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.

 

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Feel the Fear

Frightened yet? You should be. They’re all piling in now – assertion upon allegation, horror upon hazard, claim upon calumny – from Brussels and London and even from the heart of our democracy at Holyrood where Danny Alexander opened his maths jotter and pointed to the page where the teacher had written Mortgages UP…

(This appeared to be a lick-the-pencil-tip exercise where you add suggestion to supposition – remember to carry the one – add it all up and add a nought…devised by a bank no-one’s heard of. Happily, it means we will all pay a nice round £5000 more for our mortgage, said Danny proudly, winking at the reporters – there’s your headline, boys. )

Danny-Alexander-005

The heat is being turned up, if you think Hermann von Rompuy qualifies as a heat source. Even an unrelated decision by a bank, which used to be Scottish, to base a division in London, is interpreted by the Telegraph propagandists as a snub to independence. Who’d want to base a bank in a small, independent, out-of-the-way country with funny habits…like Switzerland…or Monaco…or Hong Kong…Singapore…or Malta…or the Caymen and Bermuda…or…I give up. No, wait. I count 31 non-indigenous banks operating in Ireland – remember the basket-case economy that Jim Murphy laughed at in the Commons? GDP per head 2012: Ireland – Euros 35,700…UK- Euros 30,300 (source countryeconomy.com).  I make that one of Danny’s nice round 5000 numbers that makes a good headline. So here is one I made earlier.

IRISH €5000 A YEAR RICHER THAN BRITS AFTER SIX YEARS OF ECONOMIC FAILURE

It rather depends who and what you want to believe, does it not? Danny’s Treasury-written composition paper was based on how lenders would treat a country that failed to pay its debts. (Flaw alert incoming). Lenders – our altruistic, morally-minded “markets” are gentlemen to a fault, apart from the ones who are ladies and are regularly treated like Page Three slappers in City firms. Therefore they would view anyone with a bad credit history as a bad risk. But what if you didn’t default? What if you had no debts in the first place and someone else had publicly declared their intention to pay off those debts which they, not you, had incurred and to do so in all circumstances? If a lender sees a profit opportunity with low risk, sees a gleaming and industry-approved asset backing up the loan and a borrower with a low annual deficit, a net exporter, does he a) decide it isn’t fair that the borrower’s offer to help with someone else’s debt had been spurned and he should be punished for his audacity by being sent packing or b) give him the cash at a reasonable rate and watch how he performs?

If, on the other hand, another borrower appears with debt more than 100 per cent higher than income putting it 13th from the bottom of the world league table with the debt rising at £7000 a second, whose borrowing capacity is stretched to breaking point and buying in more products than it sells, shouldn’t it be liable for an interest risk surcharge, if it deserves any loan at all?

And, if you’re minded to believe the European Commission, (antidote pills are available), their estimate is that for the UK to come out of the EU, the cost would be £3000 each, proving that when it comes to scaring people, Westminster may have met its match.

But don’t think this kind of stuff doesn’t have an effect. In the Guardian today Martin  Kettle  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/19/alex-salmond-acting-spoilt-children turns what is a reasonable swipe at the SNP’s failure to quell doubts about currency into a rant ranging over the EU and pensions. His starting point has validity because, whatever the misgivings, a convincing alternative must find its way into the minds of the voters or a water-line leak will expand and lead to a flood. SNP protestations about synthetic politics from the Unionists are genuine and, as soon as an alternative emerges, will be revealed for what they are – a campaign gambit devoid of honesty. But there is no disguising the need for something definitive, otherwise the gambit wins. Kettle stretches the point beyond the reasonable, or even the logical, but the fact that he has given up on what little respect he had for the independence tactics, is a straw in the wind. He repeats the McTernan line about the SNP response. “It felt like a reputation destroying performance. For if anyone is guilty of bluff, bluster and bullying with which Salmond loudly charged his much better argued critics, it is Salmond himself. I’d be pretty confident that voters would see it that way too.”

