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Showing posts with label Joan McAlpine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joan McAlpine. Show all posts

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The YouTube debate - TAofMoridura

I have a YouTube channel, TAofMoridura. Since starting my new blog and channel after my medical problems (I took down the old blog and channel 2008-2009) I posted 460 video clips. All of them were live, and all of them attracted regular comments. I pre-moderate, so I have to make a decision on every comment post - to approve or delete, and whether or not to respond.

Roughly one third of all comments are so obscene, abusive, or obsessionally repetitive that I have to delete them and sometimes block the poster. I never delete comments or block them based on posters disagreeing with me in rational arguement, and I have deleted and blocked independence supporters for the same reasons as unionists. 

This involves so much work in addition to my blogging and capture and posting of videos that I could not sustain it. I was also having some minor hassle from YouTube over protected content. So I decided to take them all down and start afresh.

To give an idea of the work load involved - and the nature of comments (you can see them all on TAofMoridura) here is one video clip posted on 12th January 2012, with so far 2500 hits - high for my kind of clip. I have left a couple of nasties in (apologies, Nicola!) to give a flavour of the abusive nature of some who claim to be British and unionist, and sometimes Scots.


Douglas Alexander and Dimbleby gang up on Nicola Sturgeon

They dont like it up em Mr Mainwaring. The nasty SNP on the back foot what a turn up.
JohnnyNorfolk

I wish she knew about Tom Harris MP at this time!
Next time!
FranklyLate

RIP - SNP
SNP maybe biggest party but Scotland we Scots (majority) don't want to be Independent. We have our own government, we have the best of both worlds we make our own decisions but are part of the UK getting billions extra each year.
Scotland could survive on its own but we would have to pay more tax, no British army, likely have to join the Euro in long-term. No more Royal family, no more free education, Scotland would take debt burden and we wouldn't control all the oil in North sea!
51wins

HA HA HA it was great to see the little mongrel get her yap SHUT
CHANNELOMD

What's with the griping - she didnt answer a simple question
Nats r very well trained in the art of badgering. Ms Sturgeon was as evasive and as slippery as a Salmond. It really wasnt a hard time. Ok she didnt get protected by the tv people we have up here. Who r cowered by belligerent nats who smear people as anti scottish.
I am Scottish with no political affilations. The twin threats to a proper open informative debate is the wee scots gerrymandering and daft english comments
random2862

I agree that Nicola Sturgeon was treated badly and I felt uncomfortable watching it. She comes across as a very nice genuine person. (Don't trust Salmond!)
I also thought Kelvin Makenzie was a little "Londoner" arsehole.
I'm English and I support the Uk but this is no way to debate such an important issue.
If this type of discourse continues for another 2 years then the SNP will have independence in the bag!
The Unionists have to make a far more mature case and accept Devo-Max FTW.
garysgreat

Shes like a chattering rat.
CarolineRaRaRa

Douglas Alexander, weak, spineless, glass jawed. abour R.I.P
bhoywunder

What an odious little wanker Douglas Alexander is, let the woman bloody talk instead of being so childish and badgering her.
This is appalling behaviour from an MP supposedly an adult during a live televised discussion.
McDuff73

Douglas Alexander is disgraceful
turkeylad

get used to it folks. there's worse to come. bear in mind Alexander and the rest are fighting for their political careers. independence means no membership of westminster club.
pokerkid99

I watched this live and was amazed at the lack of respect to Scotlands Deputy First Minister. This will probably be the same on all debates from now until the Independence Referendum in 2014. 5 against 1 is hardly fair.
Let us have a grown up Debate with fairness and equal air space.
FireiskLtd

I thought nats liked being oppressed - it gives them a sense of purpose. Maybe they just don't like being oppressed by fellow scots, of questionable patriotism
KMcPsentia

This is a mugging by dimblebore and douglas alexander. BBC has been swamped with complaints.
sionnyn

  Yep how awful to question the commitment of those Labour members of the * Scottish * parliament who take their instructions - verbatim! - from the Westminster Tories.
jistaface

Classic! Typically editing a quote and taking it out of context. It was the democratic point that the Unionists never wanted a referendum and therefore Westminster should not impose conditions on the referendum that should be coordinated by the Scottish Parliament.
ramboice

This kind of thing is all the unionists are good for - being as those who actually watched the full 2 and a half hour long debate from holyrood (and therefore are aware of the context) will be few and far between. To deny the Scottish electorate the right to have their voice according to the timescale of their own democratically elected government IS anti-Scottish, but the phrase is too easily taken out of context, and Joan McAlpine should have known better.
  jack834834

Out of context. Sentence was clipped! Original quote was longer.
Here is the abridged quote confidently delivered by Alexander: "I absolutely make no apology for saying that the liberals, the labour party and the Tories are anti-Scottish."

