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Wings Over Scotland

The Sunday matinees

Posted on August 18, 2013 by

As we’ve already noted today, Wings Over Scotland has the internet’s most excellent readers. Two of them have been working together over the last week or so, after we put them in touch, to share some fascinating Scottish history with the rest of us.


Click the two images in this post for an intriguing hour-and-three-quarters.

First up is “Scotland: A Time To Choose” – a BBC recording of a debate at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in January 1992, hosted by Kirsty Wark and featuring Alex Salmond (for the SNP), Donald Dewar (Labour), Ian Lang (Secretary of State for Scotland in the Conservative government of the time) and Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem), discussing Scotland’s constitutional future in front of a quite rowdy audience.

(Ian Lang’s opening assertion that Scotland has “prospered, flowered and flourished under the Union” is met by a chorus of boos and catcalls, and Donald Dewar also meets with considerable vocal disapproval when claiming that Labour has stood up for Scotland during what by that point had been 13 years of Tory government.)

The debate talked about a “Scottish Assembly”, but the entire thing was rendered moot by the surprise victory of the Conservatives in the following year’s general election, which leads us neatly into the second show.


“The Great Debate” took place in February 1995, and was a head-to-head between Alex Salmond and Labour’s shadow Scottish Secretary of the time George Robertson (hosted by an unfamiliar raven-haired Lesley Riddoch) at the Royal High School in Edinburgh, which was then favourite to be the home of the still-notional Assembly.

It was explicitly a debate between independence and devolution, with the status quo apparently no longer even a consideration, despite a hostile Tory government being barely a year-and-a-half into its latest term of office. It was the birthplace of the “Lorraine Mann Question”, and plenty else besides, and if you only have time to watch one of the two debates, we’d say pick this one.

(It also featured a panel of London-based Scottish journalists, two of whom have been in the news this week – Andrew Marr, James Naughtie and Neal Ascherson.)

What you’ll probably be the most struck by on watching the two shows is an overpowering sense of deja vu. The arguments, particularly on the Unionist side, have barely evolved at all over the last 21 years. But other than that, we’ll leave you to form your own views. Enjoy.


EDIT: Should the videos vanish from YouTube for any reason, you should be able to download copies from the following links:

A Time To Choose

The Great Debate

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58 to “The Sunday matinees”

  1. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Incidentally, I tried putting the videos on YouTube, but after two hours of uploading the first one it THEN deigned to tell me that it was “too long”. I have no idea what the rules are – only yesterday I was watching a single YouTube clip three hours long – but if anyone knows its workings better than me than please do stick them up there and post the link.

  2. Pedro says:

    I believe that there is either a length of time that you have to have registered for YouTube or it may be the number of videos that you’ve uploaded before you are allowed to upload videos that are longer in length than ten minutes.

    That said, it may be entirely arbitrary on their part as to who they allow to upload the longer vids.

  3. Albalha says:

    Thanks very much for posting these, as you say what’s changed.
    Have watched the 1995 head to head …

    From Robertson the charge of ‘separatism’, the taunt of who’d want Salmond as ‘Commander in Chief’, and ‘only Labour, can and will get rid of the Tories’.

    Messrs Marr and Naughtie on the panel, dear oh dear, and still today they’re afforded some sort of exalted status.

    Favourite line from A Salmond, possibly even more relevant now given the UKIP driven Tory agenda;

    “There’s a stark contrast between the SNP’s open vision of the new Europe and Labour’s narrow view of regional Scotland cowering behind the walls of fortress Britain”.

  4. Green Bean says:

    A few months back I needed to upload 2 longish videos to YouTube. I discovered that all I needed to do was send a message to them asking for permission to do so (sorry can’t remember exactly where the button is). I then received a phone call, almost immediately, giving me permission. It appeared to be an automated phone call, and I was not asked to give any further information re the video. Worked like clockwork.

  5. naebd says:

    How did all those Cybernats get into the 1992 audience when the WWW was only months old?!

  6. gordoz says:

    Rev : Thanks for the memories.
    Always love reminiscing about yesterdays collaborators such as the good Lord George ‘Robotson’ of Festerin Werries.
    Ah,  the good old days when everyone  spoke the truth (?) and  the media was unequivocal about the threat of independence ( Just a silly hypothetical annoyance on the horizon).
    It is strange how times have changed yet No arguments stand still frozen in time.

