Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
BBC and STV are Falling Short in Scotland’s Great Debate
Scottish Review, March 5th 2014
The BBC and STV are failing the people of Scotland in their coverage of the independence referendum, despite the best attempts of some of the many talented journalists still in these organisations. The reasons for this are deep-seated: historic, structural, and about the failure of management to lead, be bold and creative.
The independence debate could not have come at a worse time for the BBC and STV. It caught both bodies ill-prepared, under-resourced, and basically, not taking Scotland or Scottish politics that seriously.
It never used to be like this. Turn back to the end of the 1980s and early 1990s and both BBC and STV had a reputation for doing news and current affairs well. The early evening news programmes, ‘Reporting Scotland’ and ‘Scotland Today’ (the precursor to ‘STV News at Six’), were seen across the UK as serious, authoritative and popular. Read the rest of this entry »
The Birth Pains of Scottish Democracy and the Anguish of ‘Posh Scotland’
Scottish Review, February 26th 2014
Many strange things will be written about Scotland this year. Some will be uncomprehending, some inappropriate or wrong, with others likely to be malevolent and wishing to sew seeds of confusion or distrust.
One existing strand is the pain expressed by some English media voices. There is the liberal ‘Guardian’ reading classes, some of whom have just bothered in the last few weeks to look north from their cosmopolitan concerns and to plea, ‘don’t leave us alone with the wicked Tories’. Then there is the ‘Daily Telegraph’/’Daily Mail’ land of ill-concealed anger about ‘separatism’, derogatory comments about Alex Salmond, and a confusion over whether they really want Scotland to stay or go.
Sometimes interventions cannot be easily categorisable, or while coming from one particular perspective, give voice to a viewpoint which hasn’t been expressed or articulated in public. This was the case with Hugo Rifkind’s recent piece on ‘posh Scotland’ (his words and sentiment) in ‘The Spectator’ and its clarion call to awaken and ride to the defence of the union in crisis.
Rifkind’s ‘posh Scotland’ wasn’t a place for anyone with decent prospects; this wasn’t, as he made clear, anything to do with Ed Miliband’s struggling middle classes, or by implication, ‘the middlin’ folk’ of Scotland. Instead, this was about privilege, wealth and power: the people who run things, own large tracts of Scotland, are privately educated, and believe that the state, if it has to do anything, is there for poor people (and keeping those people a safe distance from them). Read the rest of this entry »
The Land of the Living Dead: Jeremy Paxman and Max Hasting’s Britain
Scottish Review, February 19th 2014
Years ago I believed in Britain; in its future and some of its stories, values and institutions.
I thought that those which did not match modern democratic times, could be changed. This was the beauty of Britain and its radical currents.
Even as a teenager I knew there was some element of make belief and fantasy in this. The mythical stories of Britain as the land of liberty, rule of law and democracy jarred with too many of the facts.
Such Whig accounts have grown increasingly threadbare in recent decades. Yet they still have their last true believers in the world of Tory Eurosceptics and in unreconstructed parts of the Labour Party. Read the rest of this entry »
The Crisis of Grangemouth and What It Says About Scotland and Britain
Open Democracy, November 1st 2013
The Grangemouth story has been a modern parable – of the state of industrial relations, the interests of the media, and the condition of Scottish and UK politics – their motivations, silences and prejudices.
There has been much comment and political activity north of the border (not all of it, as we will see below, constructive). In the Westminster bubble which so dominates and distorts English politics, there have been either ideologically offensive and ignorant comments, or more widely, near-complete political inactivity, disinterest and the crashing sounds of silence.
First though, let’s try and dismiss the notion that Grangemouth can be simply seen through the prism of capital/labour relations, tempting though it is. Robin McAlpine’s persuasive piece last week explored part of this, but didn’t touch upon the wider canvas (1). We don’t gain thirty years into neo-liberalism’s onslaught by returning to the old left comfort blankets of creating pantomime villains of a big bad boss class, and failing to recognise the inadequacies of other actors – trade unions, Labour and the Westminster political classes. Read the rest of this entry »
The Power of the London Scots
The Scotsman, August 24th 2013
One of the most powerful group of Scottish opinion formers do not live and work in Scotland, but are the London Scots.
This group are never far from the public gaze. They come into focus with the northern exodus of the London and Southern classes at Festival time, personified in Andrew Marr’s recent intervention at the Book Festival about the state of Scotland.
Marr stated that, ‘There is a very strong anti-English feeling (in Scotland), everybody knows it’ and that ‘it could become toxic’. Two of his main pieces of evidence were Alasdair Gray’s comments about ‘colonists’ and ‘settlers’, and the Nigel Farage standoff in the Royal Mile with the Radical Independence Conference supporters.
Marr’s Edinburgh appearance did not give the impression that he had been following Scottish politics closely, getting several basic facts wrong. He has had recent mitigating circumstances, but a similar pattern can be observed in his newly written essay in ‘The Battle for Scotland’, first published in 1992. In this Marr writes that apparently Scotland was governed by a SNP-Green coalition in 2007 which will be news to Patrick Harvie, gets the results of the 1979 and 1997 referenda wrong in percentages and actual numbers, and much more. Read the rest of this entry »