Scotland 1974

I decided to do a telly review, and settled down with my deep fried Mars bars and Irn Bru chasers. BBC Scotland’s brand new totally non-stereotypical cutting edge 21st century current affairs for a modern Scotland show had its debut on BBC2, and I wanted to get into the mood. I wasn’t disappointed, it was the Daily Record with moving pictures. I was just waiting for Dougie Donnelly to pop up and tell us about indoor bowling from Coatbridge.

We shouldn’t rush to judgement, this was just the very first show. We’re promised fitba in future editions, and doubtless some wee cute kittens as well. But we got the murrderr so we’re well set on the road to the Reporting Scotland hat-trick.

Titled Scotland 2014, it got off to a bad start by promising to “investigate the costs of independence” with no mention of any possible benefits, and deteriorated from there. It was a bit like the bastard offspring of the Alan Titchmarsh Show and Loose Women, but without gardening tips, cookery segments, celebrities, or any of Alan’s insight into Scottish politics and current affairs. It’s daytime TV at night, so you don’t have to miss it even if you’re so depressed by the asinine intelligence insulting offerings of the BBC that you can’t crawl out from under your duvet until past 8pm.

The programme is presented by Sarah Smith, who apparently got the gig because of her hard hitting interviewing skills, and her comprehensive journalistic talents, but not because she’s John Smith’s daughter. The first two of those qualifying conditions were not on display this evening, which just leaves not being John Smith’s daughter. I’m not John Smith’s daughter either, and probably neither are you, but I don’t recall getting an invite from Ken McQuarrie to show up for an interview. Perhaps it was in that Better Together leaflet I put in the bin without reading it, or in that leaflet from a frozen food shop. Come to think of it, it can’t have been in the frozen food shop leaflet. BBC Scotland has never knowingly mentioned Iceland’s economic recovery.

First up was what was billed as an investigation into G4S, the private security company that raked in a fortune in contracts in Iraq.  But there was little about the dark and nefarious nexus between government ministers and companies that employ psychopaths and give them guns, instead it was a piece about a murrderr.  By this time I was wondering if Dougie Donnelly had been delayed in a malfunctioning lift with Archie McPherson.

Ken McDonald, BBC Scotland’s science correspondent, presented an ill advised jokey wee segment about the costs of independence, which was loosely based on the Swiss Tony character from the Fast Show. It managed to be both unfunny and uninformative at the same time, achieving in under five minutes what Sanjeev Kohli took half an hour to do, so kudos for that. The joke about Swiss Tony was that he was a misogynistic used car salesman left over from the 1970s. Ken really needs to be careful about that sort of thing what with all the cutbacks being imposed by the management at Pacific Quay. Ken’s on a BBC reporter’s salary but Scotland’s very own UKIP MEP, Jibberjabber the Hutt, will cheerfully spout outdated 1970s social attitudes for free. After all, it’s not like he’s got anything else to do.

Ken really ought to stick to the science stuff, because political satire is clearly not his strong point. Maybe he ought to stick to doing jokey wee segments about topics he’s more familiar with like – What’s the difference between the Large Hadron Collider and BBC Scotland’s referendum coverage? One is a ruinously expensive attempt to smash matter into nothingness, the other is a scientific experiment. See Ken, it’s not that hard, and you won’t piss off half your potential audience. Just some geeks in Geneva who’ll zap you with a scary death ray and try to suck you into a black hole, but real comedy isn’t without risks.

The headline interview with Danny Alexander quickly skipped over any mention of the criticisms being made of the UK Treasury report’s figures by the very same people who researched and published the statistics the report relies on. Instead Sarah felt it was more hard hitting and investigative to let Danny Alexander waffle on unchallenged. So did Danny.

It wasn’t just the dubious independence costs that weren’t explored, Sarah didn’t ask Danny about how the Lib Dem’s remaining particle of electoral support was smashed into nothingness by the Large Hadron Collider of Thursday’s elections, and the fissile matter of party leadership being destroyed in radioactive decay. That sort of science was best left to Ken, but he was off looking at a used Cortina.

