many people, and in public with his destruction of the socialist movement in Scotland in order to prop up his own legend. He treated his comrades and friends in the SSP horrifically.

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the “better than thou” attitude of the middle class – I’m middle class as you get, and it seems to me that Robin’s invented, or at least vastly exaggerated, that attitude to make himself look good for standing with Sheridan. I’ve certainly never seen it. I’m not sure I even recognised Hope Over Fear as “a working class movement”.

    • Until I read this I was also unaware that Hope over Fear was in some way considered a problem and certainly am surprised some of this is based in some sort of class divide! I’m no great fan of Sheridan and unaware of any damage he is alleged to have done but his is just one voice in any number of pro Indy, anti WM voices in that organisation. I’d find it sad, and unusual, not to have some common ground with some of them.

    • I was totally unaware of a middle class clique that seems to be looking down on the working class. I agree,it does feel like a slap in the face.

  13. This is pretty shabby stuff. Robin McAlpine is misleadingly conflating a highly principled and completely sensible ‘no-platform’ policy towards one utterly loathsome and discredited individual – one who has done more to damage the credibility and solidarity of left-wing politics in Scotland than any other – with a sneering snobbery about working class activists which, though it definitely exists in some quarters (notably the media), definitely doesn’t exist in organisations like RIC or on blogs like A Thousand Flowers.

    Even the use of language is very shifty here: Tommy Sheridan isn’t being ‘blacklisted’ (a word and tactic associated with the right, from the McCarthy witch-hunts to The Consulting Association); he is being ‘no platformed’, a rational and sensible tactic that has a long and proud tradition in radical left-wing politics. (As an aside, if the BBC phoned Robin McAlpine up and said ‘we can’t avoid putting on a Holocaust-denying neo-fascist and no-one else will come on so if you don’t come on he’ll be heard unchallenged’, he’d be an idiot to agree to do it. I find it very hard to imagine a situation in which the BBC absolutely couldn’t avoid broadcasting a Holocaust-denying neo-fascist, but if no-one was prepared to debate him, then they wouldn’t be able to because of their own rules regarding impartiality. By agreeing to debate such an individual, you are enabling the dissemination of their poison. In any event, the hypothetical is self-evidently ridiculous.)

    Sheridan has had ample chance to defend himself and to put forward his distorted, self-serving version of events. His actions are indefensible and his lies, misogyny, hypocrisy and monumental arrogance make him utterly toxic to our movement. I have a great deal of respect for Robin McAlpine, but he was wrong to share a stage with Sheridan on Saturday and he’s wrong to try to defend it here.

  14. Apologies for the grammatical errors…tablets are a pain when not doing as they’re told……..a bit like the Scots really,….Eh??

  15. A fine sensitive, humane, piece of writing. Thanks Robin.

  16. Gordon Adam…Don’t worry, this ‘better than thou’ is just a red herring that Robin has flung in to distract folk from the real issue. It’s snide stuff.

    • Don’t patronise me, I’m not worried, I’m disappointed. I find nothing ‘snide’ about what Robin has said. Insomuch as his position is one that I’ve not considered before and that there exists, confirmed in the comments section, this ‘cordon sanitaire’ around Tommy Sheridan that I was previously unaware of. It smacks of the politics of division, it reeks of ‘old politics’ and seems to pay no heed to the fact that he gives many people in the YES movement hope for the future.
      I really couldn’t give a toss about Tommy, the man. Coming from the generation I come from, seeing a Glaswegian man in Scotland with a fake tan most of us are likely to say to him, ‘Get a grip of yersel’, does it affect his politics, no.
      I have a lot of time for Robin McAlpine whom I see as a major player in the YES movement and if he sees this division and has the courage to bring it up, knowing that he will be shot down, then I’m prepared to listen to what he has to say.

  17. Better than “Better Together”. BE TOGETHER

  18. I don’t think I’ve ever read such a careful article. I’m sure there are very good reasons for this.

    On Tommy Sheridan.
    I’ve always detested malicious gossip. It’s one step short of a lynch mob. I mean disgraceful stuff like ‘ask around’ about him. Or slavishly lapping up Tory/Murdoch media filth about a committed socialist who puts his actions where his mouth is. See the Poll Tax activists and TS’s role in it. See TS’s role in the Yes Campaign. Do you put your actions where your mouth is?

    I’ve also always detested role models and leader worship; we’ve seen this in Nazi Germany and the neo-con US. Most of the bitching about TS seems to be a result of inadequate people thinking their hero now has feet of clay. If so, the fault is theirs.

    I’ve got news for them – nobody’s perfect. And that means you. So whatever the lies or truth in corrosive gossip, think of the balance of good that people do. If they’ve done wrong, hold them to account, but not by filthy gossip, some of it hysterical. Above, poor naive Claire even puts her faith in the courts, ”He had his day in court to defend himself (literally) and lost.” Claire, do you really think that courts are there to uphold the rights of TS, you or me? Come on.

    ”Don’t follow leaders, watch your parking meters”.

    • I have huge admiration for your work, Robin, and your campaigning efforts over the past few years but I need to take serious issue with several points in this abysmal, mealy-mouthed article.

      First, HOF is not the “only truly working class” part of the movement. That’s such drivel, frankly it’s difficult to know where to begin.

      Secondly, TS’s actions from 2005 onwards are not sub-judice, they are a matter of public record. I cannot believe you fell for that idiotic line, Robin. It’s a feeble excuse and Andy Coulson’s trial will not – CAN NOT – vindicate TS’s actions because all it will establish is whether or not Coulson perjured himself on the issue of hacking TS / GS’s phones. That has no bearing on TS’s perjury over his sexual activities or – far more to the point – his denial of confessing this to a room full of his comrades on the SSP executive.

      I will not remark on his alleged misogynism or anti-feminism because I have not witnessed it first hand. People will have their own experiences and can draw their own conclusions. On his sexual peccadilloes all I will say is that it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he did in fact frequent sex clubs and indulge in several extra-marital affairs.

      The issue is his continued denial. The issue was his preparedness to perjure himself while accusing his (erstwhile) closest comrades of perjury, urging the court to find for him and, de facto, condemn those that were telling the truth to imprisonment. Leave aside, for a moment, the sheer sociopathic ruthlessness of that action. Leave aside that he consciously and maliciously tore apart a highly successful socialist party for his own craven vanity.

      Just think about that central act: Lying through your teeth to condemn your closest friends and colleagues to prison.

      And still refusing to acknowledge you were wrong in any way.

      Still think he’s been redeemed? Still want to trust him?

      This is a question of morality, of values and of character. If TS was prepared to lie, deny and defame others to hide a glaring truth, if he was prepared to crash the party of which he was leader because he could not admit to his own behaviour, then why should any of the other leaders of the SNP, Greens, SSP, Women for Indy, RIC etc. be stupid enough to trust him? Can his cheerleaders and apologists – Robin – not understand that without acknowledgement of his past actions, without an admittance of his viciousness, his contempt and above all his mendacity, without recognition of the hurt and damage his lies have caused, how utterly foolhardy it would is let him back into the fold?

      Had, say, Nicola Sturgeon, Alex Salmond, Patrick Harvie, Carolyn Leckie et al simply shrugged their shoulders last year and said, “Ah well, water under the bridge, Tommy, let bygone be bygones – c’mon and join the Yes board” do you think that would have been ok? Would the MSM would have shrugged back and said, “OK, they have a pathological liar on their board, but let’s leave that ‘cos, you know, it’s sub-judice.”?

      Do you trust TS to work in a collective, democratic, collegiate way for the common weal?

      You chose associate yourself with TS, Robin. You chose to write this article. We deserve an answer.

      • Absolutely spot on, Drew; I couldn’t agree more.

        • And the point is that NONE of those issues are remotely touched on in The Boy Wonder’s article. Instead he goes on the attack and throws up a smokescreen of insinuations of class snobbery.

          Robin has done many fine things for The Movement. This is not his finest hour.

      • “On his sexual peccadilloes all I will say is that it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he did in fact frequent sex clubs and indulge in several extra-marital affairs.”

        What is this, a moral crusade?

        “You chose associate yourself with TS, Robin. You chose to write this article. We deserve an answer.”

        The answer is obvious. Robin MacAlpine believes in tolerance and debating with people regardless of what they believe in or what they have done. Such hallmarks are fundamental to a healthy and functional democracy.

        As I said, like the electorate judge Tommy Sheridan. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time he ran for Hollyrood, he polled dismally.

        • He may well believe in tolerance and debating people regardless of whatever they say / believe etc. but the point is, this wasn’t a ‘debate’ and he wasn’t ‘debating’ with Sheridan at this event. It was a ‘rally’, and therefore MacAlpine was ‘sharing a platform’ with Sheridan, as the expression goes.

          I agree the electorate (or whatever democratic structure, should one exist of whatever organisation or group he might ‘front’) should judge him.

          But I also agree with the premise that regardless of someone’s views**, they should always be debated.

