Land O Kilts

tumblr_mdwtnyQThk1rgan7mo1_500By Mike Small

Last night’s Newsnight special was like tv coverage of Scottish politics in a co-production between Matt Groening, BBC Scotlandshire and The Onion. View the whole shortbread tin extravaganza here.

Ian Katz and his team were clearly drawing on the Big Pot of Jockland Cliches, another dip and we might have seen the Alexander Brothers, Oor Wullie and the Krankies pop up. Funny as this was, it also did us – and the wider UK audience it was presumably aimed at – a disservice.

Now Kirsty Wark is a national icon on a par with Lorraine Kelly and Greyfriar’s Bobby, but she also has form. In 2005 she was dropped because of “difficulties about impartiality” after holidaying with then Labour Leader Jack McConnell.

She was also hauled up after her abusive interview with Salmond in 2007. Newsnight’s editor Peter Barron defended Wark but admitted that Salmond had been “cut off…in a way that appeared rude and dismissive”. The presenter was forced to write to the politician to apologise.

Lat night the programme opened on what Wark and the No campaign think its their strongest cards, that we will be ‘separated’, hence the setting of the ‘most powerful symbols of the Union’, er, the Tweed bridge.

The galling thing was not her language, tone or obvious bias it was, for me, her Pibroch comment, dripping with incredulity. “Would Scotland create it’s own currency, the pibroch perhaps?” she remarks at one point.

It’s not Kirsty’s fault. She’s of a generation where Scotland was a place you left to get on. When she’s on Newsnight she’s often seen reporting world affairs, or interviewing cabinet ministers or whistle-blowers. A couple of weeks ago she was standing in for Kaye Adams. Her topic? “Have you had packaging problems? Call us with your worst packaging nightmare”.

From Snowden to sellotape.

It’s not difficult to see why she might see London as the place with all the power money and jobs when she returns to a Pacific Quay on the Clyde (built at a cost of £188 million) in which job losses have been a constant theme. In fact BBC Scotland is to lose 10% of its staff by 2017, and this after years of cuts.

But this isn’t good enough. It made the case for independent broadcasting better than anything I’ve seen for years, though the results were hilarious. As the mood swung and the tightly framed arguments began to fall apart the Tweedy audience were treated to a slightly hysterical Margaret Curran and an increasingly desperate looking Wark. A media fail on all fronts.

It reached farce at one point with Kirsty introducing renowned oil-expert, er, Glenn Campbell in the audience. Kirsty also described Scotland as ‘one of the smallest nations in the world’. In fact when Scotland becomes independent, we’ll be 117th in the list of nations by population. ABOVE 80 OTHERS.

She described free personal care in Scotland as ‘bounty’ at one point

I could go on, but why bother? It all turned out well. As the ‘Don’t Knows’ trooped past poor old Kirsty’s face fell. “Vis unita fortior” – indeed.

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25 replies

  1. However I think she was shown up by the impossibly tolerant Pat Kane, (how he does it I don’t know) Ivan McKee from Busness for Scotland and the woman from NC.

    As someone commented, elsewhere, by the end it was like a BBC Hogmanay programme circa 1970.

    They’ve been told in BBC HQ London they have to be seen to be covering the referendum, of course that means quantity, sadly not quality.

    • We are having difficulty understanding the reference in the opening paragraph. Not only are we a serious broadcaster, unlike the Onion which is clearly a spoof site, but the programme seemed perfectly reasonable to us. Had we made it we would have insisted everyone wore kilts and Kirsty would have been handing round deep-fried confectionary while whistling Murran’s Song from Braveheart.

  2. In 1998 I was working in a call centre for the much maligned National Rail Enquiries phone service. My shift was due to end at 11pm. I took a call from a woman calling on behalf of Kirsty Wark. “She’s running late, do you think you could ask the sleeper train at Euston to wait until she arrives?”. Of course, I said, playfully.

  3. There is a flaw in your piece, Mike. It assumes this stuff is broadcast for Scots. It isn’t. It is designed and produced by London for London. Every cliché tells you that down to Kirsty’s approach. Network programmes play to the majority audience. Guess who that is. That’s why they sound like Jackanory at times. They can afford to take nothing for granted with an ignorant audience and have to reflect the known views of the majority.

