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Showing posts with label Brian Taylor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brian Taylor. Show all posts

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Magnus Gardham and the currency question

I thought Magnus Gardham would have let his non-story of yesterday die quietly to avoid further embarrassment. But no, today he unwisely tries to justify it, to give the wee thing legs ...

Putting our money where its mouth is

It should not fall to me, a voter with no background in journalism or politics to offer the political editor of the Herald some basic concepts from The Ladybird Book of Politics, but sadly, it seems necessary.

There is a fundamental  difference between the position of the devolved Scottish Government setting out its policy - and effectively its opening negotiating platform for an independent Scotland after a YES vote - in a White Paper, and a UK Government publishing a White Paper for implementation through its majority in Parliament. In the first context, setting out a "definitive position" on policies defines a negotiating position and a set of beliefs that underpin it: in the second context, it is simply the intention to legislate using a Parliamentary majority.

In his first few paragraphs, Magnus Gardham shows that that he understands this, yet he chooses to reject the reality because it does not suit his story or his agenda - that the Scottish Government is in some way misleading a gullible Scottish electorate over the currency. He might have taken some account of the calm, and faintly amused reaction of Brian Taylor of the BBC (and others) - a man who does understand politics - at the farrago of nonsense thrown up around Colin McKay's entirely unexceptional statement - that no one can guarantee the position of the UK Government or UK Treasury in negotiations after a YES vote, especially since that Government may well change in 2015, halfway through the most complex set of negotiations British politicians have ever undertaken in centuries.

If Magnus Gardham hopes to make the contribution to the great debate on Scotland's independence that some of his journalistic contemporaries are already making, he must outgrow his fondness for conspiracy theories and great unmaskings of secret policies and hidden beliefs, and buckle down to some real journalism in the 300 or so days left to us.

I may add that it is patently evident to anyone who can rise above the adversarial pre-negotiating macho talk that the de facto rUK governments (of whatever political colour) who take part in the negotiation will agree to a sterling-based currency union because it makes eminently good sense.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Scotland’s soul – as perceived in 2009 –before the Faustian bargain with ‘Britishness’ and NATO began to rot it.

Scotland's soul - before devo-max ideas, before consultants got a hold of it, before 'Britishness', before the NATO U-turn, before the removal of Trident WMDs from our waters became an ever more fuzzy concept in timing and execution, before those who had some idea of what that soul really was became described as fundamentalists and were advised to close ranks and stop rocking the boat.

The boat being rocked is, of course, a Trident, NATO-controlled, effectively American-controlled nuclear submarine carrying a destructive power beyond the understanding of some who should know better.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Unionist bias at BBC Scotland?

I hate to ask that question, because the BBC has been an invaluable part of my life since I was a child, and my first instinct is to spring to its defence when it is attacked, as it always has been, on many fronts and for many reasons.

The BBC is a unique institution, and is recognised as such throughout the world. It has been a vital channel of communication, information and hope for occupied and oppressed countries  across the globe throughout its long history, as well as being a major engine of culture.

But from its monopoly status in certain  aspects of its operations, through regular accusations of bias and partiality - from just about every interest group imaginable - to complaints about the allegedly excessive salaries and perks of its senior management, the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, is a target.

It has been variously accused of being




biased towards libertarianism

sexually permissive

too bold in its programming

not bold enough

nationalistic and jingoistic

not patriotic enough

of concealing the realities of war

of being too open about the realities of war

The list goes on and on. It is accused of being a slave to balance in reporting, and yet is regularly accused of lack of balance. It is at one and the same time apparently anodyne yet radical in its style.

The BBC could reasonable respond – and does - that the mutually contradictory range of criticisms levelled at it are demonstration enough of its objectivity and lack of bias.

It has a major foe, potentially its nemesis - the Murdoch organisation, a force for evil in the world if ever there was one in my book, masquerading as free and fearless populist press, responding to the wishes of the people as shown through sales, with the unspeakable Fox News as its model for keeping the ‘free’ world informed. The Murdoch Press believes that the BBC is monopolistic, and hold this belief without any sense of irony.

So I instinctively spring to the BBC’s defence, an aged Don Quixote, saucepan on head, stumbling forward on Rosinante, but with no Sancho Panza to offer moral support. Hands off the Beeb!


I am reluctantly forced to conclude that there is something which, if not yet rotten in the state of BBC Scotland, is giving off a highly dubious aroma.

I am torn between recognising that it is virtually the only medium to offer any real coverage to the SNP among the biased media of Scotland, to regularly feeling that the coverage contains a distinct bias towards the unionist case.

