Earlier this week, the youngest Scottish MP ever gave her maiden speech in the Chamber of the House of Commons. You’d think that a 20 year old working class Scottish woman from Paisley might be intimidated by an institution which is so far up its own arse that the crap comes out the other end, but not Mhairi Black. Since deposing one of the spoiled princes of the Labour party from the seat, Mhairi has been subjected to a barrage of insults and abuse from the UK media. She has been patronised and demeaned by middle aged middle class privileged men who are affronted that someone like Mhairi dares not just to step onto their territory, but to own it. And that’s precisely what Mhairi did in the House of Commons with her maiden speech.
The speech was perfectly judged, contained the right balance of humour and gravity, it was emotional and emotive, but at the same time logical and rational. She spoke movingly and with great passion about the evil wrought on working class communities by an ideologically driven Conservative government. She made it personal and illustrated the destructive effect that Tory benefit rules have on ordinary people. There but for the grace of god could go any one of us. She pleaded with the Labour party not to acquiesce and surrender to Tory policies but to join with the SNP in actively opposing the Government and to challenge it. And you know that Labour have fallen pretty low when it takes a 20 year old to plead with them to oppose the Tories. Some Labour MPs had the good grace to look shamed and a bit embarrassed, although Ian Murray wasn’t amongst them.
Even cynical auld gits like me were moved by Mhairi’s words. It would have been a remarkable and newsworthy speech irrespective of whose mouth it had issued from. And it issued from the mouth of a young working class Scottish woman. Mhairi did herself proud, she did her constituency proud, she did Scotland proud, she did democracy proud. Mhairi showed that Scotland’s future is safe and secure, because she’s the voice of the next generation. You couldn’t help but feel as you watched her that you were watching the president of a future Scottish republic.
So how did the Scottish state broadcaster choose to report on this marvellous affirmation of Scottish democracy, this immense credit to the youth of our country? It told us that the SNP had been slapped down by the deputy speaker for applauding Mhairi’s speech. There was a clip of the deputy speaker instructing MPs that they could show approval by harrumphing like trained seals, but there wasn’t a single line of Mhairi’s own words. This is the news we pay for. This is the news that we have to pay a tax on. And now we know the difference between a state broadcaster and a public service.
According to the nearest thing that Scotland has to a public broadcaster, the only important thing about Mhairi Black’s speech was that there was a mild breach of the antiquated and sclerotic protocol of the House of Commons as Mhairi’s SNP colleagues showed their appreciation. Another belter of a maiden speech, from the wonderful Anne McLaughlin, the Sherpa Tenzing of Glasgow North East who climbed the mountain of the largest Labour majority in the country, and got to the top in style – that went entirely unreported. The message from BBC Scotland was clear – Scotland, you’re a bit rubbish and you need to be slapped down and put in your place.
BBC Scotland’s news department apparently operates on the default assumption that nothing good can possibly come of the SNP. Let’s find someone who had to wait more than four hours in A&E and use it to attack the Scottish Government. Any mistake or oversight by an public body in Scotland becomes a generalised attack on Scottish self government.
BBC Scotland should just quit pretending that it’s a public service broadcaster, it’s an arm of the British state. It’s not BBC Scotland, it’s BBC Cringe – and don’t you Scots dare forget just how irrelevant and rubbish you are. It’s not a public service, it’s not remotely representative of the public it is supposed to service, it’s the propaganda department of the British state. It’s wall to wall crap about the Royal bloody family. I honestly don’t give a crap about Willnkate and their gilded existence. Now here’s a story about a cute kitten stuck up a tree that had to wait hours before the SNP’s national fire service could come and rescue it. And now the fitba.
This is not to criticise the ordinary staff of BBC Scotland. They have families to feed just like anyone else, and they are not responsible for the Corporation’s editorial policies which are set and controlled by London. I know for a fact that many amongst the ordinary staff of BBC Scotland support the proper devolution of BBC Scotland and yearn to make it into the proper Scottish public broadcaster that it was always supposed to be. Sadly the chances of that happening are close to zero as the Corporation battens down the hatches in the face of a concerted attack from the Tory government. Screwing the Scots is one way in which the BBC management in London can demonstrate its loyalty and avoid cuts and axes in other areas which are more important to the London based elite which determines BBC policy.
The BBC in Scotland has long since lost its reputation for impartiality, however much it clings to the memory of its former glory. By its one sided handling of the referendum campaign, its relentless focus on SNP Bad, BBC Scotland has destroyed itself as a credible news organisation. It has now got to the point where BBC Scotland could highlight a major failure of the Scottish government and thousands of perfectly reasonable people will turn a deaf ear, because BBC Scotland has cried wolf many times too often. BBC Scotland is the Norma Desmond of news, it thinks that it’s the news that’s got small.
So what to do about it? I recently paid my TV licence for the year so it would be hypocritical for me to call on other people not to pay it and to take the risk of prosecution that I’m not facing myself. Although I have to say that it’s unlikely that I’m going to renew my TV licence – I don’t see why I should pay for propaganda. If the BBC wants to punt an ideologically driven message to me, they should be paying me for the privilege, I don’t see why I should be paying them for royalist pro-union advertising.
But it’s not enough just to withhold the TV licence, we need to decide what we want in place of BBC Cringe, and we need to decide how to go about getting it. We need the devolution of broadcasting now. The 56 SNP MPs in Westminster and the Scottish Government should highlight the issue at every opportunity – Scotland is the ONLY self-governing country in the world which doesn’t have its own public service broadcaster. So much for best of both worlds.
(Am off to London tomorrow to see family. And while there will take in the Festival of Model Trams in Croydon. Back on Sunday – so the next blog post will be Monday.)
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