Wings No Longer Soar Over Scotland

It seems our nation’s most frequently fulminating minister may have mounted his online pulpit for the last time. The Reverend Stuart Campbell has decided to hastily wind up his closely followed political website Wings over Scotland. Naturally, his huge congregation is mournful and distraught. But the truth is their beloved cleric is probably saving them from themselves.

A lot of things have changed since the Scottish Spring, that glorious summer before the September 2014 referendum when a thousand thistles bloomed in cyberspace. The flowering of the Fifth Estate was one of the most phenomenal aspects of that period. But there are clearly now powerful forces determined to scythe down such alternative media sites, especially if they pose any sort of threat to Scotland’s conjugal dictatorship of Nicola and Peter Murrell.

Mr Campbell (who put Rev. in his byline to distinguish himself from other Stuart Campbells) has long been the biggest hitter in the Scottish blogosphere, by far. Much of that was down to the publication during the referendum campaign of his enormously popular and influential Wee Blue Book, a concise and persuasive compendium of statistically-backed arguments against preservation of the Union. But Wings’ primary punchbag ceased some time ago to be any Unionist. In the past few years the fist blows have been directed at Nicola Sturgeon and her loyal acolytes. The Wingers, as I call the almost cultish followers of that site, utterly detest the Sturgeonistas. As you might detect in this segment of Mr Campbell’s final blog:

I’m not going to spend the next five years pointlessly repeating myself while Sturgeon busily turns Scotland into a vicious, spiteful, intolerant, authoritarian and misogynist country I’ll be ashamed to come from and am already afraid to live in.

As you can see, this really has little do with the First Minister’s failure to force an indyref2, the Rev. Stu’s ostensible reason for laying down his laptop. Of course, he’s fed up assailing her on that front to absolutely no avail, but the key word in his statement is this – “afraid”.

Many bloggers in this country who haven’t taught, or even studied, media law like me will be more than slightly unnerved by the eight month prison sentence passed down this week on Craig Murray. The former British ambassador-turned-nationalist agitator was found in Contempt of Court for articles he posted online about the Alex Salmond trial. Many believe him to be the victim of selective prosecution because no charges were brought against numerous members of the mainstream media who were, arguably, equally guilty of the ‘jigsaw identification’ of Mr Salmond’s accusers.

The case against Mr Murray was brought by the Crown Office in Scotland as he lives in Edinburgh. The same prosecutors could not act so easily against Stuart Campbell because he resides in Bath. But there seems a fair chance they might do so if he were based in Bathgate, or somewhere else north of the Border. Not for his savage denunciations of Nicola Sturgein’s pusillanimity in pursuing independence. No one can be punished for just that (not yet anyway). It’s more to do with something that has become Mr Campbell’s almost complete obsession over the past few years – his trenchant opposition to proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.

The Rev. Stu has delivered an endless stream of savage and scatological sermons on that subject. He is totally opposed to any lowering of the legal hurdles to transgenders being able to self-identify as women. In adopting that posture, his site is in firm alignment with most defenders of women’s rights in Scotland. They feel these legislative changes won’t just negate their hard-won victories but could even endanger women’s safety in shared spaces such as public toilets. The campaign to stop the implementation of this has been spearheaded by prominent SNP parliamentarians Joan McAlpine and Joanna Cherry, along with the party’s former national women’s convened Cllr Caroline McAllister, who quit the governing party to run for Alba in the recent Holyrood election. But none of this trio have expressed their fury about the GRA reforms anywhere close to the way Wings over Scotland has.

The Wingers seem far more outraged by ‘trannies’ than Trident

For too long there has been far more outrage about ‘trannies’ than Trident – or any other issue – as the Wingers have worked themselves into a seething rage about ‘gender ideologists’. Many of them make true and telling points but more than a few come across as (to quote Mr Campbell’s own words back at him) vicious, spiteful and intolerant. Nobody is going to get away with such behaviour for much longer in Sturgeon’s Scotland. They certainly won’t be permitted to host hate fests, which Wings could be accused of having done for some time.