Instead the closest we got to hard hitting was Sarah asking Danny whether he’d prefer UKIP or the SNP to have won the seat the Lib Dems lost, complete with an ‘Am I not a naughty schoolgirl?’ smirk. And Sarah had a wee smirk on her face too. Naturally this gave Danny the opportunity to claim that both the SNP and UKIP are nationalists, while Sarah didn’t think to question him about his own ProudScot British nationalism either.

And then we had a Trending segment, in which we were helpfully informed what was the most popular story on BBC Devon. Sarah joined two random persons and they twittered about Twitter for a bit.

Swiss Tony would have said it was all like making love to a woman, you go through the motions while thinking about someone else then satisfy yourself before rolling over and going to sleep, but that’s probably misogynistic.

I never thought I’d say this, but bring back Gordon Brewer. I’d far rather have Gordon’s grumpy mug than this fluffy content free crap that passed its sell-by date 40 years ago.

And in other news, Scottish cinema chains have decided to ban political advertising from referendum campaigners because the Vote Nob Orders deluge of misinformation was being booed by cinema audiences and had attracted a record number of complaints. The astroturf campaign and its London based branding and marketing agency tried to align Westminster’s dismal message of indy doom with Scottish chi but got chibbed instead, and the self-proclaimed ‘thought leaders’ of Acanchi got sent hamewards tae think again.


(Update: I made a wee alteration to the original piece, after it was pointed out to me by Nigel Mace that I’d missed Sarah asking Danny about the Dunleavy and Young criticisms of the UK Treasury’s misuse of their research during the 45 seconds when I went for a pee.)


48 comments on “Scotland 1974

  1. macart763 says:

    Programming courtesy of the Benny Hill school of directing.😀

    I didn’t miss much by going to bed early then? I had a feeling it would live down to PQs usual standard. Of course the benchmark will be the first guest interview of anyone from the SG or YES campaign, at which point expect to see the serious, hard hitting bit make its first appearance.

    Maybe I’m being overly cynical or unfair though?

    Or maybe not.

    Another cracker Paul. WIsh I could make the Counting House evening. Like BtP, I’d like to say thanks and shake your hand. Hopefully they’ll put together another shindig before the big day in September and a few of us can share an Irn Bru and a laugh.

  2. JimnArlene says:

    Glad I missed this pish, mainly because, I’m not John Smith’s daughter either.

  3. Alex Wright says:

    Spot on with”daytime tv at night”, especially with the hilarious Salmond bashing sketch at the end which was straight out of the Paul O’grady format. However, for some reason, it didn’t get to me. I couldn’t explain why, until this morning.

    For the last couple of days, I have been noticing a slight change of mood, regarding people in my circle towards the Referendum. It started with a couple of the counter guys at the steel merchants I use. I would peg them as soft No supporters a few months back who would look at me as though I was a bit of a nutter when they discovered I was a dreaded “Cybernat”.Through the banter though, they must have been listening to some of the info that I gave them. I popped my head in yesterday while they were in middle of a heated debate, quite strongly refuting another customers views on the oil reserves.It was all down to a leaflet I had printed off and handed over to them. ( A letter to the Shetland Times from a guy called Charlie Gallagher about the Atlantic Margin.) Definite Yessers now.

    Last night I was having a regular argument with an aquaintance of mine on Facebook. He’s, a non-shift-able alicsammin hating ranter, when a host of other people joined the thread, which is unusual.The referendum seemed to be out of bounds before. It was hilarious watching him get demolished and dig the hole deeper and deeper. Brilliant.

    The icing on the cake was this morning. My lovely English wife came in from her night shift and asked me to print out a list of Pro-Indy sites for some of her workmates. They are all pissed off with the bias and want to hear the other side.

    There is definitely a change for the good happening, it’s tangible. A huge thanks to yourself and other bloggers for making this possible.

