Can Pay, Won’t Pay

As this campaign goes on I’m getting less time to blog. I spent yesterday’s blog time doing the podcast for Michael Greenwell

trying to keep up with Carolyne Leckie, William Duguid and Andrew Tickell and now I’m preparing material for Thursday nights’ Yes meeting in Stirling with Pat Kane and fielding requests for other public meetings from Skye to Selkirk to East Kilbride.


I thought when Yes launched that Blair Jenkins would do all the work and I could just sit here and slaver. Now I’m rushed of my feet. And me a pensioner, too…I think I’ve had enough of all this grassroots, people-led nonsense where citizens who should know better are going round the houses asking folk how they’re going to vote. It’s not meant to be like this in canny-be-bothered Scotland. We’re supposed to wave the enthusiasts off into the dark and head for the pub via the chippy and top up the lard and alcohol reserves. At this rate some of us are threatened with a lack of obesity. There are fine traditions at stake here and nursing a belly burkha is one of them. A straining fabric cover-all for the swelly belly is the mark of a true Scotsman. Too much canvassing – AND deliberately being nice to strangers – is putting all that in jeopardy.

The trouble I see is that it is more natural for us to be pessimistic and to say Naw that to be inspired, smile and trill Yes. We are not just a thrawn nation, we are a Naw nation. And the Unionists even got that wrong. Instead of trying half-heartedly to sound upbeat (fixed smile) with Better Together they should have read the national psyche and gone for regional variations with NO (in Bearsden and Morningside), Naw (Glasgow and the West) Nut (Borders) and Nope, Non and Nada (for guests).

I’m also working hard at keeping in check my natural Nat rage which is increasingly finely honed and which explodes in an empty house when I shout at the radio instead of the microwave – which answers back. If I set it a task, it pings three times and if I don’t open the door immediately it waits about 30 seconds, then pings again, as if it’s saying: come on, hurry up, open the door…I usually shout something like: I’m busy for chrissakes…

I’m learning to bite my tongue though at BBC items which seem to me to accept without question anything that comes from British and/or corporate sources as the obvious and rightful position we must all adopt. I’ve written before about the Britishness that seeps through the corporation and much of it is, frankly, unthinking. It is a mindset. It’s one reason why Standard Life and the other money monkeys are treated with ingratiating respect, because we have been conditioned to think they are more important, somehow superior and powerful because they handle somebody else’s money. Big business people are revered, aren’t they? Nobody asks how they got their money and how they fix things to keep making it. I seem to remember one of our great entrepreneurs saying he got started by selling trainers to stores when he didn’t have any to sell. He got the order first and ran off to a supplier. Another famous multi millionaire of your acquaintance (oh yes, he is) told me he was part of a cartel of steel-makers who met every now again to fix the price of metal. When the price fell too low to affect profits, the big manufacturers get together and all put up the price by 5 per cent. (Under EU rules, that’s illegal).


I heard the redoubtable Bill Jamieson of the Scotsman on the radio talking about Standard Life – the company where the management enrich themselves while sacking the staff. Bill took the conventional British line – that they have to consider all eventualities so had to make a statement on their future etc. But he didn’t mention, and I don’t think was asked, about the real strength of Standard Life, the staff, and how they might be feeling or how many might keep their jobs or be moved or get the sack.  Oh, they’re worried about pensions funds and investments and profits, but people? I would think staff are utterly indispensible to the company and doubt if they can be easily replaced. Are there so many qualified quality staff in overcrowded London?  And here’s a different perspective again. Supposing we turn the company’s position around and ask a different question. If they express doubts about their future viability and add they may have to move – maybe yes, maybe no – because trading might get difficult, is that reassuring? Or is it a warning that it might be a good idea to relocate your funds now? They are in effect issuing a warning to investors who may just take them up on it. In other words, it can be interpreted as the exact opposite of what the company – and the complaint media – suggest. It may have been a miscalculation – not the first by this company. But you wont hear that on the BBC.

