Quick! Before it’s too late…

I was enjoying my Times of London this morning when I came across a story that made me frown. It was a mother from England complaining that her daughter had been bullied at school in Fife by someone telling her to go back to her own country. Gordon Brown was involved and it was linked to the referendum. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/scotland/article3992554.ece

I groaned. Here we go again, some idiot with an attitude is stirring up feelings of anti-English hatred. There is no question that some ignorant Scots will use any difference to insult and abuse others, be it colour, religion or origin. But in my personal experience this is the antithesis of the approach taken by anyone directly involved in the Yes campaign where there is a total lack of tolerance of anti-English sentiment. This is I think representative of a kind of journalism which contains just enough truth to make it editorially viable – if you add a few bells and whistles – and brings into the public gaze the idea that there is something nasty and sinister about a political campaign. So I read it again. Something puzzled me.

First of all the headline described it as “bullying” which is intimidating through violence or threat thereof, usually habitual or repeated.

Yet what the 13-year-old’s mother describes is a single incident in class when a another 13-year-old becomes angry and sweary and tells her to “fuck off back to your own country”. Disgusting and aggressive…but bullying? The incident was sparked it seems by the diametrically opposite approach from another boy who “told her he was glad to have her in his team because she had won several Burns poetry competitions…she had achieved this without even being Scottish…” One classmate commends her, the other insults her.

Isn’t this is the type of scene repeated in schools across Britain every day, I wondered? An adolescent row breaks out and children call each other names – specky, ginger, skinny and, yes, no doubt paki, chinky, bluenose and tim as well. Is a 13-year-old of an age that makes him capable of an adult intention to racially abuse?

I don’t blame any parent for defending their child if he or she is upset by unacceptable behaviour at school and the nature of this boy’s attitude is unacceptable.

Then I stopped reading as a journalist and read as a parent. What would I do in the same circumstances?

I would start by naming the offender to the school and asking them to confront him. I would suggest they contact the family. This is a matter for the school authorities as it happened on their premises in school hours and is a breach of the behaviour code laid down by teaching staff. Only if it was a repeat offence that the school had failed to deal with would I consider taking it further. Why would I as a parent contact my MP? I might, in despair at lack of action by school and education authority if they had ignored me, which they didn’t, want to raise it with an elected representative but since it is an education matter which is devolved, I would in any case approach the MSP (David Torrance SNP Kirkcaldy) rather than the MP (Gordon Brown Labour).

The mother contacted Brown’s office to complain and he called her back. The quotes attributed to him are exactly what you’d expect from a constituency MP doing his job. He offered apologies and sympathy and said he would call the education authorities. I wondered at first if his office was the conduit for getting this into the newspapers but there is nothing there to indicate that Gordon’s people did anything other deal appropriately with a constituent’s issue. No MP or MSP would in any case go to the media with an individual’s story without their permission. The story makes an issue of and puts in the headline the fact that Brown is part of the story which is puzzling since he is just acting as constituency MP, not drawing conclusions or judgments about any political implications.  We read – in a story about a row between teenagers in a classroom – that Gordon has “kept a low profile” so far in the referendum campaign. The referendum campaign! What has this to do with the referendum? Were the kids arguing in class about the Barnet Formula, did they get mad about Governor Carney’s loss of sovereignty remarks on the currency? This phone call to the mum and to Fife Council is described as Brown’s “latest intervention”, although done by him totally without publicity, and we are told, comes “amid increasing fears that internet abuse of pro-Union supporters which has become commonplace in the run-up to this year’s referendum on Scotland’s future, is starting to become more mainstream.”

This wasn’t internet abuse, it was a classroom stushie…and how does that tie into increasing fears of abuse(?) becoming mainstream. The only way it is becoming mainstream is by the publication of hyperbolic fear stories like this.

The mother contacted the school and she confirms they dealt with it. “They were extremely apologetic and they have been really good at sorting this out”, she says. So why is a classroom incident dealt with professionally by school and by MP in the news and how is it linked to the referendum and by implication the Yes campaign?

