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.


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.


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.


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.

Illiberal Non-democrats

In my lifetime, Liberals have been the middlemen of politics, the sensible centre ground offering reason and light in the heat and fury of tribal politics. They sought peace and concord and applied a moral principle. So I was re-reading something this week which could have been a Liberal Democrat mission statement.

This is what the Edinburgh Agreement says: ‘The United Kingdom and Scottish Governments are committed…to working together on matters of mutual interest and to the principles of good communication and mutual respect.  The two governments have reached this agreement in that spirit.  They look forward to a referendum that is legal and fair producing a decisive and respected outcome.  The two governments are committed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom.’

Here’s what the Scottish Secretary says on EU membership: “It is the view of the UK Government that article 49 is the procedure. That is not going to change.” And later: “I think that is a fox, the corpse of which is riddled with bullets. It is barely recognisable as a fox any more.”


Alistair Carmichael – crafting his own dead parrot allusion – has rejected out of hand the Scottish government’s argument for using section 48 relating to treaty amendments to effect Scotland’s EU membership. And this from a government which ‘refuses to pre-negotiate’. Well, it’s certainly true that negotiation is banned, but what we didn’t expect was that the decisions would be made unilaterally anyway.

We now have currency union unilaterally ruled out without negotiation followed by Scotland’s seamless EU entry blocked by diktat, again without any discussion between governments.

Now you may casually dismiss what Carmichael says on the grounds that he doesn’t enjoy a surfeit of respect from the voters barely any of whom have heard of him, but it’s worth considering the implications of his remarks to MSPs because they illuminate a trend in the Things Are Alright camp.

I don’t imagine the intricacies of EU treaties will sway many sensible Scots, you only have to follow your common sense to see what will happen if Scotland votes Yes and makes clear its determination to remain EU members. But the path Carmichael appears to have chosen is the most precarious and tricky the frankly irresponsible not just for Scotland but for Britain. Article 49 is for accession states, it is for new members who have not previously been members and are not members now….applicants who have had to work to meet the aquis, the exacting legal standards to comply with the rules. That is not Scotland. Undeniably and indisputably, that is not EU-compliant Scotland. You have to wonder that any proud Scotsman could willfully portray his country as less in stature than it actually is. So what does the Carmichael position mean?


If there is a Yes, it isn’t just a problem for the Scots but for London and the rUK which will help represent Scotland internationally. Will they choose years of uncertainty while Brussels contrives a treaty amendment requiring 28 in unanimity which essentially tells Scotland You’re Oot? (Wouldn’t that require member 28 – that is rUK – to join a vote expelling the Scots?) Meanwhile Britain’s internal trading relations are severely restricted, Scotland’s net contribution to Brussels stops, London has to undertake jointly with us re-entry talks which may well involve themselves as the rUK’s membership will also be subject to overhaul, an In/Out referendum looms and UKIP play merry hell. The upshot could well be a sickened England voting to withdraw completely from the EU stew. London will be at the heart of all this as guarantor of the referendum result – see Edinburgh Agreement above – and instead of fighting against Scotland, will be battling against the full force of the EU machine. That is, if they insist on following Article 49. It would be a self-inflicted wound that could lead to a long-term disaster for the whole of Britain and yet can be avoided by the adroit use of Article 48 which allows for treaty amendments and which eminent authorities deem applicable. Here’s the EU expert Graeme Avery: “The scenario of an independent Scotland outside the EU and not applying EU rules would be a legal nightmare, create social and economic difficulties for EU citizens, and deprive the EU of benefits of Scotland’s membership such as its budgetary contribution and fisheries resources. To avoid this unwelcome outcome, one may expect the British Government to espouse vigorously the use of Article 48 in due course.”

And yet the man supposed to represent Scottish interests in London merrily tells our national parliament that the simplest, safest route is now a bullet-riddled corpse. Without even the benefit of talks, mind. Just dismissed…by the arrogant and ignorant Liberal Democrat who has muscled his way into the top job and now uses his time to denigrate the very ideas that can secure his country’s future. At the same time he does disservice to the European ideals to which he pretends to subscribe. Talking down hardly covers it.

