I’m a Stormtrooper!

I couldn’t sleep and read the papers at 4 am. I saw Brian Wilson’s column and opted out of responding because I couldn’t get the point. Criticising BBC presenters is…sinister? What does it mean…does he think we’ll come round the croft on September 19 with baseball bats? (Don’t tweet this but I know the plan is to round up the Unionists as they approach the polling station, transport them to Leith and force them to scrub the decks of the Royal Yacht).

However I’m advised it might be good for traffic on the site to blog back and as it happens, it coincides with a major development here I hope to announce next week involving me and the media.

I have to say though that, if it’s of any interest to the editor of the Scotsman who wonders if his £200 to Brian is worth it, I haven’t had a single email, call or tweet about his star columnist’s effort this morning. A bit disheartening, no? Almost anything about independence is retweeted and shared across platforms and forums, yet I see nothing, a big zero, about Brian’s column in our “national newspaper”.

I’ll tweet this blog and give them some oxygen. http://www.scotsman.com/news/brian-wilson-sinister-signals-transmitted-by-snp-1-3350058

Let’s start with the basic premise…that in his Andrew Marr interview, Salmond displayed fury – and toe-curling unpleasantness -and in some unspecified way threatened something that should worry people who care for their country’s integrity. What I saw, and it’s on YouTube, was Salmond picking up on an inappropriate remark by a BBC presenter and, as is his right, challenging him. Or, as Brian puts it: UNLEASHED THE FORCES OF MENACE!!! What….with his Dan Dare Death Ray?

But, hold on.  There is no Salmond complaint, no Scottish government complaint, no SNP complaint. They are NOT complaining as they are entitled to do. Far from showing fury and scorning dissent, they are letting Marr off the hook for what every BBC journalist knows was an unprofessional slip. Asked time after time on the referendum question time, John Swinney refused to say the BBC was biased. Is Brian arguing that politicians should be compliant in the face of truculent presenters? Does he for example, approve of Ian Davidson insulting the professionalism of Isabel Fraser on Newsnight? Most people would find that much more offensive in tone than Salmond’s smiling intervention with Marr.

Marr of course had already bought, as has Brian, the Barosso line about difficulties in membership without ever asking what treaty would be applied and when did the EU enact a law about expelling members? Glaring, basic, journalistic errors that are glazed over by the ego of a handsomely remunerated public figure paid to interrogate but proving incapable when the moment arose. I wouldn’t have thought a graduate of journalism would approve of partial interviews.

Nor do I approve of Kenny McIntyre’s name being called in defence of opinionated interviewing. If that’s what the late BBC correspondent was doing I must have missed it. Forceful, challenging and demanding, yes, but impartial to a fault. Did he ever betray a personal bias? I have no idea, for example, what he voted or if he voted. I recall walking down a corridor in Queen Margaret Drive behind Donald Dewar who had just been speaking to Kenny. Dewar said to his aide… “he is absolutely straight and impartial”. It is inconceivable Kenny would imply to a senior politician on air that he thought he was wrong. Off air, yes! But that would cross the very line Marr did and McIntyre knew where that line was.

Surely the difference with Andrew Neil is that he declares his politics. He is a right-wing, anti devolution, anti single currency and anti the public sector (which pays his handsome wages). We know his views and so take them into account. He also interviews fairly in that each side gets the same treatment. (Memo to Naughtie)

Here is another insight into the Brian Wilson modus operandi. Instead of Scotland’s place in Europe being the issue – “As is Salmond’s way, the man was a welcome substitute for the ball.” How utterly journalistically vacuous is that? Corny, clichéd and a corruption of what every observer including the entire Scottish press recognized as a concerted personal campaign led by Labour against Salmond which was recorded by Professor John Robertson. But when you’ve only one eye, you only one see one side.

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Oops, this is where I come in. Cue music…I’m one of Salmond’s Stormtroopers. No really. Yes, read that again. A blogger, not a member of the SNP, who disagrees with Salmond on NATO and on currency, who expresses widely-held doubts about the impartiality of public sector presenters is (in Brian’s Wookie World) a Stormtrooper,

an elite soldier of the Empire, an ever present reminder of the absolute power of the  Emperor, a faceless enforcer of the New order often using brutal tactics, distinguished from all other by his signature white armour…

What ARE they putting in the peat in Stornoway?

In deconstructing this basilica of bile, beware the phrase – To be clear. In the mouth of a politician it means – Warning: big lie coming this way. Thus I am apparently saying Marr and – of course, the ubiquitous Naughtie – are not worthy journalists who earned the right to be on the airwaves. Only I’m not. In fact only a few posts ago I praised them as expert exponents of the art. I admit to not watching Sunday morning television but I fervently wish Andrew Marr to stay on air as one of the BBC’s most talented interviewers. He f****d up the Barroso interview and did the same with Salmond. I’ve made terrible errors on air and agonized over them later. It happens. And I expected to get criticism and a red face and duly got both.

