That’s All For Now

This will probably be the last time I actually write anything about the BBC so my heart is light.

Some responses to the blog gave me a laugh, some had me nodding in agreement and others had my head in my hands.

First, for all those hard of learning, can I repeat (please imagine capitals on) I have never said there is no bias. Every time I’ve written on this topic I’ve only ever offered my own direct experience to say there is no deliberate, organised, planned BBC campaign to do down the SNP, oppose independence or vilify Yes.

Bias takes many forms and comes from many sources, none of them acceptable professionally but some, no doubt understandably, as in any large organisation with multiple platforms, working round the clock producing an endless stream of output.

The truth is that no news organisation is free from bias no matter how hard they try because it is an objective – and aspiration – that can never be achieved 100 per cent. Human frailty and work pressures ensure that several times a day someone somewhere will have legitimate cause to claim a report does not accurately reflect what they believe to be true.

When you add in other factors like corporate mindset and, yes, personal viewpoints masquerading as fact, it is inevitable that some output will appear compromised.

Personally, I believe we have undergone a transformation in newsgathering and information dissemination in which old certainties and methods have been changed or dismantled. Put another way, standards have fallen, probably in proportion to the sheer amount of information now sloshing about in the ether. To keep up with rapidly advancing technology – and in response to government public spending cuts endorsed by voters – the BBC has found itself under crushing financial pressure. Therefore some budgets were cut, notably staffing. Take away a tier of decision-makers like programme editors and you remove an essential filter through which material is screened before broadcast. Their role was supervisory asking questions like: Are we right to describe a political initiative this way? Could the opposition fairly complain about it? Why are we doing yet another item on the same subject? Do we need more balance? Without them the rigour goes.

Sometimes it’s just bad journalism, either in the framing of an item, the choice of guests or the quality of script and questions. That comes from both inexperience (not helped by removing through redundancy those with the knowledge to pass on) and, conversely, the sloppiness that comes from long experience. We all get lazy. A good example in recent months was a radio interview with two economics academics, both known as Better Together old hands but not introduced as such – in other words identified as if neutral. Anyone with knowledge of the referendum would have known their affiliation which I assume the producer didn’t. The experienced interviewer then asked them non-challenging, soft questions about the possible consequences of independence including a shrug-of-the-shoulder effort to the effect that ‘…it would all be terribly complicated…’ I listened in horror to an inept, uninformative item that gave a misleading impression. It failed every tests of BBC journalism. I said to myself: They can hardly object that critics say they’re biased if that’s the quality of the output.

Another thing a good editor does is look at the continuity of coverage over a longer period. For instance, the best stories are based on criticism – something someone doesn’t want you to know. (Nowadays that’s usually the SNP government). Therefore it makes sense that a correspondent keeps in touch with those looking to expose shortcomings. In other words, the opposition. They, in turn, are fed inside information from sources who share their political affiliation. It could be in health, for example, and a good correspondent gets a stream of material from an opposition source about problems in hospitals that embarrasses the government. That is journalism. But a good editor will spot when the weight of similar attack stories seems excessive and turns into an area of public concern in itself. It’s obvious that not everything in a given field like health is bad news or the NHS would stop functioning. The reality is that there are heartbreakingly good stories in our hospitals every day and world leading work is done. Journalism is by definition selective. So an editor would look to balance his output over time with good stories. No editor – less chance of balance.

I know it doesn’t fit the blood lust of condemnation but doesn’t it sound a bit more plausible than a coven of executives scheming Sturgeon’s downfall and instructing reporters to do the dirty work?

Someone in the responses thinks the BBC is best pals with the Liberals’ press office so just gets them on air instead of the Greens…

Someone else thinks if you’re Unionist, your face fits and you get on and that’s why I apparently didn’t – nothing to do with my aversion to promotion to any management role then or my total unsuitability for the job…

Another says you can’t be a former Tory activist and be neutral…

And someone suggests they only started being anti SNP after they hired me…

(I must have been the only one not in the know. Or maybe they started when I left. (‘Right, Bateman’s away. Let’s get the Nats.’)

It is true that, even to me, there are items which sound so wrong, so unbalanced that I understand perfectly why a consumer would deduce there is deliberate bias, although the obsessive scrutiny of detail is just sad – a pro SNP story drops down the online page! A mistake at a Labour council is headlined ‘Council in scandal’ but a mistake at an SNP council is headlined ‘SNP council in scandal’ !!