It was striking too that Bill casually suggested that a warning not take any share of UK debt would be interpreted by the markets as a political act. Perhaps it will. But this remark went unchallenged when surely the blindingly obvious response is that the British provocation was also, in those terms, a political act. Are we really saying that the government, their coalition partners and the opposition, aided by the Civil Service, uniquely acting in concert to deny the Scots their rightful access to the Bank of England is not a political act, yet the Scottish reaction to reject the debt, is? Yes, we really are. This is a hall of mirrors and no matter which way you look, the same image appears.

The BBC has always been close with the Establishment. That’s one reason why rifts like the Gilligan and associated David Kelly affairs are so tense and fractious, because they are rare, and do remember that after the Iraq War spat, the BBC Governors in the shape of Richard Ryder (former Tory Chief whip) made an abject apology to government for any and everything the BBC may have done. Servile hardly did it justice. But in today’s debate the duty to acknowledge the essential role of government should not be confused with a wider duty to viewers and listeners – the licence-fee payers – who have an inalienable right to fair, balanced and impartial treatment. That means at every stage of every programme every effort is made to look at issues from both sides and to ensure that Scots of all political persuasion can hear their side reflected. It does NOT mean taking sides. It means using journalistic imagination to tease out every angle and give nourishment to the debate.

I accept that management have made that more difficult. I met a BBC producer today who said the job was a constant battle to get time and resources to make programmes rather than having the space we used to have to make inspired intellectual leaps. When the budgets are slashed and the staff reduced, the first thing to go is the quality – the very thing Kenny McQuarrie promised would never be compromised.

Still, what is also undeniable is the depth of the kick-back. Scots are increasingly aware of being short-changed by their BBC and many won’t be for forgetting after the referendum. One side effect of grassroots Scotland getting mobilised is that it can easily turn into a different but equally effective campaign. If enough Yes people feel aggrieved, there is a case after any No vote, for keeping people together and turning it into a truly Scotland-wide anti-BBC movement, demanding changes in personnel and remit with the abiding threat of hundreds of thousands refusing to pay the licence fee. It is conceivable that a million Scots could stop paying and I would predict that disenchantment elsewhere in Britain would quickly escalate into something unstoppable. These are dangerous days for the British state and equally dangerous for its partner the BBC.

Bugger -that’s the microwave again

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47 thoughts on “Can Pay, Won’t Pay

  1. If Scotland gains its independence after the forthcoming referendum, the remainder of the United Kingdom will be known as the “Former United Kingdom” (FUK).

    In a bid to discourage Scots from voting yes in the referendum, Lib Dems have now begun a campaign with the slogan:
    “Please Vote No For FUK’s sake!”

    They feel that the voters will be better able to relate to this, particularly those in Glasgow.

  2. cynicalHighlander

    complaint media Should that not be ‘compliant’?

    The media is disgusting and it is getting worse the only upside is that an ever increasing majority of the public have lost trust in them as was shown in the Irvine debate last week.

    Enjoyed the podcast as always bringing sanity back to earth.

  3. Would you invest in Standard Life or buy one of their products if the company is so ready to dump the staff that are fundamental for these investments and policies being attractive propositions?

    If I was an SL shareholder or policy holder I would be reviewing my investment portfolios to ascertain the viability of the company under the present board.

  4. John mccutcheon

    Better the occasional blog from you, Derek, than the daily rubbish we have to endure from the BBC et al. My dad will be glad to see your blog today as, after Friday’s blog he really did think you were away back to the BBC lol

  5. Will you be watching this at 9pm on BBC2 tonight Derek ?

    ‘Mind the Gap: London vs The Rest’

    ‘While much of the UK still struggles after the financial crash, London is thriving like never before. In the first of two programmes, Evan Davis explores the economic forces that are polarising Britain and asks what the rest of the country can learn from London’s success.’

