The City of (Re) discovery

Iron-RingsThe BBC Question Time seems to have gone down even worse than usual, which is bad, because the programme routinely has people throwing objects at the telly. But the problem for many people this time was the audience more than the panel. Author Val McDermid asked: “Has the audience been bussed in from Perth and Broughty Ferry?” While Gerry Hassan tweeted: “Sorry that prog was a new low. Non-Dundonian voices dominant with one obvious Dundee voice from audience all evening”.

Others reacted saying this was stereotyping Dundee and challenging the assertion that they should all “speak Dundonian” and talk about Jute and Hamish McAlpine. There was even accusations that people complaining were ‘anti-English’. Ho-hum. What shit. It’s all getting a bit weird. I’ve given up being surprised that Scottish voices are almost absent from broadcast and massively under-represented. Just turn the radio on any day and you’ll experience it. It’s about place and class. Shaun said it well in a series of tweets:

“Accents: It matters not a bloody jot where you come from. You live in Scotland, you call this place home, you’re Scottish in my eyes. We should treat everyone who settles here with the same warmth we’d expect if we settled somewhere else. It’s pretty simple. Holding these views and thinking that the QT from Dundee was not representative of the city of Dundee, are not mutually exclusive. An overwhelmingly hostile-to-indy audience, Labour candidates as regular joes, and barely a DUNDONIAN accent throughout the entire thing. This isn’t about ‘anti-Englishness’ or any of that SHITE. This is about representation and balance.”

pieter-brueghel-el-viejo-la-torre-de-babel-15631Maybe Dundee needs to be put alongside ‘lost cities’ like Carthage, Ciudad Perdida and Taxila? Maybe Dundee is sipping into the ether and becoming a place that doesn’t really exist? But the reason for this blandification and assimilation is more likely to be about disillusionment and confidence rather than the conspiracy theories that are stalking the land.

This is routine and self-selecting. You’re not really supposed to talk about it in polite company.

Wee Ginger Dug says it well here ‘The Lost City of Dundee’:

“This week the programme obstensibly came from Dundee, although you’d have been hard pressed to notice. On Thursday the National had a front cover showing the lost city of Cadzow, dug up by archaeologists working on the M74 improvements. We desperately need some political archaelogists to dig up the lost city of Yes Dundee, because BBC Question Time dismally failed to find it. What they found instead was some mythical settlement where yes voting working class Dundonians are as rare as unicorns.

It would appear, according to whoever it is that decides the audience for BBC Question Time, that Dundee is disproportionately inhabited by weel spoken middle class types of a decidedly Tory persuasion, and failed Labour party candidates. It was however marginally better than David Cameron’s visit to the Tory party conference the previous week in that no one felt the need to put on a Scottish accent. Watching the programme I was struck by just how much the Dundee accent had changed since my last visit to the city. Although to be fair, it was a terribly long time ago and linguistic change can happen at a surprisingly fast rate. I just hadn’t expected it to change that much since January this year.

My personal highlight was someone who looked suspiciously like the failed Labour candidate Kathy Wiles, presented to the viewing public as an ordinary punter, demanding that the SNP apologise. For you know, general SNPbadness. Kathy was forced to resign as a Labour candidate after making a comment on social media comparing young kids at a protest against BBC bias during the independence referendum to the Hitler Youth. She had to apologise for her offensive tweet, so clearly she’s an expert in apologising.”

This isn’t a public broadcast service.

What couldn’t happen, what wasn’t allowed to happen was anything like a real representation of the city get on air. Can the BBC fix this? Are they capable of addressing this, admitting this, reflecting on this? I really don’t think so.


Comments (53)

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  1. Raymond Hunter says:

