2007 - 2022

Unsurprisingly Clueless

David Torrance has used his latest Herald column to smear the Yes movement, attempting to equate the bile of the Leave Brexit campaign with the Yes indyref. You can read it here.

It’s an extraordinary misuse of print-space to attempt to connect the Scottish indyref with the recent appalling violence of the Brexit campaign – but that is what Torrance tries to do. It’s a revisionist dream that needs to be challenged as it’s a shockingly crude piece of propaganda.

He kicks-off by drawing on a widely-praised article by Alex Massie which makes a completely different point to the one he is making:

“But then as Alex Massie observed so eloquently in a blog last Thursday, events tend to have a multiplier event. If prominent (and, crucially, trusted) politicians keep telling their supporters that journalists are “biased” and somehow pandering to some mystical vested interest, then some will start to believe it.”

In this account, Salmond and Sturgeon are as bad as Farage and Co. and the outcome and implications bound to be the same. This isn’t just offensive its ahistorical. But it does betray one of Torrance’s bugbears: criticising journalists. In this world this is not allowed and frankly undemocratic. He continues:

“In 2013-14 it was the past and present SNP leaders blithely dismissing swathes of expert opinion inconvenient to their arguments – now it’s Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.”

The message couldn’t be simpler, experts aren’t to be challenged and to do so is vile and, somehow, undemocratic.

The mantra is clear, deference is the key. Politeness and deference. Listen to your betters, and if you don’t your probably a vile person, who is likely to, having not shown due reverence to experts / journalists (who are pretty much the same thing) enact some terrible act of violence.

Journalists aren’t biased, they simply can’t be. They are experts because they work for media companies. He speaks of ‘some mystical vested interest’ as if Fox, Murdoch and the Press Barons that are backing Leave are a figment of our imagination.

This all gets a bit bonkers and circular and the lack of self-reflection is staggering.

The reality is that what really threatened Unionist politicians and media alike was an independence movement that managed itself by and large with enormous restraint in the face of hysterical propaganda. The reality is that there is clear continuity of the language of bigotry from one referendum to the next, inculcated and nurtured by the far-right and present in both. To feign ignorance of this is deceitful.


The challenging of expert accounts – the throwing off of precious deference – was a key to changing a mindset that just accepted things ‘as the way they were’.

Torrance – who is widely praised and defended by many – then attacks Ross Colquhoun who made two simple and uncontroversial tweets:

Then, emboldened by his own rhetoric Torrance steps on, arguing:

“But it isn’t different, although there is a question of degree: Britain Stronger in Europe isn’t (nearly) as bad as Vote Leave, and Better Together wasn’t anywhere near as strident as Yes Scotland often was. No one emerges from this wretched referendum with much credit, not the two main campaigns, not Labour and not even the SNP, which continues to warn of right-wing Tory apocalypse while pretending to be “positive”.

Got it? Yes Scotland is the equivalent of Vote Leave. To reflect the reality of a post-Brexit Tory leadership change is the equivalent of Project Fear and Better Together was ‘less strident’ than Yes. Some of you may be confused by that revelation.

It’s a pity because Scotland probably needs a provocative right-wing columnist to challenge assumptions and stir the shit, or question orthodoxies. Unfortunately with this level of analysis Torrance does his side and his paper a complete disservice. The aura of self-entitlement from this article is palpable. It’s as if Milly Dowler, Hillsborough, Leveson or the indyref hadn’t happened, as legitimate concerns by a wide sector of British society are dismissed out of hand.

Don’t question the media and don’t question experts. Got it?

Comments (17)

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  1. Douglas says:

    “Most journalists today are stenographers to the powerful…”


  2. James_Mac says:

    Torrance knows that Britain First was widely supported by the Yoon element of his online following, and he hates it. Just look at the types of people McColm, Daisley, Deerin and even JK Rowling will retweet. I found several that donated to a Vanguard Bears fundraiser for Rangers fans rioting at the Cup Final.

    There are few unionists that I respect now, mostly old guard Labourites like Henry McLeish, and possibly some Lib Dems. Even Hugo Rifkind approaches Scottish independence maturely and explains why he won’t support it but is at least not absurdly hostile if you do (he is the son of a Tory cabinet minister for god sake). We now have Labour Party cadre largely looking for support from hardline far-right twitter trolls.

    I would say David Torrance’s claim he was assaulted at a Yes event has to rank as one of the most insidious pieces of propaganda I have ever read in this country. We’re now moving into realms of propaganda only seen in autocratic regimes. All major journalists, with a handful of exception, are right-wing Tories. This includes traditional left-of-centre newspapers. It is amazing that nearly all abuses directed at Yes members were reported to the police, yet all these incidents of harassment against unionists went unreported except for a sticker on Iain Murray’s constituency office.

    In autocratic regimes they would bring stooges along to claim they were victims, Torrance cannot even be bothered with that.

  3. Broadbield says:

    “It’s a pity because Scotland probably needs a provocative right-wing columnist to challenge assumptions and stir the shit, or question orthodoxies.” Well, The National have Michael Fry. The next question is why do editors publish this crap? Have standards slipped so far that any garbage is acceptable as long as it’s from the right? I used the read the Grauniad when a student in the 70’s when it was reasonably left, but stopped a few years ago when it became difficult to distinguish some of it from the Torygraph.