Our capacity for outrage is outstripping national productivity.

But others recognise that you don’t need a conspiracy to produce an effect and I agree. We all work to the boss. Yet my sense is that at BBC Scotland staff have been more afraid of managers because they’ve shown a willingness to sack them than a desire to distort the news to order.

To those convinced Pacific Quay is a bastion of Unionism, wittingly or otherwise, I should point out, contrary to some of my correspondents, that two heads of the news department in recent years have been, so far as I know, Scottish Nationalists – one of them led the Yes campaign, Blair Jenkins. People don’t as a rule talk about how they vote (it never bothered me) but I know for certain at least one on air presenter whom you also know, who is a committed nationalist. There are Yes-voting producers of my ken. I’m aware of one manager who definitely voted SNP and of another who backs independence and reads this blog – (hi). Both John Nicolson and Brendan O’Hara worked at BBC Scotland. I have no reason to believe the political make up of the staff is any different from wider Scotland.

Beware of the groupthink you accuse journalists of perpetrating. One correspondent says most posters here are against me therefore that proves it. In other words, if enough of us say it, we’ll drown you out, never mind the facts. (I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way.)

Another suggests the ex BBC man now working for Nicola Sturgeon might be a double agent sabotaging her efforts. So that’s why they lost all those seats!

Let’s stop making ourselves look silly. There are genuine concerns about BBC Scotland and I’m doubtful about the SNP hands-off strategy which avoids confronting real broadcast issues head on. But remember that the SNP after a Yes vote has no intention of destroying what is there but rather building on it to produce a better service. Criticism would be better focussed on that plan than demonising individuals (some of whom don’t even write the scripts they read). The wilder the accusations, the more extreme the reactions, the easier it is for the BBC to sweep them aside.

There’s also a feeling that relentless blaming of the broadcasters shifts responsibility for SNP failures away from where it belongs. Blasting the Beeb over coverage of education stats won’t help the kids at school. Asking the SNP questions might.

An activist dialogue with the party about the BBC, conducted in reasonable terms, might result in a better SNP approach to broadcast shortcomings AND make the corporation think harder about quality journalism and balance.

Which reminds me: someone asks if the BBC showed how other small countries were faring independently during the indyref. Yes, they did. Allan Little went to Scandinavia. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-25061445

The best summation is this from Chris. I concur.

Everyone has an opinion Derek, but not all of those criticising the BBC do so from a splendid isolation beyond the BBC – some of us have also worked there in the past and have had major issues on London’s patrician relationship with Glasgow. I agree with yourself that there is no direct edict from above – “destroy the Nats!” – but there is a group think in parts of the Beeb based on a variety of factors that I do think can help to create an atmosphere of bias in places. With staff jobs disappeared, and people now on short term contracts, the mantra of “you’re only as good as your last job” is one that focuses the mind if you are going from three month contracts to three month contracts, for example. Don’t upset the apple cart – keep your head down, do what is asked, and you might just be back again next week. 

There will nevertheless be individuals for whom many of us will have issues – Nick Robinson in 2014 with his edited Alex Salmond comment of “he couldn’t answer” is one that I have never been able to justify. But I do also buy into the idea of a decline in journalistic standards, an under-investment in investigative journalism and documentary, and an over-reliance on newspapers as unquestionable sources. On another front, a lot of output is also made by indies these days, and I think there are some issues there also. Mentorn Scotland’s handling of Question Time is appalling, for example, and I’m not just asking as a viewer today, but as someone who has a friend who has shared much experience with me of having worked on the series for many months. 

There is a lot the BBC gets right, but in these days of constitutional urgency, every single error gets amplified a hundred fold. Whether the BBC is biased is one question, but the fact that it is perceived to be biased, with allegations that it somehow never seems to satisfactorily address, is what ultimately will hole it below the waterline. As much as it is impossible to blame everyone in the BBC for being biased, it is also equally impossible to accuse every viewer/listener with a grievance of having no genuine issue of concern. There are issues on both sides. The tragedy is that a lot of good folk at the BBC are as much a victim of all this as many of the viewers who feel so aggrieved. The ultimate failure is in management at the corporation.

