Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Is it "inconceivable" for Sarah Smith to report Scottish politics objectively?

I stumbled across this tweet overnight -


Although I didn't hear the report in question, I have little difficulty imagining that Sarah Smith said exactly that, because she's been playing this little game ever since the election of June 2017.  She's been repeatedly informing viewers and listeners as a statement of fact that Nicola Sturgeon has a private position on indyref timing that bears no resemblance to her public position, and that the only question in any real contention is which tactic will be used to let the SNP rank-and-file down gently.  At no stage has Smith issued a disclaimer that this is pure speculation on her part and that alternative interpretations are available.  If her speculation is rooted in private gossip from SNP sources, at no stage has she made that clear or given the slightest information about the quality or the breadth of those sources.

I'd suggest it's fair comment to say that if the BBC are ever going to recover some of the trust they undoubtedly lost in Scotland in 2014, this kind of nonsense is going to have to stop.  The BBC's job is to report reality, not to attempt to shape reality in line with a worldview that places a premium on the unity of the British state, and thus wishes confusion upon the enemies of British unity.

Let's look at this in a way that Sarah Smith won't much appreciate.  It's only a week or so since Nicola Sturgeon started dropping heavy hints (indeed more than hints) that an indyref timetable would be set out very soon.  Given the expectations that have been generated on an already impatient Yes side, some would argue that it's "inconceivable" that there will be any further substantial delay.  If Smith thinks that logic is incorrect, it's incumbent upon her as the face of a public service broadcaster to explain why and to support her argument with hard facts.  Punditry masquerading as news just isn't good enough - not when the future of our country is at stake.

As far as the Alex Salmond controversy is concerned, my own view is that Nicola Sturgeon has got the emphasis slightly wrong throughout this process.  She rightly stated at the outset that the allegations against Mr Salmond could not be swept under the carpet and must be thoroughly investigated, but what was missing was a reminder that Mr Salmond was entitled to due process and a presumption of innocence while the investigation was underway.  By the same token, when Mr Salmond won his legal challenge against the Scottish Government, Ms Sturgeon rightly went out of her way to express regret for the negative impact on the two complainants, but failed to make what would have been an equally appropriate apology for the injustice done to Mr Salmond.  Essentially the impression that's been given is that the need for the allegations to be actually proved is just a formality.  For all the sanctimonious commentary a few months ago about how Mr Salmond's legal challenge and his crowdfunder had something to do with "toxic masculinity", the value of what he's done is to make it less likely in future that someone's career can be ended simply by an untested allegation -  which should never be the case for a person of any gender or at any pay grade.

So, yes, there are differences of opinion within the SNP on this topic, but the characterisation of those differences as a "civil war" is extremely silly, and the idea put about in one or two newspapers that Ms Sturgeon's leadership is seriously under threat is in the realms of fantasy.  I would also note that the one thing guaranteed to heal any slight rift and to bring the SNP together with a unity of purpose would be the swift timetabling of an independence referendum.  I very much doubt if I'm the only person that point has occurred to, even if it's yet to occur to Sarah Smith.

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30 comments:

  1. Can I say I totally agree with the point you are making, though if you have any optimism about the BBC changing its spots on this matter, I think this must be exaggerated. They wont.
    This practice of assertion without evidence, but stated in a manner that brooks no questioning. is an increasingly widely used Unionist tactic.
    In this morning's Herald there is a letter from the indefatigable Keith Howell - https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/17357979.letters-fm-should-follow-wendy-alexander-example/ - which includes this "The current First Minister was at the time among the more vociferous insisting Ms Alexander should stand down [concerning accepting an inappropriate donation of £950]" Did the FM insist that Alexander resign? Was she one of the most vociferous? I suspect the answer to the former is yes, but to the latter "Dont know"? But two things I do know - the FM would be so not the only one but most importantly, how many people are sad enough to go back through Holyrood debates to find out if Howell is right. But that claim sets the scene for the whole letter.
    Another example is Peter A Russell who starts from the assertion that "assertion that the First Minister “has limited ability and zero imagination” and proceeds to further machine gun her character (https://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/17353458.letters-can-snp-warring-factions-kiss-and-make-up/). A few weeks before Christmas he also asserted that while he believed in the Christian precept "love thy neighbour" he could not see how independence supporters could.
    You have probably heard of Mr Russell - worked for a succession of Labour Lord Provosts in Glasgow. On the Herald letters pages he gets a pretty easy ride.
    However, with Russell, Howell and Smith the MO is the same - create a negative impression; never ever give any evidence to support that assertion; proceed as if true.
    In short James, Sarah might be the most public purveyor of the methodology, but she is so not the only one.

