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The smoking gums

Posted on April 15, 2012 by

The nationalist blogosphere is alive this weekend with talk of the recent BBC briefing at which several senior figures addressed an audience of the Corporation’s up-and-coming young journalists. The consensus view is that the recordings of the seminar reveal the BBC’s ingrained anti-independence bias – and indeed they do just that. But they do so in a way that’s both much less obvious and far more fundamental than most of the SNP supporters who’ve commented on them would have you believe.

You can watch the entire compiled recording above (the four individual sections with no syncing issues can be found here) and make your own mind up about what it demonstrates. But as our interpretation is rather at odds with that of most nationalists we’ve seen, we’re going to humbly offer it up for your consideration too.

First we’ll deal with the contribution from BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor’s. And in the light of what’s been said elsewhere, you may be surprised to learn that we have no problems with it at all.

Taylor is mostly noted for occupying a lot of column inches without ever offering an opinion on anything – his columns generally serve an entirely pointless purpose, rephrasing the views of each side in a debate without analysing or questioning them. The BBC’s deeply suspect decision to ban comments on the column – uniquely among all of its political correspondents – implies a degree of controversy which its contents have never come close to meriting.

But on the video, Taylor demonstrates insights which will be familiar to readers of this blog, yet which have apparently escaped the entire mainstream media until now. Around three minutes in, for example, he rubbishes the notion, widely put about by pro-Unionist media, that the timing of the referendum is designed to tap into a groundswell of anti-English sentiment around the 700th anniversary of the Battle Of Bannockburn. (“I don’t believe this myself, Alex Salmond doesn’t think like that”)

Later, Taylor correctly (in our view) pinpoints why the UK Government will ultimately accept the autumn 2014 date for the referendum, and is also – startlingly – the first mainstream journalist to have grasped, at least in public, the SNP’s strategy around the idea of a question on devo-max.

Taylor admittedly starts off clumsily by asking “So why does Alex Salmond favour a second question?”, when of course we all know he doesn’t. Some nationalists have seized on those words as prima facie evidence of bias, but it’s really a hypothetical point posed by way of illustration. Taylor then accurately observes that remaining open in principle to a second question enables Salmond to sow division among the Unionist parties, who struggle to inhabit any kind of common ground upon which they can unite and present to the Scottish electorate as an acceptable halfway house between the unpopular status quo and the rather daunting prospect of full independence.

He also notes that Salmond will be keen to take advantage of any polls suggesting the Tories are on course to win the 2015 UK General Election (undoubtedly true), before concluding that the outcome of all the wrangling over the referendum process will be a single-question poll in October 2014, agreed when “Mr Salmond concedes it grudgingly, saying ‘I wanted to give you, the Scottish people, a range of options, but all these wicked people stopped me’.”

This, as we’ve been saying for months, has plainly been the SNP’s approach all along. A second question is a complete non-starter and always has been, because devo-max is not in the power of the Scottish Government to grant – any such option would have to be defined and agreed in advance by the UK Government, and for a whole raft of both political and practical reasons there’s as much chance of that happening as there is of Aberdeen FC learning to defend its way out of a wet paper bag any time soon.

And it’s mindboggling that any Unionist (or, indeed, nationalist) still believes that Salmond has ever wanted a second question anyway. A devo-max option on a two-question ballot paper is by far the most certain way to ensure the independence option is defeated – nobody even remotely sane on either side disputes that – and in October 2014 Alex Salmond will be two months short of 60 years old. Should he lose then, he may very well (though we’d fervently hope to be wrong, of course) never live to see a second chance of achieving the goal he’s sought all his life. He wants to win now, and a single-question referendum is the only way that will possibly happen.

But with devo-max widely held to be by far the most popular option among the Scottish electorate (though see below), being the person seen to be refusing it to the people is political suicide. We’ve said before, and we’ll say again, that in this blog’s view the way in which Salmond has deftly and ingeniously manouevred the “No” parties off the devo-max ground without actually having to occupy it himself is the standout political triumph of his entire career. So far, at any rate.

(The strategy is already paying dividends. Recent polls suggest that as its plausibility is increasingly undermined in the media, devo-max is losing out rapidly in favour of the two extremes, with independence picking up more votes than the status quo. A survey conducted by Panelbase for the Sunday Times in February 2012 found that in a three-way vote where the options were pitted directly against each other – rather than using two Yes/No questions as in the 1997 devolution referendum – independence would actually get the most votes, scoring 37% against 33% for the status quo and just 30% for devo-max, which has now become the LEAST popular choice.)

So we doff our hats, entirely sincerely and without sarcasm, to Mr Taylor for what on this occasion is a perceptive and frank depiction of the situation with regard to the referendum. Unfortunately, that’s where our praise for the BBC has to come to an end. The rest of the seminar is far harder – indeed, impossible – to defend.

Because the problem with the current Scottish media isn’t that its presenters and commentators are biased. There’s nothing actually wrong with that – pretty much EVERYONE is biased, and it’s simply absurd to imagine that a journalist can, or even should, somehow cut their personal views out of what they do. If we were in charge of The Scotsman, say, you can be damn sure that while it absolutely wouldn’t tell any lies, it’d be selecting and presenting its political stories in such a way as to present independence in the best possible light, just as it does now in favour of the Union.

Journalists are human like anyone else, and it’s ridiculous to insist that – having actually got themselves into a position where their views carried some influence and power – they would immediately surrender that power in the sainted name of “impartiality”. Journalists are people, they’re NOT impartial, and so long as they don’t actually say things that are flatly untrue that’s just fine. (Though in a perfect world, anyone offering political commentary would be required to disclose their interest.)

But where the BBC, as a state-funded broadcaster with a unique legal requirement of balance, fails is not in using journalists who are biased, but in only employing biased journalists from one side. Andrew Neil and Nick Robinson, who also speak at the briefing, are both openly Tory, openly Unionist pundits, and their presentations to the Beeb’s young talent are problematic partly because they ARE frequently untruthful, but also because they are not countered by any pro-nationalist voices. (Certainly not that of economics editor Stephanie Flanders, the final contributor, whose affiliations are as far as we’re aware not known, but certainly don’t appear to lie with the SNP.)

Neil in particular – a presenter with roughly the same intellectual standing and gravitas as Jeremy Clarkson, but not nearly as funny – spews forth a torrent of dishonest and long-discredited propaganda and fearmongering with regard to Scotland’s relationships with the EU and the Bank of England, adding only the most token of passing acknowledgements that there are dissenting opinions. (He also feeds his audience some outright lies about the Darien Scheme, which alert readers will recall.)

Robinson, meanwhile – the BBC’s chief political editor – tries to cast doubt on things which nobody seriously imagines are in dispute, such as which side will get the “Yes” option on the ballot paper, while Flanders makes the extremely inaccurate and misleading assertion that Scotland “gets 10% more than she puts in” from the UK.

The message being handed down from the stage to the next generation of political reporters is subtle, but nevertheless clear and damaging. It is that the views of the SNP are not mainstream, not supported by the facts, not “respectable” and therefore by implication not suitable for the BBC. In other words, if you’re a Nat and you want to work for the Beeb, you better make sure you never do or say anything that reveals it.

There are plenty of BBC reporters, journalists, pundits and presenters whose political leanings are known rather than just suspected. Neil and Robinson, as we’ve seen, make no secret of their Tory loyalties. (And current Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson is a former BBC Radio Scotland presenter.) Newsnight host Kirsty Wark has well-publicised Labour connections, and regular pundit Lorraine Davidson has also worked as both a BBC political reporter and a Scottish Labour spin-doctor, while Catriona Renton was previously a Labour councillor for Kelvindale.

Yet there’s a party that doesn’t have a single high-profile supporter employed by the BBC’s vast political department. Which is odd, as it’s the most popular and most active political party in Scotland, and you’d think by the law of averages alone there’d be bound to be a few of them in there. But if anyone at the Beeb has nationalist sympathies, they’ve taken care to keep them firmly off the screen. And for the first time in open public view, we now know the reason why.

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    80 to “The smoking gums”

    1. Peter A Bell says:

      Thanks a bunch! I just had to dump today's blog.