The Hate Crimes Bill – against which Wings campaigned relentlessly – is now the Hate Crimes and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021. Openly expressed transphobia won’t be tolerated anymore in this jurisdiction. And there’s more: when piloting the Hate Crimes Bill through the Scottish Parliament, the Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf also established an expert working group to consider whether misogynistic behaviour should become a standalone offence under Scots law. The taskforce is being led by the human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy and will report by early next year.

Mr Campbell might evade prosecution under this new legislation because he is based in Somerset rather than Scotland but virtually all who posting comments below his articles appeared to be based north of the Border. Certainly most of the targets of their invective resided in Scotland, so some of those comments could potentially be actionable. Even if they’re not, I believe we bloggers are ethically responsible for anything that appears on our websites and should not provide a hate-filled forum. The fact that Mr Campbell doesn’t seem to actively moderate comments adds immensely to his site’s popularity – intense interactivity can be very gratifying – but I wouldn’t rely on that defence in any court of law. Nor in the court of public opinion, where the Rev Campbell stands widely condemned.

The announcement that “Wings is over” was both startling and a wee bit saddening. At its best, it has been a sort of Scottish Private Eye, combining dogged investigation with sharp satire. But the truth is its publisher has been needing to clip his Wings for some time. From his airbase in Bath, he could not go on forever ‘soaring over Scottish politics’ and dropping shit bombs on anyone he cared to target. He really did need to give it a rest.

So let’s raise a glass to the Rev. Stuart Campbell and wish him many happy hours of squirrel watching in Somerset (for some reason he’s obsessed with these creatures). Posting indefatigably for a decade has been an inspiration to all us bloggers. Launched into cyberspace only a fortnight ago, Jaggy is obviously nowhere near Wings in terms of quantity of followers – yet. But what is far more important to me is the quality of discourse and debate to be found here. Jaggy will be every bit as incisive and combative as Wings (and Craig Murray), but it will never provide a platform for plain nastiness. And it will always be legally compliant.

36 thoughts on “Wings No Longer Soar Over Scotland

  1. “Jaggy will be every bit as incisive and combative as Wings (and Craig Murray), but it will also be legally compliant.”

    Pick one.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. If it’s your intention to take over where Stu left off then you have a hard act to follow, I’ve followed Wings since 2014 and although I’ve not agreed with everything he says I’ve never suspected dishonesty or a hidden agenda.

    Stu always says what he means and means what he says and doesn’t mince his words that along with his abrasive & combative style was the big attraction for me and many others I suspect.

    Sadly the btl comments due to non moderation became troll infested and in recent weeks became particularly bad

    Anyway good luck to you sir

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I totally understand your position with regards to comments on gender issues in Scotland, and the need to tone them down a bit as you rightly say, Wings is/was exciting and liberal, with the comments Stu allowed, but as you also added Stu is South of the border and a wee bit more difficult to prosecute, though there was talk of Police Scotland going to David Davis’s door with regards to his parliamentary privilege speech that opened a few eyes in the HoC.

    As for the pitfalls of online journalism, this chap knows a thing or two about that.

    https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2021-05-10/media-war-independent-journalism/

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Btw, been a busy day, so my last comment was intended in sincerity rather than snark.

    The SNP have decided you’re not allowed to say what you want in the privacy of your own home. I don’t think Edward Plantagenet, Oliver Cromwell, or Oswald Moseley were so ambitious.

    If they can turn the Scots into emasculated liars willing to pretend men are women because it’s the “law”, what can’t they put off limits? And what incisive or combative discussion do you expect to be allowed to have, and for how long?

    Note that Craig Murray couldn’t be more politically correct, and look how little good that did him.

    I like your blog, and don’t wish to be a rude guest, so I won’t say where Baroness Helena Kennedy can stick her “misogyny” fandango, which we all know will only be used against certain types of people, just as Humza’s Hate law will only be weaponised against certain types of people – people the regime hates. But you should be able to see where this is going, and sooner or later they’ll leave you with two choices: emasculated liardom or jail.

    Unless we can get rid of them somehow, but there seems little prospect of that in the near term.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. ” SNP have decided you’re not allowed to say what you want in the privacy of your own home.”

      Soapy Soutar.

