AT the precise moment when Ross Greer, the Green MSP whose latest contribution to this very newspaper was published only last week, tweeted that “The National is doing more harm than good” to the Yes movement, I was standing in Aberdeen’s St Nicholas Street.

We were shivering in the pouring rain with a few enthusiastic members of the local pro-indy group, Yes Aberdeen 2, who had brought us down their gazebo for the day. It looked waterproof, but its makers had surely never envisaged the scale of the torrent we were facing.

We stayed for four hours, hoping to convince those few Aberdonians who were walking past with their heads down and hoods up to try a copy of The National and talk to us about independence. We didn’t have much luck. Our cardboard cut-out of the Wee Ginger Dug fell in a puddle and was ruined.

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Later that night, we brought along Paul Kavanagh and the real Dug to give a talk at the Blue Lamp pub around the corner. About 150 people were there and the event raised about £550 – every penny of which went to the coffers of Yes Aberdeen 2. The National team – which comprised of me, my wife Laura who had taken a day’s leave off her work to help out, and Stephen Paton our digital editor – had left Glasgow at around 7.30am and by the time we arrived home it was 1.30am.

The National:

That’s it – that’s what The National is. Altogether, we’re a small team of about 10 or 12 like-minded people who support independence and put in a lot of time and effort to put together this newspaper – which we believe is an invaluable asset to our movement.

A newspaper can help give the independence cause legitimacy. It normalises the idea of independence. It gets the case on to BBC newspaper round-ups. It can provide a platform for voices in the mainstream media – Paul Kavanagh, Cat Boyd, Carolyn Leckie, Michael Fry – that wouldn’t otherwise get an airing. We splash the latest reports from Common Weal’s White Paper Project on our front page and on two pages inside, and they’re seen by hundreds of thousands on social media. Common Weal, criminally, can’t even get a look-in in any other paper.

As far as I can gather, Ross Greer’s complaints about The National seem to be as follows. First, we published a letter a couple of months ago which argued that only people born in Scotland should be able to vote in elections. Now, of course, we fundamentally disagree with this position – this newspaper has consistently argued how disgraceful it is that EU nationals living in this country are not allowed to vote in UK elections. And sure enough, in the following day’s edition of the paper, many of our readers – as we knew they would – wrote in to tell the letter writer why they thought he was wrong. This is how views like that get challenged, and then changed.

By publishing this single letter, we’ve been accused of promoting “ethno-nationalism”. The National is, in fact, in almost a running battle with the Home Office over immigration cases. We were the first to highlight the case of the Brain family in the Highlands and played no small part in them being allowed to stay. Our reporter Kirsteen Paterson just won a Refugee Festival Scotland media award for a front page story we published on an assistant nurse from the Republic of Congo who was denied British citizenship. Anyone who actually reads us knows we’re a consistent champion for anybody who wants to make Scotland their home.

Ross Greer also took issue with one of our front pages. From the beginning, we always knew we wanted to take risks with the covers which, with our limited marketing budget, would be our principal way of getting people to notice this new newspaper we were launching. We’ve done more than 800 now. Along with a couple of missteps, there have been many, many more memorable, eye-catching and agenda-setting front pages.

Just a few weeks ago, our report on the space industry led to countless arguments on Twitter about whether an independent Scotland could have a thriving space sector. Suddenly, we all knew that Glasgow builds more satellites than any other city in Europe, and that Scotland is home to 18 per cent of jobs in the UK space industry. That’s good – but without the eye-catching front page, would anyone have noticed?

But look, even if you don’t agree with everything I’ve just said, and you think we were wrong to print that letter and occasionally publish a story about the Scottish Resistance and really don’t like some of the front pages we’ve done … is that enough, out of nearly three years and 807 editions and tens of thousands of stories we’ve published, to possibly conclude that The National is doing “more harm than good” to the Yes movement?


ONE of the oddest contradictions of the last election campaign came from the people who said that a large march in support of independence in the final week before the vote was “unhelpful” and that they’d much rather those in attendance were out knocking on doors instead. At the same time, the consensus was that Jeremy Corbyn had run an enthusiastic, vibrant campaign by mostly – yes – addressing huge rallies of his supporters, who presumably couldn’t be simultaneously canvassing in their neighbourhoods while also gathered in their thousands to see him. Perhaps, we wondered, if Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP machine had got involved in the Glasgow march for independence there could have been 100,000 people there, and the hundreds of thousands of SNP voters who weren’t inspired enough to turn out to vote this time might have thought otherwise.

But then, perhaps not. The point is, nobody can say for sure. The very nature of a broad, grassroots movement means you’re part of something alongside people you disagree with. You’ll disagree on strategy. You’ll disagree on what we should be doing, and what we shouldn’t. Sometimes you’ll disagree quite vehemently. But The National can’t possibly look at everything it publishes and weigh up whether there’s a chance it might “harm the Yes movement” before deciding to print it. Because who gets to decide that? The whole point of a broad-based movement is that it contains voices and opinions we disagree with. It’s up to us to challenge voices we disagree with, not shut them down.

I offered Ross Greer the opportunity to write 800 words for the paper on why he thought The National, which has run a regular Friday column by a Green MSP every week since we launched, was in fact the Yes movement’s version of the Daily Express, and why he thought our readers were “just enough zoomers to make it financially viable”. He ignored my messages, but the offer still stands.

Our movement is at a crossroads. A lot of people are unsure about what to do next. But there’ll be one constant: every day in the newsstands, on our website, and in your social media feeds we’ll be continuing to make the case for independence, by offering pro-indy writers, concepts, ideas and arguments a place they wouldn’t have otherwise. We’ve had a tough period, sales-wise, since the General Election, and we’ll only be around as long as we’re economically viable. I wonder who really is doing the Yes movement more harm than good.