2016 and at last the scrutiny of the SNP government steps up. It’s worried me for some time that the media has been negligent in holding Sturgeon to account –it must be all that bonhomie between her and the reporters, joshing and partying before they file copy that fails to criticise. She has them under her spell, all those even-handed journalists with their self-awareness. Is this why they missed the catastrophic maintenance failure of the Forth Road Bridge? Were they seduced into ignoring falling reading standards in our schools? When will they pick up on the shortcomings in the NHS? Why, oh why do they ignore the comprehensive criticisms from Jackie Baillie? Let’s face it, the SNP is getting away with murder because our media hasn’t got the guts to tackle them head on.

There is no doubt in my mind that if only extremists on the internet stopped using clever hashtags on Twitter the Scottish Press could break through the credibility gap and everybody would listen to them again and wake up to the shambles the Nationalists are making of government. It is surprising that the UK Government has not already intervened with Twitter to complain about the way democracy is being blocked Chinese-style by a coordinated campaign designed to do nothing less than counter the flow of Establishment information.

It is noticeable that political giants like Alan Reid and John Robertson are lending their considerable intellectual clout to the debate by daring, in the face of the clear threat of retaliation, to suggest that people will see the SNP for what they really are – just as soon as they’ve recorded the biggest electoral success in Scottish voting history.

We have to take it seriously when those we have come to rely on for political intelligence, like Magnus Gardham and David Clegg, feel obliged to warn that a hashtag is a bigger threat to democracy than a Tory government and bravely advise that the Nationalists will continue to argue for nothing less than constitutional change.

Proof that the SNP and their supporters have stifled the debate can be seen in the appointment of an anti poverty czar who has been allowed publicly to question the government’s very own policies. This is clearly a device to trick the journalists into thinking ministers might actually want to solve society’s problems.

This is what happens in a one-party state – one party competes with only four others along with a brand new one in what is claimed to be a proportional voting system in a legal ballot with a universal franchise, including teenagers, and the one-party government closes down all news outlets apart from 25 dailies, 13 Sundays, over 100 weeklies, a national broadcaster and only one private tv station which are free to air their own opinions. Little wonder scrutiny has been halted, dissenting voices stilled.

All that is required is the removal of one devilish hashtag so democracy and normality can be restored. If the unaccountable executives of Twitter will not comply then Britain must use its powers of coercion and boycott to have the platform shut down altogether.

It is surely unacceptable for our academics to be prevented from researching and publishing papers on key issues impinging on public policy just because of a single hashtag. No one in a civilised society should live in fear of denunciation. This cancerous seed which has taken root is even leading to political division driving sensible Labour figures such as Ian Smart to commend the Tories to disgusted Scots.

Who knew when we embraced the internet and demanded superfast broadband that we would become its slaves, afraid to say what we think, cowering in the shadow of a Twitter hashtag? When Scotland’s finest journalists can no longer compete, when the public is deaf to their made-up, scoffing, partisan offerings, democracy itself is defeated. We must learn to shun the hashtag and listen instead to Alan Roden, Euan McColm, Lindsay McIntosh and David Torrance as they strive to inform us. Remember how they led us carefully through the dilemmas of the referendum with their legendary insight. Remember too how right they were in predicting so accurately the rise of the Nationalists.

Britain has fought many foes. These islands have long been the cradle and protector of civilised values. We will not, must not, shirk now in the face of a demonic Twitter hashtag. In the name of all we hold dear, in honour of our enduring Establishment debate, I implore you all – buy the newspapers and believe what you read without question. Circulation and reporters’ jobs depend on you. #Happy New Year.

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