11 a.m. same day: Hoist by my own petard as the BBC have just announced a new TV channel (well five hours a night) for Scotland and various other goodies for BBC Scotland. Completely unexpected and plenty of detail still to emerge (presumably not an online-only channel like BBC3?). It could be a smart move to sideline separatist moans, but I expect they’ll still manage plenty. I’m leaving my post below because it does at least demonstrate the mind-set of one strain of nationalism. And it does show – joyously – that John Nicolson was completely uninformed about the situation even two hours ago. Or to put it in the Scots the SNP are so keen to promote, the boy wus gubbed.
Apparently BBC Director Tony Hall is going to announce later today (I write at 9 a.m.) that after a few pilots the proposed BBC Scotland Scottish Six news programme will not proceed. When I heard this I tweeted all sensible people to look out for false nationalist outrage later.
The BBC Radio 4 Today programme, on the ball as ever, got in first this morning and had a discussion about the subject with John Nicolson SNP MP and Labour peer Baroness Young. Nicolson did baulk at Young’s reference to parochialism in Scottish news spawning an item about ‘the price of mince in Auchtermuchty’ (Nicolson: ‘That’s very patronising’). But by and large he maintained the honeyed tones he reserves for encounters with fellow hacks (he’s an ex-journo/news presenter).
For the next while you can find the discussion here, at 02:35:54.
My immediate response was to note that I spotted a couple of lies in Nicolson’s contribution and thought I’d better listen to the item again to make sure I hadn’t traduced the man (difficult, you might say, given his role in ousting fellow journalist and commentator Stephen Daisley from STV).
I was in luck. Nicolson’s first error was in his description of one of the formats BBC Scotland had piloted for a Scottish Six:
… a curious hybrid whereby a BBC Scottish presenter would do the headlines then handover to an English presenter in London for the grown up news.
Spot it? ‘An English presenter in London.’ No, no John. They’re British presenters and if you listen carefully you’ll hear a variety of accents from all over Britain.
His second ‘error’ was more egregious. Asked what Hall would have done if the assumed decision is confirmed he said:
Well he’ll have shown a cloth ear for the debate in Scotland because we’re debating Brexit, being pulled out of the EU against our will, leading up to a second independence referendum.
I’d say Hall’s ear is more likely to be wrought of a finer cloth than Nicolson’s because all the objective research about ‘the debate in Scotland’ shows that the majority of Scots either don’t want or are indifferent to a Scottish Six. I documented this last August, when I also noted Nicolson’s likely role in the Commons media, culture and sports committee recommendation that there should be a Scottish Six (those honeyed tones again, I suspected).
That second error was also culpable in two other respects.
First, maybe some Scots, mainly nationalists, are discussing Brexit but why can’t that be done in the half-hour of Scottish news that follows the main UK bulletin at six? It’s the ideal place and if it’s not being used for what Nicolson sees as such an important issue maybe that’s where he should address his concerns. It’s instructive that he didn’t mention an example of an issue that couldn’t be dealt with in that slot.
Second, note the sly ‘leading up to a second independence referendum.’ This time it’s no, no, no John. There will not be a second referendum, at least for a generation (promises available if you want chapter and verse). The UK government won’t agree it. That’s the trouble with the flesh-pits of the metropolis. They take your eye off the day job of governing Scotland back up the road in Holyrood, not of course that that seems to worry his MSP colleagues.
Let’s end with two more of Nicolson’s infelicities that at the very least strike the wrong tone. He claims:
for the last few weeks people in BBC Scotland have been walking around with their heads in their hands saying it doesn’t look good. It looks as though they’re going to shaft us again because what you’ve got to remember is the journalists want to make this programme
Does this mean Nicolson maintains closer contact than he should with his ex-colleagues and really is in touch with their presumed unhappiness? Or does he exaggerate/invent for the sake of his case? Even if he doesn’t, whether journalists want to make a programme or not isn’t the point.
Finally, he manages:
Look at the running order this week and you’ll see that the BBC network six o’clock news repeatedly runs on [English stories].
I don’t know if this true. When I looked (link above) at the detailed running order of a randomly-chosen six o’clock bulletin I found a remarkable balance. If you listen to today’s discussion you’ll realise that by ‘runs on’ Nicolson means ‘leads with.’ He should really be looking at the content and shape of a whole bulletin, not just its first few minutes.
Of course, the real reason some nationalists wanted a Scottish Six is that it would have been yet another lever to try and wrench Scotland away from the UK. It’s just part of the overall goal of separation which looks about as likely in my lifetime now as a Scottish Six. Mr Nicolson may grieve, I won’t.
Oh, and do watch out for the false outrage later.