Ah, the BBC. Don’t you just love it ? (OK. I’m not sure you all do but we mustn’t let our political views get in the way of our wider judgement).  Did you catch the Radio 4 series which started on Tuesday about the history of Scottish nationalism?

For me this is radio at its best. It’s dead simple. All you need a great mind, a great speaker – and a microphone. Professor Murray Pittock has sat in many a studio with me ruminating on all things Scottish and, since he’s the one with the brains, adding a dash of the intellectual. He is one of that understated army of Scots whom you just know has the interests of his country at heart and who has the inclination both to learn about it – rather than assume what he’s told – and to translate it for others. One of the maddening things about my years of traversing Scotland for the BBC was to find that from top to bottom, our people are ignorant of their own history – their national story. Although he does this professionally, I think he can be said to be a kind of throwback to a generation whose culture wasn’t swamped by television and online culture and was able to appreciate and nurture in his own mind Scotland’s place in history.

I gloried in the unapologetic and bold telling of Scotland’s creation from the ancient tribes through the repelling of the romans to the establishment of the universities and our early international trade and intellectual exchange. It was liberating to hear someone talk of our country as one of the early nations of Europe – in our own right – not defined by some one else. For someone with my background, the delivery too is important…a warm voice, not dwelling on a word a moment too long for effect but pacing itself steadily so the information can be disseminated, all the time driven by a passion to tell us more. These are rare gifts and 15 minutes passed too quickly which is exactly what you want the listener to feel…that they must tune in for more. I bet lots of educated folk in England stayed with it too realising that they need to learn given the referendum and finding someone of weight and wit to whom they could relate. Educating the English…now there’s an idea to appeal to the Professor.

Talking of series about the national movement, you might have heard Billy Kay recently on Radio Scotland with The Cause, a History of Scottish Nationalism. Billy, the Bard of Broughty Ferry, is another of our national champions, who has been out in front educating us about our own country for as long as I can remember and, in a way, before it became fashionable again. He got in touch to say he’s giving a talk based on the series and wants to use the blog’s global reach to advertise! As we approach the momentous decision, Billy will give a talk on his and the country’s national identity, illustrated with oral history, literature and music from his ground-breaking series.  It will be a stimulating, enjoyable and intensely relevant contribution (Billy’s words!) to the national debate about Scotland’s past, present and future. For tickets visit: and for more detailed information visit .  (I notice a couple of hours later he transforms himself into Bordeaux Billy with a talk on Scotland’s links to the wine-growing regions of France complete with plonk!) Details from his website.

One other programme caught my eye. It was the Bob Servant comedy on BBC Scotland. I tuned in when it was well under way and was immediately doubtful because the jokes seemed a bit elongated, as in lacking pace, and I feared I was to be disappointed. But, as I watched, oor Bob, portrayed by another son of Tayside Brian Cox, grew on me until I realized I knew him. He was a composite of so many cooncillors I’ve known over the years. He had it all, the vainglorious pomposity, the sense of righteousness, indefatigability, and the epic belief that he and he alone spoke for the people – his people. To me these guys are democracy’s gold dust and Mr Cox fair caught the character square on the jaw. Commissioning comedy is probably the trickiest thing a broadcast executive has to do since the chances are it will flop and you never know til it’s out there. I think Cox’s Bob Servant  is worth tuning for on its own. I’ll say this quietly: Well done, BBC Scotland.


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0 thoughts on “mediabollox

  1. Yes Derek, I agree.

    There is a lot about the BBC that is good and worthwhile. It is not all bad. There are many in the BBC who are trying to do a good job and do have integrity. I don’t think anyone with any intelligence would question that.

    The problem is that these people rarely given any prominence. Anything that might bolster Scottish confidence or show independence in a positive light is usually tucked away in the darker corners of the broadcasting schedule.

    Meanwhile the labour in the newsroom keep on churning out the “canny dae it, canny afford it, canny have it” mantra ad nauseum. Never what we COULD do, always what we CAN’T do.

  2. Derek,

    Many thanks for that wee gem from the BBC – essential listening!

    Hopefully, it will have educated some of our English friends and the ‘Dinna Kens’.

  3. I listened to every episode this afternoon whilst painting my son’s front room down in London. Terrific piece of broadcasting. I especially liked the episode which discussed 1707, which, whilst necessarily constrained by the time available, gave a very clear account of the issues involved.

    Unfortunately, the first episode drops off I Player in three days time. Someone should really be preserving this stuff.

  4. Derek, fairly certain Billy Kay (pronounced Ki where ‘i’ is as in night) is from Galston (silent ‘l’) in Ayrshire. Brian Cox is brilliant in Bob Servant, the true Bard of Broughty Ferry, and a true Scot not just ‘proud’ scot who’s not brave enough to support a country to be really proud of.
    I’m just a pedantic Ayrshireman.

  5. Would it be possible to get a transcript for this series

  6. Don’t need to say it quietly Derek, when the BBC try they have no equal,
    trouble is they don’t try nearly enough

  7. It’s great when the BBC in Scotland occasionally becomes the BBC of Scotland. It’s just a pity it’s all too infrequent.

  8. With £300 million of our money they can surely manage the occasional half decent program. It is not exactly value for money though is it? Watching or listening to BBC Scotland is like waiting for a smack in the back of the head while enduring numerous slaps in the face.

  9. Did any of the BBC Scotland Labour mafia have input to these programmes?

  10. Indefatigability,what a great word but not one for the pub on a Saturday night.

  11. Margaret Brogan

    I’ve listened to the first episode, what a pleasure to hear the real history of our country. In the past this came from my Dad, so when people say they didn’t get any Scottish history at school It feels a bit smug to say “Neither did I but my father filled the gap and my Mum, with her memories of the Red Clydesiders.” They were socialists who became nationalists and would have disgusted by the behaviour of the Scottish Labour party today.
    Murray Pittick’s clarity of both thought and expression is sample of what we should expect from the BBC, perhaps they will rise to the occasion.

  12. Didn’t it start on Monday?

  13. Ah Derek, maybe you didn’t hear the original Bob Servant that went out on Radio 4 some 2 or 3 years ago. It was part of a lunchtime show, can’t remember which one precisely. In it, Bob wins a computer in a competition run by the local bowling club.
    After being inundated with spam e-mail, he decides to take them on. So he deals with the ‘Russian bride’, the ‘Nigerian Royal family’ looking for a cash loan etc. They’re taken from Neil Forsyth’s book ‘Bob Servant: Delete This At Your Peril’ and are far, far funnier than the BBC Scotland TV series.
    They’re available on I-Tunes for about a £1 each episode and well worth it.

  14. I too enjoyed Murray Pittock’s series very much, and it did cross my mind that many folks, currently protesting that they don’t have “enough information”, would derive a sizeable dollop of what they demand from Murray’s excellent BBCRadio 4 programmes.
    The inevitable question is “Why, then, if it has the potential to influence the undecideds, is it not on BBCRadio Scotland?”
    I can conclude only one reason.

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