BBC Scotland annoys me! There are many reasons for this, one being that it consistently misses our fine city of Dundee off the weather map. We’ll always see Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, usually Inverness, and regular appearances from apparently important outposts like Kelso – no disrespect Kelso! Why is that? Is there a conspiracy against Dundee? Actually, there may well be but that’s another rant for another day. No, what’s exercising my ire right now is a rapidly growing dislike of the inaccuracies, spin and unsolicited, thinly disguised opinionated slants contained within their news reporting.
Take Reporting Scotland last week as an example, and their feature on the (then) upcoming public sector Day of Action. Newsworthy, certainly, but presented in a very sinister way didn’t you think? For me, it certainly didn’t help that it was presented by David Henderson, you know, the one who’s far too posh for his own good and with a delivery style that’s way too contrived even by BBC Scotland standards. As an aside, just exactly why do they keep choosing presenters with appalling presentational styles – think Bob Wylie, or his extreme (and extremely irritating) disciple Seonag MacKinnon? And, why are we usually no better informed at the end of one of their tedious pieces than we were at the beginning?
Anyway, back to last week and what really irritated me was the whole tone of the article. Someone had clearly decided beforehand that the upcoming strike was a bad thing and should be presented in such a light. How else could you explain the introductory heart-tugging piece focusing on some random Edinburgh graphic design business owner whose “colleagues may be off work on strike day looking after their kids”? As the article was actually predicated on the announcement by the police that, although they can’t go on strike, they were adding their voice to the protest against the UK government plans for pension reform, why was this not the lead in to the story?
It didn’t make sense. Posh David did finally get round to speaking about the police, and their spokesman made the very valid point that the fact that the UK government was attempting to enforce the reforms on police pensions when that was a matter reserved to the Scottish government was “an affront to the whole of the Scottish parliament”. Surely this is more of a story, worthy of further expansion and investigation? Apparently not, as oor David moved on to report that coastguards, driving instructors and even Glasgow Underground would be on strike, the latter prompting him to comment “so even those who want to work might find it a challenge”. Ouch!
Reading that last bit back, I can imagine some of you thinking “what’s wrong with that, he’s just reporting facts” but my gripe is the selectivity of the facts, the order of apparent importance afforded to those facts and, most of all actually, the tone adopted in presenting these facts. We all know how sentiments and feelings are conveyed by the tone of a voice, and how the same words spoken in two different tones can have entirely different meanings, and you can just feel the disapproving tone in this report.
I happen to believe that these proposed reforms are shockingly misjudged, and I also believe the way public sector pay and pensions have been represented in the media generally over the last few years is appalling. A more cynical individual might even suggest it’s all been part of a government campaign to drip-feed the “public sector bad” message into the national consciousness so that come the time, now as it happens, they can justify draconian reforms as ‘reflecting public sentiment’. Shame on you BBC for appearing to collude in this campaign!
Just present the facts and let us make up our own minds, though that’s not very fashionable these days as evidenced by media manipulation of the Scottish Referendum debate – surely a topic for another column? And, in this case, the facts contained in their report centred on over 250,000 Scots being willing to withdraw their labour and forsake a days pay on a point of principle, supported by the police adding their voice despite being legally obliged not to withdraw their labour. Those are the important bits, not the fact that some graphic designer may be inconvenienced by a few of her pals taking the day off to look after their kids. Get it right!
OK, enough’s enough, am I the only one who sees through these politicians and their completely shameless attempts to browbeat an entire nation through fear? What, in particular, has set me off on this particular rant? One day last week, I open my Courier and out jumps Danny Alexander as the latest Westminster apparatchik to take his turn in spreading bogeymen stories about Scotland and the proposed Independence Referendum.
Apparently this is “causing real uncertainty” and follows on from George Osborne claiming that “companies are being put off investing in Scotland due to fears the country will break away from the UK”. For me though it’s just the latest in what appears to be a concerted and sustained attempt to influence the Scottish electorate with scaremongering.
What uncertainty? Unlike the vague promises offered up by countless previous governments, UK and Scottish, the current Scottish government were elected on a mandate including a firm commitment to hold a referendum in the second half of this parliament. Nothing vague about that.
And is it not simply commonsense to allow plenty time for reasoned debate and considered reflection before asking the electorate to take possibly the biggest political decision in Scotland for over 300 years?
I’d have thought so, but as we listen to unionist politicians of various hues deride this plan do you not wonder, as I do, why they want us to rush this? To get rid of uncertainty? Give me a break!
Surely it’s entirely self-seeking, as they believe the polls that seem to indicate they would win if the referendum was now, before all the arguments are out in the open, digested and reflected upon. I really can’t be doing with it anymore, it’s just all so transparent. If politics isn’t about presenting your beliefs, arguing your corner then testing the outcome in an election then what is it about?
There’s been a lot of talk in recent campaigns about negative electioneering and it is widely believed that a major factor in the last two Scottish elections has been the positivity of the SNP against the constant sniping and downplaying of the other parties. Have they learned no lessons? Do they ever?
As the referendum debate gathers pace, what I would naively expect to see is reasoned political argument from those who believe in the union to try to persuade those undecided or already inclined towards independence to change their minds.
Equally I do expect to see the SNP continue to promote what Scotland can be in the future without interference from Westminster. What we do know for certain is that successive Westminster governments have consistently lied for decades about matters affecting Scotland and, specifically, about the implications of independence.
It’s all there in the public domain thanks to the 30-year rule and all that. They lied about oil, they lied about finances, and they continue to lie or at the very least peddle falsehoods and half-truths in order to mislead the Scottish electorate in order to get the result they want.
After all, if they were so convinced of their case why would they not indeed say “bring it on”, present the positive benefits of Scotland continuing within the UK and then trust their own judgement and that of the Scottish people to come to the “right” conclusion?