Arts & Culture - Art

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Unanswered questions have been raised about Scotland’s cultural institutions

Black Watch: an international success story for NTS

Black Watch: an international success story for NTS


Scotland has a long and justifiably proud history of cultural exchange with creative artists from every corner of the globe.  Film festivals, writers festivals, music festivals and big international festivals like the annual August jamboree in Edinburgh have all worked their socks off to bring the best of international culture and international artists to our shores.

Our homegrown artists have done likewise in the opposite direction. Ask any creative artist in any artistic discipline and they’ll tell you one of the best parts of participating in the arts is meeting and working with people from elsewhere, learning about different cultures. The cross-pollination of ideas benefits everyone.

It would be a strange sort of artist who only wanted to suck at their mother country’s teat.  Over the years I’ve been fortunate in helping move culture in both directions.  When I edited the Rebel Inc imprint of Canongate Books we published novels by Norwegian, Moroccan, Persian, American, Italian and Spanish authors alongside Scottish writers.  This was a nice balance that any outward-facing publishing operation could strive for.  The only football book we published was written by a Geordie about English football fans adventures in the 2000 Euro Championships!  Rebel Inc could be called many things but narrow-minded Scottish parochialism wasn’t one of them.

More recently – with Neu! Reekie! – Michael Pederson and myself have brought a steady flow of Irish, English, Northern Irish and American poets to our monthly Edinburgh events and we’ve tried to introduce our audiences to the great artists of world animation. Our plans for 2013 include bringing over poets from much further afield.  This is simply following in a well-trodden path that festivals such as Stanza and the Edinburgh International Book Festival do so fantastically on a much bigger scale.

Not everyone involved in the arts is necessarily a writer, musician or artist.  There are technicians, facilitators, enablers and organisers at every level contributing a variety of skills to develop, improve and promote our many cultures. Many of these folk often come from far beyond the shores of Scotland and have acquired new skills and different ways of doing things in their travels.

How could it be otherwise in a healthy creative environment?  Perhaps it should be compulsory for every major arts organisation here to include at least one person from outside Scotland on their boards. in addition to what they would bring to the table it could help keep things from sliding towards the parochial.

I should state that this has nothing to do with the current political debate on Scottish Independence.  These are simple ABCs of cultural cross-pollination which I doubt if anyone on either side of the Indy divide would disagree with.  These are the ways a healthy grassroots culture flourishes.

But what of the management boards of Scotland’s large cultural institutions?  Do the same rules apply there?  Most sensible folk would agree it would be patently absurd, and discriminatory too, if Scottish arts organisations adopted a ‘Scots only” rule for administrators.  To my knowledge, thankfully, no one has ever voiced such an opinion.

Yet despite this a number of high profile artists and thinkers have raised questions (lost in the crossfire) over the lack of Scots involved in running our cultural institutions.

In his now famous essay in the UNSTATED anthology Alasdair Gray wrote:

“By the 1970s the long list of Scots doing well in the south was over balanced by English with the highest positions in Scottish electricity, water supply, property development, universities, local civil services and art galleries.”

This line of reasoning sparked a furious reaction when he named individuals from the present.  Yet Gray was articulating a concern which has privately vexed many others, most of whom were too afraid to say so out loud for fear of being pounced on as anti-English by a Scottish media which is uniformly London-centric in its political and cultural outlook.

Gray’s concerns are not new.  In 1988 the broadcaster George Rosie made a programme for STV which examined similar claims.  This is what he said about the making of the programme:

“Les Wilson of Scottish Television and I spent a few weeks making a television programme which went out under the title of ‘The Englishing of Scotland’ – a title which, incidentally, was conjured up by Controller of Programmes Gus Macdonald. When the idea of trying to get some idea of how much of Scotland was being run by non-Scots was first mooted I was a shade reluctant. It seemed a vaguely unpleasant thing to do. Not quite racist, but perhaps open to charges of cultural paranoia. Ammunition which could be used against a useful minority. That kind of misgiving.