There is perhaps some reason to expect a kind of metropolitan myopia from the BBC at  Broadcasting House in recognising the aspirations of a very large segment of the Scottish electorate to secure the independence of their country, and towards the political party that embodies that viewpoint, the Scottish National Party, even though it is the current choice of the Scottish people and forms the Government in a devolved Parliament.

Buried in the heart of London, within easy reach of Westminster and the politicians and civil servants who govern the UK, they are a part of the Westminster village, and absorb its values by a process of osmosis almost. Scotland only occasionally intrudes into their consciousness sufficiently to warrant real attention. And it is, after all, the British Broadcasting Corporation, but it is not the UK Broadcasting Corporation – the UKBC!

But there is no such excuse from number 40 Pacific Quay in the great Scottish city of Glasgow, a mere forty miles or so away from Holyrood. Yet any objective observer could only conclude that, in the lead-up to the 2007 election and in the three and a bit years since,  there have been many instances where the SNP has not been given a fair throw of the dice, and the niggling suspicion that the dice are loaded and the game is not being played according to Hoyle lingers.

I take heart from the fact that Brian Taylor, a fine journalist who exhibits high journalistic standards at all times, and whose objectivity has never been called in to question by any reasonable person, is BBC Scotland’s Chief Political Reporter. But Brian is one man.

Joan McAlpine, a highly professional journalist herself --  a columnist with The Scotsman, has explored this criticism vigorously in an article  today on her blog, Go, Lassie, Go .

She does not avoid coming to grips with specifics, naming BBC Scotland reporters and commentators and exploring aspect of their backgrounds and affiliations that might raise questions in the minds of a reasonable observer.

Now no one is suggesting, least of all Joan, who herself is a prominent SNP supporter and a candidate for a seat in Holyrood at the next election, that reporters do not have a right to political opinions and affiliations. What she argues for is a level playing field, and that political affiliations do not intrude into the objectivity of salaried journalists in a public broadcaster like the BBC.

So, BBC Scotland – sit up and take notice! There is a growing sense of disquiet among many nationalists, and among fair-minded democrats who are not nationalist supporters, but who value the freedom of the press and media, that while there may not yet be something rotten in the  state of Pacific Quay, it is time to get the fridge thermometer out and check

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Holyrood day that will live in infamy

Or as Kenneth Williams once said “Infamy, infamy! – they’ve got it in for me!”

Not quite Pearl Harbour, but the rejection of minimum pricing for alcohol by the Holyrood opposition parties is truly shameful. Holyrood's health committee backed a Tory amendment to strike from the Alcohol Bill plans for a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 45p.

Brian Taylor, the BBC’s highly respected political correspondent expressed the view that the decision would probably not influence voting at the Holyrood elections in May 2011. I’m not so sure …

Every time a health professional finds themselves deflected from vital professional care duties by violent drunks, abusive and shouting in A&E, they will remember who opposed the measure, in spite of the support of the BMA and the almost universal support of health professionals and doctors.

I say almost universal support - I exclude, of course, Doctor Richard Simpson, Labour’s health spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament, a medical doctor and former GP, who knows better than his professional body, the BMA, knows better than his church, the Church of Scotland, knows better than the police, better than most health professionals and addiction counsellors – in fact, knows better than almost every professional voice in the Scottish Nation.

Every time a police officer deals with rioting, drunk teenagers in a town centre, they will remember who opposed this measure – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a minister of religion finds that his or her church has had its environs vandalised, and picks up a litter of empty cans of cheap lager and bottle of cider in the churchyard, they will remember who opposed this eminently sensible provision – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a couple of retired, law-abiding citizens look outside their window late on a Friday or Saturday night because a violent disturbance is taking place in the normally quiet street, they will remember who opposed a measure that might have reduced such incidents – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a drunk teenager or young adult crashes a car while under the influence of cheap supermarket alcohol, killing their passenger and the occupants of the vehicle they collided with, the families of the victims will remember who opposed provisions to limit the consumption of cheap booze – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

As young mothers with young children pick their way in disgust through the broken bottle, empty beer cans, cider bottles and vomit in their local park, they will remember who opposed the sensible, moderate measure that would have limited this revolting pollution of our public places – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

And perhaps they will then remember Nicola Sturgeon, the health minister who championed minimum pricing for alcohol, the justice minister who supported it and the First Minister and the party – the SNP – that tried to do something real, for the first time, about the plague that afflicts our Scottish Nation.