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Wings Over Scotland

Why maybe the Unionists are right

Posted on May 28, 2012 by

I’ve been a nationalist pretty much all my life, or at least since I was old enough to grasp the basic concept of politics (probably from about the age of 10 or so). Leaving aside any precocious notions of specific policies, I’ve never been able to grasp the basic concept of a people who consider themselves to be a nation being afraid to actually stand up and take responsibility for running that nation themselves.

If you think you’re a country, you shouldn’t be having foreigners pick your government for you. And if you don’t, you need to accept that you’re just a region with ideas above its station, and act accordingly – no more “national” football teams, no rugby teams, no flags, no anthems, no different laws or any of the rest of it.

To me, the idea goes far beyond anything so base as cowardice, and belongs instead in the realm of “simply too mad to understand”. It’s like not believing in gravity or evolution or the Earth being round and orbiting the Sun – that is, once someone’s pointed it out to you, it’s just a bit mental to keep disputing it.

Nobody can have two countries, or at least not simultaneously. You can be a citizen of somewhere, carry a passport for it, live there for as long as you like, or whatever else, but countries are like wives and livers – you can only have one at a time. You can change your nationality, if that’s what’s in your heart, but not have two at once. I’ve only agreed with Norman Tebbit about one thing in my entire life, and it’s that.

I’m Scottish. I’m British too, just like I’m from West Lothian and from Europe and from the Northern Hemisphere and plenty more things, but only one of them is my country. As such, I believe that it’s a self-evident truth that the government of Scotland should be chosen by the people of Scotland, and the people of Scotland alone.

But occasionally, just very occasionally, I have the misfortune to witness something like BBC Scotland’s “Big Debate” last night, and I’m not so sure we can be trusted.

Because if last night’s special programme on independence is a representation of who and what we are as a nation, then maybe we ARE too pathetic and feeble to go it alone. The entire hour was a cringing national embarrassment from start to finish, from which almost nobody emerged with the tiniest scrap of credit.

Heck, maybe that was the plan all along. Maybe the BBC, the “impartial” broadcaster that actually has a massive vested interest in keeping the UK intact, cooked up a grand Unionist conspiracy with Labour and the Tories to make the entire population feel so bad about itself that we’d obediently bow down, doff our cap, tug our forelock and apologise for even momentarily suggesting we might be fit to join the community of nations in our own right.

I don’t imagine that’s true, of course. But it would actually be a much more palatable explanation than that we’re just so useless we can’t even conduct an argument.

“Let’s try to get some answers”, proclaimed the show’s host Isobel Fraser by way of introduction, then proceeded to preside ineffectually over a pitifully childish 60-minute playground squabble like a timorous supply teacher. Fraser is an excellent one-on-one interviewer, but even the insipid Glenn Campbell handles a crowd better. She has previous form for failure in the field, as anyone who saw the Sunday Politics (as it was then) debate before the 2011 Holyrood election degenerate into a horrific and toe-curling four-way shouting match will recall.

We have no idea (save for the grand-conspiracy theory, of course) why the BBC doesn’t employ Newsnight Scotland’s fearsome inquisitor Gordon Brewer to referee such potentially inflammable occasions, because his iron-fist Paxmanesque style is far better suited to making participants shut up and behave like civilised human beings when it’s not their turn to speak.

If the host was feeble, the audience was a million times worse. The BBC, it appears, had taken out adverts in the Cretin’s Gazette for people who’d been living under a rock for the past 13 years and couldn’t even construct a basic question. “I’d like to ask the panel what living in an independent Scotland could do for me” was the pre-vetted opener, neatly setting the idiotic tone for what was to follow.

The questioner, one Karen Tait, wasn’t for giving the panels any clues as to what she was looking for by way of answer. Was she an entrepreneur, a stay-at-home mother of three, a carer for an elderly relative, a bus driver, an anti-nuclear protester, an unemployed divorcee in negative equity? We hadn’t a clue, and neither did the four politicians on the stage, so she may as well have said “Could the panel give us a vacuous, meaningless soundbite, please?”, and they duly obliged.

Nicola Sturgeon got the poisoned chalice first, and made a brief attempt to point out that the referendum was about making choices for ourselves, before wandering off into some necessarily (given the question) vague “things will be better” boilerplate, of which the only solid policy was “We’ll get rid of Trident and spend the money on something more useful”. It was practically the only contribution the Deputy FM was allowed to make all night without interruption.

Labour’s “deputy” Scottish leader Anas Sarwar was next up – Johann Lamont having once again not been let out in front of the cameras – and true to character he started off with a big fat lie. His opening sentence that “The power already lies with the people of Scotland” will be surprising news to anyone wondering why we can’t set our own VAT rates or kick Trident out, and why we’re currently toiling under the lash of a Tory government that only has one MP out of 59 from Scotland.

