BBC2 Newsnight’s Scottish Toryfest

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There’s been a lot of anger and outrage over the past few days about the risibly poorly informed discussion of Scotland on the Jeremy Vine Show earlier this week. It was justifiable anger, since Scotland doesn’t have a television broadcast network of its own and Westminster tightly keeps control over broadcasting Scotland perforce must consume news and current affairs programmes which are overwhelmingly made outwith Scotland. That means that those broadcasters have an obligation to their Scottish audiences which, judging by the Jeremy Vine Show, they are clearly not fulfulling.

In the cosmic scheme of things, no one seriously expects a rigorous and intelligent discussion of anything, much less of Scottish politics, from a daytime TV show which features the likes of Princess Di’s former butler as a guest. Paul Burrell is no one’s go-to guy for intelligent commentary on Scottish affairs, or indeed anything else. His expertise begins and ends at telling us what Princess Di liked for breakfast. So it’s scarcely surprising that his contribution to a short discussion about Scottish politics was such a bowl of soggy cornflakes.

However BBC 2’s Newsnight is that channel’s flagship news and current affairs programme. It is supposed to give us a more rigorous and in-depth treatment of news and current affairs than is possible during a news broadcast. It’s supposed to combine commentary and opinion with news coverage. In short, it’s meant to be serious and it wants us to take it seriously. You can’t really say that about the Jeremy Vine Show. That means that Newsnight’s failure to accurately present the Scottish political scene to an audience which is overwhelmingly outside Scotland is much more serious, and telling.

Last night, instead of raising my blood pressure by watching BBC Question Time and spending an hour yelling obscenities at the telly, I watched an edition of Newsnight which was entirely based in Scotland and which spent the whole of the programme’s 45 minutes dealing with Scottish politics and culture. Ostensibly this was because it is the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament. However what we got wasn’t a serious and in-depth discussion of Scottish politics and current affairs. What we got was a Scottish Tory-fest. So much for reducing the blood pressure.

There were five politicians and four party activists interviewed on the programme. We got an interview with Nicola Sturgeon. We got an interview with former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell. We got an interview with Ruth Davidson. So far, so balanced, at least according to the BBC’s usual definition of balance when it comes to Scottish independence, having one SNP person and one each from the main anti-independence parties.

I admit to being biased, but it did seem to me that Nicola Sturgeon was the one out of the three who was the most rigorously questioned. She was certainly the only one out of the three that Kirsty Wark interrupted. She got asked the usual stuff about trade with the rest of the UK, and wanting hard borders. Because you know, independence bad. Although I did have to laugh when she was asked whether she preferred Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt as Prime Minister and replied that that was like asking whether she preferred to be run over by a bus or a lorry.

After we heard from Nicola Sturgeon, there was an interview with Kirsty’s pal Jack McConnell, who entirely coincidentally and conveniently was given the chance to rebut some of the points that Nicola had made. So that wasn’t planned at all. Oh no.

Then Ruth Davidson was introduced by Kirsty Wark as being the woman who was responsible for the Conservative resurgence in Scotland. It was all very much soft soap stuff, although Ruth wasn’t really able to mask her disdain for Boris Johnson. She didn’t have much influence over Theresa May’s policy choices, Ruth will have even less influence over Boris Johnson’s.

There was no mention of the most recent election in Scotland, which saw the Scottish Tories plunge into fourth place behind the Lib Dems and finish a long long way behind the SNP. There was no mention of the slew of recent opinion polls which show that the Scottish Conservatives are staring at an extinction level event in the next Westminster elections in Scotland. There was no attempt to question Ruth on her change of mind on Brexit, or on the Scottish Parliament not being blocked by Westminster if there’s a majority in Holyrood for another indy ref.

Nor was there any reference to the fact that for all the Tories keep banging on about how no one wants another independence referendum, those same opinion polls also point to a renewed majority for the pro-independence parties in the next Holyrood elections. All we got was Ruth the Winner! Ruth Winning! Ruth is full of Win! A casual viewer who wasn’t familiar with the Scottish political scene will have come away from that interview believing that Ruth Davidson has a real chance of becoming the next First Minister, when the reality is that she will be lucky to hold onto her own seat and is likely to have to scrape her way into Holyrood as a list MSP. The Brexit supporting Tories are not performing at all well in Edinburgh, the most pro-remain city in the UK.