Salmond can’t afford to let this caricature take hold because the trick of politics isn’t really what you say, it’s what people want to believe. If they’re minded to back independence, they will listen sympathetically to the case and if you tell them you have been obliged to seek an alternative because your opponent has acted unreasonably, they will understand. Don’t Knows who are weighing it up will appreciate the dilemma and perceive a pragmatic response – and will be much less sympathetic to a second round of attack from the opponents. In the course of the change, Salmond is seen as reasonable and accommodating in the face of intransigence and if he pulls off a clever trick with a neat solution, such as using the pound regardless, he wins again. But these decisions must be made within days, if not hours. The idea that there is no alternative takes hold quickly and an eventual reply looks grudging.

(This is where I diverge from Kettle whose lack of detailed understanding is betrayed by his unquestioning acceptance of the Barroso (latest) intervention. There simply are no independent observers who take this seriously and a journalist can’t complain when the SNP don’t either. Barrosos’s assertions are so far off the wall there is only one answer which is that he is taking us and the EU for fools. The same goes for Kettle’s belief that Gordon Brown has raised important questions on pensions. There IS clarity on pensions in the White Paper but there are remaining questions over the EU requirement on funding cross-border schemes but this is exactly where the civil service comes in – to engineer solutions, perhaps by negotiating a 10-year period over which full funding can be achieved. As this was raised initially by the Chartered Institute of Accountants, you’d think they would propose an answer – isn’t that what we pay them for? I’m afraid Kettle can’t get away with blaming the SNP for going for the man not the ball in the case of Brown. As I said yesterday he is responsible for destroying the pension value for millions of people, despite being warned of the consequences and if you don’t have a final salary scheme today, blame Gordon. Whatever the arguments over pensions, Brown has brass neck pretending to have a solution. Kettle may respect Brown, but he is in a minority).

Kettle uses a phrase that made me gape wide-eyed at the ipad. “I know a serious argument when I hear one, and Osborne and the others have been making serious arguments in the past few days. It is simply mischievous to pretend that they are not dealing with major issues which, if mishandled, could be seriously destructive to ordinary lives, communities and standards of living. Yet, faced with genuine intellectual and political challenges on big subjects, Salmond and his colleagues act like children who scream as loudly as possible in order to avoid listening to a message they do not want to hear.”

Destructive to ordinary lives? I was listening to the news on Radio Four at the time. Here are two stories run one after the other. One: “An increasing number of under-18s with mental health problems in England are being treated on adult psychiatric wards, it has emerged. And many children are having to travel hundreds of miles across the country to receive hospital treatment. Treating young people in such units should happen only in exceptional circumstances. The Department of Health had promised this would stop by 2010….‘Sometimes we have to make 50 to 100 phone calls around the country looking for a bed. They [young people] shouldn’t be shunted around into inappropriate facilities, however much the staff there try to help them,’ said Dr McClure.It may be the first time they’ve had a breakdown. They need to stay in touch with the people they know and love, and if they’re having to move 200 or 300 miles, it’s very difficult for the family to stay in touch.’ He said funding for mental health services had been cut, particularly for child and adolescent services in the community.”

A mother told of having her daughter dragged out of her arms and hearing her screaming out of a window: “Mummy, don’t leave me…”

Two: “Forty-three Christian leaders, including 27 Anglican bishops, have signed a letter urging David Cameron to ensure people get enough to eat. They argue that cutbacks and failures in the benefits system are forcing thousands of people to use food banks. The End Hunger Fast campaign called the situation “truly shocking”. It wants a national day of fasting on 4 April. But the government said it wanted to help people “stand on their own two feet” by cutting welfare dependency.

The letter comes after Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, warned last weekend that welfare reform was leaving people in “destitution” and labelled it a “disgrace”.

Those two routine items on the UK national news are what I call destructive to ordinary lives and if Martin Kettle imagines an independent Scottish society would permit those offences when money was available, he isn’t keeping up. It is exactly that kind of brutish, despicable, community-shredding blindness that we want to escape. People across Britain are recognizing that they don’t want to live in a society that has lost its heart and only counts money not blessings. What is the Guardian’s solution? Vote Labour? Back Ed Balls? Or is Kettle the one  putting his fingers in his ears and humming?