    2. Doug Daniel says:

      I thought Flanders' bit was okay really. Despite the fact she seems to confuse herself by talking about tax contribution excluding oil (that's what her slide says), and yet uses the same figures when talking about tax including oil, the thing I liked about her bit was pointing out the hypocrisy of calling a 10% gap between tax and spending a "subsidy" when it's Scotland, but a "deficit" when it's the UK as a whole. The jist of her bit is that Scotland is completely in line with the UK average, effectively neutralising economics as a stick to hit independence with.
       
      Of course, her focus on tax exclusively meant she was ignoring GDP, which is where the economy turns into a stick with which to hit the union with. Still, for someone who is presumably at best indifferent to Scottish independence, it was all right. Except for the bit about how there will still be arguments over who the oil belongs to. That just shows complete ignorance towards how marine borders are set out. Unless we're to assume that international rules will be waived exclusively for the benefit of England?

    3. Clawd Baws says:

      I agree about Brian Taylor.  I had no problems with his analysis and agree with his final conclusion re the one question.  I have to admit that after about thirty seconds of Neil I had to stop watching.  For a man with such a towering ego, it's odd that he has no asperations whatsoever for the country of his birth.

    4. Clawd Baws says:

      And it should of course be aspirations rather than spelt with an e.  I aspire to better spelling…

    5. Erchie says:

      I disagree on you on Brian Taylor’s column generally being mild stuff with which no one can disagree

      He generally punted the “Nothing to see here” line over issues like Purcell and touted the splendifourousness of Mr Gray Week in and Week out, including that infamous bit of paper that allegedly backed up accusations re waste by rebranding that no one else ever saw and Gray withdrew when it turned out to be untrue.

      He may be avuncular about it, but he is not even-handed by a long shot

    6. RevStu says:

      I did say "mostly".

    7. Philip Thomas says:

      Peter/RevStu, I'm just glad I'm not the only person who sees it this way.
      Personally I think NNS has missed an open goal with this.  Yes, Andrew Neil delivers an extremely one-sided view but that's why he let's himself down both in public and in private.  His blatant lack of impartiality makes him look like a fool and, as a well known Tory cheerleader, his views count for little in Scotland anyway.
      Take Andrew Neil out though and I think you've got a fairly well balanced presentation that actually dispels some long perpetuated myths. 
      Personally I think Brian gave an excellent presentation and the only thing I'd call him up on was his description of the wording of the question – he again failed to make any reference to the wording of the devolution referendum question and it almost seemed to be deliberate avoidance on his part.
      I also think the main point in Stephanie Flander's presentation has been missed.  She stated that ALL parts of the UK are technically subsidised but, with the exception of Scotland, we tend to refer to this as a "deficit".  She also clearly demonstrated that Scotland is in a better financial position than every other part of the UK outwith London and the South East.  That isn't news to us but have you seen a BBC journalist admit it before?  Can you imagine how public perception would change if those statements were repeated regularly on the BBC? 
      I don't think Nick Robinson said anything particularly interesting so I'll ignore him.
      I think the major story here is the LACK of a story and what I mean by that is that you won't see or hear these statements or admissions broadcast publicly.  Stephanie works for Newsnight and I'm sure her colleagues are every bit as aware of the facts as she is, but do you think Paxo won't still come out with accusations of Scotland being subsidised the next time he interviews a Scottish Government minister?  Of course he will.
      I'm starting to have concerns about NNS.  It's important that nationalists tackle the questions put to them in a rational and reasoned manner, instead of reacting hysterically to the slightest provocation or hint of bias, or looking for the latter where there is little to none to be found.  People should watch the First Minister in action; witness a master at resisting the urge to rise to provocation and learn from him. 
      Helping to perpetuate a hysterical reaction to a non-event, as NNS have done in this case, is a speciality of the Labour party e.g. the blanket fiasco, and I strongly believe it's a hugely counterproductive strategy.  There were more positive's to take out of that BBC presentation than negatives and they should have been accentuated i.e. "BBC admit in private what they won't broadcast in public".  Too late now…
      NNS need to stop preaching to the choir and start reaching out to the masses.  If both sides play dirty the positive message of self-determination will be obscured and the status quo will prevail, I have no doubt.

    8. Peter A Bell says:

      The issue of media – and particularly BBC – bias is far wider than just the conduct of a few journalists. It is something that pervades the entire organisation and is manifested in many subtle and insidious ways.

    9. Christian Wright says:

       

      While it would certainly be nice were the Beeb's output fair and impartial, or as is argued here (WRT the referendum), binary, bias is not the rub.
      The power of the BBC lies in how it is (still) perceived by the Great Unwashed as a reliable conveyor of fact, and deliverer of impartial analysis. More plainly, the BBC's word has power because it is believed.
      Alas, the BBC's addiction to the Union cannot be undone nor ameliorated before the official off of the campaign, or even by 2014. The solution lies with undermining its unwarranted  reputation (WRT issues of independence) as an ethical, impartial, broadcaster.
      This might be a lot easier than it may seem. The need is to redefine the BBC as the network of Unionism. That it is, on this one issue of Scottish independence, implacably opposed to the notion, and that what its operatives say, need always be taken with a grain salt.
      Attention should be drawn to this bias staunchly or often rabidly, pro union, again and again, redundantly, until it is inculcated into the public consciousness. Strategies to bring this about might include taking those four videos, editing them together in a short compilation, wherein the guilty are allowed to condemn themselves. 
       
       

       

    10. Philip Thomas says:

      Are you suggesting that any opportunity to paint the BBC as biased should be exploited, even if the case is without merit, all in the name of creating doubt in the public's perception of them?  If so, that's a strategy that's been proven to fail.  Labour have tried to employ it for the past 4 years and their unpopularity is increasing.
      I'm not an enthusiast of the black arts.  I think that, over the long term, spin backfires.  That's what's happening to Labour now, even if they can't see it themselves.
      Play them at their own game and they'll win.  The public will only grow even more tired of politics.  The SNP are on the rise because they offer a positive message i.e. hope over fear.

    11. Angus McLellan says:

      I'll agree with Christian Wright that these videos could be edited down to make an interesting piece. I'm not all convinced though that they represent a "smoking gun"
      With the exception of Neil, who hasn't been any sort of journalist for a long time, I think the BBC journos come over as trying their best to be fair – as the BBC understands fairness. So I'm not able to summon up much outrage over the fact that the state, establishment broadcaster has some trouble dealing with this question. 
      On the evidence of these clips things could be much worse. Neil could have – and in '79 would have – represented the BBC mainstream. Instead he's clearly out of step with his colleagues.

    12. Philip Thomas says:

      Don't misunderstand.  I'm not suggesting that the BBC are impartial.  I think their bias is demonstrated far more by what they don't broadcast, case in point above, than what they do.  But those videos are not an example of bias in my opinion and I think most people, with the exception of rabid nationalists, who see them will react with disdain to the 'nationalist' reaction to them. 

    13. Peter A Bell says:

      While some hold Brian Taylor to be some kind of exemplar, I can't help but recall the blatant misreporting of his own interview with Nicola Sturgeon. Is this professionalism? Bear in mind that he is BBC Scotland's Political Editor, so he is ultimately responsible.

    14. Philip Thomas says:

      Peter, that's a case that has merit and one that should be highlighted. 
       
      Sometimes it's far more productive not to react.  I think of two particular cases where refusing to react has been far more effective than reacting hysterically; the Kirsty Wark interview of the First Minister in which she was completely outclassed and only succeeded in looking petulant and ridiculous; and the interview with Jeremy Paxman in which he drew comparisons between the First Minister and Robert Mugabe.
       
      In the latter, Alex Salmond could have reacted differently.  He could have pointed out to Paxman that by comparing the First Minister of a country to a malevolent dictator he was offending an entire country and told him it was unacceptable.  He didn't.  He more or less thanked Paxo for doing it because he didn't need to highlight the obvious.

    15. RevStu says:

      "With the exception of Neil, who hasn't been any sort of journalist for a long time"

      Unfortunately that's a qualitative judgement – he presents three of the BBC's main political shows, and is a journalist in any definable sense of the word, even if we think of him more as some sort of comedy-haired clown.

      "any opportunity to paint the BBC as biased should be exploited, even if the case is without merit, all in the name of creating doubt in the public's perception of them?  If so, that's a strategy that's been proven to fail."