    BBCQT last night was deeply worrying for a whole raft of reasons.
    It was unrepresentative in terms of audience, panel terms and debate management.
    We need to have a good hard look at why and how this happened and how we ensure it doesn’t happen again.
    Firstly the audience – being kind to the BBC, I suspect the audience was neither unduly hand picked nor orchestrated, but I’m sure it drummed up interest in specific quarters to supplement the ‘open call’. Rather than attack the ‘nay sayers’ for a job well done, we need to ask why yessers did not come forward in fuller numbers. OK, we’re all mightily brassed off with the BBC, but TV is a vitally important outlet for influencing voters, especially the less sceptical older generation. A huge own goal if we miss the opportunity to sell the message.
    Secondly the panel – a very strong ‘no’ brigade comprising labour, tory, tory press and lib-dem who conspired throughout the programme to hunt as a pack on YESBAD on the hapless Swinney. John’s a wonderful bloke and a superb future Scottish Chancellor but he’s not nimble on his feet like AS or NS. He put up a poor defence and allowed Ruth Davidson to maul him to death. Patrick Harvie didn’t see what was happening and rather than stepping in to support, stood on the sidelines. Painful to watch.
    Thirdly the debate management – what we had on the panel and the audience were compositions reflective of the UK political balance, but the debate was pretty well focussed on Scottish political issues. How could the yes or social agendas win in that situation? The editorial selection of questions was troublesome and reflected very badly on the BBC. In terms of chairmanship, David Dimbleby, for whom I have a lot of regard, disappointingly allowed Ruth D to talk over everyone and for Willie R to get away with ridiculous statements without being asked for substantiation. Nevertheless, the debate was an ideal opportunity to attack the Westminster government and its extreme right wing agenda but John missed the opportunity, specifically in not explaining the no-win income tax variation powers that he has.
    All in all a very bad night for Scotland.
    The establishment tore us to bits and we missed a major opportunity to spread the gospel. The neutral viewer saw an independence movement in rapid decline. Let’s ensure this doesn’t happen again otherwise it might actually become a reality.

    1. Seamus MacDonald says:

      Dundee question time was an utter disgrace, bbc should be ashamed!

  2. Steven Johnson says:

    Its quite pathetic that the author of this peice of “journalism” can’t find ways to communicate their annoyance other than by swearing.
    I agree, swearing is a part of life, at times its essential to advocate true meaning and feeling, but in a published form it must be utterly essential, rather than just lazily used as a short cut due to a lack of intelligence.
    Journalism requires deeper thought than just “fuck this” or “that’s shite!”
    The overall peice is poorly written, only exasperated by the use of swearing. It looks like a 10 year old wrote it!!

    1. You are complaining that I wrote ‘shit’? (!)

      1. Matt Seattle says:

        In context, It was ‘le mot juste’. Flaubert would have been proud.

    2. Steven Milne says:

      Independence supporters have a tendency to throw tantrums when they are scrutinised. I have yet to hear any constructive defence from a separatist to the charge that the economic case presented for independence was deeply flawed. They appear far happier bellyaching about Westminster or Tories or Food Banks than participating in intelligent debate.

      1. Wul says:

        You need to get out more Steven.

        I’ve heard plenty of Yes voters complaining about the SNP’s presentatIon of the econominc case for Independence. I have also seen the SNP’s economic case for Indy criticised in writing here on Bella, on Wings over Scotland, In The NatIonal, by Robin McApine, on Common Space and all over Facebook.

        They made a poor job of It, agreed.

        If you have serIous reservatIons about Scotland’s abIlIty to functIon as an Independent natIon of 5 mIllIon people, perhaps you could IdentIfy those unIque, fatal flaws whIch render us doomed to dependancy on the “UnIon Dividend”?

  3. Elizabeth Thomson says:

    No, it can’t be fixed. QT is not a balanced programme by any stretch of the imagination, especially when the host puts himself on the panel.

    The department of State known as the BBC is a lost cause.

  4. Sandy says:

    The bbc know what they’re doing and they don’t care about complaints. Write instead to your mp and the culture minister. The bbc charter is up for renewal and there’s enough in the Tory party that would support getting rid of the to licence.

  5. Blair paterson says:

    The bbc were right on form insulting our intelligence and as usual getting of with it Swinney should have walked of a the shambles dimbelby allowed to happen and I do not want any English person having a say about our future it is not your country so have the decency to stay quiet on my countries affairs after all you want evel

  6. Blair paterson says:

    Sorry but I letter has failed me in my las post

  7. Shehanne Moore says:

    They were certainly not bussed in from Broughty Ferry if the amount of Yes folks here are anything to go by. But they were almost certainly bussed in. This was a hatchet job on Scotland’s ‘Yes’ city, a city with proud history of being a’gin the government. And I’m paying license fees for this? I dinnaw think so.

  8. Richard says:

    Kathye Wiles lives across the road from me and changed her name to Kathy Aliberti after the last time her face was plastered all over the media. She is by all accounts a sick bitter and twisted individual and still very active within the Labour party.

  9. David McCann says:

    Complaining to the BBC is a very frustrating experience, resulting in stock answers churned out by by the usual suspects.
    A better bet may be Newswatch, but as it is not strictly news, may not qualify. How about asking anyway Mike?
    You just may be lucky!

  10. Josef O Luain says:

    On Tuesday of this week my barber, a hard working Iraqi immigrant, informed me that Scottish independence wasn’t possible due to the number of English people living amongst us. They’ll always vote ‘no’, you see. No,I’m not sure what this has to do with the above article either, but I had to share it.