    • macart763 says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

      One of the lads at work only the other day (another soft no), suddenly shouted me over during tea break pointing out some BT ad he’d discovered on the cost of independence. Direct quote, – “Have you seen this pish? Where’s the source for this claim? Even I can pull figures oot ma erse. Enough Mac, you’re a yesser whit do you think?”

      He went on for a bit in the same vein, but you get the drift. He was angry at being taken for a mug and was deeply upset at the prospect of a Tory/UKIP future. I think the weekends results may focus a few minds in this referendum. Gave him a few web sites to check out and said if needed anything else to just knock on my door. I posted along the same lines the other night on soft no votes. They need to make the decision for themselves. I strongly believe they are pretty much all potential YES votes waiting to happen, they need encouragement and confidence in making that final decision.

    • Colin Erskine says:

      Further to your Atlantic Margins mention.

      I met a boy in a bar in Aberdeen 2 months ago. He was from Ayr and was working in a bar there in the early eighties. In comes two Texans who say they’re leaving town.
      “Well we’ve just capped the biggest reservoir we’ve ever drilled. Your government shut us down”.

      That’s the Clyde Basin which due to Trident has been shut in by the MOD. I’ve seen a report that indicates there may be 100 years worth of recoverable hydrocarbons within Scottish maritime boundaries. Don’t let 79 happen this time.

    • James Coleman says:

      And here’s the original article for the Atlantic Margin Oil/Gas Resources (West Coast oil/gas). It is a very interesting read, particularly near the end when there are suggestions that again information is being withheld. This report tends to confirm my long held suspicions that West Coast Oil could be the reason WM are so desperate for us to stay with UK.

  4. Jamie Wood says:

    Shame. I thought Sarah was pretty good in her work with C4 News, both as correspondent and studio newsreader.
    However this expectation was tempered by the dead hand of the Corporation being involved.

    • Nigel Mace says:

      I relish the Dug and recommend the site whenever giving out those neat little Aye Right! leaflets – but this time Paul you’ve not been quite fair. While agreeing about the patronising tabloidy nature of the ‘show’ – how revealing is that term? – Sara Smith DID actually raise the bent use of Dunleavy’s research and his explicit charge of an exaggeration. I agree it was only once and little Danny was allowed to get away with the talking up of the Quebec study without meeting the obvious challenge. I thought that much worse than a fairly tame interview (Gordon Brewer would have been chewing red meat on this one) was the fact that Danny Boy was not followed that same evening with a YES/SG minister. We’re promised one tonight but that’s 24 hours too late. You are also dead right about the absence of any mention of the advantages. However, on Sara Smith herself – though no Gordon Brewer – let’s see how she does tonight. If she overdoes the ‘attack’ after a rather tame start on one side – then I’m afraid she’s not been hired for the best reasons.

      • weegingerdug says:

        Fair enough – at one point I went for a pee and probably missed that bit. But if she’d been interviewing him properly he’d still have been skewered on that question by the time I got back from the lavvy.

  5. Drew says:

    The AS bit at the end, wonder if that was a personal attack after he accused BBC of being UKIP’s cheerleader.

  6. Maggie Craig says:

    Past my bedtime but I’ve recorded it. Looks like I’m in for a splutter-fest over my lunch break. Love the economic recovery of Iceland line, Paul.

    I’ve been to the movies twice in the past fortnight, you get to go to the matinee when you’re of mature years, and I found the VNB ad faintly embarrassing in its ineptitude. Smiley “youngsters” saying not very much. Thought it was a pity there wasn’t a Yes ad to balance it on either occasion.

    Young No intentioned friend has so far resisted my blandishments to persuade her to vote Yes. Think Nigel Farage might be about to help there. She is shaken by UKIP’s success, especially as she knows all about scapegoat theory. Chances of a Tory/UKIP coalition at next year’s Westminster elections – high.