But then when I started doing the research I moved rapidly from being reluctant, to being fascinated, then amazed, then appalled. Because it seemed that almost every institution into which I was peering universities, scientific research institutions, charities, colleges, theatre managements, art galleries, new towns, municipal bodies, health boards etc – was being run by people who were born, brought up and educated furth of Scotland. My misgivings disappeared. This was clearly a syndrome which was widespread, growing fast, and needed to be looked into.

I also realised that this was an issue which went straight to the heart of Scotland’s ambivalent constitutional position. The essence of what the writer Ian Jack called Scotland’s role as “a nearly country’. On the one hand it seemed absurd – churlish even – to complain about one’s fellow Britons taking jobs and buying land and property in their own country. But on the other hand it seemed equally absurd that so many important Scottish institutions should be run by non-Scots, by people brought up in a different education and culture.”

In the noise and fury that followed the SoS article many people including myself are wondering to what extent, if any, these claims can be quantified. Two questions are hanging around like scowling unwanted guests at a happy clappy love-in.

1) Is it really true that Scots are marginalised, overlooked, or even discriminated against in the running of their own country’s institutions?

2) If this proves to be true, then how the hell has this state of affairs come about?

Anecdotal evidence has been bandied about but there isn’t enough raw data to analyse.  On Twitter I raised the idea of a “social audit” of Scotland’s institutions to ascertain if it was the case.  But to broaden it out socially into looking at the class and gender composition of the heads and boards of our public institutions, which are often shadowy quangos. Like many others I want to know who these people are and who put them there.

No sooner had I raised this than the Twitteratti started screaming like banshees.  With hindsight they had a point.  “Social audit” does sound a bit fascistic. In the current toxic atmosphere if you choose the wrong word it’s like feeding time at Edinburgh Zoo for the slavering hounds of the Unionist media.  (I’ve since deleted the Tweet and withdrawn the dodgy-sounding phrase).

Poor choice of words aside, the questions do warrant further investigation. Some sort of survey of Scottish institutions – both cultural and other public bodies – would help, to try and gauge whether Scots are under-represented, and whether these institutions reflect a narrow gender or social bandwidth.

We can take it as read that unlike STV in 1988 the Unionist media of today will never bother their backsides to investigate anything that might touch a raw Scottish nerve.  But until a comprehensive (factual rather than judgemental) survey is done claim and counter-claim will bounce around and an underlying resentment will fester on.

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  1. orpheuslyre says:

    Vicky Featherstone was a really great (English) director of NTS. It seems she agrees with George Rosie, Alasdair Gray and you. This is what she said just yesterday:

    “In terms of the Scottish scene in general, I think boards are often not very confident about appointing people whose main experience is in Scotland. In fact, I often ask myself why so many boards in Scotland seem to assume that a person from England knows better, even though I’m from England myself.”

    “So what have I learned about this business of nationhood, through being NTS director? Well first, I’ve learned not to be afraid of national identity, and to recognise that I am English. I came here thinking that I was British; I come from that part of the British left that would just reject the idea of English national identity, because it’s imperialist. So it’s been liberating to learn about national identity in a context where it’s generally not like that, not destructive or exclusive.”

    “I think that England’s traditional lack of need to understand its own nationhood is an arrogance, a lack of awareness.”

  2. Kevin,
    Here’s another ‘anecdote’ to lob in with the rest – according to a friend of a fiend (yes, fiend) the Birt revolution involved the implementation of an internal mail system at the BBC. If the addressee’s Room Number wasn’t indicated, the item would be consigned to an enormous cupboard. Annually, the ‘cupboard’ was emptied (this was at Qn Mgt Drive, Glasgow) – a skip was hired for the purpose, and the unopened material was taken away for recycling.
    Anyone else heard about this? I don’t know if it’s true, but the person who told me certainly believed it, and found it highly amusing.
    Handling vast quantities of unsolicited material is undoubtedly a problem for any ‘business’, so it could be argued (in front of a Select Committee or whatever…) that the imposition of a crude ‘filter’ was justifiable, saving license-fee cash etc. It could also be argued that the greatest written-for-tv dramas and sit-coms ever penned by Scots ended up being flogged-on as compost by B&Q (and the authors are still wondering why they never received any feedback).
    The filters more difficult to identify lie inside the minds of those appointed to senior editorial/production positions within MSM institutions – those whose sense of ‘taste’ and ‘decency’ happily coincide with those of the ruling elite(s) at any given point.
    Of course, it’s no ‘accident’ that those people arrive in such positions, having passed through previous levels of filtration via the education system and/or predominant networks. These people are not necessarily aware that they’re doing anything ‘wrong’ – they’re simply doing what they were trained to do, and they wouldn’t have been promoted unless they were doing it well.
    Unfortunately, for the purposes of this discussion, it’s difficult to get much further without calling witnesses and/or naming names. I’m in no position to do the former, and I’m not daft enough to do the latter.
    Still – the ‘gatekeepers’ know who they are. Sooner or later, one of them will break ranks and give us chapter and verse on the whole shebang…as Vonnegut might say…’so it goes’.