Inside the story it describes the mum as a pro-Union supporter…fair enough and good luck to her. Her Facebook site has a like link to a page entitled “Alex Salmond is a deluded wanker.” Well, we all use the net to have a laugh and scoff and make fun and who wants to censor anyway – not me.

But as a dad I did wonder how a parent can be so upset by a child using revolting language to my daughter when I publicly declare my approval of terms like Wanker. The girl was so upset by events, she stayed off school a day. Maybe she’d stay off again if she saw mum’s Facebook entries. And when you think about it, if there is internet abuse, isn’t it the mum who is engaging in it, not the daft laddie who berated her daughter?

This woman is right to complain about her daughter’s treatment and in a way it seems unkind to imply criticism of her. But hold on. She is quoted as saying she is afraid to put a pro Union sticker in her window…in case of what? Are there mobs of nationalist loonies prowling Kirkcaldy checking for windows to cave in? Is she serious? Yes. She is. “My concern is that the situation could possibly get totally out of control if nothing is done now before the referendum…” What events? Children fighting in class? “The authorities and even the politicians must do something immediately to try to defuse the whole situation before it gets out of hand”. Round up SNP voters? Jail the MSPs? Censor the media? Put Jackie Baillie in the classroom? This stuff is quoted without any reference to perspective. What evidence does she have of widespread, violent anti-English abuse?

Here’s my other concern. This lady is photographed with her lassie both looking suitably victimised. What do you think, as a parent, is likely to be the result of this upfront publicity with a picture of the girl? Am I wrong or will it just encourage other kids to make an issue out of something only one or two would have known anything about? Every pupil at Balwearie High will now know of her celebrity and is that likely to lead to respect or is it more likely other kids will ridicule and jeer? And what about the parents of other children at Balwearie? I would understand why a parent was upset but I would be dismayed that my school was brought into disrepute this way. If I had a son I’d know that some parents would wonder if it was my boy who did it. If I was on the teaching staff, I’d be furious that my school had been dragged into the public domain and somehow smeared with this taint. And make no mistake, this story is now out there on the internet. The next time a Daily Mail reporter wants to vilify the Yes campaign he can sit in London and Google “anti-English abuse” and there it is. He wont read all the detail, just write: “Gordon Brown had to step in when an English schoolgirl was told to F**k off to her own country in a Scottish classroom”.

And so another grisly ingredient is dropped into the bubbling soup of bile and grievance artificially associated with the independence cause. Yet where and from which side of the debate did it come? Not from Yes. But guess to where the stink will be traced.

This mum is quite right to stand up for her girl but I think she has done the school, Kirkcaldy and her adoptive country a disservice by promoting a crude and disappointing incident of childhood into a political smear.

The really revolting intervention  this week came from Ian Lang telling us that if we voted for our country’s independence we defiled the memory of the British war dead. It doesn’t get any lower than that and I suspect a lot of Scots, Unionist or not, bridled at that presumptuous display of bigotry. There are almost daily signs of hysteria from No sources and still eight months to go…still time for them to find some dignity even if they can’t find the truth.

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41 thoughts on “Quick! Before it’s too late…

  1. John Mccutcheon

    Good piece, yet again Derek. But anyone that has read anything about the shenanigans of New Labour will know that Gordon Brown and his people were masters of briefing against others esp. in his own party, and he is a good manipulator of events to make sure he comes out of things looking good. This has all the signs of team GB being at work

    • If you understand that a lot of us Scots feel every bit British as well as Scottish,and have a feeling of being a member of a family. You could say that i feel my father is Scotland and my mother Britain and i am happy with that “marriage”. But now my father wants a divorce because he is not happy.He says that my mother is taking too much of his money and he wants out of the marriage so he can be free.My mother doesn’t want him to go but he says that she has held him back ever since they got married and he will fulfil his true potential if they divorce. I think the opposite is the case and that they have been good for each other but he doesn’t want to hear that,and i am starting to hate him,because he is being so selfish.