      I agree. It's why NNS is so easily discredited, for example – I can see the rationale behind their decision to be a Nat version of The Scotsman, distorting things from a nationalist perspective in exactly the same way the Scotsman does from a Unionist one, but I don't think two wrongs make a right. Better to try to hold the moral high ground where possible.

      "While some hold Brian Taylor to be some kind of exemplar"

      I certainly wouldn't go that far myself. Journalistically speaking I think he's a waste of space at least 90% of the time. But in this particular video I can find nothing to object to in what he says.

      "I think the BBC journos come over as trying their best to be fair – as the BBC understands fairness."

      Taylor, certainly. Flanders, just about. Robinson and Neil have no interest in appearing to be fair at all. But as the piece says, the problem isn't that Robinson and Neil are biased. The problem is that no equally biased SNP voice is given the same exposure they are.

    16. RevStu says:

      "Sometimes it's far more productive not to react."

      I must admit I was a little surpised by Salmond's choice of words on the Economist business. "Rue the day"? Is he going to go down there and nut them? I don't think The Economist would especially rue the day even if its cover directly led to a Yes vote.

      But I do think it merited a stronger reaction than the Paxman slur – this was a genuinely offensive attack on Scotland rather than a personal jibe at the FM, and I think Salmond was right to be seen taking a stand because I think even a lot of non-nationalists bristled at being sneered at by a bunch of English Tory toffs.

    17. Peter A Bell says:

      Philip Thomas says:
      April 15, 2012 at 3:16 pm
      Peter, that's a case that has merit and one that should be highlighted.
      Whether and how Alex Salmon, or whoever, reacts during and in the immediate aftermath of the interview is a matter for the interviewee concerned. Generally, SNP people handle these things with dignity. But that does not mean that others should not draw attention to the bias.

    18. Peter A Bell says:

      Salmond's language was intended to provoke an over-reaction from unionist commentators portraying it as some kind of ineffectual threat. They are then left looking very silly when it is pointed out that the only threat is to The Economist's reputation. This has already happened.

    19. Philip Thomas says:

      Completely agree with you wrt NNS RevStu.  If that's what they're going for then they'll only succeed in winning over those who're already predisposed to supporting independence in the same way that the print version of The Scotsman will only attract those predisposed to rejecting independence and the Daily Record attracts those who'll only ever vote the same way as their Grandfathers did.
       
      Each of those outlets are catering to a minority, the meagre size of which they should be recognising in light of their dwindling readerships.  It's the majority who, despite what some may think, aren't stupid and who can easily see through such blatant partisanship who need to be won over.  People who're capable of changing their minds are generally objective thinkers, so to win them over you need to present them with objective arguments.  Propoganda won't do it.

    20. Philip Thomas says:

      Peter, I think there was a story here and NNS should have drawn attention to it.  I just think they got their angle horribly wrong.  It was a potential boon.  Alas, the positive case that could have been gleaned from it is now discredited since they've painted the entire presentation as partisan nonsense.  Foot in mouth springs to mind. 
      I hope they reconsider things going forward. 

    21. RevStu says:

      "If that's what they're going for then they'll only succeed in winning over those who're already predisposed to supporting independence"

      Exactly. For all its audience, I struggle to see what NNS (or its "rival" The Scottish Times, which follows an identical template and seems to be a People's Front Of Judea sort of affair) is actually trying to achieve. Clearly they're preaching to the already-converted, and if their aim is to provide ammunition for the wider battle then their stand-offish refusal to co-operate/engage with any other sites is bemusing. The amount of dreadfully-written polemic they run completely undermines their credibility with anyone even a tiny bit open to persuasion, and makes brilliant pieces like the A-Z of Unionist Myths risk being lost and/or ignored.

      (Man, how I wish I could get my hands on that, tidy it up and trim just a few bits out of it, and run it with halfway-decent presentation…)

      Wings Over Scotland is unquestionably (and unashamedly) partisan, but as a professional journalist I nevertheless try to apply proper journalistic standards to it – linking to sources/evidence for all assertions, acknowledging valid arguments on the other side, offering exposure to opposing views for the purposes of grown-up discourse. (I'm still actively trying to get more people to participate in The Straight Debates.)

      Obviously any site will mostly be reaching people who already tend to agree with it, but if someone who hasn't yet made their mind up gets linked to here, I don't want them thinking "Oh god, it's some wild-eyed ranting loony who failed CSE English", I want to have at least a chance of actually convincing them with properly-sourced facts and reasoned, coherent argument.

      Someone on Twitter called the site "the thinking person's Newsnet Scotland" the other day, which I guess is a start…

    22. Peter A Bell says:

      That's a perfectly valid view. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I've questioned the NNS approach to a story. But these are editorial decisions.

    23. Jim Campbell says:

      Have to disagree – B. Taylor's lovefest with Labour's Johanne every week is rather pathetic and disgusting.  Regardless of how bad she is Brian always gives her a pass mark.

    24. RevStu says:

      To be honest I haven't read Brian's column for months, for the reasons mentioned in the feature.

    25. Philip Thomas says:

      You're 'lucky' if Brian posts more than once a month nowadays. 
       
      Jim, I don't think anyone is suggesting BT is universally impartial but would argue in this case he is fairly balanced.  I'd like them to broadcast it.  I think it would win over more people than it would dissuade, and not for negative reasons.  The questions it asks can be answered.  They're being asked elsewhere so they need to be answered repeatedly until they're engrained in the psyche. 
       
      It also answers some of the other questions being asked elsewhere and those answers might help persuade those who won't accept answers from the SNP right now.  It does a good job of dispelling the subsidy junkie claim for one and no newspaper or TV program has done that in such a clear way to date. 

    26. Doug Daniel says:

      I've also completely stopped reading Brian's column. You don't learn anything from it, particularly now the comments are turned off.
       
      Then again, I don't even read the BBC News site that much any more. Far better to just see what people on Twitter are linking to, as well as reading blogs that are actually trying to get an idea across.
       
      As for NNS, there seems to be a bit of a concensus being reached here, and I agree with it. The whole out-Scotsman-the-Scotsman shtick was amusing at first, but it got old quickly, and as Stu says, far too many of their articles are just poorly-written polemic. That makes it a glorified group blog (and not a particularly must-read one at that), rather than the serious media alternative they want to be. It was a noble idea, but the messy split that resulted in the two sites (NNS and ST) was very off-putting, with the confusing, shadowy emails and the secretive nature about what exactly was going on (which continues with other incidents). Still some good stuff on it, like the John Jappy article; but most stories are covered far better (and with better grammar/spelling) elsewhere.
       
      (And this is in no way related to the fact that, while referring to an article I had written on Bella Caledonia a while back, someone on there called me Doug Daniels, as if I was the offspring of a Tory-voting magician or something…)

    27. Christian Wright says:

          PPhilip Thomas says: "Are you suggesting that any opportunity to paint the BBC as biased should be exploited, even if the case is without merit . . "      

      Well clearly not. That is not the argument. That is a straw man. The case being made is that the BBC is  institutionally  biased in favor of maintaining the Union. I make it clear that the charge relates exclusively to the issue of independence. Your insinuation of black arts is unwarranted and risible. There are no dirty tricks here. No lies. Or if you believe there is a lie in this – name it. What is it?

      Let me ask you and other who disagree with bringing this to the attention of the People. Are you saying that the BBC is not biased with respect to the issue of independence? Yes or no?

      If you believe that they ARE biased in their political coverage of the independence debate, then what precisely is the objection to bringing that FACT and corroborating evidence to the attention of the public in a focused and deliberate way?        I simply don't buy this article of faith that a positive message is all that is required to win.

      A LIE LEFT UNCHALLENGED IS A LIE BELIEVED.

      The big lie is that the BBC is impartial and can be TRUSTED. Now we can look to knock down their lies; there economies with the truth, their obfuscations, one by one as they arise – but they control the megaphone, not the Nats. That's a tough row to hoe.

      ALTERNATIVELY, We can seek to undermine the big lie that is the source of the BBC's ability to put their thumb on the scale in favor of the Unionist campaign and a NO vote. Again, the lie that is currently believed by a large section of the Scottish electorate, is that the Beeb is honest and trustworthy on its handling of the independence issue; that it is even-handed, and impartial.