It was the same with currency. They foretold the future without conferring with Scotland first. Like Macbeth’s Three Witches, Osborne, Alexander and Balls dictated events. I liked this description of Shakespeare’s trio. ‘They represent darkness, chaos, and conflict, while their role is as agents and witnesses. Their presence communicates treason and impending doom. During Shakespeare’s day, witches were seen as worse than rebels, “the most notorious traitor and rebell that can be.” They were not only political traitors, but also spiritual traitors as well. Much of the confusion that springs from them comes from their ability to straddle the play’s borders between reality and the supernatural. They are so deeply entrenched in both worlds that it is unclear whether they control fate, or whether they are merely its agents. They defy logic, not being subject to the rules of the real world’. Precisely.

Carmichael’s absurdist position was amplified by his crass use of language. Lured by an questioner he may have been but it befits a clever politician to avoid traps. Not to realize he was stumbling into an odious metaphor betrayed the truth about a man bumbling around in unfamiliar surroundings.

Some of us remember Liberals as the consensual figures in our alphabet soup, the compromisers and co-operators who exuded reason. To listen now to Carmichael and the decidedly Tory –sounding Alexander is to feel the shock of realization that one was duped. Both men have produced what defence lawyers used to call a tissue of lies in order to mislead their fellow Scots into rejecting the one avenue by which they can take command and control their own affairs, what Liberals used to call Home Rule. Campaigning I understand. Lying I deprecate. These positions on currency and the EU are deliberately crafted misrepresentations paraded as fact and are proof that the Liberals have lost the conciliatory gene and joined the anti-Scottish alliance so completely that their party history will need to be re-written.

Catching Up

Busy weekend and no time to blog…that’s where tweeting comes in. Why should anybody go more than a  day without knowing what I think?

If Headlines is dropped from Radio Scotland, I don’t think it shows bias, just lack of understanding of what the audience wants and lack of respect for the listeners. It has become one of the forums for different views and is a rarity on RS in that allows free flowing discussion at length, something that listeners crave. It also treats the listeners with respect by disparaging the silly scare nonsense that so much of the media pretends to take seriously. It also allows us to laugh which gets away from the mock sincerity of so much current affairs.

But why for example would you drop Headlines but keep the Business programme on a Sunday morning…a minority interest surely in what is surely dress down time at the weekend.  We shouldn’t make the assumption that the BBC knows what it is doing.  It manifestly does not, as with the   Saturday morning changes when they dropped Newsweek in favour of a two hour under resourced GMS. I hear it may be replaced with a debating format in which a Yes goes up against a No which could be a good idea with the right guests and referee but disastrous otherwise. I’m not sure that’s the relaxed Sunday morning thing either.

It won’t be presented by Andrew Marr, a fine journalist like James Naughtie who sought fame in London and found it. The problem here it seems is one of assimilation because after 25 or 30 years absorbing London culture and learning about it, embedding themselves there and bringing up families, they lose some aspect of what makes them Scots.

Is it not the same principe that applies to immigrants to Scotland? They adjust and acclimatise and are no longer the same people who left another country through time. It is a natural process but we make the mistake if assuming London or England is the same country when it is not. But like all diaspora they develop a confused impression of their identity and blame the rest of us for not sharing their view.  Presenters are notoriously egotistical and are allowed to puff up their egos until they become bullies and Big shots. They think they are bigger than the people they interview. Marr blew his Barroso interview and he now knows it. The lack if a follow up to find out what legal process would follow a Yes vote was inexcusable and laughable. Yesterday he was trying to cover that failing up but made a worse mess by giving us the Marr Declaration on the EU and was embarrassed by Salmond. It is the triumph of vanity over talent. And it is noticeable that the London Scots treat Salmnod with contempt, with a different tone from the one applied to Cameron.

Whatever bias there is in Scotland, we get a double dose via the London BBC.

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.

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.

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  http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/ailsa-mckay/debate-over-scotland’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…

Dear Sir….

