By Derek Bateman
What have they unleashed? One of the immediate consequences of the tripartite Unionist front dictating currency policy to Scotland is a hardening of anti-British sentiment. Those who have been pretending this is about questions of personal wealth – give me £500 and I’ll vote Yes – are realising that the real divide is between Scotland and Britain.
The line-up of all of the Westminster parties AND, uniquely, the Civil Service, in an embodiment of the British state, addressing Scotland like a colony, denying us access to what is ours by right and dictating policy without negotiation, is the encapsulation of everything we detest about London rule. It is Better Together’s Spitting Image moment.

By pulling together and stating effectively that retention of the Union supersedes all policy differences is a seminal moment. Had they come together to plead with us for a No vote, it might have been an illuminating event. But when they colluded to put us in our place with their London Master threats they may have made the second biggest mistake of the campaign after rejecting a second question.

For Labour to be enrolled in a united campaign to “save the Union” is one thing. To act jointly with the Tory-led Coalition on a specific area of policy is another. A generalised, pro-Britain stance is logical for Labour but when they conspire to create individual policy along with the Tories they are getting into bed with the people who are wrecking lives in Britain.

Their claims from now on to be deeply opposed to everything from the bedroom tax to salary tax rates are compromised by the alacrity with which they can co-operate when its suits them. And why is “saving the Union” a greater crusade than saving the dignity of the unemployed? Why does the perfectly normal arrangement of a currency deal supersede zero hours contracts and welfare cuts for the disabled? For a socialist what is the motivation to bury all differences with the hard right in order to send a brutal message to the Scots – that we don’t co-operate, we dictate. We don’t negotiate – we assert?

I wrote this week that Balls is conflating his loathing for the SNP – and his fear of it – with the Scots generally. His message doesn’t just hit Nats, it falls on all Scots and brands everyone as somehow an enemy, even Unionists. What is the likely result? He stirs deep-rooted resentment about London diktat, brings to the surface irritations over subsidy jibes and leaves undecided Labour voters wondering what exactly it is they are supporting.

Many of them are already Don’t Knows leaning towards Yes and this is a sharp reminder of how they are really viewed even by their own leadership, as dumb ruminants to be shepherded by the master’s whistle. They haven’t been able to take the next step to Yes because independence is seen as Salmond’s project – he owns it. But when their own leadership is doing the Tories’ work for them against Scotland’s interest, those doubts disappear.

If they are looking for explanation from their “Scottish leader” they may look long. One of the most fascinating aspects of the whole campaign so far is the near invisibility of the “Scottish leader”. Isn’t it an amazing fact that at this critical time in Scotland’s history someone who has not long ago been anointed the first-ever “leader” of all the Scottish party has played virtually no role? Indeed, as a keen observer said to me yesterday, Ruth Davidson has played a bigger part with more interventions that Johann Lamont.

One can only assume that her advisers, the some ones who have steered her into “something for nothing” and “nationalism is a virus”, reckon it’s safer to keep her out of the front line for their own sake. I am assuming that this week she will appear beside Balls and express her support and be questioned on the currency position. If she fails to, it wont only be voters who grasp that she doesn’t lead but it will intensify MPs’ contempt for her and their opposition to her Devolution Commission proposals.

Tuning in to the BBC it was striking how different James Naughtie’s interviews were with Salmond and Alexander. As ever, he was beside himself with Salmond, barely letting a whole thought or sentence finish, nipping away in the background, adopting a challenging tone. It made for a frustrating listen and his truculence extended to an ironic remark about Scottish government anonymous briefings in reply to Salmond pointing out the Herald’s story that the coalition might not recognise the referendum outcome…a pretty serious development.

Alex Salmond interview

Some of this of course is acceptable except when contrasted with his Danny Alexander interview minutes later. He was positively sheepish and I don’t think he stopped him once. Alexander was allowed to make prolonged statements, adding idea after idea, to promote party lines and criticise the Scottish government while Naughtie went to sleep.

He asked what the Coalition would do if there was no agreement on the debt – would they refuse to accept the independence result – and Alexander simply didn’t answer. He answered a totally different question and Naughtie didn’t pull him up. Then Alexander made a number of unchallenged assertions including that Scotland would start off poorer because of a large deficit. I pricked up my ears awaiting the mighty Naughtie intervention but, again, nothing.

Danny Alexander interview

Yet we know according to the FT that: an independent Scotland could also expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK. And the numbers show every person in Scotland £1300 better off immediately of nearly £6000 for an ordinary family.  And of course the only reason Scotland  shows a deficit in government tables in the first place is because they add in a share of their debt to our accounts. Shouldn’t a journalist have some ammunition in an interview?

This Naughtie experiment isn’t working. Jim simply can’t stop himself railing against the SNP and seems to have a personal issue with Salmond. I defy anyone at PQ to listen to these two efforts side by side and say they are remotely similar in approach or fairness or that a listener couldn’t justifiably deduce there was bias. Has anyone got the balls to tell him? Or does it just confirm our worst fears that content is the last thing on the BBC’s mind?

