Abuse of journalist ‘atypical’, former independence campaign chief says

Blair Jenkins, who headed up Yes Scotland, said the abuse directed towards James Cook on Tuesday evening is ‘atypical’ in Scotland.

17 August 2022

The former head of Yes Scotland has said abuse directed at a BBC journalist outside of the Tory leadership hustings in Perth on Tuesday was “atypical” of the way political debate was conducted in Scotland.

BBC Scotland editor James Cook was abused by pro-independence protesters in Perth on Tuesday.

Mr Jenkins headed up the Yes campaign between 2012 and 2014 and appealed to viewers to “agree on the positives” and argued it was a minority of people who behaved in a threatening or abusive way.

SNP annual conference 2012
Blair Jenkins, former chief executive of Yes Scotland (Danny Lawson/PA)

“Well, I think let’s agree on the positives if you like and that is: we are better than this.

“We are better than what we saw last night,” he said.

“I think people in all sides of the debate have rightly condemned what happened last night.

“I think it’s atypical, it is not typical of the way we conduct ourselves in Scotland.

The former campaign chief argued that political debate in Scotland was “conducted properly”.

He added: “We’re quite fortunate in Scotland. On the whole, the vast majority of times.

“The vast majority of people, things have been conducted properly up here.

“The timing of this is quite important.

“What happened on Tuesday night?

“Let’s let’s use it positively.

“I think as we approach the coming referendum, I think both sides should be very, very clear on the fact that the debate should be conducted with civility, with courtesy, with respect.

“We can do that.

“We did it last time.

“The Electoral Commission said it was a model for all future UK referendums.”

However, head of Scotland In Union, Pamela Nash, questioned how long it took for the actions to be condemned.

She said she could not recall “anything at the scale of last night coming from the pro UK side directed towards nationalists”.

The protestors targeting Mr Cook were identified as a minority, however, Ms Nash disputed this.

She said: “I don’t think it was just at the fringes of it.

“The videos I saw of it was crowds chanting at people as they were walking in things that I wouldn’t repeat on national television, in fact, nor a peaceful, calm, protest.

“What Blair was saying, sounds very reasonable and he doesn’t want to hear from our side making out this is an uneven problem.

“I will find that to be any fear because what the SNP/Yes campaign is divisive in it’s nature.

“It’s trying to debate the UK and it’s trying to debate Scots into two and that is the nature of referendum and this is the most divisive referendum of all.”

Mr Jenkins then accused Ms Nash of “making political capital” out of the incident on Tuesday evening and urged viewers to agree protest has boundaries and parameters.

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