I’ve got a job at last! Blogging to end immediately…I’m hunting out my suit…Listen to this – BBC Scotland wants a public affairs adviser, someone with intimate knowledge of Scottish politics, who understands broadcasting and can advise senior management at PQ. It’s made for me…

They’re advertising for a good communicator – duh! – who can sort through a mass of information quickly and produce a coherent synopsis and tell the managers what to do to improve their image. Why did they bother to advertise? Must be able to talk with politicians (Johann will forgive me) and find out what’s happening in the corridors of power to tip off Kenny McQuarrie in advance. It’s made for me.

Of course I’ll miss this sharing my thoughts with all of you from the Maryhill Media Centre but it was only a stop-gap until I walked back into the Beeb as a rehabilitated big shot. And just before I go – can I say to you whining Nats out there that I have never detected the merest hint of bias in any of the BBC’s referendum coverage. Oh yes, I humoured you to keep you reading to get my numbers up but I knew they were doing their very best in there and anyway they know they’ll be on the winning side. So, farewell suckers. You know where you can stick your Yes stickers…

The job? Well it’s Adviser to BBC Scotland Public Policy and Corporate Affairs, answerable to one Ian Small, remember him? My good friend Ian is the man who wrote a perfectly reasonable letter of complaint to Dr Robertson* of some university nobody has ever heard of who dredged up the old chestnut of bias and had to be put in his place for impertinence. I think Ian and I could work very closely together in the interests of the BBC. I know he never reads this blog anyway. I know this because a colleague asked him if he’d seen my coverage of the bias affair and he shouted: ‘Don’t speak to me about that bloody blog’ and put his fingers in his ears.

The job is directly related to the referendum and independence, which is funny because that’s exactly what I said a few posts ago. I said they had misjudged it and needed strategy advice. I said it wasn’t business as usual as they claimed and pointed out they had no one in the team who was the voice or face of BBC Scotland who could represent them to the wider world. It must just be coincidence that they’ve reached the same conclusion now.

I was pleased but puzzled to read they want someone who can ‘build and establish trusted and effective working relationships with key parliamentary, government and corporate stakeholders’ as that’s what I said they weren’t doing. In fact I said it was a signal failing of the Director McQuarrie that he had no on-going personal relationship with his greatest ally in Scotland, the First Minister.

‘Must be able to deal with a wide range of people with tact and diplomacy’. (I’ll give Ian a wee lesson in letter-writing to innocent academics)

There’s a reference to dealing with complaints about referendum issues but to be honest I think the old method’s the best…Dear Sir/Madam, Fuck off, Yours sincerely.

I also suspect that since none of the high heid yins are remotely effective at answering questions that this appointee may find him/herself fronting up before MSPs to save senior execs the bother. To be fair, I was told that there was no initial plan on the media committee to investigate BBC Scotland until John Boothman gave evidence. He appeared so shifty, they thought he must be hiding something and there was unanimous cross-party support for a full inquiry.

Mind you, two hard facts emerge from reading this. First, it is Grade 10 in the BBC pay scale. Now that’s the top of the range for a programme-making journalist – as in an Editor – but it is below management, so anyone on the outside dealing with this person will know they have no real clout. It means they are officially not a decision-maker but mostly a messenger. The other people who know this are the BBC bosses themselves which means, if for example, bad news comes back from Holyrood about the quality of Radio Scotland, the Head of Radio, our chum jolly Jeff Zycinski will brush it aside and carry on regardless. Only an executive with authority cannot be ignored.

Secondly, my heart bleeds that £50,000 can be found for a corporate position, one that does management’s job for them, when the same people sacked 35 journalists, ridding the BBC of experience and quality at the very time in its history it was most needed.

If they wanted a human shield, why not save money by asking Brian Taylor, their best connected and most respected political staffer, to take on the role? This is a sign of crisis management. If such a person was envisaged why wait until six months before the vote? Why not two years ago when, as I say, all the planning should have been done. Dysfunctional? You bet. But how else would you want them to spend your money…making Scottish programmes?

(I’m trying to think where I left my suit…and where’s that application form?)

*Just been made up to full Professor at UWS. Now Professor John W Robertson, Convenor: CCI Research Ethics Committee, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, School of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of the West of Scotland. week done him. Must be for services to broadcasting…