      We are not interested in its performance in other matters – our focus is solely on changing public perception of the Beeb's impartiality with respect to independence.

    28. Christian Wright says:

        Philip Thomas says: "But those videos are not an example of bias in my opinion and I think most people, with the exception of rabid nationalists, who see them will react with disdain to the 'nationalist' reaction to them. "

      Tell me Phillip, solely from the evidence presented in those videos, were they to cast a ballot in the referendum, are you able to come to any conclusion as to how these four journos might vote?

      I think anyone with a functioning cerebral cortex would conclude that they will most likely vote NO to independence. Now, if you feel you can come to that conclusion with respect to any one of these four, then you have done so on the basis that the video(s) evince(s)  bias. How else could you make the determination?

      The next question is, are all or any of these journos capable being impartial? I think the evidence of that tape suggests not. They were knowingly or otherwise, engaged in a process of indoctrination – the seminars were given in the context of the BBC's own college of journalism, to a cohort of "students" – professionals starting out. If they cannot be faithful to the BBC charter oath of impartiality there, how can we trust them to act impartially anywhere else?

      Additionally, these talks served to signal the core corporate meme that Union is good, and separatism is bad.

    29. Christian Wright says:

       "Alas, the positive case that could have been gleaned from it is now discredited"  

      And that positive case was what, exactly, Philip, and how would you deliver it?

    30. RevStu says:

      Come on, folks, the "I" button isn't that complicated to use and we've got no need for five carriage returns between paragraphs. Don't make me spend five minutes tidying your posts up so they're readable.

    31. ayemachrihanish says:

      Brian Taylor represents a state-funded broadcaster that only employs biased journalists from one side because – he willingly epitomises the political policy of that state-funded broadcaster. He (like all the others already in a BBC public position) would not be in that public position unless they willingly acquiesced to be state pawns. It requires an ego and attitude verging on celebrity to hold a BBC public profile  – in that ones public profile and fame are maintained by subservient compliance rather than ability. Not even Brian Taylor is stupid enough to believe the tosh he scrips and delivers. He knows he produces state propaganda and the only difference between he and the rest of us is that while we know we are being shovelled sh.t and don't like it – he knows he shovels it and, worst of all – likes it! Creating state propaganda is the sustenance that feeds his corrupted ego. He and Alex Salmond stand at opposite ends of a moral continuum – one trying to uncover the political truth the other trying to suppress it. He dose this while being a rank hypocrite – in that he try's to make out he's just some sort of reasonable and unbiased observer trying to do his best – while in reality he is a "willing" and unprincipled state funded manipulator of fact.  

    32. ayemachrihanish says:

      .In summery,  let's not forget or be fooled – any BBC public figure is the "willing" face, voice and propaganda pawn of the state. And they know it

    33. Ron says:

      Long time lurker, had to comment 😉
      Overall I agree with your view on these videos Stu, I found the really interesting point to be that the BBC don't see them as being biased, and consequently don't mind them being public. I just find that interesting. I think it says something about not just how the issues are presented internally, but that they view their opinions as "the facts".
      On Brian Taylor, I might be wrong, but I took his comments slightly differently. I thought he was saying Salmond definitely DOES want the devomax question, as a fall back position, but the final outcome will be that he doesnt get it, and can then blame the unionists for denying it. So I think Taylor is wrong. But I agree with you, have done for a while now – A.Salmond really genuinely doesn't want the extra question.

    34. Christian Wright says:

      Philip wrote of Andrew Neil: " "His blatant lack of impartiality makes him look like a fool and, as a well known Tory cheerleader, his views count for little in Scotland anyway."

      Well, he's on the box nearly every day with the Politics Show, and then there's his Thursday night get-together with Michael Portillo. He has another show I believe but I can;t name it. In addition, he is frequently called upon to opine on matters of import in other broadcast venues.

      The man gets face time, and lots of face time equates to influence. The political views of the ordinary viewer are mostly acquired through a process of osmosis. Most of them do not know Andrew Neil from a hole in the ground. All they see is the familiar face – an avuncular man of apparent gravitas, with a Brillo pad atop his head.

      Though they may believe he is not influencing them, the constant repetition of Unionist meme, communicated in commentary, or interview, or tone of voice, does eventually get through – particularly when the source is seen as authoritative.

      You may have no interest is the product, but if I say to you, "You'll wonder where the yellow went . .", and you can complete the jingle, or name the product, then you are the recipient of decades-old conditioning (this will mean naught to you if you are a whippersnapper).

      The Nationalists cannot easily compete with the barrage of propaganda which seems increasingly coordinated, coming from the Unionist camp. Do any of you really believe this campaign will be won by finely crafted theses and appeals to our better nature, or because our message of hope is just?

      This campaign will be won by the same basic tools used to win any political campaign. It will be won by soundbites that enter the public space and transmit memes that address the concerns and aspirations of the electorate. The great bulk of the electorate will know little of GERS, or the edicts of the Council of Europe, or anything much about successor states.

      They will decide on the viability of independence based partly on a multiplicity of bite-sized plausible arguments delivered by a source they trust, but mostly on their gut feeling which can and will be manipulated by a constant drumbeat of mostly Unionist propaganda.

      The reason negative advertising is used in campaigns is because it works. Consider the pounding Gingrich took in the early to mid Primaries. Well in the lead in the polls, he declared he would run a positive campaign from  here on in, only to be savaged by Romney who outspent him by orders of magnitude.

      If you think that could not happen here you are deluding yourself. Sure, the positive case will beat the negative case, IF on ONLY if people believe you.

      The media and the Unionists are joined in common cause. The single greatest threat from media is the output of the BBC. It is a threat because it is believed, and that threat is best managed by undermining that belief.

    35. Christian Wright says:

      "Come on, folks, the "I" button isn't that complicated to use and we've got no need for five carriage returns between paragraphs."
      Uh, that would be me. Sorry about that – what's the "I" botton?

    36. RevStu says:

      The little button with an "I" on it immediately above the comment box, which lets you put things in italics.

    37. Morag says:

      I have a friend who worked for the BBC in London.  She was an SNP member.  She was extremely keen to work in Scotland, and applied for every suitable job in Scotland when it was advertised.  She got none of them.  She had made the mistake of owning up to her SNP affiliation quite early in the process, and even though she later realised that had been a mistake and deleted all mention of it, her card was marked.  Apparently the BBC were quite happy for her to work in London, but no way was she going to be allowed to work in Scotland.
       
      She eventually moved abroad with her husband in order to secure a better job.

    38. Christian Wright says:

       
      RevStu says:

      The little button with an "I" on it immediately above the comment box, which lets you put things in italics

      Thank you. I put a single carriage return between paragraphs but upon publication it's gone.
       
      I put TWO carriage returns between paragraphs and upon publication, uh . . there're two line spaces between paragraphs. My so far unsuccessful quest has been to find the number of carriage returns required to yield a single line space between paragraphs upon publication. I'm now turning to the fibonacci series.

       

    39. Philip Thomas says:

      Christian, I'll frame this as succinctly as I can.  I don't disagree with your overall sentiment.  I simply disagree that this is a particular good example of BBC impartiality and, personally, I think a clear admission (illustrated using charts) by Stephanie Flanders to the fact that Scotland is in a pretty good fiscal position (even using the worst measure) would have provided useful capital.
       
      Read my comments carefully.  I agree there is a story, but I think more could have been gotten out of it had it not been framed in that way. 
      As for the question I asked you, well it was a question and I think you've answered clearly enough.  You see more capital in there than I do so obviously you don't agree with me that this is a non-event, and by non-event I mean that it will have little to no impact with the wider public, who probably won't see it and even if they did wouldn't think much of it.  It's smoke without the gun in my opinion.  If the gun shows up I'll point everyone I can towards it.
       
      I feel like I'm slightly short changing you with only two paragraphs so here's a third.  One love.

