By a Newsnet reporter
On December 12th an official Scottish government report showed that racist attacks against a group describing themselves as “white British” had increased by twenty four per cent in the last year.
The statistic resulted in newspaper headlines suggesting, or in the case of one newspaper asserting, that attacks on English people was on the increase.
A press release was issued by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie expressing concern over “anti-English rhetoric” and “racist abuse towards English”.
That day, listeners to Radio Scotland’s morning news programme Good Morning Scotland heard presenters reading out the aforementioned newspaper headlines. This was followed by the host of Call Kaye, Kaye Adams, who in a trailer for her own phone in show said: “So, are we seeing a rise of anti-English sentiment in Scotland; up fifty percent apparently over the last seven years.”
When her radio phone in programme started, Ms Adams asked: “Is anti-English sentiment on the rise in Scotland”. Listeners were asked if they saw it in their own area and to phone in to say what they believed the cause to be.
Neither of the three initial invited guest speakers challenged the interpretation that a rise in white-British attacks meant an increase in anti-English attacks.
Stuart Waiton from Abertay University didn’t challenge the view that there might be an increase in anti-English sentiment, instead he appeared more eager to play down the seriousness of any attacks.
Alastair Pringle from the Equality and Human Rights Commission also appeared to accept that there was indeed an increase but sought to try to partly explain it by suggesting the rise was linked to attacks on English police officers.
Conservative MSP John Lamont similarly didn’t challenge the suggestion that there was an increase in anti-English attacks. However Mr Lamont would later say that the increase could be nothing more than friendly banter and further analysis was required in order to determine whether the independence debate was the cause of the rise.
There was a general acceptance being conveyed by the show that we were witnessing an upsurge in anti-English sentiment.
With the agenda set and listeners primed, the show kicked off and very quickly and predictably a stream of callers and texts messages were aired that sought to give examples of this apparent ‘rise’ in anti-English sentiment and who was to blame.
The first caller was from Hertfordshire who alleged he had been on the receiving end of indirect intimidation from an offensive barman on a ferry sometime in the 80s or 90s.
The caller’s story was bizarre, not least due to his attempt to link the obnoxious barman’s boorish antics to Margaret Thatcher.
Kaye - “Keith that was quite a while ago yeh?”
Caller - “I think it goes back to the eighties … goes back to Margaret Thatcher using Scotland as a testing ground for things like Trident and the poll tax.”
Kaye - “Maybe a political edge there”
This was the first introduction of the word ‘political’ into the programme.
The scene was set: A rise in anti-English sentiment had been ‘established’ as the theme, an increase in such sentiment had been implicitly accepted as fact and into the melting pot as a reason for this ‘rise’ had been introduced politics.
It didn’t require a genius to see where this particular phone-in show was going to go.
On cue, two texts messages attacking the SNP or independence supporters were immediately read out by the show host.
“Well, well, well what a surprise. Anti-English hatred is on the rise, no wonder with what’s been preached from the SNP it’s a worry” said the first text message.
“There’s been an anti-English feeling in Scotland far away from sport. That’s the reason used by a large section of Scottish people who plan to vote for independence, it’s very, very scary we are a blinkered nation unfortunately.” said a second.
“I’m not sure what kind of further analysis we can actually do” said Kaye Adams in response to a suggestion from John Lamont that this would be required.
What listeners to the show would have been unaware of is that further analysis of the official figures was indeed carried out and showed that, over the last twelve months, anti-English attacks in Scotland actually decreased by 17%.
As far as we are aware, Newsnet Scotland is the only news site to report this inconvenient truth which was part of a statement issued by the Scottish government in the aftermath of the sensationalist headlines and equally sensationalist radio phone-in.
The show continued very much in this vein
It prompted a member of the Newsnet team to make a formal complaint to the BBC regarding the Call Kaye programme. The response to this complaint we will now reveal, together with our own analysis.
Sparked fears or Sparked Prejudice?
The complaint, which can be read in full below, elicited a lengthy and detailed response which can also be read in full below.
The first thing we will deal with is the refusal to address a very specific quote made by the show host Kaye Adams. At the end of the pre-show trailer Ms Adams was quite specific that there was a 50% increase in anti-English attacks over the last seven years.