  7. Rod Mac says:

    What is that saying “the more things change the more they stay the same”
    Sums up unionism

  8. naebd says:

    Oh – video cut off during Colonial Viceroy Lang’s opening statement 🙁
    Probably need to download rather than stream…

  9. Iain says:

    @ naebd
    How did all those Cybernats get into the 1992 audience when the WWW was only months old?!
    Time travel of course! I’m posting from there on my Iphone right now (then?), getting some odd looks!

  10. Ron says:

    It’s not just Lesley looking younger and darker-of-hair in that video. I spotted a young Nicola Sturgeon in the audience as I quickly jumped through listening to some excerpts.

  11. gordoz says:

    Rev : A good article by M Kelly on NNS 
    “Prof J Curtice a polling expert who regularly appears on BBC Scotland has defended the Scottish media’s decision to ignore a recent survey that covered aspects of the independence debate, insisting the poll was poorly designed.

    Writing on his website, Stuart Campbell, who also featured on the Good Morning Scotland programme, said:
    “He [Professor Curtice] may have been subtly making a point about media bias when he noted that the infamous “space monsters” question gave the press an excuse to doubt the poll’s credibility as serious research, but otherwise the comment doesn’t stand up very well in the light of the fact that most Scottish newspapers HAD happily just covered a poll comparing the prospects for independence to that of humans landing on Mars.
    “And only a few days earlier we’d taken part ourselves in a YouGov one on otherwise serious political issues which ended with the question ‘Do you trust men who wear red trousers?’, and which was also widely reported in the press.”

    Really dissects media blanking & slams the Profs less favourable assertions in a clever way.

  12. mato21 says:

    There  surely can be no one  who questions Alex Salmonds commitment to Scotland even if they do not agree with him He is still fighting for what he believes will be the best for our country while yesterdays men clothed in their ermine cloaks have moved on to self enrichment with nary a backward glance

    PS I only got the first half hour of each video How do I get the rest ? (numpty)

  13. gordoz says:

    Back to my question about our great Peers of Alba.
    Does anyone have numbers for our Proud Scots unelected ermine clad officials to the south ??
    Tried the net and got nowhere. It would be really useful for the campaign to highlight it goes way beyond the likes of. I think the people would b interested in such facts of waste.
    Robertson, Watson, McConnell, Adams, Forsyth, Wallace et all (what a nice wee club eh??). Not to mention the latest wasters.
    Any help would be great if anyone has this info.

  14. cynicalHighlander says:

    Will watch vids later.

  15. Xaracen says:

    Oh, dear! Just clicked on the first image 🙂

    “Error (509)
    This account’s public links are generating too much traffic and have been temporarily disabled!”

    WoS’s army is waiting with bated breath!

  16. DougtheDug says:

    How  to upload a video longer than 15 minutes on Youtube:
    Upload videos longer than 15 minutes

    By default, you can upload videos that are 15 minutes long. To upload longer videos, follow these steps:

    Visit the upload page at
    Click Increase your limit at the bottom of the page, or visit
    Follow the steps to verify your account with a mobile phone. Currently we aren’t able to offer other ways to verify your account.

  17. mato21 says:

    Try the linkie it might be what you’re looking for

  18. dinnatouch says:

    Xaracen says:
    Oh, dear! Just clicked on the first image
    “Error (509)
    This account’s public links are generating too much traffic and have been temporarily disabled!”
    WoS’s army is waiting with bated breath!
    I’m getting the same

  19. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Added alternative download links to the end of the feature.

  20. Vincent McDee says:

    In the meantime the videos get sorted, does anybody know of a youtube download of the Tartan Army: “We’d rather have a Panda than a Prince”?

  21. les wilson says:

    Yup,I got the Error 509 also, tried all I could to get hold of it, saw some streaming but crashed on me. A US format really. However I suspect problems are that they have been crashed by Wings followers trying the same. Did see Lesley Riddoch speak, with black hair too! Then that  was it!