Our currency will be sorted out, and the debt, as will the EU, and we will keep our pensions. Britain and Scotland will never prosper by listening to Brown, Balls and Osborne. The truth is that, no matter how hard it is for southern commentators to take on board, Britain is finished. It may run on in London and the grab-it-all south east but even there insane house prices are killing communities, and everywhere else there is a powerful sense of abandonment and imprisonment in a Britain we don’t remember ever voting for. It may be at the other end of Britain but it is difficult not to feel real pain for the flooded people in the south west whose homes are ruined, who face uncertain futures and limits to insurance and whose flood defences were never rebuilt as they were promised. Three hundred of them were meant to be replaced but weren’t. This too is a symptom of a top-down, cynical political system to whom people are customers to be lured, hoodwinked and fleeced. This is from an item in Social Europe by Simon Wren-Lewis: “Cuts in flood prevention are a small part of austerity, but there are close parallels with the macroeconomic case… Just as some in government never believed in all this climate change stuff, others thought that this Keynesian idea that austerity might be a bad idea…was fanciful. (Some, like George Osborne, appear to have thought both.) When these mistakes became evident it was, with the floods, the Environment Agency’s fault, and also the last government, while with the recession it was all down to those Goddam Europeans, and of course the last government. Yet whereas the links between austerity and prolonged recessions may appear mysterious to many, the links between lack of flood prevention and flooding are all too obvious. And the real danger for the government is that perhaps others may begin to see these parallels.”

What is being called the SNP’s fit of pique is partly an expression of this deep frustration, that when you come up with promising solutions, perhaps a way out, a better way forward, the forces of authority and a complaint media work their hardest to destroy it. They are currently in full defence mode, backs pressed against the wall, realizing that they have gone for broke by legalizing the referendum and refusing a second question and are now in the hands of the Scots. As is their economic future. A decision to split would be a severe blow to hopes of closing the deficit, of shifting some of the mountainous debt, of keeping their borrowing costs low, avoiding an almighty nuclear weapons headache and diminishing them in the eyes of the world. And still the polls tighten. http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/8765-worries-for-no-campaign-as-currency-threat-halves-lead

The latest thistle in their pants is the game-changing warning that liabilities are equated with assets, a fine principle in law, and the reason they are now working overtime to suggest Scotland will suffer if it declines their invitation to load up the national credit card with their borrowings. I don’t see it. Salmond has offered to pay. They have in effect declined the offer. They are stuck with it, palms getting sweaty.

There is of course now no easy solution, they having painted themselves into an ever-reducing box. The offer should be to negotiate but they’ve thrown that one away. They can’t make soothing noises because they blew that one too. All that’s left is what they’re good at – threatening and warning…assuming you are intimidated by Danny. But a deal will be needed. London must acknowledge an agreed deal and Scotland’s negotiated departure before most of the world will accept us. So it may be that some share of debt is accepted even if they stick to the refusal to share sterling and we will begin our new relationship as we began it all those years ago, in resentful and grudging acceptance of our one-sided relationship with the grabby neighbor.

The New Coalition

What have they unleashed? One of the immediate consequences of the tripartite Unionist front dictating currency policy to Scotland is a hardening of anti-British sentiment. Those who have been pretending this is about questions of personal wealth – give me £500 and I’ll vote Yes – are realising that the real divide is between Scotland and Britain.

The line-up of all of the Westminster parties AND, uniquely, the Civil Service, in an embodiment of the British state, addressing Scotland like a colony, denying us access to what is ours by right and dictating policy without negotiation, is the encapsulation of everything we detest about London rule. It is Better Together’s Spitting Image moment.

spitting-image-thatcher-006

By pulling together and stating effectively that retention of the Union supersedes all policy differences is a seminal moment. Had they come together to plead with us for a No vote, it might have been an illuminating event. But when they colluded to put us in our place with their London Master threats they may have made the second biggest mistake of the campaign after rejecting a second question.

For Labour to be enrolled in a united campaign to “save the Union” is one thing. To act jointly with the Tory-led Coalition on a specific area of policy is another. A generalised, pro-Britain stance is logical for Labour but when they conspire to create individual policy along with the Tories they are getting into bed with the people who are wrecking lives in Britain. Their claims from now on to be deeply opposed to everything from the bedroom tax to salary tax rates are compromised by the alacrity with which they can co-operate when its suits them. And why is “saving the Union” a greater crusade than saving the dignity of the unemployed? Why does the perfectly normal arrangement of a currency deal supersede zero hours contracts and welfare cuts for the disabled? For a socialist what is the motivation to bury all differences with the hard right in order to send a brutal message to the Scots – that we don’t co-operate, we dictate. We don’t negotiate – we assert?

