The Last Days of the Old BBC Scotland
Scottish Review, January 20th 2016
These are turbulent times for the BBC. The patrician age of benign liberal paternalism and enlightened elites knowing what is best for us, unquestioned and unchallenged, have long since passed.
We have now swung to the other end of the spectrum. Not a day seems to go by without the BBC being criticised from somewhere. The ‘Daily Mail’, ‘Daily Telegraph’ and Murdoch press conduct a never-ending war undermining the Beeb’s status – questioning the legitimacy of the licence fee and what they see as its dominant market position.
The toxic right want to destroy the BBC, but the left stopped being enamoured decades ago, and in Scotland all of this is added to by the experience of the indyref. Many respected voices feel that the BBC is shortchanging Scotland, and offering up an inferior service.
BBC Scotland’s problems have historical and cultural roots. The origins of a specific Scottish service were found in an age long disappeared. When the BBC high heid yins decided to allow a Broadcasting Council for Scotland in 1953 it was stacked with the great and good and chaired by the Lord Clydesmuir, formerly John Colville, unionist Secretary of State for Scotland from 1938-40. Read the rest of this entry »
Putting the Scotland into BBC Scotland
Sunday Mail, January 17th 2016
It has been a tough few years for the BBC – with challenges from every direction, and potshots and criticism from every quarter.
This week Tony Hall, BBC’s head, gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament alongside BBC Scotland boss Ken MacQuarrie.
Hall set out the BBC stall. Despite cuts, a range of digital possibilities and platforms were unveiled centred on the iplayer. MacQuarrie answered questions on BBC Scotland’s leaked plan for a new Scottish channel which he said ‘was never a plan’, but a set of brainstorming meetings and emails.
The BBC is in crisis. It is regularly shot at by right-wing opinion. It has long infuriated the left, and it didn’t have a good independence referendum, alienating a whole swathe of Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »
Whatever happened to the Scottish Tut?
Scottish Review, January 13th 2016
Once upon a time there was a thing called the Scottish Tut.
It defined many of our exchanges, stalked our land and policed the boundaries of permissible behaviour. It gave and took away acceptance; and once it was seemingly everywhere and now seems nowhere. Whatever happened to the once powerful tut, can we live without it, and should we lament its apparent demise?
The Scottish Tut involves many different motivations, styles and gradations. It could be used to indicate someone seen as ‘getting above their station’ or pronouncing a view viewed as gauche or inappropriate. Being judged as high-faluting and having an inappropriate attitude could bring forth the tut. But so could wearing a rather loud shirt or trousers, or trying too obviously to look different or alternative.
The tut embodied a passive aggressiveness: the use of pursed lips, staring, glaring, looking shocked, silence and a whole host of body language signals. This had power in a society that had all kinds of hang-ups, no-go areas and numerous unwritten rules. People often associate this with authority and officialdom – from councillors and faceless bureaucrats to the revenge of the local minister or priest. But it had its roots in a deep well of culture, history and traditions. Read the rest of this entry »
The Phoney War in British and Scottish Politics Will End Soon
Sunday Mail, January 10th 2016
The big news this week wasn’t the Corbyn re-shuffle of people no one had heard of. Nor was it Cameron’s retreat on the Euro referendum over Cabinet collective responsibility. And it certainly wasn’t Donald Trump threatening to pull future investments from Scotland.
Nor was it the hostile words between Saudi Arabia and Iran or continued anxieties about terrorism. Instead, it was instability in the world economy, Chinese economic wobbles, their currency devaluing again and stock market falling by 7%, contributing to a mind-blowing £2.5 trillion being wiped off world markets in a matter of days.
While these turbulent economic storms blow over our heads, British and Scottish politics are strangely becalmed, focused on the small stuff, and seemingly unaware of choppy times ahead.
The Conservative Party has mastered the art of success for more than 150 years. George Osborne this week emphasised that austerity wasn’t over and people couldn’t just start spending the proceeds of growth.
In the real world, the economic recovery is fragile and unbalanced based on personal consumption, spiraling household debt, property prices and the biggest Balance of Payments deficit in UK history. London house prices sit at an ‘average’ £531,000: more unsustainable than the Blair/Brown ‘bubble’ of fantasyland Britain. Read the rest of this entry »
There is a Light That Never Goes Out: Ian Bell, Willie McIlvanney and the Power of the Word
Scottish Review, January 6th 2016
Scotland values words. It has always had a place in its heart for wordsmiths and for those who powerfully combine language with a sense of some higher calling – from religion, to morality, to various causes for a better world.
In the weeks running up to Christmas, within a matter of days of each other, we lost two of our most celebrated public figures who expertly used words – William McIlvanney and Ian Bell.
Sometimes, words – written or spoken – just don’t convey the full feeling of something. That’s true of so much, but with McIlvanney and Bell there is a sense in different, but complimentary ways, that they contributed significantly to how Scotland saw itself in recent decades and how it has changed, and were influencers and interpreters in the work in progress that is modern Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »