Blog: Stephen Gethins: ‘We can’t fall into the same trap of Brexit disinformation’ – The National

Stephen Gethins, a professor of practice in international relations, has said self-determination will mean Scotland has to take its security and that of its neighbours much more seriously.

In the video, released exclusively by The National online today, Gethins says other countries such as Norway are paying close attention to what plans are being drawn up by Scotland to enhance security relationships with countries nearby and we must not cower away from challenging discussions about this.

It is the third in an ongoing series of quickfire clips produced in partnership with writer and columnist Alistair Heather which collectively aim to deter fake news from damaging the independence effort.

In the video, Gethins says: “Independence is going to make us more secure. It’s going to make us more secure because we need to take seriously our military alliances and our responsibilities to our neighbours in terms of military hardware, but also in terms of what we provide in broader security means like energy and food and drink as well. Just across the water in Norway, they think about what Scotland is going to do with independence.

“When we talk about security we’re not just talking about Scotland’s security, we’re talking about the security of all of our neighbours, and that’s been underlined with Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, whereby Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, all these countries that are similar to Scotland are taking their security relationships with their fellow countries really seriously, and we have to do the same.”

Gethins said joining both NATO and the EU – what he calls the “twin pillars” of European security – and the European single market would allow Scotland to enjoy wealth from renewables but also contribute to European energy security through some of the hydrocarbons it still has. And in bringing down customs barriers, Scotland could make huge contributions to food security as well, he claims.

Gethins said Scotland cannot avoid being a security actor in Europe and does not want to see independence campaigners fall into the same trap as Brexiteers by running away from difficult questions about it.

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He added: “We have to have a sensible conversation about security because our neighbours such as Norway and the Baltic states – to which Russia is an existential threat – are watching Scotland.

“We’re not just having this debate about independence in a bubble. We are a security actor in Europe whether we like it or not, we can’t avoid that, and there is an element of running away from that question.

“I do not want to see the independence movement fall into the same trap of disinformation as the Brexiteers did, Brexiteers who ignored Europe.

“All of us involved in this debate need to be open to criticism and open to having these difficult conversations. There were lots of bad things about Brexit, but that failure to stand up to difficult conversations is a critical part of why it has failed.”

Prior to his latest clip which will be released on his own channels this week, Gethins – who represented North East Fife between 2015 and 2019 – released two others covering the difference between the UK and the EU and the war in Ukraine.

The videos are accompanied by a more extensive blog if people wish to read up further and, beyond that, there is more analysis and information in the second edition of his book Nation to Nation: Scotland’s Place In The World.

Gethins hopes his latest project will dispel some of the biggest myths floating around the independence discussion, such as the idea countries are not independent if they are part of the EU or that Scotland will cut itself off from the world if it decides to leave the UK.

In the age of social media, disinformation spreads like wildfire, and politicians have on multiple occasions been accused of adding fuel to that fire.

Earlier this month, Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr was accused of spreading false information over claims that Scotland would be unable to rejoin the EU following independence.

He tweeted the size of Scotland’s deficit post-independence – allegedly 8.6% – would make it ineligible for membership.

Indeed, the maximum deficit a country can have as part of the bloc is 3%, but current members such as Croatia have managed to join with higher debt levels, as it is possible to negotiate transition periods which allow countries more time to meet specific rules.

Back in March, Scottish disinformation groups were also spreading claims Ukraine orchestrated the bombing of its own civilians at a maternity hospital.

Gethins said everyone has a role to play in ensuring the independence campaign is not tainted with fake news.

But he warned that disinformation is also fed to us through polarisation and insisted we all must engage in more reasonable and fair debate to ensure voters receive accurate information.

Gethins added: “This isn’t about saying ‘we will tackle disinformation and therefore the scales will fall away from the public’s eyes and all of a sudden they will support independence’. I think there’s a danger people can get lazy like that.

“We know that one of the tools of disinformation is polarisation.

“So this is not just about false information, it’s about the way in which we conduct our debates, and having respect for other points of view.

“It means having respect for the Unionist point of view so we can properly interrogate one another’s perspectives.”

And not only will having more productive debates help stem the tide of fake news on the journey to independence, Gethins claims it will ensure Yessers earn the respect from those who vote No when it is achieved.

“You will only win a referendum if you can appeal to that middle bit, the waverers,” he added.

“But more than that, what’s the point on winning the debate on independence if you’ve polarised half the population?

“You need losers’ consent. It’s about building a positive future.”

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