I wrote this week that Balls is conflating his loathing for the SNP – and his fear of it – with the Scots generally. His message doesn’t just hit Nats, it falls on all Scots and brands everyone as somehow an enemy, even Unionists. What is the likely result? He stirs deep-rooted resentment about London diktat, brings to the surface irritations over subsidy jibes and leaves undecided Labour voters wondering what exactly it is they are supporting. Many of them are already Don’t Knows leaning towards Yes and this is a sharp reminder of how they are really viewed even by their own leadership, as dumb ruminants to be shepherded by the master’s whistle. They haven’t been able to take the next step to Yes because independence is seen as Salmond’s project – he owns it. But when their own leadership is doing the Tories’ work for them against Scotland’s interest, those doubts disappear.

If they are looking for explanation from their “Scottish leader” they may look long. One of the most fascinating aspects of the whole campaign so far is the near invisibility of the “Scottish leader”. Isn’t it an amazing fact that at this critical time in Scotland’s history someone who has not long ago been anointed the first-ever “leader” of all the Scottish party has played virtually no role? Indeed, as a keen observer said to me yesterday, Ruth Davidson has played a bigger part with more interventions that Johann Lamont. One can only assume that her advisers, the some ones who have steered her into “something for nothing” and “nationalism is a virus”, reckon it’s safer to keep her out of the front line for their own sake. I am assuming that this week she will appear beside Balls and express her support and be questioned on the currency position. If she fails to, it wont only be voters who grasp that she doesn’t lead but it will intensify MPs’ contempt for her and their opposition to her Devolution Commission proposals.

Tuning in to the BBC it was striking how different James Naughtie’s interviews were with Salmond and Alexander. As ever, he was beside himself with Salmond, barely letting a whole thought or sentence finish, nipping away in the background, adopting a challenging tone. It made for a frustrating listen and  his truculence extended to an ironic remark about Scottish government anonymous briefings in reply to Salmond pointing out the Herald’s story that the coalition might not recognise the referendum outcome…a pretty serious development. Some of this of course is acceptable except when contrasted with his Danny Alexander interview minutes later. He was positively sheepish and I don’t think he stopped him once. Alexander was allowed to make prolonged statements, adding idea after idea, to promote party lines and criticise the Scottish government while Naughtie went to sleep. He asked what the Coalition would do if there was no agreement on the debt – would they refuse to accept the independence result – and Alexander simply didn’t answer. He answered a totally different question and Naughtie didn’t pull him up. Then Alexander made a number of unchallenged assertions including that Scotland would start off poorer because of a large deficit. I pricked up my ears awaiting the mighty Naughtie intervention but, again, nothing. Yet we know according to the FT that: an independent Scotland could also expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK. And the numbers show every person in Scotland £1300 better off immediately of nearly £6000 for an ordinary family.  And of course the only reason Scotland  shows a deficit in government tables in the first place is because they add in a share of their debt to our accounts. Shouldn’t a journalist have some ammunition in an interview? This Naughtie experiment isn’t working. Jim simply can’t stop himself railing against the SNP and seems to have a personal issue with Salmond. I defy anyone at PQ to listen to these two efforts side by side and say they are remotely similar in approach or fairness or that a listener couldn’t justifiably deduce there was bias. Has anyone got the balls to tell him? Or does it just confirm our worst fears that content is the last thing on the BBC’s mind?

Which brings me to Kirsty Wark who produced a disturbingly strident performance on Newsnight with a cleverly patient and unruffled Salmond. Her tone was shrill, impatient and kind of patronizing, the way she might speak to her puppy if it poohed on the carpet. You know the interviewer has got it wrong when you end up watching her/him instead of the interviewee. My theory? Wark and Naughtie are used to feeling in charge, playing an interview like a fish on the line. They both know with Salmond that he is a master of the form and always has an answer, knows more than they do and will not be bested. Therefore they are all wound up in advance not to let him away with too much and the result is they get the tone all wrong, make the viewer sympathise with Salmond and look unprofessional. Shame.

