An Open Letter to the Board of Bella Caledonia 105

Bella Caledonia is folding. It has been an important, broadly (though not sufficiently) pro-Scottish Independence new media outlet in Scotland for a decade. As far as it reveals to an outsider, it is closing solely for financial reasons.

I confess to being confused by this. So far as I can judge, this blog has a slightly larger readership than Bella Caledonia (which stated its highest monthly readership was 370,000), and the total costs of this blog amount to £700 a year.

My offer to you as a Board is this. I am prepared to take over as editor and as host and continue to run Bella Caledonia as the major pro-independence blog you made it. The spare capacity of my blog servers will cope with your readership with no extra cost. We can still have a board, and any members of the existing board who wish to continue, can do so with my hearty good wishes. I shall be editor. I shall invite five new people to join the board and contribute as core writers (they don’t know it yet, but the first people I shall ask are Andy Myles and Hugh Kerr. Both campaign for Indy, but one being ex-Lib Dem and one ex-Labour then SSP gives an indication of the breadth I would aim for). We will continue to use many of those who have written before for Bella, but drop any antagonism to any other pro-independence website or group.

The difference visible to a reader will be nil. The difference behind the scenes is that nobody will be paid, including me.

If you wish to take up this offer, what we would need is of course full control of the website and its social media, and preferably access to the contacts address book for inviting writers. If Bella Caledonia really is the new media title it aspired to be, it should not fold when an editor leaves.

You can contact me via the contact button above.


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105 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Board of Bella Caledonia

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  • Vronsky

    My sentiments entirely Craig. I can put up a website for a few pounds a year – just the rental of the URL, I can get everything else for free. So whence Bella’s financial problems?

    Bella occasionally had interesting pieces (usually written by guests) but suffered a bit from that odd variety of Cohenesque leftism that looks awfully like rightism. They also couldn’t spell and had an uncertain grasp of English grammar. I volunteer as a sub-editor, plenty of time on my hands. I own a dictionary and a copy of Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

    PS: You won’t hear from them, of course. Pre-empt and buy the URL.

        • Alcyone

          And Analysis is Paralysis and not something fresh and new (unlike the possibility of independence). Further ‘ism’s are your prisons. Reflect on this.

      • Salford Lad

        Nick Cohen is a rabid Russophobe. Owen is a Labour supporter and can be interesting , but mouths the old worn anti-Putin rubbish,possibly to preserve his pay cheque, Makes me wonder where he sources his views, because he can be a bright lad.

    • DaveM

      Have to agree very strongly. I don’t know what the ‘editor’ of the site was doing beyond publishing a high percentage of articles without proofreading (many of which were his own work). I know it doesn’t matter to a lot of people, but typos, bad grammar and incorrect punctuation do remove credibility from someone’s writing. That said, there were often thoughtful and insightful pieces (badly-written or not), so it would be a shame to lose Bella completely. Were it to continue, it would be good to have better quality of output..

      • Shatnersrug


        No I disagree, as do most people which is why Craig’s blog is so popular and you aren’t.

        Grammar pedants just irritate most people. English wasn’t invented by the Victorians so why try and uphold their ludicrous elitist rules.

        • Kevin Taylor

          Grammar pedants; how can you tell the difference? What if the contributor is just a naturally brilliant typist/writer? Does that irritate you? I don’t know about ‘most people’ but meaningless contention irritates me.

          • Shatnersrug

            Your comment makes no sense Kevin. But I’ll help you out with my ‘contention’

            I am contending – yes, with a generalisation – that most English speaking, and reading people for that matter – would rather read something interesting put together by an interesting and witty fellow like Craig that has a few punctuation, grammar and spelling mistakes than listen to DavidM’s critism of it.

            In fact I’d like to go further and state that it’s my belief that a significant number including myself, are greatful to Craig for publish an ad free blog that is not only interesting and witty, but has played a part in world altering events.

            ***AND*** unlike the Times or the Guardian, who seem to think it appropriate not only to print spelling, grammar, punctuation and HTML mistakes Craig has no editor or proof reader.

        • Habbabkuk

          “Grammar pedants just irritate most people. English wasn’t invented by the Victorians so why try and uphold their ludicrous elitist rules”

          Funny you should say that, Shatnersrug – Oliver Kamm said something very similar in his column in The Times a year or two ago.

        • Habbabkuk

          In fact, he devoted the whole column to it

          Perhaps you should ask a certain regular commenter specialising in genealogical research whether the two of you are not related… 🙂

  • Vronsky

    PPS: “The difference visible to a reader will be nil.” That had better not be true.

  • yesindyref2

    Excellent offer Craig, I suspect you wouldn’t interfere with any writer’s integrity. Not that the previous lot did either I hasten to add.

    Are you banned from posting there like I am, just for interest, for disagreeing with the editor?

