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?