  3. Kev! Just found this extraordinary thing that I think could be invaluable in your noble quest. It’s called Google and it’s fucking amazing! Within seconds I nailed the board of the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Opera and all their dodgy biogs! An even briefer sketch of those saw references to St Andrews, Edinburgh University as you might have guessed- call them Scottish. Aye right! There was a mention of Dundee on Scot Op Board. Who are they trying to kid eh?! Go Kev Go!

    Not sure if you are also after middle management but if so just say the word and I’m after them! As to Scots marginalised and overlooked for such positions, we’ll need an audit of all applicants for all posts, all interviews done, members of interview panels, then interview the interviewees, but its got to be done so we can move onto the second question ( which you say is to be asked if the first one is true, but WE JUST KNOW IT IS!) and then we can move onto question 3 WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? And question 4 Why does it really really matter…??

  4. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    Google is your friend in those kind of statistic gathering terms – it’s all out there. Thanks for taking us out of this unionist parallel universe where the inequalities of the oppressor are instantly projected onto the oppressed.
    It’s easy to write like the Scotsman: “Shocked Bus driver tells of mob ordeal as passenger refuses to sit in correct seat” etc etc.
    Being oppressed is part of our cultural footprint though, people like artworks that have had to strive a bit – it sort of helps in an odd way.
    I think everybody outside of the confines of the public school axis of pringle know the score – you’ve got chinese students arriving here wearing trainspotting t-shirts.
    It’s not exactly a deep interest in the enlightenment right enough but its better than having the next Cecil Rhodes wannabe striding along the corridors.
    Anyway, thanks for the article.

  5. “No sooner had I raised this than the Twitteratti started screaming like banshees. With hindsight they had a point. “Social audit” does sound a bit fascistic. In the current toxic atmosphere if you choose the wrong word it’s like feeding time at Edinburgh Zoo for the slavering hounds of the Unionist media. (I’ve since deleted the Tweet and withdrawn the dodgy-sounding phrase).”

    Ah! Why am I not surprised that you’re incapable of admitting a mistake without alsospinning it into a further criticism of those who don’t share your views? 🙂

    But I agree that there are certainly important questions to be asked here; not least, if people in Scotland ARE being denied access to the highest levels of Scottish public life, is it because of deliberate policy (as some would seem to believe) or simply the result of there being insufficient opportunities to build a successful career — a lack of education resources, training facilities and vocational routes — north of the border? Certainly in theatre, there seems to be too few opportunities for directors to make the move up from small theatre companies to run bigger operations — unless they move south. That’s

  6. douglas clark says:

    Kevin Williamson,

    You want a ‘social audit’? Why do I think that is just, well, wrong?

    As I said yesterday, just apply a decent Job Description to the task. It is then straigtforward to determine whether the person is doing as you wish or not, regardless of nationality.

    Naturally, I would prefer it if you were nowhere near the creation of that job description.

    Frankly, this is pathetic. It ought to be obvious that the best person should get the job.

    Where I would agree with you is if the job description specified a man or a woman, a homosexual or a lesbian as a criteria. In general, that would be wrong. Unless there was a clear requirement, which is extremely rare, I must say I have looked at an enormous number of job descriptions over the years and that has never been a feature of any of the ones I looked at. Although I am aware of the literature.

    The converse is also true. You do not advertise a job with the obvious objective of employing an Eton educated twit.

    “Wanted. Eton Educated Twit for Senior Position in a Merchant Bank. Salary in the millions.”

