Wings Over Scotland

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Wings Over Scotland
Type of site
Blog
Created byStuart Campbell
EditorStuart Campbell
Revenue£700,000[1]
URLwingsoverscotland.com
CommercialNo
Launched2011
Current statusActive

Wings Over Scotland is a pro-Scottish independence blog by Scottish video game journalist Stuart Campbell. It was launched in November 2011 with the stated aim of providing a "fair and honest perspective on Scottish politics" with a pro-independence slant.

The blog is known for its challenge to traditional media and successful use of crowdfunding, along with its controversial reporting style described as "somewhere between Gonzo and WWE" by then-STV columnist Stephen Daisley.[2] Kevin McKenna of The Observer praised Campbell as someone who "doesn’t retreat and gets into fights with everyone", adding "Newspapers used to be like that too. I like his style",[3] whereas Daily Record editor Murray Foote called the site "A world of conspiracy theories, hatred and paranoia", representing "a brand of nationalism that seeks to peddle falsehoods and unfounded allegations against anyone who isn't a believer. It is nasty, sewage politics that debases public life."[4] In October 2015, the then-leader of Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told The Scotsman newspaper: "My dad will see something on Wings Over Scotland and post it. For him, it is as relevant a source as the Financial Times".[5]

In April 2016, Wings attracted over 250,000 readers a month.[6][7] It has raised in excess of £700,000[8][9][10] since 2013 in a series of crowdfunding initiatives to fund its work.[1]

History[edit]

Wings Over Scotland was founded in 2011 by Bath-based video game journalist Stuart Campbell. On The Scottish Independence Podcast in October 2013, he said he "got fed up of just shouting at the TV when Newsnight Scotland was on".[11]

In August 2014, one month before the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, The Wee Blue Book, a 72-page book written by Campbell, was published. Within a month, the digital edition had been downloaded 550,000 times,[12] in addition to 300,000 printed copies being distributed across Scotland.[13]

In August 2015, a Kidderminster woman was fined more than £320 after pleading guilty to shoplifting a pack of chocolate bars valued at 75p; in her plea of mitigation, she claimed that after her benefits were sanctioned, hunger had led her to steal.[14] Campbell saw the story online and set out to raise £500 on her behalf.[15] Within the first day £12,000 had been donated.[16][17] In total, the appeal raised over £16,000 and attracted significant media coverage. The woman subsequently asked that the £500 be donated to two women's charities. The remainder was then donated to a number of Scottish anti-poverty charities.[18]

In October 2015, Campbell was fined £750 by the Electoral Commission for "failing to submit the necessary invoices and receipts after registering as an official yes campaigner during the independence referendum".[1]

In August 2017, Campbell was arrested, questioned and bailed on suspicion of harassment and malicious communications against an unnamed person.[19] The Metropolitan Police announced at the beginning of November 2017 that after investigation Campbell had been cleared[20] and released without charge. Campbell described the events as "an insane, ridiculous farce".[21]

In July 2018, the Wings Over Scotland YouTube channel was shut down (along with that of another user, Peter Curran) after copyright complaints from the BBC about short clips from its news and current affairs programmes.[22] A few days later, following an intervention by Alex Salmond to the BBC's Director General, Tony Hall,[23] the channel was reinstated[24] and the BBC announced a decision to review its copyright policies.[25]

In December 2019, Wings Over Scotland's Twitter account was permanently suspended for alleged violations of the platform's rules against hateful conduct.[26] In May 2020, Twitter permanently suspended two more of Campbell's Twitter accounts, including his personal one, for alleged violations of the platform's rules against hateful conduct, platform manipulation and spam. In response, Campbell denied having broken any of Twitter's rules and accused Twitter of ideologically-motivated censorship, calling the platform "an unaccountable and unelected foreign corporation serving the interests of a massive right-wing pharmacological lobby".[27]

Campbell announced the effective closure of Wings on 12 May 2021, the day after fellow pro-independence blogger Craig Murray was sentenced to eight months in jail.[28] In a retrospective, the New Statesman said that the blog had "irrevocably transformed online politics in Britain".[29]