    Derek, the issue I have with your BBC excuse of falling budgets and staff is that it doesn’t cost money to be fair or impartial, nor does it take anymore time. An interview at Holyrood with a politician may require one more question in an interview to be more balanced or a 10 second extension to a reporters commentary giving more information, or indeed, a slight re-wording of said commentary.

    Where the problem lies is in those words, that lack of questions or that lazy myth- repeating reporting that the BBC happily roll out every lunchtime and evening.

    It simply does not cost more money to be fair and impartial, it requires BBC staff to BE fair and impartial.

  6. You are absolutely right about the quality. Haven’t had TV for years and have virtually no interest in it. I used to have Radio Scotland on every morning and Radio 4 some afternoons and evenings (when I was home). I also went for iPlayer for those I missed. I reckon now that I probably listen to maybe 4 – 5 programs in a week – and sometimes I turn those off in disgust.

  7. Squirrel Towers

    I have never been on the ‘other-side’ to the establishment view before and its truely shocking. I always thought the BBC was a pretty good thing, but the outrageous pro-union bias of BBC reporting has made me question all its news/political coverage. I am very angry that boths sides are not getting a fair representation and its driven me to consider what was previously unthinkable, not paying my TV liscence. Don’t you think that it must have got PRETTY BAD to annoy a mild mannered, middle-class, english, female viewer living in Scotland….All I want to know is how patronising, who on earth do they think they are in BBC Scotland to produce such biased coverage, at least 40% of the people who pay their salaries are not being fairly represented, at least with PRAVDA viewers know its going to be biased, but the BBC is supposed to be better than this…..arrgghh.

    • Once you start distrusting the content and presentation of the BBC programmes on the single issue of independence you then begin to distrust them on all their content.

      When you can avail yourself, on a minute to minute response basis, of all the flow of on-line argument, analysis information and ideas coming out of the “Yes” camp from the likes of Business for Scotland all the way through to Radical Independence, you can see how it is possible for the general public (the non elite in society) to look at current affairs very critically, intelligently and energetically from so many different angles. This whole arena is so alive and communally participative it is a revelation to behold. I never thought I would be putting my pennyworth in to a conversation which is visited by ten thousand visitors per day – according to Derek. It would be interesting to know just what percentage of us are not directly connected with any party and never have been – as in my case. Something dynamic is happening here that really has never happened before and it is magic to be part of it. Scotland is wakening up.

      The arena of the “No” camp is trapped in a hierarchically lead, from the top downward, agenda which has the dead hand of elite unseen sinister power and calculated premeditated spin directing every movement. This is how society has been “managed” from time immemorial since we moved from being ever-mobile hunter gatherers to territorially fixed farming communities. Whether from royalty or priesthood the lower orders have always been told what to to think and do.

      So at grass roots level all the “No” supporters can do is spout the increasingly clichéd lines that are being fed to them daily through the media. There is no idealism, no vision from them whatsoever, just stultifying negativity – and lies.

      Where the BBC fits into this picture is just to continue on its own sweet merry way as it has always done of bearing the message that the elite want us to swallow. If you buy into this you can feel cocooned and soporifically comfortable in the arms of “auntie” and genuinely feel that we are all cosily “better together”, so why rock the boat.

      But when you are exposed to the creative ideas and energy of a people who are waking up to a vision of a better way of running society that is done not from the top down, you suddenly notice how subtly the BBC can distort information against any dissidents who seek to rock that cosy unquestioning cruise ship that they want to keep us on. You then learn to read the techniques of distortion that they use right across the spectrum of their production to gently keep us all on message. These are the techniques that civil and religious elites have used down through the centuries to keep the plebs in order without having to use too much actual physical violence against the lesser mortals.

      Fear and dependency have always been high up there in the control techniques. But we can break that mould and help to show the world another way for a society to run. So keep up the good fight folks.