Sarwar was ready for that, though. After bizarrely asserting how much he loved Scotland (something only Unionists ever seem to feel the need to do in such debates, and which you might imagine wouldn’t be necessary for a Scottish politician sitting on a stage with other politicians in front of a Scottish audience in Scotland), the real leader of Scottish Labour claimed that “most of us hate the Tories”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he’s about to spend the next two years allied to them.

It was the first point in the evening where Sarwar departed strikingly from Labour’s official party line, but it would be very far from the last, as we’ll hear later. (We don’t, however – you’ll be relieved to hear – plan to analyse the debate line by line. We’re just setting the scene here, okay?)

Perhaps the only commendable thing about the entire event was that it featured a balanced panel: two pro-independence and two anti-independence, compared to the usual three-Unionists-ganging-up-on-the-SNP approach, which meant that Green (co-)leader Patrick Harvie spoke next. While the debate happened too late at night for today’s newspapers, we suspect the widespread view of commentators will (rightly) be that Harvie was the “winner”, and he got off to a good start by answering the question honestly: he said he didn’t know.

As well as mostly staying out of the cacophonous slanging matches which would erupt later, Harvie spoke a lot of common sense (inevitably mixed in with a little bit of Green fantasy-land nonsense), and his opening comments pointed out that not only could we not predict the makeup of a post-independence Scottish government (meaning that linking the referendum result to its policies was a futile pursuit), but that we didn’t know what we’d get if we stayed in the UK either – except that it would assuredly be more of the same neoliberal consensus that has landed the country in the appalling state it’s in now, and which Scotland consistently rejects.

Oddly, the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson didn’t get a turn at this point, with Fraser turning instead to a complete idiot in the audience who was allowed to ramble on for a staggering one minute and 20 seconds with an endless, incoherent, and unbelievably stupid monologue about the collapse of RBS and HBOS, (which he apparently blamed for the entire world economic crisis), and taking in the “arc of prosperity”, Scottish membership of the Euro and Rupert Murdoch along the way, before conspicuously failing to end in any sort of question.

Sturgeon, sitting helplessly on stage, looked bewildered as the “question” droned on into the night with no point looming anywhere on the horizon, and the unfortunate adolescent sitting next to the buffoon blinked furiously in an attempt to stay awake. It was like a Tom Harris’ Greatest Hits performance, every word packed with studied, deliberate and sustained ignorance and misrepresentation – less a question than a party election broadcast on behalf of the Havering Numpty Tendency – and by the time Fraser finally got a grip and got round to telling him to put a sock in it, the audience was already audibly sniggering at the directionless farce unfolding in front of them.

That didn’t, however, stop them from applauding it. The selected audience applauded pretty much every sentence said by everyone on or off the stage for the entire duration of the proceedings, sometimes even interrupting them to applaud in the middle of a sentence before applauding again at the end. Since it was uniform, directed more or less equally at every participant, and we’d already been told that the audience had been chosen to represent a range of views, it was completely meaningless and simply served to reduce the effective length of the programme by about a quarter.

(I have no idea why TV producers haven’t continued the excellent practice begun in the 2010 Westminster general election debates, where the audience were forbidden from applauding except at the beginning and end of the show, and which vastly improved the quality of discourse. TV is expensive to produce. If I wanted to hear from a load of clueless boneheads from the general public, I could read the Daily Record letters pages. If you’re going to drag politicians up onto a stage, at least let’s hear them speak without a bunch of clapping seals butting in every 15 seconds.)

Astonishingly, Fraser then demanded that Sturgeon respond to this scattershot mindspew, which she made a very creditable stab at before Ruth Davidson finally got a chance to answer the audience, and then the show really began its descent into national humiliation. Patrick Harvie interjected over the end of her reply, and provoked a testy reply from Davidson, who would get steadily more and more ill-tempered and rude as the evening went on.

Another microwit in the crowd (accompanied by what appeared to be a cross between Churchill the insurance dog and a dribbling mental patient on his right) was then allowed to read out a Labour Party press soundbite completely ignoring pretty much everything that had been said on stage and directed specifically at Sturgeon, but which she wasn’t allowed to respond to. Another couple of chumps got to say nothing of any merit, and then we got to the next “proper” question, which was the point at which switching the show off and doing something more worthwhile instead (like shaving your face with a cheesegrater) started to look an attractive prospect.

A paralysingly pompous and vacant young woman demanded “some straight answers” to what Scotland’s economic situation would be in 10 years, as if everyone on stage knew but was keeping it a secret. The world’s economists currently barely know where we’re going to be in 10 hours, but this glaikit-faced eejit wanted cast-iron guarantees a decade in advance, presumably accompanied by next week’s lottery numbers and the weather for her summer holidays in August 2026.

(And remember, these were the pre-vetted questions that were specifically selected for broadcast by the BBC – imagine, if you dare, how awful the rejected ones must have been. Presumably just people grunting and screaming and throwing faeces.)