Thank you for listening. That’s all from us for tonight. Sleep well. Here’s the national anthem….

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Public Service Announcement…

I know we have bigger things on our mind just now but I wanted to slip this out in the meantime. I didn’t want to do it during the election. Regular readers (and members of the Bateman Blog Cult) will know that I haven’t written about the BBC for some time. I have stopped doing so for personal reasons.

There is a strand of reaction out there that I find insulting and, however thick-skinned I may be, also hurtful and tedious. To be clear, I have no objection to anyone disagreeing with me…that’s the essence of the exchange – blog and react. Nor do I worry about political opponents taking cheap shots – that’s expected.

What gets to me is people on my own side refusing to allow me my own opinion and insisting I adopt theirs.

I’ve grown tired of self-appointed thought police telling me that ‘I must know what the BBC are doing’…sick of the ‘Come off it, when are you going to admit there’s deliberate bias’…or ‘How can you expect to be taken seriously (when you don’t agree with me)’

Here’s an actual example. Until you accept that it was your old pals at the bbc who decided the result of this election then there is no hope for you. Defend them all you like but they truly are the concentration camp guards who claim that they were just doing their job. Plantation quay needs to be destroyed.  How, I care not. Starved of funds or burned to a crisp, either is fine.’

Even when I don’t mention the BBC, the same thing happens gratuitously. ‘Is Derek still insisting this just poor management…’ (Scoff)

I can’t endlessly defend myself against ill-informed comment. On Twitter I was accused of being a Fifth Columnist, as in a secret agent posing as a Nationalist. It’s clear that partial information has led some to think I’m a cheerleader when long-term readers remember I actually resigned from Pacific Quay so I could campaign for independence. I did accept a deal to go but I still took a significant income hit at the time. I was the first, and I think still am, the only insider who went public with very precise detailed, and named, evidence of what I saw going on. That was no mean feat for someone with over 20 years in the BBC. I haven’t darkened the door since. When Professor John Robertson had his spat with the BBC management over bias in the news, it was me who publicised it.

I have been a consistent critic of the BBC and even laid out a detailed management plan of how they should have handled the referendum and what was needed to turn things round. My view hasn’t changed. I am often left open mouthed at the output when I do hear it such is its quality, although I don’t consume it very much any more. I don’t actually blame any outsider for believing there is willful bias and indeed I know very sensible people who believe just that. It is their right. But I won’t be railroaded into believing it myself and then insulted for sticking to my guns by people who’ve never crossed the threshold of Pacific Quay.

I just don’t believe the BBC organises and controls its journalism deliberately to damage Yes and the SNP. I say that because I was there and would have known. It takes a special kind of behavior to get someone to deny what they know to be true (or untrue).

Whatever your view – and I admit mine is that much of the current affairs output is rank – the demonization of individuals is unworthy of the movement. At Newsnet we received an article accusing a named journalist of blatant anti-SNP bias in a programme. It was such that we declined to publish, leading to a fractured relationship with the author, a well-known BBC conspiracy advocate. Months later that same journalist was working in Nicola Sturgeon’s office as a special adviser where he remains to this day. Some bias…

It’s begun to feel like Lilliputian fascism…little voices constantly demanding that everyone must think the way they do otherwise they’re traitors. This straightjacket orthodoxy kills goodwill and stunts critical thinking. We don’t all have to agree all the time and we must stop when we try to coerce others. Blogs are all about opinions and I’m entitled to mine, however nuanced it is and however it contradicts those of others.

Since I don’t mention the BBC, I’d appreciate it if others didn’t distort my views and display disrespect. Messages from those who demand I ‘own up’ to being wrong about the BBC and accept their version of reality won’t appear here and I’ll block tweeters doing likewise.

Like many on our side, I don’t need to do this blogging business. If we imagine the election result was disappointing, ask what it would feel like if there were no free blogs to turn to? I want your arguments and disagreements but more than that I want your respect.

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IMHO

Everybody else is chipping in with their I-Know-Where-the-SNP-Went-Wrong opinions. So here’s mine. (Isn’t it amazing to discover how many experts there are out there AFTER the event.)