  2. I agree with John. They’re finding their scare stories tumbling , so time to change tack and shift everyone’s gaze in a different direction – in other words the Yes campaign is making racists of our children. Depressing and irritating in equal order but expect much more of this Derek. In one respect it can be viewed as encouraging in that the more of this “hysteria ” we experience the more this probably signals they’re losing the argument and the plot.

  3. I find this desperate vilification of the independence cause and its supporters to be completely despicable, but it is driven by fear and a growing realisation that Scotland is changing before their very eyes and beyond their control. Despite a year or more of relentless negativity their campaign is losing ground, not gaining. Labour supporters are making the mental transition to YES, realising that such a vote is not a vote for Salmond but instead a vote for a Scotland and for a Labour party that might be worthy of the name. These people are scared and desperate and will use whatever tactics they can to demonise the legitimate democratic wishes of the Scottish people. It has to be one of the worst campaigns in political history…

    As we all know people are hesitant and doubtful about independence, but they remain willing to be persuaded,. BT have given up any pretence of trying to persuade them with a positive case, even conceding that agreement on further devolution will be impossible. They cannot change direction now. Everything is gambled on a campaign of fear and uncertainty and a relentless assault on the SNP and on the motives and characters of those who support YES. A lot of these fears are irrational and illusory here, but to me there is an irony here. They are being driven not by us, but by the agenda that BT has chosen to pursue. When we see the fearmongers themselves becoming scared we know we are on the path to victory.

    Turning such am innocuous incident into a referendum issue demonstrates only the extreme desperation they have. They are losing and have no idea how to turn it around.

  4. Charles Kearney

    My own Mother simply refused to get involved where complaints among Children where concerned! Her basis was that Today’s aggressor will probably be Tomorrows Victim! Thus I disagree that this Mother should have kicked up a stushie of any kind; it was not, as you say a case of Bullying! The contents of the Woman’s FaceBook Page with Links to insulting Material against the First Minister of her Host Country, tells us all we need to know. That she should appear in a Photograph in a Unionist Newspaper, with her Daughter, is cynical at the least, and an irresponsible act by a Political Activist akin to the Minister who made his Daughter eat a Hamburger at the time of a Food Scare Story!

    No mention in the Times I take it, of the Links in this Womans FB Page to even worse abuse of our FM than that experienced by her Daughter? The ‘Dirt’ is not on the Yes side, it is on the side of every means of Mass Communication controlled by the No Side, and that is all of them!

  5. When better together has spent so much Tory money buying the press, it must be galling to find that a few activist websites and twitter are out with their control. Inevitably they need to find ways to marginalise this arena. It is interesting that Gordon brown is spouting a party line. Unfortunately, the internet makes it difficult to hide the seediness (Gordon brown has form on this kind of thing) of this episode. Project Fear are struggling to get their message across and silencing the Cybernats is essential. Watch for more of this stuff. Sarwar on Twitter was claiming cybernat abuse before it was pointed out that it was some yob from Manchester. Meanwhile new tack from Labour is to insist that everyone on Yes side apologises for, and condemns negative behaviour on perceived yes camp while pointedly ignoring the rampant abuse aimed at key people in the Yes side.
    Wings recent escapade observing Project Fear leafletters must surely cause that camp concern as it demonstrates a level of countrywide activism that the bitters can’t hope to match

  6. I remember the days when ‘speccy bastard’ was an insult, not a political statement..
    I also remember when Jack Straw was a speccy bastard.
    Seemingly rumours of his tongue hanging out as he met with Condaleeza Rice were untrue, and his change to contact lenses had nothing to do with a sad middle aged bastard trying to look younger in his pursuit of poontang.