    In the first part did see Donald Dewar squirm, when Alex Salmond asked him what Industries had Labour prevented from closing in Scotland, that showed Labour up for what it really is, despite cat calls from the audience and prompting from kirsty no answer. Just more waffle. Then it too crashed. 
    A great posting though, when it all calms down I will try again.
    Keep up the good work

  22. HandandShrimp says:

    O/T but I see the Lib Dems did a FOI on racist incidents in schools and the BBC has reported on it with a big headline 1,274 racist incidents in Scottish schools. Reading the story it is apparently the figure for two years combined with 667 in 2011 and 607 in 2012. So why wasn’t the headline 10% fall in racist incidents? Not that I have issue with the tackling of such matters or publishing the number of such incidents. I do wonder though at the mentality of the BBC headline writers. Why must they always present everything as a “the sky is falling” story as if they are competing with the Sunday Sport for sensational headline of the year.

  23. Jon D says:

    Good Vids but only got 15mins of the second one.
    Indeed Labours duplicitousness is as rank now as it was then; same old, same old.
    Whether you agree with him or not what cannot be denied is that Alex Salmond will undoubtedly go down in Scottish political history as one of the great conviction politicians. Just note how much more comfortable he looks in his own skin than Robertson. Together these videos further expose the self serving nature of unionist politicians and the con that is the union itself. Great stuff, Rev.

  24. muttley79 says:


    How did all those (vile, anti-democratic, abusive etc) Cybernats get into the 1992 audience when the WWW was only months old?!

  25. gordoz says:

    Lib Dems  – add nothing to anything. Stirrere / Scaremongers
    Scott / Moore / Rennie
    Party a waste of space under current format / hope voters hit them hard at next polls
    Wipe out is coming.

  26. Stuart Black says:

    Treat yersel’s to a laugh out loud moment with Greg Moodie’s latest over at NC.


  27. naebd says:

    George Robertson: A new and a different Bruhhtn: New Labour Bruhhtn.

    Ah, memories…

    A lot of time spent from everyone trying to get Alex Salmond to promise he’ll be a nice boy and “make the parliament work”. I forgot about all that stuff.

  28. gordoz says:

    National collective  >
    Dear me still got tears in my eyes; now thats funny or is it just  me ?
    Brilliant laugh

  29. naebd says:

    At one point Alex Salmond says no Austrians would choose to be part of Germany in order to get more ‘clout’ in Europe. Interesting how vehemently contemptuous Naughtie was of this argument. As for George Robertson, his argument was that Scotland’s equivalent in this situation would be a region of Austria. Ugh.

  30. Peter says:

           In case anybody has forgotten, it was shortly after the 1992 debate that independence polled over 50%.  A fact that has been denied by every unionist ("Quizmaster" - Ed) ("Tractor" - Ed) for the last 21 years.

  31. Brian McCulloch says:

    Just watched the ‘Great Debate’ where George Robertson says ‘we don’t want to have to change our money every time we go for a long weekend in Blackpool’
    For as long as I can remember I have had to change Scottish Pounds for English Pounds when I go South. I am holidaying with my extended Family in England soon and have just changed my notes to Bank of England ones.
    Strange that all the shops in Gibraltar accepted my Scottish ones!

  32. cynicalHighlander says:

  33. faolie says:

    Great Debate is now on YouTube at
    Takes an age but now that I know it works I’ll put up the other.

  34. Frazer Allan Whyte says:

    Growing up in a Scottish family in Canada I enthusiastically read Scottish history and often imagined myself a Jacobite  – could have been the effect of the tartan wallpaper – now, the more I read about how Scotland is (mis)informed, (mis)ruled and (mis)led I increasingly imagine myself a Jacobin. Some people will need to be called to account sooner than later. Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

  35. Jock McDonnell says:

    I remember 92 well, Salmond asking Dewar to name one industry Labour had saved, Dewar blubbing. And ‘I’m not convinced your in full command of this subject Donald’. Priceless. 

  36. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Great Debate is now on YouTube”

    Fantastic, many thanks. Have updated post with new link.

  37. Jamie Arriere says:

    You can cross-refer that Wiki list with the full list here:

    755 of them for god’s sake!

  38. scottish_skier says:

    it was shortly after the 1992 debate that independence polled over 50%.

    What I have for 1998 below (as far back as my own excel records go).

