MULTIPLE Scottish independence groups, activists, and politicians have renewed the call for an activist code of conduct after a journalist received abuse from protestors and derogatory banners appeared at the Tory hustings in Perth on Tuesday.
The group stated: “Decency, respect, democracy, and the vision to build a better nation for all are the foundations of the civic Yes movement. Those who use our movement as an excuse to be abusive online or in person are as big a barrier to independence as those who deny democracy.
“We need a code of conduct for the civic Yes movement, one that sets out our values and distances us from those who harm us.”
At the upcoming SNP conference in October, a resolution is being considered which “supports the adoption of a code of conduct” in campaigning for independence. It would be “built on the principles of freedom, tolerance, equality, the protection of individual and community rights and the rejection of prejudice and discrimination in any form”.
The proposed code of conduct is a cross-group, cross-party document. The draft has had input from politicians including SNP president Michael Russell and Green MSPs Maggie Chapman and Ross Greer.
It also has the support of groups such as Socialists for Independence, Bella Caledonia, the Aberdeen Independence Movement, English Scots for Yes, the Radical Independence Campaign, and Women for Independence.
Alan Petrie, organiser of the Aberdeen Independence Movement, told The National: “The code of conduct sets out what we are as a movement, democratic, respectful and civic. It lays the foundation for a better nation. We build that better nation with decency and respect, not setting it on fire with abuse.
“Some use independence as an excuse to be abusive, just like some use football as an excuse to be abusive. In reality, they don’t really care about winning independence. To them, abuse and self-entertainment come above all else.”
Petrie added: “The small group who embarrassed us last night are no more representative of the mainstream civic Yes movement than those who rioted in George Square on September 19, 2014 are representative of those who support the Union.
“All movements across the world have extreme fringes. How we deal with ours defines us, and we must never let our civic Yes movement be defined by those who offer nothing but abuse and bile. Let’s build our movement on the strong foundations representing the better nation we all seek. Decency, respect & equality.”
Toni Giugliano, a signatory of the resolution and the SNP’s policy development convener, urged SNP groups to consider who they campaign alongside, and what message campaigners need to send to fringe groups.
“I think that the events that unfolded in Perth last night shows that there is a need for a code of conduct. Ultimately, we need to send a really strong message to our opponents, to our supporters and to the country that we take a 0% tolerance stance on this behaviour, and we take it seriously.
“I would urge SNP groups to consider carefully who they are associating themselves with locally.”
Giugliano pointed to the 2014 campaign’s inclusivity and stated that it is something the movement must remind itself on.
He said: “People are right to be angry and frustrated at those in Westminster who are denying democracy and who are failing to protect the most vulnerable, but we need to go back to the roots of the 2014 campaign. We created the most diverse, inclusive, and progressive campaign that Scotland had ever seen and one that we can be proud of.
“We’ve spent decades creating this movement and succeeding in building up support for independence. This ugly and toxic disruption sets us back.”
Keith Rae, the Equalities officer for Young Scots for Independece, said he was not surprised by last nights display, but was taken aback by the numbers.
Rae said: “When I first saw the banners I thought ‘Get that away’ and then as I saw the claims coming out from how Tory members were treated, I thought it was just horrfic.
“Unionist media have the chance to pigeonhole our movement with this behaviour and we can’t let them. I believe it is important to create structural differentitation between the mainstream progressive and respectful groups and the fringe groups who are the abusive types.
“For the upcoming campaign we need to create a safe place for discussion and be able to encourage people to get involved without the fear of harrassment.”
Karen Adam, SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, called on Unionist parties to meet independence campaigners halfway and ask for parallel action within their own campaigning groups. Adams also applauded the Scottish organisations paving the way for the introduction of a code.
She said: “Introducing a code of conduct is a really positive initiative to promote in Scottish and UK politics. It’s something all political parties and organisations should promptly consider. We have all witnessed the polarisation of political discussion and debate become increasingly hostile, both online and in person.
“The treatment of James Cook yesterday was disgraceful and should not be tolerated. That’s why this work is necessary and shows no side of the political debate is exempt from characters from unsavoury fringes of the spectrum lowering the standards.
“It’s now over to the British Nationalist parties and organisations to follow our lead of promoting respectful participation in politics, particularly when just weeks ago the UK’s Education Minister was seen on camera giving the middle finger to members of the public.”
The renewed call for a code of conduct follows Nicola Sturgeon describing the abuse BBC journalist James Cook received at Tuesday night’s Tory hustings as “disgraceful”.