    Seen anything like that either?


    At the end of the day it all comes down to the job description and the extent to which the candidate meets it or not. The flexibility that is allowed here is probably the point you are trying to make. It is not at all clear what criteria exhibits failure. Rebecca Brooks was retained far beyond reason, IMHO. Obviously NI thought otherwise.

    There are numerous other examples. The banking crisis would be educative.

    People appoint people. Then, generally, they stand by the aforesaid people. Often to the point of insanity. But they ought to look at what they asked these people to achieve. If they had done that, then they have no complaint. If they haven’t they ought to moan bitterly. But they don’t.

    Until it becomes public.

    That, Kevin Williamson, is how I see it.

    Arts and Crafts are no different.

    1. Indy says:

      If it worked out that the majority of people in those kinds of positions went to the same small number of private schools and the same small number of universities would you still say that? Would it just be coincidence?

      Because I think most of us look at the great and good in Scottish public life, the people who sit on boards and quangos and all the rest of it and most of them are drawn from a pretty small pool.

      And is that perhaps the reason why they do fit the job description – because the job description entails to some extent being part of that pool of people?

      There is nothing wrong in principle in carrying out an audit as Kevin suggested. It happens all the time in politics for example – we know what schools MSPs and MPs went to, we know what universities they went to, we know what jobs they did before they were elected. Nobody complains about that.

      In the same way we know quite a lot about our business leaders and other people in the private sector. So it is certainly not a mad idea in principle and we would then know what the situation actually is.

      It could be this is a fuss about nothing after all – maybe the majority of people in top positions in Scottish culture are Scottish people who went to a state school, which would reflect the general population and would be what you would expect if no other factors intervened.

      Or maybe we would find that most of them come from a much more privileged background. If that was the case then it obviously wouldn’t make them bad people and it wouldn’t mean that they were bad at their job either or that they shouldn’t be there – but it would mean that maybe we need to work a bit harder at becoming a more equal country where people have an equal chance to go in for these kinds of jobs and positions.

      Either way, unless we know what the situation actually is we are all arguing in the dark really aren’t we?

  7. douglas clark says:

    I am vaguely interested in your views on this apparently off topic subject. But, as it more directly addresses the issues around censorship, albeit not in a lesbian / homosexual way. What is your view? Just in case it’s not clear, we are talking about the Herald here;

    “Apologies Peter, I wanted this to be my last ever post on this ridiculous forum, because forum it is not. I am replying to some guy called John MacIntyre OBE and he and I are about as far apart as you can get. But moderators are the pits.

    After the brain dead morons that administer this site determined that a link to the source of this article was worthy of deletion, they did exactly that. I wrote again, in more circumspect language about the source of this. I made the point that the Herald moderators had made mugs of themselves. If you can’t see the source what are we to believe? That too was deleted. It is the Herald way.

    I am frankly beyond caring about a newspaper I used to read daily.

    Anyway, this was my comment to John MacIntyre OBE:

    “At least you found it.

    I hope I was helpful. By a process of discussion we can all move forward. It is a tad worrying that this newspaper refused a link to the original article.”


    Can you explain why you did that? And why you removed any criticism of the Herald from the post that you did allow?

    It cannot be because you are taking a partisan point of view. John MacIntyre OBE and I are on completely opposite sides of the debate. It must be because it criticised your newspaper.

    Grow up and learn.

    And why you don’t help us all out here with advice about acceptable and unacceptable posts is the operation of a shower of idiots.

    Just deleting stuff is not on.

    I have seen you do it to others, and, by the way this post has been copied, and will be published elsewhere.

    Answer the question.

    Why did you delete a link to the source of your article?”

    Well Kevin?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hi Douglas, I’m not clear what you’re referring to in your comment, a link that we deleted or that the Herald deleted? We have a pretty open moderation policy but have to delete material that is offensive or abusive. This may just be an error. I don’t know because I don’t know what you are referring to. Believe me we have no reason to delete links or comments without good cause.

    2. Martin Morrison says:

      A few points, Douglas.

      First. Newspapers need certain house rules. Other than issues of legality, one of these is an absolute. The editor’s decision is final. Questioning it is just not on, no matter how valid you believe your grievance to be. A newspaper is not a democracy.