    Which is one of the reasons I’m confident of a Yes vote. The people of Scotland haven’t become more British and Tory loving in the last 14 years now have they…

    1998.3 47 Y 40 N 13 DK MORI
    1998.5 52 Y 41 N 7 DK ICM
    1998.6 56 Y 35 N 9 DK ICM
    1998.7 49 Y 44 N 7 DK ICM
    1998.8 48 Y 37 N 15 DK ICM
    1998.9 51 Y 38 N 11 DK ICM

  39. TYRAN says:

    – ‘we don’t want to have to change our money every time we go for a long weekend in Blackpool’
    Who’s this “we”? I have no intention to visit Blackpool. And is it honestly that a hardship to change money? Too lazy to go to the exchange down the road but not all the way to Blackpool?

  40. HulloHulot says:

    Watching George Robertson respond to the ‘We have independence, devolution, or the status quo: what is your second choice’ question towards the end of the Great Debate is a thing of beauty.
    It begins around 43 minutes in and involves him denying the terms of the question, grumping at the audience, not answering the question, dismissing the question as unworthy, attempting to smear the questioner (and the SNP), and then still refusing to answer the question properly. It’s not an unfamiliar approach, but it is one that’s exposed as flailing posturing by the audience.

  41. Albalha says:

    I too am optimistic and hope your analysis is spot on but I wonder could the reality of the choice now have changed things?
    In 1998 we didn’t yet have Holyrood, never mind the actual prospect of independence.

  42. scottish_skier says:

    In 1998 we didn’t yet have Holyrood, never mind the actual prospect of independence.

    The polls showed Yes and no largely equal on 40/40 post opening of the parliament.

    In 2011, following the SNP win, Yes went ahead of the No it would appear (Tories are back, Labour are Tories and have fucked up, Libs are Tories too so we’re off), before dropping back (hmm, this is quite a big step, what about the EU and stuff). Things would appear to be swinging back again as would be expected.

    If anyone likes the idea of independence… If they’ve said Yes in a poll before… They will not vote No.

    We’d have had an indy ref years ago if the result would be No. Even the Tories would have happily held one.

    This referendum belongs to Yes.

  43. Albalha says:

    Thanks for that, I too believe it will be YES but I’ve nothing scientific to base that on,  very heartened by your post. 

  44. David McCann says:

     Thanks faolie for uploading to Youtube.
    I have posted it on my Facebook. Lets watch the ‘views’ go up! BTW, I would rather have shown the link of it from your post.
    Is there a way of doing that, without having to scroll through all the preceding posts?

  45. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Watching George Robertson respond to the ‘We have independence, devolution, or the status quo: what is your second choice’ question towards the end of the Great Debate is a thing of beauty.”

    It’s fun, but my favourite bit is still the absolutely merciless and extended shoeing Salmond gives him over changing money, as Robertson desperately flails around trying to make out that only millionaires have cash cards and totally ignoring the fact that Scottish banknotes are regularly refused in England. I almost felt sorry for the poor hapless eejit.

  46. faolie says:

    @David McCann
    I would rather have shown the link of it from your post.
    Is there a way of doing that, without having to scroll through all the preceding posts?
    The link straight to my post is but not sure why you want to do that. Don’t you want people to read the whole article and just post the YouTube link on your FB Page?

  47. scottish_skier says:

     over changing money

    Putting changing money aside as nobody really does this any more what with the advent of debit/credit cards, I’d be quite interested in finding out stats on cross-border travel.

    I travel with work a lot and haven’t been to England in 4 years or so. There’s just no need. Even London airports I avoid as they’re a pain in the ass; Amsterdam is my preferred.

    I suspect that the number of people in Scotland who visit England, Wales and NI on a regular basis would be not much different to the numbers regularly visiting other countries. Quite possibly considerably less.

    Scotland is geographically disconnected from the rest of the UK; a major reason why it became and remained Scotland. You could live here your entire life, travelling extensively both for leisure and work, yet have no reason whatsoever to visit the rUK.

    If you live in Edinburgh, you will work every day with people who live in Scotland. You won’t work with people living in England. In contrast, if you live in Newcastle, you might work in Durham. Someone in your office may live in Middlesbrough. Their neighbour works in Richmond. And so on right down to the Channel.

    England is connected internally (ok the north is more isolated, but not nearly as much as Scotland), yet Scotland is geographically isolated from the rUK. Very few people live in one yet spend an equal or even significant time in the other.

    You can see it here:

    The border developed for a reason; it’s really right where geographically you’d expect it to develop.