Which brings me to Kirsty Wark who produced a disturbingly strident performance on Newsnight with a cleverly patient and unruffled Salmond. Her tone was shrill, impatient and kind of patronizing, the way she might speak to her puppy if it poohed on the carpet. You know the interviewer has got it wrong when you end up watching her/him instead of the interviewee.

My theory? Wark and Naughtie are used to feeling in charge, playing an interview like a fish on the line. They both know with Salmond that he is a master of the form and always has an answer, knows more than they do and will not be bested. Therefore they are all wound up in advance not to let him away with too much and the result is they get the tone all wrong, make the viewer sympathise with Salmond and look unprofessional. Shame.

Courtesy of Derek Bateman


2014-02-14 19:24

Nicely written Derek.

The disgust I felt for the bbc was continued last night when I made a foray into an unwatched love in,otherwise known as ‘This Week’,hosted by Andra “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner” Neill.
I expected a lot of airtime to be devoted to this latest development,how naive of me.
We had a quick snippet from some five live DJ doing a rundown of the weeks events to begin with and then half an hour of England only issues mainly centring around the flooding in Tory heartlands.
Eventually after what seemed liked an age they broached the subject and……?

Well I’ll let you decide for yourselves ‘if’ you can watch it on the iplayer.
All I’ll say is it’s the most disgusting bbc display I’ve yet seen,and I’d thought they couldn’t get any lower.
2014-02-14 19:26

DB, what a brilliant piece of writing exposing the MSM sycophants
2014-02-14 19:30

I find Ms Wark vocally abrasive at the best of times ,however her utter arrogance was well on show while
” interviewing” a pretty affable , calm First Minister.
I agree entirely , he certainly got the best of her in that encounter.
Ian Brotherhood
2014-02-14 19:49

In Irvine today, leafleting for SSP, the anger was striking.

It’s finally trickled-down, and cannot be reversed – we Scots are being demonised as ‘the enemy within’. UKPlc is using the same tactics to keep us in this cursed union as it did to force the original, cynical ‘marriage’.

It won’t work.

Wark, Naughtie et al know it as well as anyone else, but they demean themselves further as the inevitable unfolds.

‘Shame’ right enough.
2014-02-14 20:04

The trouble with Westminster over the 2nd question, Derek, is that devo-max is just as bad for them, since they wouldn’t have the oil revenues. And “Scottish” Labour’s finest troughers like Davidson would be very lucky to get a list seat in the 2016 election anyway.

Me first, Scotland 2nd is the joint cry of the unionists.
2014-02-14 20:11

Sorry O/T
I heard on TV Cameron was giving £5000 to people to help,very good but it seems although Wales have suffered as well they are not to get this money,I wonder what Wales FM has to say about this.
I also heard Wark you could see by her body language she was finding it hard to keep her cool,never did like her.
2014-02-14 20:37

The political interview on the main news programmes has ceased to be about finding out information and exploring someone’s thoughts on a topic.

The interviewers now seem to use more soundbites than the people they are interviewing.

Any interviewee who slips up has it rammed down their throat over the next 24 hour rolling news.

It’s a contest between the TV news personality and the political personality. No one really wants to find out information as to do so seems to imply someone has “lost”.
2014-02-14 20:38

Aye,it’s getting so obvious to everyone,isn’t it? Can a band of ordinary Scots stand up to the entire British establishment and media…Naughtie,Wark and all? And why isn’t Labour MSP Jenny Marra getting right in there beside Cameron and Osbourne and Darling in their campaign to crush the Scots?
2014-02-14 21:03

Salmond’s mistake last night was that he was rolling out the same lines that we had heard all day. Thought he was somewhat lackluster.
2014-02-14 22:02

Being calm, reasonable and confident is a mistake?

Bad Alex.

2014-02-14 21:30

What do you expect from Naughtie, the man who asked Ed Balls “If we win the election..”. Bussed up from London because he came from Aberdeen to put Jockland in it’s place.
2014-02-15 08:09

After the Troika’s alleged triumph during the week re Currency Union the boomerang is accelerating towards the most sensitive parts of Osborne, Alexander and Balls – the latter’s name never having been more appropriate.
2014-02-15 08:20

I think a campaign to have Naughtie sacked for ‘crimes against the community’ might just resonate with the BBC and their Westmonster masters.

Anyone able to organise this? I will happily sign a petition
2014-02-15 09:14

Bateman: “My theory? Wark and Naughtie are used to feeling in charge, playing an interview like a fish on the line. “

My theory? Wark and Naughtie are joined in common cause albeit informally, to do what they can to destroy Salmond personally to decapitate the indy movement.

I think the evidence offers sufficient probable cause to justify an inquiry

I think we are beyond the point now of pointing out that if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a conspiracy.

That’s the great thing about conspiracy, you don’t really have to do anything to break the law and face jail time, you just need to conspire to do so.

Surly there’s some low-hanging fruit there that could be picked then persuaded to offer testimony helpful to the inquiry and begin the great undoing of Pacific Quay? No?

Inquiring minds and procurators fiscal wonder.
2014-02-15 10:18

So we have a situation where Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems can come together and agree that they will attempt to deny Scotland the use of the £ if we vote for independence.

But they cannot come together to agree on what a NO vote means for Scotland?

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