The full quote:
"I absolutely make no apology for saying that the liberals, the labour party and the Tories are anti-Scottish in coming together to defy the will of the Scottish people, the democratic mandate."
Bit different.
Hirunite

I guess we're going to seean awful lot more of these types of tactics in the coming couple of years, and it's only going to get worse. It's going to be down to those who support independence yet have know real or tangible link to political parties and the SNP in particular to rebuke such underhand political tactics.
weejimmykranky

Lord Ashdown made a considered contribution but I found him comparing his painting of independence elsewhere in the world, which had been brought about through war, conflict and genocide, to be an unfair comparison with the likely aftermath of Scottish independence.
Don't know what happened to Kelvin MacKenzie last night. The Levinson jab must be starting to work :-).
grumblingtummy

I thought Wee Duggie was actually being quite rude in his continued barracking of the Deputy First Minister as she tried to make her point. David Dimbleby really should have intervened as Chairman to stop this rude behaviour and then ensure Nicola responded to the "question" from DA.... and we wonder why common courtesy is disappearing from society!
grumblingtummy
 
Apologize for what?! You fools are not patriotic, you do not love your country as Scotland, because your country is the United Kingdom and there's where your allegiance lies. You belittle it all the time, your policies do no good for Scotland, you gang up on, and ignore the significant (and growing daily) population of Scots that favor independence, but yet, you present no positive points for Scotland to stay in the Union, only negativity about us leaving. You are indeed a disgrace to Scotland.
MSfeller

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Nonsense on negotiation and James MacMillan/Joan McAlpine

The papers today -

Scotland on Sunday has a piece on page 7 - Lecturer sparks race row by linking absence of riots to lack of minorities. As soon as I saw this headline, I guessed who the lecturer would be - Dr. Stuart Waiton of the University of Abertay. A quote and a link will suffice -

“However, Waiton accused detractors of ‘wallowing in bulls**t victimhood’ and backed historian David Starkey, who said the riots had happened because too many white people had adopted ‘black attitudes.”

See an earlier blog of mine on Dr. Waiton. As for Starkey - nuff said …  http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/07/news-of-world-note-of-distinct-unease.html

Elsewhere in the paper, Duncan Hamilton has an article on page 15. I am an admirer of Duncan Hamilton, and he has a lot of pertinent things to say, including about negotiation, something I will return to later. But he does use a phrase I wish he hadn’t  - the silent majority.

This phrase, once used of the dead, has been subsequently utterly discredited by populist politicians, and notable by Richard Nixon. Anyone can claim the support of the silent majority because they are - well, silent. And that’s all we know about them, Duncan - until they vote, and even then we have to rely on guesswork or some aspects. As for me, I know the silent majority always silently agrees with every word I say. My problems are with the sometimes all-too-vocal citizenry - but that’s an inconvenient fact of democracy.

NEGOTIATION

I do claim considerable expertise in negotiation, both as a  practitioner and a teacher/trainer. In politics, a kind of primitive negotiation goes on within political institutions, and from what I have heard and seen of it, primitive is the word. This must be caused by the new generation of politicos, many of whom have never done and real commercial or industrial work in their lives, having entered fresh from the egg clutching their PPE degrees.

This all too often means that they have never received either formal training in negotiating skills or actual experience at the negotiating table itself. (It also leaves them wide open to the snake oil salesmen and women in motivational consulting - getting in touch with their inner selves, hugging trees and kissing daisies, and imbibing a load of dubious psychobabble about left brain/right brain. This has one - and only one - very tangible outcome - the enrichment of motivational consultants.)

So when politicians talk about negotiation, draw a long breath. (I exempt practitioners of diplomacy from these strictures - diplomacy is negotiation between sovereign states, and it is usually at least conducted by professionals.) If we leave aside the unionist nonsense about ‘Scotland has two governments’, the reality is that Scotland, in the capable hands of Alex Salmond, is to all intents and purposes negotiating with the UK government as if both were sovereign states, even though that status is aspirational only for Scotland. In a country seeking independence, this is the only possible posture.

Few journalists understand negotiation, but some do, like Duncan Hamilton. As a former politician, he uses the language of negotiation uncharacteristically well, and has grasped its core concepts, and in good analysis, he asks the question - a highly pertinent one - Is the desire for a Scottish Electoral Commission a deal breaker. He says no, I say, it probably should be, while perhaps just leaving a tiny possibility that it could be negotiable.

