The London press and its Scottish junior cadet branches have buried Nicola Sturgeon and with it, the SNP dream of independence. As is so often the case, London shows massive ignorance of Scotland’s economy and political culture. It’s an arrogance as old as the union itself.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the week that saw Sturgeon stand down was the BBC’s Today programme anchor, Nick Robinson, asking listeners, “why should we care who Scotland’s first minister is?” In one short sentence, he revealed the insularity and institutional superiority of the BBC. The colonial mindset writ large. This was the English Broadcasting Corporation talking to England, not the British Broadcasting Corporation talking to the United Kingdom.
Now, I’ve long had antipathy to the idea of the London establishment viewing Scotland as a colony, a place to hunt over, keep dangerous weapons and visit Edinburgh for a couple of weeks to see the children perform at the Festival. It appeared a hackneyed and lazy notion. Maybe not now.
Most English people don’t think like that at all. Most English people don’t think of Scots as lesser people or of Scotland as a less important place or as a place for England to rule.
But that is most certainly the case in some of the higher reaches of British political and media life. We saw it with the recent secret meeting of Leave leaders and Labour heavyweights. The only Scot at the meeting was Michael Gove. Labour didn’t think Scotland important enough to invite its shadow Scottish secretary, Ian Murray. The Labour people orchestrating the meeting would simply not have considered Scotland. It would not have entered their heads.
Robinson’s remark on the Today programme really does confirm that the higher reaches of the BBC see it as the English Broadcasting Corporation. BBC Scotland, my spies tell me, is now little more than a branch office and one with very little influence over editorial policy. The BBC in Scotland is surely not as trusted by Scots as it once was.
The BBC has sold its soul
The corporation has sold its soul on the alter of impartiality. It really should have at the core of its reporting a burning desire to seek out and report what is true and to do so objectively. Impartiality has been used to neuter the BBC. A wise person once said that the BBC was the only institution that kept Britain straight. It is no surprise that standards in public life, mainly if not exclusively in Whitehall and Westminster, have slipped so low at the same time as the BBC has put impartiality above truth.
Scotland is not being well served by the BBC or most of the print media. Whether via more devolution or independence, Scotland must have its own media regulation regime and have the ability to legislate about media ownership. It is simply not a fair deal that influence over Scottish public opinion is firmly in the hands of a right-wing BBC and the Murdoch, Rothermere and Barclay family press. If there were a monopolies commission that measured the political bias of the Scottish media, it would surely order radical re-ordering of the market.
As for Robinson, he’s not credible when it comes to reporting any Scottish politics. He’ll be incapable of seeing himself as anything other than right. That’s a tragedy for the once-great BBC and for objective reporting.
Media freedom sacrosanct
Media freedom should be sacrosanct in any mature liberal democracy. Scotland must have a hard-hitting, truth seeking media to hold our political class to account. At present we have a wholly unbalanced regime that makes it incredibly difficult for views to be heard that don’t suit the right-wing press or the new look BBC. What we need is variety across media ownership. Until we get it, Scotland will be reported with deliberate bias cast overwhelmingly to the right.
We need a fresh start. A tabula rasa.