    1. James_Mac says:

      It is remarkable that the chief beneficiaries of a national media in Scotland are so against further broadcasting devolution.

      What Daisley has done to STV is incredible. I imagine in STV it is a cultural thing. Middle-class right-wingers will dominate its corridors. They’ll view everyone else as stupid. Daisley will say something like “SNP are Nazis” get 300 retweets from Orange Order/Britain First bigots and from people shocked/outraged an STV correspondent would say something like that. Meanwhile, the guy writing a thoughtful piece on shipping in the North of Scotland gets zero coverage.

      The newspapers are the real tragedy. Scotland had a thriving newspaper industry.

      The Scotsman is finished. All that’s left is a few angry snarls from the likes of Euan McColm.

      I suspect the Daily Record will try a rebranding sooner or later in a desperate attempt to shore up its old, dying readership. Probably focusing on Scottish football fans.

      The Herald will have a slow death. It had the potential to be The Guardian equivalent in Scotland, it’s now a desperate collection of JK Rowling stories and Torrance op-eds. Torrance gets clicks because he is an idiotic spectacle. Again, it’s more “Wow. The Herald published that. Really?”

      I actually think the National could fill a gap there. It actually looks modern, and has a reasonable variety of columnists that talk about relevant things with diverse authors. They really need to focus on the website, get different sections (maybe a section on English politics), more global stories and lot of participation with the readership.

      1. The National are trying to expand their web content and their social media output – and we will be collaborating with them on this. But they have a fraction of the budget and staff of even the Herald.

  4. Douglas says:

    I don’t mind David Torrance, he writes well, even though I rarely agree with him. His writes an opinion piece, and an opinion piece is pretty harmless stuff. You can agree or disagree with the writer of an opinion column, but you know it is a personal opinion…

    The problem is news reporting, news presented by the MSM as fact, that anonymous third person voice which masquerades as Truth. That, and a dire lack of investigative journalism and the enquiring, sceptical minds that are its prerequisite…

    1. James_Mac says:

      While susceptible to bouts of rage, I think Alex Massie falls into that category. Torrance is predictable and he just hates the SNP. This is a guy who was assaulted at a Yes rally and then he goes on to take a picture of himself wearing a Scottish Resistence t-shirt? Like all those victims of racism that go on to wear BNP t-shirts ironically? It is clearly lies, and anyone with half a brain knows it.

      It is non-stop with Torrance, he’s like Daisley and McColm. There is no lucid moments or genuine reflection. He is a party activist who wants nothing other than seeing the SNP and the independence movement destroyed.

  5. Juteman says:

    When the media in this country takes the piss out of North Korean media for being sycophantic, you just have to laugh.
    Or cry.

  6. Doug Daniel says:

    “Journalists aren’t biased, they simply can’t be.”

    It’s incredible how many journalists seem to actually believe this. There’s that video of Andrew Marr interviewing Noam Chomsky, where Noam points out that everyone has biases, even journalists, and Marr’s reaction is hilarious.

    Everyone has a bias. To think otherwise is staggeringly arrogant. So not much surprise that Torrance thinks he isn’t biased…

    1. Justin Kenrick says:

      Agreed – those 15 second of Chomsky making clear how it works are here:


      1. Justin Kenrick says:

        and if you can spare 4 minutes, then from 8 minutes in this puts those 15 seconds in context.

        Note Chomsky’s wonderful use of the head tilt to point out when he is listening to nonsense:

        1. Broadbield says:

          Objectivity is a chimera. Even scientists aren’t always objective. But at least they present evidence, while so many journos just present prejudice as evidence, unable to distinguish between the two.

    2. That interview is a classic Doug

  7. Big Jock says:

    When people think they have a monopoly on being right. They become arrogant, pious and introspective.

    The Yoons view the 45 as the losers who were put in their place. They don’t view us as equals. They view us as annoying reminders of their collective guilty consciences.

    I doubt there are many Yoons with a heart, who didn’t wake up and feel guilty when Cameron said Gotcha, the day after the referendum.

    We are that part of themselves that they cannot shake. We the 45 are that part of their Super Ego. I often find Yoons debate for a while with me, but
    when I push the right buttons the red mist comes down. That’s when they shout:” but Scotland voted no!”

    In other words they can’t cope with our continued presence and beliefs. They are bigots who can’t see themselves in the mirror.

    My answer is always the same: “You want me to go away? So if 3 of my neighbours are atheists and I believe, should I become an atheist”.

  8. john young says:

    Big jock they can,t/won,t/couldn,t debate rationally,after engaging one of them his frustrated re-ply was “what if they discovered oil off the coast of Devon” ffs,it was similar to me asking a boy I was friendly with who is of the Orange Order yes and me a “Tim” again he got a bit frustrated in the argument about the “Onion” make you weep eh! he said well we won the 2nd world war.

  9. Jim Bennett says:

    My mum told me that if I had nothing nice to say about someone, then I should say nothing. So…

    …Torrance does have a rather dashing beard nowadays!

  10. Dougie Blackwood says:

    This particular columnist is a pain. I buy The Herald every day and his is the one column that I do not read. He is so unremittingly negative about the SNP and Scottish Government and everything that they do it is not worth reading.

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