I have a confession this morning, which is that I am not enjoying covering the Scottish referendum. I should be. All journalists live for the chance to report on great events and they don’t come more momentous than the potential break-up of the UK.
But pretty much all reporters I chatted to yesterday agreed that the level of abuse and even intimidation being meted out by some in the ‘Yes’ campaign was making this referendum a rather unpleasant experience.
And whilst I am sure both sides have been guilty, the truth - uncomfortable as it is to say it – is that most of the heckling and abuse does seem to be coming from the Nationalists.
I have been with ITN for 25 years and have covered events all over the world in that time. I’m not going to suggest that this bears comparison with really bad places, but it is certainly highly unusual in the democratic world.
For example, my first major job as a correspondent was in Ireland in the early nineties and, despite the fact that there was a bitter war going on all round me that took many lives, I experienced virtually no personal hostility at all from anyone. They didn’t lob accusations of bias around every time you asked a question either.
The essential trouble is that the ‘Yes’ campaign’s argument here is high on emotion, but short on sensible detail. I have said before and wholly stick to the view that their long-term analysis is pretty fair, save perhaps for some exaggeration of the revenue they are likely to glean from North Sea Oil.
Scotland has every chance of turning out something like Ireland, which, whilst it does currently run double the unemployment rate of Scotland, is evidently a (apart from the banking crisis) self-sufficient nation at ease with itself.
But the ‘Yes’ campaign here is about to bring its incipient nation into being based on an economic policy that would literally be laughed at if it were produced at Westminster.
Alex Salmond has barely set foot inside the House of Commons for a decade and yet on the question of a currency union he claims to know what politicians there are going to do better than they do themselves – and certainly better than all those Westminster analysts whose job it is to talk to these people and study their mindsets, day in day out. It is frankly absurd. Anyone who lived through the Euro crisis at Westminster knows that, but point it out and you are guaranteed a volley of abuse.
It is our job to test logic, analyse proposals, probe for intellectual weakness and to ask questions on behalf of our audience. We will continue to do that. The emotion is a matter for them.
But those in Scotland who are quick to abuse and see bias around every corner might want to think about the face they are showing the world. And the march on the BBC, complete with strangely well-prepared banners with Nick Robinson’s face on them was frankly rather sinister.