      Second. Deleting posts goes on all the time. Unlike too many sites, the Herald’s is actively moderated and we should be thankful for this, even if sometimes it has to calm the passions. By removing what is only sound-bite and name-calling, more sophisticated debate at least has a chance of survival for the next year.

      To then even hint at bias is just asking for trouble. Not fair, but them’s the rules. And when all the evidence points towards the Herald being more amenable to the idea of independence than any other paper, it was a ridiculous accusation to even think of it.

      As for John MacIntyre, he’s a team leader for DEFRA in Surrey and a complete numpty. He is treated as a clown and never fails to live down to his reputation as a tedious golf club boor. Don’t waste breath on him.

      And remember, this is a lot more important than any petty grievance or imagined slight on a web page.


      Martin Morrison

  8. vronsky says:

    I know anecdotes are not evidence, but here’s another anyway. A Scottish friend, a Glasgow Uni arts graduate of some distinction, applied in her retirement for a job as a warden at a site associated with Sir Walter Scott. She knows a great deal about Sir Walter. She didn’t get the job – no big deal, these things happen. However a few months later she happened to visit this site and met the person who had got the job. She was a very pleasant English lady who had just moved to the Borders (because it was a nice place to live) and freely admitted that she knew nothing whatever about Scott. My friend thought that odd.

    For firmer evidence we can use the binomial theorem. If the population is about 8% English then you can calculate the probability of 10% of top jobs going to them, or 15%, or 20% and so on. You need to be a bit more precise than ‘almost every institution ‘, but let’s for the sake of computation say you mean 90%. In that case the chance that the effect is random is 1.43 x 10^-86. This is a number very close to zero, so we can be certain that the effect is not random and something systematic is at work. But what?

  9. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    Perhaps the Scotsman can do their own detailed analysis and put us chip on the shoulder, cross burning, steakbake munching, cross eyed conspiracy theorists back in our place ?

  10. Colm says:

    Well framed questions here Kevin, although I think the major issue here is particularly in terms of how, candidates for senior positions in the arts world who have worked for larger organisations down south have structural advantages in terms of having desirable corporate competencies than some candidates here. Excuse the recourse to corporate jargon but this is the field of play on which these appointments are made. My guess is that the social makeup would be a lot messier and less essentially “English” or “Scottish” than you say, there would be lots of blended identity with a fair swedge of the workforce being Scottish.

    One of the major problems for me with the notion of a social audit is how it sits alongside my broadly pro-European views, the notion of Europe is that we get along with each other and this, at least to me, creates a heirarchy of authenticity with which I’m pretty uncomfortable.

  11. Doug Daniel says:

    The thing I’ve found quite distasteful about the reaction to all this is just how quick people are to try to shut down what is a legitimate debate, by accusing folk of being anti-English or just plain racist.

    I refer specifically to this tweet by Murdo Fraser, where he says “if Gray had used the words ‘Pakistani’ or ‘black’ instead of ‘English’ everyone would be appalled. What’s the difference?” This kind of talk worries me. First of all, it suggests a lack of comprehension as to what exactly constitutes racism. Racism is about thinking people of other skin colours or ethnicity are genetically inferior to your own. I doubt anyone but perhaps the most extreme truly anti-English Scot would suggest that English people are genetically inferior to Scots, and even the most pessimistic agenda-driven misinterpretation of Alasdair Gray’s words cannot possibly try to suggest that he is saying English people are genetically inferior to Scots. So there’s one big difference for Murdo.

    Secondly, posing such a question shows a complete lack of understanding as to why the anti-English sentiment which truly does exist amongst some Scots has come about. It’s due to the imbalance (real or perceived – but let’s just admit it’s real, because we’re all adults here, rather than tabloid journalists masquerading as “kwality” journalists) that exists in the UK – although it’s perhaps unsurprising that a unionist should not understand this.

