Toom Tabard

I know we’re poor but I had no idea it was this bad. We’re told oil prices are volatile and when they prove to be, erm, volatile, it is proof that we uniquely can’t look after our own budget. No, it must be left in the hands of those with a track record of looking after the national resources…the men and women who invested so wisely in an oil fund which smoothed our way through the financial crisis and who have avoided Britain running up debts of say, £1.3trillion pounds. I’m getting the picture now.

It seems that the concept of investment is one that has passed Alistair Darling by. One reason oil revenues are down is that the companies are using their money investing in new drilling areas and new ways of extracting oil. That is a good thing – not for this year’s revenues but for the future. If the industry wasn’t investing, you know what Darling would be crowing….they’re not investing any more, the North Sea is finished.

In fact it’s only months since Cameron was in Aberdeen as BP announced its massive investment West of Shetland when it was hailed as a major event for the British economy. And he’s been back since to show how Britain plays its role in the sector. The Unionists didn’t moan about investment then. (Alistair knows his master’s voice when he hears it)

There was also a prolonged shutdown of the Brent pipeline which hit production but such details are not required when talking to the Scots. Just as the sheep need not know what chemicals are in the sheep dip, so the gullible locals can be immersed in fabricated distortions about the oil boom being over. If I heard a calculated case calmly dismantling the public finances I might get worried. But what do I get?

Breathless, staring-eyed Darling falling over his words as he exults in running down his own people…the very man who not only oversaw the worst financial meltdown in 80 years but who, along with Brown, devised the very regulatory system that failed the country. I tweeted yesterday – yes, I’m getting the hang of it now – a clichéd line

How sad is it that Unionist Scots jump on news implying their own country is poorer than they thought? ‘We’re crap and proud of it!’ And I think that works because that’s all we hear. Darling is delighted the oil revenues are down. He’s chortling that Scotland’s income is less and the deficit is higher. He loves it. He doesn’t even pretend by manufacturing a sense of concern or disappointment, he just goes for it with relish. He is a man laughing all the way to the bank that his own country is poorer. What do we make of such a character? I always shy away from language like quisling because it has wartime connotations and implies treachery but I repeat, what do we make of a man thrilled to his boots that his fellow Scots are in a worse financial predicament? Shallow? Mean? Myopic? Or is it really an expression of the unpatriotic, the perverse or to call it as it is – anti-Scottish.

I believe a real politician can warn of financial problems and convey those warnings with gravitas and candour while expressing regret but that’s not what we get from the Unionist campaigners. We get sneer and triumphalism and a longer-term message that it serves us right.

With Danny Alexander I have to confess to feeling contempt of my own. I see a nice middle class lad with barely any formative experience of life, who has never been in charge of a company or organization or indeed of people, whose friendship (with Clegg) catapulted him from obscurity to the Treasury – he was originally destined for the Scotland Office backwater as the prize of his friendship – and who now lectures hard-pressed families that it is better for them to pick up benefits to eke out poverty wages and tells legions of men and women who ache for their country to be free to make its own decisions that they are unworthy of doing so. He has no wider vision of Scotland and is tightly focused on a political campaign so he is blinded to what he is conveying to the Scots. What is it in the education system that turns out individuals who can so casually belittle their own people in the interests of their own careers? Again my conclusion is not the most attractive but here it is anyway – they are not believers in Scotland – how could they be – but believers in Britain. Britain first, Scotland second. Britain good, Scotland not too bad. Scotland independent? Do me a favour…

This was rather confirmed for me today by a piece of writing in the Herald by a very nice person whom I like dearly, Catherine Macleod, who is known to both Alistair and Danny. She was adviser to Darling when he was Chancellor and they are both deeply committed Britnats. In this item she expresses amazement at the idea of Scotland functioning independently and says there is no such thing as independence and the whole idea she dismisses as if it’s silly childish affectation that keeps people from focusing on matters of real importance.

It is a breathtaking view of your own country but it is typical. When Darling said a currency union was a good idea he added that we have one now so why go through all the complications of independence to end up where we are today. I shouted at the screen: Because we want to have our nationhood. Scotland is our nation, not Britain and once we’ve got independence we will decide – not London- what currency we use and what other decisions we make. It’s called independence.

And Catherine and Alistair just don’t get it. They literally do not think of Scotland as a nation or a country or an entity that could or should express itself on a world stage. Scotland is a wee place that rightly sits inside Britain where all the good and talented people, like themselves, go south to make money and progress. It is an old story in our history and they are victims of it, held enthrall to the power of London. But it has robbed them of the of the natural means of national expression that brings joy and a sense of freedom to all the other people of the world and leaves them emasculated when confronted by the Yes movement’s love of Scotland and aspiration for her. They both know the Highland and Islands of our country, as does Alexander, but is that it? Do they just love the scenery and are blind to the potential? Doesn’t their Scottishness zing in them and drive them to express it? Don’t they look at other Scots and see people capable and better at running their own affairs? Or is that a daft dream of the little people they left behind.

I think pity is in order.

Stop Press!

How do you report a larger deficit in Scotland’s budget? Easy – you report that the income is down because oil is volatile and get someone from each side of the debate to state their case. In essence, that is it. It is the simple, formulaic process used to inform the public. But does it…inform?


Only if you think reporting a car crash amounts to saying two vehicles hit each other on the road. If you are interested in why that happened and how it could be avoided in future, you are unlikely to learn from most broadcast news where the event itself is classed as ‘news’. Presumably neither driver intended to crash into the other, so why did they? Inexperience, road conditions, weather, speed, mental condition, surrounding scenery, driving on the left, an animal on the road, headlight beams too high, a passenger attacking the driver…the list of possibilities goes on and will take the police weeks to collate. Sometimes it leads to changes in vehicle design or road markings or even, as happened on the *A1 near my former home, a realignment of the road itself.