    40. douglas clark says:

      It seems to me that NNS has two true assets, Hazel Lewry and Paul  T Kavanagh. Hazel, because she has always got a slightly skewed way of looking at things that alwats has merit in it, and PTK because he combines wit with immensely useful put-downs. There are also some people in the comments that are always worth reading, especially Old Nat and Scottish Skier for their knowledge of polling and there are others who can bring light to areas of international policy that I, for one, was unaware of.
      I am however also coming to the view that NNS is preaching to the converted. We know, (don't we?), that circa 35-40% of folk will vote for independence at the moment. The job of any pro independence site ought to be, IMHO, converting the undecideds. You do not achieve that by making the articles nor the comments below the articles into an article of faith for independence. If we do believe in independence, then we have to persuade the undecideds, those that would prefer a devo-max type of arrangement when no such option will be tabled. (Well, with sufficient guarantees to make it believable.) These people are already engaged in the discussion, are not stupid and have, at the very least, looked at the options and evaluated them.
      If their chosen preference isn't on the ballot paper, what will they do? If we expect to win this thing then hysteria isn't going to work. Witty and well constructed articles will attract an audience, and then, and only then, is there a chance of them being persuaded.
      These are the target voters. The strategy of all independence leaning blogs ought to be aimed at them.  Which appears to me to be the strategy that this blog pursues. How are your figures doing now RevStu?
       
       

    41. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      On the subject of Propoganda, it is useless to get riled up over it… It is however necessary to identify and confront it with facts.  A reasonable person confronted with facts in the face of braying nonsense can make up their own minds.
       
      On NNS however I disagree (slightly) with RevStu in that I find many of the articles they offer excellent in that they are not part of the MSM menu of articles.  I can see pro-indy bias, but no more than I can see anti-indy bias elsewhere, and I have learned to tune out the bias and look for the facts.  As such NNS is an invaluable tool for learning more about the political landscape of Scotland.
       
      But it is preaching to the converted, which is why I have the greatest respect for people who take on "Missionary work" by going to blatantly pro-union sites and trying to impart some knowledge.  NNS gives these people a resource they can use.  I have said I would rather they were neutral, but they play to their market and you cannot fault them for that.  The question for independence supporters is how do they get the message out to non-internet users?
       
      In my view you need the MSM for that… but then you have the issue that the MSM is tainted and the "Hardcore" dont want to play ball with them believeing its better to be principled and at a disadvantage, than savvy and in with a chance. 
       
      Personnally, I think we need a friendly voice on the Box, Radio and Print to achieve independence, but thats just me.

    42. Christian Wright says:

      Douglas Clark wrote: Witty and well constructed articles will attract an audience, and then, and only then, is there a chance of them being persuaded.
       
       
      Interesting, though I am a little unclear as to the content or character of these "witty and well constructed articles". How will the content differ from that found on NNS? Will it be more analytical  and cerebral? Less in-your-face? If so, do you believe that approach will attract a sizable audience of the uncommitted and unsure? You say that, "These people are already engaged in the discussion, are not stupid and have, at the very least, looked at the options and evaluated them". How do you know that?
       
       
      Isn't it likely Douglas, that the great majority of those who are as yet uncommitted or unsure, comprise that cohort who are least interested in the fine detail of policy and least inclined to follow politics in general? Aren't they likely  uncommitted or unsure because they are non-political by nature and/or find processing the detail of the political dialog  cognitively  challenging?
       
       
      How do you propose attracting those least motivated to read a political headline let alone a closely argued position? Would you not agree that the readers of tabloids, which have the largest circulations of all papers by a wide margin, are likely over represented in the cohort you wish to reach? The Scotsman has a circulation of around 38,000, whilst the Scottish Sun and the Daily Record boast 340,000 and 308,000 readers respectively, eight to nine times that of Scotland's journal of record (source Wikipedia). 
       
       
      Or do you expect that cohort to enjoy a surfeit of post graduates hungry for a well argued thesis complete with relevant citations? Put simply, the presentation best employed to attract and convince your target audience will differ as a function of the make-up of that audience.
       
       
       

    43. Christian Wright says:

      Scot Minto wrote: "Personnally, I think we need a friendly voice on the Box, Radio and Print to achieve independence, but thats just me."
       
      Of course we do, but I doubt we will be handed that access. However, we can call into question the veracity of the material produce by the chattering class, and construct an evidence-based narrative that challenges their false assertions, and crucially, there motivations for confecting them in the first place.
       
      We should start with the BBC in a coordinated campaign to expose the lie that on the issue of independence they are impartial and can be trusted. That is job one.

    44. douglas clark says:

      Christain Wright,
      You say a lot of things, and I fear I will be another victim of the RevStus' idea that we cannot post without huge gaps in our commentary; anyway:
      Oops that didn't work! Try again:
      Interesting, though I am a little unclear as to the content or character of these "witty and well constructed articles". How will the content differ from that found on NNS? Will it be more analytical  and cerebral? Less in-your-face? If so, do you believe that approach will attract a sizable audience of the uncommitted and unsure? You say that, "These people are already engaged in the discussion, are not stupid and have, at the very least, looked at the options and evaluated them". How do you know that?
      Obviously I don't know that. But it seems to me likely that they have at least considered the issue. Why, otherwise, would they come out for a middle position?
      Isn't it likely Douglas, that the great majority of those who are as yet uncommitted or unsure, comprise that cohort who are least interested in the fine detail of policy and least inclined to follow politics in general? Aren't they likely  uncommitted or unsure because they are non-political by nature and/or find processing the detail of the political dialog  cognitively  challenging?
      Well, there are less 'unsure' than there are wanting devo max, etc. These people – the devo max guys and gals – are engaged. The 'don't knows' are another question entirely.
      How do you propose attracting those least motivated to read a political headline let alone a closely argued position? Would you not agree that the readers of tabloids, which have the largest circulations of all papers by a wide margin, are likely over represented in the cohort you wish to reach? The Scotsman has a circulation of around 38,000, whilst the Scottish Sun and the Daily Record boast 340,000 and 308,000 readers respectively, eight to nine times that of Scotland's journal of record (source Wikipedia).
      I have seen huge growth in people using sites like this and Bella Caledonia and, indeed, NNS. They may not equal the totatity of Scottish Journalism, but their figures are, increasingly, impressive. You'd have to do the research – but this site has showed huge interest over a relatively short period of time. It is not a joke to suggest that people are:
      a) willing to read 'out of the box,and
      b) willing to see alternative media as equally valid as mainstream media.
      I could caveat that, but I won't.
      On your last point:
      Or do you expect that cohort to enjoy a surfeit of post graduates hungry for a well argued thesis complete with relevant citations? Put simply, the presentation best employed to attract and convince your target audience will differ as a function of the make-up of that audience.
      I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. I am not a graduate, and I am not into presentationalism. What I am suggesting is that, rather than back scrub each other, nationalists have to go for persuading the middle ground. If you are on the other side of the fence, then tht is what you must do too.
      Your last point about saying whatever we like is a lesson you must have learned elsewhere. The idea is straightforward, vote yes in 2014. We may have learned that from any other independent nation.
      I fear that this is going to be a mess. The RevStus ideas about simplicity in this sites ability to 'quote' folk is almost as misplaced as Christian Wrights ability to argue a case. Although, given the likely mess above, I am willing to concede that he appears to make more sense than me. I am sad about that, but, what the hell, I tried…….
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

       

       
       

    45. douglas clark says:

      Nope, no 'quoting' facility, and a screwed up point.
       
       

    46. Christian Wright says:

      Philip wroteI simply disagree that this is a particular good example of BBC impartiality
       
       
      Alas, you did not address the question that could determine that. Consider again the taste test: 
       
       
      Solely from the evidence presented in those videos, were they to cast a ballot in the referendum, are you able to come to any conclusion as to how these four journos might vote?
       
       
      If you feel you can come to that conclusion with respect to any one of these four, then you have done so on the basis that the video(s) evince(s)  bias. Importantly, the fact that it/they evince(s) bias demonstrates that the jouno(s) in question is/are not capable of operating impartially despite their bias. 
       
       
      I put it to you Philip, that on the basis of those videos you and any discerning viewer could make a secure judgement about which way these jurnos would vote, were they to cast a ballot.
       
       

    47. Erchie says:

      I've noticed a tendency for the "serious" SNP minded bloggers to put down NNS. It breaks out now and again on Better Nation, here it is on WOScotland.
       