    That or where the Romans built the wall.

    Hmmm, clearly harking back to my undergrad human geography stuff here.

  48. Braco says:

    many thanks for taking the time to stick that up on youtube. I have been wanting to see it for ages now and was being tortured by the Rev’s post. Cheers!

  49. velofello says:

    Oddly I repeatedly saw George Roberson, when about to answer a question, adopt similar facial expressions,particularly around the eyes, as I see with Anas Sarwar. And the Labour trait of holding out the righthand thumb, index and middle fingers together must be from a training camp session.

  50. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “A Time to Choose is on YouTube”

    Awesome work. Thanks again!

  51. Swello says:

    Watched the Great Debate programme and really enjoyed it as I didn’t see it at the time. I think the slightly rowdy audience in that setting gave it a nice bear pit feel and maybe gave a glimpse of what could have been if the parliament had ended up there.
    Lesley Riddoch was a very good moderator of the debate considering the participants. 
    It was interesting to see Salmond at a different time when he could let loose a bit more than he can as FM. I loved his look to Robertson when he was describing the SNP winning an election as a fantasy – it was a “we’ll see George, we’ll see”.
    Robertson was comprehensively gubbed in the debate – but what was striking compared to the current day was that there was a lot of positive language in there – he had something good to sell – something that the Better Together guys just don’t have.

  52. callum says:

    “Where the romans built the wall…”
    Hadrians wall is between 15 and 80 miles south of the border and never touches the border at any point. see
    I love it when unionists talk about the wall as the border.  If it were the border, the majority of Northumberland would be in Scotland

  53. Baheid says:

    Watched both debates, Salmond is head and shoulders above the rest of them.
    Or maybe is easier when you have a belief rather than a reason for your position.
    The Great Debate now has 194 views, it had 9 a couple of hours ago. 🙂

  54. scottish_skier says:

    Where the romans built the wall…

    Note I was talking about geographical sites for a border and wasn’t confusing the two. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall at an ideal site in terms of rivers and topography; the valley that runs straight across the north of England providing a natural road (troop transport) route with the escarpment of the Whin Sill and local rivers providing a defensive line. North of that, the terrain became even more unwelcoming but without a good line for a fixed defence.

    The final border position is likewise just where you might predict based on natural barriers to movement; it goes right across the centre of the upland area which ‘cuts off’ Scotland from England, incorporating the barrier of the river tweed on the Eastern marches where the land is easier to traverse / less hilly. Terminates at the Solway firth which puts a large barrier between D&G and England.

    Part of the reason Scotland exists is the Cheviots / Southern Uplands (think mini Pyrenees or Alps). They are a geographical barrier to the movement of people, even with today’s roads (the M74 is the only decent one and that’s still 3 hours from Glasgow to Manchester). This barrier influences voting patterns.

    It is no surprise that the most unionist parts of Scotland are those which interact on a daily basis with the North of England.

  55. I watched the debate between Salmond and the Baron (or should that be barren) last night and I must say I enjoyed it so much I posted it via my own blog as there are some aspects that relate to us. Most noticable was how far behind we are politically, tax raising powers etc.

    Watching Samond like this reminds me of Muhammad Ali dancing around his opponents and then dumping them on their ass. When I say reminds I mean from episodes of ESPN classic as I’m far too young to have seen him box live.

    It’s also worth noting how the SNP haven’t changed their objective one iota in the almost 20 years since this debate went to air. And to be fair neither have Labour. It’s just a shame that our own party here changes it’s mind as often as it changes it’s leader.

    I suspect that older campaigners will tell me that they’ve maintained this stance since the start. Anyway, as always Hail Alba.

  56. It’s interesting that Scottish Skier links more unionist voting patterns in southern Scotland with the degree of interaction with northern England.
    I used the same map that s/he linked to in <a href=”http://syniadau–”>this post</a>.  But I think the most significant correlation is not just with travel and geography, but with the fact that southern Scotland is served by Border TV.  The two lines are almost identical.

  57. DMyers says:

    The Great Debate was enjoyable.  Robertson looked much shiftier than I remember.  He also reminded me of the crazy lady school bus driver from South Park, at times.  He had the floor well and truly wiped with himself.
    Just about to enjoy A Time To Choose 🙂

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