Salmond Unplugged

This week’s radio programme at is a special…a conversation with Alex Salmond. I was keen to hear from the First Minister because every time he appears it’s in a formal setting like the parliament chamber or behind a podium and sometimes under pressure in a studio.

DB 2 shot


That’s normal and how it should be. The journalists and the opposition have a duty to challenge and scrutinise, it’s how our system works. But I’m fed up with only having this kind of presentation because I know how it works – a battery of arguments are prepared and an interview is really a grilling. Done it myself, got the tee shirt.

One of the formats politicians hate most is long-form interviews where they really do have to know their stuff. They can’t just punt a one-line or two-line message to the audience whatever they’re asked, they sometimes contradict themselves, their irritability rises, they have to reach deep when moved from subject to subject and overall it can be very revealing. In a bad one, it is like a slow motion car crash.

I am also desperate to hear what people really think. So many interviews end up being as much about the presenter – and the programme team’s worked-up agenda – as they are about the interviewee and the subject. They become gladiatorial, ego against ego, a fight to the death after which you ask yourself: What did I learn?

It is a necessary process for news programmes, as is deciding in advance to limit the time available no matter what the content is and how good it sounds. But what about the other side of our politicians? When do they let the mask slip? Are they real humans behind the image front?

I’ve been learning from public meetings around the country – Arran tomorrow – that people do want to listen, appraise and think for themselves and I like the idea of the conversation being taken out of the mouths of the journalists and put back into the voices of the people. I’ve ditched the old style BBC techniques in favour of letting them speak. I allow them to develop naturally their arguments and in this case, it is in front of a live audience so that Alex has to reach out to them, not to me.

The result is a different kind of talk. We hear him get passionate and thoughtful, talking about his early life and love of history and what angers him and what Scotland needs to do next. He is unrestrained – at times unstoppable! He is relaxed and in his element. We must do this with the other leaders and let them breathe. This is Salmond Unplugged. Have a listen and let me know your thoughts. It’s at

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25 thoughts on “Salmond Unplugged

  1. I have read articles and books on Alex Salmond and consider there’s much more to him than the media diet we get on BBC or FMQs. This came through.
    Really refreshing and a frank interview. I hope many hear this.
    Well done Derek.

  2. That Derek, is the interview every newspaper and tv broadcaster wishes they had access to right now. I’ve listened to the FM speak many times over the years in interview and televised speech, but that really was like having a chat with the man in your livingroom.

    You can see why BT are terrified of the FM getting into full campaign mode on the ground. His passion for politics and personal enthusiasm, his obvious feelings about Scotland’s potential and confidence in our electorate. The complete polar opposite of the image portrayed by Westminster and BTs narrative.

    Cracking interview.

  3. That was just braw! Thanks

  4. Cheers Derek, superb and great to hear the FM talk without interruption from blustering and self important metropolitan know it all’s.

  5. I kept waiting for the interruptions that we are so used to hearing. Weird huh! I really appreciate derek, the smoothness of your interviews brings out the best in your subjects and Alex. Salmond was in top form, with only minor nudges needed to keep him on track…wonderful.

  6. I have no broadband. aaaaaah!

  7. That was a masterclass interview. You prodded and queried without dominating in the nasty aggressive way the radio journalists now adopt. It made for a fascinating insight into what motivates Alex Salmond, his past inspired by his grandfathers love of history and a real grasp of the place of Robert Bruce and William Wallace in our story. Funny too when describing his challenge during the budget speech or his phone call to the editor of the newspaper who was himself a migrant. Well worth listening to, We deserve this standard of broadcasting.

  8. Great stuff Derek.
    You could ask No Thanks to supply a body (live or dead) to a similar format.
    Alex is THE politician of our times which is probably what annoys so many others who would aspire to that accolade.
    Slightly off topic but my wife and I were accosted in Stonehaven recently by a Radio Scotland man with a microphone and asked about our views on independence.
    Is this a new approach from your former employer?
    Roving reporters?

  9. Superb interview. Thank you.

  10. Absolutely first class Derek. Just to back up what the FM was saying, on a wet Wednesday evening in Troon, on the same day of your interview, we had around 500 people turn up to hear a panel of YES and NO speakers talk and answer questions. We had to open the balcony of the Concert Hall to take the crowd.