    Murdo’s question implies that Alasdair Gray is railing against an oppressed minority, which is clearly ludicrous. While I wouldn’t go as far to call the Scots an oppressed nation, England is clearly the ruling part of the UK. Put simply, it is not England which is being ruled by politicians they did not elect in a parliament which ignores their needs. The debate Alasdair has provoked is about fears that the distinct Scottish culture is being marginalised because of people who do not properly appreciate the difference between “Scottish” culture and “British” culture. In truth, it’s the same debate as that which rages about the Americanisation of western cultures – but because America is seen as being big enough to stand up for itself, no one complains about people being “anti-American”, particularly as anti-Americanism is socially acceptable anyway.

    The most ludicrous aspect of this argument is the idea that English people are being victimised. It’s an age-old tactic of ruling elites, which tries to stop grumblings about their position in a hierarchy by claiming such misgivings are based on prejudice, rather than observed behaviour. As I implied to Murdo on Twitter, his argument is as facetious as when men complain about being the victims of sexism in a male-dominated world.

    Let’s modify Murdo’s tweet slightly: “if Gray had used the words “American” instead of “English”, naebdae would gie a fuck. What’s the difference?”

  12. So, it is all down to the ‘job description’ and experience eh? Not! bias and prejudice exists everywhere and the old boy networks are not dead yet. Look at the gang of aristocrats runing the Tory party and tell me it is all about ability! For God sake wake up! From my experience, high intellect and thinking for yourself means you dont run with a gang, or leader. Think for yourself and you are often alienated. Run with the pack and you can hang onto someone’s coat tails and they will look after you. And that’s a critique of Scots in Scotland. We do not live in a meritocracy where ability gets you places. yes ability often does shine through, eventually, with a struggle but in the Scotland I live in, it’s all about who you know and whose ego you suck up to. Jack McConnell for instance claims to be a democrat: having sat in the same Labour club as him at Stirling Uni years ago, it was clear he was never a democrat but an over ambitious meglomaniac with no ideas of his own. His seat in the house of Lords is where he belongs; with all the shit that rises to the top and floats. Scotland’s Labour Lords and their crew have to hold Scotland back to keep their Saxon jobs and coats on. They are into the public purse like maggots and work for themselves and no one else. time we took a close look into the eyes of those in politics to ask the question, who do you really work for? The people or yourselves and rid ourselves of those who are out for themselves.
    I dont like some of the words Alistair used, but I will not jump on the bandwagon to savage one of Scotland’s greatest writers. Plenty mediocrities jumped on the bandwagon to defend and praise James Mackay the biographer of Burns when Mackay was a blatant plagiarist and con man because he ran with the right crowd to look after him. Time we grew up and recognised ability across the baord and stopped churlish attacks on a man who deserves our praise (even if his choice of language was playing a hostage to media fortune).

  13. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    I’m seeing Tam Dean Burn is saying his comment isn’t being added to this thread – that’s unfair if true.
    I’d also like to say Scotland owes a huge debt to people like Joan Littlewood (theres actually no one like littlewood). I doubt she’d give a flying fuck about being slagged off by the Lallans appreciation society and would have happily got pished with them instead.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      There’s no comment awaiting moderation.

  14. ich bin ein burdiehouser says:

    I stand corrected. Perhaps I misread Tam’s tweet.

  15. Clydebuilt says:

    Non Scots at the head of Scottish Sport.

    Stewart Regan Chief Executive of SFA.
    Neil Doncaster chief executive of the SPL

    Mark Dodson CEO. OF SRU

    Nigel Holl Chief Executive Scottish Athletics

    Sport Scotland ?

    In rugby and football our teams are not doing well.
    andy robinson(departed manager) was granted a long extension to his contract BEFORE a recent major tournament.

    In football George Burley a previous manager was given a very hard time by the scottish media print and BBC. George had been manager of the year in England. Our press made life very hard for George
    Once the press had got rid of George they told us how happy the players were with the new manager Craig Leveine. eventually Levein’s record became worse than george burley’s . Only after our hopes were all but dashed for qualifying for Brazil did The press finally push out Levein.

    Would the Better together camp be best pleased if Scotland qualified for Brazil in 2014 , and our Rugby boys were winning. Just a thought.

