It maybe 33 months too late but at last Tom Hunter has got the message. The tycoon has launched a website http://scotlandseptember18.com where he hopes to provide impartial, evidence-based information on referendum issues because he thinks the politicians are not providing it.
Welcome to the club. I tried in vain to make contact with Tom Hunter soon after the SNP victory in 2011 to suggest just such an idea and couldn’t get through his wall of privacy. If only his lieutenants hadn’t been so dismissive of a ground-breaking idea, Sir Tom could have been informing the debate from the outset two-and-a-half years ago and helped to set a positive and fact-based agenda – the same thing he is trying to create now when it may be too late to influence enough voters who have been fed a diet of propaganda and assertion.
I have written before how it was immediately clear to me what would happen after the SNP victory…the referendum could not be avoided and as soon as it was announced, the tribes and factions would turn it into a war, the same demonic charge and counter-charge we get in elections. It was obvious that Scotland needed what it didn’t already have – a think tank focussed not on dictating what we should think but assessing the relevant information and arriving at educated, well-informed guesses about the implications.
It is true that I envisaged a website with information which simply by examining the issue of independence would remove much of the fear from the topic. Laying out how it works in other countries and how the rest of the world – and London – would react seemed a necessary first step to normalising the concept of Scottish independence. So you could say I wasn’t totally neutral but I do understand the ethos of journalistic impartiality and could have helped produce balanced and sourced information acting along with others including an advisory board of experts and academics with a range of political outlooks.
No one would back me. In the weeks after May 2011 I contacted a number of Scotland’s much-lauded entrepreneurs who have charitable outlets and public-spirited attitudes without success. I found a number for Sir Tom’s representative, the person who handles media inquiries about the businessman and his commercial interests and explained the plan. I was promised a response – he was between meetings and very busy and would get back – but the call never came. And right there died the idea that Hunter has resurrected.
I know it doesn’t seem a big deal now but it shows how it’s always worth listening no matter how unlikely it seems and it for me it represents a missed opportunity for an informed go-to place which would be accessed by journalists and voters and whose evidence would have made it much harder to write ill-informed and misleading stories because everyone could cross-check against the data on the website. If it had been up and running then it would long before now have become a respected source of enlightenment and information. It would have been name-checked every day across the media and would have cemented Tom Hunter’s name as a key player in our historic decision. Too late now, I think.
(Anyway I’ve moved on without him as Bateman Broadcasting goes global)