We recently received the same letter from the Radio Times as many other people did, in response to our complaint about the magazine’s misrepresentation of respected Scottish historian Dr Fiona Watson last month. The problem related to an article about the film “Braveheart”, which made some deeply unpleasant implications easily read as saying the SNP were xenophobic racists encouraging anti-English violence.
The reply didn’t address the very specific issues we’d raised about what Dr Watson did or didn’t say, so we wrote back to the mag’s editor Ben Preston seeking clarification on a couple of important points. His reply is below.
“Dear Rev Campbell,
Thanks for your email. We certainly didn’t fabricate quotes by Dr Watson – and she wasn’t dishonest either. She gave a long interview which, as I explained, was compressed.
She said that the “SNP government would have no truck with anything that smacked of anti-English xenophobia. Like any government, the SNP used history as it suited them on the back of Braveheart. That period has been a gift to Alex Salmond and whether it’s true that he chose 2014 as the year of the vote because of of Bannockburn only he knows.”
We have clarified on our letters page in our new issue that Dr Watson stated explicitly that the SNP would have no truck with anti-English xenophobia, even though the article didn’t say that the SNP did.
So let’s just do a little compare and contrast on that ACTUAL quote from Dr Watson (in bold above) with what appeared under her name in the published feature:
“Braveheart is more fiction than fact. It’s also helped fuel anti-English sentiment in Scotland… TRUE
That period has been a gift to Alex Salmond and the SNP. Politicians might not feel much affinity with history themselves, but they know how to make use of it. The problem with Braveheart now is xenophobia: the justification of anti-English sentiment for which there should be absolutely no tolerance in a modern Scotland.
It’s not justifiable, and it has happened even after devolution. In 2006 kids were still getting beaten up for wearing an England shirt. That’s why I think Wallace is a harder hero to stomach today.”
Mr Preston’s original reply said “I would accept that the paragraph to which you refer could have been clearer.” Readers can form their own conclusions.