The Democrat will not be gagged

Council can’t keep everything under wraps in the recently renovated Burgh Hall.  Picture by Bill Heaney


It’s Monday morning and I am mystified. Mystified as to why the SNP and West Dunbartonshire Council have decided to boycott and ban The Dumbarton Democrat.

In local parlance, it mirrors a football team, which is being comprehensively beaten, picking up the ball and calling off the match, which has become no contest.

For them the game’s a bogey, the ba’s burst and they can hunt their shadows for all they are worth.

Tackling the SNP and the Council has, for The Democrat, been like taking penalty kicks into an empty goal, or shooting fish in a barrel.

And it will go on like that until they wake up and show some spirited resistance.

We refuse to be gagged. The SNP claim that when The Democrat carries stories that reflect badly on them, they are published unchallenged without their side of the story.

This is farcical because when we ask them for their side of the story or to provide a rebuttal they reach for the B words – ban and boycott.

I have tried to tell them time and again that journalism is a trade which asks questions on behalf of the public and then publishes them.

That there is still freedom of the press in this democracy.

Edmund Burke may be dead but his dictum that ‘yonder sits the Fourth Estate’ lives on into the 21st century.

We are all equal and there are not some who are more equal than others.

There is a saying that news is something somebody somewhere does not want to see published, and that all the rest is merely advertising.

In the ongoing debate on this vexed question, Jonathan McColl, the leader of the Council, which is SNP controlled, albeit on the back of a piece of political horse-trading, has been compared to Donald Trump.

Not by some keyboard warrior on a stupid rant, but by a long established and highly respected political correspondent, who worked for many years in the national press.

Cllr McColl is one of the emerging band of politicians who have resorted to calling the media an enemy of the people, especially the SNP people.

The media are fighting back, however, both here and in America.

Newspapers and media platforms will be launching a concerted fightback on Thursday.

Led by the 146-year-old Boston Globe, the free press will carry editorials to challenge Trump’s fake newsmongers mantra.

The liberal-leaning Globe has a history of ground-breaking journalism – its investigation into Catholic church child abuse was the subject of the movie Spotlight.

But against a backdrop of 1800 local newspapers closures in 15 years in the US, and hundreds more here in the UK, there is a real fear that anti-press rants are hitting home, undermining faith in the media, threatening its existence.

The Council (and the SNP government) opt for mediums they can control, friendly community magazines where their spin doctored media releases go unchallenged.

Cllr McColl becomes angry when the deficiencies in his policies are exposed in the real media and has even resorted to calling his opponents liars, something he has had to apologise publicly for.

Meanwhile, some of his colleagues, think it’s acceptable to sit there smirking while all this is going on.

Democratically elected public representatives are scorned for attempting to put the opposition case.

They are derided when they attempt to speak truth to power.

What chance does the media have in what’s been called a “dirty war against a free press”?

The Democrat is not the enemy of the people. We will not be gagged.

The Council and the government stripped away the finance that supported the press, particularly the local press, when they stopped advertising public notices and the like in local weekly newspapers.

Despite appeals for them to rethink this policy, the SNP have stuck rigidly to it, nationally and locally.

A consequence of this is that a large number of people are deprived of sight of planning notices, licensing board notifications and a plethora of other important public notices.

These people are those in this community who are not IT literate, thousands of them.

The Democrat has appealed to its readers from the outset to print the stories we publish and pass them on to people who don’t have computers or do not have access to them.

Apart from possibly in local public libraries which have just seen their opening hours cut and the staff reduced in yet another round of SNP austerity cuts.

In Scotland, it’s not just The Democrat that is being branded the “enemy of the people”.

Jeremy Corbyn activists, angry at what they see as right-wing bias, launched #BBCswitchoff calling for a Friday night boycott of the station.

Media websites tell us that by the time it was trending at No1, the message had become confused, with some right-wing groups hijacking the hashtag to protest against BBC left wingers.

Pro-independence campaigners in Scotland also seized on #BBCswitchoff chipping in with their own #ScotlandCalling – shades of Lord Haw, Haw in that name –  a Tweet for a rally outside the BBC headquarters at Pacific Quay, against what they claimed was anti-independence bias.

It trended at No7 in the UK and, in the end, 200 turned out to wave flags at the front door of the building.

All this was reported on the BBC’s website.

It would seem that, according to Twitter’s keyboard warriors, the BBC is biased against the left, the right – and Scotland, of course.

Meanwhile, The Democrat, is determined to keep going whether the Council or the SNP boycott and ban us or not.  Sign up now at


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