  16. Kevin
    so much is being said so fast, such is the nature of this form of communication. I was remembering one of your early statements about not wanting the important debates about Scottish culture to descend into an insular form or divisive form of nationalism. Well I just don’t get it- I’m reading alot of the words in these threads and your comments and defense of the AG essay and it is becoming both divisive and feeding a slightly hysterical public rammy. You must be able to see that?

    Some brilliant points in the essay are overshadowed by the crassness of defining an English colonist of the arts establishment as someone waiting to retire or be promoted back south. Whoever had written that it obviously going to play into the hands of the media, so why go there in the first place-it is just not well expressed?

    It also feeds the uglier side of the nationalist constituency who are patently still anti English (the people) rather than rightly critical of London run institutions. This is a dangerous line that is being tread. I speak not as any form of unionist and as great believer in running things as locally as you can. But I sense an ugly undertow in some of the posts here and any open minded person will be driven hard and fast away from the important arguements if this becomes more driven into a false sense of sides being taken.

    Best Angus NVA

  17. douglas clark says:


    Apologies for not being clear @ Dec 19th @ 01:47. Perhaps I was a bit upset but I was and still am as angry as anything with the Herald’s attitude about what their core values actually are:

    They appear to be:

    Never criticise the Herald,

    Never argue with a moderator, and

    Lastly, know your place.

    I have some reason to believe that, because I gave you chapter and verse on my intemperate post as above,

    I received this is my in-box, after that:

    “Dear Mr Clark,

    I note your comments. As predicted by you, your late-night post’s been removed.

    That’s because, in line with the moderating changes that have been made to other posts, they didn’t comply with the rules, which are clearly advertised on our site:

    In case you’re unable to open the link, I’ve pasted the rules below. It should be obvious to you why changes/deletions were made to comments on a site that we are unashamedly moderating strictly, and to general acclamation.

    It is, of course, up to you whether you wish to comment on our sites, but that has to be done within rules that have been carefully thought through and apply to all users.

    I didn’t understand your threat/promise to publish your post elsewhere, but I’m happy for this note to join it: it is, after all, simply an explanation of something that we state publicly, along with information on how to contact us if you have an issue.


    Calum Macdonald

    Group Digital Editor”

    Well, here it is, just as you requested.

    Can we take Calumn Macdonalds reply as a completely fair and reasonable reply, at least in the language used by Mr [email protected]?

    Look, I have deliberately attempted to take a reasonable line with unionists, but the Herald’s time line on this is verging on ridiculous.

    Firstly their newest hero, a certain chap with an OBE, asked, quite reasonably for the source of the comments made by Herald journalists. That is what I provided via a post that said something like, and I paraphrase, but the way-back machine will establish I am not lying –

    “Here’s a link to the original post; perhaps you could argue against the source rather than what you read here.”

    Words to that effect at least.

    The people at the Herald apparently deleted that. Our OBE chum had seen it before it was deleted and said, more or less, someone linked to the source and it has disappeared. If I recall correctly, his post also disappeared.

    I said that was me and provided google type links, merely noting that the Herald doesn’t appear to care for links to source documentation. They allowed the first half – the google link – to stand and killed the latter and, as you can see above from out good ami, Mr

    So I am an intemperate person?

    It takes a great deal of effort for me to become intemperate.

    May I, briefly take you through an alternate time-line to the rubbish calum macdonald outlined above?

    Someone with an OBE behind their name asked for some source data, Y’know, what we arevall talking about that the Herald had conveniently left off their article. I provided the OBE person with a link to that.

    The Herald deleted my comment.

    The OBE chap wrote in saying someone – me – had provided a useful link but it had disappeared. Well, that’s apparently what the Herald do.

    I wrote back to the Herald saying that, apparently the Herald didn’t allow links, however he could google it with a few common links, which I provided.

    The Herald deleted the fact that they don’t allow links, absent that they do when it suits them, and do not otherwise. That is hardly advancing a discussion, is it?

    It perhaps advancing an agenda, but that would be a different thing.

    The evidence ‘for’ being that exact thread. On the second last thread they left the key phrases intact, but left it up to you, dear reader, to actually copy and paste the post into your browser and read what had said. You had to do your own work, because the Herald supported an untruth and would prefer you didn’t check out what they said any further.

    This is disingenuous bullshit by the Herald. I finally went nuts with that, hence you see my and the precociousness of their Digital Group Editor.