    • Helena Brown says:

      May help ease the pain of the Sarah Smith show when I tell you that the VNB adverts have been pulled from the cinema, the bad news is so have both Better Together and YES.

  7. Brian Stobie says:

    “And Sarah had a wee smirk on her face too.”- classic quality writing. If only the numpties at the British Bullshitting Corporation had half your wit.
    When I read your site, I can at least have a laugh and share your contempt for these incompetent Judases. When I watch the BBC, I just feel the contempt. I pay money to let them brazenly lie to me and parrot coalition neo-liberal propaganda to my face. Puppets and muppets.
    Rant finished.

  8. Ken McDonald is intelligent and capable as well as being witty. He shouldn’t be content to be relegated to a lame comedy spot.

  9. Margaret W says:

    When you think the BBC cannot get any worse it just goes and proves you are wrong Dire is the only word for their latest contribution

  10. Helena Brown says:

    Well I am not a glutton for punishment so the BBC cannot count our household for their viewing figures. I sort of thought that this would be what would happen, no way are any of the Government agencies going to give the YES campaign a fair shake. Thank you very much Paul for suffering for us.

  11. […] I decided to do a telly review, and settled down with my deep fried Mars bars and Irn Bru chasers. BBC Scotland's brand new totally non-stereotypical cutting edge 21st century current affairs for a…  […]

  12. faolie says:

    What an entertaining TV review of a TV programme that tried to be entertaining but wasn’t. Who cares about a bit of fun on a late-night news prog? Leave that to This Week. Man, if I was starting a replacement for Newsnicht I’d want a show that got tore into the politicians on both sides and really make them think about their positions before they came on. That would have been good. “Politicians live in dread over invitations to appear on Scotland 2014”. Instead….

    Remember Brewer’s interview with JoLa about her daft Scotland paper? One of Gordon’s finest I think. You have to wonder how Sarah would have dealt with it.

  13. macart763 says:

    Slight O/T

    Can’t get through the paywall on the Times, but you guys need to check this out.

    Mr Dunleavy’s called the treasury out on manipulation of his LSE research vis a vis todays treasury release.

    Treasury and BT in full train wreck mode as their major tax offensive gets derailed on the day of its release.😀

  14. Eilean says:

    Dougie Donnelly and Archie McPherson stuck in a lift.

    Was it a voice activated lift? They don’t do Scottish accents you know!

  15. diabloandco says:

    I watched a delightful BBC Alba programme about canoeing to St Kilda instead – obviously it was the correct decision.
    May I add thanks to you I won’t even bother trying to view it on BBBCi – you’ve taken on the onerous task for me and left me laughing too!

    I am sorry I won’t make it to CH2, grandparent duties and other half’s broken wing prevent it but I’ll tune in to the coverage and I won’t forget what you said , ” I began to think we could win this ” – you have no idea how convincing that wee sentence was !

  16. Turra Loon says:

    I watched the last half of the new BBC2 program with sarah smith . I thought it was bloody awful and won’t waste my time again. I did not like Brewer, but he is far better at the job than Sarah. Total Pish.

  17. What’s the Counting house evening please? Would love to come .

    • wwilmawatts says:

      For Margaret.
      The Counting House near George Square, Glasgow. This Friday from early evening, a get together of Wings over Scotland contributors -and any others welcome with open arms. Someone is even paying for a bus to bring people from Dundee and surrounding areas.
      My husband and I will be there (from Argyll) so come along and meet like minded people. We couldn’t make the last one and it sounded great fun.
      Back on topic great TV review maybe you should turn professional?
      No longer watch TV so really appreciate what you went through for our benefit, Paul.

      Really looking forward to Friday, meeting the owner of Weegingerdug and hopefully Margaret.

  18. Free Scotland says:

    Was there a subliminal message being broadcast by using a hugely magnified Tunnock’s Tea Cake wrapper as a background for Danny Alexander’s head? (Quick sugar fix, low nutritional value, perhaps?)

