Reading for Indy…..

A common cry is “There’s not enough information”. I don’t get this as the indyref is filled with information. The YES campaign in particular has an overwhelming amount of information available. Most of it however isn’t on the mainstream media. It’s scattered through websites and blogs. Some are excellent and factual ( and some are brilliantly analytical ( and some are full of the thoughts of people who care, people with passion. So here’s a list of the sites I visit regularly, but the list is growing all the time as more people become the media. If there’s any you think I’ve missed, feel free to comment and let me know. OK so this is a very YES list, but all you need to counterbalance it is BBC Scotland and the rest of the mainstream media…… J


And then there are books. Luath Press ( deserves praise for publishing a whole series of books on the Independence theme. A hat tip to Pat Kane for giving me a suggested reading list. I’m still working on it. Here’s a few I’ve read:

(The best bit of all about reading books like these is that they’re not bogged down in tit-for-tat claim and counter-claim about economics or the single “point of the day” which the MSM has decided to jump on)


Blossom by Lesley Riddoch

A great book. Easy to read and fascinating too. Lesley takes us with her on her journeys around Scotland to show us things which we are already capable of and which have happened on the ground. Sadly, in many cases the weight of bureaucracy and officialdom has stomped on the good which was springing up. But the point this book emphatically makes is this – Can we do it? Yes we can! And this book gives example after example of people who have taken responsibility for events in their areas and are making things better. This is an inspirational book because it shows how much ordinary people doing extraordinary things can achieve. The challenge from “Blossom” is to sustain these feats and build on them.


Caledonian Dreaming by Gerry Hassan

This book challenged me on some of the assumptions I’d made over what and how things could change in Scotland following a YES vote. Gerry Hassan has done a massive amount of meticulous research for this book. I marked many sections of it to come back to and read again. Not a book to read lightly, it deserves quiet time a bit of concentration and thought. It’s brilliant though, because it made me think and challenged my preconceptions. It dispels some popular myths around how Scotland changed during the “Thatcher” era. Gerry Hassan lays bare how Scotland is actually run just now, and just what might need to change following a YES vote in September.

If you read only one book before September 18th, make it this one.


Arguing for Independence by Stephen Maxwell

I’m still reading this one, as I type this blog post. So far, so very encouraging. The subtitle for this book is Evidence, Risk and the Wicked Issues. Stephen Maxwell lays out the cases for Independence in a logical, analysed and thoughtful manner. He covers:

  • Democratic
  • Economic
  • Social
  • International
  • Cultural
  • Environmental

All cases are presented in a factual manner with sources listed. Another thought provoking read.


The Common Weal by The Reid Foundation

This is next on my list.



Anyone got any other suggestions?


The First Edition of Crossfire – BBC Radio Scotland

So the BBC has launched, with very little razzmatazz, the “Crossfire” show on Sunday mornings on Radio Scotland. This replaces the much loved and applauded “Headlines” show. So how did it go? What are the impressions left after the first edition? I listened to it all the way through. If you want to find what was being said about it in real time while it was on air search twitter for the hashtag #rscrossfire.

Sadly, the impressions are not good at all. The show followed this pattern:

  • Host (John Beattie) introduces a topic
  • Co-presenter 1 gives their version of that topic
  • Co-presenter 2 gives their version of that topic
  • Very polite discussion follows with both co-presenters repeating what they just said.

And so on…….

Now, it was very polite, very measured, very civilised even. No-one spoke over the top of anyone else. No views put across by any presenter were challenged in any way. And there, in that statement is the whole problem. No-one was challenged. Nothing said was disputed. There was no “Hang on a minute, can you explain how you got to that figure/view/factoid?”. Nothing. Not for either the YES or the NO side. Both were guilty of simply parroting their standard messages, which we’ve all heard so many times before, without any attempt to get behind the soundbites. It was boring. Pure and simple. Listening to the two co-presenters reading from their “scripts” for each topic does not make for a good radio show.

Now John Beattie is a nice guy and he fronts a terrific rock’n’roll band but sadly for this programme he’s not Paxman. To be fair, John may not have had much time to prepare for this the first show as the line-up for the show wasn’t even on the BBC Radio Scotland website as the show was being broadcast. So he was probably parachuted in relatively late in the day.

The only time the show became anything like lively was when they interviewed Claire Howell. All three hosts spoke with her and asked her questions about motivation and such like. She’s a motivational and psychology guru who has worked with Alex Salmond and many other leaders in sport and industry. She came over as natural and refreshingly not speaking from a script. More please!!


So BBC Scotland News – how are you going to fix this? (another question for the cynics might be “Do you even want to fix it?”) Here’s a couple of suggestions :

  1. Give the host more time to prep. John Beattie does a fair job on his lunchtime slot, but now he’s on 6 days a week. To make this a decent show the host needs to be able to grill those presenting views , so QED the host needs to have a decent level of understanding of both sides of the indyref debate.
  2. Get more “External” people’s views on this. You are the BBC for goodness sake. You have (or had) clout in the world. Why not invite Prof Noam Chomsky onto the show? Why not invite other well qualified economists onto the show?
  3. Lighten up. It was dull and boring. Something that could never be said of “Headlines”.