Then in order to ensure that we got a broader picture, or at least a more Tory one, we also got an interview with Stirling Conservative MP Stephen Kerr. Because you know, we’re all desperate to learn what he thinks. We heard from Scottish Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell about why she’s supporting Boris Johnson in the leadership contest and how great Boris Johnson is going to be for Scotland. For an extra bit of Toryness we also heard from the former Head of Communications for the Scottish Conservatives, Andy Maciver. Then because the programme was obviously worried that we hadn’t heard enough from the Tories, we had interviews with three local Scottish Conservative activists in Stirling.

Out of the nine political voices that the programme presented from Scotland, seven were Conservatives. And not one of those representatives of a minority party was asked to explain what mandate they have from the people of Scotland to block another independence referendum. So yeah, a totally balanced and even handed presentation of the current state of Scottish politics after 20 years of the Scottish Parliament. That’s your BBC balance for you.

Viewers in the rest of the UK don’t get many discussions of the Scottish political scene. This programme wasn’t going to inform them of very much at all. It certainly wasn’t going to ensure that in a future edition of the Jeremy Vine Show the guests will be any better briefed than Paul Burrell or Carole Malone. For all its desperate shoring up of the Scottish Conservatives, all that this programme really achieved was to ensure that people in the rest of the UK remain ignorant and ill informed about what’s really going on in Scotland. And that is one of the reasons why the UK is coming to an end.

33 comments on “BBC2 Newsnight’s Scottish Toryfest

  1. Bill Hume says:

    Quote…”people in the rest of the UK remain ignorant and ill informed about what’s really going on in Scotland”
    You say that as though it was a bad thing…I’m all for it.
    Scottish Independence will come as a bolt from the blue and it will hurt.

  2. Bob Lamont says:

    Superb, nailed it… Your’e getting good at this….. 🙂 Classic

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Was there no mention of the fact that ‘Lord” McConnell and his family have had holidays at the pad of their chums the Wark/Clements family? I was not holding my breath.

  4. Cubby says:

    I saw this programme thought it might bring back some good memories of the Parliament etc etc. But no it was an absolutely minging programme. Surprisingly, Scotland tonight produced a far better programme on the 20 year anniversary. Not their usual ultra Britnat crap.

  5. Movy176 says:

    Great article as usual.
    Am I the only one though who finds Kirsty Wark, who is, I think, a Scot?, presiding over a misleading programme about Scotland, somewhat disgusting?
    But then everything about the BBC is disgusting…

  6. Three times in the space of an hour on BBC1 and 2 the ‘4 times as much trade’ nonsense was pulled off the Project Fear shelf and dusted down.
    Wark during her farce of a Yes But ‘telling off’ of NS, then, her holiday buddy Lord McConnell, who it may be argued is a Tory Blair Red Tory, repeated the nonsense that Independent Scotlandf as EU 28 member would be shunned by mighty England’s consumers, and Sue Kendall on the soon to be scrapped This Week piled in with the same crap, unchallenged.
    Rinse and repeat, and a lie becomes the truth.
    I’ve said my piece on this in the previous thread.
    Fourth Estate Fifth column.
    Ruth Davidson Superstar.
    Christ on a bike.

  7. Mark Russell says:

    Really hope Kirsty Wark and her side-kick Sarah Smith get jobs working the mangles in a steamie after independence. Watched this open-mouthed from Lancashire – and whilst Nicola Sturgeon gave a robust performance, I wish the SNP would wise-up to the Establishment’s oh-so-obvious agenda…

  8. Iain Bruce says:

    Terrific piece as always but mind you keep takin the blood pressure tablets. Only one question really…Where’s the SNP rebuttal unit’s protest?

  9. jfngw says:

    Your lucky you didn’t change channels after Newsnight to watch Michael Portillo have an unrestrained rant about Scotland. Much as I dislike Andrew Neil I think he would have cut Portillo off as he was making it too plain the English view of Scots (he didn’t seem too keen on the Welsh either). Neil’s replacement was less than useless.

    • Portillo completely lost it. He has joined the swivel eyed loon segment of the Blue Tory Brexiters now.
      It was actually quite funny watching splurt and bluster like the nasty wee Colonel Blimp he truly is.
      Neil would have intervened, not because he wouldn’t agree with Portillo’s Little Englunder rant, but because he would be aware of how it was all coming across to the 14 people watching.
      He is in total denial that Ireland will reunite, and Scotland will take its rightful place as EU member 28.
      Liz Kendal, who is as much use as a chocolate fireguard, seems to believe that England would stop trading with Scotland as a ‘punishment’ for breaking up the Union, and our fellow EU members would allow Big Bully England to do it.
      These people are stark staring bonkers. They haven’t a clue how the world works.