The trick with much of the news is to simplify mainly because information has to be digestible for a lay audience that doesn’t root around in GERS reports. This is where it gets complicated for the journalist and where the talent comes in – or not. How deeply into it do you go to give perspective before the audience switches off? The way this works is that the approach taken beyond the mechanistic coverage is often dictated by third party news players rather than the journalists. So a correspondent has his or her own store of knowledge and analysis but will almost always look for validation elsewhere from an outside  source. Phone calls are made to those close to the action, political types, academics with a known interest, trade unionists perhaps, business sorts and economists. One or two may be contacted on a given story and asked for their view and the correspondent will either have his own judgment vindicated or be put right by another voice. He assimilates this into a coherent script. He is most unlikely to mention on air who he passed his ideas by, which leaves the chosen contact in a position of unseen influence. Most journalists will use contacts with whom they are on good terms – obviously – to perform this role and that often means, because we are only human, someone with whom they often agree. These people are influencers and I’ve used them myself.

Some years ago I started to look at news differently. I had spent a working lifetime relying on conventional sources for help rather than truly challenging what I was told or trying honestly to imagine what the public would want, or needed, to know. This had surprising results. Instead of accepting for example that the SNP was nationalist without hesitation, I asked what does nationalist mean. From there it emerged that the notion of nationalism had changed in Western Europe from the 18th century concept of sovereignty and identity into an expression of collective will. That meant a distinct indigenous political culture favouring perhaps public rather than private services, high taxation, universal benefits and pay limits was an expression of national collective will – a form of nationalism. I have argued before that the German model of family-owned businesses – the Mittelstand – operating in niche sectors, often engineering, and financed from local regional investment banks was a form of nationalism as it is peculiarly German format which is embedded in their way of life and represents a distinctive feature of which all Germans are proud. It helps to define the nation to the rest of the world. It is German nationalism and a million miles from what used to be the equivalent sixty years ago. The idea is not to take anything for granted. My first editor challenged me on why I had got a story wrong and when I said I had assumed what someone meant, he roared at me: ‘never assume anything, Bateman’.


You can apply this kind of back-to-basics mentality to any subject. Instead of reporting with horror cases of child abuse, we asked: If there is so much paedophilia in the world, is it a naturally occurring phenomenon in some humans and does it occur in the animal kingdom? Why are almost all despots ageing men – Mugabe, Amin, Gaddafi – who would rather destroy their country than retire? What is that human impulse?

We take for granted that southern hemisphere countries will be poorer than the north, but why is that so and what is it that allows white South Africans or Australians to create a rich society in the south? Uncomfortable, no?

I apply my naïve question to Scotland’s budget. We are continually told that our budget is a particular sum and that is it. We receive tens of billions in and another set of billions goes out. But my question is: Why do we assume Scotland’s budget will always remain the same? Every claim and counter claim about income and spending and deficit takes for granted that the budget is fixed. What if it’s not? Isn’t the point of independence to do things differently and take control of the levers that allow us to grow our economy…why shouldn’t our global sum rise as we encourage economic activity and cut waste, adjust tax rates and invest in positive areas like childcare? The deficit today is tied to the overall budget but takes no account of what changes can be made to the way to raise revenue and spend. Does anybody believe we will follow exactly the Westminster model? That is just myopic.

Unionists say we’ll have to raise taxes or spend less. Why not create more? Why not generate, expand, promote…All new countries start with a clean slate and a desperate energy to hit the ground running. I encountered that spirit in Romania not long after the revolution when a similar mood of frantic entrepreneurship gripped the country. It happened in the Baltic states too. We will start from a far higher level of economic development and infrastructure than them.

The Iain Grays and the Danny Alexanders are backward looking, unimaginative Can’t-Dos. They don’t have ideas – they are merely managers. They have no idea of the energy and optimism sweeping Scotland that is tired of their dead economics and ready and eager to start anew. I’d like to see some journalists asking what would it take to add one per cent to our economic output – how many more tourists…how much more whisky exports…oil industry expertise…how many life science deals. Let’s see them quantify what it would take to eliminate the deficit and make people see what is possible.

*The A1 was dualled after a woman in a Transit with five or six children killed them by mistaking a single lane for a double and hitting an oncoming car. We had argued for a double lane for years for that reason but the Scottish Office relied on simple reporting of accidents without asking the deeper question why they were happening. It was only after a dreadful tragedy that change occured.

The Hamster Wheel

No matter how hard you try and no matter how fast you run, you can never escape. All you want to do is get out and be on your own and be free to make your own decisions but with every step the wheel keeps turning and you get nowhere.


My other nightmare is the hall of mirrors in which every image is a distortion of reality, every inviting corridor closes and diverts you into another and when you look over your shoulder there is a gigantic face of Jackie Baillie with a beatific smile saying No way out….

What is it about the Union that drives them to work so remorselessly hard to defend it at all costs when it is something so creaky and antiquated that even they have to devise ever complex models to reform it?

If it is worth so much to them that it supersedes every other issue why is it in need of such fundamental reform that it appears, even in their own terms, to be broken? What are they clinging to? We may reach a stage soon – and I think many in England think we’ve already surpassed it – where we have effective independence and about the only thing we don’t have is the flag…the very thing they accuse Nationalists of idolising.

Is it sentiment – some deep-rooted emotional attachment – because if it is then that’s what I feel for Scotland so that would make them Britnats which, I argue, by definition, means they care about Britain before Scotland. If you really did believe fighting poverty is a priority, as Gordon Brown was suggesting yesterday, wouldn’t you seek the best solution rather than contort yourself into painful political yoga positions to accommodate the very system which has created the poverty?