Just as a comparison – the Sunday Post on the same day carried a front page story where they had contacted Prof Dunleavy and had him write up the costs of setting up Indy Scotland. Now if D.C. Thomson can do this, why can’t the BBC? Is it because they don’t want to?

2 out of 10 and a “Not good enough. Must try harder”.

How do you solve a problem like the BBC in Scotland?

I’m feeling frustrated about the BBC in Scotland. For me it’s difficult to call them BBC Scotland, because they don’t appear to be doing much that’s Scottish. They have offices and staff in Scotland, but don’t seem to have much that’s Scottish in their outlook.

I posted this over on Derek Bateman’s blog a couple of days ago –

“Like others, when the Kezia Dugdale to present (OK co-present) a show story broke I really thought it was a wind up, and internet borne fantasy. But it’s not.

I really worry about the power of the BBC. It has to be the wall-to-wall appearances Nigel Farage on the BBC which gave UKIP the result we’ve seen. If they’d given the Greens the same amount of airtime we’d have had a Green landslide. There’s no way to prove this, but it just feels that that is what happened.

The BBC has now tried, tested and proven it’s power. It knows it can get the public to respond in the way it wants. The beta test is over.

So they put a new figurehead on a show, to get the public used to the sound of that voice. Then increase, to being on the screens. Get the public used to seeing that person in their living rooms, their name on on our PCs. All the time. It’s not even subliminal. It’s blatant. We know it’s happening, they know we know, but they really don’t care. Who is pulling these strings?

Unless we, the public, are prepared to risk a Criminal conviction we can do nothing about it. It seems to me that the biggest threat to a YES vote is the BBC. In gameplay you’d say it was playing in “God mode”. Outside the normal rules and controls. Is it time to revitalise a “Can Pay, Won’t Pay” campaign? What alternatives do we have? I can only think that we all need to be wearing our YES badges, have YES stickers on our cars, on our business vans. be talking to colleagues, friends, social groups. Word of Mouth is the best method we’ve got.

Can you imagine waking up on the 19th Sept to hear it’s been a 51:49 vote to NO. “If only I’d got up and talked to people”, “If only I’d gone along to that meeting”.

Word of Mouth, Conversations. They’re even more important than you think.”


Since then, I’ve thought a bit more about the selection of a serving politician to present a show. Now I don’t care which party the politician represents. If they are an MSP then that’s their job. To represent the people who voted for them and then the party of which they are a member. So why is the BBC giving airtime over to a person who can’t help but have a bias? Especially during a period of time when impartiality and even-handedness is expected of this publicly funded organisation. I don’t know. I really don’t. To be clear – I don’t care which colour of the rainbow the MSP represents. It’s surely just fundamentally wrong to have a serving politician fronting a current affairs (or any programme really) in the run up to an election or referendum. Yet this is exactly what the BBC in Scotland is doing.

I took the time to call the Electoral Commission to ask them if this was within their area of influence. They were very nice and helpful people to talk to. I called their main phone number in London and they called me back from Edinburgh and I had a friendly discussion with their lady in Scotland. Turns out that the Electoral Commission has zero powers over the media. They told me the only mechanism for registering a complaint about the BBC is to complain to ………. the BBC. Or perhaps to Ofcom, but they weren’t sure if Ofcom had any powers over the BBC. The BBC is its own judge, jury and non-executioner. There’s plenty of evidence of the “efficiency” and the “impact” of making a complaint about the BBC to the BBC on other blogs.

So what else can a concerned licence payer do? Could a “Can Pay, Won’t Pay” campaign cause them any problems? The licence fee is £145.50, which is approx. £12/month. There are just under 4 months left to the Referendum so if I put my £48 into an escrow account instead of paying it to the BBC then would that make any difference to them? No. Of course it wouldn’t. It might make me feel better, but I’d be risking a criminal charge – small risk, but it’s still there.

Now, if lots of people did the same thing then would they notice, well maybe I thought……. So let’s have some fun with numbers.

If there are about 2 million households in Scotland, then that’s about £290M pounds paid in licence fees to the BBC annually. I’ve seen higher estimates on other blogs. If there’s one third of the year before the referendum, then you can extrapolate that one third of the licence fee is due in this time – about £100M. That’s a lot of money. Would they notice if that stopped? Well yes, probably, but it would depend on every single licence fee payer in Scotland adopting a “Can Pay, Won’t Pay” attitude and that’s not going to happen. If 10% of the licence fee payers adopted this attitude would they notice? That’s about 200,000 household – a massive number to get behind any campaign but it’s only about £10M. Sadly I doubt if the BBC in Scotland would notice even if it could happen. It’s only the equivalent of what they pay the likes of Clarkson + a few others in one year.

So it brings me back to my point of frustration – how do you solve a problem like the BBC in Scotland? And I admit I don’t know. The bias is obvious, the reach and influence is the biggest and best.

Back to word of mouth I guess.