Journalists have described accusations that the SNP bullied a major broadcaster into “gagging” one of its commentators “deeply disturbing”.
Stephen Daisley, digital politics and comments editor for broadcaster STV, has not had a column published on its website in more than a month, after two MPs who had clashed with him on Twitter met with STV executives, The Herald reported.
Daisley has been often outspoken on Twitter, earning the ire of SNP MPs Pete Wishart and John Nicolson, a former BBC and ITV journalist.
Daisley’s columns had included criticism of the SNP. In one, he said the party was “expert at mining grievance from even the most innocuous act or statement”.
The Herald also reported the SNP raised concerns about the channel’s digital output and Daisley in the spring at a Westminster event organised by STV.
The Herald quoted a Labour source saying: “The SNP have a track record of intimidating journalists. It’s very concerning the party of government continues to attempt to silence any criticism against it.”
JK Rowling, who lives in Scotland and opposes Scottish independence, has previously accused Wishart of pursuing a “vendetta” against Daisley, after he demanded to know earlier this year whether one of the journalist’s opinion was shared by STV.
Observer journalist Nick Cohen reacted to the Herald’s story by calling the SNP “bullies” and STV “cowardly” and “worthless”.
Although Rowling has not tweeted herself since the Herald story was published, she has retweeted others condemning it, including Times journalist Oliver Kamm who called it “exceptionally disturbing”.
Alan Roden, political editor of the Scottish Daily Mail, suggested the “intimidation” of journalists would worsen if Scotland became independent.
Rowling also retweeted independence supporter and former SNP employee Kenny Murray, who said “the people causing Stephen Daisley hassle are the reason for the No vote”.
Tom Gordon, the Scottish Political Editor at The Sunday Herald, screengrabbed tweets Nicholson had sent about Daisley within the last month.
Nicholson’s tweets said Daisley should be a “neutral journalist not an activist”, that he lacked “sass and wit” and STV had “wanted him to be a witty gadfly” but this was “not working”.
A spokeswoman for STV did not comment on the fact Daisley was apparently no longer writing for the website.
She told HuffPost UK: “STV continues to develop and invest in political coverage, particularly since the launch of our enhanced digital news service earlier this year.
“Our output and content will continue to evolve and Stephen Daisley, digital politics and comments editor, is a key contributor to this as we enter the new parliamentary sessions.”
Since The Herald story was published, Nicolson has said Daisley was a “polemicist” and this was incompatible with him being an editor for STV.
He also approvingly retweeted a comment that he was stopping a “broadcaster from endorsing online hate speech”.
This could be a reference to Daisley’s Twitter interactions with the anonymous Tweeter Brian Spanner, whom Nicolson has referred to as “grotesque”.
Wishart’s tweets, meanwhile, mocked the notion he had silenced Daisley.
The SNP told The Herald that Wishart and Nicolson had not discussed Daisley when they met to talk about STV’s “importance as a broadcaster”.
A spokesperson said: “At no point did they ask for Mr Daisley to stop writing and any suggestion otherwise is completely untrue. Any editorial decisions are entirely a matter for STV.”
Daisley has not tweeted about the matter since The Herald story went live.