On Tuesday I packed the dug into the car and drove to Elgin for a talk for Common Weal Moray. There was a great crowd, we had some fantastic craic and a few laughs, and the dug and I were lucky enough to benefit from the hospitality and kindness of Common Weal Moray members and Sue’s wonderful cooking. Only the dug gulped down far too much water after the long journey and threw up all over her kitchen floor. Sorry Sue. I’m happy to report that both the dug and Sue’s kitchen floor are fine now. Unfortunately, due to a mix up with parcel delivery dates, I had to drive back to Glasgow immediately after the meeting and got home very late and very knackered.
It’s August, the traditional silly season in politics, when nothing much happens so what does happen is equally traditionally blown up out of all proportion. This week it’s the long running proposal for Scotland to have its own hour long news programme on BBC1. It’s a mark of the low ambitions and lack of respect that the BBC has for Scottish broadcasting, not to mention the control freakery of BBC management in London, that a proposal for a single news programme has been causing arguments for almost two decades and we’re still no closer to seeing the bloody show.
An hour long Scottish news programme combining Scottish, relevant UK news, and international news ought to have been introduced back in 1997 when Scotland voted for devolution. The electorate of Scotland deserve to have a public service broadcast news provider which doesn’t conflate UK news with Scottish news, and which leads to the ridiculous state of affairs that voters in Scotland receive more coverage of education and health policies in England, which don’t affect us, than we do about policies which do actually affect us.
It’s also a mark of the paucity of imagination and the strength of the Cringe that there is still a substantial body of prominent Scottish Unionists who firmly believe that there is no need for a self-governing nation to have a news service of its own. They’re quite happy with Scottish voters learning more about the rest of the UK than they learn about the decisions of a Scottish government. It is of course a well known fact that any TV broadcasting which originates in Scotland would be a hotbed of Scottish nationalism and it would campaign tirelessly for the breakup of the glorious Great British bakery provider. Which is why STV is a by-word for Scottish separatism and Stephen Daisley is really a sleeper agent for the SNP. Wall to wall Scottish nationalist propaganda on that STV so there is. Oh. Wait.
The proposal for a Scottish Six news programme is in the news again because this time it has been backed by people who aren’t Scottish. A committee of MPs, only one of whom is SNP, have unanimously backed the idea that Scotland requires its own national hour long news programme instead of the current half hour of international and English news followed by the news where we are. The news where we are consists largely of fitba, cute wee animals, murrdurrs, how the SNP is really really bad, and some more fitba. The MPs want this replaced by an hour long show produced in Scotland which combines Scottish news with international news and would only broadcast the UK news which actually affects Scotland. The BBC, naturally, isn’t keen as this might lead Scottish people to imagine that we live in an actual nation, and not “where you are”.
For some unexplained, and probably unexplainable, reason, Reporting Scotland thought it was vitally important to bring us the views of Airchie MacPherson about a possible Scottish Six programme. Being a prominent supporter of the Better Together campaign during the 2014 referendum campaign, it came as no great surprise to discover that Airchie is vehemently opposed to an hour long Scottish news programme on the BBC. Possibly this is because he’s afraid it would distract from the murrdurrs, wee cute kittens, and of course the fitba. I don’t know anyone who wants a Scottish news programme, said Airchie, blissfully unaware that no one in Scotland knows anyone who cares what Airchie thinks about anything other than the chances of Clyde avoiding relegation.
The fact that Reporting Scotland got Airchie as its naw speaking head whereas the supporter of a Scottish Six was an academic specialising in the media demonstrates that there’s no intellectually based argument against Scotland having its own news programme. There’s only Airchie and his wish to return us all to an idealised 1960s with jumpers for goalposts and leaving politics to the serious big boys down south.
The proper news on the BBC, as opposed to the murrdurring cute kittens playing fitba news where we are, managed to get the slightly weightier intellect of David Torrance to speak against a Scottish Six. David’s opposition was seemingly based upon the premise that a proper Scottish news programme would require more funding than the BBC currently provides, and so it would be a bad thing because producing a TV programme is complicated and it’s going to cost money.
Specious as it was, he managed to phrase his argument poorly, so it came across to many that he’d actually claimed that Scotland shouldn’t have its own news programme because Scottish people can’t operate video cameras. I don’t often leap to the defence of David Torrance, in fact I never leap to the defence of David Torrance, but his opposition to a Scottish Six news programme isn’t because he thinks we can’t operate cameras. It’s because – if I understood him correctly – he thinks that there is no merit in the argument that Scotland deserves more funding from the BBC. So what we saw was a Scottish journalist arguing against jobs for Scottish journalists. If anything that’s worse than what he was ridiculed for on Twitter.
I’m not hugely convinced by proposals for a Scottish Six news programme. I think that the argument moved on a long time ago. A Scottish Six made by the same organisation which has given us Reporting Scotland and Scotland 2016 is likely to be Reporting Scotland writ large. What Scotland needs isn’t a Scottish Six news programme, what it needs is a Scottish public service broadcaster.
Unionist opposition to Scottish broadcasting originates in a Cringe based disrespect for the standards of home grown Scottish journalism, and home grown Scottish democracy because they operate on the default assumption that it would be controlled by the SNP and the Scottish Government. Because Scotland isn’t capable of sustaining independent broadcasting and journalism of its own, we’re too primitive and require the administrations of Westminster to do things properly for us.
But the real reason that Unionists oppose home grown Scottish broadcasting is because they’re terrified of anything that portrays Scotland as a normal country instead of a northern province of Britain. That allows the dangerous idea to grow in Scottish minds that Scotland might just be better off as a normal country in other respects, and govern itself like other normal countries do.
Audio version of this blog, courtesy of @lumi_1984 https://soundcloud.com/occamshaver/commonweal-moray-wgd-3rd-august-2016
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