  7. I agree the on-line community must be villified at all costs. as they are so successful at debunking rubbish stories, eg the complete misrepresentation of the BoE position on shared currency.
    If you read anything about E. Snowden you will see that he thought the UK secret services were worse than the US.
    I think this is a dangerous tactic by the No group.
    I wonder if this mother realises that she will probably have upset a few folk in her adpoted country – a strange position to take.

    • Yes, and I would suggest she had made matters considerably worse for her daughter. Who will want to have anything to do with her now at school in case they too end up vilified in the tabloids. Poor kid.

  8. I think the rules are quite simple, no matter what a UKOK supporter says, and boy have they been intemperate in their language, will be ignored and every foolish word whether by man, woman, child or cat whether related to the referendum debate or not will be laid at the door of Yes Scotland with a specific demand that Salmond stop them.

    Fairness is not optional in this debate, the establishment will throw every trick in the book at us and a few they have made up just for us (apologies to Larkin)

  9. Another example of the increasingly desperate MSM spin is Michael Settle’s piece in today’s Herald in which Alex Salmond is given a “Praetorian Guard” and people who have yet to make up their minds are rebranded as “doubters”.

    • Charles Kearney

      The Herald seems not to know whether it is Alice or Angus! Gardham does his best to push the Project Fear line, and his Acolytes within follow suit, (usually the lesser Lights) and then they have some ‘Real’ Journalists who write pieces which could only be described as ‘Pure Dead Nationalist!’

      What is it they say about ‘a House divided against its self?’ Doesn’t matter really, along with the Scotsman, they are shedding Readers like Dandruff! A lesson on how to work your self out of a Job!

  10. I have not come across a single person of any attitude (Yes/DK/No) who does not regard Lord Lang’s comments with anything other than revulsion.

    • Every town and village in Scotland has its war memorial. Men volunteered for the First war, most of them wouldn’t have had the vote, most would never have travelled far beyond the places they stayed, most would have known little of empire beyond red on the school atlas or of foreign places. Amongst the names are three of my grandmother’s brothers and goodness knows how many other relatives.

      I could be wrong, but I suspect many volunteered to fight for their own folks, their own wee bit of Scotland, for a life of less grinding poverty and some justice in their world. If that is so, I can’t see them birling in their graves at the ambitions of those who intend to vote yes.

  11. As you say Derek,hard to fathom this person’s motive.
    It is either ignorance,that we have a government in Scotland which is responsible for education matters or political mischief making.
    Either way,not a smart move.
    Thanks Derek.

    • Normally the class teacher would deal with a situation such as this – so it seems “political mischief making” is the correct conclusion. Sad…… but it’s an indication of Brown’s desperation.

  12. “Her Facebook site has a like link to a page entitled “Alex Salmond is a deluded wanker.”

    Sounds like a caring type of person, what was that old story about stones and glass houses?

  13. But it is all of a piece with the UK media. The BBC sending 95 to the Games when TeamGB is only 51 and something important like Scotland’s referendum gets Naughtie a couple of days a week. On that basis you should cut the Times of London some slack.

  14. Derek, if this is called a racist slur the police should be involved, similarly, the Director of Education and down the chain of responsibility to the headteacher and the supervising classroom teacher should be involved in it and it should be taken up by the local MSP David Torrance, to ensure every aspect of it is investigated properly.

    If it is a political stunt it should be ruthlessly exposed and not brushed under the carpet when laid bare.

    Whatever stems from this – it’s a real pity for the youngster(s), which the mother seems to not care about that, but then again – Gordon Brown should have helped her come to terms about it and let it go quietly for all concerned. However that, would be the character of the man!

  15. I feel by going to the press about a matter that had been dealt with by the school, the mother has decided to turn both her daughter and herself into victims. The mother herself is likely to get all sorts of abuse on her facebook page because of what she wrote and the daughter will get the same at school.

    This victimisation will again be taken to Gordon Brown who will once more use it to show how evil cybernats are. This will fit in well with Labour’s ‘bash the cybernat bullies’ campaign.
    I wonder was it the mother or Brown who decided to make it a referendum matter and take it to the Times, rather than something that happens every day to someone in a school somewhere. Children are cruel to each other at times after all. Having said that, we all survived such name calling and abuse without suffering any long tem effects.

