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BBC Scotland’s Cultural Output: “Lamentable”

From the Holyrood Culture Committee 05 Jan 2015. Shocking level of support for Scotland’s talented and thriving cultural scene which almost operates beyond and in spite of the state broadcaster. This isn’t about ‘bias’ it’s about incompetence, centralisation and a dire lack of cultural leadership.


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  1. Fiona Sinclair says:

    I remember a time when BBC Scotland did drama serialisations, such as their excellent adaptation of the `Master of Ballantrae`, with a wonderful performance from the then relatively unknown Brian Cox. Even then, they still only put the fantastic production of `The Laird o’ Grippy` on at past 11 at night – before 24 hour tv was even thought of, hence it was pretty much the graveyard slot for a production of Robert Kemp’s Scots language version of Moliere’s `La Misere`. Even the impressive `Jute City` was produced by BBC North (of England). BBC Scotland’s drama output has never been other than tiny, but now it’s non-existent. The SNP should have campaigned for BBC Alba to be Scotland’s national digital channel, with a guaranteed portion of output to be in Gaelic. That would have achieved a sustainable basis for the channel, which is having its funding cut, due to a lack of viewers. Why the SNP fixated on a Scottish News at Six, I don’t know, but I think it was a huge mistake.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      It is very disappointing that the SNP Government has done virtually nothing for the Scots language. A Holyrood Act ensured Gaelic equal status to English language, and some £30m+ a year, plus the TV station, plus national qualifications. Yet nothing for the Scots language, which is far more extensively used in Scotland. The Minister, Alisdair Allan, should have brought forward a Scots Language Act long before now. One has to question his and the SNP’s motives for inaction on Scots language. Dire stuff, and from the supposed ‘national’ party.

      1. Fiona Sinclair says:

        I don’t know, Alf, there can be too much protectionism. I would settle for less of the tendency for BBC Scotland presenters to use bastardised vowel sounds, like Jackie Bird’s anglicised `o` sound. If you really want to experience butchery of the Scots language, try out the tapes of Burn’s poetry in the Alloway centre – they could have got kids who speak at least a modern variant of Ayrshire Scots to speak on these, but instead chose kids from the local school, which is the `best` suburb of Ayr. Very good examples of elocution lessons, but a world away from any authentic Scots tongue.

        However, I would support an alternative to the truly dreadful Eastenders on Clyde, aka River Shitty ….

    2. muttley79 says:

      The adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road was very good.

      1. Fiona Sinclair says:

        I agree – but that was 20 years ago!!!

        1. muttley79 says:

          That was my point.

    3. Bill Freedman says:

      Why should their be a guaranteed amount of broadcasting in Gaelic, given the majority of the citizens of Scotland, and by that, the majority of native Scots don’t speak Gaelic? By all means have Gaelic programming but to have a defined amount set in stone? That’s a waste of a shrinking license fee.

      Talking of license fee, and I find a lot of Yes voters I know detest it, how would it be proposed to fund a national broadcasting system?

  2. Phantom Power says:

    The full Holyrood Culture Committee 05/01/16 available at link below (HT GAPonsonby)
    It’s around 3hrs but well worth watching for anyone interested in Scottish media and contains plenty evidence of BBC’s shocking record in Scotland. The next hearing with BBC bosses is Jan 12th. I wouldn’t expect much coverage of it in the Scottish media, there’s been almost none so far.

  3. Born Optimist says:

    I believe it was Tony Blair who regretted that he did not insist that more effort was put into ‘converting’ Scots into Brits by ensuring that British culture (whatever that is/was) was emphasised to a much greater extent when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened. Though how he would have achieved that I do not know, short of cutting out all Scottish input into the BBC and insisting on the English school curriculum in Scottish Schools. The ongoing process of Anglicisation has been ongoing for centures but not yet ‘killed off’ Gaelic and Scots, nor those aspects of culture that do not rely on modern media.

    In retrospect he discovered that having a Parliament once again gave Scots a focal point for differentiation or, in my view, a willingness to identify Scots culture as distinct from, and not simply as variations on, the English/British culture dominating the media south of the border, force-fed, of course, to Scotland through BBC Scotland and printed media. Scotland being basically perceived as a region, not a country with a specific history differing in many respects from other countries forming the current UK.

    The reconvening of the Parliament also, of course, led to a resurgence in a desire for more control over issues impacting on people living in Scotland, not just a resurgence of different aspects of culture. Had Tony Blair been able to wave a magic wand and dissociate identity and culture from political activity I am pretty sure he would have done so.

  4. James Alexander says:

    Bottom line is that there is not a single MSP of any party who has any knowledge of or interest in “culture” or “the Arts”.

    1. Fiona Sinclair says:

      Yes – there is a general tendency to seek to present themselves as men and women of the people, even if a lot of us then see them as uncultured inverted snobs. Prof. Beveridge’s comments regarding the biggest arts festival in the world (yes, that’s Edinburgh) are particularly apposite.