    • Capella says:

      Well Tunnocks are NO supporters. So expect to see Mackies Ice Cream, Baxters Soup, Weir Group pumps and Barr Travel ads appearing as iconic backdrops.

  19. David McCann says:

    Love the title! Agree with all above. Big disappointment. Never thought I would say this, but bring back Brewer!
    This was mogadon for the masses.

  20. Maybe they could have a knitting section an then show you how to rip it !!

  21. The G4S story might have been a Scotland 2014 scoop, but it didn’t make for a grabbing lead when it’s the implications of the EU results and the referendum that are the big stories.Read Wings during that, then swore when Danny and his dribbling came on screen. Obviously same old, not even reheated but served cold, so back to Wings. When the Loose women bit burst onto the scene I lost interest altogether.

    Not an inspiring start. Most people here could have put together a package that grabbed attention and had viewers contributing. Instead it was all a waste of time. Sad, but what can you expect when it’s the BBC. Auntie is never going to change her spots, or her sneering growl.

  22. Hugh Wallace says:

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    I couldn’t bring myself to watch BBC Scotland’s replacement of Newsnight last night. Glad I saved myself the bother!

  23. YESGUY says:

    Again on the ball , a “breakfast show on at night. Wow, who could have dreamed that up. I will give it one more show tonight as the YES campaign will be able to rip DA’s counting to shreds. M.s Smith was far too easy on him and we will see how “balanced” the nights show is . I’m not holding my breath.

    The BBC are a shower of liars and one wee show is never going to make up for the way they have cheated Scots everywhere. They had a chance to open up a new debate and what did we get ????? SCARES. , I thought they had realized “Project Fear ” doesn’t work. The Bt mob told us it was changing tack and then they send a Lib/Dem up to “tell us some costs” Lib/dem = liars FACT. Do these bozo’s down south think we hide under duvets all day. We have watched the destruction of the lib/dems over the last week and up one pops to lie again. The BBBC are shameful.

    Alex Wright – thanks for your comments . I have seen the shock on a few faces regarding ukip. It was a nice wee lift to go with Pauls piece

    thank you all

  24. mjaei says:

    Great post.

    ‘it got off to a bad start by promising to “investigate the costs of independence” with no mention of any possible benefits,’

    What about investigating the costs of remaining in the UK ‐ this is something the press in general & particularly the BBC seem happy to ignore. If setting up new govt. bodies is going to cost Scots a few hundred quid, how does that compare with our share of Osbornes £25bn cuts that we’ve yet to experience, on top of the added costs to the NHS, welfare system, police force etc. of having to deal with the consequences of the UK govt plunging thousands more families into poverty?

    Then there’s the inevitable scrapping of the Barnett formula. Then there’s the diminishing tax take caused by everyone over the age of 20 having to move to London if they want a job & not allowing any immigrants to come to contribute.

    Then there’s the cost of exiting the EU & the disastrous effects that’ll have on our businesses.

    Then there’s the WMD programme.

    Then there’s the incessant military adventures…

    And how much do we pay for GCHQ to read our emails & for Mi6 to kidnap people?

    I could go on four hours, but apparently the BBC can’t put together a 3 minute clip…

  25. yerkitbreeks says:

    I like Ken McDonald on Headlines. He should stick to that, but I do wonder if he needs to “come out” since I get the impression the PQ management gets up his nose.

    • weegingerdug says:

      I quite like Ken too – I just think he’s being appallingly misserved by BBC management. It’s not the presenters who are the problem, it’s the managers.

  26. Dick Gaughan says:

    Paul, I always enjoy your blog, guaranteed to at least raise a smile on dreich Leith mornings, but you struck comedy gold with this, especially your “not John Smith’s daughter” comments which actually made me laugh out loud. Which is quite remarkable for an aging, grumpy Hibbie.

    I, too, watched this pish but literally fell asleep about 10 minutes before the end. If this is what NorthBrit Broadcasting call “cutting-edge”, bring back Garnock Way.