  16. The mother has not done her daughter any favours. In making it a political issue in this very public manner all the mother has done is created unnecessary tensions at the school. You feel, sadly, that this will not end happily.

  17. Annoying that it will get blown up but that is clearly Labour’s plan. Seeking to alienate the populace from the vile cybernats and hence independence

  18. An intelligent, measured article by Derek but the spin doctors are the winners.

  19. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the parents of the alleged bully were UKOKers.

  20. Derek, I don’t believe that the No camp are concerned about maintaining dignity, nor are they seeking the truth.

  21. Set up. Using your child for cheap publicity is unfortunate. Gordon Bown was described as a bully by Unionists.

  22. It seems to me that this woman thought that she was using The Times for her own dubious ends whereas, in fact, The Times has quite cynically used her and her daughter without any consideration for the longer term consequences,. to post yet another anti-Scottish story. No edition is without at least one, usually written by Lyndsay MacIntosh..
    In despair at the bias of the Herald and Scotsman last year I took out a subscription with the “Scottish edition ” of The Times on the basis that I would expect to disagree with their editorial stance but might get some honest and investigative journalism. Sad to say I found it just as toxic as the others and I got out of my contract asap.
    A friend assures me that the only really honest national daily newspaper is the Daily Star. It is blatantly trivial and sexist but has no pretensions to be anything else.

  23. I first read this article in “surprise,surprise” the Daily Mail. One of the journalists mentioned was of course Alan Roden, a known hater of all things and people pro Independent. I worked in a Kirkcaldy school for many years and in Fife bullying was always dealt with quickly and to my knowledge it wasn’t rife. I didnt want to detract from any bullying which I abhor but in the Mail was a photo of the girl posing,I’d have thought if she, like any kid wanted the incident dealt with privately………not involve Brown a known staunch unionist and it made me wonder…how did roden get a hold of the incident? did he know the parent or was the parent a unionist too who may have seen the incident as a way of blaming Indy? I am glad whoever said this horrible thing to the girl is dealt with by the school but I can’t help but feel it was kind of set up as a way to harm Indy. I’m not sure how the folk in town would react,angry at what was said to girl but also like you Derek “Why involve Gordon Brown when Balwearie is one of Kirkcaldy’s best schools and has always had a good reputation. A school where parents would chose over Gordon Brown’s old school..Kirkcaldy High. For Roden and Daily Mail its not suprising they would crawl to the lowest of low but real bullying should not be used in a way to promote anti Indy feelings.

  24. It transpires that the mother has said a few unkind things herself about Alex Salmond on her Facebook page prior to this event.

    So the daughter has already been exposed at home to a growing sense of victimisation by the parents. Anything that increases a sense of isolation is not good for children.

  25. Its pathetic that’s what this is.It sounds like her mother is not a moderate Unionist.She is a hardliner and probably pro British anti Scottish.I was regularly called a fenion bastard by protestants growing up.Would I be correct in assuming Rangers types and pro Brits were responsible.Yes but it probably came from their parents.It just made me more Scottish.I became polticised as I wanted to learn about this sinister side of Scotland.I didn’t write to some random Catholic MP.My dad just told me about anti catholic people in Scotland where he grew up as well.He is SNP and second generation Irish.The problem I have with this woman is.She is English and has taken her baggage with her like a label.Why is she such a unionist where is that coming from.Is she looking to be informed or looking to be offended.You can find offence in everything if you want.My answer is grow a pair and stop your deliberate need to be offended.If the boot was on the other foot and I was a kid in an English school would anyone care that I was called a jock.I would take it as a label of pride.And here’s the nub of this problem in Scotland.In my office we have people from all over Europe.We can walk up and say to anyone where are you from and have a conversation.Do Scots do that comfortably with English people.No because we subconsciously think we are being xenophobic by daring to ask an English person where they are from.We see this everyday on the BBC where they interview supposed locals in islands etc with cockney accents.If they were German they would say your originally from Germany.If English its just never asked almost as if it would almost be supporting the difference in nationality within Britain.