It was, we are told, wrong, wrong, wrong to offer a referendum on Scotland after the Brexit deal. Really? I don’t remember anyone but the Tories picking that up – presumably from focus groups. Then of course we hear it’s all the fault of Sturgeon having her husband as party chief – a job he held when they got together as far as I know – and which made not a jot of difference in all the preceding election victories.

Like all mass operations, election results are a volcano spewing out clouds of barely discernible material that can only be identified once cooled and hardened over time.

You can certainly argue the referendum issue was key but what is truly indisputable is that this was an anti-SNP spasm. Note: It was not an SNP Loss. That is fake news and a five-year-old can see it’s numerical nonsense. But there is a distinction to be made between losing an election and losing momentum. Momentum is as important as winning/losing in politics. But not in government – hence we see both SNP and Conservatives winning numerically and forming governments (at time of writing) but still losing momentum. It is the oil in the political engine. Without it, the turbines slow and the motor seizes.

For myself I go back to what I was feeling and thinking during the election rather than being smart after the event – a speciality of mainstream writers who fasten on to the zeitgeist in the blink of an eye and please don’t remember what they wrote a month ago.

I became concerned and confused by the SNP election strategy because it was hard to discern what it was. I couldn’t write that it was wrong because there was nothing palpably off-key. But there was nothing to enthuse either. It was a content-free zone relying on the same mantra as two years ago at the last election – a Stronger Voice for Scotland. Did, I wondered, the SNP have its own secret polling indicating that this would work? As a supporter I’m reluctant to raise serous doubts mid-election, not because a Bateman Blog will change public opinion! Rather because it feels like undermining the effort.

I convinced myself that the opinion polls privately confirmed that the anti-referendum feeling wasn’t running strongly enough to make a difference except in a handful of seats and all that was needed was stoicism. Further, a late Corbyn swing was most likely to damage those Tory votes moving against the SNP. I was wrong.

I’m astonished to find the party had little idea it was heading for a crash landing until it was too late. Yet the movement of voters across the North East and the Borders was, it turned out, on a scale that should have set off klaxons much sooner. Was canvassing good enough? Was it accurate? Were the findings relayed to HQ? And were the decision-makers at the centre good enough at their job?

I don’t doubt for a moment that the real problem here was simply timing – the election came too soon instead of playing out over Brexit when there is a greater chance that the grim implications of life outside the EU will compel a demand for a vote to leave the UK, at least to test the idea and give a choice between UK and EU.

May’s hubris knocked out the timing, rather like Iain Gray losing the 2011 election so badly he gave a majority to the SNP and hastened the referendum to a time that proved too early.

In the aftermath of that referendum I was interviewed by Phantom Power and was forthright that Yessers had to accept the outcome and live with it. This prompted an outspoken response accusing me of giving up on independence etc. I will never do that but I am also a democrat and if the Scots vote against me, I’m duty bound to accept it. Like (my very good friend) JK Rowling, I believed the establishment would get such a shock from the closeness of the vote and, subsequently from the amazing 2015 election result, that something akin to federalism had to be the answer. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Not only did we get but crumbs from the table in terms of powers but they devised a fiscal trap by giving income tax rates but not no other balancing taxation levers. They built-in a fiscal time bomb to make us fail. The cynicism of that in the circumstances is shocking and displays contempt both for democracy and the Scots. (Which is one reason I say Mundell is nothing but a Westminster agent rather than a Scottish champion).

The mistake of some was to appear to ignore the result of 2014 and continue as if it never happened. I agree you don’t give up on your principles and objectives after a setback but you have to find the grace and guile to change the language and point of attack. The SNP leadership seemed to get this until the breathtaking gaffe of Cameron in asking Brits to endorse immigration (effectively) in an EU referendum. It doesn’t matter that a second indyref was party policy in the event of a British No and a Scottish Yes, the mistake lay in assuming the wider country would agree to go through another vote because, if you like, the SNP said so. They seemed to be blind to the significant numbers of Yessers who were still anti-EU. When it comes to it, I imagine many of them would vote for independence for Scotland with the EU over staying in the Union outwith the EU but we are steps away from that position and it’s not a answer they want to give right now.