Elsewhere in SoS, Kenny Farquarson talks journalese about negotiation, and says nothing of value. I’ve gone off Kenny Farquarson, and doubtless he has gone off me. But the cartoon above his piece, by the mordant Brian Adcock says more about negotiation than Kenny does.

The Sunday Herald has a 13-page report, with good, solid journalism, the always balanced and relevant Iain Macwhirter, and I can only suggest that you read it - and do it by buying the paper, which needs the circulation. If you think you’ll ever get this depth online if such a newspaper ceased to exist, dream on. A key medium, vital to our democracy would be lost for ever if print journalism went.

THE JOAN McALPINE SPAT

I have this to say - I stand squarely with Joan McAlpine in what she said. Regrettably, some misguided nat bloggers, in an attempt to defend her, have sunk to Labour’s level in contemptible personal attacks on Douglas Alexander. In so doing, they have discredited our cause, and have been no help whatsoever to Joan, who as a journalist, always maintained the highest standards.

But here we have James MacMillan, Scottish composer, claiming that the SNP are anti-English, and of stoking up anti-English sentiment.  This is the man who made all the running about sectarianism in Scottish society, which he appeared to confine to anti-Catholic sectarianism, which although it undoubtedly exists and has the highest number of recorded sectarian acts against the religion, is not the only sectarianism that disfigures aspects of Scottish life and sport.

His claims about the SNP are arrant nonsense, although no one would deny that every political movement has its nutcase fringe element, and that anti-Scottish remarks occur in England and anti-English in Scotland.

However, how can this man then permit himself to indulge in this disgraceful comment, without accusations a gross hypocrisy.

“Ayrshire-born MacMillan went on to claim that the SNP fuelled anti-English sentiment, citing McAlpine’s remarks. He added that he had met McAlpine once, saying: ‘All I can remember about Ms. McAlpine was her whiney Glaswegian accent, de rigueur for parish-pump-envy-and-grievance politics in these parts, and so beloved by the rest of the country. Not.”

It’s hard to know where to start with that offensive, class-based, dripping with contempt for ordinary Scots remark. I have been arguing that prominent Scots should come out and say where they stand on the great debate over Scotland’s independence. James MacMillan is a distinguished composer and a great artist. But if he cannot find a better way than this to express his anti-SNP, Unionist position, perhaps he should remain silent. Great artistic talent is no guarantor of political maturity, or even good manners, as history show all too clearly.

This was a contemptible statement, James. I won’t demand an apology - anyone who could frame such a remark is incapable of giving one. Can I just remind you that Joan McAlpine’s remarks were directed at other Scots, not at the English? She said that the effect of their posture was damaging to Scotland. So are your remarks.

Maybe you should just stick to the music …


Friday, 13 January 2012

Douglas Alexander and Dimbleby gang up on Nicola Sturgeon on Question Time

Douglas Alexander rejects "A politics of grudge and grievance." Judge for yourselves from this clip who is engaged in such a policy, entirely representative of the entire programme, where all the panellists, including the Chairman, David Dimbleby, were ranged against Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, who acquitted herself with dignity in spite of the contemptible and bullying tone of the programme..

Lord Ashdown was the epitome of grandiose and vacuous British imperial pomposity, and was therefore given extended licence to pontificate by Dimbleby. It is deeply ironic, yet highly significant that the only member of the panel who was seen to extend reasonable courtesy to the lone representative - yes, I repeat, the lone representative of Scotland's interests, was Kelvin McKenzie.

For the benefit of Douglas Alexander, I repeat and endorse Joan McAlpine's comments - the behaviour of the three opposition parties, on full display at the Commons debate on the referendum, was a shameful example of Parliamentary bullying, and their opposition to the Scottish Government being allowed to carry out its mandate to call a referendum and hear the voice of the Scottish people is an attack on Scotland's interests and does betray a lack of concern for Scotland.

To my surprise, Michael Moore was the only member of the combined Tory, LibDem and Labour parties to come out of that debate with some credibility. I actually think he was embarrassed by the behaviour of his allies in their mob tactics against the Scottish nationalist group.




Sunday, 10 July 2011

An antidote to the ‘Britishness’ nonsense talked in the Newsnight special

Rory Stewart OBE, Tory MP (born in Hong Kong, raised in Malaysia, education Dragon school, Eton and Balliol college, Oxford - Deputy Governor in two Iraq provinces for the armed US/UK Coalition that illegally invaded  Iraq. He served briefly in the Black Watch. His family originates from Crieff in Perthshire).