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    1. Redfern gets to berate the FM multiple times a week in the Herald and before Christmas he had a letter published 5 days out of 7....

      Imagine that connectivity from SiU direct to The Herald.

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  2. Perfect analysis. In her memoirs Sarah Smith may declare that she thought it was her duty to support the British Union and that duty overrode issues of journalistic integrity.

    The best I could say of her repeated anti-SNP comments is that she is spouting what she has persuaded herself is true, because that is what she wishes to be true. I expect I am being overly generous :-)

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  3. I saw the Sarah Smith item and laughed out loud. Like so many of her BBC colleagues, Ms Smith is not really a journalist but a public servant working for the government. I don't mean this in any snide, underhand way: Ms Smith et al are doing what they are paid to which is maintain and defend the state that pays their wages. That's not going to change.
    Since Gus MacDonald was converted to Thatcherism in the 1990s, STV haven't been in the business of news gathering or investigation, and even back in the late 70s/early 80s, the newsroom would phone the Scotsman to see if anything was doing. Imagine! But it doesn't look like they go to that much effort nowadays.
    We won't get decent media until we are independent at which time they will be essential. Look at the vitality of print and broadcast media in similarly sized independent countries like Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Finland.
    In comparison, the job of a journalist in Scotland is pretty comfy and stress-free, so in addition to any ideological reasons, why make an easy life difficult?

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    1. Wee Gadgue far the MotherwellJanuary 15, 2019 at 7:16 PM

      Why would I watch Finnish TV or read Danish papers? I'm British. Fool!

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    2. Cordelia's guttered and ranting about foreigners again.
      Snivelling mess.

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  4. What #yetanotheralexsalmondgate #yetanotherSNPcivilwar says is the UK is very, very close to the end. The BBC etc are becoming utterly desperate, just openly making things up as they go along now with no real effort to appear impartial. There is absolutely no coincidence in current events.

    Won't make any difference to anything though. History is overtaking us, and one man (and/or one woman) will never stand in the way of the march of a nation. The ground is moving beneath our feet. The foundations of the UK are crumbling, with the pillars starting to topple.

    Barring some sort of miracle, the UK is likely no longer saveable, even if it stayed in the EU. We are too deep into the final demise to just neatly step out and toddle along like nothing happened. Nope, this will go all the way to completion, with England and N. Ireland driving things as much or more than Scotland. Wales may yet join the fray.

    Hold on tight.

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  5. "Oh gosh, Alex Salmond might be a sex pest! Well, I'm all for the Queen and Union now then", said nobody. Ever.

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    1. Wee Kenny far the IrvineJanuary 15, 2019 at 7:17 PM

      I said it.

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    2. Cordelia's drunk and ranting again.

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    3. Aye, history is littered with cases where countries decided to not become independent because one of their politicians (might) have e.g. made a drunken pass at someone or similar years back.

      Everyone from MI5 to the British press have been trying to pin the sex pest charge (or anything really) on Salmond for nearly 30 years. In that time, we have, well, zero named victims and zero proven cases. Not even a juicy kiss and tell.

      Now we have brexit about to break the UK and...Kinda makes you wonder, eh.

      Anyway, he can just step down as FM if it turns out to be true. Let Sturgeon take over.

      We'll soon get the results of the 5 separate enquires. LOL.

      When I saw the BBC headline 'Sturgeon conspired with Alex Salmond to take down the former SNP FM in secret SNP civil war' I knew we could count the time the UK has left in months.

      It's already beyond parody, but believe it or not, it's going to get even more potty.

      There will be no well-coordinated Better Together from the unionists this time. Only increasingly raving delusional crap. GWC broadcastified basically.

      It's always like this; in 'last days of Rome' situations that is. The BBC will soon sound like Iraqi state TV as the tanks rolled towards Baghdad.