Harvie again made a commendable attempt at a meaningful answer, but it was practically the last time anyone was allowed to get to the end of a response without the others talking over the top of them. The next question, about membership of the Euro, would really set the fur flying, but it was preceded by one of the few interesting moments of the whole event.

Apropos seemingly of nothing, Fraser decided to conduct a quick straw poll of the audience to determine how many of them wanted a devo-max option on the ballot paper. The cameras showed the response:

To viewers helpfully possessed of the power of sight, the result was a pretty conclusive rejection. At best, maybe 15% raised their hands, but Fraser could only manage to describe the audience position (basically a quite surprising landslide No to the idea of a second question) as “divided”. Rather than attempt to analyse it, or invite the panel to reply, she moved straight onto the Euro question, and from there on the participants just talked all over each other, two or three or sometimes even all four at a time, telling the viewer nothing.

Now, this feature is already a lot longer than it was supposed to be, and we’re getting angry and depressed all over again. We’re only at the halfway point (29m) in the broadcast as we write this, so we’re going to abandon our plans to highlight the few remarkable things that were said in the debate and put them in a separate piece when we’ve calmed down a bit. The point is,the entire event was a waste of time.

If the BBC or anyone else is going to make any sort of programme like this again, it needs to follow a few simple rules:

1. Find, from somewhere, an audience of which at least 60% could be reliably counted on to be able to tie their own shoelaces.

2. When vetting questions, maybe pick out at least some that aren’t completely brainless, vague, unfocused and puerile. (Having some of them actually be questions at all, rather than empty rhetoric impossible for anyone to answer sensibly, would be a bonus.) If you’ve failed at Point 1 and the entire audience is comprised of semi-evolved retards, at least plant a few researchers in there with something halfway-intelligent to ask.

3. Tell the audience that if they clap at any point during the proceedings other than the beginning and end they’ll be taken out and brutally violated with electric cattle prods. Labour supporters clapping Labour panellists, SNP supporters clapping SNP panellists and Tory supporters clapping Tory panellists tells nobody anything and just fills up a big chunk of the broadcast with useless white noise.

4. Get a host (Brewer, or STV’s Bernard Ponsonby) who can actually control the participants and tell them to shut the hell up when it’s not their turn. If our elected representatives still won’t stop behaving like ill-raised children, then switch their microphones off when someone else is speaking until they learn.

Either that, or just come out and say that we’re a nation that couldn’t organise a convivial social evening in an alcohol-manufacturing plant, and that not only should we not be independent, we should burn all our flags, withdraw all our national sports teams from competition, scrap our legal systems and NHS, charge crippling tuition fees for education, and make Kelvin MacKenzie the Regional Gauleiter For North Britain. It’d still be better than having to endure another night like last night.

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    1. 09 06 12 01:27

      Take Your Pick |

    52 to “Why maybe the Unionists are right”

    1. Peter A Bell says:

      Did I detect just a hint of tetchiness there?

    2. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      Chess rules – Timer down; 5 Minutes, no interuptions.

      Or something similar.

    3. Theuniondivvie says:

      Looked in on the first few minutes but had to flip over before the will to live departed for evermore. Watched a Unionist vision of post independence Scotland instead, The Road, which cheered me up no end.

      I’d probaby concurr with your hypothesis of the Unionists  trying to dispirit Scotland so much we’ll all stay in our beds on the day of the referendum, if I didn’t consider them the embodiment of the inability to organise a convivial social evening in an alcohol-manufacturing plant.

    4. TheMaganator says:

      “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”

    5. Robin says:

      Serious question:

      How could this debate really work anyway?

      All matters of policy would be decided by elections, not the referendum itself. Any simpleton understands what it means for a geographical area to be an independent country.

      What question could you ask someone that would enlighten a non-idiot about the implications?  

    6. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      A fair point, of course. The actual debate is a very short one: why should Scotland’s government be chosen by England, Ireland and Wales? Anything beyond that is an election debate not a referendum one, and will generate – as we saw last night – vast amounts of heat and pretty much zero light.

    7. Archie Guevara says:

      Never saw it but it sounds brilliant.  I love the fact that the photos have neat little tags that effortlessly describe them.

    8. Arbroath1320 says:

      I only managed to watch the first 30 minutes. How I survived that long I do not know, must have been something int the water.
      Anyway, from what I “watched” it is clear to me that the Anti Independence Brigade do NOT have a single positive case to put up in defence of the union. As a result we end up with the A.I.B. members consistently talking over those standing up FOR Independence. The net result, in my view, is that the A.I.B. just look like a bunch of playground bullies. They are the biggest bunch of incompetent politicians I have ever seen, and let’s face there have been some very incompetent politicians over the years.!
      Even before the programme broke down into the playground rumpus it was clear to me that neither Sarwar nor Davidson had anything of substance to offer. In fact I’m sure Sarwar even managed to do a “Lamont”, contradict himself in his own lifetime answer.

