The BBC way with Scottish independence

Victoria Derbyshire BBC Radio 5 16 Sept 2013 10.00 am -12.000 noon

Debate on the Scottish independence vote

This was a  classic example of  the BBC’s  interpretation of balance and consisted of a number of regulation issue BBC propaganda tricks.

The programme was held in Scotland (Glasgow) which meant that the pro-independence  crowd were on home ground. A venue outside of Scotland would have been less partisan for two reasons:  first, holding it in Scotland meant the  audience was inevitably overwhelmingly Scottish (with  a massive overrepresentation of Glaswegian residents)  and second, it underpinned the idea that this is s a matter only for Scotland.   Those representing England, Wales and Northern Ireland were not only thin on the ground , but either in full agreement with Scottish independence  (including English people living in Scotland) or less than full hearted in their presentation of pro-unionist views and,  in some cases,  unreservedly  pusillanimous in their putting their case, with one Englishman saying an Englishman had no right to tell the Scots how to vote.

There were a couple of hundred  people involved. Right at the start Derbyshire employed the favourite  Any Questions trick of saying the audience was not scientifically selected to represent the population at large (with the implication that its collective opinion was not worth anything),  then blandly treating  expressions of opinions as though the audience was scientifically selected. In such circumstances the large majority of  any audience  treat the individual and collective opinion as having the same meaning as a scientifically selected poll.  Indeed, it is dubious whether many in any audience would really understand what “scientifically selected”  means in this context.

A second favourite BBC trick is  to turn the debate into pantomime. In this case the pantomime was created by dividing the audience into three groups which sat apart from one another:  those in favour of independence, those against it and the undecided.  The for and  against camps were  mysteriously on 36%  each with the undecided on 27% (where the missing 1% went was not explained). This division  was seriously at odds with  recent polls which show a very  significant lead for the NO camp, for example, the latest YouGov poll  in Sept for the Times which showed the No camp on 52% and the Yes camp on 32% (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/10316878/Alex-Salmond-on-course-for-defeat-in-independence-referendum.html).   It is reasonable to ascribe the discrepancy between the reality of the public opinion and the  debate’s audience to  being  deliberately manufactured by the BBC, because it is wildly improbable that  the Yes and NO camps would be equal simply through chance. Why would the BBC do this? Either, for political reasons, to create  a spurious equality to weaken the NO camp’s effect or , simply for dramatic effect, to produce a programme which looked as though it was dealing with an issue which was on a knife-edge.

The three groups sat separately and if members of each group changed their minds about where they should be sitting during the debate  they moved to a different  group. There was not much movement.  However, the division did allow the presenter Derbyshire to pretend that there was a meaningful debate going on as she earnestly questioned each person who did move and routinely asked people if they were tempted to move.

There   were two people representing  the campaign groups  Yes Scotland  (SNP MEP Fiona Hislop and the comedienne  Elaine C Smith best known for her role in Rab C Nesbitt) and two for the Better Together  (Labour MP for Glasgow Central Anas Sarwar  and Alan Savage an English businessman with the Orion recruitment  group). Sarwar had the distinction of being a non-white face amongst a sea of ol’whitey. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/galleries/p01gt3s5). Indeed, I think he may have been the only black, brown or yellow face on show.

The Yes camp displayed  a strong hysterical strain with frequent  yelling and clapping, and  speakers who assumed that bald assertion represented argument with gems such as “Scotland is stinking rich” and “Scottish independence is worth dying for” , mixed with a cloying victimhood with  the wicked English cast as the culprits for all that is wrong in Scotland (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b039wz0t/clips). The limits of evidence advanced by the Yes camp began and ended with citations from Wikipedia (I kid you not).

The NO camp were much more restrained and asked a great number of questions which the Yes camp simply could not answer,  questions about the armed forces, public sector pensions, immigration and the Pound (The http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b039wz0t/clips).

The various “expert” commentators such as the BBC Scottish staffer Brian Taylor adopted the “there is no clear answer”  ploy when asked to comment on, for example, the share of taxpayers’ money Scotland receives.

At the end of the meeting Derbyshire gave out the Yes/NO/undecided figures  before and after changes:

At the start of the debate   At the end of the debate

Yes                                               80                                       84

No                                                80                                       83

Undecided                                  60                                       53

That will allow the Yes camp to represent it as a victory.

The programme was an amorphous unfocused mess.  That helps the Yes camp,  because what people will remember is not the arguments about particular issues but the bald assertions, victimhood and emotional outbursts.

What was almost entirely missing was discussion of the position of England. There was one speaker who called for an English Parliament, but this provoked little comment.  The position of Wales and Northern  Ireland received more attention.  The English were also treated differently in one other respect: there were  English speakers who live  in Scotland putting the independence case in a way which painted the Scots as victims of England. There were no Scots, Welsh or Northern  Irish speakers putting the English case.

This debate was almost certainly a taste of what the BBC (and probably the rest of the broadcast  media) will provide during the Referendum campaign.

Robert Henderson

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14 Responses to The BBC way with Scottish independence

  1. Lithuanian Scot says:

    While not questioning the accuracy of your representation of this program there is your basic start point. How exactly can this be a matter for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Yes we can assume it will affect them if Scotland becomes independent. But how exactly do you think the decision is theirs to interfere. If those in Scotland vote a majority for independence it really is the last word. Or do you suggest a UK wide vote? What happens then? Do you just ignore a yes vote in Scotland and Wales if the no votes in England easily win by virtue of population numbers? How is that meant to work? Of course England is quite within its rights to hold their own separate vote. If any of the parts vote yes the union is ended. We are often told that their is more support in England for Scottish independence, is that not really just the same as saying support for English independence?