Naively, I thought poverty could be laid mostly at the door of those who have run Britain for 300 years, devised and retained its welfare policies, its monetary policy and taxation system and controlled every lever of power until the last 15 years when even for most of that time it was Unionists who ran Holyrood as well. That was until I saw Jackie Baillie on television and learned poverty was the fault of the SNP. Yes, deprivation only started seven years ago – stop complaining, Easterhouse…you had a job until Salmond came in, Whitfield…there were no low wages until 2007, Torry…You didn’t start dying before age 60 until the Nationalists arrived, men of Calton…remember how Labour created a world of plenty, now left in ruins, you people of Pilton…


It may be the unerringly smug delivery that frightens me most about Ms Baillie for her demeanor is of one who has been right all along, if only you had been clever enough to realise it. She emits a kind of insane logic in which something manifestly untrue changes shape before your eyes and just might be right after all. If, as The Axe Murderer, your life depended on it, you’d want her as your defence lawyer.

Brown and Ming succeeded in confusing me with detail until I wondered if it they had planned it that way – so that you couldn’t focus on the detail too much but got a generalised view about more powers.

I don’t want more powers. I want out. These guys decided they didn’t want their plans to go before the people because they weren’t interested in the governance of Scotland but in the interests of their parties. This isn’t Project Fear, it’s Project Destroy Salmond. That’s the only reason they’re in this game and if they could convince him to walk away tomorrow, their plans would follow him. Scots who do want more powers have to ask themselves who is really delivering those powers. The answer of course is Salmond. Without him there would be nothing on the table. I watched Brown pacing like a caged bear having mastered a new technique to scare the nervous and after every new idea I said the same thing: …’entrenched powers’ – why now? ’40 per cent of tax’ – why now? ‘partnership of equals’ – why now?

Because they’re in a deadly struggle to save their Union and must wring every ounce out of the system to persuade us to stay on side when all of this could and should have been enacted when he was in power but it didn’t matter enough then. Remember his backroom meddling in Scottish Labour to keep his influence alive? Remember how he couldn’t bring himself to speak to the newly elected Fist Minister for weeks because of his psychotic loathing of Salmond? Brown is seen as a big beast but his personal relations – with Blair, Darling, Salmond, Alexander and the Civil Service – reveal him to be a small man.

His credo is based on control. He is threatened by free minds and new ideas. He is literally history and represents a past Scotland is growing out of. He failed at Westminster and Scotland is his last chance to claim a sliver of success and influence. How complete would his tragic decline be if the Scots voted Yes. I’m fed up running around in circles.

The Future’s Behind You

I shouldn’t…I really shouldn’t…but damn it, I will. I’ll say what I think many are thinking. I’m losing patience with Unionist tinkering with the constitution. Didn’t they throw away their chance to claim they have the answer when they said No to a second question? Wasn’t that the time to step forward with an alternative and put it to the people for a mandate in the referendum?

Where have Ming and Gordon been all this time? (Sorry, I forgot, Gordon has been jetting around the globe business class earning over £900,000 for his “office” but not for himself, oh no, not like the man he stabbed in the back and tried to fire – Alistair – who at least spends the £170,000 a year he earns on top of his MP’s salary and expenses)

How many formulations of powers, responsibilities and services can we take, let alone assimilate? Why has it proved beyond them – those who can so enthusiastically club together against Scotland – to sit down and agree a precise and detailed option they all agree on…Ben Thomson at Reform Scotland managed it within weeks of the SNP winning the election. It is this total failure to come together to be constructive that is the least convincing part of their case. If they can’t do it now, what chance they will agree in the horse market of Westminster with angry English backbenchers demanding Scotland be told to shut up or it loses the Barnet Formula?

The Liberals won’t win the next election so we can pretty much discard their offer. It is highly unlikely either Labour or the Tories will win outright and whatever line-up we have in power they will be confronted by an angry mob who have had enough of the Scottish question and in no mood to back “concessions”. As you can see from the BBC website under today’s New Powers from Brown and Campbell story, the southern punters are already talking about appeasement by which I think they mean enhanced powers.

I will always accept the best Scotland can get if it’s less than independence but in order to persuade Don’t Knows I think they each need a guarantee from their London leaderships on the minimum powers to be in a manifesto and to have a done deal ahead of a General Election with red line issues no matter who forms a government or coalition. That is the question to be put to them. Does the London leader back this in the manifesto and is there agreement between all the Unionist parties (minus UKIP)? After all, they were able to bury every disagreement between themselves on the economy, on poverty, welfare, privatisation and every other divisive issue in order to present a united front against change so why not in support of change? So although I’m always interested in ideas and alternatives but this is a bellow from the elephant’s graveyard. Not so much a call to arms as a retrospective plea for mercy.  I think Scotland has moved on and they haven’t noticed.

Why wasn’t this the thrust of their approach for the last two years, with public meetings, published reports on policy areas, open debates on what kind of devolution in addition to the commissions? Has Johann actually asked her party members what they want? Her MSPs? Her constituents? Don’t be silly. This is Labour where they like nothing better than a darkened corridor and the smack of Stalin. Mind you, I haven’t noticed the party membership making demands either apart from LFI. Are they comatose, intimidated or silently waiting to vote Yes…

And is there something just a bit cringe-making about Johann always sitting behind other people? She’s behind Gordon and behind Alistair and behind Ed (either of them). I thought leaders were supposed to, erm, lead.

Recording now…

Wow! What a reaction…dozens of conversations and observations and some truly enlightening contributions full of fact and analysis. This is the place to be, I think. Even with all the assortment of emphasis and approach, it is clear we are all agreed that we are not being well served by BBC Scotland. That’s putting it mildly.

I know some responders are suggesting I am defending the BBC against claims of bias. I am not. I said at the outset that there was a general thrust in news and current affairs which doesn’t challenge enough and is too happy to accept a script which has Made in Britain stamped on it. I did try to move critics away from the idea that there is an organised conspiracy to stop independence. There isn’t. There are individuals who I agree sound as if they have a Unionist mindset and there is weak or poor journalism, mostly the result of ineffective leadership and remorseless budget pruning.


In a way, as some of you point out, it matters not. What does matter is the perception of the BBC’s coverage and it is undoubtedly clear that a large number of Scots have lost faith and trust in the BBC. The corporation’s own polling shows us that and I think it is getting worse as this campaign goes on and will leave a residue of resentment afterwards.