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My point about Marr and Naughtie is that they are floating somewhere above the BBC rules by dint of their celebrity status. Marr re-crafted his book about Scotland to cash in on the referendum and duly told us we were anti English if we favoured independence. This is the standard sneer of the I-made-it-in-London crowd who simply cannot grasp that their country isn’t the hopeless pit they left behind.

In today’s Times Naughtie is interviewed as, you know, London celebrity-back-in-Scotland and he does seem to make more news than he actually reports. He confirms in remarks to Magnus Linklater everything I’ve been saying by giving us his sage interpretation that there is emotion in the debate but hard-headedness will win out. I could be wrong but I think that’s Nationalism equals emotion, Union equals common sense. If the BBC did its job properly, Jim’s boss would have a private word in his ear and suggest he stop parading his opinions across the media at every turn since he’s paid to be impartial and that sure ain’t what’s coming over.

Imagine what Brian Wilson would say if Brian Taylor told the Times that of course there was still an attraction to the Union but the demand for a New Scotland was overwhelming. Then of course journalists would have to be reminded of their duty to the country…

Incidentally, Salmond was right about Barroso sucking up to Cameron and other leaders because he wants the NATO job. It’s all over the media. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/07/is-jose-manuel-barroso-after-the-top-job-at-nato/ Try Google, Brian.

The principle flaw however is the confluence of two artifices. One, that Salmond, and myself, are trying to close down debate. Now who does that remind you of in the referendum campaign? Salmond has travelled Britain – and Europe – to argue his case and was, remember, on the very Andrew Marr show that seemed to trash his EU case just two weeks before. Not exactly hiding is it? There is too over 600 pages of White Paper and the standing offer to debate live with the Prime Minister.

I’m out here. Right now. I gave up the comfort zone. The easy thing was to sit behind a mike and pick up the money. But here I am, giving it everything for the Scotland I want…online and in public meetings. And if I hear my country patronized or belittled or public broadcasters failing in their duty, in my opinion, I’ll say so.

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I can only assume it’s all getting a little uncomfortable for those with tentacles throughout the mainstream media to find the casual acceptance of their importance disappearing.

Here’s a media professional’s question. Why is Brian Wilson writing about a week-old event with a thin link to a nationalist blogger in an hysterically over-written paean of pish? What else is happening this week that Brian is well placed to write about? Oh yes, the Scottish Labour conference. Of course, Johann’s big event, the lurch to the Left, the wonderful Devo Nano initiative, Ed’s speech. Yet not a mention from Labour’s incisive commentator. Any idea why not? Does Brian approve of Johann’s further devolution plans and increased tax scheme? It would be nice to know.

The other part of the con is placing the idea that he is the unbiased observer. You may think that someone whose job was head of the rebuttal unit for New Labour might have learned a little humility over the years on the question of media impartiality. Donald Dewar told me Brian’s key skill was as a wordsmith who could take an opponent’s words and turn them into something totally different. A propagandist? I asked. Dewar smiled.

Didn’t Brian go to court in 1979 because the pro devolution parties had more faces on television than his side? I didn’t notice him going to court this time when three parties were lined up against one in BBC studios.

Wasn’t Brian in the same New Labour government that lied to parliament, the United Nations and the British people in order to justify an illegal war which killed untold thousands? His Labour journalist colleague Alistair Campbell was rewriting intelligence reports and creating paste-together films of atrocities to crank up public rage. They didn’t just criticise BBC reporters, they demonised a single journalist and forced the resignation of the Director General and precipitated the worst crisis in the corporation’s history. In an attempt to hide the truth.  Now that’s what I call sinister.

And so is the relationship with Ian Taylor of Vitol, head of what I regard as the most sinister company in business today given its associations and record. There was a time when radical outspoken Brian Wilson would have taken up the challenge of revealing the full story of Vitol’s background. Now he just takes the money. Half a million for Better Together, wasn’t it? But there I go, being all nasty again.

Here’s a link to what Brian and his Labour pals in the British establishment mean to me, a sometime Labour voter. This is what he and his corporate friends and the British state have done to Scotland and why diverting attention with cheap personality pap is failing in this campaign. I don’t care about Wilson’s journalistic integrity, nor overpaid Marr’s, nor Naughtie’s. Anybody contriving to create and perpetuate this slur on our country deserves every insult coming their way. It takes five minutes, the same as it takes to read the Wilson column. Then tell me what sinister is. Watch and weep.