    So have your own vote. Though there doesn’t seem to be much interest for that course in England being as that the set up allows 50 million English people to impose their will on 5 million Scots with out any chance that it could ever go the other way. This why the numbers just don’t exist for a West Lothian question, its a myth.

  2. It is England’s business because the terms of separation have to be agreed if independence is to occur. That is simply not being done. It should be settled before the referendum.

    Scotland is in a weak position because of her feeble economy with 70% of GDP being public service, she is geographically isolated and needs to ship goods through England to export economically, England is a massive market for Scotland and England could cripple Scotland very easily by simply blocking Scottish access to England.

    • david brown says:

      What is your own view on the ending of the Union. The best case for it is that it is we would stop using the generic word British for anyone who resides in the United Kingdom . When ever i have been anywhere in the world people think of me as an Englishman. Let the English rediscover themselves and they will know that it is England which is being invaded.

  3. efgd says:

    The biased and contrived way these debates are held shows that the BBC and indeed our political elite have no idea of what ordinary folk think about issues that concern them. Most elites will be immune from any changes in the way government represents, or not as is more to the point, the citizens. They live in gated communes or estates surrounded by the same type of person if not class of person.

    We have come along way from being the UK. I think there should be an English Parliament taking decisions based on the nature of England. The same of course for Welsh, Scottish and NI and Irish Parliaments taking decisions based on the nature of Wales etc…And of course the means to decide how to pay their way – that means no funds from each country for each country. English pay tax for English provision etc…

    This can be achieved because in the UK Parliament now the corporate cunning of back scratching self orientating political elite hold each other up via theft of our taxes to pay for their own little elite based projects. Divide them and make the sops more accountable to the people they really represent but fail to consider and I think we will have moved a way forward.

  4. @wyrdtimes says:

    Got to admit I though this debate was hugely biased against the yes side. For one the no side was miced up considerably louder than the yes side.

    Eddie Bone from the CEP spoke briefly but as usual got rudely cut off.

  5. Personally I am all for Scottish independence. That is because, despite me being somewhat leftish leaning politically I am a proud Englishman and want England to rediscover her identity, an identity that has for so long been subsumed by a “British” identity that is imposed only on England by such bodies as the BBC, the UK government and others. Sadly there is no viable English nationalist party at the moment with a coherent voice; most of the parties that claim to speak for England are fringe groups such as the English Democrats (who have only recently decided to adopt a pro-independence stance) or UKIP, who are avowed Unionists just like the main three parties they campaign against. It is therefore only through Scotland achieving independence that England might get the chance to re-assert her own identity, although I realise that might not affect a change immediately within the rump British state that is left behind.

  6. canspeccy says:

    The BBC serves a propaganda role for a genocidal elite intent on the destruction of the nation states of Europe as racial, cultural, religious and political entities.

    Excellent progress has been made. The population of Britain has been successfully brainwashed into the belief that opposition to genocide through mass immigration and multiculturalism is a criminal form of intolerance, as the racial, cultural and religious homogeneity of the country has been largely destroyed. The next step is the breakup of the state to form a collection of feeble statelets subject to control by the undemocratic globalist institutions including the EU, NATO, WTO, UN, etc.

    Some background to the project for the destruction of the European nation states, conveniently under effective US military occupation since WWII, is provided in a current article about the Atlantic Union in Salon Magazine: Elites’ strange plot to take over the world.

    What’s certain is that whichever way the Scots vote in the referendum, independence is not an option, although having a strong voice in the parliament of the United Kingdom certainly gives Scotland greater influence in the World than they can hope to achieve as just one more small and insignificant EU member, like that of Sweden, Slovenia, and Slovakia, whose name begins with and S.

  7. bongobrian1 says:

    In a marriage, if either the husband or the wife files for divorce, then the other just has to accept it and move on.

    Or are you suggesting that England should enforce its’ will over Scotland?

    The bottom line is that the current Westminster system is corrupt to the core and has created the 4th most unequal ‘country’ in the world. Scottish independence will result in the English people re-assessing their own position and possibly demanding changes to improve their situation… Thats why I will be voting Yes next year. Regards.

  8. bongobrian1 says:

    Its a bit like a marriage, where the wife or husband files for divorce… the other party just has to accept it. I agree fully with Samwise above and I will be voting Yes, because I believe in more local smaller government and believe that getting rid of the failed and corrupt Westminster system will benefit both countries.

  9. punter says:

    The West Lothian Question is “are you looking at me, pal ?”

  10. Adam Hiley says:

    I believe the Union will survive next Year & can continue once free of the EU/ECHR stop being a US stoodge and strengthen ties to the Anglosphere Nations finally remove the LibLabCon Parasites in Parliament and the spongers in Buckingham Palace

  11. Alex says:

    “This division was seriously at odds with recent polls which show a very significant lead for the NO camp”

    Are you suggesting that debates should be organised with some sort of pre-bias to favour the current balance of opinion. Even when debating a Yes/No question? This seems a mighty odd way to do things even if we could trust opinion polls 100%.

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