This is deeply worrying for the BBC. Put it this way, there is in reality no such thing as complete impartiality. It is an aspiration and the BBC’s declared intention is to create a public perception of impartiality. That’s why for example they reprimanded Kirsty Wark for holidaying with McConnell. Of itself it means nothing but the perception has been damaging. The BBC is failing on the public perception front…which is one reason why they are appointing a parliamentary adviser.

This is the week when the management are asked at Holyrood about Professor Robertson’s report on Fairness in the First Year and I would like to see MSPs urging him to carry on his research throughout the year, asking the BBC to extend full access to the news decision-making process to him and promising they will  return to review this matter after September.

In other words the BBC should submit to a comprehensive external analysis of its output and approach so the public can see after September how it performed and if it met its obligations under the Royal Charter. This can’t be left to the BBC itself as it has proved itself pretty inept at defending its record so far. The research should extend beyond early evening news to encompass all broadcast news on radio and television, excluding perhaps online as that would mushroom the work to overwhelming levels. It can use Professor Robertson’s template for judging bias and apply it to interviews and programme treatments so see if one side is favoured over another as in last week’s Danny Alexander episode.

The BBC should fund the work as an act of faith in itself to demonstrate its belief of impartiality and as a sign that it is genuinely committed to allaying public concerns about its role in this campaign. If it did so, it would provide the organisation with something of a PR coup to undo the bad impression given by its truculent and unworthy response to Professor Robertson’s work. It might be an idea to send such a plan to your MSP or any member of the Culture and Sport committee chaired by Stewart Maxwell who is probably sick of me by now.

By giving him access to speak to the decision-makers in the news department and allowing them to justify their decisions, they would allow him to make more precise and detailed analysis which is one of the criticisms they made of his work. It would also oblige everyone in the BBC to think very clearly why judgements were being made if they had to be accounted for – which is really management’s job but which doesn’t happen. What do you think?

Family Man

I’ve stolen a moment to do a bit of blogging. I’ve been on family watch for part of the day. Instead of watching rugby I was eating popcorn and watching Lego the Movie at Cineworld…with somebody else’s kids!


I just want to make a couple of points. First it’s thank you time to all those who add their ideas and thoughts to the blog. It is very supportive and there is a growing number who are becoming followers – over 700 now. I don’t think it’s the same as tweeting where you can mount them up quite quickly and I don’t tweet seriously as I cant think of anything to say in two sentences. But I see many of you are tweeting and re-tweeting my blog for which I’m really grateful.

SOME of you are getting the wrong idea about my questions about BBC output. I am a strident critic of the management and of some of the journalism but I don’t share the view that some of you have that this is organised and deliberate. I am a supporter of the BBC which is the main reason I have taken the route I have of challenging the management who I believe are doing a disservice to the Corporation and to Scotland. It is because I believe in the BBC that I have gone public in criticising the way it is being run. I do not want to destroy it. Nor does the SNP. I want it to reflect and represent Scotland as it is supposed to do in its charter.

I have stated in detail where the BBC went wrong and where I think they should have foreseen problems and acted. I have laid out how that could have been done.

But the idea that I would “admit” or “concede” something I believe not to be true are ridiculous. It is also insulting to me. When claims are made that I must admit a conspiracy when I have said there isn’t one, is to think I’m messing around with this. I have put myself beyond the safety net and future involvement with the BBC and earnings. To me that is a matter of integrity. If I say there is no conspiracy it is because I know that to be true. My knowledge is based on 25 years in current affairs and thousands of programmes I have made. What are the doubters basing their views on?  I accept and say so myself that the BBC has not matched up to the challenge and has no effective sanction given that the Trust is toothless and I respect anybody else having a counter view but there is nothing to be “conceded” here.  If I write it, it is because it is true as far as all my experience is concerned. I don’t write to fit somebody else’s prejudices or desires for justification.

There is no conspiracy. There is no organised anti-independence campaign inside the BBC. Journalists do not deliberately distort items to make them pro-Union. Ninety per cent of the output I consume is perfectly fair, if often uninspired, and I know the staff are doing their best. But at times the acts of omission and commission are so gross it is natural to think there must be something wilful behind it. But beware. By transposing your suspicions on to all output you make the mistake that you accuse the BBC of. In other words you make your bias the prism through which you see events. And when the BBC or Unionists see on the blog comments about Jackie Bird or other presenters letting “their bias” show, it allows them to brand us all as fruitcakes. That is precisely how such opinions are regarded inside the BBC, they would be laughed at by MSPs, examining the BBC this week, and provide ammunition for Unionist critics. And No, I wasn’t cut out of any anti-independence loop.

I am the only recent ex BBC person to go public and it isn’t just the management who don’t like it. Many of the staff don’t like it either so it’s a difficult route for me to take. Others who have left have deep resentments for the BBC but they are keeping their heads down. They have careers and lives to think about. I, on the other hand, am right out there and take the consequences. But just as I wouldn’t fabricate a story when inside the BBC, so I won’t fabricate allegations against it when I’m outside. You can take it or leave it. It makes no difference to me. I will deal with my own version of reality and the facts as I know them. I like to think it’s called honesty.

WE have an interesting and I think symptomatic contribution from Geoff over on the right today who doesn’t understand what Scotland has brought to the currency after 300 years. The irony here is that neatly destroys the entire case for Union which is based on mutual interest and proportionate contributions. If you read him a little further you’ll find he regards the UK to be England’s creation, dependent on England’s wealth and de facto, he destroys the case of the Union on our behalf. A helpful opponent indeed.

This type of comment is welcome because I think it is honest and typical of English sentiment – assuming that’s what Geoff is. It underlines why the prevalent view is that Scotland doesn’t count and its loss wont matter and illustrates why we should get out with our dignity intact before they leave the EU.

