You don’t need a crystal ball to see into the future, the first edition of BBC’s Question Time gave a glimpse into the next 1000 days. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, was bullied, harried and talked over as she tried to defend Scottish independence… and that was just the “impartial” chairman, David Dimbleby.
Was it sexism? Was it anti-Scottish bias? Or was it just pure ignorance? It’s difficult to tell, as all three are amongst the most regular stars of BBC’s flagship politics programme (along with Melanie Philips – what a coincidence…) Perhaps Dimbleby just has a particular dislike of Nicola Sturgeon. He has form, after all – few in the Scottish political blogosphere have forgotten the way he rudely silenced Nicola when she dared to bring up a Scottish issue when Question Time was in Glasgow, saying it wasn’t applicable to the rest of the UK audience, despite Question Time regularly waxing lyrical about matters purely of concern to Londoners without so much as a word from Dimbleby. Whatever it was, it was unacceptable. Douglas Alexander was allowed to carp at the Deputy First Minister from the sidelines, demanding an apology for something someone else said (and which he misquoted grotesquely). It was like watching the school bully whispering insults into someone’s ear just loud enough for everyone to hear, and the teacher doing nothing to stop it. The fact that the usually rabid right-winger Kelvin MacKenzie came away looking like the second most reasonable person on the panel – including the chairman – speaks volumes.
So over the next 1000 days we can, at best, expect pro-independence speakers to be shown no respect and, at worst, see them treated like pariahs. However, we also witnessed the kind of lies we will be told again and again. Dimbleby himself goading the Tory UK Transport minister to say that Scotland was subsidised by England (a claim he has made himself on the programme on more than one occasion), Lord Ashdown making a spurious case for unionism based on defence issues and romanticising about fighting together in WWII (when was the last time the UK fought alone? Being a separate country from the USA has not stopped warmongering UK Prime Ministers from allying us to neoliberal US wars…), Douglas Alexander making grand statements of the “better together, weaker apart” ilk, without one iota of substance or fact behind the bluster… And all of it passed by without any comment or correction.
The battle lines are being drawn. On the independence side stand the SNP, the Scottish Greens, and facts; on the unionist side stand lies, Labour, Tories, Liberal Democrats, and the full force of the UK media, including the supposedly impartial state broadcaster which we all help pay for. Every penny of Scottish licence fees spent on the BBC’s news and political output concerning the referendum is being used to keep Scotland down. It’s not good enough. The Scottish independence referendum will be a once in a generation opportunity for some, and a once in a lifetime chance for others. It must not be missed due to misinformation pumped out by parties with vested interests and allowed to wallow in people’s minds by a compliant media.
Again and again we see the ridiculous claim that Scotland is subsidised by England. This is a lie – there is no other word for it – and it must be stamped out of the public’s consciousness if we are to avoid people being scared off independence because of unfounded fears. Whenever someone says Scotland would be worse off, it must be challenged. It is not good enough to blithely repeat the opinions of unionist politicians as if they were expounding facts, such as the BBC has done here. For those who dismiss suggestions of inherent bias in the BBC’s reporting, just take a look at the headline, written as if Osborne was stating a fact backed with evidence. We need our state broadcaster to ask the questions that we can’t ask ourselves, questions like “what is your evidence for that statement?”; but instead, we get unquestioned obedience.
These are just the calling shots. It’s going to get a lot worse. We will see the lies multiply, and repeated ad nauseum. Douglas Alexander claimed on Question Time that we need a “different debate”, before proceeding to show us what that “different debate” was – a dirty tricks campaign, distorting people’s words to fit his skewed narrative and just generally, as they say, playing the (wo)man, not the ball. Anything that we say can – and will – be twisted out of all recognition to try and show independence supporters as swivel-eyed, knuckle-dragging, anti-English heidbangers. As the positive case for the union (which has still to rear it’s ugly head, despite months of expectation of its arrival) fails miserably, they will go negative. More negative than 1997’s “demon eyes” campaign. More negative than the lies in last year’s futile AV referendum. Think the borderline racism Republicans in the USA utilised against Barack Obama, and then multiply that magnitude tenfold. With the full force of the UK establishment against us, it’s going to be a torrid time.
And like the stereotypical self-destructive, masochistic Scotsman that I am, I’m going to enjoy every second of it. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter what they throw at us – we’re still going to win.