      • What really scares the establishment about our campaign is not so much the loss of the oil or trident but way beyond that for them is the loss of the ability to manage society for the benefit of the elite. This is to get to the heart of what “left” and “right” really mean in hard cash as it were, and why the establishment are pulling out all their big guns to blast us.

        The right is about maintaining the power and privilege of the whole elite establishment system. The real left, (which is of course now no longer represented by the Labour Party) is about trying to look after Everyman/woman, their weans and their dug.

        Target words have been used by the media as the essential tools of social control. Sections of society who are happy to have their thinking done for them have been trained over decades like Pavlovian dogs to bristle at the word “socialism” – and at the word “communism” they have been programmed to go apoplectic with hate. That has been obvious enough if you lived through the Cold War years. We are expected to boo and cheer on cue and merrily wag our tails when master approves.

        Nowadays the target words are “immigrant”, “welfare”, “unemployed scrounger” etc. The cultural manipulation by the media is endemic and subtle – or maybe not at all subtle if you have the capacity for independent thought. “The man of independent mind he looks and laughs at aw that”

        The concepts of Jock Tamson’s Bairns and Rabbie Burns’ “A man’s a man for aw that” are hard wired into the Scottish psyche. These are the concepts of universal friendship which are recognised all over the world wherever Burns is admired. The hogmanay programme on Auld Lang Syne was really eye opening in showing how the brotherhood of man has a world dimension to it through that single song without even considering the rest of Burns’ work.

        The likes of George Galloway with his phoney concept that we are abandoning our friends in EWNI just hasn’t a clue as to how “it’s coming yet fur aw that”. We will reach out to the world and free thinking people around the world will reach out to us in friendship once we realise our vision of a better Scotland.

        It is the Nae sayers who seek to divide and rule – divide the elite from the plebs and and keep decent folk wagging their tails for approval.

  8. Just listened to the Michael Greenwell podcast. A delight and by the way, you’d be wasted in management. We need you on the ground, winkling out all these crooked, under-the-counter deals, turning a spotlight on the inevitable, political dark corners and forcing sleekit GO types to tell the truth……on TV and radio. THAT’S what would be fun! Anyway, once we have independence it’ll be your choice, Derek, for there’s one sure thing, your contribution is incalculable.

  9. Couldn’t agree more with all that’s been said above. The BBC’s one-sidedness is so obvious it’s becoming surreal. The daily standard of the BBC’s journalism (not just on indyref) is essentially that of a tabloid these days.

    You expect this kind of thing from the rest of the privately owned mainstream media and they’re not disappointing on that front. The one paper I’m furious with & perhaps naively expected better from is the Guardian. I know they cater towards people in the South East and the Guardian’s coverage of Scotland as always been poor, but as they seem to be the one paper with the balls to challenge the UK-establishment (GCHQ/Snowden files etc.) I did expect a bit more coverage of the Yes-campaign & what they stand for…

  10. I’m sniffing the wind . . . What’s this I detect? Kirsty Wark on the edge of declaring for Yes?

  11. I was so much looking forward to this year. I believed it was inevitable there would be programmes examining what an independent Scotland might look like and what it might achieve. Serious programmes, aimed at informing the voter. I knew there would be negativity and scaremongering as well, that’s balance, but I was prepared to put up with that and revel in the positive side of the coverage.

    Silly me. Of course there is to be no positive coverage. Not a single positive story will be carried. Every news development will be quarried for a negative spin, or ignored.

    I used to be such a fan of the BBC. I can’t stand it any more. They are throwing away the hopes and dreams of me and millions like me. They are trampling on my aspirations for the future. They are an utter disgrace.

    • Totally agree Morag. I have given up listening to the bbc radio, since they ditched World Routes and radio 3 got like Classic fm, lift musak, and haven’t watched tv for years. The only way is to keep up with things online as we do, I was just thinking, that way back in 1979 they had no internet and for all it’s many faults, it is really good that we have that now to counter the bias and propaganda from beeb and westminster. As another post here pointed out, in fact the whole of the bbc is dubious, strange people still pay to watch rubbish while being brain washed at the same time. Brrrrrr….