Having no knowledge of our actual contribution to the UK is all you need to know about the southern view. For example, if we have a population share of debt, why no share of currency, national deposits, gold reserves and QE debt bonds held by the Bank? The UK has the highest balance of payments deficit in the EU. Scotland is a net exporter and without those exports, the deficit doubles and becomes unsustainable. The British cost of borrowing will increase. The entire UK debt will be left with the UK to pay off – debt ballooning at £7000 a second – and will have to do so having lost 10 per cent of its economy.

Geoff doesn’t reference the official figures showing Scots paying £1700 more per head every year than he does to the Exchequer or Scotland having been a net contributor to the UK for the last 30 years.

An acknowledgment that they spent our £400 billion of oil tax revenues would be appreciated.

The big banks are only nominally Scottish in reality and RBS has such toxic debts it is best left where they failed to regulate it – in London.

Geoff I think regards the nationalist offer of sharing the debt and the currency to retain continuity, as a con to get charity from England, indicating a somewhat narrow view of how a Union is supposed to operate but again it is illustrative of why Scotland needs to get out and let them get on with running greater England. Many of us, myself included, want nothing to do with the British Treasury and would prefer no currency union since history shows they can’t be trusted and have never understood, as Geoff doesn’t, either the history, purpose or modus operandi of the Union. We should be grateful to him.

You’re Derek Bateman!

Campaigns aren’t supposed to contemplate defeat in advance and I know people – like Pat Kane in Stirling last night – who refuse to go there. It’s never been my view though because as a journalist as opposed to a participant, it has always been my job to look at both sides and all outcomes. I am deadpan about opinion polls in that I read them and refuse to go up or down. They are what they are according to what question was asked and when. They tell us what people said at a moment in time and not what they will do on September 18. I hear from people all the time saying openly and confidently that we will win. They have no doubt. I heard the same again last night from people who are out every week canvassing. I can’t disagree with them and am taken aback at their conviction. You’ll never get me to that stage. If I’m confident, I’ll go quiet. So if I ever write a line about victory being in sight, you’ll know it’s the wine working on the medication.

Pat Kane

These Yes meetings are cathartic for me. It is quite scary going from journalist to public participant – a totally different and unnerving transfer of attitude and skills which I would never have contemplated if it were not for what I regard as the national cause of independence. I am completely, perhaps madly, committed. It is gradually changing my life. I have forsaken an embarrassingly large amount of income, despite having wife and family; I have  put myself out here on a front line with opinions I didn’t know I had; I have jeopardised and, in some cases, severed associations I valued; I have fought an aversion to public speaking and learned to have no fear. I am for the first time in my life exposed – to ridicule, hostility and to recognition and respect.

I spent 25 years at BBC Scotland yet I am now better known than I ever was. I am recognised on the street. Improbably, people shake my hand. Love your blog, I get often. People tell me who I am…you know – You’re Derek Bateman!

I never was one of the select few who qualified for star treatment at BBC Scotland, not after the arrival of Jeff Zycinski as Head of Radio – he had other favourites to promote. Nor did I actively seek it, to be fair. But it is notable that six months blogging has done more for my public profile than 25 years as a BBC presenter. I also feel good about myself as in sure of what I’m doing, mostly because of the overwhelming response of Scottish people to what I write. I was always proud and a bit honoured to talk to Scotland via radio – that connection was something I really valued, more than the ego trip of being on air. But now, in a more grassroots sense, I feel part of the Scottish community, not set apart behind a mike and the welcome has been warm.

I mention this and what happens if there is a No because it came up last night – again – that this is a real movement. It is cross-cultural, it is classless, party-less and it is creative and innovative. It is self-perpetuating and it is become clear that there is no reason for it to quietly turn away if the referendum is lost. It extends beyond, far beyond, constitutional change. It is discussing how to do things differently, how to take control, how to make change rather than wait for it. It is developing a life stream that may not be stoppable, that can carry on into community action, breaking down the doors that prevent us taking part, deter us from voting, keep us from demanding and leave us at the mercy of a political machine. It needs a little co-ordination and could retain the name Yes because that sums up the attitude that defines it. Something powerful and inspiring has been born and it won’t lie down on September 19.

Meanwhile*, I’ve been wailing at the moon. Having spent part of last night at the Yes meeting in Stirling defending BBC journalism against claims of bias, I made the mistake of tuning in this morning to my old programme Good Morning Scotland. I shuddered at what has happened to it.

If you are going to preview your big story – Danny Alexander live! – followed by John Swinney – as live as he gets – you really need to have some ammunition. You need a case to make, a challenge to throw, a worked-out response for their totally predictable line of propaganda. I listened in horror to Alexander running rings around the studio for part of the interview, repeating ad nauseum his mantra of better together, too risky, no currency union. He hopped from point to point, assertion to assertion with barely a challenge. If you’d pulled back a curtain to reveal Blair McDougall and Paul Sinclair with headphones on producing the programme, it wouldn’t have surprised me. For much of the time it was the politician’s dream. He must have thought he got away with a free hit, getting a pop at his opponent while hammering home his own propaganda. And yet, when he was challenged he was laughably inept. It didn’t sound as if the pre-programme planning had been done to work out an interview strategy. For example…

What does the refusal to consider a currency agreement imply? Clearly Alexander believes Scotland has made no contribution to sterling over 300 years and has no rights to it as an asset under the Treaty of Union, otherwise he couldn’t deny Scotland. How does he justify that belief that the Scots played no role in building up a successful currency – that’s a denial of the Union itself – and how does it fit with his party policy of federalism that Scotland is a non-contributor to sterling’s value? And if Scotland’s contribution is non-existent, which UK nation has created a strong currency – is it perhaps only England?