  5. Redguantlet says:

    The powers that be – and I include the despicable SNP government in that – are committed to forcing most Scottish film makers and television people into exile. There are more Scots working in film and television outside of Scotland than in the country….the situation is beyond pathetic and the reveals, after two terms of SNP rule, just what a bunch of philistines they are…..I can´t think of another country in Europe which has betrayed, utterly betrayed, its film and television professionals like the pack of complete charlatans the SNP are….

    ..what does Fiona Hyslop do all day? Doodle? Can Greg Moodie please satirise a day in the life of Fiona Hyslop? What does she bloody well do? Gets up….reads a couple of poems frae the wall of the Scottish parliament, tries to memorise them – lips moving – to be used on suitable occasions….back to the office…doodles….phone call from an outraged Scottish film-maker….doodles….phone call from Janet Archer…agrees to meet for a glass of wine to talk about the bolshy Scots….doodle….Janet suggest that we import English people and just weed out the Scots altogether from any cultural post…who would notice? Maybe two people would get the sack…….

    ..what the FF does she do all day? She certainly doesn´t do much for Scottish culture….

    1. bjsalba says:

      Try spelling your name in English correctly and I will be more ready to listen.

      ‘S tu a tha gòrach!

      1. Redguantlet says:

        Tha sin ceart, mo charaich…soy mas tonto que nadie…hee hee hee

  6. john young says:

    Redgauntlet “read the label” they are a “political party” little different from the others,top loaded with self seeking glory hunters,ere it ever was.Alba a very watchable station inmo pity I can,t do Gaelic.

    1. Redguantlet says:

      John, they are a bunch of careerists and they have sold out Scotland….they have sold us out…we have a great culture, we are a country of the finest minds, the very vintage of European culture, intellectuals of the highest rank, and when we finally get a “nationalist” govt we end up wi Fiona Friggin Hyslop and Janet Archer…a disgrace, an utter, utter disgrace….

      …I can´t find words for my sheer contempt for these people, and under no circumstances will I ever vote SNP again, because why would I vote for cultural colonization?

      1. Phantom Power says:

        Quite a rant. The Scot Govt doesn’t have control of broadcasting or film tax breaks. Scotland’s block settlement has been progressively slashed by coalition/Tories forcing spending to focus on essential services. If you watch the full committee hearing (which Janet Archer made a valuable contribution to) it’s clear that BBC production fell drastically from the 90s onwards and during Labour years in power at Wminster and Holyrood. The SNP, Sturgeon and Hyslop have consistently demanded more programming for Scotland. A new multimillion film studio is in the process of being built out at Straiton.

        1. Redguantlet says:

          Phantom, think I didnay ken that about the BBC? Look, stop treating us like we´re friggin pillocks, the SNP are liars, they lie about their interest in Scottish culture…THEY DO NOT CARE…

        2. Redguantlet says:

          I mean Phantom, can I just say, as a film-maker, that the total incapacity of the SNP to build a film studio speaks volumes of the inept, crass, parochial and thoroughly stupid people who they have delegated culture to…

          …you know, Scotland is maybe the number one country in the world to come up with universal characters. I mean. Long John Silver, Jeckyll and Hyde, Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes….and no Scottish film-maker has ever been able to make one single film with these timeless characters, because we don´t have a friggin studio to shoot anything….and I´m meant to be a clappy handing SNP supporter like you freaks of nature? It is a disgrace….you people are a disgrace…you defend a political party which has arrogated for itself the cause of Scottish nationalism and who do the Queen´s bidding up north…did wee Eck no say that, or I did just dream it…”She´s our Queen too”…well, she´s no friggin my queen, let´s get that straight…

          1. Phantom Power says:

            The truth is it isn’t a priority for SNP because it isn’t a priority for many Scots who along with much of the traditional Scottish media think arts are ‘a load of shite’ – furore over 15k for Glasgow effect being a recent case in point.

  7. C Rober says:

    If the SNP were indeed serious about its socialism , culture , and bias in the media it could be redressed in one swoop , ban the tax that is the licence fee , under current legislation they have the power to do this , using sseveral options like unjust enrichment or taxation on being Scots as long as it is not returned in the similar manner as other taxes proportionately.

    I have on occasion watched ALBA , i know I should really get out some rosary beads and do some rattling for my sins for watching the enemy of the people , Last program I watched was also available in English previously , but the sick puppy I am I like to at least read some gaelic in my pretence of taking an interest.

    As for those other cultural things , poetry I have no time for , ochestra ballet and opera I dont like the idea of the poor subsidisng the wealthy , and the Edinburger festival – well you can stop calling it cultural when its about increasing tourism and the income from it.

    Which leaves us with Drama , not just at the beeb , but those small theatres that are the bastion of the amdram crowd and its followers.