          That thing of ‘I refuse to share a platform with xxxx’ is just used as an excuse by those who don’t want to debate a particular person / subject because they are afraid to / they fear it will damage them. This has often used as an excuse not to debate people like the BNP. They should be put up on stage, if nothing else to hold them up in the light.

          Same applies to UKIP – the approach of ‘running them out of town’ is appalling, and diminishes democracy. (See also the antics of the likes of Unite Against Some Fascists)

          ** the only exception I’d make is anyone who wants to stand up and say ‘X individual / Y group should be harmed or killed because (insert insane ideology here).

        • I can respect your position that debating with people whose views and actions you abhor are “hallmarks of a healthy and functioning democracy”. It just so happens that’s utterly irrelevant to both the original article and my response.

          Robin didn’t debate, he shared a platform. He then wrote an apologist’s article that included an unchallenged repetition of an ongoing lie from an unrepentant, unapologetic perjurer. If you want to respond to that or any of the other salient points I made, I’d love to hear.

          As my original post makes crystal clear, I only mentioned his peccadilloes because those are primary facts he continues to deny. His sexual mores are not the issue.

          The issue – which, again, I made very clear but you chose to ignore – is this: TS repeatedly perjured himself, while cross-examining his former comrades in court and accusing them of perjury, when he was knew they were telling the truth. He did this with innuendo, smear and fasle accusation, and in full knowledge that if he won they would in all probability face imprisonment.

          And STILL he refuses to acknowledge his actions.

          Well, of course, how can he? There’s no way he could justify his actions to his followers so he keeps schtum – in public – but drops words in the ears of the credulous like “it’s sub-judice” knowing full well that’s another lie to add to all the others he still peddles: The British State were out to get me, Murdoch ordered me taken down, everybody in the SSP was jealous of me, it was coup, etc, etc, etc.

          So after the Coulson trial is done and dusted and there’s nothing sub-judice, can we expect a book telling his side of the story? Don’t hold your breath.

          Debate with TS if you like, but share a platform? Associate your name with his to validate his claim to be a spokesperson for the movement? That’s something else entirely.

          Meanwhile if you, and Robin, want to preach “tolerance” of TS’s criminal actions and his continuing denials then that’s your moral crusade, not mine.

          • Agree totally Drew. It’s that Sheridan can’t apologise for committing perjury and reacting with malice and fury against his erstwhile comrades that they refused to lie for him, that I find hard. To me that means that he is an unprincipled egotist who would stop at nothing to maintain his position. This makes him untrustworthy.

            On the other hand I recognise the moral ambiguities of the case: Sheridan told his comrades the truth (he could have just lied) but then he thought it reasonable to ask his comrades to lie for him because it was Andy Coulson and the loathsome Newsof the World that was accusing him. For them, to their eternal credit, they placed the principle of truth on a higher level than refuting the loathsome News of the World’s story. In the light of what subsequently happened about the News of the World, with the Milly Dowler phone hacking scandel, hacking the phone of a murdered schoolgirl and causing her poor parents to have hope, I have often wondered if Tommy was right, that the News of the World was such a disgusting rag, it was actually morally right to lie when it was trying to bring him and their socialist movement down with an unflattering but actually true story.

            Yet there were other ways to play this dilemma. Sheridan could have been contrite. He could have punctured the News of the World’s hubris in another way, by saying: ‘So what? So what that I like swinging? That’s my private business’. He could have said, ‘Yes, it’s true, I have conferred with my colleagues and they have accepted my apologies for any embarassment I have caused our party. Whilst some may consider my actions embarassing, I repeat, I have not broken any law. People are too uptight about sex in this country.’ And just toughed it out. Sat it out for a while, then returned to the fray. But that would have involved Tommy in some amount of eating humble pie and taking responsibility for his actions. It would have involved him admitting he was a less than a perfect man, husband, or father. OK, being told off by the loathsome News of the World was a huge challenge to his ego, but there were still more principled ways to have played it that would have killed their story. I think if Tommy had played it the way I suggest above, the public would be on the side of Tommy and his party would have stayed intact.

            But that’s what he was incapable of doing. And that’s why he’s untrustworthy. If he could at least admit that he handled it very badly and was sorry, then I would be able to set aside my reservations about what really drives the man.

    • Well said

  19. Robin, an excellent, thoughtful article which promotes the idea of liberal tolerance that a new and better Scotland should be based on.

    I’ve never been to a Hope Over Fear rally but kudos to them for the gallus excitement that they bring to the debate. I’ve also never attended a National Collective event but kudos to them because, in the words of the Merry Mac Fun Company, if I can’t dance, it ain’t my revolution!

    As for Tommy? I worked with him in the miners strike, the Poll Tax campaign and listened to his contribution in the independence referendum with admiration for his way of articulating much better than I what many in Scotland believed. As to his alleged misogyny: frankly, he has been found guilty of nothing other than perjury. Willing adults indulging in mutually consenting sexual activity is none of my (or anyone else’s) business.

  20. Spot on Robin

    Hope over fear was not the only group to be marginalised by the Yes side during the referendum. I myself personally experienced abuse, criticism, and marginalisation during the two year campaign.

    My crime? Being a Conservative who believes in an independent Scotland. Here’s an example.

    Yes campaigner at my front door: A Yes vote means we’ll never Tory scum ruling Scotland again.

    Me: I am a Conservative…

    Yes Campaigner: ?????

    Me: I’ll still be voting Yes, don’t worry.

    I’ve said it before, but the Yes campaign’s big tent needs to get bigger. An independent Scotland is for everybody, not just left-wingers. Telling people they are scum is not the way to win friends and influence people.

    I know other conservatives who were tempted by the possibilities that an Indy Scotland could offer – low tax, business friendly, Switzerland of the north etc. etc.

    Naturally, they didn’t take to kindly to being insulted…

    • It’s true that the right and centre-right have done well in the smaller European countries, and I’d expect a Scottish Conservatives or Scottish Centre party to do well.

      The remarkable thing for me is that the Conservative vote has held up so well, despite the party being increasingly driven from London – next to no MPs means next to no infuence in the party, the same thing could happen to Labour and it becomes self-reinforcing.

      I think the Tories in Scotland still get around 15% of the vote, which is more than the socialists, Greens or Lib Dems.

      • In my experience (family, business contacts, social circle etc) Conservative voters are drawn mainly from the older demographic and the old Unionist party (before it merged with the Tories down south)

        Some of them are people who only started voting Conservative 30 years ago with right to buy etec etc but they’ve always been an incredibly loyal bunch, much in the same way that voting Labour was passed down from father to son for years on end.

  21. The main difference between Robin and Tommy? Robin is an ex ‘establishment man’ who has seen some light (like many others in the SNP and Greens), Tommy has never been ‘establishment man’. Second, few have personally suffered more at the hands of the British state in recent times than Tommy; do folk really need to ask why that is? Third, independence will be hard, and will require people of strong character and resolve, like Tommy. Finally, if the great Ian Hamilton QC is happy to share a stage with Tommy, others should be proud to do likewise.

    • Tommy never suffered at the hands of the British State, he was undone by his own cupidity and idiotic lies.

      He attempted to have his socialist comrades imprisoned because they refused to perjure themselves for him.

      Tommy’s “strong character and resolve” may in fact be sociopathic, as evidenced by his reckless behaviour, lies and vindictiveness.

  22. I attended Saturday’s rally, unaware of any underlying issues, until they were alluded to by Robin in his speech. Surely the message is more important than the messenger, otherwise we will end up in a “People’s Front of Judea” scenario. Ultimately, if Tommy Sheridan seeks to rebuild his political career, he will have to place himself, and his character, before the electorate, and can be judged then.

  23. Ah…it’s snobbery that puts me off Hope over Fear. Glad that’s sorted. Nothing to do with being a woman and detesting misogyny. Or believing in truth. Or having principles. Or loathing bullies and bullying. It’s just that I’m a snob. Apparently. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve read this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Downfall-The-Tommy-Sheridan-Story-ebook/dp/B006WB28RO

    • I’m also a woman, which means I equally naturally have a problem with three particular things. I don’t believe in guilt-by-association (participation in political culture means associating with people who have done, and still do, horrific things: HOF’s use of TS is less than ideal, but no man is a movement – it reflects on, but hardly defines them). I don’t believe – for feminist reasons, no less – in witch-hunts (which are always, after all, for the best reasons – but sending Sheridan to coventry won’t do a damn thing about misogyny, in the courtroom or elsewhere). And I don’t believe taking sides, as both those things do, makes women in any movement any safer. Rather the opposite, because there are always supporters, but if there are only supporters (if criticism of harmful behaviour isn’t normal) and if future participation is made to ride on whether women are believed, then experience shows clearly we won’t be. Sexism survives on scapegoating the occasional man as the lowest of the low, and claiming that solved the problem. And that’s the abject failure of blacklisting: when you include someone, it is conditional on behaviour change that you (collectively) therefore have both the power and the duty to enforce. To exclude them is to abdicate that, which matters because there are people like this in every movement: ‘removing the problem’ effectively only sets the bar on what those people think they can get away with (at anything less). Symbolic support for women’s safety is routine, and means less than nothing: sexism is endemic, and therefore *cannot* be excised, so arguing about whether it should be is a pure and stupid distraction. And pretending there are (Sheridan-free) parts of the Yes movement where it’s not an issue *is* snobbery, and dangerous snobbery at that!