So what could they have done? Well, not pounced on the EU outcome like an osprey on trout. The trick is always to take opinion with you. As I’ve argued before, one of the prime talents of the SNP, certainly under Salmond, was to stay in step by talking up a subject and waiting for the public to catch up once they’d contemplate it. There were over the years many voices urging ‘radical’ solutions – just as there are now, but the leadership understood the nationalist heartlands. Having spent the last 30 years in the north east, Salmond had a firm understanding of more conservative, non-radical voters and what they would tolerate. Regular readers will remember I’ve often written about this phenomenon that too many inside the Central Beltway have never experienced – the cautious traditionalists who could be wooed by a well-run Scottish government if Westminster had lost its appeal but who would unlock the gun safe if they heard danger in the form of a radical idea approaching. Salmond, Robertson and Whiteford all managed this conundrum with craft and Salmond remains a figure of gravity across all sectors in the north east. I’m far from convinced Sturgeon, or any of her immediate cohort have the gifts required to reflect that ability.

The question is: Did she consult wily old Alex before coming out for the referendum so forcibly? I have no doubt he agrees that this is an opportunity not to be missed but would he have urged caution? Why not remind people it has always been an SNP plan then resist the temptation to push it, waiting instead for public opinion to come into line, or otherwise? Political opportunism does not attract the public – one key reason May failed in Westminster and why so many people were thrilled for Corbyn. She was exploiting the numbers and assuming they would back her, taking for granted their votes. Sturgeon looked to do the same. She was saying: Look! My prediction comes true so I’ll threaten a second vote and you’ll back me. She took them for granted.

We’re all a bit weary of voting and maybe Nicola is too. I’m afraid you can’t just stomp the country waving without a new message. If your opponent has a simple, one strand message, you need a riposte. She had none. So that looked complacent. But where were the rest of the talent pool? We saw Angus Robertson but where were the wide range of SNP characters to display the breadth of coverage the party represents in local, Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels arenas? I know they were fighting their seats but I didn’t see Eilidh Whiteford appear, or financial and economic experts Ian Blackford, Geoge Kerevan or Roger Mullin. Did Tommy Sheppard get an outing?

Even her own Holyrood team lack presence. Do you know what brief Angela Constance holds? When did you last see Shona Robison? One the best of the crop is Jeanne Freeman, again not exactly being muscled to the front of the studio queue.

I wrote recently about the dire state of SNP communications, once the flashing glitter ball hypnotising the whole media. It has stopped spinning and somebody’s switched off the lights as a long run of initiatives has spun out of control, perhaps the worst being Named Person laws which burst in the tabloids with virtually no public awareness of its existence or its intentions. It was immediately demonised and all the hard work was needed to extricate it from the lies. Good PR avoids that.

So you see, it may be that the election was the culmination of many issues which were triggered by indyref2.

But I struggle to agree that the thing to do is panic and run in the opposite direction shouting No referendum! That’s what Labour does. You don’t like this policy, I have others. I’m against Corbyn, except for this week when I support him. I will support a referendum until I decide I won’t.

The tactical mistake has been made, let’s not compound it. For a start, taking it off the table will alienate nationalists, rightly or wrongly. It would be a grievous error to compound the problem by disappointing core support. It won’t stop Davidson, as James Kelly points out, who’ll still complain there’s a secret plan for a referendum. It’s party policy, Holyrood voted for it and it’s twice been endorsed in elections, including this one.

You don’t dance to someone else’s tune and call yourself a leader. We don’t need another Kezia.

However, the mood is against, clearly. The chances of winning look remote. Right now. But isn’t that what we said of Corbyn? Of Brexit? Again the timing is key. We haven’t started the Brexit talks yet. Maybe the tone will change and the objectives soften to allow a customs union or market membership. But I doubt it. May’s new friends are hardliners against Europe and even Labour says we must come out of the Single Market – a grievous error when it could be corrected in the aftermath of the election.

The whole point of the referendum was not to hold a vote now but to await the Brexit deal and give Scots the choice. That isn’t scary, it’s logical and if the London government handles the talks as well as it’s handled the last two years, it could result in a mess even doubtful Scots want to escape.

It is perverse to deny yourself an option when you don’t know the deal. For the SNP it would be farcical to deny its own policy and remove the means to achieving it because of a setback. The first question that would be asked is: What are you for? If you deny Scots the chance to decide their own future over as crucial an issue as the EU, what’s the point of you? As countless voices in England are saying, this is a matter of national interest. Our economic wellbeing, if not the security of the nation, is in doubt. Only anti-European zealots claim there will be an improvement in our condition. Indeed they spend their time devising ways in which we can achieve what we have now by other means.