    9. Arbroath1320 says:

      Archie Guevara says:
      May 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Never saw it but it sounds brilliant.  I love the fact that the photos have neat little tags that effortlessly describe them.

      Good spot Archie. Being blind as a bat 😀 I never noticed that!

    10. Aplinal says:

      Got it in one.  Almost the answer to every “question” from the programme could be, “That will be for a SCOTTISH government to decide after independence.  Right now Scotland has exactly NO say in it.”
      I have just watched the rerun on TA Moridura as I am outwith the UK and can not see iPlayer on the BBC website.  The questions were, well … SO BAD.  I have to fall back into conspiracy mode and assume that these specific questions were chosen deliberately by the BBC to be as nonsensical as possible, as any constructive question would have proved without doubt that the only sensible vote is YES to Scottish Independence.  
      Lordy, another 30 months of this stuff!

    11. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”

      Tragically I tend to agree. Ballot papers should have three simple current-affairs questions on them, and if you can’t get at least two right your vote goes in the bin…

    12. Peninsula says:

      If that’s a cross section of the SCottish electorate, we should call the whole thing off.  

      I want some concrete FACTS on what will happen next week, I want them here, and I want them NOW!

      Who the fuck are these people?


    13. Don McC says:

      I’ve got to say that Harvie was very good, even surprisingly so.  I’ve doubted his party’s commitment to Independence but there seems little doubt about Harvie’s commitment.  Salmond should seriously consider putting Harvie front and centre in the Yes campaign because he’s the only one that came out of it with any credibility last night.

      The show itself was very poor.  The open hostility against Sturgeon in particular shouldn’t have been tolerated.  That young nyaff with his “You’re a liar” accusations should have been slapped down (or at least told to rephrase his attack as an actual question).

      Sarwar continued with Scottish Labour’s excuse to do nothing (we’re internationalists so we can’t sort poverty in Glasgow or remove nuclear weapons from the Clyde or do anything of worth anywhere in Scotland until we’ve done the same in the rest of the world – something already discussed here: .  This looks like it’s the excuse that’ll keep giving but someone should have pulled Sarwar on it last night.

      Davidson was on a hiding to nothing, just as much as Sturgeon, which is probably why the two off them ended up squabbling like little kids while Fraser stood by like a chocolate mantelpiece.

      If there’s anything to be taken from this broadcast, it’s that some of the studio audience echoed Harvie in asserting it’s not about money, it’s about making Scotland a better place (of course, there was always the little mercenary who followed this assertion by claiming, to them, it was all about being better off financially).

      Like others, I found the broadcast disheartening, but then perhaps that was the point.  There were some pretty entrenched views on show and the negativity displayed could grind anyone down.  I’ll be interested to see where the Yes campaign goes from here but it now seems more important than ever to ensure the campaign is as broad a church as is possible.

    14. ghjklsdfghjkl says:

      And there was the BBC’s failure to edit out the baseless accusation of lying directed at Nicola by the wee fud at the back.

    15. TheMaganator says:

      The point the chap who accused NS of lying was (I assume) trying to make was that she asserted that an Independent Scotland would have a representative on the Monetary Policy Committee – should she decide to use Sterling.

      So, is that true?

      The honest answer is that I do not know – but it is a bold claim to make – should she not know definitively.  

    16. Cuphook says:

      Sometimes I think that the purpose of televised political debate in the UK is to dispirit the viewer/voter, and BBC Scotland seem to have mastered the formula.

      Last year I supplied a question to Brian Taylor’s Q&A with John Swinney: ‘The SNP are constantly being asked what an independent Scotland will look like. Could you tell us what you think the UK will look like in 10 years time?’ Needless to say Brian didn’t like how the question was framed and so just asked ‘Could you tell us what you think the UK will look like in 10 years time?’ And so a nationalist question becomes a Unionist one. This dishonesty and lack of professional integrity means that I won’t be participating in any future BBC debates, and lets face it, who actually watches them?

      The inclusion of Patrick Harvie was welcome though and as the YES campaign develops I hope we see a lot more than just the SNP in the spotlight.

      Oh, and despite Sarwar’s claim that he ‘hates’ the Tories I’ve a feeling that Labour’s association with them is going to be damaging.