      Yes I think that is correct the (HCB) Hate Crime Bill, allows for prosecution if you are heard in the comfort of your own home to be expressing your own opinion on the matter. I again think that you could, if prosecuted, as a hate crime, go to prison for a maximum of seven years.

      I’m also under the impression that there’s more (GRA) Gender Recognition Act reforms on the way.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m no lawyer but it seems to me that, as ever, the devil is in the detail. If Bolt’s”thickets of the law” are designed to entrap citizens rather than protect them then Stuart Campbell’s fears seem justified. I have to agree with Soapy Soutar.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve been an avid reader of wings and liked his style. My only grouse was he allowed too many unmoderated trolls to disrupt and derail every topic. Looking forward to reading Jaggy.blog.

    Like

  7. I really like your new blog, very glad to see it arrive. I am not anti-trans rights by any stretch of the imagination, I think trans people should have exactly the same rights as anyone else – no more, no less. But what I am vehemently against is the way that a (so called) trans-supporting faction has effectively captured the SNP whose leadership has been complicit in this capture for their own reasons. This is part of the process which has enabled the SNP leadership to put independence on the back burner, and has contributed massively to the hatred being shown to the trans rights cause by people who are genuine independence supporters.GRA and the HCB have replaced independence as the chief goals of the SNP and the frustration associated with that is at least a partial cause for Wings’ recent focus on these issues.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I feel a bit insulted by this post, to be honest. I am not sure if I am Winger or if I have good enough quality thoughts and words to say. I sensed that Stuart was close to breaking point and none of us know just how hard his job was and how much abuse he received. In general, I would say that if he ‘dropped a shit bomb’ it was well deserved and backed up by good evidence as to why it had dropped. Fair enough the comments section was out of control and frankly un-followable unless you had several hours to spare. I suspect the Hate Crimes and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 was possibly the last straw. Luckily you seem to know how to report legally without fear and I hope you will have as much knowledge and insight as Stuart. Good Luck!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. I’m sorry if I did not make it sufficiently clear to everyone how much I admire Stuart Campbell and what he has achieved. Sometimes, in fact, I stand in awe of him. But only sometimes. As I commented below his parting post, he has borne more of the strain of holding the Sturgeonistas to account than anyone. It’s time for other radical bloggers to relieve him of that burden. We too can gauge how much impact we’re making not just through google analytics but by the severity of the flak we receive and the level of state harassment we might need to endure.

      Liked by 4 people

  9. If you can expose uncomfortable truths without fear or favour then you will be providing a service sorely needed in the absence of Wings. Gordon Dangerfield does this very well with forensic analysis and legal compliance as you would expect of someone with an intimate knowledge of the law. How long will it be though until factual discourse becomes a casualty of hate crime? We have entered deeply troubling and sinister times. Those of the seventh mandate. Going for 55?

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    1. I think you’re right. But we still have some chance to save ourselves from sliding into the dark hell you describe. To do that, we must all marshall whatever relevant skills we possess and deploy them to full effect.

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  10. I am bye wae all this crap. jaggy, that is quite a disrespect of the good reverend, read it again.
    If you are saying, in a convoluted manner, that you adhere the legalese shite, say so outright. Fuck their maritime law!!! fick their punitive statutes and society!!!
    Or maybe you are trying to say that there are far bigger issues at play, world disorder at hand, and that gender bender madness and woowokeedoo really are credible dissent, but that should not take priority in a fkt up world or scottish sovereignty, well I might get your point. but they are part of the grand madness that is suffocating society.
    Clarify your case please, otherwise ye have just dissed that irascible stalwart we all appreciate.

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    1. I’ve clarified my position as far as I can, both in my original post and in my earlier response to Lulu Bells. Ranting and raving in an echo chamber, such as Stuart’s site had largely become of late, will win no converts to the independence cause. I certainly don’t want to replicate that here, no matter how many wandering Winger refugees I might attract. But I believe in free speech and want to provide a rambunctious forum. However much you assail me, I won’t block or bin your comments – so long as they are legally compliant – and you don’t become boring and repetitive.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wings was no echo chamber.