Launching a scathing attack at the SNP and the Scottish Greens, Campbell spoke of his frustration at Holyrood having a pro-independence majority after the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, "but no will to do anything with it". He also warned in his post: "We're entering a long period of darkness for the Yes movement. I hope we get through it."[30] Four months later, however, Campbell said the site would return if Nicola Sturgeon resigned as First Minister.[31]

Campbell announced in September 2021 that he was turning Wings into a polling organisation, using the "Wings Fighting Fund" to do it.[32]

Controversies[edit]

Hillsborough disaster[edit]

Comments made by Campbell on the blog in 2012 relating to the Hillsborough disaster caused controversy[33] by suggesting that Liverpool F.C. fans "were to blame because they, alone, were the ones who pushed and thereby caused the crush". Later Campbell said: "I stand absolutely by the stuff that I've written about Hillsborough".[6]

Alex Johnstone[edit]

During the latter stages of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Campbell described Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone as a liar and "fat troughing scum", causing Johnstone to complain: "If describing an MSP as a 'fat, troughing scum' is your idea of a well-made argument or a clever way to debunk myths, then the standard of our national debate really has fallen into disrepair".[34] Campbell stated that the comments were reported out of context and were an isolated instance, and that he would apologise when Johnstone apologised for his personal attack on pro-independence donors Chris and Colin Weir which had provoked Campbell's remarks.[35]

Defamation lawsuit[edit]

In March 2017, Kezia Dugdale used her Daily Record column to allege[36] that Campbell had posted "homophobic tweets" involving the Conservative MSP Oliver Mundell and his father, MP David Mundell, who is gay.[37] Campbell's tweet read "Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his dad had embraced his homosexuality sooner". Campbell sued her for defamation, seeking damages of £25,000.[38] Campbell lost the case in April 2019,[39] with the Sheriff concluding that, while Campbell's comment was not homophobic and he was not a homophobe, Dugdale's remarks constituted fair comment and "were not motivated by malice, but by a genuine perception that the tweet represented an insult to homosexual people, and was homophobic".[40] In his judgement, the Sheriff said he did not believe Campbell had suffered any hardship and had he been minded to award any damages the sum would have been £100[41] rather than the £25,000 sought by Campbell.