    17. R Pollock says:

      the wee lassie was on in the last big debate as was a few of the other questioners  i can’t believe that we’re just allowing a very important debate to descend into a shout off with a bunch of greasy party members (on both sides).  They should maybe pick people at random in some way and ask if they want to come?  Although I can see issues with that, too.  there’s something wrong when the people in the audience changle less often than the guests in a cuntry of 5 million.  maybe it just shows the total lack of political awareness of how disinteresred the people really are?  it’s debates like his that put people off.  Actually a hugely important facet of the campaign.  Many hundreds of thousands couldn’t care less; votes available  

    18. Arbroath1320 says:

      Peninsula says:
      May 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      If that’s a cross section of the SCottish electorate, we should call the whole thing off.  
      I want some concrete FACTS on what will happen next week, I want them here, and I want them NOW!
      Who the fuck are these people?
      I think they’re called plants Pennisula, Rubber plants, Swiss Cheese plants………….:D

    19. Macart says:

      It was an absolute hoot. The audience participation alone should guarantee a yes vote. I was quite depressed about the msm over the weekend till I saw the highlights over me cornflakes this morning. I had recorded it last night and admittedly skipped through it, but there was a hail of cereal over the kitchen table when I saw some of the hillside ramblers in the audience fail to actually ask a question. 🙂

    20. Morag Eyrie says:

      So glad I didn’t stay up to watch this. Really enjoyed your description of it so much more than I would’ve the real thing.

      I take issue with one thing though:

      “You can change your nationality, if that’s what’s in your heart, but not have two at once.”

      I have two at once: Scotland (where I have chosen to live for 15 years, where I will continue to live and fight for independence, and where my mother was from) and New Zealand where I grew up and lived to the age of 31. I do have formal dual nationality, but that’s to New Zealand and the U.S.A. (where I was born). And I have the right to British citizenship through my mother but have never taken them up on it: now I’m kind of hoping I can wait and go for Scottish citizenship. My overall point is, that for me it is possible to have two countries, maybe not for you but in a true and heartfelt way, it is possible for many of us.

    21. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “My overall point is, that for me it is possible to have two countries, maybe not for you but in a true and heartfelt way, it is possible for many of us.”

      The “cricket test” applies, though: when Scotland play New Zealand at rugby (say), as they quite often do, who do you want to win? I’ve never yet met anyone who, deep in their heart, doesn’t pick one or the other.

    22. Arbroath1320 says:

      I think the thought of a Labour M.P. appearing on the same stage as a Tory M.S.P. and both arguing for the SAME side got a bit much for John Prescott yesterday.
      Still no worries, the wee darling does have TWO Jags, doesn’t he? 😀 All he would have to do is phone home and his second Jag would be up in no time. 😀

    23. Peter A Bell says:

      The loud-mouth lackwit accused Nicola Sturgeon of claiming that there would be SNP representation on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). What she actually said was that there would be Scottish Government/Treasury representation. Which is certainly true. A sterling currency union would be subject to negotiation and it’s safe to assume that at least one seat on the MPC would be a minimum requirement of the Scottish government. No representation, no currency union. So what she said was anything but a lie. The guy was just a buffoon.

    24. Andrew Haddow says:

      @Peter A Bell And in what was an edited programme, the BBC decided to leave this nonsense in. Total disrespect for Deputy FM.

    25. annie says:

      I had intended to watch the debate on iplayer glad I read this first – I wish I could simply switch off to it all until 2014 since I will vote yes anyway but sadly I am now addicted – just keep taking the blood pressure tablets.

    26. YesYesYes says:

      Many will share your despair here. I have to agree that the programme was a depressing experience. The negative questions about the consequences of independence were relentless, and it even got to the stage where Isobel Fraser was joining in with the audience! At that stage, I thought to myself, oh Isobel, why don’t you just get it over with, sit Nicola Sturgeon down in the Mastermind chair, switch on that spotlight and fire away. One of these days, a BBC censor may find himself asleep at the wheel and we’ll get a member of a Scottish audience asking a question that’s loaded with the benefits of independence. It’ll only be allowed once mind.
      I agree with you about Anas Sarwar but, as the saying goes, the apple never falls far from the tree. He has the disposition and all the gravitas of a dodgy used car salesman. But he does prove, for anyone who still needs evidence, that a vacant expression, naked ambition and a propensity for gibberish nonsense can take you a long way in today’s Scottish Labour party. The more I see and hear of Sarwar, the more evidence he provides that Scottish Labour truly is the nasty party of Scottish politics. In a way, this isn’t surprising. As with the Tories in the 1990s, their world is falling apart around them, much of what they’d held dear has either dissolved or is in the process of dissolving. It’s no surprise that the union is their last stand.
      This leads to the thought that perhaps this is affecting members of audiences also. And although many of these audiences, like Scottish Labour itself, appear to have clear and emphatic views about the consequences of independence, I don’t  get the sense that they’ve thought very hard about the negative consequences of remaining in the union. It’s curious how these programmes never engage with this question, it always seems to be the various questioners’ negative perceptions of independence that are highlighted. What this suggests is that many people in Scotland are instinctively conservative. That, after all, is why so many of them vote for Scottish Labour at British general elections. But I agree with one of the implications of your perceptive piece here. Last night’s programme demonstrated that a two and a half year campaign is essential and, after last night, you can understand why the unionists wanted to rush this through and have the referendum as soon as possible.
      In Patrick Harvie, the Yes campaign may have found its secret weapon. Of course, the Labour-Tory coalition will write him off as one of those loony greens who shouldn’t be let anywhere near political office – much better to stick with the technocratic managerialism of the Labour-Tory coalition that we’re all too familiar with. But that’s because for the Labour-Tory coalition, ‘environmentalism’ is synonymous with the cosmetic ‘greening’ of policy. Harvie is not only thoughtful and articulate, he adds a radical edge to the Yes campaign which will play well against the anodyne conservatism of the Labour-Tory coalition. Just as importantly, he will, with any luck, get Alex Salmond out of the spotlight (not an easy task for anyone), with potentially significant benefits for the Yes campaign.
      At any rate, if the Yes campaign gets this right – and like others I want to see more women and ethnic minorities also feature prominently in the Yes campaign – then although 2014 will be primarily about independence, it will also be an implicit choice between supporting the prospect of an SNP-Green coalition in an independent Scotland or a continuing Labour-Tory coalition at Westminster. I don’t think that even a gifted used car salesman, never mind a desperately poor one like Anas Sarwar, could easily talk his way around that.