    It isn’t true that Kirsty left for London. On the contrary, she stayed in Glasgow and commuted when others – Naughtie, Marr, Mair – headed south. What she gives London is what London wants. Remember this is a show whose star is Paxman whose stock in trade is sneer and insult. The producers encourage it. I was told when presenting Newsnicht in Glasgow to make it an act, to be big and dominate the studio, to have a go. It wasn’t supposed to be deferential and informative.

    Kirsty has always known on which side the breid was slaistered. You might slip in the odd jibe yourself if they paid you £350,000 a year.

    The real story here is that OUR national broadcaster makes programmes ABOUT us that are not FOR us. Our whole culture is overlaid with an outsider’s view of us and even the broadcasters based here ultimately owe allegiance to London. Your point that Newsnight made the case for a new national broadcaster is absolutely right. But it won’t come before next September. Derek Bateman

    • Oh I know it’s not for us. That’s why I say: ‘ it did us – and the wider UK it was presumably aimed at – a disservice.’

      I also know they live in Glasgow – but she works in London 65 working days a year, according to the Independent. It’s not about leaving necessarily its about where you see money and power lying (quite rightly).

      • Whatever is said about Eddie Mair, unlike the others, you won’t see him wading into the debate like Marr and Wark, he knows he’s made a choice to live out of Scotland, perfectly reasonable as well. What I find irksome is that the others want to have all options open to them. So we have Wark pitching up on the BBC Scotland phone-in, Naughtie, now part time in Edinburgh, who, to suit his lifestyle, will be presenting GMS on Thursday’s and Friday’s. And well Marr taking his chance to update an old book on the back of independence.

        Mair is well out of their tawdry league.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head Derek. Watching programs like this and Question Time from Scotland they seem madly skewed and ignorant, some clever parody perhaps. When I talk to my colleagues in Yorkshire the next day it’s obvious that they regard these same programs as having inspired insight – at least the ones who are nice enough to their Scottish colleagues to try to keep up with the issues.

      If it makes you feel any better the average Scottish perceptions of English folk is usually just as laughably off-beam.

      The problem here is what effect did the program have on eligible, doubting, Scottish voters? I suspect that Pat Kane did the independence cause a great service with his dignified response to ludicrous nonsense, and the Beeb probably damaged Project Fear, contrary to their intentions, by giving gung-ho, ignorant support and peeing off the doubters.

      I agree totally with my Lancastrian colleague who said “I hope you get independence so you all bugger off and stop moaning”.

  4. Glen Cambell, oily not oil!

  5. I really appreciated the omnipotent contribution imperiously handed down from the pompous ” retired government adviser” that was speedily contradicted by the man sitting next to him.
    Clearly the programme was targeted at the London audience. Who in Scotland has not watched Glen Campbell and cringed?.
    We could start a competition about nominating the most ludicrous title for a Scottish currency -”pibroch” must surely come close.

  6. The BBC is, after all, the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation, the official broadcasting arm of the British state, and it is becoming more and more obviously propagandist. When it got as blatant as this, the only thing to do, for me, short of throwing something at the screen of my rented television set, was to turn it off.

    Kirsty Wark’s personal bias was obvious right from the start, but it was her suggestion that a new Scottish currency could be called “the pibroch” that caused me to turn the television off. As well as showing bias, that comment was just plain ignorant. Somebody with as poor a grasp of the basics just shouldn’t have been presenting such a programme. Scotland HAD its own currency before the Union. It was called the pound. If Scotland were to have its own currency again, it would, almost certainly, be called the pound, again. It would be different from the Bank of England pound, just as the Australian dollar is different from the Canadian dollar, and different from the dozen other countries which also have currencies called the dollar. Why is that such a difficult concept to grasp?

    Despite the bias shown by both Kirsty Wark and the BBC, I have been told that an “audience vote” of folk who were previously “undecided” resulted in a decisive 2 to 1 for independence. That’s good, but it doesn’t alter the fact of the bias in presentation.

  7. As you so rightly comment Mike, Kirsty Wark has previous on this, so no surprise that she could not hide her bias. The ‘pibroch’ currency remark gave the game away. She should have just gone the whole hog and call it the Scottish Cringe.

  8. I am so sorry that I missed it I will check out the BBC i player,and give it a look,but it seems almost pointless knowing who was doing (a real DOING) the chair.There many people who lack the knowledge of their own country and fail to see why everybody does not do as they want after all it is simple,if everybody it would be just perfect for them that is.I’ll be back after I watch it but am I just going to watch something that might just irk me? probably.