  27. JGedd says:

    Your review was way more entertaining than the BBC programme seems to have been.

    Didn’t have high hopes for Sarah Smith and so far, seems to be vindicated. Haven’t watched TV news in ages but remember some years ago, after the Madrid bombing, young Sarah for Channel 4 news, getting stuck into bewildered Spanish voters for turning against the sitting government due to the Madrid government having shamelessly used the bombing outrage to attack ETA even after police made it clear that the evidence led elsewhere. ( You were living in Spain at the time I think and will know more about it.)

    Anyway, Sarah’s take on it was thoroughly mainstream. The official line of our media was that turning on a sitting government was to give in to terrorism. I remember wee Sarah being quite Head-Girlish and remonstrating forcefully with a group of baffled Spaniards about how remiss they had been in “giving in to the terrorists”. Typical simplistic media presentation, no real background info. She is a career girl after all.

    • weegingerdug says:

      Oh the news spin on Spanish state telly after the Atocha atrocity was dreadful. It was just a few days before a General Election, and the Partido Popular government insisted that the bombings were carried out by ETA. I was watching coverage on both the BBC and RTVE, at around 9.30 am on the morning of the bombings the BBC was reporting an official denial from Arnaldo Otegi (roughly the Basque equivalent of Gerry Adams) that Basque organisations had any involvement. This wasn’t reported on RTVE until 2 days later.

      When Aznar, the then Spanish PM, had got into bed with Bush and Blair over the Iraq invasion, people warned that he was making Spain a target for Al Qaeda, The Iraq invasion had even less popular support in Spain than it did in the UK (where it didn’t have much public support either) – the joke in Spain at the time was that opinion polls showed more Spaniards believed Elvis was still alive than supported the Iraq invasion. So naturally when the bombings happened, Aznar and the PP tried to put all the blame on ETA and were determined to quash any suggestions it had anything to do with Jihadist groups. These actions certainly prejudiced the police investigation.

      It was the outrage over the attempted cover up more than the bombings themselves which led to the unexpected victory for the PSOE in the elections a few days later.

  28. Matt Seattle says:

    No-one commenting on the cinema ad ban. Sane people were obviously disgusted by the VNoB ads, but this ban will affect YES cinema adverts too, which would have had a positive effect.

    A source of information has been removed from where it was needed. The scary thought is that this may have been the intention, but VNoB aren’t that bright – are they???

    • weegingerdug says:

      I’m not sure how effective cinema adverts are. I always resented adverts in cinemas – I’ve paid good money to see a movie, not to sit through adverts. Yes Scotland’s money will be better spent elsewhere, meanwhile Vote Nob Orders have already spent a fortune.

      • James Coleman says:

        I agree. When I heard kNOBs were doing cine ads my first thought was good, ‘cine ads are so last year’, they are wasting their money. And don’t forget, it was YES people who complained and have had the ads banned. There is no conspiracy.

  29. Maggie Craig says:

    Just watched this woeful effort. Nice titles. That’s about it. Felt the story about the death of Ken McGuigan and his Australian colleague was being used to do a “look at us, we can do a Kirsty Wark style hard-hitting interview”. Ken MacDonald I usually find very sharp and funny, dinna think his heart was in it last night. As for trending on twitter, made me embarrassed for my own sex. Incisive it was not. Not funny either. And why was Sarah Smith sitting on the desk at the beginning?

  30. smiling vulture says:

    nailed it–breakfast tv—ratings will plummet

  31. John bob says:

    Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but I noticed that newsnight Scotland had started including newsnet Scotland’s front cover in there what’s the papers saying tomorrow, I found this a (small) but good step forward in moving to more balanced reporting. Now we get this drivel, with no, what the papers are saying tomorrow….

    Now we see there new advertising clip “Thing are about to get interesting” Haha, Aye yir ratings are all ready taking a nose dive, from 89,000 on the first night, last outing 22,000

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