  24. “We’re trying not to be a centralised, top-down organisation where there is a ‘line’ for me to transmit. Me talking somewhere is never meant to mean Common Weal endorsement or support. I’m just talking…”

    Serious question, don’t you own Common Weal? If you’re the sole owner, you can take the brand where you like….

    National Collective was always going to be time-limited as it didn’t have a formal structure , but I’d expect something similar to coalesce when the need arose.

    But I think the independence movement is healthier without seekingand being disappointed in charismatic leaders, whether Sheridan or any others. The arguments to be won are the dull ones of tax, spending, currency etc. It wasn’t lack of the vision-thing that lost the referendum.

    (“Every member of the Catholic clergy (which is undeniably homophobic)?” Not sure where you’re going with that, are you thinking of the idea of “natural law” or the Bible, which goes rather wider than Catholic clergy? Those both draw on the same traditions that underpin Judaism and Islam…)

  25. I don’t give a toss about Tommy Sheridan personally. I do care about the message he delivers. Few are as capable of getting a message across as he is.

    I cried during the referendum, but not often (I didn’t even cry on the 19th, instead I bottled up my anger ready to use it going forward).

    I cried the 1st time I heard Cat Boyd speak on a Youtube vid. I cried again at the Aye Talks event in the Pearce Institute when I again heard her talk.

    The other time I cried was when a good friend of mine and committed No activist from a Labour family, a family where her dad was a former Labour councillor and friend of the beast Gordon Brown told me she was voting Yes. She told me she was voting Yes, because of my god damn relentlessness on social media, which meant that she had to start reading some of the stuff I was posting and watching some of the vids I was posting, just so she could hear the alternative viewpoint.

    One of those vids I shared was Tommy Sheridan. Watching that vid was the point she went from No to Yes. Not only did she go from No to Yes, she started campaigning for Yes. She brought her entire family over from No to Yes. She got friends who didn’t normally vote to vote Yes.

    Two thing and “only 2” things brought her over. Without those factors she and her family would likely have remained No voters.

    1: My doggedness on sharing stuff on social media,
    2: Tommy Sheridan delivering a message that connected when all others had failed.

    So if anybody wants to pull Robin over the coals for standing on the same platform as Tommy Sheridan they can go fuck themselves. Hope Over Fear is bigger than Tommy Sheridan. Hope Over Fear is the message, not the person.

    I get that RIC, the Greens and Women for Independence won’t stand on the same platform. That is their choice and it doesn’t lesson their worth either.

    However attacking Robin, decrying Robin for delivering “his” message at a Hope Over Fear event weakens everything we stand for.

    It’s like being back at school. Ooh I’m not playing with you, because you are friends with Katy and Katy smells. Ooh you can’t play with us, it’s our ball and we won’t let you.

    The fact that Robin even felt the need to write this article hurts. It hurts because we can all stand together despite our differences, despite our backgrounds. In a society a better society that we claim we are building haven’t we heard of forgiveness and tolerance.

    • Hear, hear.

    • “Two thing and “only 2″ things brought her over. Without those factors she and her family would likely have remained No voters.

      1: My doggedness on sharing stuff on social media,
      2. Tommy Sheridan delivering a message that connected when all others had failed.”

      And in that order, of course. Wow, not even humblebragging. Loving your hubris.

      And it’s not really like being back and school, it’s more like this really:

      “In a society a better society that we claim we are building haven’t we heard of forgiveness and tolerance.”

      No-one has a right to forgiveness. They have to earn that forgiveness, and that forgiveness is for others to chose to bestow – or not.

      • I’m only quoting my friend on what she has told me more than once, hence why I cried over it. Sorry if it come across as something else.

        On forgiveness you certainly have a valid point.

        • It certainly did not come over as something else. I’m delighted that you had the determination to fight your corner and help to increase our share of the vote. Unfortunately, we were up against a media firestorm that through lies and misrepresentation convinced more people to vote the other way.
          There seems to be an awful lot of sanctimonious righteousness on this thread. Who needs trolls?

  26. Rather worrying that Robin thinks Hope over Fear is working class and ascribing worthy and patronising characteristics to them while saying other movements are more middle class. And he conveniently ignores what many people are angry about – Sheridan’s controlling, threatening and abusive behaviour towards the women who would not lie for him. A bit more than just ‘misogyny.’ This is not about whether Coulson hacked him either. He’s a wrecking ball of a man and to write the way he does McAlpine has actually made things worse and sounds like he’s making excuses. He has also exposed his lack of understanding about what went on in those trials and what led to them. He has also shown a staggering lack of understanding of the long term effects that Sheridan’s campaign had on these witnesses. This is also not about blacklists. Individuals should make a choice about with whom or what they align themselves. McAlpine has been called out on it and his reasons have been found wanting In part. If National Collective fell apart because people couldn’t find a way to work together wait until a Sheridan really infiltrates your organisation.

  27. In the end what you give is what you get.

    If you want the best for you and yours, give love.

    If you want the worst, take power.

    If we want the worst: pretend to agree, or protest condemnation; & paint ourselves whiter than white

    If we want the best: be honest, be critical, be forgiving; and know that every mistake or outrage points to deeper issues we have to sort. Issues we can only sort by sharp self-aware honesty, by an ability to take seriously others suffering and to laugh our heads off at ourselves

    • ”In the end what you give is what you get. ” Can’t agree here, Justin. Many have given so much and got nothing in return. Others contribute nothing and gain so much.

      • Of course Hey plater.

        I’m not saying that this system we live in rewards people appropriately. It does the opposite.

        We don’t depend on the wealthy for what we have and need, we depend on all our work – the wealthy just take a huge and unfair slice of what we all make.

        I just mean:

        – when everyone despises the money-grabbing and power-grabbing (including ultimately themselves), when everyone knows they are telling lies and no longer know even who they are then – in the end – they get the worst, they get to be the pointless power mongering empty bullies that everyone despises;

        – when those who give love are responded to , it is not just that we know how much they’ve given and how little they got but – in the end – we know they deserve huge respect and love, and they know it too

  28. ”Drew Campbell
    April 28, 2015 • 14:11

    I have huge admiration for your work, Robin, and your campaigning efforts over the past few years but I need to take serious issue with several points in this abysmal, mealy-mouthed article.”

    The moderator will sort you out.

  29. Best piece of mature and sensible analysis I have read in a long time..

  30. When you enter the operating theatre for pile’s surgery, you leave your modesty at the door. WE are in a WAR here in Scotland and we must all stick together untill final victory is achieved.This has to be non-negotiable among all the different clans and the cause must NEVER be allowed to be weakened by any form of defeatist talk.

    • Wow.

      There’s a WAR on in Scotland?

      Who declared war on whom?

      Has the first shot been fired? And if so, by whom? And if not, who’s going to fire first, and with what weaponry?

      And what will you do with the other side once you’ve won?

    • This is nonsense. In just over one week we will be going to vote, and we won’t be voting for one Yes candidate, but for our choice of Green, SSP or SNP, all very different parties with very different political agendas. When the time comes for a second referendum – maybe 5 years, maybe 10, maybe less, maybe longer – we can come together in solidarity for that campaign. But right now there is no question on the table to which the answer is ‘Yes’. We are different organisations, different parties, different people with different politics. This ‘unity at all costs’ bullshit is jejune silliness. As an excuse for giving status to Sheridan, it’s dangerous, jejune silliness.

      However, if unity is your thing, let’s look at the good parts of the Yes campaign where the SSP, Greens, SNP, RIC, Women for Indy, etc. all stood together as one. Without Sheridan. Explicitly without Sheridan (as John Swinney and others have made clear.) Those seeking to bring Sheridan into the fold are the people who are causing disunity.

      • Who’s talking about ‘bringing TS into the fold’? All Robin has done is share a platform (and then defend himself against some flak). There was no endorsement.

      • There is a war on the minds of the Scottish people and “naive rhetoric” is not responsible for years of the demoralising social thrashing of working class communities foisted on us by English goverments.I expect some people give confrontational replies to posts for their own ….well whatever reasons.

  31. “I never really wanted any front-line political or public role and avoided it for most of my career”

    Incidentally, if this is true, why set up a campaigning company limited by guarantee with yourself as the sole director of that company? Seems a strange move for a man who wants nothing more than to avoid the limelight.

  32. Being a right-winger, I’ve never taken much notice of what Sheridan has said over the years, but In one respect, the criticism of him seems to have taken the form of a moral crusade from some groups, which I suspect, would quite happily hang him from the nearest lamppost.

    Ultimately, it will be for the electorate to decide, if ever he should run for office again and of course, if HOF want him as a figurehead, that is their choice. Witch-hunts are just as ugly now as they were centuries ago.