        Read by supporters and opponents it’s readership was absolutely huge.

        We all owe Stuart Campbell a debt of gratitude…truth and honest analysis all well researched in a forthright manner .

        He will be missed. Especially since this is a Dirty War where the shadowy forces of the British state are actively fighting to undermine and destroy independence.

        Read Kitson and you’ll understand the Dirty War that Britain is fighting.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. “It’s time for other radical bloggers to relieve him of that burden.” Those are big shoes to fill Rob, even for a man of your caliber. But, by the great dog, the current SNP management do need held to account. I hope you are man enough for it. We shall see. I wish you well in that mission.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. The heart of Wings is and always was facts. “Gender reform” is literally the destruction of the entire concept of facts. Orwell illustrated it with “2+2=4” but this is exactly the same thing: once you concede that men can be women, you concede that words mean nothing and therefore facts don’t exist. If a journalist doing everything in their power to resist that development is obsession, you got me, I’m obsessed. But any journalist who isn’t should turn in their keyboard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feared you had turned in your keyboard, Rev Stu. Good to see you still active in the blogosphere. My objection is not to the stance you took on this vexed issue but to the highly objectionable (and probably soon illegal) way in which some of your followers vented their fury about the GRA. You chose to give them free rein to do that for reasons only you can explain.

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      1. Because I believe in principle in letting people express what they sincerely believe as much as it’s legally possible to. Your assessment of the law regarding comments isn’t quite right as far as I’m advised by my lawyers, by the way – premoderation is not required, so long as a reasonable level of diligence is applied to reactive moderation. A site owner is in general NOT legally responsible for comments unless they are reckless with regard to removing unlawful ones.

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  13. (This is because the law recognises it would be absurd to require a site owner to premoderate every comment on a site like Wings which gets hundreds of comments per article. The amount of time it would take would be impossibly and unreasonably prohibitive. Without wishing to be in any way sarcastic, it’s a lot easier if you get a dozen comments per post.)

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    1. That’s an interesting perspective. I wonder if it will still apply once the Hate Crimes Act starts to take effect? Time will tell. Personally, I would rather not pre-moderate as this obviously reduces the level of interactivity in the comments section, thereby limiting their number. Maybe I’m just being overly cautious, although I note that most news sites do feel the need to pre-moderate on stories with a potential legal fallout.

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  14. Oh, and one last thing – I’m not “self-ordained”. I’m ordained by a legally-recognised church. It doesn’t matter, but like I said, I’m a stickler for facts.

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    1. I apologise for misinterpreting what you said about why you put Rev in your byline, which I picked up from the (very interesting) interview you did with Alex Salmond some time back. I’ve tweaked my original text in response to the various points you’ve made in your comments here, for which I am grateful. In light of what you say I will relax my policy on moderating comments. You can pay my legal fees if that backfires!

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  15. Incidentally, just since I’m here:

    “For too long there has been far more outrage about ‘trannies’ than Trident – or any other issue”

    That’s because Trident is one of the Yes movement’s biggest blind spots. It’s a distraction and a drag on our cause.

    We kid ourselves on that “Scotland” doesn’t want it, but polling regularly shows it’s near enough a 50/50 split (though it depends how you phrase the question), so being fundamentalist about abolition/removal puts off as many people as it attracts.

    We kid ourselves on that there’s a moral argument against it, as if being burnt to death by “conventional” weapons rather than nuclear ones is like a big warm hug. Almost uniquely among currently-active weapons systems, Trident has never killed a single person. There’s a coherent argument to be made that if armies had nothing BUT nuclear weapons there would be no wars. But even if you disagree with that argument, bombs are bombs. They’re all immoral or none of them are. Size is just a detail.

    We kid ourselves on that if we got rid of Trident we’d somehow be safer in the event of a world nuclear war. If there’s ever a world nuclear war, EVERYONE on the planet is absolutely doomed. The very best place to be is standing on the top of a nuclear missile base, because at least that way it’ll be quick and you won’t spend a few years strangling someone’s granny for a rusty tin of beans as you desperately try to survive the nuclear winter.