  12. I agree about the quality of BBC output. I haven’t had a TV for years but watch the occasional iplayer film, particularly Scandinavian Noir. Radio Scotland is so appalling being interrupted every few minutes with the interminable round of weather, travel and sport. Does the whole country really need to know that traffic is moving slowly on the Erskine Bridge {wherever that is) or that it was frosty overnight and untreatd minor roads might have icy patches. The rest of the content is largely provided by playing music and inviting the listeners to phone in and let us have your views. I listened today for some reporting on Nicola Sturgeon’s speech but was sadly disappointed with the very brief summary this evening, balanced of course by Better Together dire warnings. Happily, over on Wings Over Scotland, there’s a breakdown of the costs of providing a national broadcaster in Scotland. Looks like, in the event of a yes vote, we would have more than enough cash to provide a proper service and support our own sport and theatre as well. Win win.

  13. “But in today’s debate the duty to acknowledge the essential role of government should not be confused with a wider duty to viewers and listeners – the licence-fee payers – who have an inalienable right to fair, balanced and impartial treatment.”

    Obviously not how BBC Scotland sees things.

    “Scots are increasingly aware of being short-changed by their BBC and many won’t be for forgetting after the referendum.”

    Damn right. Exactly what I said on another of your posts, but was considered to strong to publish.

    “These are dangerous days for the British state and equally dangerous for its partner the BBC.”

    These are the FINAL days of the british state and it’s state propaganda broadcaster.

    Only six months to go. Yes!

    PS Looking forward to listening to your podcast. Miss your dulcet tones on Scottish radio. Hopefully not for much longer. 😉

  14. By the looks of things, the BBC is starting to lose more people. I see that Susanna Reid is off to ITV.

    I’ve also been told that between programes is stretching, padded out with ads of BBC progs. Are folk finally seeing the reality and turning off and tuning out(as it were) and cashing in the licence fee.

    Well, interesting times indeed…!

  15. ‘Mind the Gap’ programme never mentioned Scotland unless as a Region of course! Boris says better to pile the jam up in London and it will find it was out by gravity.

  16. The Tories are itching to change the way the BBC is funded and will surely use Scottish independence and the formation of a SBC to implement their changes.
    As stated above,the Brutish state and it’s state broadcaster are fighting for their survival so don’t expect fairness or impartiality from either.
    Thanks Derek.

  17. I just listened to that podcast with great interest. One thing Derek said really resonated with me, and that was about intellectual nourishment. It’s more or less what I meant in my post above, but he put it so much better.

    I remember 1992, and then 1997. There was a lot of intellectual nourishment then, and that’s what I was looking forward to this time. I remember a “Money Programme” about the economics of independence, biassed but still chock-full of calories. I remember Alex Salmond interviewed by Brian Walden, frustrating because he had to stone-wall Walden, but fascinating nevertheless. I remember the Great Debate, and Lorraine Mann asking the question I wanted to ask.

    I’ve remembered these things for 20 years. What has there been to remember about this campaign? Absolutely bugger-all. I’m mainlining Radio 3 and BBC 4, because I can’t bear anything with news or current affairs for its sheer mind-sapping negativity. They simply suck the life out of the whole subject and sap the will to live.

    Intellectual nourishment. That’s what Wings in particular provides, also this blog and several others. And it’s what had the Wings readers sitting poised over their PayPal accounts last week. I was literally scrambling for one of his gold badges because I’d already decided to give him that much. I want to invest in him to provide that nourishment to as wide an audience as possible.

    I slightly worry that the target has turned into a bit of score-counting and bragging rights now. Can Stuart actually spend all that money productively? Nevertheless he did some very special stuff last year, and there are times when I think you just have to take a punt. And if it scares the willies out of Euan McColm, so much the better.