  33. When did Common Weal choose Robin as their leader ? What are the democratic mechanisms they have in place to do this ? What mandate do they have to select the board members for that organisation ? What say do the subscribing members have in who they employ ? I have some reservations about exactly how ‘all of us’ are represented by the leadership of common weal but I do agree that Robin has the most valid point in saying that no-one live so high atop the moral high ground that they have the right to exclude other groups opinions and methods. To believe that TS was not completely done over by News International and some parts of the establishment is to inhabit cloud cuckoo land. Some facts will come out, some will be kept secret. There is no doubt that he caused real problems, equally there are many in the other camps who also behaved abominably.

  34. Just remember, guys. The press that tells you that Tommy Sheridan is an ogre is the same press that tells you that Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond are ogres too.

    • Four legs good, two legs bad? Is that your point, Dave?

      There is a difference. As far as I’m aware Nicola Sturgeon didn’t frequent sex clubs and indulge in extra-marital affairs, then when her actions were exposed in the newspapers she didn’t then confirm these facts to the entire SNP executive, announce she planned to sue for defamation, and try to bully everyone present into commiting perjury on her behalf. Nor did she tear her party apart by continuing the lies and the fantasies and the vicious smears against any who dared to tell the truth.

      Don’t think Alex Salmond did anything like that either.

      That’s probably the main reason neither of them would touch TS with a bargepole. Why he’d be refused membership of the SNP, the Greens and the SSP – the three main parties who campaign for independence.

      TS was not the victim of an MI5 / Murdoch conspiracy. He was – and is – a victim of his own bloated ego.

      His ego has left plenty of other victims in his wake. Don’t be one of them.

  35. Obviously McAlpine is as free as anyone else to associate himself with whoever he wants to, and if one of those people is Tommy Sheridan then that is his choice, but others are equally free to criticise his judgement.

    It can’t be a case of saying ‘forgive and forget’ as Sheridan has still denied he did anything wrong. It would be impossible for those on the other side to forgive and forget unless they were to also confess to having been in an elaborate conspiracy with Rupert Murdoch, MI5 and the legal establishment to make it look like Tommy Sherdian had gone to a sex club with a journalist.

    Perhaps if Sheridan could apologise for the mess he actively created and dragged a lot of other people through then some form of reconciliation would be possible.

    I get the whole ‘he’s a good speaker’ argument, and he is a very good speaker, but he is also a proven misogynist and I guess it comes down to which point you consider to be more important.

    I’m sure Robin is sincere in wanting to build a society based on love and hate, but there is nothing loving about making a perfectly innocent woman recount her sexual history to a room full of onlookers and reporters in a case you instigated so that you could cover up for an affair you had. At the same time, it would also be hard to find many more hateful things you would do than take £25k from the Daily Record to smear your colleagues who you dragged into a court case and tried to humiliate in order to cover up for an affair you had. Sheridan has never apologised for either of these things.

    It’s not really an issue you can be neutral on. If you believe it is forgivable to run a misogynistic campaign of smears and scandals to cover up for the various inadequacies in your sexual conduct and to instigate a court case that drags in lots of people against their will and show no sign of empathy or apology for having done so then yes it’s fine to side with Sheridan and legitimise him. If on the other hand you think such political forgiveness can not begin until some semblance of an apology has been made then you should really not give him your support.

    It’s also not a matter of ‘what he gets up to in his private life’ as he specifically made it public by instigating a trial and then aggressively interrogated a series of witnesses about things which were actually a part of their private lives.

    Robin – on a totally sincere point you should real Alan Mcombes’ book on Tommy. If you had then I don’t believe you would have gone on Saturday or that you would have written this piece.

    • Geez…and Alan MacCombes has no axe to grind??? Alan MacCombes lied along with the rest of us in the Militant when he was in the Labour Party.

      I see a couple of striking miners beating up an off-duty policeman and they get arrested. I’m called as a witness in court. There’s no contest about how I testify. The miners were wrong but do I stand alongside the state and attack them? Do I hell…

      • What is Alan McCombes’ supposed axe to grind against his former closest collaborator and friend?

      • So your point is the (then) SSP executive should have perjured themselves to protect Tommy?

        They should have risked imprisonment, humiliation, estrangement from their families and loved ones… because Tommy couldn’t keep his dick in his trousers?

        They should have gone through the looking-glass and colluded with all the fantasies of MI5, the character assassination of other comrades, like Katrine Trolle, to shield Comrade No.1 from the consequences of his own actions? Because he face owning up to what he’d done?

        And I notice you’re not suggesting Alan McCoombes lied in the witness box at either of Tommy’s trials. Just that he should have.

        Tommy was more important than Alan, so Alan should have lied for him. As should Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, Frances Curran and the rest of the SSP. Lay down their lives for their leader.

        Tommy’s a liar and he’s still lying, still denying the reality and by (very strong) implication saying to the public the people above and all the others were liars. You, Jim, appear saying something different. You appear to be condemning them for giving honest, factual testimony in court on the grounds this was some sort of class betrayal.

        You don’t sound to me like you’re making a case for class solidarity. You sound to me like someone promoting hero-worship of a sociopath.

        • I don’t know whether Alan MacCombes lied or not at the trial. However, I know for an absolute certain that MacCombes IS a liar (I colluded in his liws in the Labour Party) and therefoee he is a hypocrite for criticising TS for allegedly lying.
          The difference between your philosophical version of the role of truthand that of McCombes and TS is that they both claim to be Marxists. Marxists do not fetishise petty bourgeois concepts of truth.
          Btw, I am not a marxist and do not venerate at the alter of TS. He is a flawed individual. However, in a choice between TS and News of the World, even if TS was lying, I still know what side I would be on. Remember that juat as many testified for TS as against.

          • Like you I don’t know the rights & wrongs of the Sheridan trial but I do know that Alan MacCoombs wrote “Downfall”, a hideously tedious book about Tommy which was one long vitriolic character assassination full of inconsistencies such as claiming that Tommy was always boasting about his sexual exploits while also claiming that Tommy was always painting himself as whiter than white. Alan and his cohorts must be terrified of the outcome of the upcoming Coulson trial.

          • So, to sum up, had you, Jim Bennett, been at the SSP executive where TS confessed that everything the NOTW published about hi was substantially true, you would have perjured yourself to defend the lies of TS because, although you’re not a Marxist – or perhaps because you’re not – you can choose to accept or reject petty burgeois concepts like truth, facts and honesty.

            Can we take it that with so much at stake you would also have applied “pressure” on the others – as TS did – including those with young families and dependent loved ones, to similarly perjure themselves to conceal TS’s lies? After all, it doesn’t work unless everybody stood behind the story 100% and, you know, if just one of them didn’t toe the line or even – Christ! – if one of them broke down in the witness box and let the cat out of the bag – well, you were all going down for a stretch.

            How much pressure would you have applied Jim? And in what way would you have applied that pressure? Are threats and intimidation are petty burgeois concepts too?

            I’m genuinely interested in the moral questions you think this throws up, and where you may, or may not, draw the line.

          • Hi Drew. Thanks for te interesting questions which I will try to answer truthfully (!).

            Before I do, I just want to say that neither you nor I were at the meeting in question or a witness to any of the alleged intimidatory acts. Therefore, it’s not a “fact” to your personal knowledge that TS is a liar or bully. It may be your BELIEF but to your personal knowledge, you can’t assert it as a FACT. Neither can you assert any of the other accusations as a fact personally known to you, unless you specifically witnessed them. I have never claimed to know the “truth” of the case, my take is a purely political one.

            So, onto your questions:
            – If I had personally known TS to have lied, would I have perjured myself rather than support the News of the World? Yes, with not a moment’s hesitation. The NoTW was an evil organ and acts that could destabilise it should be adopted.

            – Would I have applied pressure to others to lie? I have two answers to that: in the 1980s when I was an obnoxious sectarian Marxist, yes I would have applied pressure and significant pressure. However, I would have been wrong: now that I’m a petty bourgeois nationalist deviationist liberal type, I wouldn’t because I’m an old, fat, bald middle class guy.

            – are threats and intimidation petty bourgeois concepts too? You obviously haven’t been immersed in much Marxist practise! In the view of a Marxist, the application of terror whilst not the best choice to be made, is a legitimate tactic in defence of your beliefs. I’m at pains to say that that isn’t my position but it was the politics of the SSP Executive.

            In terms of perjury: methinks Drew doth protest too much. Perjury takes place in every single court in Scotland on every working day. There’s hardly ever been instances of it being prosecuted. The prosecution was purely a political one – if it wasn’t, why is every witness on the losing side in any court case not prosecuted for perjury? And why were those who supported TS as witnesses not prosecuted?

            I don’t give a toss whether TS lied or not, I know as a personal fact that MacCombes and many of the others involved against TS were serial liars. I know because I took part in exactly the same lying process as they did. Many of the anti-TS brigade claim to be Marxists – since when did Lenin, Trotsky or Marx either (a) bother about shagging around, or (b) give a toss about lying?