    1. Gralloched says:

      Hang on a minute pal ? I’m English, I lived in Scotland for 20odd yrs. I was gutted when Scotland didn’t vote yes.
      An opportunity squandered.

  11. Rab Haw says:

    An acute lack of i in all the above posts, whit does that tell ye

  12. Rab Haw says:

    He Bella, why wont you let the letter after H show in the posts

    1. There is a glitch to do with fonts. We cant control it. It will go away. Try and cope.

      1. Wul says:

        The BBC made the “Ayes” dIsappear.

  13. Jacqueline Smith says:

    Why is there no ‘i’s in anybody’s comments??

    1. There is a glitch to do with fonts. We cant control it. It will go away. Try and cope.

      1. Steven Milne says:

        The problem with the 9th letter of the alphabet is no doubt another fiendish Westminster plot.

  14. MBC says:

    O/T But what is going wrong with the spelling on the comments?

    1. There is a glitch to do with fonts. We cant control it. It will go away. Try and cope.

      1. Derek says:

        A hae me doots. More probably a wee blue gremlun lurk’n below yr keyboard …
        Maybe we have a chance to be extra clever anent how we use oor Scots tongue because Englush won’t work?

        1. Dougie Strang says:


  15. john young says:

    We the yes don,t have a firebrand orator we do not have anyone that will take the opportunity while on the telly to tell these bastards to their faces in no uncertain terms what their agenda is,no one to put them on the backfoot,no one to rough them up,instead they fcuking hide and whine,totally useless,it,s not the unionists we should fear it is the bottlers and there are plenty in the yes ranks.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Ye’re r1ght there John – 1ndependence needs bottle above all else, not ‘competent’ government at Holyrood or 56 nodd1ng donkeys at Westminster. ‘Competent government’ never won any nat1on or people the1r 1ndependence. Salmond’s 56 “roar1ng l1ons”? Vot1ng on Sunday open1ng of shops 1n England w1s aboot the1r max bottle level. As others have sa1d: “1nstead of settl1ng up, they settled 1n”.

  16. Alf Baird says:

    “Can the BBC fix this?”

    The BBC d1d “fix” it. The BBC clearly ‘eng1neered’ the QT aud1ence (just as they d1d numerous t1mes dur1ng the referendum), prov1ng aga1n that they are as corrupt as any other un1on1st 1nst1tut1on. The event was a charade and an affront to all Dundon1ans cons1der1ng the prevailing Engl1sh accents and aggress1ve No types dom1nat1ng the aud1ence. Mair Dartford than Dundee. An 1nsult to the c1ty of the great Michael Marra – no that thon BBC wid ken wha Michael Marra wis!

    1. BBC statements:

      “Question Time audiences are always selected in accordance with our guidelines on fairness and impartiality, and this week was no different. We are careful to select audiences which are politically balanced and reflect a range of political views.

      “Every member of this audience was a Scottish resident and from Dundee or the surrounding area.

      “They are chosen because they hold a spectrum of views on a number of topics, including the EU referendum and Scottish independence.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          oops, correct link:

        2. 1314 says:

          This kind of comment (together with the Iraqi barber quote above) doesn’t help. My partner is English and not only voted YES but had her YES stickers on car, bag etc and did her best to convince friends and people at work – mostly Scots. And I was part of another conversation where an English person was trying to convince a Scot to vote YES.

          As with many comments I have made in the past about people insulting Labour voters – calling people stupid/biased/fremit is unlikely to persuade them to your point of view.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            The comment you refer to relates to Engl1sh ant1-1ndependence No voters/campa1gners, 1.e. the bulk of the eng1neered aud1ence on BBC QT held 1n Dundee.

      1. Andy Borland says:

        Seeíng as the BBC are keen purveyors of glasnost, why don’t they províde theír evídence of this ‘polítícal balance’ ín terms of how theír Dundee QT audíence was selected?

        Let’s see a breakdown of the fígures and then we, as lícense fee payers, can make a judgement for ourselves on just how ‘faír and ímpartial’ or not they are.

    2. Derek says:

      Well ít’s possíble the BBC dídn’t engineer ít – let’s put the tín foíl hats on and assume that Labour / Tory got together and fíxed ít. After all, there was at least one ‘rínger’ ín the audíence.

      The fact ís that John Swínney got hung out to dry, and not the first tíme. Please keep hím away from the cameras. In my opínion he represents the SNP badly. He doesn’t thínk fast on hís feet and he doesn’t respond confídently or robustly.

      Not that I could do better; but you expect top echelons of any party to manage the debate.

      1. maxi says:

        Dereck you are so correct in your evaluation of Swinnie, he was bloody hopless with his soft spoken feeble attempts at responding to the fixed panels attacks. I would have liked to see Tommy sheriden take these chancers on head to head. Say what you like about Tommy but he would have had that lot for brekfast.