    The aforesaid genius of digital media is completely delighted that he can probably trip me up on issues of language. What he cannot trip me up on is the one-eyed nonsense that passes for print journalism these days.

    I frankly despair of the dinosaurs of print that assume that anyone, anywhere, hasn’t seen though their Kings new clothes.

    There are experts in almost every field that know more than any journalist about the subject in hand. This is especially true of Calumn Macdonald who is completely satisfied with the ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach to comment, with him being firmly behind the idiots they pay to write their trash. Or is simply a bought and sold commisar. What a joy to meet one of them again.

    Well Calumn, want to talk about it?

  18. Clydebuilt says:

    The Herald’s Position in the Debate
    Every day this week the front page head line has been anti Independence. The paper has become Magnus Gardham’s play thing. It is overtly Unionist. Occasionally Iain Bell or Macwhirter produce a balanced piece which can be in favour of Independence. That and the some of the letters are just a sop to Nationalists/ undecided. An attempt to keep readership up, this far out from the referendum.
    Of all papers in Scotland The Herald and The Sunday Herald have re-designated themselves as regional papers. Why? is it an attempt to hide disasterous circulation figures as they dish out their core message of rubbishing the Concept of an independent Scotland.

  19. douglas clark says:


    I have responded to my friend as follows:

    “Dear Calumn,

    I have posted the following on Bella Caledonia. Frankly it is not exactly supportive of your idea about what newspapers ought to be about. As it is not ring fenced perhaps you would care to read it and reply to it there? Because your own forum is, from my point of view, a tad tainted?

    Given your apparent willingness to debate, I feel that that ought to be on a public forum and not in an e-mail exchange. However, my comments below are a fairly damning indictment of how your ‘moderators’ have conducted themselves. It, frankly, beggars belief that an innocent link to the original source of your newspapers article would justify deletion and what moved from a potential automatic deletion of a link to, frankly, my anger at a newspaper that I have bought and cared about for a very long time. Anyway, here is the text:


    It is worse than that. They employ moderators to stifle reasonable discussion. Why would a link to the source of the article they commented on be deleted? Why would any responsible institution do that? One is minded to assume that the institution is not, in fact, responsible at all.

    Options include:

    Because they have an agenda of twisting a narrative?

    Well, that’s what it looks like from my perspective.

    I am no innocent with posting. I knew that my final post would be deleted. Because it challenged their world view. They are not ‘up’ for criticism of how they, rather pathetically, attempt to manipulate public opinion. Indeed their ‘rules’ are so widely drawn that they can mean anything that meets the commisars agenda. Where have we seen that before?

    A free press ought to be free, not in the back pocket of a cabal.

    This was genuinely dirty journalism and a honey trap.

    I am willing to admit that I fell for it.

    I am frankly disgusted with a newspaper that I bought for about thirty years.

    Yes, it’s apparently just a spat on the internet. But it is actually a lot bigger than that. Newspapers are suppressing information, and that is totally unacceptable.

    What possible justification can the Herald have for dis-allowing a link to the very topic that they were commenting on? I, for one, think they just thought they could and that their narrative flow would be uninterrupted. This is my attempt to correct that.

    There is power, which they have, and there is abuse of it.

    They appear to somewhat relish in that too.

    I would like an apology from Calumn Macdonald, because his ferocious protection of his wee chums has put him in the odd position of alienating me and probably many others.

    I have replied to Mr Macdonald using this post as a template. It will be ‘interesting’ to see whether he replies here. He appears to see himself on the side of light and virtue, so he should have no problems whatsoever in replying to me.


    douglas clark.”

    I frankly do not expect a reply here.

  20. douglas clark says:

    Bella Caledonia,

    Is that all clear enough now?

    The Herald is suppressing evidence they don’t like. It is the “Salmond Accused” meme. When there is no evidence whatsoever to countenance that idea. Indeed they are suppressing access to what was actually said.

    Just say it. It is in a newspaper so it must be true….

    We are living in an age of dishonesty, and our chum Calumn has a lot to answer for.

    I would really like his comments here, but I suspect he can’t come out of the closet.

    Why would that be?

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