Reflections on the EU, the BBC, and voting for both while holding your nose

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Commentary by Derek Bateman

And I thought the Holyrood elections would take precedence over Europe…no sooner do I write it than the First Minister does exactly the opposite, proving how out of touch with the Sturgeon leadership I am.

Derek Bateman
Derek Bateman

Off she goes to the enemy capital to encourage raging English Kippers to embrace refugees and whistle Ode to Joy. What about the council tax? I hear you call. What about the fiscal framework? Well, she’s not listening to that claptrap, not when there’s a chance to grandstand to the loony Unionists and get on the 10 o clock news as Tartan Nicola, somewhere between Mother Teresa and Joan of Arc.

Holyrood is the cooncil election by comparison with a joust with Boris and Dave to earn the admiration of liberal England. The positive case for EU membership she was laying out with emphasis on workers’ right, welfare with dignity and permissive values is so off the Brit agenda that lefties were tweeting how novel and refreshing it sounded. Which I suppose means she probably does know what she’s talking about.

Maybe too she realises that the support for Holyrood is rock solid and she can afford to gallivant on European business without losing votes. I had wondered for a while if all this Labour talk of the SNP being guaranteed to win was a ploy to undermine their vote because I don’t ever remember a party conceding victory weeks in advance and writing off their own chances to publicly. Back in the 80’s George Younger announced that the Tories were going to win in, I think the regional elections. The following day – after their slaughter – I reminded him of what he’d said to which he replied: Well, I was wrong….Labour aren’t bothering to maintain such fiction.

(I had a similar moment with John Nott at the Ministry of Defence just after the invasion of the Falklands. I said: You told us the defences of the islands were secure despite your budget cuts. What do you say today? He replied: Well, they obviously weren’t.)

On Europe, I’m with Yanis.

I’m going to hold my nose and vote Yes because I believe in the project and can’t see it reforming unless we stay in, once the neo cons are out of Downing Street or the Scots are out of the Union. Then we can campaign from the inside. I don’t buy the fear-mongering, just as I didn’t buy it during the indyref and find it spooky how the language today mirrors some of the daft stuff we had to put up with. An organised and educated population has nothing to fear from political change. Whatever happens we will make it work. I just don’t see the need for withdrawal from a club of nations designed to be self-supporting (except for Greece, of course) while continuing in membership – at huge cost – of the single market and exposing ourselves to the risk of ever more attritional market-based policies. The move for withdrawal is just the inevitable consequence of an internal right-wing Tory Party struggle and a Westminster failure to plan and co-ordinate immigration.

Sturgeon: Euro-ref balancing act
Sturgeon: Euro-ref balancing act

I see an article today suggesting London might be granted special status as a newly-defined city state in the EU if the UK votes for Out as it is hugely pro-EU and so rich that Brussels won’t want to lose it. Hmm. I understand the dynamic of that argument but suggest Brussels would find it easier dealing with a rebelling existing country with its own government appealing for help to remain than it would devising a whole new form of membership for a city without state infrastructure. Imagine how worrying a special London status would be for France/Paris or Germany/Frankfurt. Mind you, they’d give a leery eye to an EU region too, I dare say.

I’m sure Brexit will play a large part in the pilot programmes being made at Pacific Quay to pave the way for the famous Scottish Six which has kicked off one of those wondrous arguments that could happen in our benighted wee branch office of UK Ltd. An entire nation is actually discussing whether it should have its own news service. Five million people, 15 universities, the best-educated school leavers in the world, a self-governing state-let – unsure if it can handle its own news service. Nothing could sum up timorous, querulous, retiring, embarrassed Scotland better than: We’re not good enough to reflect the world to our own people. Could somebody else do it for us? Please.

COCKY

It strikes me that there is some aspect of nationalism or independence which so discombobulates some people that they lose all sense of proportion. It’s like a 19th century kirk elder reacting to witchcraft. Fear and dread drives them to extreme reactions which at times are comical. To see an experienced, well-schooled hack of the old tradition like Alan Cochrane raging about the BBC giving in to the Nats is unintentionally funny. Wouldn’t reflecting modern Scotland be a better phrase? Have you read Cochrane bemoaning the lack of democracy in a single MP holding all executive power over the entire country?

Does anyone who  knows how the country works really imagine that the BBC will broadcast live the Golden Spurtle Porridge Championships and At Home with Nicola in order to appease the SNP? If that were to be possible, wouldn’t it be the biggest own goal in broadcast history and damaging to the SNP? Even the usually intelligent Ken Macintosh, a former BBC producer, sounds unsure that this is the right move because he won’t hear Laura Kuennsberg. Actually, I’m pretty sure he will. But isn’t it a sign of the London dependency – the parochial fear – that so afflicts them?

That, rather than any Glasgow-based news service, is what is really embarrassing.

That’s not to say our friends at Pacific Quay won’t bugger it up. It isn’t so much the journalists as the executives who lack opposable thumbs at BBC Scotland.

If they’d come up with this idea a year before the indyref and demanded the money to pay for it, it would have been very difficult for London to turn it down. Instead the management said there was no need for extra resources – it was business as usual. Except of course they were simultaneously undergoing a ruthless clear-out of staff, excising so many of those with the nous to run the service they now seem to want.

GARY

Isn’t it one reason executives are paid so well – they’re meant to plan properly for foreseeable changes and unexpected contingencies. This episode hasn’t shone a kindly light on the new Head of News Gary Smith who appears to have conspired to keep his own staff in the dark – a classic piece of BBC chicanery that will go a long way to defining how he is judged. It drops him into the bracket I forecast – that of London placeman conniving with the bosses rather than putting himself on the side of the staff.

There are conspiracies now that this is set up to fail which sounds far too tricky for the BBC management to organise. And imagine if it was to crash and end in embarrassment, it would be a major fail for the existing board. Far more likely is that they are bungling their way into new territory and will require the staff to rescue them.

And have you heard the BBC Trust agitating on this? The people’s watchdog is another institutional failure stuffed with worthies who just love being ‘part of the Beeb.’ Is careerist Bill Matthews still there? Who knows, such is the subliminal profile he keeps. The only thing the BBC could do with is a dose of what the loony Unionists fear – some interference to make sure the people’s broadcaster at least attempts to get it right.