Here is the trailer for the show, this time in full
Whether an inadvertent mistake or a deliberate ploy to increase listener feedback we don’t know, but the claim is very clear and very specific – there has been an increase in anti-English sentiment in Scotland over the last seven years.
This part of our complaint, that the show host asserted as fact something which was as yet unconfirmed, wasn’t addressed by the show’s producer. It will form part of our follow-up complaint which the BBC will receive in the next day or so.
Kaye Adams did, it has to be said, read out all sorts of statistics but the general thrust of our complaint against the show was that it was party political and dangerously tribal, and that it encouraged politically sectarian responses from listeners.
Here is the part of the reply that defends the decision to discuss this apparent growth in anti-English sentiment:
“This was a reflection of figures released by the Scottish Government which showed Racist incidents are up by 10% on last year with a particular spike in the number of “White British” victims, sparking fears of a rising Anti English sentiment in Scotland. Over the past seven years, the attacks on 'white British ' are up by fifty per cent.
The claim that these figures reflected an Anti-English Sentiment came from Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie who said: “We can’t allow Anti-English rhetoric to enter our country”.
Leaving aside the fact that Kaye Adams very clearly stated that there was a fifty per cent growth in anti-English sentiment which the reply does not acknowledge, the phrase “sparking fears of a rising Anti English sentiment in Scotland” needs examining.
Sparking fears amongst whom?
Well apart from Willie Rennie, the Daily Record and the Herald both carried headlines along these lines. Both newspapers appeared to rely heavily on Rennie’s comments.
Rennie of course is a pro-Union MSP whilst the Daily Record and the Herald carry pro-Union editorial lines. It is well known that, amongst criticisms of the SNP and the independence movement, is a claim that there exists an intrinsic anti-English sentiment.
Married to this are continual references to fascism and dictators when referring to the SNP and its leader Alex Salmond.
It’s against this backdrop that we need to examine claims from the show’s producer that the rise in attacks against ‘white British’ had “sparked fears” that it was evidence of a possible rise in anti-English sentiment.
In our complaint we pointed to another possible explanation for the rise in attacks against “white British”.
This is what our team member wrote:
“The programme made no attempt at providing an alternative explanation for the increase in attacks on "white British", the obvious being that a sectarian explanation could have been responsible - Scottish Unionists and Orangemen frequently describe themselves as "white British".
Now, there is no reason to believe this was the case nor are we claiming that there was a sectarian reason for these attacks. The purpose of this alternative explanation was to demonstrate how prejudice can be applied to statistics that are devoid of analysis.
If we take our own ‘alternative’ further then one could, if one wished, have extrapolated the “white British” attacks as having been carried out on just such a section of Scottish society.
Such an assumption would have introduced, not as Kaye Adams eventually did a political angle, but a religious angle.
Again it doesn’t take a genius to work out which section of Scottish society may have been blamed for a ‘rise’ in such attacks had the phone-in applied this prejudice. We can all imagine the justifiable anger that would have resulted had those of a Scots/Irish persuasion found themselves blamed for a rise in attacks on “white British”.
But the prejudice applied to the rise in “white British” attacks wasn’t religious, it was political. The section of Scottish society ‘blamed’ for these attacks were those who support independence.
History has witnessed similar prejudices applied to statistics. In the USA those with an agenda have been known to seize on the number of African Americans in prison as ‘proof’ that such a race is predisposed to crime.
The result of the Call Kaye programme was to give those with an agenda an opportunity to air their prejudices. The programme lazily accepted a politically bigoted interpretation of statistics and presented the result as credible.
The producer of the programme wrote:
"Throughout the item we made sure that the callers we put on air were reflective of the correspondence coming through to the programme to challenge the views put across by our panellists. Listening back, we had three callers who said they thought there was Anti-English sentiment, two of whom accused the SNP of stirring this up. Also on the programme we had three callers who called this nonsense and that the figures had been politicised by Pro-Unionists. These callers were added to a healthy mixture of texts and email traffic representative of both sides of the discussion."
There is nothing healthy about providing a platform for people to display their political bigotry. The whole programme was built on a prejudice, one that would lead to attacks on a section of Scottish society.
That some people eventually phoned in to challenge this lazy and dangerous manipulation of statistics is not surprising, especially when we now know that there was no such increase in anti-English sentiment, that it had in fact fallen.