    27. Well I was there no not a boast.We were recorded for 1 hour and 20 minutes,so a fair bit of editing was done,and the questions were all prearranged by the BBC,and there were those who had their seats ready picked for them also.I sat there and thought I’m not at a Labour party witch hunt,Ruth did the “I’ve got a letter stunt once again” seen it weeks ago,nothing new and honesty got hidden.It was my first time in a TV studio,and probably my last,I was not impressed.I also watched it when I got home,a little bit of vanity just to see if I “Got on the Telly” well no never saw me,but when 25 % had been edited out it was no surprise.My conclusion was rubbish and an obvious attempt at setting up a pro-union program,just made it rubbish.

    28. I Waller says:

      Last night was terrible –So I think the electorate have to think about the standard of the people who are put forward to stand  for the Scottish parliament -particularly by the Scottish Labour Party and the Conservatives.– I believe neither of these two parties take the Scottish parliament seriously, –that’s the problem –Truth is -the Nationalists DO take Scotland and its parliament seriously, and have able people in the parliament.
      The other parties cannot see beyond Westminster and do not want to.

      I would say to the electorate –look around your area -if it appears deprived and run down -then do not  vote back your current councillors,MSP s or MP,s -ask what they are doing for you or your area!!-If it is all about Westminster and YOUR vote only used to provide someone with a safe seat at Westminster to suit their career dont vote that party again.

    29. EricF says:

      I switched off after the second question.  Agree with just about everything in your article and the following comments.  2 pro-independence speakers was definite progress, but everything else was just a mess.  Ironically I’d cheered when I saw Isabel Fraser was chairing it, but in the (short) bit I saw she was hopeless.

    30. Janos says:

      Gah.  It really is depressing.  I still think that the BBC are the biggest threat to independence.  People aren’t that stupid, they probably realise that Labour are the nasty party, but they probably think all politicians are like that and hence refuse to properly engage and think about stuff.  It’s easier being ignorant I suppose.  Then again, all politicans probably are like that, but Independence represents a chance for change.

    31. YesYesYes says:

      As for Ruth Davidson, you have to be concerned about someone for whom controlled aggression seems to come so naturally.
      I have a vision of her, a la Spitting Image mock up, every time I see her at FMQs, dressed in an athletes  vest, wearing boxing gloves and punching a punchbag after every word she utters:
      Will – thwack! – the –thwack! – First – thwack! – Minister – thwack! – answer – thwack! – the – thwack! – fucking – thwack! – question – thwack! 

    32. If this debate shows the possible tone of Scotland in the event of a post-No outcome in 2014, then you can count me out of political discourse in this country for the rest of my life. I’ll look after me and mine and let these utter numpties wallow in the dismal dead-end sewer of stunted ambition and national nihilism that they crave so much.
      I’ll put in the 30 months of work required to get a Yes outcome. But if these flesh-eating zombies win the day, then hell fecking mend them, and god help this fecking country of ours.
      Early days, and head down for the tasks to come.  But I share Rev Stu’s raw reaction to last nights spirit-killing “debate”.

    33. Arbroath1320 says:

      YesYesYes says:
      May 28, 2012 at 8:46 pm
      As for Ruth Davidson, you have to be concerned about someone for whom controlled aggression seems to come so naturally.
      I think it comes back to her T.A. training Y Y Y. I think she has spent so much time at the T.A. that she is now experiencing difficulty differentiating the difference between T.A. training and political training.