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    4. Cordelia as Comical Ali.
      That'll be comedy gold.

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  6. I think Westminster is very afraid of Salmond and Sturgon getting together to campaign for independence.

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  7. Sarah Smith is coming out with this nonsense because she was stunned at the sheer size of the numbers who turned out for the AUOB rally in Edinburgh the look of shock on her face was priceless. No matter what smears, Lies or total garbage she and her Loony Yooney Ilk come out with the Yes movement and the SNP get stronger and it scares them S---less!

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    1. I often wonder if Sarah Smith is actually the mental professor from Edinburgh.

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  8. James, websites are listing this PM loss as one of biggest in history...up with Callaghan Jan 1978 on Scotland and Wales in Feb? 1978??. But I thought devolution referendum passed with the Scottish traitor's amendment?

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  9. 'Its an Injustice it is!'

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  10. Peoples vote it is then....

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    1. There needs to be a new GE to obtain mandates for this surely?

      That or we set the precedent that e.g. the Scottish parliament can hold an iref whenever it wants; no need for parties to stand for elections on that ticket beforehand.

      Anyway, would be funny if the increased Remain in Scotland + N. Ireland was enough to tip it to Remain even though England voted Leave again.

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    2. I am sure there will be enough Jock Irish EU crawlers to overturn the result.

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    3. I became Irish just so I could be responsible for the backstop.

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    4. I don't know, the SNP don't seem to think so and they are the largest party backing a 'peoples vote'. But as you say they could well just be incompetent and backing a path they dont have a mandate to vote for.

      As for a advisory indie ref of course the Scottish Government have the power to hold that, again you would have to ask they why they have decided not to hold one, or (from what I can tell) have no plans to hold one in the future.

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    5. I think if the UK parliament votes narrowly for a people's vote (which is going to go down like a lead balloon in England, but be welcomed in Scotland) and SNP MPs carry it, it would probably break the union.

      Which I guess is why the SNP are so much in favour. They can't really lose on this issue.

      As for a mandate; they got this at the last GE. I voted for them for example on the promise they'd fight to keep Scotland in the EU by all democratic means. Along with the lib dems and the Greens, the SNP have the electoral mandate to push for a people's vote. Little doubt there.

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    6. What's the difference between people voting and a people's vote?

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    7. but be welcomed in Scotland

      Not by nationalists - they want an indy ref instead, that is obviously clear.

      You know that if there is a second Indy ref and it results in the UK remaining, a second indyref gets kicked into the next Scottish Parliament at the earliest (and that would rely on a pro Indy majority to vote for a mandate, something that is 50/50 at best)

      As for Ireland support for a boarder poll drops to 25% based on recent polling if the UK remains.

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    8. Scottish Unionists would not accept the Nat sis winning a referendum we would want a people's vote.

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    9. But only if the Nat sis buy us 2 bottles of Malibu each.

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    10. This is a concern, will Malibu be Tax Free after brexit!

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    11. Unionists would be free to campaign for a people's vote to reverse indy. You'd need to win a parliamentary majority for it to get it through of course. You'd also need to have a referendum in the rUK to see if they wished to re-establish the union. You could not force the other nations of the UK to accept a union with Scotland without consulting them first; that would be undemocratic. Unlike for the EU, there is no 2 year article 50 period to work with; if Scotland declares indy and repeals the treaty of union, then that's it official.

      As it stands, polls show that England would likely still vote Leave again and Scotland an even bigger remain. There's a reason for this; people do think the vote needs to be respected. I think England should get brexit for example.

      So, the same will happen if Scotland votes 50%+1 Yes; you will struggle to get people to reverse that even if they got cold feet. If anything, it would be an epic national humilation.

      However, it suits the SNP to support a people's vote. It creates a precedent where indyrefs don't need electoral mandates. More importantly however, it would really, really rile England, possibly resulting in Scotland blocking brexit or aiding in reversing the result. Perfect for encouraging English independence.

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  11. Having watched May (I started to write "Thatcher") after the vote tonight, if I were a Tory Party supporter, I would be concerned about the state of her mental health. There seems to be a major problem there with reality and her connection to it.
    But I'm not a Tory Party supporter, so I couldn't care less and actually hope she will end up as miserable as the 000,000s of her government's victims.

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