Is Wings broken? Not a grammatical error; Wings Over Scotland is singular, in every sense. It’s a single-minded solo effort, the ideas of one man: Stuart Campbell. Many people sympathetic to independence will have read – and possibly been inspired by – the website.
In 2014, as one of many activists, I was out chapping doors and running street stalls, campaigning for a YES vote. We were almost comically happy-clappy with our upbeat message of Imagine a Better Scotland. Still, nothing wrong with accentuating the positive. We did, at least, help make Glasgow a YES city.
Meanwhile, the unionist case was a getting a real doing online from Wings. Campbell was brilliant, destroying the NO side’s half-truths, dodgy statistics and empty promises. His articles were forensically researched and meticulously written to thwart unionist arguments. He was merciless in his pursuit of the politicians, press and media who’d been used to dominating Scotland’s public discourse.
Thousands flocked to pro-indy sites to get alternative views rather than the orthodox attitudes rife in the mainstream media. After a day’s campaigning, it was a tonic to read Wings’ excoriating correctives of Project Fear.
What’s more, Stuart single-handedly produced the powerful Wee Blue Book. It set out the political and economic case for Scotland gaining independence. Crowd-funded, close to a million online and hard free copies were distributed across the country. It went off the shelves like hot cakes. said Alex Salmond. We handed them out from our stalls to help convince waverers.
After the great loss of our 2014 battle, Wings, in tune with other sites and the movement itself, ramped up the keyboard war. With a stream of posts (and tweets till Twitter banned him), Campbell persevered, sharpening his attacks on unionist parties and press. He also fought a fruitless libel case against Kezia Dugdale.
But for the past year or so, Wings has shifted its aim to another target: the leadership of, and certain factions within, the SNP.
Many in the pro-indy movement are impatient with the leadership’s cautious approach. But Stuart goes further. He now wants nothing less than the removal of Nicola Sturgeon and her team.
A post from last month epitomises his call to the FM: Shut up, you useless waste of space… get off your worthless coward’s arse and do the only thing that’s actually in your power – a plebiscitary election – instead of grandstanding around the world stage, achieving absolutely sod-all.
It’s hard to see how Wings’ once mighty blows against the Tories, the BBC and the press will hit home during the next referendum, when so much vitriol is being poured on those who are supposed to be on the same side.
For some, he’s already gone too far. One young friend told me: I used to read Wings avidly, but he’s become a bitter old transphobe. Campbell refutes such criticism, quoting his traffic numbers – more visits to Wings than all other pro-indy bloggers put together.
I still visit the site, but I must say that Stuart’s attacks on the NO side feel a bit toothless compared to the old days. His timing seems even more amiss. Independence support is at a record high, so are Sturgeon’s ratings, while the unionists are in a total mess. Is this friendly fire becoming more of a threat to the independence cause than the increasingly threadbare whining from the unionists?
Next time, the desperate NO camp will throw everything at us. We’ll need a sharp rebuttal force. Is it too late to get our old Wings back?
by Paul Bassett, Glasgow, 25 January 2021
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