To base a live phone-in programme on a press release from a Unionist politician, which in turn generated headlines that were at best poorly informed, is not what BBC Scotland should be doing with licence payer’s money.
Why the BBC didn’t seek further information from the Scottish government prior to selecting such a politically motivated and potentially incendiary topic is not known – had they done so then Kaye Adams may in act have been inviting callers to suggest a reason for the drop in anti-English sentiment in Scotland.
Another aspect of the producer’s response to our team members complaint was this:
“The aim of our programme is always to allow the listeners to make their own minds up from a broad spectrum of opinions and experiences.”
Call Kaye is not designed to inform and educate. The show is tabloidesque and, as can be seen from this particular programme, sometimes allows the prejudiced and ignorant a platform upon which to promote their own skewed view of the world.
In a recent analysis of an episode of this show Newsnet Scotland demonstrated with recordings of the entire show a clear lack of balance when it dealt with the issue of Scottish independence.
Finally, the very first caller to the programme hailed from Hertfordshire. How many other listeners to this appallingly misinformed programme were from England? How many English people, having picked up the ‘anti-English’ misinformation from newspapers, listened live or tuned in via iPlayer and had their own misinformed views of Scotland, the SNP and independence supporters confirmed?
Worryingly, how many of these good English people have been left harbouring a grudge against Scots?
Here is the full programme for those who may have missed the original broadcast. As you listen, please remember that attacks against English people living in Scotland went DOWN last year.
On the subject of BBC broadcasts and less than tolerant sentiment. This from BBC Radio 4 show 'Any Questions' in 2010 features ex BBC Governess Baroness Ruth Deech and another guest called Douglas Murray.
Here is our team member’s original complaint to the BBC:
The programme extrapolated a report on racist attacks in Scotland on "white British" and implied this was evidence of "anti-English" sentiment.
Show host Kaye Adams, in an earlier trailer for the programme, stated that “anti-English sentiment” was “up fifty per cent apparently over the last seven years”. Ms Adams then used a decades old anecdote from a caller to suggest a political link to this "anti-English" sentiment.
This was followed by several text messages and phone calls accusing the SNP of being responsible for the apparent rise and being behind anti-English bullying in the North east of Scotland. So bad were calls that some people felt compelled to phone in complaining about unsubstantiated claims being made against the SNP.
The whole programme was based on headlines in Several newspapers that claimed a rise in anti-English racist attacks over the last twelve months. The programme made no attempt at providing an alternative explanation for the increase in attacks on "white British", the obvious being that a sectarian explanation could have been responsible - Scottish Unionists and Orangemen frequently describe themselves as "white British". In fact analysis of the official statistics revealed that anti-English attacks in Scotland had actually fallen by 17% over the last year. The programme was dangerously tribal and encouraged politically sectarian messages and phone calls from members of the public, based on an ignorant assumption backed by no evidence.
Here is the response from the show’s producer:
Call Kaye which broadcast on Wednesday the 12th of December hosted by Kaye Adams asked the question do you believe there is a rise in Anti- English Sentiment in Scotland? Is this the case where you live?
This was a reflection of figures released by the Scottish Government which showed Racist incidents are up by 10% on last year with a particular spike in the number of “White British” victims, sparking fears of a rising Anti English sentiment in Scotland. Over the past seven years, the attacks on 'white British ' are up by fifty per cent.
The claim that these figures reflected an Anti-English Sentiment came from Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie who said: “We can’t allow Anti-English rhetoric to enter our country”. This view was refuted by Englishman Stuart Waiton a criminology and sociology lecturer from Abertay University who said that in his opinion this isn’t happening in Scotland
Throughout the item we made sure that the callers we put on air were reflective of the correspondence coming through to the programme to challenge the views put across by our panellists. Listening back, we had three callers who said they thought there was Anti-English sentiment, two of whom accused the SNP of stirring this up. Also on the programme we had three callers who called this nonsense and that the figures had been politicised by Pro-Unionists. These callers were added to a healthy mixture of texts and email traffic representative of both sides of the discussion.
The aim of our programme is always to allow the listeners to make their own minds up from a broad spectrum of opinions and experiences.
I hope that this goes some way to answering your query and that you will continue listening to the programme in the future.