      • Legerwood says:

        They do know how the world works they just think the rest of us don’t and we will swallow this rubbish they spout.

      • Robert Harrison says:

        They pulled that old shite in 2014 and the buisnesses said it was utter crap as theyd trade with an idependant Scotland rather than lose profits by not trading just because some london politician didnt want that.

      • Daisy Walker says:

        Let them stop ‘trading’ with us, one of our major ‘exports’ to England is electricity, what they gonna do, sit round a candle.

        They also get a significant amount from mainland EU, all governed under EU legislation and trade laws…. Oh dear.

        • Daisy Walker says:

          And another thing – since 40% of UK export is oil, 96% of which is in Scottish Territory, and Scotland currently gets SFA payment for it, and whatever money it does get is ‘supposedly’ spread out amongst a population of 65 million, continuing to sell that 96% to the rest of the world and divvying up the money from that amongst 5 million would seem to me like the financial bullseye.

          Don’t think we’ll be needing ‘trade’ with little England after that.

      • Gordon Currie says:

        I thought Portlytillo & niel Andrew where in-house mates, as they appear to be joined at the lips.

  10. bunnyfunster says:

    The only way this type of Union-oriented circus will wobble is if SNP politicians go into them with the specific intention of completely ignoring the presenter and instead answer the questions that *should* be asked but that will never see the light of day in a Union studio. Ignore the questions, set the agenda.

    The only counter they’ll have will be to either exclude pro-indy voices altogether, or confront what’s *actually* happening.

    • The SNP must go on the attack at all times. I don’t see an adequate amount of outrage coming from the FM about the way Scotland is being treated by this corrupt and abusive Tory Government. The SNP need set their own agenda in interviews, and never go on the defence. They always seem taken unawares by the interruptions, the talking over and the aggressiveness of the unionist interviewers.
      Independence supporters are sick and tired and also frustrated by this approach. It failed dismally in the last General Election when the unionist media had an agenda concentrated on Scottish Government matters and ignored Westminster totally. The SNP unbelievably went along with this, and did not complain. Over and over again they naively answered questions defensively on devolved matters. They fell into this trap time after time without objection.
      They don’t seem to learn or understand that the unionist media is already planning to undermine them in the next General Election, Scottish Election and Indyref2. Are we going to sleepwalk into this more once more, or are the SNP going to call them out at last?

  11. Dan Huil says:

    You’re a better person than me for managing to watch such britnat propaganda. The thought that such programmes continue to be aired in Scotland fails me with disgust. I think the pro-indy movement has nothing to lose and everything to gain in publicly castigating such anti-Scottish drivel.

  12. JoMac says:

    The sad fact is that no wonder the English have little respect for us when they see and hear our own treating us with such disrespect and our AND THEIR country with so much disdain. If all the guff we had to listen to was coming solely from English people, then we could shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Well that’s the way of the world”. Ignore them and we move on without them.

    With our own, it’s an entirely different matter and I reserve my greatest contempt for them. What motivates them? Can it really just be money, or are they truly bereft of self-respect? Have they been ‘turned’ by the establishment in some peculiar way, much like the German spies who landed in Britain during WW2 and were all captured. Those who agreed to co-operate went on to assist the Allies and helped win the war. The rest were shot. These days, it may be ‘co-operate or your paydays are numbered’. Alternatively, they’re all just a bunch of brainwashed Tory/Labour shills without a single original idea of their own coupled with typical English arrogance which has rubbed off on them.

    Portillo, incidentally, had a Scots mother and grandfather. Every other bod of note in England seems to have Scots ancestors. And therein lies the irony. They just love to let everybody know about their Scottish mother/granny/grandfather……..

    • Robert Harrison says:

      English folk no better to each other either youve obviously never seen the bigots during the fitba session its English vs English ramped up to 11 ive read comments such as manc bastards scouse scum and other stuff that make those seem tame by comparison.

  13. Phil says:

    Your continuing abilities of analysis and erudition will be increasingly needed by all the independence campaign actors. In addition events are gathering for Mr Johnson’s general election sometime about August or September so he can replicate Mayhem’s smart move to personally jump quickly to take charge of Westminster. We need to send him our contingent of 50+ MP’s. (Just to ensure Ruth knows who is actually in charge.) To that end please start the back-stage discussions of tactics and strategies and messages we’ll need to hit the streets with a full-on ‘This Is Your Independence Vote’ campaign.