Asked if the break-up of the Union, compared by Paxman to a marriage, matters -

I think it matters very deeply, I think we’ll miss it terribly. It is something it is very easy to imagine you can tear apart, by I think like any relationship - any intertwined thing - once it’s gone, we’ll miss it and we will never forgive the government that tore it apart.”

This is emotional nonsense, with highly coloured, pejorative terms, delivered by a privileged product of the British Establishment, colonialism and Empire. He believes what he says - why wouldn’t he, with that background? He talks of the voluntary ending of a 300 year-old political treaty by democratic means and negotiation as a tearing apart, and the we he refers to, although he the thinks of it as the people of the UK , is in fact his own tiny, powerful, privileged class.

That class will miss the Union - you’d better believe they will!  They owe all they have to it - it has delivered for them, while marginalising, impoverishing and killing the rest of us in large numbers, especially the Scots.

And never forget, that historically, that class has always included Scots who were willing, indeed enthusiastic agents of British imperialism and the betrayal of the economic and social interests of their own people. And they’re still around …

Asked pointedly by Paxman what ‘we’ would lose, he replies

I think it’s a mistake to think we would lose economics (sic) - you can make economic arguments, you can make political arguments - you lose an idea: an idea of union, an idea of what was great about Britain - of England, of Scotland. And those are things that all of us feel.”

In the turgid emotional and now stagnant pool that is the unionist mind Britain, instead of being a geographical term for an archipelago - a group of islands - is conflated with a political entity, one that didn’t exist when the union with Scotland - a political and economic union - took place. He’s right - Great Britain is an idea, and its time is ending. If it’s any comfort to the Rory’s of this world, the Union of the Crowns - a much older pragmatic idea - looks set to continue.

Joan McAlpine, talking hard sense, leavened with humanity as usual, attempts to reassure those about to cry in their warm ale over the impending ‘loss’. Peter Davies, an English Democrat would like to return to the status quo ante, i.e. reverse the devolution process, rightly pointing out the self-serving political motives of Labour in using it to consolidate their Scottish hegemony (it didnae work, Tony!) but he is a realist, albeit a disgruntled one, about where we now are, and wants out.

Prompted by Joan McAlpine’s analysis of the real reason for devolution, Rory Stewart reluctantly concedes that “probably, in the end, it reflected the desires of the Scottish people. I think it would have been dangerous to fight it forever. But I think at the same time, Scotland and England can be independent … and Scotland is more independent in the Union than out of it.”

He goes on, however, that it is “reckless and unnecessary …” He is interrupted at this point by Paxman saying that it can be done. Rory acknowledges that it would not be a cataclysm, but “a crying shame …”

Faced with the English Democrat asking why the English are being discriminated against in the devolution settlements - as they are, in my view - he patronisingly tells his countryman (in Rory’s English persona) that he is “falling into the trap that the Scottish nationalists are setting - they are trying to make you feel that you are being discriminated against” to which he receives the robust rejoinder from Peter Davies “We are!”.

“Everything that they are doing is designed to try to make you feel resentful - you don’t need to …” This is half-Scot Rory talking about a large number of his countrymen and the elected Government of Scotland. Peter Davies rejoins that he is not resentful, but old Etonian Rory is in full patrician mode now.

You can be confident and proud of being British.”

Peter Davies, an Englishman, is more practical, and rejects the patronising tone. “I want what they’ve got - that’s not resentful.”

Gaun yersel, Peter, I say, endorsing his feeling that he is being discriminated against, because he is. Tam Dalziel said so, and since I am now from West Lothian, I support that other product of empire and privilege, the Laird of the Binns. At this point, Joan McAlpine made more relevant, hard economic and legal points, but Paxman prefers to stay with the emotion and the discrimination issue.

He questions the audience - do they feel discriminated against? He raises the nonsensical proposition that the English should be allowed a voice in the referendum, which some of the audience do. Could the English force the Scots to stay, even if they wanted to leave? This leaves the unfortunate audience member being prompted by Paxman looking confused, as well he might be, and asking that the question be repeated.

But Paxman gets little comfort - good old, English common-sense is prevailing. One of them recognises that some Scots actually may have more reservations about independence than the English.

Paxman seeks for Scots to answer his question, but yet again gets a robust answer from an Englishman, that it is a matter for Scots, not for them. Paxman then finds a straight-talking Scot, who says that all that will happen is that the English will lose a few more Labour MPs, and is sanguine about Scots continuing to get on well with the English, since they do so under “the pseudo independence we’ve got now.”

But Rory will have none of it - we are “in danger of turning friends into competitors, and opening up rivalries and crises of identity that none of us need or want.” He remains oblivious to the fact that this exists only in his mind and the minds of his narrow privileged class, not among the ordinary people, who recognise that the UK and the Union are not operating in their interests, but in the interests of Rory’s class - the British Establishment.