    We use a blind voting system, where on entry and exit people are handed a slip and asked to tear off Yes, No, Undecided and place it in a bucket. On Exit the paper is a different colour to minimise errors. Of course it is impossible to get absolutely everyone, some choose not to vote, others like ourselves as organisers do not Vote, and we also had press present. We had over 420 responses, from which the results were:

    Entry: Yes 49%, No 28%, Undecided 63%

    Exit Yes 63%, No 28%, Undecided 9%

    Local people could not remember any time when so many people turned out for a political meeting in this venue. People are really interested, and when given the opportunity, they ask good questions and will not accept boilerplate responses.

    Keep up the good work!

    • I may be stupid but on entry 49% yes 28%no 63% undecided = 140% ? do you work for the bitter together mob that’s there sort of arithmetic least your exit figures come to 100% LOL

  11. Wonderful thoroughly enjoyed listening to both you and Alex. He comes over very well in this situation the pity is that unless you are willing to listen and come here, you will not be allowed to hear this.

    • I’ve posted the link on a few sites already Helena. I think its important that folk see the other side of the man. The guy that isn’t all about party politics, but just about wanting people to be better off, do better. The can do attitude really came through in that interview and its worth sharing. The informal style really brought the man’s enthusiasm to the fore and more importantly you can tell he cares. It wasn’t the sort of soundbite caring you get from the set piece or in front of the cameras. Its what came across from someone talking about a favourite subject. In this case Scotland.

  12. Great Interview. Did you film it? I’d edit it for nothing if you did…..

  13. Anthony Armstrong

    The contrast between Salmond being interviewed by a friendly interviewer and any on the NO side is startling, what little chance I felt Darling had has evaporated after listening to that guy next door speaking.

  14. Any chance you could get a hold of Miliband and do an interview on him, Naughtie v SNP style. Flipping fuming at this threatening and lecturing little wonk!

  15. I really enjoy your broadcasts Derek.

    Say what you want about oor wee Eck but he was great fun and serious to listen too and i think that’ s one of the best interviews yet.

    iScotland could do with a radio show like this. I would even consider paying to listen to your shows. Brilliant stuff.

    Watch out BBC radio your cards are marked

  16. Loved that interview have never heard the FM speak like this before. More power to your elbow!!

  17. Excellent interview. Great to hear Alex Salmond being allowed to talk at length, especially his passion and loyality for Scotland. Can’t wait to hear him on the campaign trail.

  18. Well done Derek, finally someone has moved the debate communication to a different, civilized level. I noted your point about abandoning the old Beeb techniques with interest. It made me consider that there is indeed an agenda there although I did know about it already. ;-))
    Great job and more, more, more please!

  19. I am feeling very smug! I have always felt FM was great. I believe there has been a long standing conspiracy against Alex Salmond. The media started the rumour that he did not appeal to female voters. They keep repeating it at every opportunity and it has in some ways unfortunately become a self fulfilling prophecy. Claims by the media and the no campaign that he is smarmy, cocky and too full of himself
    just show how weak there arguments are. If you can’t defeat the message, go for the messenger!
    Thanks Derek for giving us the chance of such a great interview.

  20. dennis mclaughlin

    Well done Derek, for once a ‘proper’ interview and your technique highlights the best politician if our age…..Thank feck we’ve got ‘Eck on oor side :).
    His abiding passion is Scotland’s future and this is where the ‘opposition’ to him falls down.

  21. Margaret Lyons

    Just read all the comments and it sound like a real love in. Whats the point of that? Assad and Saddam used to get the same treatment from their “journalists”. No thanks.

    • Hi Margaret.
      You’ve just committed two cardinal errors in three sentences. Do you always criticise without listening first? That is the Mary Whitehouse doctrine – ‘I don’t need to see the film to ban it’. You’re allowing others to make your mind up for you. Second, if you really equate Salmond with murderous dictators, you have a problem with reality. You’re not really criticising here, you’re trying to be hurtful, both to me and to Salmond. It’s allowed but its very much the hallmark of BT? No Thanks. The casual exaggeration and linkage to violent metaphors doesn’t replace content and policy.
      The accompanying blog to the interview explains the approach taken and why its different. I do the same with all subjects of all views.Your view is as relevant as anyone else’s but there may be some value in actually listening before condemning, if only to give the subject of our nation state the respect it deserves.
      Keep listening. Derek

    • Condemnation from a position of what precisely?

      Not knowledge apparently, you don’t appear to have listened to the broadcast. Certainly not objectivity since you’ve made up your mind that Mr Salmond is a murderous dictator. It would be helpful though if you could provide links to the documented crimes of mass murder or ethnic cleansing thanks.

      Or didn’t it occur that people might be saying approving things about the guy because there’s something there to approve of?

      So any time with those links. 🙂

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