      To me, as a relative outsider, it kind of looks like the kids who complain when the band they like gets popular, they sneer the newcomers. Don't talk to them, welcome them or share their rare gig bootlegs
      I admit that NNS has some (ok a lot of) raw edges, but I see there the same community, indeed some of the same people, from the old days when you could comment on Blether with Brian. It serves a function in disseminating counter arguments to the usual arguments of the status quo parties.
      As to preaching to the converted? 46 comments on this thread and no evidence of a broad range of thought.
      I'm worried about this"CyberNat" snobbery. Over the weekend on twitter you had Nats trying to out do each other in inviting abuse from other SNP supporters and being congratulated by the likes of one of the Labourhame chief trolls
      No. If you want to see NNS improve surely the thing to do is submit articles. Not reenact some NME vs "Pop Hits" snobfest
       
       

    48. douglas clark says:

      Christain Wright,
       
      This is a test:

      You say a lot of things, and I fear I will be another victim of the RevStus' idea that we cannot post without huge gaps in our commentary; anyway:
      Oops that didn't work! Try again:
      <blockquote>Interesting, though I am a little unclear as to the content or character of these "witty and well constructed articles". How will the content differ from that found on NNS? Will it be more analytical  and cerebral? Less in-your-face? If so, do you believe that approach will attract a sizable audience of the uncommitted and unsure? You say that, "These people are already engaged in the discussion, are not stupid and have, at the very least, looked at the options and evaluated them". How do you know that?</blockquote>

      Obviously I don't know that. But it seems to me likely that they have at least considered the issue. Why, otherwise, would they come out for a middle position?

      <blockquote>Isn't it likely Douglas, that the great majority of those who are as yet uncommitted or unsure, comprise that cohort who are least interested in the fine detail of policy and least inclined to follow politics in general? Aren't they likely  uncommitted or unsure because they are non-political by nature and/or find processing the detail of the political dialog  cognitively  challenging?</blockquote>

      Well, there are less 'unsure' than there are wanting devo max, etc. These people – the devo max guys and gals – are engaged. The 'don't knows' are another question entirely.

      <blockquote>How do you propose attracting those least motivated to read a political headline let alone a closely argued position? Would you not agree that the readers of tabloids, which have the largest circulations of all papers by a wide margin, are likely over represented in the cohort you wish to reach? The Scotsman has a circulation of around 38,000, whilst the Scottish Sun and the Daily Record boast 340,000 and 308,000 readers respectively, eight to nine times that of Scotland's journal of record (source Wikipedia).</blockquote>

      I have seen huge growth in people using sites like this and Bella Caledonia and, indeed, NNS. They may not equal the totatity of Scottish Journalism, but their figures are, increasingly, impressive. You'd have to do the research – but this site has showed huge interest over a relatively short period of time. It is not a joke to suggest that people are:
      a) willing to read 'out of the box,and
      b) willing to see alternative media as equally valid as mainstream media.
      I could caveat that, but I won't.
      On your last point:
      <blockquote>Or do you expect that cohort to enjoy a surfeit of post graduates hungry for a well argued thesis complete with relevant citations? Put simply, the presentation best employed to attract and convince your target audience will differ as a function of the make-up of that audience.</blockquote>
      I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. I am not a graduate, and I am not into presentationalism. What I am suggesting is that, rather than back scrub each other, nationalists have to go for persuading the middle ground. If you are on the other side of the fence, then tht is what you must do too.
      Your last point about saying whatever we like is a lesson you must have learned elsewhere. The idea is straightforward, vote yes in 2014. We may have learned that from any other independent nation.
      Just to say this is a test about formatting a post here. Not a re-engagement in an arguement.
       

    49. douglas clark says:

      RevStu,
       
      Whatever weird software you are using – could you provide a permanent link somewhere that gives us all a chance to post using comments from other posters without it just screwing up?

    50. RevStu says:

      Okay, first things first. To format comments here, treat the comment box like a Word document, not an HTML page. You don't need to put any tags around anything. To quote someone and put their words in italics, simply cut and paste the bit you want to quote, highlight it, and click the "I" button.

      "Hello. I am a paragraph in italics."

      The same applies if you want to put something in bold: cut, paste, highlight and "B" button.

      "Hello. I am some bold type."

      There's no need to hit multiple carriage returns. All these paragraphs are separated by a single press of the Enter key.

      The comments box also has a blockquote button which works the same way as the other two, but indents text instead of italicising it.

      "Hello. I am a blockquote."

      Personally I think italics are clearer, but there's nothing stopping you from using both, and/or bold as well.

      "Hello. I am a blockquote in italics, and this part of me is also bold."

      Simple as that. The editor does, however, occasionally seem to take a bit of a huff if you mix and match too much, so I recommend sticking with just italics.

    51. Doug Daniel says:

      Erchie says:
       

      I'm worried about this"CyberNat" snobbery. Over the weekend on twitter you had Nats trying to out do each other in inviting abuse from other SNP supporters and being congratulated by the likes of one of the Labourhame chief trolls

       
      This worries me slightly. I can understand the reasoning behind it, but it's flawed. We're constantly told by unionists that the SNP need to take action over "Cybernats", and clearly this self-selected club have heard enough and decided to take it upon themselves to stamp out the more loony elements of nationalism. The thing is, they're just playing into the hands of unionists. The reality is the SNP have no more control over what their supporters say on Twitter than any other party does, so attempting to stamp out "Cybernuts" is a folly. You can't ban people from having opinions, so this can only end in failure. It's far better to just say "these random nutters do not speak for the SNP" and highlight the many, many examples of unionists embarrassing themselves. Do we really think the average person on the street really gives a fig what someone on Teh Interwebz is going apoplectic about the BBC?
       
      All this does is legitamise the unionist claims that the SNP needs to control its supporters. So whereas before the SNP could quite legitimately wash their hands of random nutters shouting "OMG U QUISLING!!!!11111oneoneonewunwunwun", by attempting to stamp it out it means the SNP are becoming responsible for these random outbursts. It's also a bit of a strange thing to do considering how the SNP's famous party discipline is often criticised by the same unionists who are calling for the SNP to do something about "Cybernuts". You can't have it both ways – either it's good to ensure everyone is "on message", or it's not.
       
      This is the root of the problem. There are people who like to think of themselves as "reasonable" nationalists, i.e. they don't follow the party line at all times. Now, partisanship is not commendable, so I have absolutely no problem with people openly disagreeing with party policy, in fact I welcome it as intelligent debate is eternally good. But I can't help feeling that some of these people are slightly in awe of people from other parties who are also seen as "reasonable", and a bit too keen to win their praise. These people need to bear in mind that a "reasonable" unionist is still a unionist (and there is nothing "reasonable" about wishing your country to be governed by its much larger neighbour), and therefore they have no desire to see the independence side of the debate triumph. This self-selected group is effectively doing the unionists' work for them.
       
      Rather than publicly calling out and ridiculing those who are perhaps slightly less capable of intellectual debate than the rest of us, it would be far better to privately say "hey man, calling people 'Quisling' isn't helping the cause. Gonna no dae that?" What was happening over the weekend flies completely in the face of the psychology of the internet, because the public nature of it means no one wants to look stupid.
       
      If this "Quisling Challenge" takes off, it will end in one of two ways: either people become feart of airing their views on the internet (which I have no time for as it's effectively anti-democratic and anti-intellectual) for fear of being publicly humiliated by a self-selected elite; or we see the kind of schism usually reserved for those on the far-left forming, and the nutters get together into their own little grouping, one which will pride itself on "pulling no punches", which is usually a synonym for "being blatantly offensive and not caring how others perceive you". If that happens, we'll then see the SNP becoming the target of "Quislings" taunts, and the lack of coherence on the unionist side will suddenly look positively tame.

    52. Erchie says:

      Cheers Doug
       
      Of course the worst going off the deep end at the weekend was done by Moridura & The Burd, over SNP abandoning plans to leave NATO which, as far as I can tell, was started by the Beeb by asking an academic if people cared.
       
      Cue these two going off the deep end.
       
      When it comes to CyberNats, there are no 'good online SNP supports' and 'CyberNats' as separate things. To the likes of Foulkes, you're all the same

    53. RevStu says:

      I must admit, the entire Quisling Challenge thing passed me by, apart from seeing one hashtag that I didn't bother clicking on. Sounds like I made the wise choice.