This is a game of bluff – that’s why Danny is pressing the button again today – and your opinion depends on who you believe. Wasn’t Danny in the Lib Dem team who gave personal assurances to students there would be no tuition fees? Does that make him a man to trust? And since the whole British government is behind the currency blockage, is it a sign of how much we can trust them that it takes two years to admit a radiation leak at Dounreay? The newspapers are asking today what happened to the Respect Agenda? The Scots are learning they can’t believe what London tells them – they lied about the value of oil forty years ago as Denis Healy admits and kept secret the McCrone Report and some of us remember being lied to over Iraq by a Cabinet including Ed Balls and Alistair Darling. The track record is one of mendacity. Why should it change now over currency?

This is the job of the programme team collectively to build a case to present since Alexander isn’t on to inform or enlighten, he is on air to preach and make a nakedly political point. It is the BBC’s duty to counter. It is not an optional extra. And whatever is going on behind the scenes, whatever staff cuts and budget reductions, there is a standard of professionalism expected by the listener – and frequently trumpeted by the BBC itself.

What was revealing was just how tongue-tied Alexander gets when a proper question is asked. He really isn’t a smart operator, he is essentially a message boy. He can repeat – and repeat – the message but drag him off topic and he flounders. He was reduced, pathetically, to implying there is no plan for the EU In/Out referendum – British industry’s real fear and the reason bosses are happy to play along now on the Scottish question, in the expectation they will get the result they want on Europe. He may have no plan, but his boss, the man he answers to and with whom he sits in the Quad planning the Scottish campaign, definitely and explicitly does want a Euro referendum. That means Danny is a junior part of a government planning a referendum. Isn’t it safer for business to exist in pro-European Scotland as their European base than risk what could well be a vote in the UK to come out of the EU? You just have to press him on the point and he falls apart.

And when it was put to him what his role would be if there is a Yes, he was reduced to rubble. Even Michael Moore could answer that one! Danny’s job as we all know, will be to change sides and work his wee socks off for Scotland and his constituents. Since he fumbled it, he should have been asked: Are you really unsure where your duty lies after a Yes vote? Isn’t that more telling than any argument over currency, Minister? Your loyalties lie with the British side and with the Tories you now work with and for you Scotland and the Highlands come second – that’s the Union in a nutshell. Still, we all have off-days…had them myself.

But of course no referendum item is complete nowadays, it seems, on Radio Scotland or Radio Four, without the cross-border airwaves hopper that is Mr Naughtie, popping up at every turn of the dial like one of those nincompoops in a Whitehall farce, trousers round ankles. Here he comes again…ha ha! Jim’s mad scurry from Scotland to London and back has been a masterstroke for the British, cementing the concept of Union more firmly than oor Danny will ever manage. He’s like an advert: Look, I work exactly the same in both places at once – same words, same attitudes, same outlook. Glasgow? London? Makes no difference to me. Same Jim. Same country. It’s called Britain, Jock. Got it?!

Thus in interview with Swinney, Britain’s overtly political stance on currency – rubbished by experts like the Fiscal Commission – is, to Jim, “a fact”. Immutable. Permanent. Indisputable. Any suggestion it is a political threat is laughed out of court. Yet the response that the debt will indeed remain – as Britain insists it will – as Britain’s debt, is a “clear threat” by the Nats. This is following the Better Together narrative as if they were writing his script. Now I know they aren’t, so I think we can safely say we getting the benefit of Mr Naughtie’s personal reading of the situation here. He might as well ask: Why aren’t you playing the Unionists’ game? Why won’t you do what we all expect you to do? You really don’t understand the power structure do you, Mr Swinney? London runs the country and when they speak, you jump. So jump.

And, if I was a producer, I would asking myself why the programme didn’t focus on pensions as that is what Alexander is up in Edinburgh to propagandise about. This is rich pickings for both the Yes side and a BBC interviewer as there is no national pension pot, just a circulation of tax and national insurance funding the old age pension every month, utterly dependent on today’s taxpayers. And we still have one of the lowest pensions in the developed world and we can look over to Norway to see how Britain – broad shoulders and deep pockets – did what Britain failed to by investing the oil money.

I told the disbelieving people of Stirling last night that there was no deliberate or organised bias at BBC Scotland but I’m starting to run on empty. All I admit to is my belief that the BBC is failing – generally speaking as there are exceptions – to match up to the challenge thrown up by the referendum.  People don’t believe me though and I notice the RAJARS for Radio Scotland were down at a time when there is heightened interest in current affairs and there isn’t – or rather there shouldn’t – be any competition for speech-based radio in our country.  I fear what the next round of audience appreciation will reveal about the publics’ views on the national broadcaster.

Easy for me to say though. I’m just an ordinary licence-fee payer.

And thanks, Stirling…

PS I was leaving Stirling in the dark through the mist and rain when I became aware of a dim light outside high up to my right. I put down the window and there, towering above me, was the black mass of the castle, spotlights struggling to pierce the shroud of mist, casting an eerie glow. It was an awesome sight. I wonder if that’s how Proud Cressingham and his knights saw it before Stirling Brig…

* Anybody else notice that on Radio Four news tonight they told us about Alliance, the Dundee-based investment company, setting up shadow companies in England but didn’t mention Aviva, a much bigger outfit, saying it wasn’t a problem for them? Maybe they did Aviva  last night and I missed it but all the output I’ve heard has missed the Aviva story out, exactly as the Daily Telegraph did which covered Alliance  and then segued into the currency/Barroso fiasco. I used to argue that BBC Scotland should have a unit that had oversight of all BBC output on the referendum to check accuracy and balance to avoid that kind of London-centric reporting, but really, what’s the point? We will have to do this ourselves.


Ailsa McKay 1963-2014

What a shock today to Google the name of Ailsa McKay and to find she had died in the last 24 hours. I wanted to get in touch about an interview with her and didn’t realise she was so poorly. Such a grounded and committed woman to lose at any time but with Scotland in political turmoil her presence was like a rock. My condolences go to her family.