    • craig Post author

      Don’t think so, but haven’t really tried. as you know, I don’t approve of banning people except in extremis, so if my offer were accepted you would certainly be unbanned.

      • yesindyref2

        It was over the “SNP vote on the list is wasted” fandangle when partisan feelings ran high.

        Council elections should need none of that, as STV means lower preferences aren’t even looked at until the higher preferences are either elected or elminated.

        Errr, I’d better get off my soapbox. Thankfully James Kelly has written up that very thing.

        People are going to fall out, egos abound and need massage, we’re all in it together one way or another!

        • Jo

          “It was over the “SNP vote on the list is wasted” fandangle when partisan feelings ran high.”

          That was a very highly-charged debate tho’, wasn’t it? And a few people lost the plot during it on Bella (an elsewhere) for reasons I couldn’t quite fathom. Then again that particular issue of the list vote was widely debated too right across the MSM and on quite a number of sites on-line.

          To be honest many sites are ruined when “partisan feelings” run high and it all descends into sheer abuse. For some, and they are on both sides, the slightest criticism of their favoured Party results in carnage and the debate vanishes altogether. I’ve even seen people turn on people who vote for the same Party if anyone chooses to criticise that Party in any way. Those criticising were then accused of not being a true SNP voter or YES voter!

          In that respect, on the MSM, the Herald site has gone the way of the Scotsman. The Herald once had a very good site. Many long-term posters on the Herald site have just stopped posting there. We should all feel regret when the debate is killed stone dead through aggression and abuse and people feel the best option is just to withdraw. I often wonder if the aggressors realise the damage they do to their own cause by behaving so badly.

      • Jo

        Hi Vronsky

        I remember that spat but, to be honest, I felt there were faults on both sides. Some of the posts on the Bella site from James during exchanges with Mike were ridiculously childish.

    • Gavin Barrie

      Mike Small is on record as having exerted pressure on James Kelly to alter an article Mr Kelly offered to pen. You’ll find this detailed on scotgoespop.

      • Jo

        Hi Gavin

        Yes, there was tons of stuff on Bella too about it. The whole thing played out on Bella as well as on James Kelly’s own blog. While Mike Small and James engaged in a lot of too-ing and fro-ing the whole thing became tedious and pretty depressing. As well as this piece from Bella, James also kept up the pounding of Bella, and Mike Small, from his own blog. It wasn’t pretty.

    • craig Post author

      Yes, sadly not a sustainable model I think. But hopefully he can find other fruitful employment, and if my offer were taken up I should be delighted for him still to be involved and to write.

      • BrianPowell

        He doesn’t like James Kelly of Scot goes Pop (many disagreements over splitting the vote and polling results) or Wings over Scotland, so the articles may be limited.

      • K1

        As long as it’s just ‘to write’…nae considerin’ haunin’ him a scalpel…cause ye know he’s a dab hand at major surgery* 😉

        *His aft repeated ‘defence’ during the ‘Kelly/Small Blog Battle of Jan ’16’, that: “I never considered major surgery’

        (Aye, I’m now naming the battles in the indyblogoshpere) 🙂

    • TB

      Gosh, I’m really heartbroken to hear that all Mr. Mike had to live on was a paltry 35 thou a year. Now I understand what he meant with his heartfelt “Couldn’t quite manage to do it” comment at the end of his last “piece”. We’ve all heard of gravy-train salaries but his pittance was more like a gravy-rollerskate, with a wheel missing {sniff}. Oh well, these things happen, I suppose.

      Couldn’t stand the illiterate, uninteresting, dull, boring, not-really-onboard-with-the-whole-independence-thing website myself, but that’s beside the point. Will the drastically underpaid Mr. Small be getting a golden handshake, I wonder? I suggest a picture of a Spitfire in flight or a Shire horse, but who am I to say? No-one!

      • Bhante

        I’ll second the picture of a shire horse, but if it works out too expensive i’d suggest a picture of a shire goat or something would do.

  • yesindyref2

    Couple of interesting comments on the Bella article:

    “Bella has been essential, constructive, creative, even for those of us who don’t aspire to independence.”

    “As a Yoon I was never part of your target market but even so there were excellent pieces on Bella. A civilised forum to comment on also.
    All best wishes to Mike Small, an excellent editor. You can be proud of what you achieved here Mike.”

  • Geoff Huijer

    Good luck with that; and good luck with getting a reply.

    Years ago Bella was looking for books to review so I offered mine (a Scottish historical novel, new at the time). I got no reply so offered again and I was asked to take a copy to Mike’s house. I walked the 3 miles to his house and handed a copy over. I heard nothing. A ‘thank you’ would’ve been nice (and simple courtesy) even if they thought the book was garbage. I often think that the measure of the ‘man’ is what takes place out of the general public’s gaze. I sent copies to the Scotsman, Fred McAuley, Davie Torrance my local MSP, and Alex Salmond. Mr Salmond was the only one to give a response.