Scotland has suffered enough from the Union – are we now to follow meekly into reduced circumstances, adrift from our European heritage, locked into decline despite our clear EU vote, removed by a hard right failed government whose strings are pulled by Orange bigots?

What message does it send to those we look to in Brussels for rescue that we distance ourselves from the only means of rejoining the EU? They will wash their hands of us as a distinctive entity opposed to England’s perfidy and seeking to build a bridge to Brussels.

(I laughed at the characterisation of anyone saying this kind of thing as hardliners. I suppose if you drop a plan that is policy, approved by parliament, endorsed in two elections and which is a logical democratic response to an impending national emergency, that you are by comparison weak and ready to run at the first sign of trouble. Therefore everyone else is, by that standard, hardline.)

And yet…there is a right enough problem here. Along with internal improvements in management and organisation there will have to found a way of not scaring the horses. Nicola will be obliged to ‘listen to the people’ and shelve the referendum one way or another…because, as they say, that is politics. At times like this national interest shrinks in the glare of party interest and they smile tightly in the face of headlines saying they’re on the run from Ruthie.

That’s how it will be, no doubt.

We need to face a reality, I think. There is a sizeable constituency of Scots who are as politically promiscuous as they are conservative. The drop in SNP voters turning out is a sign of apathy generated by the campaign but the jump in numbers for Unionism shows how readily people can switch between apparently opposing parties when it suits them. It’s worth pondering that those celebrating Tories will still enjoy the fruits of SNP Scotland like free tuition, prescriptions and school buildings while deserting them for a party which would demolish them. They can console themselves that this was a vote against a referendum but it was also a vote FOR removing child benefits from mothers who were raped, unless they can prove it to a civil servant, a vote for punishing the disabled by literally making cripples crawl, consigning a million more children to a life in poverty, keeping the NHS in demoralising crisis, maintaining the lowest wage growth in Europe and demonising essential immigrants. And nuclear weapons or course, and an underfunded defence. And fox hunting. Ironically, they also back a governments that has overseen the shrinkage of the oil sector. And, of course, getting into bed with those other Unionists, the DUP. I hope they enjoy it.

Because some of us think this may be a time to watch events unfold including the exposure of talentless new MPs selected from what has become a severely restricted gene pool. It’s hard not to shake your head at Scots so afraid of their own future they vote for a hard right government just as England turns against them, in an unnecessary election caused by the grave misjudgement of the previous Tory incumbent. No matter how much humiliation and failure the Tories accrue, you can rely on some Scots to stand up and applaud them. What would these people be like as helpers in a newly independent country…worrying thought, eh?

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Is It Over?

It’s over but who won? Not Theresa and the Tories – they had the setback of all time. Not Labour, they can’t form a government. Not the still-born Liberal comeback. Nor the SNP who dropped dramatically. Even UKIP lost their most important seat – on Question Time…

The UK sure didn’t win –we are now a weakened nation days from begining talks that will define our world and economic role for generations to come.

So can I first say thanks a lot to Theresa for screwing up so spectacularly and, of course, to Dave for getting so horribly wrong before her. And, yet again, thanks a million to the Scots who voted against their own independence when the chance arose, consigning us to a footnote in the decline of Great Britain as a serious western country.

We have now given support to parties who would deny us the basic democratic right of deciding our own national destiny, enshrined in the UN Convention. Courageous, adventurous Scots, turning away from the one way of extricating ourselves from looming disaster. And, by voting for Conservatives, some have approved a brutalised, cut-down, punitive state telling foreigners they’re not wanted. No wonder they were punching the air in Aberdeen, Moray and the Borders. That’ll show the world…

I suspect what it will show to Brussels is that Scots aren’t really much bothered by EU membership after all and certainly not worthy of making a special case of, unlike Northern Ireland where the prominence of the DUP in Westminster will ensure, along with the EU’s own negotiating stance, that the interests of Ulster will be key to the Brexit process to safeguard its interests. Scotland is now slipping off that radar.

The only chance we might have to celebrate is a change of Tory leader and a much more emollient and intelligent approach to an EU deal, involving full access to the market and the customs area.