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Hanging on the Telephone…

I’ve been sitting by the phone all afternoon…and nothing, not a single call, not even a wrong number, not even Dave reminding me about Mo Farah. I haven’t even had the money spivs from Canary Wharf who call once week to see if I want to invest in an eco hotel in Camden. Does nobody in Englandshire love me? Am I to take it that Dave’s rally call has been met with silence? Am I to be jilted, left to wander off into the twilight world of separation without so much as a word of regret, no blown kiss, no hearty: “Come here, mate, gimme a hug for auld lang zyne, ya mad Jock bastard…remember how we beat the Hun, old son? I reckon it was your bleedin bagpipes chased ‘em off…my missus, she don’ ‘alf like your Chris Hoy’s glistening thighs…”

So, chin on chest, I’ve come to record for posterity my gut-wrenching disappointment that nobody down there loves me – not even my own bloody family!

Mind you I’m not surprised after the doing Salmond gave to Ed Stourton on WATO. He walloped him all over the park and rather put me out by bringing up the very point I had planned to make in the blog this afternoon – that this week Cameron’s job isn’t Scotland at all. Devon and Cornwall are suffering another battering after weeks of flooding and people are in despair while the authorities haggle, money is promised too late, the army turns up without a brief and no one knows how to stop it happening again. A real Prime Minister wouldn’t have been standing in the Olympic Park addressing the Scottish Question, he should have been in his wellies organising the rescue. His antennae are useless, a point I made weeks ago. This guy isn’t very good. He’s like Blair, an actor prince, full of bravado and bullshit who thinks being a well-connected nob is all you need and so far it has been. But getting there is one thing, staying there and making it work is quite another. Ask yourself how Salmond has done it all these years and is still pulling the strings in Edinburgh and London.

Dave is going to lose his No-Salmond-Debate gambit. Nobody buys it, not even his own side and as the polls tighten further the pressure will become unbearable especially now we know Salmond is ready to debate with Darling or anybody else so long as he gets Cameron up first. (Please, please the grammar is …debate with…not Salmond debates Cameron…that’s American trash talk and is not allowed on this site. All posts missing the preposition will be blocked…)

I’m wondering now if this week was set aside for an assault, a bit like D-Day. Oops, sorry we were all on the same side then. I reckon you’d have to give a couple of weeks notice at least to hire the Olympic venue even if you’re Downing Street. And if I think back we had our BP oil man afraid of staying in Aberdeen after Separation Day, blast after blast of ludicrous warnings from the likes of Vince and Sainsbury’s said again our chicken nuggets will go up. If it was coordinated, it means BP became an agent of government and engaged in party politics which is probably against their rules but then remember the chairman of BP was in the tent when Blair signed the Deal in the Desert with Gaddafi and tried to offload Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement to get the oil contract. And I forget how many of New Labour’s little darlings went straight over to jobs in BP.

And, you know, it hasn’t worked. I detect a change in the wind and once the London elitists in the media realise that Salmond is talking sense on the economy and just how hard it will hit England if we go, it will get harder for them to mount sustained attacks. Also, if they love us so much, why are they threatening us? Shouldn’t they be promising to share the currency for friendship’s sake and offering to back us all the way in Brussels? Maybe I misunderstand the nature of friends and family.

It has been an abiding aspect of my 45 years in journalism that you can’t interest an Englishman in our affairs. We started on this latest journey in the mid and late 80’s with the constitutional convention. Barely an English commentator noticed. They remained ignorant right up the point of devolution when they realised it would impact on them and then got animated for a while. I interviewed Peter Riddell of the Times who was strong on the idea that England should follow our story and have a say in the reform of Britain. I said you are interested but the English don’t care what happens in Scotland, they’ve had at least 20 years to catch up and they don’t. His reply was: “You’re absolutely right but it’s not good enough.”

And where were the Tessa Jowells when the Scottish committees at Westminster were stuffed with English Tories because they didn’t have enough in Scotland? Nowhere and silent with it. Wasn’t it Tessa who diverted funding from Scotland to pay for the Olympics?

Hang on, that’s the phone!

Damn, it was Hardeep the laundry man bringing back my shirts.  I got him to say he loved me…

No Change Please…We’re British

Here’s a happy thought for Yes campaigners. They have already won the argument against the Union…the problem is they still haven’t convinced the Scots. It may be that this formulation of apparently contradictory effects is the reason the polls so far are stuck in neutral and a sense of gradual movement is hard to detect.

Take the first part of the equation. Is there a rational person – as opposed to the determinedly committed – who still says Scotland can’t do it? It isn’t so long ago, in the pre devolution age, that a belief in Scotland’s almost total ineptitude was the conventional view. We were totally and hopelessly dependent – and weirdly untroubled by it – on the British Establishment whose agents we respected in the shape of a Scottish Office, often including unelected pantomime toffs – Lords  Glenarthur, Mansfield, Sanderson or Strathclyde, anyone? Devolutionists were a rag tag of ne’er-do-wells and the disenfranchised fed up with opposition. As for the dangerous dreamers of the SNP…

But since Scotland has demonstrated, rather than postulated a confident capacity to legislate in it’s own interests and move in a divergent direction, it is only flat-earth ears who say it can’t be done today. Largely unnoticed the official line has been changed by the facts and is now a completely different formulation that says: Of course Scotland can do it but is it worth it? That’s a completely different proposition based on reality. A binding agreement (on the face of it) is signed by the British state to guarantee that independence if there is a simple majority.