  14. Robert Graham says:

    Just caught the latest censorship move by the Tory government in England, using Cineworld to ban Robert the Bruce movie being shown in eh Scotland , oh dear maybe Tartan next seeing how well it worked the last time .

    Predictable vindictive pettiness along the same lines as removing support from our first minister for overseas visits, these clowns are doing the work for us , well done chaps .

    • weegingerdug says:

      I am not so sure that’s what happened. The movie is coming out just as all the summer Holywood blockbusters are released. I suspect that Cineworld’s decision has more to do with misguided commercial decisions from a company that might not understand what would appeal to a Scottish audience.

      Let’s not go inventing persecution from Westminster without firm evidence. There’s plenty of vindictiveness from them that we can be certain about to be going on with.

  15. Tol says:


    Isn’t it time to stop jumping at every Westminster shadow. How can YES still not have momentum of its own – instead it is still being tossed around by the waves of Westminster slights, brutality and crazies.

    Weegingerdug…your insight into Scotland and the humanness of indy always cuts me to the core. It says something deep about why Scotland must stand up. It is the scaffold of a inclusive nation who sees its needs can only be met by self government.

    You know what is coming down the pipe and what steps are needed to be organised now to prepare for it. People can always tell a movement that is on the ascendancy – it sets the running, it is discussing and refining strategy, its honing its language to razor sharp and building its defences. It just feels like it is out in front and the other side can only look through the glass and react.

    Your humanness has so much to inspire and guide YES and its vision yet it is getting drowned in reaction threads. For me, I hope WGD starts heading for clean water and not only lead the shouting but start informing a discussion on the future and how Scotland will discuss itself.

  16. Terry callachan says:

    Good point TOL
    It is glaringly obvious to us all that sadly there is nowhere to read and discuss how an independent Scotland will be.
    I think that’s because our experts and planners are still unwilling to stick their neck out and suggest ways that an independent Scotland will be run better in case they are targeted with vindictive attacks that damage their progress at work .
    I think the britnat media will never show a majority poll in favour of Scottish independence because if they ever do show polls with a majority in favour of independence for a prolonged period many many people who actually favour independence will start to feel safe in being vocal about it and will begin to suggest ways that things can be done differently by an independent Scotland.

    Remember how many employers threatened people that their career could be damaged or ended if they didn’t vote NO in 2014.

    The polls are corrupt , the results are probably correct but it’s the way they choose who to include and who to exclude from the polls that is corrupt, that is why they need so many staff and computers and why it’s the same old organisations doing the polling over and over again with their tried and tested pro britnat lists of people to contact.

    If only there was a way to get Scotland to discuss on a daily basis anything and everything that will and could be changed when we are independent and in control ourselves including people in key jobs right to the highest levels of expertise.

    • Bob Lamont says:

      As things stand there is no avenue for open public debate with a media cartel and government on a contrary agenda and infinitely resourced. For them this is curtains and they’ll fight tooth and claw, for now we only have prolific blogs such as this and social media to spread fresh perspective, and with Paul’s superb word-craft and policy of keeping the blog openly available but verified for identity on comment, but I suspect his visitor numbers will be eye-popping and rising, a fairly good indicator of hunger to know.
      By comparison, it has been a habit of mine to watch HYS item on the Beeb website being disrupted (usually Scotland/Politics) within minutes (on cue?) by an army of keyboard warriors, accumulating more negativity than is statistically possible for the population of Scotland. Despite the usual debunked myths and nonsense per Orange Jaiket Man, at least they can spell.
      Make no mistake, were Westminster and the Tories not terrified of what they see as the likely outcome, we would have a Section 30 tomorrow.
      It will only be forced into public domain discussion when Indy2 goes live, issues can then no longer be sidelined, attacked yes, sidelined no. Against the backdrop of Brexit and a new lunatic in No10, it is going to get sparky and desperate, they are losing not only Scotland, but half of England and probably NornIrelan, this asset-stripping cartel is finally on it’s knees…
      I’ve grown wary of polls, even those which cast a negative shadow, they have become with rare exception a mechanism to influence public opinion rather than gauge it. eg the YouGov Tory poll was intended to demonstrate how self-centred and out of touch Tory members were, OR, to send a veiled threat? From their perspective they have lost anyway.
      The Indy2 starting pistol should trigger a landslide of honest debate, god knows it’s overdue.

  17. Aaron Shepard says:

    In reality it was 8 Tories (7 blue nd 1 red) to 1 SNP.. (our first minister)

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