    I gave up on Bella, however, after seeing poorly constructed articles and one particular piece attacking Stuart Campbell of Wings.

    It would be nice to have it continue under the conditions you state especially a broad range of writers along with a non-antagonistic stance towards other pro-independence sites.

  • Clydebuilt

    Stopped reading Bellacaledonia when their split the vote campaign got underway…… Too clever for their own good.

    Good luck Craig. You’d make a better fist of it.

    Until Independence, has to be SNP

    • Muscleguy

      Yeah as if having your list vote divided by 10 or 11 instead of 7 or 8 will have no mathematical effects especially compared to another Yes party with no constituencies so a divisor of 1. It remains the case that you need around an order of magnitude fewer votes to elect a Green on the list than an SNP person. It is not our problem that Nicola Sturgeon was in too much of a nit to pick up a phone after the election and ask Patrick Harvie for at least confidence and supply as a party leader in NZ would have done to the Greens there.

      What matters is that there is a solid majority for Yes to pass the next IndyRef bill. It is also not the Green’s fault that the SNP got so much support they left the sweet spot they hit last time.

      And finally, why should the SNP have more than 50% of of the MSPs, they did not get more than 50% of the vote. Are the SNP and you democrats or not? By demanding a majority without majority support you are sounding like undemocratic special pleading snowflakes.

      • RevStu

        “What matters is that there is a solid majority for Yes to pass the next IndyRef bill.”

        The outcome of a 50% increase in the Green vote share, mostly at the expense of the SNP, was a net LOSS of three pro-independence MSPs, one of them due to a Green vankty candidate letting Ruth Davidson win a constituency seat in Edinburgh and score a major PR victory.

      • Clydebuilt

        The Greens increased their vote by around 50% the number of Pro Indy MSP’s fell by 3.

        Until Independence it has to be SNP.

  • Merkin Scot

    Stopped following them when it became clear what their agenda was. ‘Almost’ a Unionist front organisation, at times. Split and divide to support the status quo.

  • Wullie B

    I refuse to visit Bella these days due to the facebook page and the way non socialists are treated, If you have views anywhere right oof centre you are called a Yoon Troll ebven though you have voted SNP since you could, Voted yes in 2014, and Remain this year. But because you dont believe in being entitled to everything, In fact the Bella FB page members take great delight in promoting SNPbad, slagging the first minister because she isnt declaring UDI or demanding a referendum straight away she is obviously a fifth columnist, Bella used to be a good page, but I know quite a lot of people who have also stopped using it due to these red clydesiders who shout solidarity yet like to cause splits, just look at Solidarity, SSP and going back further the SLAB

  • Glen Saddell

    I’m comfortable supporting this. Good, imaginative thinking Craig. Important to keep the title relevant, especially if it can attract beyond a die hard core of committed indy support.

  • david kelly

    This is a great idea, Craig. Independence is for everyone. I think we need a professional diplomat to keep our various tribes on message.

    • Wullie B

      Scotch Independence, I like a Single Scotch, , in other words Scotch is Whisky, now if you meant Scottish, then it has never been more relevant, but Westminster cant afford Scotland to leave, and the latest is they have military police on our streets

      • Loony

        Why can’t Westminster afford Scotland to leave. What on earth do you imagine there to be in Scotland capable of supporting the entire population?

        The UK as a composite whole currently steals all that it needs – food, energy and human resources and forces the foreign man to give up their produce in exchange for digital paper. You really think that on its own Scotland could continue with the scale of theft necessary to support itself?

        Or is the idea that you just join up with the EU and let them steal all that you need? Be warned all that can be stolen can be devoured by Germany – just ask any southern European.

    • Kevin Taylor

      Ah, Scotch – I do enjoy a wee nip now and again.

      Independence, now that’s another matter – damn-good idea!

      “I’m a proud Scot, but I’m getting more like an elephant by the day, in fact, so much of an elephant that I had to go out of my way to say-so on this blog!”

  • Chris

    Ha ha ha. Any blow to the cybernats is great news. My other half’s opening a nice bottle of Veuve Cliquot as I write this!

    • Wullie B

      A blow to us would be the page staying, it was helping cause a lot of splits in the Yes campaign, the yoons should be crying at this news

    • RobG

      Me an’ cousin Daisy only mess aroun’ wif eggs when we is havin’ naughty fun, as enny fool kin plainly see.

  • Peter Beswick

    Fantastic idea Craig

    But why didn’t you keep it between yourself and them?


    The answer is the root of all your problems

    • Sal

      I see good reasons for making this a publicly open offer. Whose problems are we looking at here, Peter Beswick?