The Scottish audience member who spoke earlier points out gently to Rory, and cites former British empire members Canada, Australia and Ireland, where contacts, family ties and social relationships and economic ties are just fine.

Rory ignores this courteously stated point, and falls back on his Dad in Crieff, who is proud to be Scottish and British, and claims, with no evidence, that this represents more people in Scotland than the audience member represents, a discourteous, impertinent and unsupported statement.

I have little to say about the last few minutes of the discussion - it’s all there in the clip for those who want to analyse it.

I leave the last word on the UK and the Union to the distinguished historian, Norman Davies, on pages 870 and 871 of his magisterial work The Isles. I have selected quotes that seem highly relevant to me.

EXTRACT

(1) The United Kingdom is not, and never has been, a nation-state.

……

By the terms of its inception in 1707, The United Kingdom has been prevented from developing either the federal or the unitary structures which have elsewhere fostered homogeneity.

……

It is essentially a dynastic conglomerate, which could never equalise the functions of its four constituent parts, and which, as a result, could never fully harmonise the identities of the national communities within its borders. The UK, for example, has no one established Church. (It has two of them.) It has no unified legal system, no centralised education system, no common cultural policy, no common history - none of the institutional foundations, in other words, on which nations states are built.

……

Like all ruling elites who wanted their citizens to form a coherent national community and to identify themselves with the interests of the state, the British establishment deliberately confused the concepts of citizenship and nationality. Indeed, in British usage, citizenship actually came to be called ‘nationality’, whilst citizens - or rather subjects - were called ‘nationals’. This linguistic manoeuvre did much to create the false impression that everyone who carried a British passport was automatically identified with the same national group.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The unionists share their identity crisis …

Billy Connolly may be an odd sort of Scot for a Scottish nationalist to quote, given his infamous “little pretendy Parliament” remark of yore, but I admire the man as a comic genius, with an ability to elevate the commonplaces of a Scottish working class life into high art.

Here is my recollection of one of his joke routines about his time in the shipyards, when the foremen were required to wear hard hats with their names on them. One such personage caught Billy and his mate skiving, and they gave him some cheek when he challenged them. “Do you know who I am?” asked the foreman, puffed up with self-importance.

Connolly and friend looked at each other in mock incredulity. “Here’s a guy wi’ his name oan his hat and he disnae know who he is!”

Much press and media coverage has been devoted since the Scottish Parliamentary election earthquake to the Scottish Labour Party’s loss of identity and confusion about who they are, and what they might do about it. The Scottish LibDems and Tories are regarded as already dead by the media, their corpses are therefore treated with patronising respect, and nobody wastes much time on thoughts of how they might be brought to life again. All that is asked of them is that they don’t smell too badly before being consigned to the flames of history.

The other dominant strand that has emerged from the profound emotional shock to the unionist mindset of the SNP's decisive electoral victory is an increasingly desperate attempt to define Britishness in the context of Scottishness. Only ‘British’ Scots appear to have this identity crisis, which they now want to foist on the rest of us: the English always knew that Britain meant England, and Britishness meant Englishness. And the English are right in this, and right to feel this way. Only in comparatively recent times has England feared to speak its name. Anyone who reads anything published before the Second World War (and quite a lot since) will realise that England was the Empire and Englishness was the nationality that defined it.

The kind of case being put for this, and for ‘Britain’ (for Britain read British Empire) is buried in gross sentimentality, as the vapourings of Rory Stewart and Michael Portillo on this week’s Newsnight Special so nauseatingly revealed.

Of course, sentimentality was the keynote of Empire while it was engaged in its worst colonial excesses: sentimentality is the cloying sugar coating on the deadly pill of exploitation and brutality, as history shows.

Heinrich Heine has devastatingly explored the link between sentimentality and brutality, as have others.

“Sentimentality is the emotional promiscuity of those who have no sentiment.”  Norman Mailer

"Think of the lamentable role of popular sentiment in wartime! Think of our so-called humanitarianism! The psychiatrist knows only too well how each of us becomes the helpless but not pitiable victim of his own sentiments. Sentimentality is the superstructure erected upon brutality…”  Carl Jung

THE SCOTSMAN NEWSPAPER

The Scotsman should,  in my view, change its title and its masthead to The Scotsman? or perhaps even to TheScotBrit, although that doesn’t really fit well with a quality newspaper, since the term Brit has come to be associated with the worst tabloid excesses, brutality, jingoism - and sentimentality.