  17. Conan the Librarian™ says:

    Wh!t aboot th!s for a f!x?

  18. Norrie McMartainn says:

    Scots are used to being treated like foreigners within the uk!

    Now it appears, thanks to the bbc, Scots are to be treated like foreigners in Scotland!

    The make up of the audience in Dundee was an absolute disgrace. I strongly suspect we have another two months of anti Scottish and anti SNP propaganda from the London based state broadcaster!

  19. Josef O Luain says:




  20. ramstam says:

    Mony Yessers tried but wur blocked frae BBC QT. Dinna blame thaim or Swinney’s performance.
    He wis stitched up bi DD. Didna
    staun a chance, an disna deserve criticism. This programme didna win ony votes for unionism.
    Hou mony fowk in Scotland actually watch it? Gey few!
    Mind tae that maist Scots viewers
    Expeck this kinna bias – It’s whit the estaiblishment dae!
    Maist I’m shair hiv awready decidit juist lik in the WM election tae bury the better together mob an gie the SNP anither mandate in Mey.

  21. Frank says:

    I’m not convInced that the BBC Is at fault here – members of polItIcal partIes do tend to domInate these audIences and It may have been the case that Labour and Tory members were organIsed for QT. The earlIer point about John SwIndle I agree with. ManagerIal, bureaucratIc and utterly unconvIncIng he is the lIvIng embodIment of the SNP as a small minded petIt bourgeoIse party. I thought PatrIck Harvie dId okay? I have never been sure about the Greens and always thought of them as a bIt Lib DemsIsh, but was very impressed with Harvey.

    1. carthannas says:

      I thought Mr Harvie was a bit of a spectator while the unionist mob – including Mr Dimbleby – were baying in a pack. I’ll bet a good few who were considering giving the Greens their second vote will instead have had second thoughts. The other thing that was obvious is that Labour, the Tories and the Libdems are still working hand in glove with each other. Oh, and Rennie lost the LDs another few thousand votes.

      The BBC is a stinking, rotten, corrupt organisation and as such it well serves its Westminster masters.

      1. JWil says:

        I get the feeling that Patrick Harvie has been totally undependable as a supporter of independence in a number of interviews he has had. His message that we should fossil fuels completely seems unrealistic, at least in the short term, and I feel it won’t help him much in the forthcoming election.

  22. Graeme says:

    I assume the audience balancing was done largely on the EU referendum, as that’s what’s been done in recent weeks. Obviously that goes some way to explaining why there were people with opinions we don’t all agree with.

    At the same time, the panel was totally imbalanced on the question of EU membership, with 5 political panellists who were in favour and only one who is in favour of leaving. In that case though I suspect it was the proximity of the Scots election which explains why there were 3 party leaders on.

  23. Jim Alexander says:

    Maybe the fact that the SNP were wrong in using $110 for there Tax Revenue Calculations meant that SNP Supporters were muted at QT as they had nothing to argue as we are below $40 a barrel with a deficit double that of the UK

    This meant those who were on the Unionist side if the debate had very strong arguments on the night which John Swinney couldn’t argue against – so rather than conspiracy theory maybe look at the facts – the case for separation suffered a major blow due to the halving of the price of Oil – everyone knows that – even the SNP leadership -hence Ref2 will be kicked into the long Grass for a long time to come

    But carry on looking for someone to blame e.g. the BBC it helps coping with the fact independence is dead in the Water for at least a generation

  24. John says:

    Tasmina ahmed sheikh is who we need on QT panels , not John Swinney types , wonderful as John is with figures he does not go in for the kill .Tasmina has a loud enough voice and aggressive style of questioning to at least give a credible voice to any debate .

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Are you serious?

  25. arthur thomson says:

    Any sensible viewer would see it for the farcical setup that it was. Women and those who want respectful debate would empathise with John Swinney. More support for SNP. Decreasing respect for the unionist cause. Poetic justice.

  26. Auldcynic says:

    What disappointed me most was that John Swinney didn’t nail Ruth Davison and David Dimbleby on the issue of “knowing there was going to be a referendum on the EU prior to the Scottish Referendum” and therefore “having no grounds to complain if BRExit pulls us out”.

    My recollection is that only the Tory party was promising a referendum if they won a majority. They were behind in the polls and a coalition was the predicted outcome. A referendum was therefore highly unlikely.

  27. JWil says:

    There was a fair bit of smug smirking going on in the audience too. Perhaps it was just my paranoia or perhaps not.

  28. JWil says:

    What’s wIth the mIssIng Ietter, “eye”? I thought It was just me.

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