  26. When I moved to the S of England darling, one was advised to avoid discussing one’s childrens’ education and politics at ” smart ” dinner parties. The two got mixed up the other day when Pete Wishart was allowed by the BBC into a clearly hostile, by all accounts, private Scottish ” public ” school. Hope this can be added to the Holyrood”s Committee discussions this week, even though it did the YES side no harm.

  27. Seems likely that the the mother forgot all about her abusive rant against Alex Salmon a few years back and so failed to advise Gordon Brown of it. Her text has been found and posted on Wings. Conceivably not quite an apolitical parent concerned only for her child’s treatment at school.

  28. Here’s a sample of what the lady in question has written on Facebook,

    Teresa Bell-newman Been here thirteen years and never have I ever felt so unwelcome as some of the yes voters make me feel. I love the banter , but some of the comments make me feel so uncomfortable. I would like to know if this continued onto the street if I could take snp to court the way the snp supporters bang on about England and English surely it’s ensightment to racism . Hardly ever a bad word about Wales or Ireland , salmond is an anti English racist pig. He gives the impression that most Scots want away from ruk, there will be so much bad feeling everywhere thanks to that git. Scotland isn’t the only place that supplies oil and whisky . Mores the pity that’s all the yes campaign worries about. Scotland is about so much more”

    This lady is no ‘pure as the driven snow’ political ingenue.

    • “Pure as the driven snow…….” I notice you haven’t completed the quote from “The Hostage” In my experience it always got a huge laugh from the audience.

  29. What other country supplies whisky.Oh aye Eire and that’s independent.What other country supplies oil in Europe.Answer Norway…and guess what it’s the wealthiest country in Europe.But hey this woman seems to know an awful lot about Scotland that we don’t.Why are we not more grateful what is wrong with us.Her other point about grievance towards England and not Wales.The last time I checked Westminster was in London not Cardiff.It’s a grievance against British remote London Rule she assumes its against the English.The problem is with these sorts of ignoramuses.Is that they shout a lot about racism without actually knowing what racism is.No one hates the English as a rule in the Yes side.She has assumed that because people dislike her that they dislike all English people.The truth is that Scots probably get annoyed at her because she is ignorant and mouthy and nothing else.She sounds like a nasty piece of work and pretty vulgar It paints a picture …not very pretty.

  30. If I cried and screamed every time I was insulted either deliberately or supposedly jokingly by English people I’d be long dead by now. It started at age 7 in the Royal Navy Children’s school, Verdala, Malta, continued at the Royal Navy School, Trincomalee, then St George’s (Army) School in Hong Kong and finally Alexandra (Army) Grammar School in Singapore. It continued when I worked in England and abroad with English people right through my working life. To me mostly it was just ignorance sometimes marching hand in hand with arrogance but caused me no great harm but lots of amusement. My wife is English – she’s wonderful. Most English people are fine. There are idiots everywhere – maybe their upbringing that they are better than every other nation has something to do with their attitudes. My reason for the travelogue was that no native of any of those countries ever mocked, derided or looked down on me for being a Scot – in fact they rather approved. I also know who they didn’t like!

  31. Pathetic, tragic, sick, Is this part of the fife SLAB+CON+LIB UNIONIST, YES ALLIANCE? They deserve each other. THE TMES OF LONDON. wonder what market was the target there?

  32. This story is totally out of context, this has not just been a isolated incident and the school was trying to promote Scottishness ??? By writing a new national anthem, also the msp’s were contacted but no one replied, also it was not just about anti-English the paper was told and also Gordon brown that this is getting out of hand from both sides abuse on twitter, attacks in the street on yes campaigners smashed windows on no campaigners cars twitter abuse and its coming from both sides

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