I’m not holding my breath because she hasn’t resigned and if she did we might be faced with Boris Johnson – it’s a procession of Tory clowns. But there’s no doubt it’s a chance to rethink this whole Screw Europe strategy. As one writer put it – if Remain had won by four per cent and immediately joined the Euro and Schengen, what would Leavers have said then? That’s the equivalent of where May’s ruthless strategy has led us.

I am pleased the Tories got stung and pleased that Corbyn was able to blast back at the discrimination he’s faced and the disgraceful media onslaught he’s suffered. How revealing that, when guaranteed consistent coverage by broadcast election rules, he was able to emerge as a likeable and credible character. Mind you, only a fool would believe his offer. Corbyn is not reversing the Tory benefit cuts and his party voted for the rapacious Tory spending reductions. Funding for renationalisation of rail and paying off student debt look very shaky.

Today’s delicious irony is Kezia claiming credit for seats won on the back of the man she publicly despised. Shameless hypocrisy – she’ll make a politician yet.

The theme I think is a backlash against complacency. Voters will not be taken for granted and Theresa May did that by blatant opportunism in calling an election assuming she would win – and with transparent slogans – after saying she wouldn’t go to the country. In Scotland the SNP jumped too soon into indyref2 mode assuming too much about Brexit. It was wishful thinking and looked opportunistic, giving not only a Unionist stick to beat them with but weaponising a widespread sense that they were getting above themselves. There were just too many of them in too many places. It didn’t seem right and frankly 95 per cent of seats on 50 per cent of the vote is obscene, albeit part of the system. Under PR this configuration with all main parties represented would be close to what we could expect.

Don’t take us for granted is the message, we’ll decide who we want to vote for. And I think it is an anti-SNP vote because the seats lost went to the most likely to defeat the Nat. It isn’t a pro-Tory vote or pro-Labour but anti-Nat. So drop the referendum idea? I don’t think so.

The SNP won the Scottish election asking for a mandate. It was approved in parliament. It has been endorsed again last night by the majority. More fundamentally, Brexit means our future is up for grabs and a hard Brexit could cripple Scotland. It is suicidal and irresponsible to remove the option of escaping Brexit by leaving the UK. And if, at this time of maximum national peril, the SNP puts short-term gain ahead of Scotland’s interest, then what is it for as a party?

Look out for EVEL being cynically repealed by the way. If the Tories can only govern by votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland, they can’t win votes on key areas of policy from which we are excluded. Imagine if they got rid of it now there are a handful of Tory MPs in Scotland…

Time for a post mortem and for reflection – as well as thanks to those who lost their seats. But not time for dejection. This looks like a rebalancing after the tsunami and the SNP remains the biggest party, the government in Scotland and the national leaders. (Labour are celebrating coming third !) Labour indy supporters returned to their party because of Corbyn and aided inadvertently the Tories but they are still indy supporters. Kezia misreads the result. We remain on track.

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Nearly There

If people didn’t understand the EU referendum, is there a chance they compound the problem by misunderstanding this election?

We never got near the real issues in the referendum because the Leavers were determined we shouldn’t and the Remainers, led by that clown Cameron, were too complacent to bother.

It’s worth noting that we only really got down to real politics when it became apparent that Theresa May wasn’t a leader at all, that it stretched credulity to call her a politician. We were being led by a scarecrow that was afraid of crows, that couldn’t talk to anyone without patronising them and whose career had been a procession of mini catastrophes – failing to curb immigration, antagonising the police, undermining national security and having nothing new to say on terrorism despite six years at the Home Office.

That was when leadership emerged as a key question for voters, not, as she planned, the big choice from the outset of the campaign when she arrogantly believed she could mince Corbyn in the media machine. As Roy Greenslade has been pointing out in the Guardian, even her staunchest boot-licking media supporters have stopped lauding her as the tough leader the country needs and instead fallen back on childish and often inaccurate depictions of Corbyn. The irony is that leadership is now the key question because he clearly has something a growing number prefer that her brittle, overbearing persona doesn’t. It’s probably honesty. A sad man in an allotment he may be but, compared to her, he’s authentic. He’s a mealy-mouthed dreamer offering stuff a broke Britain can barely afford. He relished his notoriety as an acquaintance of the terrorists back in the day because he is fundamentally a rebel. But then British governments privately spoke to and negotiated with the bombers even as their terror continued to take lives. Britain has armed those who would later become our terrorist enemies and, when it comes to the Libyan-affiliated bomber of Manchester, it seems we facilitated his journeys from North Africa to England and back. Corbyn may be a soul brother of men of violence but he’s never actually aided them directly, unlike successive governments.