    We kid ourselves on that Trident might blow up by accident and wipe out the whole country. Just a week or so ago I saw some dementor on Twitter posting a picture that showed an explosion at Faslane basically destroying Aberdeen. If a Trident warhead went off at Faslane the explosion would probably break some windows in Helensburgh, but that’d be the outer edge. It’d ruin your day if you were in the vicinity, but deaths would be in the hundreds, not the millions, and most of those would be on the base itself. Even Garelochhead wouldn’t be flattened.

    (Also, the idea that Trident might blow up by accident demonstrates a truly staggering level of ignorance about how nuclear weapons work. You’re more likely to witness lead spontaneously turning into gold than live to know about an unplanned nuclear weapon explosion. Making one go off is really, really difficult. It’s not a stick of gelignite, it doesn’t happen if you just drop it. And you’re at more radiation risk from eating bananas.)

    And lastly, we kid ourselves on that we’d have any real negotiating leverage with the UK if we insisted on the immediate removal of Trident. It is BY MILES our biggest bargaining chip. I was really disappointed when Alba’s manifesto included a commitment to sign that thing making nuclear weapons illegal that I can’t be arsed to Google the name of right now. Should we ever achieve independence the negotiations will be utterly critical to the kind of country we end up being, and by letting the rUK part Trident in the Clyde for a decade or two we’ll be able to get just about anything else we ask for, including a very handy several billion pounds a year in rent. Throwing that away on an empty virtue-signalling gesture is dumb beyond words.

    We did cover all the above on Wings. There seemed little point in repeating it endlessly when nothing about the situation has changed in 20 years or more. The trans issue, conversely, is developing day by day and can still be affected, which is why we spent rather more time and effort on it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree Stuart that there needs to be a serious debate among Indy supporters about defence and foreign policy, including some serious consideration given to what you’re saying. The fact there hasn’t been such a debate probably tells us all we need to know about how serious the SNP is about turning Scotland into a fully fledged nation state. I aim to cover this subject in a considered post soon.

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    2. As is usually the case with Rev Stu, hardly a word of what he writes can be argued with.

      I would just like to add that there is one consideration of submarine-based nuclear weapons that I have often thought about, but never seen discussed.

      The EU aspires to become a world superpower, so inevitably it has to have nuclear weapons, if it is ever to be anything other than a paper tiger. The loss of the UK has threatened one half of its capabilities; the EU may soon have to rely on the French nuclear deterrent alone.

      It is never a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket. An Independent Scotland, bargaining hard to get into the EU, will likely find it will have to accept dispersed French subs in the bases vacated by the Royal Navy. If they ever are vacated.

      Unless an independent Scotland doubles down and pursues a resolute course of isolationism, sort of a New Albania, far greater powers than us are always going to want access to those deep sea lochs, those numerous routes into the Atlantic, and the sparsely populated surrounding countryside, where a controlling military presence can do what it likes.

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  16. I am profoundly suspicious of people who presume to constrain discourse within the confines of their own subject judgement. If someone assumes the authority to dictate the terms of debate then they can be expected to use that authority to their own advantage. The stuff about being “legally compliant” sounds to me like someone preparing a rationalisation for censorship.

    Premoderation makes censorship invisible. Readers cannot know what comments have been excluded. They can never have confidence that what is published is a true representation of the debate. Stu Campbell’s policy of “letting people express what they sincerely believe as much as it’s legally possible to” may lead to comments being published which some find offensive. But I see no reason why debate should be limited by fear of causing offense. Such limitations will only ever get tighter because there is always somebody looking to be offended. Or to claim that they’ve been offended.

    The most insidious form of censorship is the self-censorship that is induced by premoderation. Comments tend to be tailored to the prejudices and preferences of the moderator rather than being a true expression of the respondent’s perspective.

    I avoid encouraging censorship.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your response, Peter. I have actually relaxed my policy on this, which was why your substantial comment appeared instantly (and unedited). Just so you know, I’ve taught modules on censorship and regulation at a number of universities and I’m fully aware of the dangers of self-censorship. I am not particularly keen on pre-moderation but I think we all need to be aware of the climate in which all bloggers must operate in Sturgeon’s Scotland.

      Like

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