    34. cirsium says:

      Don McC “Like others, I found the broadcast disheartening, but then perhaps that was the point.”  Yes, Don, that was the point.  The audience and the questions
      were selected by the British Broadcasting Corporation (Scotland).  I think it’s called a mindf**ck

    35. Doug Daniel says:

      It’s a shame, because Isobel Fraser has so often proven to be the sole redeeming feature of BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs output (well, maybe add Mark Daly to the list too). But yeah, this was just the 2011 Sunday Politics debate all over again. Put the rules you state in place and let her have another shot – and if it’s still a mess, then we’ll just have to bite the bullet and get Glenn Campbell or Gordon Brewer on (actually, pretty much anyone but Raymond Buchanan).

      Although here’s a thought – why can’t the panellists control themselves? If i had been in Nicola’s position, I’d have turned round, looked Sarwar straight in the eye and said “see when my lips are moving? It means I’m talking. Now let me finish.” Guaranteed round of applause from the non-unionist section of the audience. Either that or I’d just speak louder and louder until I was shouting and ask the dim-witted cretin if he got the point.

      Watching Anas Sarwar speaking is more painful than having your teeth removed. I wonder if it’s a tactic he perfected while he was a dentist, in order to save on anaesthetic? I have never come across a more sneaky, slimy individual. I hate him with every fibre of my body. Especially his stupid whiny voice. When we become independent, I’m going to send him a letter every day for a year saying “HAHAHAHAHAHA”.

    36. John Lyons says:

      I’m a grumpy miserable old git and I hate Smilies and BRB and all that internet stuff, but I’m sat at my desk in the office and I just LoL’d at this.

      When we become independent, I’m going to send him a letter every day for a year saying “HAHAHAHAHAHA”.

      If we get independence I think I’ll join you. That’s awesome!

    37. Pete says:

      Urgh, I just lost half an hour’s writing thanks to the backspace key doubling as the ‘back’ shortcut.  The jist of my message was that I have dual nationality (Scottish and Danish) and it is not as simple as you claim.  I couldn’t pick one over the other, and in terms of football, I am afraid Denmark’s Euro ’92 victory during my younger years has left its impression!

      If you can get the reply form not to discard what is written when you go back then forward, I might take another stab at writing a more detailed post.

      Edit: Or I could write it in Notepad, of course, but it would be nice if it was fixed so others don’t lose their work.

    38. Appleby says:

      Stuart, I know you’ve done a piece on the potential damage of the negative campaign on Scotland (a sort of “scorched earth” policy) and on the woeful and biased media’s performance on the topic of Scottish politics. Do you think what you’ve seen here may be a result of this on the public? Garbage in, garbage out. Add to that a dash of BBC bias and editing and you’ve got a plate of stink served up on your TV.

    39. Appleby says:

      Depending upon what browser you use, you can usually just page forward again and the text is preserved on the page. Works for me. I just tried it out there to make sure.

    40. I Waller says:

      I watched and listened to the debate and I am now over my annoyance and I suppose anger at the entire thing .

      Point one —-they were not debating it was basically a rabble .

      Point two—Annas Sarwar and Ruth Davidson were behaving like a couple of school bullies–.

      Point three, Nicola Sturgeon hadnt a chance -as she was placed strategically in the middle with Labour and conservative on either side –attacking like a couple of Jack Russels.

      Point Four . Unless BBC can ensure a measured controlled performance where all the people have a chance to  put their points forward then it is a waste of time and space -not worth watching.

      Point five. -Davidson and Sarwar came over as a team -weird!! as Labour are supposed to oppose conservatives –altogether I think I blame BBC more than the  ( whatever you care to call them ) Contestants spring to mind rather  than politicians.

      Here is the real point -WHAT DID they ACTUALLY  think they were debating?? seemed to me Labour and Conservative thought they were fighting a seat in parliament against the SNP -rather than talking about the future of Scotland –as the attack was all towards Nicola Sturgeon –the same applied to the audience who all seemed to be doing likewise –It was obvious no one paying any heed to Robin Harper–. Therefore it is obvious that Labour and Tory dont grasp that others may be interested in Self Determination for Scotland–neither does the BBC.

    41. CW says:

      I was thoroughly depressed by this debate. I stopped watching it as soon as I realised that not only were the questions moronic, but Sarwar had every intention of Murphing his way through the debate by talking in that insincere and patronising tone of voice which sounds not unlike a particularly vindictive and punitive primary school teacher pretending to be nice at parents’ night. But your searing analysis cheered me up no end. No doubt you will encounter some middle-class hand-wringers who will regard it as offensive, but its high time somebody called a spade a spade and demanded better from our media and our electorate as well as our politicians. Frankly, sometimes people deserve to be ridiculed.

      P.S. The idea of BBC impartiality is laughable. There is no such thing as impartial journalism. Quality journalism might be better than what appears on, say, Fox News, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impartial. Just wait for the blanket Jubilee coverage.