  9. And the pipe tune at the end? Highland Cathedral…composed by German musicians Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb. Clearly the music library went “that’s pipes, that’ll dae…”

  10. I did not see the debate last night so I can’t comment on Kirsty Wark’s remarks too much. Having read what she said I am afraid to say it appears to be only a continuation of her behaviour over the years. The same goes for the likes of Sally Magnusson, Jackie Bird, Glenn Campbell etc. I think some genuinely thought SLAB would always dominate Scottish politics.

    Although I strongly support independence, I acknowledge that many people in Scotland do not share this view. I don’t have a problem with voters who are concerned about change, or have doubts about Scottish self government. These things are natural. What I dislike intensely are people in Scotland who have knowingly and self consciously put their careers, and other interests, above their desire to be professional and basically to be honest about the constitutional debate. These people then proceed to make snide comments about their own nation, and its ability to govern itself. They appear oblivious to the damage they do to the self confidence of the people of Scotland in general. It really is a nasty, vindictive thing to take part in. This is all because they are very well financially rewarded by the British establishment, for their bending of the knee before the altar of the power elite in London.

  11. muttley79
    Exactly . You are talking about media personalties who are telling lies who know they are telling lies.
    I believe at the end of Call Kaye this morning she didn’t realise she was still live and she made a remark strongly complaining that the last speaker on had been a YES. I wonder if anyone has recorded that.

  12. Well, let’s be fair on Glenn here: maybe he meant smallest by land mass? That would make us… 116. So also above about 80 others. Huh.

    OK, what about smallest including sea territory? Still in that general area? Hum…

    Maybe he means we’re a nation of small people? Nope: average male height is 27th tallest in the world (taller than England, Wales and Northern Ireland), female height 40th.

    I know, maybe he means GDP! Oh wait, we’d be in the top, not bottom.

    Hmm…

  13. I am well away from the independence debate but oh it troubles me so much when I realise so many folk who identify as Scots know so little of their history. I understand the reasons why but it keeps the dark clouds of dependence and negativity flourishing unfortunately. As an expat in Australia I hope that the next twelve months there is an awakening to the positive prospects of being an independent nation again and I will be there in the flesh on the day. Thanks for a great journal. I read it daily. All the best to your dedicated writers.

  14. The last laugh was definitely the best, when the chap singled out on the bridge at the very end gave his reasons for voting yes. Paraphrasing but the gist of it was to dismiss voting because of short term gain for yourself, plan for the future and your kids future. ‘You’ve just got to go for it’.

  15. Slightly off topic, but I just watched the Inverness debate and what was really interesting was that there were four members of the audience from abroad who commented. Every single one of them was unhesitatingly for independence and, in the middle of the debate about the Royal Mail, one of them, an American lady said, ” I can’t believe that you think that the case for independence rests on the price of a stamp!”

    She actually had tears in her eyes as she said this. It brings it home how cowed our people have become after three hundred years of propaganda.

  16. Yes. Cowed is the word I have been seeking to describe the way many older scots, more so than the younger generation, present when discussing independence. I, too, am an expat who now spends half the year here, and find the lack of confidence and fear of the future as an independent country disturbing. They are satisfied to shelter under the wing of Big Daddy, the UK, and scared to take responsibility for their own future. This from salt of the earth people whose fortitude, resourcefulness and courage is legendary. A sad heritage indeed from 300 years of union.

    • Cowed? From what public opinion is shown on BBC Scotland, they appear to go for the less than intelligent person on a (usually Glasgow) street. It’s maybe me, but they sound like the type of person who would not know what a ballot box or polling station looks like, but are willing to give a sound bite just to get on TV. I am 57 and will be voting yes, my late father was born in 1921, fought from 1939 to 1945 from North Africa to Austria, via Italy,(he always said he fought only for his country, Scotland), he supported independence from the early 60s. So here are 2 men not cowed by oppression. But one was willing to give up his life for Scotland, and I in my humble way will stand up and be counted to support my country’s journey back to being a full independent country. Remember do not believe everything you see on TV, especially BBC Scotland. We are not all cowards.

  17. The great thing about Pibrochs is that they last a very long time!

  18. Will that be Lady Wark of Cornton Vale, and Lord Campbell od Piper Alpha.I havnae seen the Anglo Saxophone for 12 months.It is great. come on oot in the sun or rain

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