I always loved her description as a feminist economist and her no-nonsense sentiments on life and economics, how she worked her way through the ranks to become Professor of Economics and a UN adviser and was guided by who she was…a strong Scottish working class woman. She wrote about the role of women in the referendum and why they might be less inclined to vote Yes. Here is a quote:

The position of women in the Scottish economy has left them extremely vulnerable to the impact of economic recession. Both as workers in the public sector and as users of public services women have been hardest hit by the level and range of public sector spending cuts imposed as a result of a favoured austerity agenda.

Women’s unemployment in Scotland has almost doubled over the period from 2007 to 2012. Over the same period a rise in the number of part time jobs against a fall in full time jobs amongst women indicates that women may be ‘underemployed’ in a stagnating economy. In addition, reform to the welfare system has resulted in wide ranging reductions in benefits, an increase in pension contributions and an increase in the age at which pensions can be drawn. This comes on top of a two-year wage freeze for the majority of workers in the public sector in Scotland.  So the terms and conditions of public sector workers, the majority of whom are women in Scotland, are deteriorating. Furthermore, as the public sector continues to contract, a consequence of increasing austerity measures, more women will lose their jobs and at the same time will find their eligibility and access to social security payments significantly restricted. The full article is here’s-future-do-women-care.

She will always be a reminder of what we are as a nation – tough, inspired and uncompromising, overlaid with wit. Her presence in the campaign and contribution to Radical Independence has provided a beacon for all. We should all be grateful for her.


When you’re on a war footing, it pays to plan ahead for the next attack. After softening up the enemy, the next strike must be decisive and then, to eliminate any chance of revival, you finish it all off with the final overwhelming onslaught – one that no-one can come back from. The names Project Fear and Operation Dambuster reveal to us exactly how the masters of British fair play regard the referendum – as enemy action to be repelled at any and at all cost. Why?*

 I wrote last year how the British state was Scotland’s real enemy, not England and certainly not the English people. This is the best class preservation society in history and it will do anything and risk everything in the fight for its survival. To the Establishment, this is war. Instead of having an intelligent discussion to meet each others’ needs, instead of feeling out where there might be agreement and compromise – the very diplomatic arts that Britain urges throughout the world, including in the Ukraine right now – they put on their fatigues, broke open the weapons cabinet and prepared to blast the very people who are supposed to be on their side in this family of nations.


After the Dambusters the next assault from the Whitehall War Bunker is Operation Dresden. I suspect a spy in the England-conquers-all camp would discover that this involves throwing more legal principles and international norms out of the window after having declared first, in their legal opinion, that Scotland does not exist and then announcing collectively that the UK currency is theirs alone. Dresden will state that only assets currently situated in Scotland can be claimed by Scotland. There will be no share of facilities, staffing, resources or accounts which are positioned outwith the borders of Scotland. There will be access to some defence assets but these will require to be paid for. As for facilities overseas like embassies and consulates they will also be out of bounds. Likewise there will be no sharing of consular facilities, although London is currently proposing to share with Canada. The principle of agreeing a proportionate share of assets will be abandoned just as the jointly-owned currency has been. There may be sharing of UK services like vehicle licensing but that will be paid for on an agency basis. They will insist that Trident remains on the Clyde or they will not support our membership of NATO. They will also claim to have a replacement port to berth the submarines and store the warheads (but it can’t be named for security reasons) and if the Scots insist, they will be prepared to move Trident but the costs and the clean-up will be sent to Scotland.

They will say that what is theirs, stays theirs. They will be rewarded by resounding cheers across England to encourage their scorched-earth approach. Commentators will take up the call. Why should we give them what is ours? They didn’t pay for it – we subsidise them…

The Yes campaign will be left searching for experts – for there will be no political friends – who will contradict this Putin-style threat. But in the meantime, the top-line message will have got through – you have nothing, you ARE nothing. It is all ours and if you leave you take nothing with you.


Lastly will come the final crushing carpet-bombing codenamed Hiroshima. This will say that the oil does not belong to Scotland. When it first came ashore it was not designated as Scotland’s by the British, but was and still is, assigned to the Continental Shelf which is why 40 years later, oil and gas are not recognised as Scottish assets and our Treasury-produced national accounts appear without it.

Of course this is clearly ridiculous even to a bleeding-knees Unionist but the retort will be simple – you can have a population-based share of less than nine per cent.

No country, no currency, no external assets and no oil. Look up – that’s a mushroom cloud you see.

Now you may be thinking this is madness because it’s shot so full of holes. But so is their legal opinion and so is their currency position and until and unless they see a change in the opinion polling, they will believe this is working. It doesn’t matter that you lie, it only matters that you get away with it. By the time the pro-Yes voices can get in a logical response, the message to those who can’t or don’t find out for themselves, will be hammered home – they really do control us and there is no point in fighting back. Even if they’re only half right in the claims they make, many Scots will argue, it makes for a very bleak picture and nothing like Alex Salmond’s optimistic vision. Why was I taken in by him?

This is already one of the dirtiest campaigns in Britain’s history and no lie is too big to tell, no stunt too offensive to pull. The social democratic Scotland that devolution has carved out has created a perception that Britain was relaxed about our constitutional journey. We are used to easy relations between Edinburgh and London and began to believe that this was a mature and equal relationship which, faced with an independence-lite platform including sharing currency and debt, would elicit a fair, even generous, response.

Don’t be taken in. Britain is fighting on the beaches, in the streets and through the media and fighting for its life.

*You’d think this would be a major media talking point. If things are as bad in Scotland as we are told, why would the London mob not just wave us goodbye? The answer to this is simple and comes in sections.

One, they can’t afford to lose Scotland. We are 10 per cent of the UK economy. We contribute significantly more than we take out. We are net exporters adding serious foreign exchange heft to the UK accounts. Britain is bankrupt with ever-rising debts and a second housing bubble en route. Borrowing costs are coming under threat and without us would certainly rise.

Two, it would be a global humiliation which would seriously weaken Britain’s international reputation. It would destroy the Tories reputation and cause the earth to shake under the political establishment (Labour). Britain’s position in the G7 is jeopardised, as is the permanent UN seat and it loses voting power in Brussels.