          • Tommy was prosecuted for perjury, not for attempting to pressure others into committing perjury, an even more serious crime. The reason for dropping that charge was because there was no corroboration or other evidence for it. However, by all accounts the main reason for the victriol against Tommy was that he tried to do just that. If I had been in his position and had to endure the betrayal and deceit of my trusted colleagues I would have done a great deal more that just call them “scabs” or challenge them on their motives, hardly grounds for labelling him a mysogynist and bully. He most definitely is neither.

          • So you’d have lied for TS, for the cause, “without a moment’s hesitation”?

            Except it wasn’t only perjury that was being asked of them or – hypothetically – you, Jim.

            Given you would all have had to actively collude with TS and one another to support the utterances of a desperate, unreliable, possibly sociopathic, serial liar, discovery of any one of your group’s acts of perjury would most likely have led the Procurator Fiscal to view your collective testimony as a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

            So stakes just got even higher, with even longer sentences possible, even more pressure on dozen or more people to crack. And it would only have taken one for the whole dam to burst.

            Meaning you are all bound to Tommy for life. There can be no breaking of ranks, no leaks, no murmur of dissent, not ever, for if one goes down, you all go down.

            Meanwhile Tommy gets to play the class warrior, the wronged man, the great family man while his ego is pumped like never before. He can achieve anything!

            And you’re hostage to whatever comes out of Comrade No. 1’s mouth. Perhaps more defamation cases ensue and you’re all called again while TS – power and celebrity enhanced a thousandfold – is untouchable as the leader who took on Murdoch, the courts, the entire apparatus of the British State and won.

            Still no pause for hesitation, Jim? Not even a moment?

            I’m afraid I don’t see you or anyone else who would lie for TS as class warriors. Cannon fodder sent over the top to defend the ravings of an egotist, but not class warriors.

          • But Drew, many, many people did testify for TS and none of your apoplectic visions of hell happened. Were you a strategy advisory with Better Together? You do an excellent Project Fear.

          • Only because there were enough of the others to tell the truth, Jim – otherwise they’d all have been in chokey and you along with them.

            You only in a hypothetical prison cell, of course, a far more cushy place from which to pontificate and say how bravely you’d have lied. The people you so disdainfully condemn had to confront the very real prospect of years apart from loved ones, their lives trashed, languishing in a prison simply because they were being forced into a position of lying in court to protect someone deceiving not to make any political point, but because he simply couldn’t cope with the loss of face caused by his own reckless behaviour.

            As I said, Jim, pontificating from your armchair about how you’d have been willing cannon fodder for Tommy’s ego doesn’t make you a class warrior. Or too bright either, come to that.

  36. Robin, I agree with your comments regarding the coverage in the Sunday Herald, I’ve written to the National on that very subject :

    I was one of the thousands who attended the pro-independence Hope Over Fear rally in Glasgow last Saturday. Channel 4 reported that there were thousands in attendance, and I think that this can charitably be described as both vague and accurate as one batch of a thousand people looks very much like another. The BBC was rumoured to have commented that 100 people were in attendance but this also appears charitable, as there actually appears to be no coverage at all of the event by the BBC, although it did manage to cover the Pedal on Parliament event in Edinburgh which was happening at the same time. Perhaps BBC Scotland is terribly underfunded and couldn’t commit resources to covering two events at one time. The cynic within me says otherwise…
    This is the kind of thing that we have long come to expect from the UK media. Ignore it if you can, deride it if you cannot. As a supporter of independence I have spent a long time now examining not only what is said, but who is saying it and what their motivation is for telling me in the manner that they do. Which is why I was very surprised to find that both the National and its sister paper the Sunday Herald appeared to be playing down the attendance of the event with the “over a 1000” line used in both papers, suggesting a smaller attendance than was in attendance. After all, 1001 is “over a 1000”. I also found it strange that the Sunday Herald appeared to concentrate on the alleged backstage divisions and Tommy Sheridan’s perjury conviction, rather than the positive message which was generated by the event. Fear over hope you might say. I hope that this is not a sign of both papers positioning themselves against other pro-independence parties ahead of the Holyrood elections in 2016. The cynic within me says otherwise…

    • Just to be clear,,,the rumoured BBC report of 100 present was an onstage joke by Sheridan. The BBC are undoubtedly a shower of bastards, but they’re not altogether thick.

  37. Totally right, well said! Thank you for writing this.

  38. Women for Indy are middle class? Bit of an insult to all the working class women in it. Says who? Oh yeah, a middle class man. Mr McAlpine some free advice. When in a hole, stop digging.

  39. Since Bella (or McAlpine) aren’t the Single Point of Truth, here’s another perspective on how a chainsaw has been taken to The Common Weal.

    http://thirdforcenews.org.uk/tfn-news/management/indy-rally-row-rocks-think-tank?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=TFN+weekly+bulletin&utm_content=TFN+weekly+bulletin+CID_7d3d9846314ea73fd3a0c7b9b7945d58&utm_source=Email+marketing+software&utm_term=Exclusive+indy+rally+row+rocks+think+tank

    Shame. It was a good organisation. There was no need to kill it.

    • And you honestly think that Third Force News don’t have a dog in this race? They publicly attacked Hope Over Fear for donaring to the “wrong” foodbank at the last HOF rally. SCVO, their publisher, is riddled with middle class Labour Party hacks who’ve used their comfortable positions to attack activists for years.
      As for RIC refusing to share a platform with TS, I’ve never been consulted about this. I doubt that many beyond the leadership of the various left groupings that run RIC have ben asked their opinions on sharing a platform with TS either.
      There have been a lot of allegations chucked about about abuse with not one shred of evidence given.

  40. Just to be absolutely clear for the HoF people reading this who are shocked that the rest of the movement holds them in contempt: that is absolutely not true. There is no issue with HoF and its people – the problem is entirely with Sheridan, and only Sheridan, as a person. People don’t really give a crap about his kinks, they care about they way he treats women and people who won’t lie to protect him.

    The idea of ‘unity’ is an interesting one, as it fails to take into account the wider picture. It may seem self-evident that a movement should be open to everyone, but in practice, when you give, say, a racist a platform, that movement is excluding people of colour. When you hold up a misogynist with a history like Sheridan’s, you are actively excluding a large number of women who no longer feel safe within the movement. That isn’t a choice they’re making because they’re snobs, it’s an active thing we have to deal with every single day – are these people that I am spending my time with and working alongside, and walking streets with and getting in cars with safe? Am I safe with them? Yeah, it’s a long leap from ‘supports Sheridan’ to ‘is dangerous to be around’, but we do this calculus all the time, usually unconsciously because it is so constant. When it comes to people who hold views like ‘women who have been raped should shut the fuck up so as not to show any cracks in the movement’ (see SWP), that information is filed away under ‘if something happens, these people will not support me’.

    I don’t necessarily agree that no-platforming is always the best policy. I do agree in principle with the fact that the Unionists are looking to tear us apart and expose cracks. I don’t think that means we should just all shut up, plaster a smile on our faces and pretend that we’re all fine because that will only ever serve the people with power. HoF isn’t the issue, even if they have chosen Sheridan as their leader. People don’t give a shit about people painting their faces instead of drawing a nice picture, and framing the issues people have with Sheridan as some kind of class snobbery is deeply disingenuous. It’s a complicated issue, but people not wanting to just ignore the fact that Sheridan has form for sundering movements with his behaviour isn’t unreasonable or shocking.

  41. When Tommy says sorry and tries to make amends then this all goes away, until then this whole matter boils down to finding excuses to use his wonderful charisma and oratory despite the problems.

    Ask yourselves, if Tommy were to apply to join the SNP, what would happen? Ask Nicola Sturgeon next time you meet, or Stuart Hosie or anyone with an ounce of political sense, “would you want Tommy in the party?”. Even Patrick Harvie would tell you to “f… off”. That’s all that’s being reflected here and the criticism levelled at those who raise the bloody obvious problem with it is a sore insight into the internal cracks of our movement underneath the shiny smiles of all bailing into voting SNP. The left in Scotland will thrive, not because of or in spite of Tommy, but because it seeks to represent what Tommy himself talks so well about. The context of our political reality makes the left case relevant and important. On the other hand the independence movement, and maybe even the SNP has some reflecting and changing to do to keep a very wide message with little substance other than “change yaaassss!!!”, and one that starts coming so easily undone when we talk about Tommy, or SNP councils, or what anti-austerity actually means, or trade unions, or or or….

    Tommy is only one bloke and I wish him only well personally. Our movement has a problem, in fact many, not the least of them is our inability to actually do one of the things we cherish, democracy. Sorry, make that two, we’re very keen to sweep aside big problems that don’t suit our cause – a bit like Westminster and all that.

    We’re creating a new Scottish elite to replace our existing UK elite. It’s not pretty at all

  42. Just on a point of fact about Tommy Sheridan’s trial in Glasgow, which I attended. All of the female prosecution witnesses were called by the Crown, not by Sheridan so he was hardly “dragging them through the courts.”

