Toni and Moira from East Dunbartonshire

The recurring theme in the video above is of a need for information from both sides in the referendum debate.

An honest and mature debate is something that most people will agree is an absolute necessity as the nation edges towards decision time.

Most will also agree that thus far, the so called debate has been nothing more than claim and counter-claim from both sides.  This isn’t to say that political cut-and-thrust should be denied the party protagonists but that this dominates, to the exclusion of almost anything else, means that ordinary people are denied access to mature debate and reasoned analysis.

The Daily Record, Scotsman and Herald are clearly pro-Union and will remain so right up to ballot day.  Their content, like the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and any other English based title you care to mention is unashamedly anti-independence.

However, Scotland’s newspaper industry is in decline and wields nothing like the influence it used to.  Circulation figures suggest that this influence is waning with every passing month.  Few would be surprised if one major Scottish title disappeared before the referendum.

The broadcast media is a different matter.  The internet has allowed citizen journalism to counter much of the partisan copy from the newspapers, however TV and Radio remain relatively unaffected by the phenomenon.

Broadcast media remains the biggest influence on the electorate and it is here that steps must be taken to ensure that the electorate are provided with the quality coverage this historic decision merits.

Right now though there is little sign of a desire within our broadcast media to embrace this challenge.  Aside from STV’s Scotland Tonight, which has now firmly established itself as a current affairs show of genuine quality, there has been minimal effort on the part of the BBC or STV.

…we are not in an official referendum campaign and therefore do not have to balance it out between yes and no.

STV continues to under-use its top people.  The station has arguably the best political interviewer in Scotland in Bernard Ponsonby, and Scotland Tonight has uncovered another in John MacKay.  MacKay uses his charm to great effect and has a knack of squeezing information out of his guests whilst maintaining a pleasant demeanour – take note Gary Robertson/Glenn Campbell.

STV could do worse than invest some of its profits in a regular hourly debate.  Blair Jenkins and Nicola Sturgeon taking on Blair McDougall and Alistair Darling would be box office.

Over at BBC Scotland, things are going from bad to worse.  Thirty job losses in the whole of the BBC’s UK operation and nine of them in Scotland gives you some indication of the priority the BBC is giving the referendum.  The strike action that resulted from the corporation’s refusal to shelve the planned redundancies follows claims that staff morale at BBC Scotland is at an all-time low.

There is an almost dysfunctional feel about BBC Scotland, at times one gets a sense of two factions jostling with one another as the professional versus the partisan – with the partisan having management backing.

The evidence is there, as debates and discussions continue to see one side over-represented, sadly for the pro-independence campaign it is almost always Unionists who dominate.  The BBC’s response to complaints about this lack of balance is that they don’t have to balance these debates out.

“…we are not in an official referendum campaign and therefore do not have to balance it out between yes and no.”

It’s a staggeringly arrogant and dismissive reply to a justifiable complaint.  But how many Scots realise that BBC Scotland is presenting them with a skewed debate, and that their licence fee is trousered by a corporation that sees nothing wrong with such imbalance?

And it’s this complete disregard for balance that is leaving hundreds of thousands of Scots wholly ignorant of the actual issues and vulnerable to scare and myth.

The recent scandal, and it was a scandal, when the BBC refused to report follow up comments from the Irish Foreign Minister, is indicative of a station that doesn’t care who notices anymore.

The small areas of excellence such as Derek Bateman’s weekend morning shows are swamped by a sea of mediocrity.  Call Kaye, Shereen and the truly dreadful Reporting Scotland stand like a proverbial rogues gallery, if not guilty of killing debate then certainly culpable of standing back and doing nothing as it withers.

The two ladies in the video above are symbolic of a huge swathe of people across Scotland who are being denied a proper debate and who fear reaching referendum day armed not with logic and facts on which to base their decision, but on ignorance and fear.

Let’s send a message to our broadcasters.  Let’s join the rally this Saturday in Glasgow and call for a balanced, all inclusive, referendum debate.

Click here for rally details.


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