    Now its also something I just dont have the time for , I dont really watch any drama as such , definitely not the Soaps , but would still prefer to drama over other arts being protected not by the SNP but from all politicians.

    We have a history , perhaps due to French cultural adoption , for political satire , of writers whose wit can and does cut to the bone. The same can be said for comedy , were as a nation we veer more to the French on humour than to the Pythonesque middle class product of the beeb.

    Example the Gaelic humouir (if not language) can and does export well , that is seeing as how it has already been mentioned if it becomes Anglocised , and with those writers comes directors that as long as they keep their “humanity of the street” , were work ethic produces meritable performances from the actors themselves. But as money beckons they like actors follow it , leaving Scotland for England or beyond.

    The last time I read any trade papers with demographics on Scotland there was 15000 people that were registered as actors , then why oh why do the same people get the work ?

    With the continual lack of a Scottish national Tv network it cannot improve , until that is on the Smith papers it should be fought by Hollyrood by enabling civil disobedience , and not just their usual lipservice to appear “the hard dun by” by the wealthy elite and politician in their pocket.

    Since the indy ref my eyes were opened , not just towards the media bias , but to the likes of the SNP rising to power on promises. The arts is where they may well see thier downfall , without a rich media tycoon or Westminster to blame for project fear , with Youtube , moodievision and the like , then we may well see some heated challenges , at least from the likes of rise and their technosavvy soundbyters…… might as well have at least some politicians use up their media and drama arts diplomas somehow.

    1. Bill Freedman says:

      So how do you suggest a national broadcaster is funded? You think the license fee just pays for the BBC? How do you think the broadcast infrastructure is funded? Development of said infrastructure (eg digital etc)? Should it be done with advertisments? Then it will be beholden to the agendas of the advertising companies? A direct cut of taxation, then it will be even more beholden to whoever controls the purse strings? Take a look at a lot of national broadcasters funded directly by the state and you will find the supposed BBC bias a sideshow.

  8. Alf Baird says:

    “there was 15000 people that were registered as actors ”

    A hae ma doots, unless most are unemployed! Some 1,000 hopefuls audition each year for just 24 places on the BA Acting course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, of which lets say about two-thirds of places go to higher fee paying students from outside Scotland (as at other ‘elite’ uni’s in Scotland). Applicants have to recite 3 minutes of Shakespeare. Career ‘opportunities’ for graduates are either BBC Scotland or the National Theatre of Scotland – that’s basically it! Looks like another institutional and industry door slammed shut in the face of aspirational Scots – so, limited opportunities all round for Scots in Scotland. Don’t we have a Kulture Meenister? Whits she daein?

    1. Redguantlet says:

      Alf, she´s doodlin man, she´s aye been doodlin…I am a Scottish film-maker, like so many, who managed to produce a film in a country which is foreign, Spain. You know, I made a film in Spain. There is no chance on earth I could ever have made a film in Scotland.

      What do you do? You leave the country….it´s no that important…Skatland is no that important compared to self-realization….if the SNP are nationalists, what must the Unionists be like? Hee hee hee…

      …”So don´t talk to me about Scotland the brave / if we don´t do something now / there´ll be nothing left to save…”

      1. Alf Baird says:

        RG – Ae share yer pessimism, firsure. A’ the best fowk in Scotland, got up and went. The kuntry has been stripped bare, land and fowk. Yer richt, wir nationalists are nae mair than unionists wi a’ kilt oan. Thair ney India’s Ghandi, or Singapores LYK, nivver mind Kenya’s Kenyatta. Nae stomach fir the real fecht. Scotland’s heid yins jist ‘responsibly’ manage the Holyrood shop fir the Tories, thons whit they ir, unionist managers, takin the unionist poond tae. Nuthin mair. Joinin the unionist institushuns like privvie coonsil and Westminster proved it tae. Nae ither colony wantin independins wid dae thon, no India, Singapore, Kenya, or Connolly’s Ireland. SNP dinnae huv a scoobie whit independence means, or how tae get it.

        1. Ross McEachern says:

          You guys don’t half talk some shite!

          What would you be happy with subsidies for theatre where the family is gathered round the tennement kitchen table talking about being starving, in pops Pa, pished as a newt, takes off his bonnet and starts spouting marxism, before falling asleep?

          The comedy crew did this skit in the 1980s with the miners strike, Al Pacino as Arthur Scargill, by the sounds of things you guys obviously saw it and thought it was a true depiction. I don’t know if this is sad or funny?

          Just ignore the fact that we are governed from London by a tory party imposing austerity, the SNP are merely sharing our the scare resources as fair as humanly possible, arts should and will be at the back of the queue!

          Only an independent Scottish government can fairly be judged on being a custodian of culture!

  9. Phantom Power says:

    Education and Culture Committee – Scottish Parliament: 12th January 2016
    Tony Hall, the director general
    Anne Bulford, BBC Scotland’s managing director of finance and operations
    Ken MacQuarrie, Director, BBC Scotland

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