The rise of the Cybernat

All true politicos are West Wing fanatics. We remember every press briefing CJ ever held, every moment Josh and Donna ever shared and every put down Toby ever delivered. We all have our favourite characters, quotes, plots and episodes but there was one scene which has always stuck in my mind. In season 1 President Bartlett was on the verge of appointing a new Supreme Court Justice before a paper which the candidate had written in college came to light. The paper asserted that no one had a right to privacy. Whilst Toby was minded to dismiss the people as the folly of youth, Sam gave an impassioned defence of the right of privacy and claimed that the next twenty years would be dominated by disputes regarding the internet, mobile phones and secret records. He was right. Even in the last three years, we have witnessed wiki-leaks, the phone hacking scandal and explored the relationship between national security and the right of privacy. However, there has been one by-product which even Sam Seaborn could not have foreseen: the rise of the cybernat.

An interesting creature which hibernates until an article, column, tweet or even a thought surfaces questioning either the SNP, Alex Salmond or the benefits of independences. Upon awakening, the cybernat deploys a barrage of personal abuse, character assassination and allegations of conspiracy involving anyone from David Cameron to David Tennant. Armed with block capitals and excessive amounts of exclamation marks, the cybernat isn’t interested in engaging in the debate or even rebutting the point raised, they just want blood.

There are three standard responses from a cybernat. The first is to rant incoherently about the mythical land called the Independent Republic of Scotland where money grows on trees and poverty does not exist. The second is to discredit someone else’s opinion by dismissing them as (an evil) Tory who has been brain washed by “Camoron”. If all else fails, they’re part of the Bitter Together alliance talking Scotland down and therefore their opinion is invalid.

Given support for independence is at a record low, the nationalists need all the help they can get. They should be flooding the internet with messages highlighting the advantages of independence as well as rebutting some of the myths peddled by unionists (let’s face it, the sky isn’t going to fall in if we become independent). Instead, all they seem interested in is dragging the opposition down with them. Unfortunately, the cybernats aren’t the only problem with the nationalist campaign. It lacks support, cohesion and leadership. Never has a campaign which has had so long to prepare (Alex Salmond has argued for independence for over forty years) been so anti-climatic. On issues as basic as the currency, the lender of last resorts and even the BBC, the nationalists have absolutely nothing to say. This policy vacuum has been filled with abuse by the cybernats, who represent the dark side of Scottish nationalism.

They’re losing the argument and now they’re losing their temper and no amount of block capitals can change the fundamental fact at the heart of the debate: Scotland is as sceptical of independence as it was when Alex Salmond began his march over forty years ago. All the Yes campaign has achieved in the past year is to confirm this. With over a year to go both the referendum, they’re finished and they know it.

The debate is already shifting towards the margin of victory for the No campaign and Salmond is asserting that regardless of the result, the Scottish Parliament should be given more powers. In many ways it is a shame that the most important debate Scotland has faced has been dominated by abuse and incompetence but the Yes campaign has struggled for the outset and they are now reaching the point of no return. Even Sam Seaborn couldn’t save them now.