    I also have no recollection of Sheridan asking any female witness about their “sexual history” although Gail Sheridan’s QC, the late Paul McBride, did with two: Katrine Trolle and Anvar Khan,

    It’s amazing how falsehoods become facts when it suits certain agendas.

    Anyway, just my 2c

    • Exactly.

    • There were two trials. You are referring to the second. The first was the libel action in 2006, in which TS’s former lovers were compelled to appear in court solely because of a case he initiated, and then were hostilely cross-examined and falsely accused of lying, as well as having their characters questioned.

      Do you think Katrine Trolle was treated fairly by Sheridan?

      It’s amazing how details get left out when it suits certain agendas.

    • They may have been called by the Crown, but TS decided to cross-examine them himself. In that cross-examination he accused each and every one of them of perjury – about 14 or 15 people in all – in full knowledge they were telling the truth and that if the jury had believed him they would all face imprisonment.

      There was also authenticated video evidence of TS in an angry tirade of vicious misogynistic abuse on certain members of the SSP executive. TS claimed this had been dubbed by a voice impersonator.

      That was his defence.

      • My recollection was that the only authentication of the video was the £10s of thousands that its former drug dealing manufacturer received from the press for it.

        For every witness who testified against Tommy, there was another who testified in his favour.

        • Of the people who were at the meeting where Tommy announced his conspiracy (9th November 2004), more have testified to the truth of what he said than have perjured themselves saying he didn’t. In the libel trial one of them fainted in the dock when the judge talked about perjury. Tommy’s perjury defence consisted of weak nonsense like bringing in Andy Coulson and Des McLean (the judge rejected the latter as not evidence).

          The nature of a trial is that you have people giving conflicting evidence and the jury decides who they find most credible. That happened nearly 5 years ago.

  43. Sheridan has no place, if his ego didn’t need constantly inflated he would see that and never take anything to do with the various movements in this country.

    He nearly destroyed the SSP that is only managing to move on now due to the new generation that has joined, he has done more damage to the left than what thatcher has ever done. He will never be a member of the SNP or greens as they know how much trouble he is. It’s sad to see commonweal, which claims its about “new politics” embrace Sheridan, who has never apologized to this day. Im all for forgiveness, but to forgive the guilty must admit their crimes and what they did wrong.

    Loki put it very well in his song, “tommy Sheridan is dead”

  44. Agree with Stevie. If we’re trying to build a new Scotland, then we must be fully committed to democratic principals and free speech.

    All this talk about Sheridan seems to be focusing on a no platform argument and of course, censorship, which is the polar opposite of democracy, robust debate, and free speech.

    Having a right wing outlooks means that I’ve never really given a monkey’s about Sheridan, and I don’t care that much either for the Common Weal, which in my view, seems to be a load of pie in the sky hogwash.

    None the less I do respect Robin’s stance on debating these issues and sharing a platform with Sheridan. Sharing a platform doesn’t mean endorsement and part of living in a democracy is tolerance of views you don’t necessary agree with.

    As always, the final judge of Sheridan is the electorate and they made their views clear the last time Sheridan ran for office. Didn’t he lose his deposit?

    Perhaps people aren’t as daft as we think they are…

  45. Apart from the stuff about child care, ‘Common Weal’ is indeed a load of empty, meaningless nonsense. Airy, vague statements with no substance. At least the Greens are clear about what they are proposing (static / negative growth i.e. permanent austerity and a permanent decline in living standards).

    I think it’s important to separate ‘sharing a platform’ and ‘debating’. The debating part is the important part, and you don’t need to ‘share a platform’ to do the debating.

    This was a ‘rally’ and there was no debating going on (I think) and that’s where the problem is. That’s ‘sharing a platform’ with no challenge going on, and I can understand how that goes down the wrong way.

  46. Many thanks, Robin, for this fine set of reflections on the need for a Yes movement motivated by a real politics of compassion, tolerance and inclusion.

  47. This is a very thoughtful piece, and I hope everyone who reads it will do so with an open mind, and consider all that’s written here.

    We must remember that sowing discord is one of the most effective weapons in the establishment’s arsenal – “Divide and Conquer” is the easiest method to employ in order to destroy a movement.

    Scotland’s way forward must, above all, be inclusive. As Robin McAlpine writes here, we must listen to one another even if we disagree or dislike the speaker or find a certain form of expression (face paint, etc.) too spectacular or distasteful. The aspect of the Yes campaign that impressed me the most was the joyful exuberance expressed at rallies and meetings. There could certainly be more of that spirit going into the G.E.

    True debate will give the movement strength; bickering will cause it to fragment beyond any semblance of effectiveness. Imagine what could be done together.

    • To clarify – I do find Tommy Sheridan’s actions and attitudes regarding women reprehensible, and I understand why there is a general boycott of events where he is a featured speaker.

  48. Tangerine Tommy’s quite a guy – he pretty much single-handedly killed off socialism in Scotland – there is no chance anyone in the SSP will get elected for quite some time, and that’s the only socialists who bother to stand for election.

  49. Where do you start with all this windbag nonsense? As a yes voter , as an activist in a yes group, as probably not really a natural left voter (clues in the name) I found a real admiration for the way that the yes groups galvanised for a common good and goal. The RIC impressed me greatly with their efforts in the schemes, HOF with their enthusiasm and drive, Greens with their principled stance on their own policies within an independent Scotland but could put that aside to work with SNP, and common weal opened my mind to another direction for society.
    The outcome is all that matters – whatever happened to the notion of a YES Alliance ? Whatever happened to the theory that we get to the independence end point then we can all go off on our different directions ?
    6 months down the line and the far left as they always seem to do are fighting like ferrets in a sack – get a grip, this is more important that petty squabbles and turf wars and certainly the message is far more important than shooting the messenger.
    We need the 1000, 6000, 12,000 folk that were out on Sat to work for us – for gods sake don’t marginalise them because you want to play petty politics over personality.
    Hats off to Robin for sticking his head above the parapet and at least attempting to heal this rift and to the rest of you – its not about TS its about the folk that turned out and you need to bang your collective heads together and see some sense.
    get a grip !

    • Totally agree, fermerfaefife.

      I’ll nail my colours to the mast. I don’t like socialism, the culture of the nanny state, the level of control they want over people, and the squandering of wealth, are not ideals I agree with.

      As you can imagine, I don’t hold much truck with groups like the SSP, RIC, Common Weal, national collective or anybody else who think that picking up a guitar and writing a song will make Scotland independence.

      Low tax, less government intrusion, the rollback of the state etc etc is what I believe in.

      None the less, in order for there to be a healthy, functioning democracy, we need all groups from across the spectrum to be represented.

      I believe in Scottish independence like most people here, and the plea for unity is sound advice. I don’t like socialism, but I’m happy to work with socialists to achieve the goal, which is why I’ll be voting SNP, not because I like them (I don’t) but because they are the best vehicle for achieving independence in my view.

      I was always under the impression that the plan was for everybody to stick together until that day comes, and when it comes, it’s everyman for himself in the first elections of an indy Scotland.

      Or am I wrong?

  50. I stopped reading when Robin said that he was speaking about Common Weal, not for Common Weal. I knashed what is left of my teeth, and decided I could live with that. I didn’t need the extra few hundred words which I am sure were exquisitly chosen and perfectly arranged. I have a real problem with Tommy, and respect many people who don’t. I personally would not attend an event with him there. Other than that I don’t know what to say that has not been said a thousand (sic) times.

  51. Love and respect to every single one of you. That said, I’m so, so happy that I don’t have to spend time with any of you.

  52. Boy am I glad to see this! Caught the tail end of some of the griping today and instinctively my heart sank. Really? Really? is that what we are devoting time to crafting? NOT a critique of the IFS figures? NOT reaching out to those we can make common cause with in England? Really?
    I’m sticking with All and I mean ALL of us first, thanks for giving me lots to use to talk through this with others.

  53. Lots of horrible lies about Tommy on here. Lots of folk in victim mode.

    Looking forward to the day when Tommy re-enters the Scottish Parliament as an MSP.

    Hope he is still interested after all the abuse he gets from Murdoch’s poodles on the left.

    • I agree. I would vote for TS without question.

      • “I would vote for X without question”

        Yupp, you really would, which somewhat misses the point of being an adult with a mind and a vote.

        • As we know from many examples, politicians lie, including the SNP, who I will be voting for next week. This implies that all adults, “with a mind”, including you (I assume you are an adult) and me vote for liars.

          TS is the only politician I have ever heard who tells it like it really is. He is also the only contemporary politician I know of who is prepared to lose his liberty for the truth rather than for personal financial reward. Generally when a UK politician loses his liberty it is related to the latter.

          • His latest loss of liberty was due to the failure of a £200,000 fraud based on a pack of lies????

  54. The term “misogyny” being flung about here with complete abandon and probably wrongly,
    The damage done to many women in the sorry pursuit of this case was not the intention of it but a sad consequence of it – and I would not seek to absolve TS from very heavy blame for it. It was careless in the fullest meaning of the word but as much damage was done to some very decent men as well.

