Time for the BBC to answer questions

The BBC Question Time bandwagon rolls into Scotland again tomorrow.   And I think it’s time the BBC answered a few questions from the audience.

First up , why, in eleven years of having Scottish Parliament representation, have the Scottish Greens never been asked to sit on the panel?  We’ve had the SSP, Respect, Solidarity, UKIP and even the BNP.  And yes, Caroline Lucas was on the panel only the other week.  But this is Scotland, and our Green party is a separate entity and should be treated as such.  It’s actually pretty outrageous never to have had a Green MSP on the panel in Scotland – and as far as the burd is aware, they have never been asked.  Who decided that the BBC did not have to pay heed to the democratic decisions of the Scottish people when putting together its Question Time panels?  There is a democratic deficit at the heart of this and it must be addressed. 

Aside from this, the BBC is missing a trick – Robin Harper and/or Patrick Harvie would add real chutzpah to any political panel.  Both are articulate, erudite politicians, more than capable of holding their own, and importantly, of contributing something different to the debate that would interest the studio and home audiences.  And surely ultimately that is the objective of the programme?

Next, is the BBC aware that Scotland actually has some politicians of its own?  Who is on the panel this week?  I can hardly bear to break the news, but it’s barely Scottish.  There’s an English Liberal Democrat MP, a Welsh Labour MP, an English historian, an expat Scottish financial whizz and er, one Scottish politician in the form of Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP Depute First Minister.  And much as I admire oor Nicola isn’t she becoming just a tad ubiquitous?  There are other SNP Ministers after all, and a raft of backbenchers, some of whom admittedly shouldn’t be let out after dark on their own, but surely enough talent in the team to choose from?

After last week’s dismal performance by Scottish Liberal Democrat UK Government Ministers in the TV studios, it’s understandable why they might just be a little camera shy.  But we do actually have Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs, or are they too in hiding, scared they’ll be asked to explain the finer details of the abandonment of long held policy and principle?  And why oh why is there no Scottish Labour MSP on the panel, particularly when this Question Time is taking place on the eve of their annual conference AND they are riding high in recent Scottish election polls?  We are indeed a little light on Tory representation but there are still a few clinging on to their seats in Holyrood. 

Third question – I’m not wasting this opportunity – is the BBC unaware of the huge swathe of talent we have in terms of political and social commentators here in Scotland, people who actually know something about the mood of the Scottish body politic?  Joyce MacMillan?  Muriel Gray?  Either would be wonderful and significantly, would have helped address the other deficit at the heart of this panel, that of gender. 

Finally, are there no maps of Scotland available for sale down south?  This would assist in educating the BBC that there are in fact more town and city options than our great second city.  We wouldn’t want to confuse the geographically challenged amongst the audience who might by now be thinking that Scotland is in fact Glasgow.  Question Time manages to visit different areas in England, so why can’t it do the same for Scotland?

The BBC appears not to have noticed, but Scotland has forked considerably down a different political path in recent times.  We think and crucially, vote increasingly differently from our neighbouring citizens.  Any panel coming from Scotland should reflect this.  After all, the point of bringing the programme from around the UK should be to portray those differences and offer the viewers an insight into the diversity of political opinion, thought and behaviour from around these isles. 

A Question Time that has never found a place for the Scottish Greens, that appears unable to field a range of Scottish politicians and commentators, ignores the need for gender balance and refuses to acknowledge that Scotland is a country with a range of potential urban and rural hosts is guilty of doing us down.  Guilty, in fact, of imposing a London centric view on us.  Or maybe that’s the point?


14 thoughts on “Time for the BBC to answer questions

  1. “Guilty, in fact, of imposing a London centric view on us. Or maybe that’s the point? ”

    Its a sad thing to have to say, but… yes.. I’m fairly sure it IS the point. The BBC is failing us here and has been for some time. When overweight dogs are news, it really does indicate the sort of dumbing-down of our news in Scotland. This is a topic which is gathering a head of steam for itself, I’ve blogged on it too at http://westlothiananswer.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/no-home-for-the-truth-at-the-beeb/ .
    Its won’t go away!

  2. I’ve applied to be in the audience of Question Time before, and they have said that questions should be “of interest to the audience across the country” eg not pertaining to the Scottish Parliament, although I have seen episodes in London where Boris Johnson and others have discussed things like Tube strikes and the congestion charge at length, so presumably that rule isn’t set in stone.

