Podcast: Our media and the shifting sands of foreign affairs


We are living in an unpredictable world, with wars in the Middle East, turmoil in Europe, and the Trump ascendancy in the United States. What should we make of all this, and is there a particularly Scottish perspective?

David Pratt

Journalist and foreign correspondent David Pratt, a contributor to The Herald and Sunday Herald, has just returned from one of his frequent trips to war-torn Iraq. He tells podcast host Derek Bateman about the role of the war reporter, and differing approaches of the media to coverage of foreign affairs.

David believes there are lessons to be learned in Scotland, both in the context of our media and future politics.

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  1. I am very interested in your shared thoughts about Scottish perspectives on the rest of the world. It would be great to hear about the lives of a wide range of ordinary (best meaning of the word!) people in other parts of the world, and not only on the decisions and power-struggles of those in power.
    Though the decisions and power-struggles of those in power do have their own importance.

    Your comments on soft power and soft diplomacy are also very interesting. And surely Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government are doing exactly this already in a small way, for example training women as negotiators and mediators working for peace in parts of the world where their is conflict.

    Can I make a plea to broadcasters /podcasters to abandon the phrase ‘punch above one’s weight’ in all contexts, but especially in the context of soft power, and soft diplomacy? It is such a macho, aggressive image that sets people’s thought off along a binary and violent direction, which does nothing to help people think in a broader and more creative way.

    Always good to hear of new ideas from those with different experiences. Thanks.

  2. Mr Pratt is an experienced, well-informed and insightful observer of foreign affairs and we could certainly do with many more of such people. However, we have the media ownership we have in the UK and it is very narrowly based – few owners, the key employees coming substantially from similar social backgrounds (or having been inducted into that class) and, essentially, London based, serving the interests of the City. And, of course, the BBC, is run by management from largely the same backgrounds. Mr Pratt pointed to the Scandinavian model where the media business established its own archives and resources. But, it is clear, we are not going to get that in the UK. Both talked admiringly of Channel 4 News, but, its reputation rests mainly on John Sissons. John Snow and company, as well as being the publicity arm of UKIP are as metropolitanly smug as the BBC. They are the Ruth Davidson of news: a media created myth.

    I hope that an independent Scotland would have a more cosmopolitan media and that its diplomats could play roles similar to those of the Irish and the Norwegians.

    The only real way forward I can see is via the social media and the kinds of outfits like Common Space, Newsnet, etc combining with other similarly independent organisations in other parts of the world to provide the kind of comprehensive alternative perspectives we so badly need. Scotland has a hiugely internationally successful higher education sector and, it seems to me that by contacts made through studies and with the Scottish diaspora, we can begin to put together a feasible alternative to the narrow base of our current UK media.

  3. There is an underlying assumption that the US and uk forgot to plan for the aftermath of Iraq, Afganistan and Libya.

    Is this the case or is the the excuse for leaving these countries in chaos and a new version the Cold War to frighten western populations in the the elites way of thinking and obedience?

    It’s easier for the US and uk elite to explain the chaos away by stating it was down to planning and they can continue to plunder as the Middle East burns.


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