The British establishment media is parochial and provincial, narra-nebbit and noxious. Living entirely inside a wee anglophone bubble in London, many, if not most, of its denizens speak only two languages – English and Troll – and I’m not too sure about their command of English. BBC political editor Nick Robinson would disagree however, he has investigated himself and absolved himself of trollery. It’s all the fault of independence supporters for hating the English.
During the independence referendum campaign last year, Nick had a well publicised spat with Alicsammin during a press conference. In search of an anti-independence headline Nick asked Alicsammin about the Royal Bank of Scotland, and got his airse handed to him on a plate. Nick then went on the main BBC news at six and said that Alicsammin hadn’t answered the question that he had in fact answered. It’s just that Nick didn’t like what he’d been told, and was annoyed not to get the another blow for independence headline he’d been so plainly trawling for.
So rather than admit that Alicsammin had given him an answer that was not to his pleasing, Nick just made it up and the report he gave on the BBC’s flagship news programme was even more fictitious than Gordie Broon’s vow. Nick now says that he “phrased his report badly”. He phrased it so badly that it said the opposite of what actually transpired. That’s a special type of mealy moothed mendacious that is.
This incident came after months of biased and one sided reporting by Scotland’s national broadcaster, and for many it was the Robinson that broke the camel’s back. Nick really should have known that the BBC’s reputation in Scotland was dangling by a very frayed thread. Instead of doing what he could to bolster the BBC’s reputation, he pulled on the thread for his own reasons. The last shreds of the BBC’s credibility unravelled like an old sock, the toe of truth popped out, and it kicked the BBC on the bum.
In their anger and dismay, several thousand ordinary licence payers demonstrated outside the BBC’s Scottish headquarters. The demonstration was entirely peaceful and non-violent. There were no disturbances, there were no arrests. But they weren’t there purely because of Nick Robinson – frankly Nick, you’re not that important. If the BBC’s coverage of the referendum until Nick’s misrepresentation had been unbiased and as fearless in its criticism of the No campaign as it was of the Yes campaign, then Nick’s wee invention would have been dismissed as an individual lapse. But it wasn’t an individual lapse, it was part of a pattern of lies, obfuscation, misrepresentation, one-sidedness and outright pro-Union propaganda.
In a bout of self-justifying whining, Nick – who has a book to sell – is now trying to shift the debate onto the protests. He’s claiming that it was organised or approved by the SNP government, when it was no such thing. It was spontaneously organised by ordinary voters and licence fee payers in Scotland. The protests did not have the support, blessing or backing of the Scottish Government.
In a crude attempt to make out that he is the victim of his victimisation, he is also repeating the lie that the term “metropolitan” is code for English, and that public distaste in Scotland for the way in which he misrepresented the press conference and Alicsammin’s answer is motived by hatred for English people. Specifically English reporters covering Scotland’s independence debate. Hiding behind weasel words may be Nick’s modus operandi, but it’s not true for the rest of us. If I wanted to say something against the English I’m perfectly capable of using the word English to refer to them. But then, like the overwhelming majority of independence supporters I have no beef with the English. My late partner was English, my daughters are English. And I resent having to mention that in order to prove my non-English hating credentials. There are plenty of English people I have a deep personal animus against, but my distaste for them has nothing to do with their nationality and everything to do with personal issues. There are even more Scottish people I have issues with, which on Nick’s logic makes me an anti-Scottish racist.
Personally I’m sick fed up with the claim that Scottish independence is driven by hatred of the English. It’s a claim which is in itself racist, based on the stereotype that there is nothing distinctive or different about Scotland and its political culture – that Scotland is defined by opposition to England and nothing else. It’s a claim beloved of Scotland’s Unionists who have a cultural cringe a mile and half wide, it serves to justify their own belittling and depreciation of their own culture.
Metropolitanism is the belief that the entire world revolves around the metropole and defines itself with reference to it. It’s far easier for the likes of Nick to imagine that they are hated than it is for them to accept the reality that they are irrelevant. After all, when you’re hated you’re still important. But Nick isn’t that important, and he has nothing of interest to say about Scotland. It’s a country he neither understands nor appreciates. Still, I am sure he loves us, just as long as we continue to play our supporting role in the Great British Pageant – the role that allows British nationalists to pretend that their nationalism isn’t nationalist at all.
We have a right to expect reporters for the national broadcaster to be even handed and unbiased. We have a right to express our displeasure when the national broadcaster fails in its duty and responsibility to us. The correct comparison with Putin’s Russia is that we have a state broadcaster which slavishly supports the establishment, the state, and vested interests and which deliberately sets out to undermine, traduce, and marginalise opposing voices. Nick is not the one who’s been refused a platform here, he’s made a speech at the Edinburgh book festival about how he’s being silenced. He’s got articles in the press about how he’s been silenced. He’s published a book about how he’s been silenced – coming to a remainder bookshop near you soon. For a man who’s being silenced he’s not short of platforms to stand on to tell everyone he’s been silenced.
Meanwhile the case for independence is still sidelined and ignored in the mainstream media. Independence supporters are still traduced and insulted. We deserve better than this. The real lesson to take from the Nick Robinson show is that we need to devolve the BBC now.
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