The newspaper is all over the place politically these days, reflecting the same confusion of identity that has paralysed the Scottish Labour Party (insofar as such a thing exists) - and the Labour Party at Westminster, and it gives space regularly to commentators who exemplify this confusion - Allan Massie, Michael Kelly, John McTernan et al.

The first two on that list are featured today, and just in case the unionist message gets missed, we have an attack on the SNP by one Tom Miers, who is described as an independent public policy consultant, entitled ‘Fiddling while Scotland burns’, which in essence is the cry raised against the independence issue and the referendum before May 2011, that it was a deflection from managing the economy.

This of course rapidly changed to a demand that a referendum should be held immediately, after the unionists realised the scale of their defeat, while Alex Salmond calmly reiterated his manifesto commitment to a referendum mid-term so that he could concentrate on trying to limit the damage caused by the outgoing Labour Government and now being compounded by the shambolic ConLib Coalition.

To be fair, The Scotsman - or perhaps another title, The Occasional Scotsman but I’m also a Brit, does give regular space to Joan McAlpine, who is not at all confused about her identity and is an infinitely better journalist than any of the others, so there is some kind of balance, albeit a little lopsided.

Meanwhile, we must put up with articles such as Proud to Scottish … and English from John McTernan, former Labour Party adviser to Tony Blair, a Prime Minister easily moved to tears and deeply sentimental, one who launched an illegal and horrific war in Iraq, responsible for the violent death and mutilation of countless thousands of innocent men, women and children, and the involvement of the UK in the misconceived, decade-long and utterly pointless war in Afghanistan.

Or Allan Massie, with his article Labour must be bold and give Gray a second chance, with advice such as

“Instead Labour has to be true to itself, to assert that independence is unnecessary as well as undesirable, to say the Scottishness is compatible with Britishness, to insist that its values are shared by millions of people in other constituent parts of the United Kingdom. It should be unashamedly and indeed proudly Unionist, arguing that the continuation of the Union is in the best interests of the Scottish people, and defending the devolution arrangements as a settlement, not as a process of gradual disengagement.”

Wrong on every count, Allan Massie.

Independence is necessary, desirable and vital to Scotland.

There is no such things as ‘Britishness’, or ‘British values’ - they are false constructs designed to support an empire that has long since died.

The very reason that Labour is dying in Scotland is that it is “unashamedly and indeed proudly Unionist” and the Scottish electorate have recognised that at last, realised that it is incompatible with the interests of Scots, their ancient identity, their pride as a nation, and their common humanity.

That is why they rejected Labour and the other Unionist parties and embraced their ain folk on May 5th 2011.

No amount of jingoistic sentimentality, cloaking the essential amorality, corruption, brutality  and incompetence of the UK Establishment and its successive puppet governments, currently on blatant display in the News of the World debacle, and the deeply questionable links, at the highest levels, of successive governments and the police to an unscrupulous and possibly criminal newspaper and media monolith, News International, can conceal that something is rotten in the state of the UK, and has been for a very, very long time.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

How the English see Scotland’s independence–and their own …

When the first reports of the poll conducted on how the English perceive independence – Scotland’s and their own – I expected the haggis to hit the fan, with instant attempts by unionists to spin the result. The first BBC News report I saw confirmed my fears. Here is the clip, brief, but very much to the point – the unionist point, that is …

Since we can safely assume that neither Laura Bicker nor Catriona Shearer – the epitome of a sonsy Scottish lassie – wrote their own scripts, someone behind the scenes in the Beeb had put a quick, superficial spin on a result that, by any criteria, should have given unionists concern, not comfort. But unionists have not been able to face reality for some time now, and are in the deep denial that grips all of the unionist political parties and the British Establishment.



Catriona launches in briskly and selectively on the poll results. “ … suggest that fewer than 1 in 5 English people think England would be better off without Scotland, and just about a third of them want to see an independent England.

Q1 Should Scotland be independent?

YES 36%, NO 48%, DON’T KNOW 15%

The comment options now facing Laura Bicker, or more probably the news editor were

a) Let the figures speak for themselves

b) Offer the pro and anti independence possible interpretations

or

c) Select a single perspective and present it as fact

The BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation, in its Scottish incarnation, chose the last one. Bias? Probably not, except subliminally …

Here are the two perspectives as I see them -

UNIONIST

A minority of English people, about a third, want Scottish independence.

Almost half are against it.

About one in seven don’t know.

NATIONALIST

Over one third of English people want Scotland to be independent.

A little under half don’t want Scotland to be independent.

More than one in seven are undecided.

These figures are about the same as Scots polled on the same question.

Reporting on this, Laura Bicker is impeccably neutral, and her comments would fit either perspective. Then comes the next question -

Q2 Should England be independent?