      And yeah, as I tweeted, I was disappointed to see people playing the Unionist media game over the NATO stuff, which appears to be 100% invented with flat denials from the SNP. I do get extremely irritated by nats whining about things like that and the monarchy – the time to argue about those is when we have the power to make the decisions for ourselves, not now when all it achieves is to sow pointless and damaging division (see also the Burd's increasingly tiresome girning about wimmin's ishoos) and give the Unionists some easy shots.

      I blogged on the subject ages ago:

      http://wingsland.podgamer.com/allys-self-harmy-army/

    54. RevStu says:

      "Solely from the evidence presented in those videos, were they to cast a ballot in the referendum, are you able to come to any conclusion as to how these four journos might vote?"

      Solely from the evidence of those videos I don't believe I could fairly predict Taylor's vote. I think I could from his other work, but not just from that. Flanders and Robinson wouldn't be voting at all, being English people resident in England, but again, on the videos alone their likely choices aren't entirely obvious – you'd edge slightly towards the No camp, but it's far from conclusive.

      Neil is the only one you could 100% peg as a Unionist.

    55. RevStu says:

      "I've noticed a tendency for the "serious" SNP minded bloggers to put down NNS. It breaks out now and again on Better Nation, here it is on WOScotland."

      Well, firstly Better Nation isn't an "SNP-minded" blog. It has one (new) SNP member, one Green and two Labour activists.

      "To me, as a relative outsider, it kind of looks like the kids who complain when the band they like gets popular, they sneer the newcomers. Don't talk to them, welcome them or share their rare gig bootlegs"

      Actually NNS is the only one acting like that. Almost every nationalist blog I can think of links to NNS, but it links back to nobody. It deliberately isolates itself, for reasons we can only guess at. It's also hardly a "newcomer".

      "It serves a function in disseminating counter arguments to the usual arguments of the status quo parties."

      That's kinda exactly what it DOESN'T do. It digs out stories other sites don't, which is by far its biggest strength, but then it goes out of its way to stop them being more widely disseminated – it only wants Newsnet Scotland readers to see them. Have you noticed how it never links to sources? That's to stop anyone else getting the story and presenting a (possibly) different angle on it.

      (By way of example, at the weekend they ran the story of the Tory council-election candidate who only ran on condition he'd be assured of NOT winning. That's a good story, well worth spreading around, but NNS didn't offer any evidence to back up its quotes, so nobody else could check it out and carry it. I only eventually got anything out of them by directly asking in the comments.)

      You can of course legitimately argue that any news source would want to protect its exclusivity, but only if it's operating as a business with its own interests above all else. If NNS's primary reason for existing is to further the cause of independence, it's doing that cause no favours by hampering other sites from covering its stories.

      "As to preaching to the converted? 46 comments on this thread and no evidence of a broad range of thought."

      I'd say there was plenty of disagreement about a variety of issues going on in this thread. But the fact is that Unionist commenters tend to stick to their home ground – the Mail, the Express, the Spectator and the Scotsman. Very few ever venture onto hostile territory in the way Nats do – I reckon a good 80% of comments on LabourHame are from SNP supporters. I'm trying to reach out with stuff like The Straight Debates, but it's hard work so far.

      "If you want to see NNS improve surely the thing to do is submit articles."

      I think it's too late for that. Its credibility is hopelessly broken among non-nats (for both legitimate and non-legitimate reasons), and it's just too fervently partisan to be hauled back. It's a real shame and a missed opportunity. It might have set out to be the Nationalist Scotsman, but it's ended up more like the Daily McStar.

      I'd rather see people try to revive the fortunes of the Caledonian Mercury by submitting articles to that, but not until they get rid of those toe-curlingly bloody awful "Friday songs"…

    56. Erchie says:

      RevStu
       
      I actually have had 1 article each published on both the CalMerc and on NNS (and Scottish Review). I'd love to see CalMerc's fortunes revive, but not until they dump Hamish MacDonell.
       
      I managed to get one of his articles pulled by ridiculing him, but the so and so remains.
       
      I wasn't meaning SNP bloggers ran Better Nation, but the commentors show the traits I wrote about. Similar comments to here. Same people too.

    57. Tonia Wight says:

      I wish there was a like button… does that show my facebook addiction?
      Anyway, I just wanted to add that I agree with the post (complete over-reaction from NNS which I otherwise love reading). It really is a pity because when I started reading NNS a year ago it seemed a lot more thoughtful and less ready to jump on any bandwagon. There have been quite a few articles recently which honestly belong in the Scotsman (alright a SNP version thereof). I started reading NNS because it was less inflammatory and more capable of dealing with the facts. Its a pity that is in decline.
      Good post though revstu!

    58. RevStu says:

      "I'd love to see CalMerc's fortunes revive, but not until they dump Hamish MacDonell."

      On present form that would leave their politics section with roughly one story every two months. I don't mind his pieces in themselves, the problem is that he's basically their only political reporter so there's nothing to balance his Tory bias unless Stewart Kirkpatrick writes an editorial.

    59. Erchie says:

      It is a pity that we don't have a thoughtful news entity like the Scotsman was many years ago. Thoroughly Unionish but at least prepared to report on the SNP fairly fairly, and allow them to put their POV across.
      NNS is too one sided, which is counter to its original stated aim, but I still maintain it has a viable purpose, especially if it can be more professional.
       
      Playing a Nat version of "Gothier than thou" though, not helpful

    60. RevStu says:

      The Herald had been reasonably balanced until very recently, but it seems to be on a rush of Unionist sentiment again as the council elections near.

    61. Philip Thomas says:

      Erchie, I believe NNS can fulfil the role it's set itself better by adopting a more subtle approach.  The assumption that most people need to have the gist of the story shoved down their throats by virtue of a hysterical headline rather than be allowed to deduce it for themselves, to me, isn't giving people enough credit and that's the direction I fear NNS has been heading in. 
       
      Far from being adverse to the rest of the kids liking the same band as me, I'd like as many kids as possible to start liking the band.  It's an interesting analogy you use actually and I'll play on it – I'd rather NNS tried to play to a mainstream audience rather than an underground one, otherwise there's less chance of scoring a number 1.  NNS are the most popular band in the underground scene at the moment but their still playing to the underground.  
       
      I'm not suggesting that NNS shouldn't have run the story.  I find the fact that the BBC ran these seminars to be interesting in itself, but I would have been more subtle in my approach for fear of scaring off the more discerning, mainstream, reader who might be contemplating a shift but hasn't got there yet.   
       
      I still contend that there was more to be gained by highlighting the positive messages in those presentations than by discounting them altogether.  I'd like to see them broadcast.  The fact that they, and the views expressed in them, won't be is a bigger story for me than the fact that the seminar took place.
       
      And, for the record, I'm not a NNS hater.  I just ask that it remembers it's mission and considers what the best way of accomplishing it will be a bit more carefully.  The way the SNP handle these issues now is the best example for me.  I look back in time to when they were more likely to react hysterically and consider which strategy has proven to be more effective.  I've always believed that the best way to truly beat your opponent in a debate is to smile in the face of adversity, and refer again to the Kirsty Wark interview.  It's my favourite interview of the FM bar none because there's no doubt in my mind that, in the space of that short interview, Kirsty Wark destroyed her own credibility and reputation for impartiality not only in my partisan eyes but in the eyes of many non-partisans.
       
      Such an easy thing to do.  Everyone should learn from Kirsty.
       

    62. Erchie says:

      Philip I concur, though in my analogy NNS is "Smash Hits" to the mimeographed fanzine that only the cool kids are allowed to read that soem blogs end up being
       
      Thankfully WOScotland is more inclusive

    63. Doug Daniel says:

      Excellent, maybe they're finally going to have a decent comments system, so that the comments don't look like one big mess with loads of ———————— and ================= dotted around to make up for the lack of formatting.

    64. Peter A Bell says:

      Let's wait and see. They totally screwed their last revamp.

    65. TYRAN says:

       
      Rev – NNS doesn't try and look/behave like a blog. Same with ST and CalMerc. They are presented as news sites to look the part and maximise traffic. No band of external links like a blog. NNS traffic seems to be legitimate enough. NNS (or OED himself) has always been big on BBC.
       
