SO, let me see if I’ve got this right... Messers Angus Robertson, Stewart McDonald MP and Alyn Smith MEP have in no uncertain terms condemned the online behaviour of some purported SNP members – in consequence, some of those purported members have decided to resign their assumed membership.

Angus Robertson is quoted as saying: “This can’t go on. People can’t go on thinking they can sit in front of their keyboards and do nothing but send abuse to people they don’t agree with. You wouldn’t do it in public, you’d be thrown out of a pub for doing it, you’d never do it at a family event, why on Earth would you do it online?”

In real life, would anyone accept a salesperson unleashing a torrent of abuse in response to your choice of product being other than their promotion? Moreover, would their employer tolerate such behaviour towards a potential client?

During my career as a union officer I dealt with many cases of gross professional conduct, and prime among such cases were that of bringing the company into disrepute, ie behaviour that paints the company in a poor light thus alienating existing or potential customers. The same principle applies to political party membership, as in any collective – no matter a member’s frustration on a matter, their actions shouldn’t bring the collective into disrepute.

Personally, I’m sceptical of the quoted numbers of abusive SNP members on social media, especially as anonymity allows anyone to purport to be anything they choose, including false membership of political parties. However, I do accept there are some among us less temperate than the course of cordial debate would expect.

I’d aver there’s simple solutions to the issue. The @theSNP’s fact-checking and rebuttal service must up its game in several areas.

Although I note an increase in tweeted rebuttals over the past few days, in the period leading up to May 6, 2019, the service had tweeted just 29 times – whereas the opposition parties had unleashed a tsunami of SNP disinformation across social media, inter alia broadband (reserved), tax; employment law (reserved); hospital infection rates etc, in apparent confidence that only SNP members would attempt to rebut, rather than the party itself.

The paucity of rebuttals, I’d aver, is directly correlated to the number of folks the service follows, which is currently one! That being @theSNP.

Michael Corleone in The Godfather said: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Leaving councils out of the equation, the SNP face 94 opposition MSPs and 614 opposition MPs. For the rebuttal service to have any credible function, it’s arguable keeping just one friend close and 708 opposition MSP/MPs at a distance needs to change and that change needs to be swift. We’re in uncertain times politically and can be sure the opposition parties will want to exploit that uncertainty.

The service must also increase its presence within the SNP membership. The SNP’s main account follows 1666 and has 224,400 followers, compared to just 4840 following @SNPMedia.

With just 4840 followers, it comes as no surprise that some members, in absence of fact, play the person rather than the ball when challenging the opposition. I fully understand the frustration (but not the abuse) – however, an effective fact-checking service should provide members with the tools with which to rebut false information sans ad hominem attacks.

Messers Angus Robertson, Stewart McDonald MP and Alyn Smith MEP were absolutely right to bring the issues of online abuse to the fore of our thinking and without pulling their punches. Some suggest their terms of reference – “cowards”, “weird”, “creepy”, “snarling”, “vicious”, “poisonous” and “vile” – were unpalatable ... to my mind, not as unpalatable as being the precipitant of such abuse?
Piers Doughty-Brown

WHO are the cybernats? Only the writers themselves know their true identities and their real objectives, the rest of us have to guess whether it is a genuine but obnoxious supporter who believes in a cause or a bogus supporter who believes that people can be turned against a cause by means of fraudulent, obnoxious comments.
John Jamieson
South Queensferry