So May is now exposed as a hollow drum, echoing sound bites and insulting what the Tories think of as little people – like the nurse looking for a pay rise. That silly woman was treated like the six-year-old she clearly is and reminded that there’s no magic money tree. In that television moment Theresa May summed up the history of her entire party. Tories believe they are superior and the only differences between them is the degree to which they patronise everybody else. If you’re a patrician Tory you accept that with your privileged position goes a responsibility to give a bit to the less well-off. If you’re a hard right Tory, like those who have captured the current leadership, you are a social hyena scavenging off the misfortune of others. (It’s hard to think of an intelligent way to justify the cruelty deliberately inflicted on the disabled and the vulnerable by Tory cuts and policies so brutal they are condemned by the UN).

But, across Scotland, backed by the Labour Party, that is what we are being urged to vote for. We are to endorse an authoritarian hard right party in power which is still working its way through George Osborne’s cold-blooded spending cuts (another £9bn to go) 10 years after the financial crash. Voting for Conservatives means endorsing what is on track to be a 20 year generational decimation of the welfare state – not harming a handful of scroungers but crushing the life styles of those who can’t walk unaided or whose learning disability restricts them to long term unemployment or low-paid menial work. Their policy is for low wages and long hours which kill family life for hundreds of thousands who work round the clock. Working conditions can be brutal but the unfair dismissal process has been closed to most applicants allowing unscrupulous employers to get away with it. In-work pensions have disappeared. The real magic money tree is the Bank of England which printed hundreds of billions to shore up the banks who caused the financial crisis in the first place. Theresa didn’t patronise the bankers. She wouldn’t dare. She’ll fall over herself again when they bleat about the difficulties of making massive profits after Brexit. She will find a way to ease the troubles of big business because history shows the Tories always do. But nurses? Police? Nah…you’re two a penny and you’re not One of Us.

This is the Britain the Tories have created and which we are now asked to endorse. In Scotland we do so, not by voting Tory but by voting for Ruth Davidson’s candidate (fill in the blank).

Under Davidson, Scottish Tories have gone from ineffectual social climbers in club ties and sensible shoes, to a jeering mob. They have infantilised the electorate by pretending there are no issues except denying Scots a vote on independence. They have taken simplistic messages from focus groups and, presumably with their tongue out, carefully copied them out as policy. This way they have harnessed the anti-SNP lobby and blinded them to what they are actually voting FOR. I’m sure it’s true that many don’t want a referendum but at least you can vote No if there is one. How will you stop Brexit without a referendum? As groups like the farmers and fishermen slowly see evaporate the chimera of taking back control, as firms in chemicals or aviation or food supply see sales processing clogged with compliance, admin and delay, will it seem foolish to have cast aside the idea of a Scotland-only way out of the mess?

Tory voters are being taken for fools, treated like Theresa’s nurse who thought a pay rise seemed reasonable without realising she just doesn’t count in the Tory worldview. If May wins on Thursday we will also have to deduce that her incompetence that helped the terror attacks – especially getting rid of police in England and firearms officers – simply didn’t bother the voters enough. Other than the murderers themselves, no one in the UK is more culpable than Theresa May.

If Davidson takes seats it will be because she played a nationalist card, narrowed the choices down to British Tories or Scottish Nationalists and across our country it will be clearer than ever who wins that argument. I prefer it when they fight on our ground.

So we need to remember that in Scotland, the forces of progressive politics run strong. If as happens, some seats are lost, that doesn’t make a victory. You know that’s true because it’s the opposite of what Paul Sinclair said in the Mail, he the latest in a line of Labour types whose sectarianism is visceral and in proportion to their need to make money from the Unionist press. The SNP will win this election in Scotland. They will remain the government in Scotland. A referendum is government policy. May is weakened in Brussels and the truth of Brexit is yet to dawn. We take the long view and the day gets ever closer.

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