The BBC doesn’t exactly have a great reputation in Scotland for fairness and a lack of bias. Trust in the Corporation in Scotland is low, and you’ll be more likely to find someone who thinks that Creationist website demonstrates a proper understanding of the theory of evolution than you’ll find an independence supporter who believes that the public service broadcaster – which we all pay for – gives a fair hearing to the indy movement. Given that, you’d think that the BBC would tread extra carefully in its dealings with the independence movement, and would be particularly careful not to alienate even further that half of the Scottish population which views it with deep suspicion as the propaganda arm of the British state. But no. Instead the BBC has decided to trash its chances of reassuring the half of the people of Scotland who support independence.
Stu Campbell of Wings Over Scotland, and Peter Curran who curates the YouTube channel Moridura, both do invaluable work in holding the overwhelmingly anti-independence Scottish media to account. An important part of that work consists of putting online clips from BBC politics programmes, clips which highlight the mendacity of the British nationalist parties, their failure to uphold the promises and commitments that they have made to the people of Scotland, and their undermining of the devolution settlement. Putting these clips online is perfectly legal and falls under the “fair use” clause of copyright law. It is vital to the proper functioning of a democracy that people are able to discuss, view and comment on political developments – many of which are broadcast on the BBC. On Saturday, the BBC launched a series of copyright claims against both Stu Campbell and Peter Curran, resulting in their entire YouTube channels being taken down.
What has made it even worse is that at least one of those affected has not received any formal notification from the BBC or YouTube of which clips have been deemed to break copyright rules, meaning that attempts to complain about the shutdown are mired in a Kafkaesque nightmare. Stu Campbell of Wings Over Scotland has not been told which clips are supposedly in breach of copyright rules, although YouTube demands details of the affected clips before it will take any action. It’s impossible to complain about something when you are not being told what it is that you need to complain about.
The effect of the shutdown is that the BBC is claiming that statements made by politicians are the legal property of the BBC just because the BBC happened to broadcast them first. The BBC is taking it upon itself to decide how a politician’s words are to be framed, when and where they can be seen, and how they can be interpreted. That’s a chilling development in a democracy and a direct attack on free speech. It would be bad enough in any democracy, but in a Scotland where the print media is overwhelmingly biased against a constitutional view held by almost half the population, it represents a direct and immediate threat to Scottish democracy. Making this development even worse is fact that BBC Scotland, uniquely amongst the BBC “regions”, prohibits comments from the public on its own website. The BBC is giving a very good impression of a public service broadcaster which wants to shut down and control public debate and discussion.
However what makes this latest development in the BBC’s war on Scottish public debate even more alarming, and suggests that it is politically motivated, is the fact that the Corporation has left untouched all those clips being used by anti-independence parties, individuals, and organisations. BBC clips are still appearing on the YouTube channels of the Scottish Conservatives, the Labour party, and certain anti-independence campaigners. It seems that it’s fine to use BBC clips to portray the Scottish government and the SNP in a bad light, but don’t dare imagine that you can use them to criticise the British state or the BBC. If you wanted an illustration of the double standards which underpin media coverage of the Scottish constitutional debate you couldn’t find a clearer one.
You shouldn’t have to be a supporter of Scottish independence to be concerned by what appears, on the face of it, to be a politically motivated attack by our public service broadcaster on alternative media outlets which support independence for Scotland.
Naturally our searching and probing Scottish media has reacted to this alarming development with the same outrage with which it reacted to the non-silencing of Stephen Daisley by the SNP. Poor Stephen was so silenced that him and his pals had to write all about it in article after article in the British nationalist press. The pages of our fearless Scottish media are exactly like that today, stoutly defending the right of pro-indy activists to the fair use of clips from BBC programmes which those self-same independence activists have themselves have helped to pay for. There are dozens of editorials highlighting the hypocrisy of a Corporation which has only targetted one side in Scotland’s constitutional debate.
Well, at least there are in an alternative universe where Scotland has a media that is representative of the range of opinions and views found in the country and isn’t just a fanclub for Ruth Davidson, colluding with her in her attempts to hide from difficult questions. We’re still waiting on answers about the dark money and dodge donations to the Scottish Tories, and we’ll be waiting until well after doomsday if we’re relying on the Scottish press to get them for us. Doomsday is actually happening in March next year, that’s also thanks to the Tories.
The BBC’s lack of balance during the first independence referendum campaign, its blatant support for British nationalists in Scotland, its studied refusal to allow a proper airing of the pro-independence side, have all been well documentated. It seems that the BBC has learned nothing about the need to build bridges and restore trust amongst viewers in Scotland, and is gearing up to approach the second Scottish independence referendum campaign in the same biased and overtly British nationalist way. That makes it all the more important that as independence campaigners we get organised, we marshall our resources, and we work to develop our own alternative media.
The British state knows that it has destroyed all the arguments that it deployed against us in 2014. This latest travesty in what passes for British democracy in Scotland is just another sign that they’re very scared indeed.
I had planned to write an update to the fundraiser today, but this alarming attack by the BBC on freedom of speech and discussion in Scotland is far more important. I’ll do the fundraiser update tomorrow.
WEE GINGER FUNDRAISER
It’s that time of year again. It’s been a year since I last did a fundraiser. This year is going to be a particularly expensive one for me personally. There’s a wedding to pay for, and I need to ensure that my earnings are sufficient to prove to the Home Office that I am able to import my American spouse into Scotland to live here permanently. As well as the need to demonstrate a minimum level of annual income, £18,600, there are also hefty legal and visa fees to pay.
I really don’t like doing fundraisers, and I really don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but I work my wee socks off for the independence movement. I publish this blog, and I do talks to local indy groups all over Scotland without asking for a fee. Don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoy it. It’s a huge privilege to meet all the wonderful, talented, and committed people who make the Scottish independence movement something really special. However it takes up a lot of time and energy to keep blogging and doing public talks, time and energy that I could be using to generate an income to prove to the Home Office that I am able to support my American spouse.
The truth is that if every regular reader of this blog gave just one pound a year, I’d be pulling in well over £100,000 annually. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Publishing and selling books and maps helps, as does selling t-shirts, but it’s pretty hit and miss. I do get paid by The National for my twice weekly articles, but that doesn’t pay anything like as much as you might think it would. In order to be confident that I can meet the minimum income requirements demanded by the Home Office, cover the cost of a wedding on both sides of the Atlantic, and cover the fees required to pay the visas and associated legal costs, I need to do a fundraiser for £10,000.
Any help you can give would be immensely appreciated. Help me to keep campaiging, and help me to show that Scotland is a welcoming place for migrants – at least one special migrant in particular, the man I’m going to marry in October.
You can donate by clicking the following link and donating on my Gofundme page.
Alternatively you can donate by clicking on the Paypal “Donate” button on this page, or by logging in to www.paypal.com and making a payment to me at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would prefer to donate by some other method, cash, cheque, or bank transfer, please contact me at email@example.com for details.
Many thanks for all your support. You’ve no idea how much it means to me.
You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at email@example.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.