  • FatCandy

    Excellent idea, Craig!

    I stopped supporting and visiting Bella when they started getting all partisan and attacking other Indy media sources.

    Another pro indy news outlet would be excellent.

  • Allan

    Good luck Craig, hope they take up your offer. And let everyone know the Bella is not indeed a pseudo-lefty online mag set up by the Daily Mail.

  • Lindsay Bruce

    I like this plan! I can provide technical assistance in moving the Bella site, if needed. I’m a web developer experienced with Wordpess and SQL databases. No charge, of course. ayeMail exists to help pro-indy groups, so this would most definitely qualify!

    I think you’re coming to a London’s Calling screening in our neck of the woods in a few days. Maybe we can chat more then, if the Bella board take you up on your offer?

  • Clootie

    I doubt that your offer will be accepted. Those in “control” at Bella have displayed a clear narrow message which is the very opposite of the culture created within the YES campaign.
    Most supporters of Independence have a very simple objective – A nation free to shape it’s own future.
    Those who seek to shape that future first have little in common with the rest of the movement.
    Bella once represented the YES diversity. It now follows the narrow politics of a small section.

    When Holyrood is the Parliament of Scotland the the People of Scotland will decide the makeup of that chamber.

    • Bhante

      On the assumption that the chances of Craig’s offer being accepted would probably be rather low, it would make sense to immediately reserve a domain name that is rather similar to the original, and then just start a new blog from scratch if the offer is refused. Something like,,, or whatever is available. Subject to possible problems of copyright issues that I have no idea about, it might also be possible to make an offline archive of the site before it closes, so that some kind of continuity could be provided – but whether something like that is allowed I don’t know.

  • Shamac

    People require an income. We should not expect anyone to do a job without renumeration…just as we don’t.

  • DRDWoodward

    Every voice for freedom becomes a target of that which it seeks freedom from.
    Bella a more pluralistic and sophisticated voice able to penetrate into the higher echelons of colonial control in Scotland posed too great a threat to be allowed to succeed. Whether its demise is a result of a deliberate and organised attack or simply the result of the clash of artistic egos … or, more likely, a combination of both …. its passing will be cause for celebration amongst all Tartan Morris Dancers and their colonial masters. With two years at least before IndyRef2 … time a plenty for others to fall silent as well.
    I stopped referencing Bella nearly a year ago … to many of their articles began sounding like an english country garden.

  • Jams O'Donnell

    Don’t hold your breath, Craig. Mike Small is small by name and small by nature. Or, as someone in another post here has posited, is an employee of the CIA.

  • Haemoglobin

    Slightly worrying how easily some on here have accepted this £35,000 figure as fact.

    I hold Mike Small in high regard. What he said regarding the list vote in the last Scottish parliamentary election was perfectly reasonable. Supporting independence and supporting the SNP are very different for some people (myself included), although sadly they are more or less the same thing to some other people. I personally have stopped reading James Kelly and the Rev Stu – their line of argument over the list vote nonsense was disingenuous and manipulative, and it worries me how many people can’t see this.

  • ElaineS

    Bella Caledonia Facebook page was heavily criticised for the heavy and often deeply rude moderation and treatment of people who joined in run up to IndyRef and after, who had a different view point than the moderators, I remember joining a few years ago and removing myself the same day when I read through a thread that was so appallingly rude to the people putting their points of view across. A lot of people left, a lot of people on it complained but their attitude was like it or lump. I lost interest in their blogsite after that.

    • Lynsey

      The BC facebook group had no moderators in the run up to IndyRef. Maybe a lot of people did leave, especially once there was an admin team in place that would delete abusive comments among members, but even more joined and stayed. Isn’t that shocking? Imagine having admins trying to maintain a civil space for debate and discussion. Whatever next? A blogsite that isn’t even a blogsite but an online magazine, offering space for a range of voices, including articles in Scots and Gaelic? Surely not? Who do these people think they are? The media? Sheesh.

  • Random Onlooker

    I stopped reading BC because I found it to be incredibly pompous, self-righteous leftist propagandist tripe. I am not a unionist. But I do not like the SNP. I support independence. But the writings of some in the indy movement are so self-righteous it wid gie ye the boak. Zealots, they do not accept ANY criticism of their SNP demigod Sturgeon AT ALL, merited or not, and will attack any who dare to have an opinion not in (lock) step with the Scottish mainstream.

    It’s the same sort of pomposity and extremist rhetoric that turned me away from The National, with its young cabal of extremist manhating feminists and condescending young, immature, wet-behind-the-ears PC children-writers in general. There should be cohesion in the indy movement, and this post is a good example of that. But look how many fractures have been exposed in the movement’s flanks. Reminds me, sadly, of nothing more than this infamous Monty Python sketch from Life of Brian, and needs to get better:

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