So I'm sitting down to write this at 4.30am, when most people in Scotland are fast asleep and will be unaware for another couple of hours that a Russian invasion of Ukraine appears to be underway. It reminds me vaguely of being half-asleep in the middle of the night, with the TV on with the sound down, when the Gulf War began in early 1991 - I think there was snow on the ground that night as well.
I think we all have to show a bit of humility and admit that we can only guess exactly what the trajectory of this story is. A family member asked me a few hours ago whether I thought this was the beginning of some sort of 'world war', and I scoffed at the idea - but, there again, almost no-one recognised the significance of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand when it happened in 1914. What I can say with a degree of confidence, however, is that whatever occurs is not going to be Alex Salmond's fault, in spite of the absurd efforts of the political and media establishment to pin the blame on him. Why is there an Alex Salmond Show on a Russian state-funded TV channel? Ultimately it's because our own London-run/London-regulated media has failed to make space for the important alternative perspective the programme represents - a perspective which has almost nothing to do with Russia, incidentally.
If that space existed, no-one would need to turn to RT and this whole question would be an irrelevance. My own personal experience chimes with that - I was interviewed on RT last year, and I must have been interviewed on Radio Sputnik somewhere between six and eight times over the years. By contrast, I've only been interviewed on Scottish/UK mainstream media three times (twice by the BBC and once by the Bauer radio network - and the latter was on the subject of poppies). That doesn't mean I'm a Russian stooge - I've simply taken the opportunities that were actually offered to me and that's how it's played out. I know other people in the pro-independence alternative media, aside from a chosen handful of regular 'safe' contributors, have encountered similar disinterest (if it's possible to encounter disinterest) from the domestic MSM. If you deny a group of people with certain beliefs a voice and a platform, then you must look to your own conscience if they're offered a different platform and you happen to disapprove of it.
For once in my life, I would actually agree with something that Boris Johnson said yesterday - that freedom of speech means that politicians should not get to decide to take TV stations off the air. Do we think, for example, that other countries would have been justified in shutting down the BBC World Service's operations at moments in history when the United Kingdom was a military aggressor - most obviously during the Suez Crisis in 1956, or during the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003? And if we don't think that, what actually is the distinction we're drawing?
I also thought it was rather unedifying to see Nicola Sturgeon and Ian Blackford trying to distance the SNP from the man who actually led the party for just under one-quarter of its existence to date. Indeed, there was only a gap of a few days between Alex Salmond ceasing to be the SNP's Foreign Affairs spokesman and Ian Blackford becoming the SNP's Westminster group leader in 2017.
Lastly, a word on what it means to be a supporter of self-determination when we look at Ukraine. It inescapably means that Ukraine has an inalienable right to independence from Russia, and that we must view President Putin's denial of Ukraine's right to exist with outrage. But it also means that Crimea and the Russian-speaking parts of eastern Ukraine have the right to leave the Ukrainian state, and even to unify with Russia, if they freely choose to do so. It's not good enough to mutter the words "territorial integrity" as if that's some sort of magic wand that makes the right of a people to self-determination disappear in a puff of smoke. That said, the exercise of self-determination is rarely, if ever, going to look like a military invasion from an external actor with its own self-interest firmly in mind.
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