Six months before we decide the nation’s future and every sign pointing to a real possibility of success, a referendum win that would re-write Scotland’s history and transform our place in the world. And it will be us, Generation X, that does it. It isn’t just the chance of a lifetime, it’s the chance of the millennium. It is in our hands.
To me, this is the greatest single event in public affairs of my lifetime. It trumps SNP election wins, ejecting the Tories from Scotland in 97, overtakes every single sporting event which put me through the ringer and left me elated, beats devolution hands down and for me stands beside the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and apartheid as a seismic event. The world may not agree about the scale of the comparative achievement, but to me being alive at this time and being part of the rebirth of the Scottish nation puts my generation into an historic category beside the men and women of the past who paid the ultimate price for our country.
I realise, and the evidence is before us every day, that many of our fellow Scots don’t agree and are content to think of the referendum as a kind of lifestyle choice which may add £10 a month to the mortgage or add a billion to the national debt, or, heaven help me, that it is “just too complicated” to bother with. But as we approach polling day, I believe another phenomenon will emerge. It is a sense of national belonging, a collective expression of will, an emotional impulse that taps into our history, our identity and our place in the national story. My word for it is nationalism. Yours may be a collective yearning for change or simply a shared love of Scotland. But I think the mechanistic and legalistic arguments will gradually fall silent, having played themselves out, and we will come down to the end game which is implicit in the question: Should Scotland be an independent country?
If we are truly a nation, the answer can only be Yes. To vote No is to deny our birth-right, to insult our ancestors and to forfeit the future. Of course, we can pretend like the Unionists that none of this matters in the modern global world and it’s easier to sneer at higher ideals and believe that voters are cattle devoid of meaningful choice, to be prodded forward for food and backwards for shelter, told one day we must end universalism and the next to support state socialism.
But for me, this is our chance…to beat the naysayers and apologists, to overturn the corporate adherents and to let our true self break out and to forge a new way that is ours alone. Look at the social media, check out the websites, listen to the conversations and ideas, breathe the energy in the public meetings. It is palpable this need for a new Scotland and it continues to grow. It is new, it is internationalist, it is creative and challenging and it is our own. It is Scottish.
This blog is here because, as you know, I couldn’t stand by and let the debate rage round me while I asked questions on the airwaves but was prevented from speaking my mind. I think I did the honest thing by getting out of the BBC and speaking up. Others, as you may discern, are still inside some with views and attitudes officially concealed.
I took a rare step when I left. I decided not to stay silent about what I saw in the BBC. Don’t imagine I am alone in my views. Others have gone from there with resentments and disappointments and grudges harboured. But none have gone public in recent times. To do so is to blight any future career and limit opportunities. The BBC is probably the most powerful and yet unaccountable public organisation in Scotland. It has immense authority throughout the country and is easily the biggest media outfit. Even Scottish, its rival, now makes programmes for it. It disburses public money and without it private media concerns cannot survive. It’s senior staff and former staff are placed in secondary and voluntary roles in organisations throughout Scotland. Check out where even those who retire or leave find themselves.
The BBC is continually looking for new voices and faces, for distinctive ideas, to inform its many current affairs programmes. Mine is not one of them. A normal course for a still-active departee is to re-emerge as a commentator or a pundit, combining knowledge and experience of broadcasting with opinions that were closed down when on the other side of the microphone. I was even told before leaving that is what would likely happen. “How soon can we have you back?” a television producer asked. I am a perfect fit.
That was before I broke the in-house omerta and revealed what really happens inside.
No one should be surprised, least of all me, that criticism, even when it is backed by analysis and alternative options, is too hurtful for BBC managers to handle.
It’s a reminder that previous critics have been ostracised. I seem to remember Iain Macwhirter being persona non grata for remarks he had written until I think the First Minister made a reference to it. My own producer at the time denied Iain had ever been banned form appearing – only seven days after telling me she couldn’t have him on air because managers were angry with him! The former newsroom executive, the appalling Tim Luckhurst, was also excluded by executive diktat. So there is precedent for the BBC preferring to exclude those it deems unsuitable for the public airwaves.
Which means I remain defiantly blogging outside the mainstream and grateful for any support I get. Why don’t you join me? Together we can push for that Yes. If you want to support me, click on my wine club page and have a read.by