    42. YesYesYes says:

      Actually, as usual on these occasions, this wasn’t so much a ‘debate’ as a kangaroo court, with the SNP in the dock (again).
      The BBC excels at these, where every utterance of the SNP representative is either contested or shouted down – by either the audience and/or the other panel members and/or the presenter of the programme  – and the unionists can more or less say the first thing that comes into their heads with barely a challenge. If you’re going to judge our nation on audiences like this then you’d have to conclude that we have become a zombie nation. I mean, how else can you explain the peculiar phenomenon of a packed audience that appears to listen respectfully to the nonsense that was spouted by Anas Sarwar.  
      I lost count of the number of times that the words ‘Nicola Sturgeon’ were used by members of the audience as a prefix to some derogatory remark. It reminded me of the BBC Question Times in the 1990s when the Tories were (rightly) dragged through the coals by audiences up and down the various countries that currently comprise this multinational state.
      But there’s the giveaway. Unlike the Tories in the 1990s, the SNP are still highly popular in Scottish elections. They’re still winning every election that they contest (on a national basis) but you’d never be able to tell that if your only reference point was a BBC Scotland audience.  Funny that.

    43. TYRAN says:

      Was this Brass Eye?

      It actually got worse. 

      Also the same “pompous and vacant young woman” got to have another speech/question later on. Come on now. BBC took the picture from the opposite angle to make it look like two different people.

      The biggest cheers seemed to be for the few pro-independent ones anyhow. The ones not clapping looked to be BBC’s hand-picked bunch.

    44. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      The thing I liked, but forgot to comment on, were at least two occasions where Ruth Davidson was trying to talk over Sturgeon and the audience actually went “Sssshhh!” at audible volume.

    45. I Waller says:

      I notice that in my last comments I refer to Patrick Harvie as Robin Harper–dont know where his name popped into my head from -but sorry about that -to both of them -no offence meant – I think that debate is just best forgotten -I personally would have to think carefully about bothering about watching another –because no one viewing would have been able to gain any information at all about anything from that performance,–I used to believe that the Scottish parliament , used to behave in a more responsible and mature level headed way than PMQ at Westminster -but now I think that some of them are beginning , to use the showmanship attacking performances of Westminster which is only a battle of words –finally if all they want to do is show off their limited debating skills by attack attack attack -negative performances and whingeing at each other is absolutely the last thing the people of Scotland want or need –so go back to some constructive discussions instead of following the example of a Westminster government shouting at each other–which incidentally is the reason why most of us no longer want anything to do with them.

    46. passo says:
      Membership of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has shrunk by 26 per cent. Craig Harrow, convenor of the party, said campaign teams were “devastated” by last year’s results in the Holyrood elections, with MSPs “swept from office on a tsunami for the SNP”.!/craigharrow

    47. Shelob says:

      Thoroughly enjoyed the debate – one in which real people could press the politicians on the tough questions surrounding independence, as for once, this was a debate that had not been gatecrashed by the usual SNP rentamob.

    48. Morag says:

      I don’t think the SNP rents mobs.

    49. douglas clark says:


      I am a member of the SNP and I can assure anyone that cares to read that I have never, ever, been told what to say or think. My views are my own and I’d assume that that is the case for everyone that comments here or elsewhere…..

      Indeed, I’d probably leave the SNP if they tried to tell me what to say or think.

      Out of principle.

      For that would not be the future I would wish for us. And I will assume, that no-one that comments here regularily would see that as any sort of democracy.

      That said, they are the only ones leading us out of the union that I can see….
      I will vote ‘yes’ in 2014. Not because I am a member of a ‘mob’.

    50. Morag says:

      Me too.  Member for 20 years.  Never even had the slightest hint from the party that onlne activity was encouraged, never mind suggestions about what to say or where to say it.

    51. Appleby says:

      Hard to tell if Shelob is a serious nutter stepped in from bizarro world or making very dry sarcasm.

    52. Kenny says:

      A bit late to the party, but,
      re your point of banal questioning and continuing clapping; I recall being in the audience (1990s) for a BBC (or STV?) production of ‘Sport In Question’, hosted by our dear friend, Archie MacPherson. On the panel was Graeme Obree, the brilliant Scottish cyclist, very much flavour of the month in Scotland due to his recent world records and gold medals.

      Being a bit of a bike-buff back-then, I was the lucky audience member invited to present one of 3 x questions to Graeme. I composed my 3 questions and submitted them to the producers. None of my questions – relevant, probing – were deemed acceptable and the BBC provided me instead with a ‘safe’ question to ask Graeme*.
      *Later in the show, during a raised-hands-in-the-audience segment, I managed, impertinently, to shoehorn in one of my 3 questions. I’d like to think the producers, and Archie, were frothing at that.

      My first, and only, occasion in a television studio, I was fair-taken by the off-camera instructions to ‘Applaud’ at given moments, something we heartily undertook, every single time.

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