The SNP's suspension of Grouse Beater is of special interest to me, because like him I'm a pro-independence blogger who also happens to be an ordinary member of the SNP. Bloggers are self-evidently at far greater risk than the average person of having a statement cynically misconstrued, or even of being caught out making an honest slip, and it would be nice to think that a fair and transparent process would at least apply before the SNP takes drastic disciplinary action in such circumstances. If that's not the case there's a danger that we would all begin to self-censor to avoid finding ourselves suspended. It would obviously be unhealthy if membership of a political party became incompatible with freedom of speech.
I first became concerned about this problem many, many years ago when Jeff Breslin of SNP Tactical Voting (at the time the most popular SNP-supporting blog) revealed inside information about postal vote returns, not realising that he was technically breaking the law. It was a totally honest mistake, and he very nobly resigned his SNP membership to avoid any damage to the party. I was a bit shocked and depressed that SNP spokespeople were all too quick to distance themselves from Jeff and to portray him as an embarrassing wrongdoer who was no longer associated with the party. In my opinion it would have been far more appropriate to pay tribute to the honourable actions of someone who (at least at the time) had done a lot of good for the party, albeit in an unofficial role. But we were left in no doubt that, when push comes to shove, SNP bloggers are utterly expendable.
We've seen the same sad process play out over the last day or two, with a tweet from Humza Yousaf that very strongly implies that Grouse Beater is guilty of anti-semitism, and that action has been taken against him to "stamp out" anti-semitism within the SNP. The actual position is that it remains to seen whether his blogpost will be deemed to be anti-semitic, and that for now he has merely been suspended pending an investigation. It's troubling that this crucial point is being regarded in some quarters as a meaningless technicality, and that the suspension is perceived as a "punishment" for guilt that is already presumed. It was precisely that mindset that led to Michelle Thomson's political career being unjustly ruined.
I must say that the version of Grouse Beater's blogpost that is currently online is manifestly not anti-semitic. It can't possibly be, because it specifically praises Rhea Wolfson for her stance against anti-semitism. I gather that may not be the original version of the post, and if the screenshot I've seen is accurate, the original wording is more ambiguous. Some people have asked: "Well, if he didn't mean that, what could he have possibly meant?" To which there are several possible answers. Assuming the worst possible interpretation doesn't seem to be consistent with the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty'. It's also been asked: "What is the reference to Hitler doing there, then? Are you saying it's totally random? Hmmm? Hmmm?" The problem with that argument is that there are other seemingly random and elliptical references in the blogpost as well, such as to the film On The Waterfront. But it seems that randomness and ambiguity don't need to be explained away if the worst possible motivation can't be ascribed to them.
What should happen from here is that the investigation should proceed, it should be fair and not have a predetermined outcome, and Grouse Beater's explanation of his intent in writing the controversial paragraph should be listened to and considered with the seriousness it warrants. In the meantime, he should be given the respect he deserves by the SNP leadership, and not subjected to a premature kicking, no matter how politically expedient that would be.