    And then we had Carolyn Leckie, who turned her opportunity to comment on the crowd-funding successes into a mean-spirited whine about how Women for Independence really could use that money. We had this from one of the Borders campaigners as well, even after Stu’s promotion had turned what had been a no-hoper of a fundraiser into a howling success. Oh but why has he been given all that money, we could really use that! The answer is, Stuart has been working from early morning to late at night for over a year and has persuaded people that he has what it takes to make a difference. It’s a tough environment out there, Darwinism of the campaigners. Those who are doing the inspirational things will attract the cash.

    Stuart is an unlikely guru. But I think Derek put his finger on it. He’s providing intellectual nourishment, and he’s doing it better than any of the other online sources, good though some of them also are. (Personally, I worship at the feet of BBC Scotlandshire.) That’s what has got so many starving souls throwing money at him. Others take note.

    • Stuart an unlikely guru? Maybe you can think of him as the John Knox of our times?

    • I have contributed small amounts to different indy sites but I saved up for the WoS one because that is the one that appeals to me.

      The Rev has worked tirelessly and provides great ammo to use against the mis-informed.
      I agree that women need to be targeted and therefore WfI are necesssary.
      It would not appeal to me as I prefer mixed gender, age, race groups which I think as they are more diverse they are more interesting.

      I’ve no idea why there appears to be such a low Yes amonst women but that could be due to being naturally more cautious.
      Women really need to waken up to the harm both economically and emotionally that will happen in the event of a No vote.
      They will saddle future generations with shame because I don’t think any Scot will be able to hold their head up high anywhere in the world if we become the only country in the world to vote for dependence.

  18. Derek, regarding the BBC, given that you have your ears closer to the ground than the rest of us.

    Have you any further news on the BBC saving £100mil and their cutting one of their major channels BBC3 or BBC4?

  19. Oh yes and about this blog. I check it several times a day in the hope of a new post. It’s one of my favourites, probably my next favourite after Wings. But if it suffers because Derek is out there interacting with warm breathing voters so be it. Stu Campbell can’t do that, and he’d probably not be much good at it if he tried. Derek Bateman out there addressing meetings in town halls, on the other hand? Get to it!

  20. I presume the management and staff at PQ know exactly what they are doing and the potential consequences of their actions. The BBC news, politics and current affairs is finished as far as I am concerned, it is beyond redemption. The honesty and impartiality of its reporters, presenters leaves a bad taste and they are responsible for their own decisions. The BBC Has committed suicide. RIP BBC.

  21. Indeed, Morag – horses for courses…. 🙂

  22. I think a mass non-payment campaign is a really good idea but because I’ve not paid the TV license in years, will I have to pay for one again just so I can stop paying for it?

  23. Do MI5 still vet BBC staff? That would explain their bias.

  24. “TickELL! His name was TickELL! We drove a man to his DEATH!”

  25. Cag-does-thinking

    I must confess that I do check in with the weblog regularly. I think it’s important because it is regular and if I have a criticism of the campaign material I have read it’s that there aren’t enough people posting daily or near daily updates. After all the relentless no stuff is spouted every day by the media and it’s important to have an island of sane rational debate when we are subjected to the media onslaught which doesn’t tally with certainly my experiences on the ground. I did worry you really had taken the suit out…..


    I’ll be there in Stirling on Thursday Derek and your efforts are much appreciated by many.


  27. For some anti Establishment blogging, I’ve decided to join the fray.
    I believe that some anti-awards are deserved by various individuals;

  28. Derek – you can pit yer slippers on after September – (shhhh – but I know pills that ye can use tae)

  29. The BBC bias is not only a hurdle to Independence, its hiarchy is corrupt.
    Non payment lets do it

    A lower dem Scot (like me) paying the BBC is like an African American being forced to Pay FOX news.
    Imagine Obama telling America they all have to pay CNN $200.

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