    However the opportunity of great speakers to address a huge crowd of pro Independence supporters a couple of weeks before a General Election was important enough to outweigh any reservations at it and I am glad that Robin did. Several of the speakers were SNP members but I fully understand the formal decision of the SNP not to adopt the event given the unresolved TS issue – which TS is perhaps too proud to attempt to resolve.

    TS will have to bite the bullet and make a full and comprehensive public apology at some point to those he has seriously damaged (and hope that some of them have the depth of charity or at least pragmatic political considerations to appear to put it behind them) or butt out, though I suppose he has enough confidence to believe he can go on alone to an elected position.

    Much better if all us sinners could be got into the one tent however

  55. Too funny. Someone just tweeted this;

    “Criticise Sheridan and immediately become middle-class. Good to see that social mobility is so easy.”

  56. The new politics I’m looking forward to in Scotland and elsewhere is one that understands the importance of equality and the problem of misogyny. He might be a great speaker but he fails as far as this is concerned. Disappointed in you Robin, maybe not so much because you shared a platform, but more that you don’t seem to get it.

  57. One thing worth noting is the ability of the political right wing to remain united at all times and the continuous inability of the left to do the same. This of course is because the right is not driven by ideology but by selfish pragmatism which accommodates very strange bedfellows in mutual interest

  58. I’ve no idea of the rights or wrongs of Tommy Sheridan’s behaviour. But the class element is always at play in every society. That is the key to all the other problems. Unfortunately there are more fractures than ever in people’s lives thanks to our economic systems that few seem to want to change. The sexual discriminations, race and others are all part of the underlying economic system. Class is the biggest obstacle to creating a decent society. There are mysoginst women, ageist older folk, racist negroes, Jews, Scots and on and on. Tommy seems to be a voice for the working class and that always upsets those who see them themselves as more important, better informed, and on and on.Scotland is doing such positive things at this time and this is only the beginning. I’m uplifted every day although far from the place and it seems that the day is coming when the pride of the Scots will be such a natural state that it will be taken for granted. Soir Alba

    • Thank you for that. Tae quote Burns, we’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns; aye, even the middle and upper clesses! And fi the Corries, the day is near when independence will be here; then we should stert tae get rid o’ a’ cless discrimination – which is the worst o’ a’ discrimination, as well as the ongoin discrimination o’ Scots folk within oor ane lands – thanks tae oor unionist establishment within wha’ run everythin. TS wid clear thame oot and that’s whit it needs, an that’s whit their a’ worried aboot!

      • Sorry Darien – your misuse of ‘Jock Tamson’s bairns’ makes it look like ‘we’re all in this together”.

        Don’t kid yourself that a family in Easterhouse has the same interests as one in Bearsden.

  59. An interesting article… One that I feel aims to be positive.
    The larger picture is that the actions of the left destroyed it! From having 6 MSP’s the SSP went down to none and were beaten by the BNP in every seat in Scotland. People talk about the arrogance of Sheridan, but there was an arrogance with the SSP also… This lead to letting down the people of Scotland. I don’t know where the truth lies but I do know that the Murdoch Empire would not be the place I would look for it. David Cameron employed Andy Coulson although he worked for the dodgiest part of the press. Coulson is now in the dock. What I do now the Murdoch’s scum wrote the piece ‘The Truth’ after Hillsborough in 1989.
    In short the right wing press played the left in Scotland. The so called high morales of sections of the left gave a larger voice to the right as the left bickered and we have the morally indefensible policy of austerity that has created an underclass, caused foodbanks and led an attack on the most vulnerable in our society.
    I can understand when there is a strength of feeling but the impact of the split should be examined… No side is blameless.
    I am visibly ethnic minority yes I am black! I suffered a stroke last year.. So yes I have to deal with the racism Farage and the BNP dish out and with the government hoops I have to jump through to get help with the stroke. I for one long for a United left that takes on the multinational companies, nationalises essential services (such as energy and transport) and looks for at least some distribution of wealth through the provision of descent services and real job creation.
    The high moral ground that typifies this squabble is present within thread and is egocentric whilst at the same we have a press and government that demonise the most needy.
    Come on get a grip! I thought he aim was to be there to provide a real alternative for the people of Scotland. That was what the right feared… That’s what it had… And Murdoch destroyed it!

  60. I normally admire Robin McAlpine’s writing, but what a bizarre piece of naval gazing? If the “middle class” element of the Indy campaign does look down on Hope Over Fear, then they need to get over themselves pretty sharpish. But by the constant use of the word “they” in this article, it sounds like Robin does too.

  61. Excellent and thought provoking article. It is easy to condemn-especially if you feel or have the ‘right’ of some situation. It is much harder to condemn an action but not a person. I have found friends in all parts of the Independence movement and am grateful for that. Dialogue is the way forward. Agreeing to disagree is vital and accepting that even good people can behave very badly at times but it doesn’t make them evil, is important if progress is going to be made.

  62. Remember Tommy (carlsburg) sheridan reached a lot of the less academic members of our society that the others just didn’t reach.I just wonder if our resolve in saving and bettering our future has been breached by quizzlings.

  63. I took part in the Hope Against Fear rally, singing The Freedom-Come-All-Ye from the platform. I didn’t really know the ins and outs of HOF and did have anxieties that it was dominated by Tommy Sheridan because I saw the damage he did to the movement and to friends with his court and press antics. But when I saw the list of speakers included my trusted longtime friends and comrades David Hayman and Patrick Scott Hogg and also acting pal Keira Lucchesi I thought it’s clearly broad-based. On the day and since I found there was a whole range of folk there and was very glad to have taken part.
    I picked up snippets of criticism about Robin’s involvement but didn’t see Scott Macdonald’s open letter (not mentioned or linked to by Robin for some reason) till after reading this article. I can totally understand how many folk are still really sore with TS and don’t want to go anywhere near him. I agree with those who say the first step to a way out of the mess is an open recognition by TS of the damage he caused and I don’t buy Robin’s justification of Coulson. But I don’t agree that anyone has the right to demand a boycott of HOF events by anyone else. Scott’s open letter is in my opinion ill judged and wrong.
    But not nearly so ill judged as this article by Robin. To basically paint the whole problem as middle class Yessers having a problem with HOF’s working class dominance is ludicrous poisonous nonsense. It is clear from the comments here that Robin has opened a whole can of worms that is driving potentially greater divisions that even Sheridan created. If I hadn’t met and respected the guy I would have started to wonder who Robin McAlpine is actually working for given the damage this article could cause. I do respect Bella’s intentions in publishing and hope that it can bring out into the open the necessary debate. After the General Election perhaps the most vital issue is where the opposition to the SNP at Holyrood is going to come from. A one party state is no good for anyone and I speak as a new SNP member. I dream of us being able to invent new forms of participation in parliamentary politics in Holyrood, Westminster and beyond.
    But as I say I thought that was for after the GE as everything should be thrown into getting as many SNP MPs elected as possible. I do appreciate some comrades might not be happy with the slogan “Lend the SNP your vote” but I’d say FPTP and the remarkable nature of this election demand that.
    Robin has let the cat out the bag early and in my opinion in a dreadful, patronising, divisive fashion but so be it. I look forward to a full, frank and comradely debate.

    • Great post Tam. It’s that sort of debate we should be opening up

    • Thanks for your comment Tam. We are trying to host an open and honest debate on these issues and hope that we can hold ‘unity in diversity’ and keep the movement strong.

      • Tam’s point about the need for some opposition to SNP from WITHIN Yes movement is a vital one.

        This idea of ‘unity’ is politically immature. The Yes movement was a coalition working towards a common goal, not a consensus where we all agreed with each other. This #shooshtforindy nonsense, where we are all supposed to shut up and not criticise anyone ‘on our side’ for up to and until there is a second referendum is a dangerous notion indeed. As Tam recognises, nobody wants to live in a one party state where all criticism is shut down.

        So yes, let’s have the discussion about whether Hope Over Fear are a genuine organisation with a distinct message, or the vehicle for one man’s ego. This thread has made it clear there are passionate opinions on both sides of that question . . but only one of these sides wants to shut up the other in the name of ‘unity’.

        It doesn’t take away from the frankly hilarious Victorian anthropologist description of ‘the working class’ by Robin McAlpine, or the totally offensive way Robin has implied organisations like RIC, WFI, National Collective, the SNP, the Greens and the SSP fail to represent the working class. (And that’s before we even agree on who we might be talking about when we say ‘working class’ . . clearly it’s not Robin himself as he refers to them as “they”.)

        • I agree about a false unity Kathleen, I didn’t hear anyone calling for a one party state where all criticism is shut down – in fact we have been trying to hold a space for very different voices and to create a (self) critical culture.