      Some of the Scottish "blogs" could run like a network, all with the same link panel.  To share and grow traffic. Graphic designer sites used to do that years ago. They'd have several icons linking to others. But this idea would just get hassle from others who weren't part of the alliance.

    66. Christian Wright says:

      RevStu wrote: "Solely from the evidence of those videos I don't believe I could fairly predict "
       
      Of course you know what you did or did not discern, and I cannot know that, so I'll take your word for it. I did not find it a great challenge however; I doubt many would.

    67. Christian Wright says:

      RevStu wrote: "Flanders and Robinson wouldn't be voting at all, being English people resident in England . . "
       
      Yes, I took that into account in the wording of the question – ". . were they to cast a ballot . ."

    68. Christian Wright says:

      Douglas wrote: "Obviously I don't know that. But it seems to me likely that they have at least considered the issue. Why, otherwise, would they come out for a middle position?"
       
      People who are unsure, or don't no, or who don't have the facts, will tend to pick the middle ground BECAUSE it's in the middle. The thinking goes, it isn't the choice at the extremes, so it's probably the most reasonable choice. 

    69. Christian Wright says:

      ""People who are unsure, or don't no . ." – Freudian slip – make that, "or don't know"
      There'll be no NO votes here.

    70. Christian Wright says:

      Douglas wrote: "I have seen huge growth in people using sites like this and Bella Caledonia and, indeed, NNS. They may not equal the totatity of Scottish Journalism, but their figures are, increasingly, impressive. . .  [These people are] willing to read 'out of the box,and . . willing to see alternative media as equally valid as mainstream media." 
       
       
      It might be more useful if you could quantify these 'increasingly impressive figures". What is "huge". Clearly, we know those people are willing to use alternate media and consider alternative views, because they have arrived at the web site that offers alternative views. However, that tells us nothing useful about the cohort as a whole if the numbers are not given.
       
      Christian wrote: "Put simply, the presentation best employed to attract and convince your target audience will differ as a function of the make-up of that audience."
       
      Douglas wrote: "I have no idea what that is supposed to mean."
       
      Then let me simplify it further – consider presentations on a sliding scale from the equivalent of a tabliod format – easy to understand but limited to the essentials, to say, a journal article on the solution of single line mxn queuing problems using the Monte Carlo simulation method – difficult to understand but cramed with detail.
       
      Some people will gain most from a simple presentation because they find it more accessable than the usual presentation  – that is, it is within their limited cognitive reach and/or within their limited span of attention.
       
      Other people may be attracted to a long, closely worded, and detailed exposition of the facts and the arguments, duly corroborated by original-source citations. 
       
      Others still, will be best served by the  Goldilocks  presentation – not too cerebral; not too dumbed-down; just right, where "right" is within the scope of say a normal broadsheet presentation.
       
      That is to say, the optimum presentation varies with, or is a function of, the preferences  of your target cohort. 
       
      Is that clearer? 
       
       
       

    71. Christian Wright says:

      "I believe NNS can fulfil the role it's set itself better by adopting a more subtle approach.  The assumption that most peo"I believe NNS can fulfil the role it's set itself better by adopting a more subtle approach.  The assumption that most people need to have the gist of the story shoved down their throats by virtue of a hysterical headline rather than be allowed to deduce it for themselves, to me, isn't giving people enough credit and that's the direction I fear NNS has been heading in."    

      NNS may have been created to inform and persuade the undecided, but ethoi can be modified as an enterprise grows. There has long been a crying need for a place other than a blog, where nats could go to read, learn, discuss, debate, and yes,  vent.   NNS has for the moment filled that need for some, in whole or in part. NNS is NOT a blog, it is a newspaper/journal. It may have been a blog at one time, but it is clearly a journal now. the layout is easily navigable though there is no search function that I can find – this deficit is a royal pain in the assets.  

      NNS is also an easy read, and as such, its content is readily accessible cognitively, even to readers of indifferent education and limited literacy.   NNS articles are not always well constructed but they are adequately crafted to serve their intended purpose of communicating fact and opinion to the reader. That is all the need do. They are, in today's  jargon, fit for purpose.    NNS articles, and proper citation, are not well acquainted, and this can be an issue.

      NNS article are not impartial nor are they meant to be. The journal's political positions and tenor are matched to the preferences and needs of the population it serves – committed nationalists. NNS may not have started out with that intent, but that is where it is now.  

      With respect to its headlines, I can't find anything objectionable in the round. Little in the way of hysteria – perhaps you could offer links to some recent examples? Headlines perform two purposes, the first of which it to grab the reader's attention, and the second, to provide a clue to the content of the article it advertises. A headline by dint of its purpose is not a finely textured thing, rather it is bold and brassy even when it is trying to tiptoe. NNS front page stories sport a generous lede which saves clicking on something you find you don't want to read.  

      Inside you can find stories not carried elsewhere, a lively comment section for every story, . . . and alas, few links to elsewhere. The moderation policy in practice sometimes borders on the bizarre and defies rational analysis. It is a mystery wrapped inside and enigma. The journal is popular because it has few serious rivals in its niche as the Nationalists newspaper.   

      NNS has found its role. 

    72. Christian Wright says:

      above post is double entry and needs cut

    73. RevStu says:

      I agree that NNS appears to have defined its function as a support group/meeting place for, let's say, the more fervent sections of the nationalist community. But describing it as a newspaper rather than a blog is a touch delusional. The bulk of its contributions appear to be opinion columns rather than news pieces, and it's very hard to tell the two apart by looking at the front page.

      We've noticed the lack of a search, and it's a telling (absence of) feature. We'll be talking about why in our much-delayed piece on the Scottish blogosphere sometime in the next few days.

    74. douglas clark says:

      Christian Wright,
      On the question of the growth of Independence orientated blogs I cannot find specific figures. But I do recall NNS claiming numbers of unique visitors per month that were pretty high, from a standing start, and I also recall WoS mentioning figures too. The former were in the tens of thousands and the latter in the high thousands if memory serves me.
      Perhaps someone could remind me of the aggregation sites that I am sure exist, because my searches for them aren't being fruitful?
       
       
       

    75. douglas clark says:

      Christian Wright, 5.19am.
      I'd accept your explanation except I'd have to caveat it as follows:
      The huge difference between this media and any other is that it is, generally free to establish a blog. So, anyone can do it. Attracting an audience is a heck of a lot harder, and can have an interesting effect on both the owner of the site and the folk that commentate on it.
      I doubt that say, NNS,  Lallands Peat Worrier, Bella Caledonia or OGH's site started with a mission statement. They sat down at their respective keyboards and said what they wanted to say. So, someone interested in the potential legal challenge to a referendum may have read Lallands Peat Worrier, etc, etc. The audience self-selected itself. That is how new media works.
      But there is a consequence, one that you identify but do not criticise. It is this.
      Other than strong minded individual bloggers the manifesto – what they wanted to say – becomes either 'bigged up' or 'toned down' dependent on reaction. You will perhaps have noticed that NNS no longer carries Gaelic language items on it's home page?  Whether that was a right or wrong decision I do not know, but I know commentators commented a lot on it being alienating. (We could go into a huge digression here, but it seems pointless). The point is that a blog – if it is to be successful – listens to it's readership and reacts accordingly. You either go for audience share or you don't.
      I read all of these blogs, and many more besides, because they intrest me. Because they are the unmoderated ideas of lots of people that were previously only available to their friends and family. I am, for instance, very fond of 'The Universality of Cheese' which I find funny. The name Mark MacLachlan meant nothing to me a year ago, now it does. So, too, with the RevStu.
      It is an interesting voyage to read sites you agree with and those you don't. It is even more fun to comment on them 🙂
       
       
       

    76. RevStu says:

      We've had a little over 100,000 page views this month, from a little over 12,000 unique users. NNS and Bella Caledonia I think get way more than us (NNS claims 60,000 unique users monthly, I seem to recall), and I don't have a clue about anyone else. Blogs are very secretive about that sort of thing for some tedious reason.

    77. douglas clark says:

      RevStu,
      These are pretty damn impressive stats.

    78. charlie says:

      Catch Radio 4 at 20 past midnigh (the one just gone)t on iplayer if you can. An interesting  (establishment?) commentary on Labour's campaign against the SNP and PC . No mention of the govt parties that I noticed.

    79. Morag says:

      Precis, please?



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