YES 36% NO 57% DON’T KNOW 7%

Laura sees this as “ … a more resounding result.” Well, yes – half of the don’t knows have moved to NO.

So far, so good. But then Laura decides to tell us “What this poll teaches us …” and here the BBC moves straight into unionist high gear.

What this poll teaches us is that the myth, that the English simply want rid of us – that they the want to cut a line at Hadrian’s Wall and let us float off into our own future, simply isn’t true.”

The poll teaches us nothing of the kind, Laura - there is no such myth, except the one created by the unionist establishment mindset, formed partly out of paranoia about just that eventuality, but mainly to set up a straw man of an imagined nationalist position just so it could be knocked down.



What I believe, and what I think most nationalist believe, is that the English people, unlike the UK Establishment and the UK unionist parties, are wakening from a long, complacent sleep, in the face of the disintegrating UK democracy, the corruption of UK Government, and what has been done to them by thirteen years of carpetbagging Scottish Labour politicians of the Blair, Brown, Darling, Douglas Alexander mould, the Jim Murphy, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore new breed, and the suicidal, doctrinaire and destructive policies of the rich men of the ConLib Coalition – Cameron, Moore, Haig, Lansley, Osborne, etc.

They are not yet all awake, but 36% are, and 15% are rubbing the sleep from their eyes and considering the new world they find themselves in. That 36% has grown from only 16% not too long ago, and that is the significance of this poll: that the English people are progressively moving in the same direction as the Scots – towards independence.

It’s called a trend, stupid! I call it an inevitable historical process, the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the age, the age of power to the people.

THE NEWSNIGHT SPECIAL

However, BBC Scotland may have got it wrong in a brief, one-minute news item, but an extended edition of Newsnight gave a reasonably full and objective coverage of the poll, the issues it raises, and the real dimensions and implications of Scottish and English nationalism.

It was reasonably well-structured, and Paxman more or less behaved himself, but found it hard to conceal his real sympathies, not to mention his hostility – thinly - disguised, to Joan McAlpine’s calm, reasoned, highly relevant and courteous contributions, especially when she tried to place events in a historical context. In contrast he allowed complete licence to the ramblings of Rory Stewart and Michael Portillo about ‘British’ tolerance and ‘British’ opposition to fanaticism, which in their minds equates to people power and nationalism.

The analytical sections of this Newsnight special were excellent, mainly because they were a Paxman-free zone. However, it is odd that Newsnight Scotland had to be sacrificed to permit this extended edition of Newsnight to be scheduled – they could easily have dumped the Michael Caine documentary that followed, a re-hash of stuff that has been covered endlessly and tediously before.





MY CONCLUSIONS

The facts are that a growing percentage of the Scottish and English populations now want independence, and the 36% or so, when looked at in the context of the undecided – the don’t knows – is highly significant for the survival of the UK, for Scotland and England. Why?

Because this is a committed, vocal and politically active and very substantial minority, in tune with the great global movements towards people power, and the overthrow of old hegemonies and the dictatorship of money, militarism and privileged elites. In contrast, the majority are representative of a complacent status quo, not as politically and intellectually active.

The Force is with the nationalists – the wind of change blows and is unstoppable.

Saor Alba!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The gentlemen of the Press - again …

The Scotsman backed the SNP just before the May 2011 election on the basis that they had the best team and were best equipped to lead the country, which the Scotsman, despite its title, had to reluctantly concede was called Scotland, not Great Britain or the UK.  In this, the paper was running behind the manifest thinking of the Scottish people, as revealed by the rapidly changing opinion polls. In a declining market for print journalism, it doesn’t do to back a loser, as the Scottish Daily Record and the Sunday Mail are painfully discovering.

But the Scotsman doesn’t believe in an independent Scotland, and as they awakened on May 6th to the full implications of the SNP’s historic victory, the magnitude of its majority and the implications of its renewed and strengthened mandate, the unionist panic started. It rapidly shifted gear to combat this new threat, adopting an approach to news reporting pioneered by the Herald, and already used by Scotland on Sunday, that of news bias by headline.

This involves taking a story, often a low-key report by a government body, economic think-tank or obscure, dry-as-dust professional commentator, often an academic, and selecting out of context a comment or fact and blowing it up into an anti-SNP, usually anti-independence headline and sub-header. The news report that follows in the small print then goes on to present a reasonably factual and objective account of what was actually said, thus paying lip service to objective new reporting. This approach is as old as journalism, and can be tracked all the way back to the Hearst yellow press in the United States.