          • Re. the ‘one party state’ thing . . think I am conflating the contents of the article/arguments about the article with the results of the new polls showing the SNP over 50%. If we are going to have majority SNP MPs, MSPs, and even councillors, with the Labour Party dead, the ongoing pro-indy groups will have a role in holding to account and even opposing SNP policies if we are to have a vibrant, pluralist democracy.

            The narrower debate – playing out here – seems to be two-fold. Firstly, whether or not Hope Over Fear is a legitimate organisation with a part to play in that and secondly, the issues of #shooshforindy, whereby any criticism of anyone who did anything in the ex-Yes movement is to be free of criticism and not held to account.

  64. Many, many times when someone wants something really really bad ought to separate the human factor, -(regardless how bad or negative it might be), from the common good. In these cases, it all boils down to what is better, or to put it from another angle, what is less worse. And then, act consequently with coherence to the most valuable choice to that someone. Well done Robin, you are an authentic patriot, not a merely pharisaic-hypocrite nationalist……there are no many of you left in this world.

  65. I’ve often thought that at the heart of why it came about that Sheridan was ostracised was because of different ways in which the traditions of sin and redemption play out in Protestant and Catholic cultures and the way he therefore reacted to being found out by the News of the World for his swinging activities.

    In the Protestant tradition, redemption is a public act. Wrongdoers must be publicly humiliated, publicly judged, before their sins can be forgiven, and forgiveness is by the community, not by a priest. Without repentance being public, the Protestant tradition holds that sinners may not be sincere. If repentenace is not sincere, then redemption doesn’t happen. Public repentence requires a certain amount of bravery, and that in return, prompts community forgiveness, and respect.

    In the Catholic tradition redemption is a secret, priestly, act; forgiveness of sins is dispensed by a priest in private. Sheridan instinctively sought that kind of priestly redemption from his socialist colleagues, in confessing his sins to them but they on the other hand were not prepared to offer priestly redemption because their socialist values instinctively disinclined them towards such elite power. If Tommy had been prepared to admit in public what the truth was, and express regret for any hurt caused, I’m sure that they and most ordinary Scottish people would have forgiven him.

    Then we could all have attacked the News of the World for their scurrilous ‘journalism’.

    • Interesting take. Might be something in that.

      • Whatever drove him to confess, truthfully, to his colleagues, he played it badly thereafter. If he was totally scurrillous, he would have lied to them too. I have always thought that it should count in his favour that he started off honourably enough by levelling with them.

        But it was what he did next by his failure to recognise that their then knowing the truth placed them in an invidious position, and his refusal to listen to their concerns that they could not on point of principle lie for him, even against the News of the World’s right-wing gutter journalism, and his keeping on digging an even bigger hole for himself, and then throwing them under a bus in the process – that’s so unforgivable. There was ego there, there was a power issue there – but there was also moral confusion. I think it’s fair to allow him that.

        He should have accepted the Protestant paradigm and submitted to public humiliation. ‘And the truth shall set you free’. People would have forgiven him if he expressed humility. That was the bit he didn’t get. Scotland is a generous and forgiving place. We accept that we all duff up from time to time.

        Only some will admit it, others won’t. When a person can’t admit to sometimes getting some things a bit wrong, there’s an issue there for most of us.

        Maybe we need something like a ‘truth and reconciliation’ process on Citizen Tommy.

        I do think there was a degree of moral confusion in his response to being unmasked by the News of the World as a swinger. I think it drove him a bit mad and to pursue a totally wrong direction.

  66. Celia wrote: “Alan and his cohorts must be terrified of the outcome of the upcoming Coulson trial.”

    Let’s assume Coulson committed perjury when giving evidence at the Sheridan criminal trial. Obviously he is innocent until proven guilty in legal terms, but for the sake of argument (and based on what we know about the man) let’s assume he’s going to be found guilty.

    He was a defence witness at Sheridan’s criminal trial. He was not a prosecution witness. The Crown did not call him in order to help make their case against Sheridan. Sheridan called him to make the case for his innocence.

    Every day in the courts people are found guilty after trials where, by implication, the defence witnesses have lied.

    The Crown prosecutes by making a case for guilt. The defence defends by making the case that this guilt cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

    So if Coulson, as a defence witness, lied in this trial, what difference does it make? Was his lie so pertinent to the accusation that had he told the truth the jury would not have convicted Sheridan?

    Well-respected legal Nationalist blogger Peat Worrier has covered this issue a couple of times, for example here. http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/coulsons-conviction-sheridans-release.html

    To suggest that somehow Coulson’s trial will somehow prove that Tommy was innocent, the victim of a plot concocted by his erstwhile SNP comrades and various other random members of the public who did not previously know each other, really is beyond belief.

    • Are you really saying that it’s not perjury to lie in court if you’re a defence witness? Whether or not it’s a crime the fact that he was shown to be lying in court would be pretty devastating for him.

      • No, I’m saying that lying if you’re a defence witness is perjury (but rarely prosecuted as such.) But that it makes absolutely no difference to the prosecution proving the defendant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

        That is to say, innocent or guilty, the verdict on Coulson will not make any difference to the fact that Sheridan was found guilty. Did you read Peat Worrier’s blog? He explains this very well.

        • Indeed, Kathleen. That was what actually galled me most about Robin’s article, that part of his justification was that the upcoming Coulson trial made discussion of facts in the public domain “sub judice”. Whether Coulson hacked the phones or not is irrelevant to TS’s acts of perjury. Dark hints do not a defence make.

          One final point – it’s likely the former SSP executive would not only have been tried for perjury. Given they would all have had to actively collude with TS and one another to support the ravings of an unreliable, possibly sociopathic, serial liar – not a place even the most determined class warrior wants to be – chances are the courts would have viewed their collective testimony as a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. So stakes even higher, even longer sentences possible, even more pressure on dozen or more people to crack – and it would only have taken one for the whole dam to burst.

          Imagine spending the rest of your life tethered to caprice of TS’s ego.

    • Erstwhile SSP comrades…. sorry to be pedantic, but facts are important.

  67. I wasn’t interested in politics until the referendum. I wasn’t interested in the referendum until I discovered the Yes movement. I wasn’t interested in the Yes movement until I discovered Common Weal.

    The catalyst that engaged, and continues to engage me is that the whole Yes movement was bigger than politics. The Yes movement transcended age, sex, gender, class and just about every cultural stereotype imaginable. It really was about all of us! We all had a voice. We all had an opinion. We all had the ability and the right to contribute to the stunning, stunning national conversation we had last year. Nobody was excluded….and the engagement levels were unprecedented!

    And that one word says it all. Engagement. People were engaged because nobody was excluded. And nobody should be.

    I will listen to anybody, anybody who can contribute to our ongoing national conversation. That belief encapsulates everything participative democracy means to me. It’s not about some of us. It’s about all of us.

    All of Us First!

    …… And gawn yersel’ Robin! 🙂

  68. “We will win through love & lose through hate.” True, as always. Let it go haters!

  69. * Something that is absolutely clear and undeniable from these comments is that TS is a highly divisive and disruptive figure to the Independence movement , most of which refuses to work with him.

    * This whole sorry saga began about 10 years ago with the decision of TS to go to court in a vain attempt to protect his fabricated image against a press report which he himself admitted was substantially true. This caused a huge amount of political damage and personal trauma to those who had to reluctantly go to court through his course of action – for which he remains unrepentant.

    * He was supported in that by the London controlled toxic trots of the SWP and Cttee for Workers International – the latter’s franchise in Scotland has now been re-branded as Socialist Party Scotland ( Not SSP ). The resources provided by these two sects were crucial in the setting up of Solidarity to support TS in the destructive course of actions HE chose.

    * These two opportunist sectarian cults also supported TS in the Referendum campaign from which Hope Over Fear emerged to become another vanity project for TS. The CWI have since broken with TS over his call for a vote for SNP.

    * If TS really has the best interests of the Independence movement at heart , he should withdraw and allow the movements for Independence move on without him being such a divisive and damaging influence.

  70. You raise some interesting points Robin and there have been plenty of replies discussing the character of Tommy Sheridan and the merits or otherwise of his involvement with the greater independence campaign movement so I won’t bother repeating them. My main concern whilst reading this article is the continual use of “them” to describe the working class. I am working class, I was brought up in a council estate. I now live a very middle class life in the country and work in the arts having completed a music degree. I attend SNP, RIC, Common Weal and Hope over Fear meetings and rallies frequently and I am able to embrace all of them without feeling that I am out of place or amongst “them” or “us”. There is a fundamental need to understand how poorly our council estates are after decades of neglect but it doesn’t need the middle class charity espoused by mainstream politics or the bourgeois empathy described in spades in this article to regenerate them. In study after study the biggest motivation for workers isn’t better pay its being given greater responsibility for our own actions and autonomy. The working class, me included, have the desire to look after themselves, greater devolution of the financial and legal tools necessary to do this is as important as any devolution coming Scotland’s way including independence.

Trackbacks

  1. Hope Over Fear? | The Ego Factor
  2. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Robin McAlpine | Uncivil Society
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  4. Why the urge to rehabilitate Tommy Sheridan? | In The Public Sphere

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