Campbell unsuccessfully appealed in May 2020, although the three appeal court judges again found that Dugdale's comments had been "a straightforward direct defamatory statement"[42] and that "It is not now disputed that the article was, in its reference to the pursuer as homophobic, defamatory". The appeal court also increased the notional value of damages by 50 times, from £100 to £5000, but nevertheless upheld Dugdale's "fair comment" defence.[43] Reflecting on Campbell's comment and the court case in July 2021, David Mundell told the House of Commons: "I am pleased to say that he [Campbell] lost. I regard that as a victory", adding "I remain particularly grateful to Kez for her support."[44]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Carrell, Severin (27 October 2015). "Watchdog fines pro-independence blogger Wings Over Scotland". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  2. ^ Daisley, Stephen (20 June 2014). "Analysis: Wings over Scotland and changing face of Scottish media". STV News. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  3. ^ McKenna, Kevin (30 March 2014). "More power to Glasgow's online journalists". The Observer. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  4. ^ Foote, Murray (25 February 2015). "Wings Over Scotland website fuels hatred and paranoia". Daily Record. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  5. ^ Garavelli, Dani (24 October 2015). "Kezia Dugdale interview: 'I just have my gut instinct'". The Scotsman. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b Hutcheon, Paul (20 July 2014). "'The bottom line is I don't particularly care if people don't want to be associated with us'". The Sunday Herald. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  7. ^ Geoghegan, Peter (21 April 2016). "The End of the Scottish Press?". London Review of Books. 38 (8). Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  8. ^ Kane, Pat (2016-05-21). "Pat Kane: Our thriving new media landscape needs your cash to keep up its work". The National. Retrieved 2016-07-18.
  9. ^ Morris, Bridget (4 June 2017). "Wings Over Scotland raises £140,000 as fundraising target is smashed". The National.
  10. ^ "Wings Over Scotland: The Final Countdown". 6 March 2018. Archived from the original on 6 March 2018.
  11. ^ Greenwell, Michael (2013). "ScotIndyPod 20: Rev. Stuart Campbell". Spreaker.com. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  12. ^ Bryant, Ben (11 September 2014). "Cybernat Campbell: The Blogger Trying to Break Up Britain". Vice News. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  13. ^ Gray, Michael (15 September 2015). "Corbyn will fail for same reason Yes did not win". The National. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Reverend Stuart Campbell raises £11k for woman fined for stealing pack of Mars Bars". Western Daily Press. 15 August 2015. Archived from the original on 17 August 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  15. ^ Chakelian, Anoosh (17 August 2015). "Donations roll in as a woman with no money for food is fined £328 for shoplifting a Mars bar". New Statesman. Retrieved 4 May 2016.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ "Campaign raises £13,000 for woman fined £328 over Mars bars theft". ITV News. 17 August 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  17. ^ Armour, Robert (18 August 2015). "Crowdfunding raises £15k for starving shoplifter". Third Force News. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  18. ^ "What you did". Wings Over Scotland. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  19. ^ Carrell, Severin (22 August 2017). "Wings over Scotland blogger arrested for alleged harassment". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  20. ^ Carrell, Severin (1 November 2017). "Wings Over Scotland blogger cleared of online harassment" – via www.theguardian.com.
  21. ^ McCafferty, Ross (1 November 2017). "Wings over Scotland slams 'farcical' arrest". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  22. ^ "BBC criticised over YouTube channel closure". BBC News. 1 August 2018.
  23. ^ Forsdick, Sam (2 August 2018). "Alex Salmond hits out at BBC after pro-Scottish independence videos taken off YouTube over use of news excerpts". Press Gazette.
  24. ^ Williams, Martin (3 August 2018). "Wings over Scotland YouTube channel reopens as BBC reviews copyright enforcement". The Herald.
  25. ^ The Newsroom (2 August 2018). "BBC to review YouTube policy following Wings Over Scotland row". The Scotsman.
  26. ^ Herald Scotland Online (18 December 2019). "Wings Over Scotland permanently banned from Twitter for 'violations of Hateful Conduct Policy'". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  27. ^ Marlborough, Conor (7 May 2020). "Twitter bans Stuart Campbell's Wings Over Scotland accounts". The Scotsman.
  28. ^ Amery, Rachel (13 May 2021). "What does jailing of Craig Murray and end of Wings Over Scotland mean for political bloggers?". The Courier.
  29. ^ Hames, Scott; Hinde, Dominic (18 May 2021). "The rise and fall of Wings over Scotland". New Statesman.
  30. ^ Marlborough, Conor (12 May 2021). "'Wings is over': Stuart Campbell announces end of controversial independence blog". The Scotsman. Retrieved 13 September 2021.
  31. ^ Leask, David (26 September 2021). "I'll return if Sturgeon's ousted, says Stuart Campbell in 'final' post". The Times. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  32. ^ "Wings over Scotland launches 'final fundraiser' as blog set to close".
  33. ^ Record Reporter (27 April 2016). "Wings Over Scotland blogger blames Liverpool fans for Hillsborough tragedy". Daily Record.
  34. ^ Gardham, Magnus (19 June 2014). "Yes campaign distances itself from controversial website". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  35. ^ Campbell, Stuart (19 June 2014). "The Missing Questions". Wings Over Scotland.
  36. ^ "Wings Over Scotland demands £10k over Kezia Dugdale column". The Scotsman. 18 May 2017.
  37. ^ Grant, Jackie (6 May 2016). "Mundell and Carson lead Tory charge as Dumfries and Galloway bucks trend". Daily Record.
  38. ^ Hutcheon, Paul (23 July 2017). "Wings Over Scotland increases defamation claim against Kezia Dugdale to £25,000". The Herald.
  39. ^ "Judgement details" (PDF). www.scotcourts.gov.uk. 16 April 2019. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  40. ^ "Fair comment defence saved erroneous "homophobic" Dugdale libel: The Journal Online". www.journalonline.co.uk.
  41. ^ https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-source/cos-general-docs/pdf-docs-for-opinions/2019scedin32.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  42. ^ https://wingsoverscotland.com/of-no-materiality/
  43. ^ "Wings over Scotland blogger loses Kezia Dugdale 'homophobic tweet' appeal". bbc.co.uk. 27 May 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  44. ^ "Pride Month - Thursday 1 July 2021 - Hansard - UK Parliament". hansard.parliament.uk.