    I would have thought that the BBC hadn’t invited the Scottish Greens on because they use Westminster and European parliamentary elections as their benchmark, but the presence of SSP panelists would suggest otherwise.

    As for locations, they have previously had editions from Stirling (that’s where the one I applied for was being broadcast when I used to live there) and I think they’ve been up North as well.

    • Hi thanks for your post. You are quite right that they have been to other locations in Scotland but not for a while. I’m sure the last couple have been in Glasgow….

  3. An exract from my blog that covers the BBC in Scotland.

    “It was not by accident that broadcasting was a power retained by the UK Westminster Parliament when devolution was introduced through the Scotland Act (1998). By keeping the power of broadcasting, and ensuring Scots continued to receive their ‘national’ news from London, British unionist politicians ensured the continuance of 300 years of indoctrination.

    The UK ‘national’ news – stories about England and from an English perspective – ensure that Scots know England is more important than Scotland. To reinforce this idea, the real national news – about the nation of Scotland and from a Scottish perspective – comes after the English news and is branded as just ‘regional’.

    Substitute European Union for British Union, and imagine the outcry in England if it was announced that news programmes would now be broadcast from Brussels, but that English news would still be covered in regional bulletins following the main news. Rightly, the people of England would not tolerate such a move, yet predominantly English politicians and broadcasters think such a situation is acceptable for Scotland.

    Think I’m going too far with this? Perhaps, then, you weren’t already aware that British Government documents, released under Freedom of Information legislation, show that when a ‘Scottish Six’ news programme was touted in the late 1990s, then prime minister Tony Blair and the then Director-General of the BBC, John Birt, actively worked together to ensure it never happened. What possible motive could a British prime minister and a British broadcaster have in preventing Scotland from having a news programme that reported Scottish national news and international stories from a Scottish perspective?

    Well, if the Scots had their own ‘national’ news and were able to interpret world events in terms of how they related to Scotland, ‘the Jocks’ might actually start to believe they were a real nation: and if that happened, who knows where it could end. They might even get the daft idea that they could govern themselves, and before long England could have to face the reality of living without the Westminster Exchequer’s two biggest contributors, revenue from North Sea oil and the Scotch Whisky industry.

    As Aleksandr the Meerkat might say, “It’s simples. ‘Regional’ Scottish news, ‘National’ (English) news from London, and lead stories about cricket keep the Scots in their subordinate place within the British Union.”

    I couldn’t have put it better myself.”





    I bet that QT does not deal with the fiscal question in Scotland in the light of recent comments from learned proffessors:


    • Thank you for your contribution to my post. It’s really appreciated and adds hugely to the debate on this key issue. And let’s watch out for a fiscal related question – methinks you might be right though!

      • I’d be very surprised if there isn’t a fiscal question related to Scottish independence tonight. Why else invite anti-devolutionist Hugh Hendry on to the panel.

        “If you look at the political class, they pursued this notion Scotland could be a Celtic tiger. Just how wrong could you be. Salmond’s proposals were all based on HBOS and RBS being these profound money makers and Ireland was the model we should pursue. How he got away with it and escaped the collateral damage from that is extraordinary.”


  4. I completely agree with your post – some excellent points. There’s an opportunity there for the BBC give people an insight into the debates going on in Scotland, Wales or even particular cities. They fail to do so.

    Also – I bet there’s a Megrahi question, cos that’s obviously the only thing of significance to ever happen here…

    • Of course there will be! But as long as it’s the right one about having an independent inquiry that would be okay. Anything else is just spurious.

      And hope you don’t think I am anti Nicola – one of her biggest fans actually! But I do feel we need to use more of the team, which is a good one. And also would be useful to get some of the MSPs in marginals a bit more exposure, some of whom would be, could be very good!

      Who knows why no Labour MSP on there….

  5. Well said. I had a POP at the BBC via the feedback page on Radio Scotland on similar points. I want to see and hear all points of view from all parts via diverse panel and audience. Mixing it up over many episodes. Certainly don’t want to hear repitition of dame Strathclyde centrist Labour spin I get from almost every MSM outlet in Scotland

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