I rarely watch the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland show. It is presented by Sarah Smith and Gordon Brewer. But that’s not the only reason I don’t watch it. The thing is, I don’t need to. I always know – with an adequate degree of certainty – what it will be about. I know, because I understand what is the function of the programme. It’s function is to lend the authority of the state broadcaster to whatever stories the print media has been peddling over the preceding week. In that respect, Sunday Politics Scotland is no more than a weekend version of BBC Scotland’s daily news and current affairs output. All are there merely to stamp the latest British Nationalist propaganda with the imprimatur of an institution which is able to exploit the residual respect afforded to what was once the most respected news organisation in the world.
The stories which these programmes seek to furnish with a veneer of credibility fall broadly into three categories –
- SNP: Spawn of Beelzebub? Or imps of Satan?
- Crisis threatens [insert name of Scottish institution or public service]!
- Scotland: Hellhole? Or cesspit?
Whether it’s distributing incendiary baby boxes or denying jakies the gut-rot they crave, the SNP is always wrong. Whether it’s NHS Scotland or Police Scotland or anything else that might be somehow associated with Scotland, it’s a day away from total collapse, and has been since the hated SNP forced their way into government by the devious ploy of persuading people to vote for them time after time. Whether it’s potholes or potheads, Scotland is the worst. You know the sort of thing I mean. The papers are filled with it every day. A persistent current of nasty negativity, deliberate distortion and downright dishonesty.
The BBC’s role is to bring an air of gravitas to all of this. We’re all supposed to take it seriously because it was on the Beeb. All too many do just that. Because it’s TV (and radio) where time is a major constraint, what the BBC serves up is a distillation of the bile, bunkum and bullshit fed to us by the print media. A short, sharp jolt of extra-strong lies. Where the press is the hose spraying us with propaganda, TV is the hypodermic injecting it straight into the brain.
So, I don’t bother watching the likes of the Sunday Politics Scotland. If I’ve been following the news cycle, I can pretty much predict what will be on the programme. And I can be quite certain about how it will be presented.
The people, too, will be familiar types. Mostly British politicians peddling the promises and platitudes and pieties and slogans and soundbites and sophisms which are their stock-in-trade. They will point fingers of blame at one another as each denounces policies and actions they only lately espoused and will later embrace again whilst being ‘very clear’ that they have never/always favoured those policies and actions – delete as appropriate. They will condemn failures and weakness and incompetence and corruption until it seems that all is failure; all is weakness; all is incompetence; all is corruption.
They will offer alternatives that always turn out to be indistinguishable from the other alternatives. They will talk of new directions, but always it’s the same destination. They will dance the dance of faux rivalry. They will perform the familiar ritual. They will go through the well-practiced motions.
In a supporting role, the ‘experts’ are there to present selected facts with an air of scientific certainty that is supposed to be reassuring. Their task is to give an impression of order and control. The solidity of statistics and research is offered as a remedy for the rambling rhetoric of politicians.
Then there are the pundits and commentators who are brought on to interpret it all for the benefit of viewers assumed to be afflicted by the intellectual equivalent of dental caries brought on by a syrupy diet of sport, soaps and celebs.
The journalists tend to stick dutifully to a cosy consensus defined by the London-centric corporate media. They don’t see it as their job to challenge the narrative of established power. They don’t ask awkward questions. They don’t offer insightful analysis. They are as immersed in the British political system as the politicians. They are as much a part of the British establishment. They are as embedded in the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.
Other than the ‘political correspondents’ of approved publications, the talking heads seem to be drawn at random from a pool of people whose qualifications are never quite clear. Katharine Mary Grant, better known as Katie, seems typical. Her credentials as a commentator on Scottish politics appear to consist of being a minor member of the British aristocracy who has written some children’s books and penned opinion pieces for various organs representing the more rabid and ranty fringes of right-wing British politics.
Ms Grant gives the impression of having breakfasted well on generous helpings of Smugabix. She oozes the assured, self-righteous pomposity that comes from a life of easy advantage and an absolute conviction of British exceptionalism. She is there to comment on things that she cannot possibly comprehend. It is this lack of comprehension which qualifies her to appear on the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland show. She is able to present the British establishment perspective untainted by any awareness of the reality and unsullied by any relevant experience. Being wrapped in the cocoon of a prestigious BBC current affairs programme is supposed to normalise this perspective.
I didn’t watch the edition of Sunday Politics Scotland on which Katie Grant appeared recently. I am, however, reliably informed that, delivering her haughtily disdainful verdict on the the All Under One Banner march in Glasgow the previous day (Saturday 5 May), she posed a question which should probably be read with a tone of sneering incredulity.
It looks like a body that wants one thing. But if they ever got that thing then what would happen?
Interesting and informative as it might be to dissect and analyse this comment in some detail, I’m going to focus on the bit where she asks, presumably with an air of snide perplexity, “then what would happen?”. This is notable, not because of the dumb but proud incomprehension in the face of a massive exercise in popular democracy – as noted earlier, if Katie Grant was capable of understanding the motives and aspirations of those participating in the march she’d be useless for the BBC’s purposes – but because it is a question neither she nor any other representative of the British establishment would think to ask of the British Nationalist ‘One Nation’ project.
If that project progresses, what then? What constitutes success? What is the end-state that British Nationalists are aiming for?
We know what is the purpose and intent of this ‘One Nation’ project. We know that the British state is driven by an imperative to lock Scotland into a political union unilaterally reformed to better serve the British ruling elites. We know that they want to undo a devolution experiment which, from their perspective, has gone disastrously wrong.
We know that they want to deny Scotland’s democratic right of self-determination.
We know that they want to emasculate the Scottish Parliament.
We know that they want to dismantle Scotland’s democratic institutions.
We know that they want to prepare Scotland’s public services for sale to profiteering corporations.
We know that they want to prevent Scotland’s land and resources being taken out of the hands of grasping individuals and exploitative businesses and used for the benefit of the many.
But then what happens?
Do they suppose that the people of Scotland will meekly submit to their democratic rights being denied?
Do they imagine the people of Scotland won’t defend the only Parliament that they elect?
Do they think the people of Scotland will quietly tolerate the transfer of powers to an unelected shadow government accountable only to the British executive?
Have they even considered how the people of Scotland might react to the privatisation of precious public services such as NHS Scotland?
Have they envisaged the response when Scotland’s people are overruled on the issue of fracking just as we were on the matter of EU membership?
Suppose they proceed with their plan to absorb Scotland into ‘Greater England’, then what?
Do they really think Scotland’s independence campaign can be utterly vanquished?
Do they seriously suppose the Yes movement can be crushed out of existence?
Do they imagine the aspirations of Scotland’s people will simply evaporate?
Something close to half Scotland’s people want independence. Many more are at least content with devolution. Only a relatively tiny minority favour the anti-democratic British Nationalist project. Suppose the British state persists in pandering to that minority while contemptuously disregarding the rest, then what?
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