Three, we’ve got the nukes. This is the basis of the relationship with the US which defines the UK’s world role. Remember the US general who doubted Britain’s capability as a full-on partner recently? Losing nuclear weapons would drop Britain to Ruritania status.

One of the saddest and most damning truths of the whole campaign is that it has become a boys’ gang-hut game with blood-curdling threats and militaristic language when it should be a mature and friendly negotiation. Instead they have made it Britain at War.

Johnny Foreigner

The First Minister says we won’t be foreigners if we are independent. Speak for yourself, Mr Salmond. Who wants to be part of a country that deliberately legislates for poverty, wrecks lives, campaigns for the wealthy and closes its doors to Scotland?

If it means severing our links with the austerity merchants of London, I demand to be foreign. If it means no more illegal wars, I scream that I am from a foreign land. And if it brings social justice instead of embedded inequality, then call me Johnny Foreigner. I will be foreign to the Little Englanders and proud of it too.


While I’m at it, I am also a separatist. I would be delighted to share our wealth and natural resources with our English neighbours including a share of their debt, but so long as there are governments in Westminster which despise the poor, humiliate immigrants and restrict social mobility – Labour and Tory – I want to live in a different country with a different culture. If that’s a separatist, then count me in.

Did you see today’s advert for the Union? Hundreds of thousands of our fellow Scots are being battered by welfare reforms, low wages, high power bills, cost-of-living increases and job insecurity, with many being forced to get their staples from charity – real living Scottish families in “the greatest Union in the history of the world”, taking home a plastic bag of essentials from a food bank.

This is a direct result of the Westminster government’s welfare attack on low-paid families. According to evidence presented at Holyrood, they often walk for miles as they cannot afford to pay for transport, and many are given items that can be eaten cold because they are unable to pay for electricity in order to cook.

I stopped to speak to a young woman begging outside the subway, sitting uncovered in the rain. She said she was in care, living in a hostel but they didn’t provide food so she needed money to eat. It’s hard to tell how much of this is the chaos of a troubled life and I said there are always agencies, starting with the local authority, who can help. Her answer was that this was the help she was entitled to. It just didn’t come with enough to eat.

This latest outbreak of outrage at social injustice is run by Scotland’s Outlook which finds more than 870,000 living in poverty – presumably the reason the Tories were looking recently at reclassifying the definition – 23,000 using food banks and 20 per cent of our children officially classed as poor. Do I hear a round of applause from our Unionist champions? “The best of both worlds” is the latest catchphrase from the spin machine but I can only think these people are either blind, imbecilic or delusional.

I took a drive today to escape the city and meandered through Bearsden – a new Waitrose is underway, brand new houses at £422,000 to £585,000 – past bungalows and hedges and cars in the driveway, through the hills to Drymen, had a coffee among relaxing locals and then through Killearn with a stop-off to visit the Dumgoyne distillery in the Campsies. This is comfortable private-ownership Scotland, hardly a council house in sight let alone a scheme. It is No territory.

By the time I drove into Tesco Maryhill my vista had changed just a bit. Even on the faces of the people and in the clothes they wear is woven the mark of shrinkage – of health, wealth and opportunity. Two communities miles apart but divided by half a world. Independence can’t solve every problem and, while I shouldn’t say this, it isn’t actually needed at all to solve Scotland’s social problems. At least, it shouldn’t be needed. But we all know without it, this theatre of inequality will play and play through the next Labour government and the one after that. You need political will to transform society and that evaporated as soon as Labour tacitly abandoned socialism under Blair/Brown/Darling. To really affect change you need to make it a cause, not a programme. Having a policy is just a start. You need belief, drive and utter conviction to carry it through and Labour doesn’t know what it believes in any more, let alone how deeply.

To watch them cavort with the Tories demanding with synthetic indignation what currency will be used when they deliberately worked with Osborne to close off the option that works best for Britain, is a bewildering experience for anyone brought up on the idea that Labour’s mission was social reform. I watched an MP I hadn’t heard of before, Ian Murray of Labour, on television and marveled at his quick-fire stream of Tory-inspired invective delivered at such speed that as the half-truths and assertions flowed by, the interviewer could barely correct one. It occurred to me that I haven’t actually heard a Labour person speak about low pay, diminishing benefits and a broken society in relation to the referendum. They DO talk about it when it’s time to turn against the Tories as at PMQs and suddenly all their anti-Scottish collaboration disappears, but it is never part of their narrative about Scotland. I wonder why…

At the heart of the Yes campaign is the demand that we use our new powers to readjust our society and do what all smart small countries do – bring everybody up to the same standard. (Part of the object of the EU, by the way). The evidence is clear that ending poverty and bringing equality doesn’t threaten the bungalow dwellers of Bearsden. On the contrary, it reduces ill-health, crime, squalor and benefits bills and creates a happier, more rounded society for all. Why is that too much to ask for the Unionists? Or are they saying we currently have that in Scotland – a Scotland suffering what the Outlook people describe as a humanitarian crisis?

Incidentally, its worth remembering that Scotland does have some powers to bring into play through housing, industrial, environment and education and the Joseph Rowntree findings are that over the last 10 years alone, child poverty in Scotland has fallen at twice the rate in England.

We need to stay focused on the real prize of the referendum, the power to change Scotland. Just as it isn’t about waving a flag, neither is it about EU membership or currency – they will take care of themselves because the mandate will insist it is so. Currency is a Better Together red herring. That’s why they never talk about breadline Scotland – they are guilty of creating and perpetuating poverty and have no solution. Just as I’m happy to be a foreigner and a separatist, so I’m unmoved about currency union, sterling-shadowing or Scots pound. The only currency that we will need is called Care…Care for each other and Care for our country. That has more value than the Bank of England and it is what has gone missing from the Unionists’ Britain. When the Britnats ask what is our Plan B, the answer is: Our Currency is Care…