Now it may be argued that this is simply the realities of headline writing, and that all newspapers play this game to sell papers in  highly competitive, challenging marketplace, and that of necessity, something punchy must be plucked from the news report to highlight content and draw readers. Indeed they do, but it is what is plucked and how it is presented that distinguishes the tabloid from the broadsheet, to use a now-outmoded term for quality newspapers. By what they pluck shall ye know them, and there appear to be a bunch of unionist pluckers in the Scotsman editorial team in these heady, referendum lead-up times.

Lest I seem unfair the the Scotsman, let me say that by giving regular space to a fine journalist, Joan McAlpine, who is also a prominent SNP supporter and who is now an MSP, they do offer a trenchant nationalist voice from a respected Scottish commentator to their readers. On the other side, they offer a platform to Michael Kelly, a man of whom prudence demands that I personally say little, for fear of attracting m’learned friends, except to comment that Joan McAlpine is miles better than the former Lord Provost of Glasgow.

Is there a model for me of what the Scottish Press should be, what it could be? Is there a model for me of what a Scottish political editor could be, of what political editors should be?

Yes, there is - the Scottish edition of The Times and Angus Macleod. I confess to having neglected and overlooked this fine newspaper in the past, associating The Times vaguely with its reputation as the Thunderer, with thoughts of Holmes and Watson perusing it over tea and muffins in Baker Street. From typography and layout to content, both news and features, this is an admirable example of what a newspaper should be, what a Scottish newspaper should be, and what the true values of news and political journalism could and should be.

Something’s gotta give, however, as the old song says -

I can’t afford the luxury of three daily newspapers. I’ve abandoned the i, the Independent’s inspired new entrant, after an initial infatuation with it, because of the almost total absence of any acknowledgement of the existence of Scotland and Scottish affairs, in which it mirrors The Independent’s editorial policy. And now, either The Scotsman or the Herald must be relegated to online reading.

Since my wife likes the Herald, and since it still has the finest Letters page of any newspaper, I fear The Scotsman must be the one to enter cyberspace. In these straightened times, £300 a year, or thereabouts, ain’t to be sneezed at …


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

left-wing

right-wing

establishment-biased

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!

but

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, 28 October 2010

The gentlemen - and gentlewomen - of the Press: Joan McAlpine and The Scotsman

I have held the view for many years now that The Scotsman spectacularly failed to live up to its title, that it was blindly unionist and establishment-biased, and that objective journalism had gone oot the windae a long, long time ago, subservient to proprietorial values rather than journalistic ones.

In fairness, as a west-coaster, I also had a long term loyalty to the Herald, even though its ancient journalistic traditions (the oldest English language newspaper in the world) had become subservient to Labour and New Labour values. I stuck with it because its Letters page was - and is - the glory of the newspaper, superior to any other British newspaper that I know.

The Scottish nationalist views and perceptions were fairly presented there, even though it was as likely that they would get a fair exposure in news and opinion features as the prospect of The Soldier’s song being voiced by an Ibrox crowd, or No Surrender rising from the terrace of Parkhead.

But I continued to sample The Scotsman, buying the paper in addition to the Herald a couple of times a week, and regularly looking at the online edition – and in the last week or so, it has frontally challenged my negative expectations on a number of occasions. Yesterday, it exceeded my most hopeful ones.

An article by Joan McAlpine headed It’s time to get angry and get ahead of the pack instantly caught my eye, because the headline and the sub-header encapsulated exactly how I was feeling about the challenges facing Scotland now, and in the future. I would love to reproduce it verbatim, but it is categorised by The Scotsman as premium content, requiring a subscription to read it in full (I bought the paper!) and if ever an opinion piece deserved the title of premium content, it was this one.

So you’ll have to either get a copy of Wednesday’s paper or subscribe to get it, unless some less scrupulous blogger has put up a bootleg copy.

In 800 or 900 words, it tightly, economically, cogently and passionately said all that I want to hear said about Scotland today, articulating the core ideas that define my late, but passionate nationalism. It was so well written that - as a writer of sorts myself -  it would have commanded my respect even if I had fundamentally disagreed with the viewpoint expressed.

This is the kind of journalism Scotland needs at this defining moment in our history, and we rarely see it.

I have never met Joan McAlpine, and have had no contact with her until today (an email of congratulation and thanks for her piece from me.)

The Scotsman surprised and delighted me today, and I will now buy it daily, in the hope that at least one quality Scottish newspaper is now prepared to exhibit journalistic and editorial balance across the parties, a balance that was never needed more than it is now.

I fully expect that an avalanche of mail, some of it hostile, some supportive will hit tomorrow's Scotsman letters page, and that there will be some real debate, red in tooth and claw, of the type that Scotland needs today.