Thought for the Day

What would be a truly Scottish outcome to the referendum? A late surge wins it for Yes? Stalled Yes support leads to easily win for NO? How about this: Yes wins the arguments but narrowly loses the vote….

Doesn’t that sound exactly like the type of result we’re used to? Scotland nearly gets it right. Despite all the evidence pointing one way, just not enough Scots were convinced to back the plan that would set them on the road to prosperity. And the alternative? More years of austerity with falling living standards as hopes for extra powers fade when Tories close gap on Labour.

As part of a kenspeckle life in the media I was for a while a reporter on church affairs (no, not the Cardinal-type of affairs). In that guise I covered the General Assembly and one of my favourite moments was when the immensely talented and irascible Rev Andrew Herron ran the Kirk like Moses with the staff of righteousness in one hand, a lamb under his arm and the burning bush behind him – or so it seemed. It was from this formidable and widely-loved minister that I first heard the old saw about the sinner who thinks he’s done his best only to be told by the Almighty he was being diverted from the Gates of Heaven to Lucifer’s door for a slate of misdemeanours of which he claimed to know nothing. “But, Lord,” he wails. “I didna ken…” I can still hear Herron’s voice of doom today.

You see, I detect a threadbare tone to the scaremongering – all that stuff about costing us hundreds of pounds each for being independent, neatly omitting the bit about our living standards falling with no prospect of improvement and public spending down to the levels of 1948. If it’s a few hundred quid we’re missing, I suggest binning the  Trident replacement. And wasn’t it proto-Tory Danny Alexander who told us a year ago we might be up to one pound worse off? He’s changed his mind now. I wonder what all those Highland Lib Dems make of the activities of young Danny now and if they ask themselves what Russell Johnson would be saying. (I did love a dram with Sir Russell, a fag sucker like myself in those days and utter dependable for a bit of subterfuge and bitchy gossip – about his own side of course. That’s the whole point of an hour in the bar).

I also think the EU argument has pretty much corpsed. They’re limited to quoting Barroso now with no attempt at saying what it actually means because there is no answer.

The currency is laughable, especially after the Debt admission. I take it that’s why “Westminster sources” – I guess Fluffy Mundell again – has been briefing that Salmond is boxed in on the date of independence as March 2016. This looks like an attempt to wrest back the initiative after being routed over the debt promise by the Treasury. Here’s a question: Supposing the negotiations take longer than 18 months, what happens? Chaos, screams Westminster. But why? They’ll take as long as they need and if the date slips, what changes…? Johann will say Salmond missed his deadline and he’ll blame London. Also, why would a journalist buy the line that London needs only to sit on its hands and delay without agreeing anything while the date gets closer? You have to be joking. This is a massive embarrassment to London who will want a speedy settlement – I do not say an easy one – but a speedy one to show the world that it can still run its affairs efficiently. The whole onus is on London now that they have the debt burning a hole in their pocket.

In relation to all those international treaties Scotland will have to sign up to and it taking for ever. It’s not true. Almost of all them are automatic in that they will continue to apply to Scotland until a formal signing takes place and some of them we probably don’t need at all.

It may of interest that I emailed one of the lawyers who wrote the British government’s legal advice on the status of Scotland – I wont say which one because I suppose it may be technically private email correspondence – and he told me that the only international agreement Scotland will require to be smart about is EU membership. The UN, NATO and every fisheries, compliance and legal treaty will be a formality…although I personally think some finesse will be needed on NATO. We need to make sure we don’t swallow the lies coming from those brave Scots in the London government bending the ear of journalists.

My point is that the Unionist argument is unravelling and by polling day it will be the fearful and the gullible who still buy the line that they aren’t worth their own independence. But that might be enough, just enough, to win for No. And from then on we will hear them complain that they didn’t realise what would happen, they were told everything would be fine and we’d get Devo Max and it was too risky to back independence and I will hear again the voice of the Rev Herron booming down the years delivering his killer line from the Almighty… “Well, ye ken noo…”