All that is left to the No Change brigade is to show how devoid they are imagination, inspiration, belief and pride by running down Scotland’s prospects to make independence appear too risky. For me the proof that they are finished in terms of argument is two-fold. One, they are now reduced to hiding the truth. This comes in the form of allowing their leader to duck out of the one major head-to-head event of the entire three-year campaign which could have commanded total national attention and revealed the true divide between the sides…Cameron versus Salmond live on television across the United Kingdom. I still find it jaw-dropping that this has been dismissed as not being the role for the leader of the United Kingdom, a man who will fight tooth and nail for Union and whose sole political skill is presentational. Editors have allowed him to slip out of this in another demonstration of supine complicity by a media still exhibiting 1950s deference to the British state.  I suspect this may become unsustainable though as the polls tighten and the London media which does have the balls to take on Downing Street starts to get frightened of the outcome. Backed by hysterical backbenchers, it is entirely possible that cowardly Cameron will be pleading for a pop at Salmond before voting day.

Second, London’s refusal to take up Brussel’s invitation for clarification on the attitude the institutions will take and the approach we can expect to our membership is the kind of sleight of hand the same brave Scottish media would have lambasted Salmond for. They did after all make a mockery of Salmond not having asked about membership when the freedom of information row was filling their pages. But now when there is a clear course of action to enlighten the voters, they shrug with indifference. Where is Catherine Stihler when you need her?

Taken together these two denials of openness and democratic choice, along with the unsubtle failure to be honest about currency union, demonstrate they have nothing to gain from revealing the truth while protesting it is Salmond who won’t give answers. That hypocritical ruse is their only cover left.

While the uncritical media dutifully report the remarks of a self interest player in Spain, knowledgeable voices are getting through to offer clarity on the real story of EU membership, the latest the unrivalled EU expert John Palmer.

Even the much vaunted, by Unionists, IFS figures confirmed that Scotland was in a better economic position than Britain and it is only looking years ahead and only if all British government estimates are accurate that a budgetary squeeze kicks in by which time Scotland can act to step up economic activity and head off demographic changes.

I know many will believe the claims that Scotland still can’t make a success of independence but where are those arguments convincingly made? Increasingly it is the Alistairs who make wild assertions and unsubstantiated claims, not their opponents who now point to the Independence Bible (it’s Sunday) to make their case in the knowledge the Nos have nothing to counter it with. Do you hear cogent arguments made by ordinary Scots apart from a weak and generalized: We’re probably better together?

But why isn’t opinion turning? I think the problem is a large percentage of Scots who aren’t applying logic at all. It isn’t that they are following the detailed debate as such, it is that they have no concept of their country as anything other than what is has been throughout their lifetime, a part of Britain that used to be something special and with plenty of off-the-shelf history but not a place that could conceivably equal other countries. They see Scotland as not a country at all but the way it is seen from London, as a region with history and some differences but, like all subsidiary units, not an equal for the founding nation. It leads to disbelieving outbursts accompanied by furrowed foreheads about “Scotland…a nation. Don’t be ridiculous” sometimes followed with “I’ll emigrate if that happens”.  They have been consumed by the British message and have allowed it to demolish what remained of their separate sense of national worth. It is the total success of Britishness which has supplanted their national identity, reduced it to a leisure activity (sport) and rendered them unable to envisage Scotland for what historically and legally it is, a nation like all others which merged in alliance with a bigger neighbour and now may want to rearrange that relationship to suit modern needs. They are not listening to the argument, as is their right, and they probably don’t listen at election time either preferring to believe nothing will change so why bother.

I doubt if many people really do believe the argument that Scotland is better off in Britain, a point daily being dismantled by reports showing personal debt approaching £1.5 trillion – equalling sovereign debt. Families are borrowing to pay utility bills while bankers earn 35 per cent pay rises to £1.6m a year. The government subsidises mortgages for the rich and has to be stopped by the Bank of England before another bubble is created – guess where?

But my No cohort doesn’t connect any of this to their own country or their own vote. It is something that happens to them and they can’t change.  They won’t see either the desperate Tory and Lib Dem moves to begin campaigning for continued EU membership because the polls show a real possibility of the UK voting us out.

Yes campaigners can argue all they like but I wonder how many of the Don’t Knows are actually Don’t Cares and Won’t Cares, people for whom there is no political message that gets through and for whom the idea of Scotland as their country is as relevant a flight to Mars.