This is boring

Another day, another referendum story.

Or rather non-story.  For what we are being fed by the print and e-media is a constant stream of subconscious thoughts and mutterings that amount to hee-haw.

The Scotsman seems to have exhausted itself with its mission to create a scary independence-related splash for every day of the week.  Today, it actually manages to impart some news on its front page.  But some of the headlines screaming at us since the announcement of the independence referendum have been shocking.  No, scratch that, for no one could actually believe them, surely.  Funny or tiresome is probably more like it.

This weekend, we had the unedifying spectacle of Labour folk – of all people – invoking the race card.  The news that 60,000 EU nationals get to vote in Scottish elections seems to have been a revelation for some, which is strange given that they have voted in elections since 1999.  In fact, quite possibly, helped deliver Labour into office in 1999 and 2003.  Now, however, the inference is that these dirty foreigners will steal our country and break up Britain.  Politics at its worst.  Shame on Labour.  Shame on Scotland on Sunday for giving this “story” such credence, though it does mitigate its actions by saying something very different in its leader.

Over the weekend, we had some poll results which showed either a surge for independence or a devastating dip in support.  Such treatment by the commissioners and authors actually makes their polls toxic and not worth dissecting and analysing. Play it straight and you’ll get us all talking about the trends the polls are displaying.  Something to think about….

The Herald tried to persuade us earlier this week that we should care what the outgoing Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company thought.  “There’s a bit of me that will cry if Scottish independence happens”.

Apparently he fears that Scotland, if independent, would repel all English drama, such as Shakespeare. “So if Scotland does go into a ‘Whaur’s yer Willie Shakespeare noo?’ phase, I don’t think it will last forever. For either Ireland or Scotland to chop off their nose to spite their Anglo-dominated face, it is self-defeating.”

To be fair to Mr Boyd who voted SNP in the 1970s “to kick Labour up the a**e“, he was pushed and prodded into uttering this nonsense sentiment, enabling the paper to scream the headline that independence would deny our weans Shakespeare.

I mean, c’mon.  Right now there might well be 16 year olds struggling their way through Shakespeare texts for their English exams celebrating and vowing to vote yes in 2014.  But if anyone else can seriously believe that a post-independence Scotland would become a cultural coo-shed with ritual burnings of texts that epitomise Unionism and the English oppression, then we are in trouble.

But just in case I’m wrong, they’re welcome to Walter Scott but I’m hiding my Shakespeare and Dickens in the loft.

It’s not just the mainstream press which is at it.  Newsnet Scotland has been a welcome addition to our media, providing a pro-Scottish, pro-independence slant and take on things.  It posts news that other blatts don’t deem worthy of publication.  Like I said, welcome, especially when it provides a counter-balance to the scare stories.

But it also produces a tiresome stream of material, particularly attacking other parties, presenting them in a very negative light, while printing in full SNP and Government media releases without any attempt to scratch the surface of the declaration.

I understand absolutely why they do this and why to many in the SNP and on the pro-indy side, this is deemed necessary, if not necessarily desirable.  But do we really need headlines like “Unionists manipulate Salmond remarks in attempt at diverting attention from BBC censorship scandal“?  Just because they do it, and have been doing it for decades now, doesn’t make it right.

Nor, I would contend, does it help.  While there are plenty polarised between the two extremes of “aye” and “naw”, most are “mebbes aye, mebbes naw” at this stage (though a few are definitely wondering “who’s askin'”).  They are the ones that need to be persuaded by one side or the other and both sides standing on the fringes of the media shouting at each other and everyone else is simply encouraging the undecideds to stick their fingers in their ears.

Some of us – many of us who are partials if not quite outright partisans – are bored.  This endless stream of shoutiness from the margins is boring.  We’re despairing of how we’ll survive until 2014.

And if we’re feeling like that, then spare a thought for folk who only think about politics and how they are going to vote a few weeks out from an election.  Do you think they are listening to any of this?  Taking it in?  Or turning the page, switching channel, refusing to engage?

We need a better tempered discourse.  We also need a straight man, someone or some people or some body which will do a factcheck kinda thing to all the utterances and pronouncements.

But more than anything else right now, we need silence.  We need a free week every month (I’d suggest a whole month actually but know that would be impossible) where the constitution does not dominate, where we talk about some of the other issues affecting Scotland and the people who live here.  And we can usefully spend the time thinking about what it all means.

So, no constitutional chatter on this here blog for at least a week.  No matter how momentous it might prove to be.  There will, after all, be weeks, nay months, afterwards to dissect it.





32 thoughts on “This is boring

  1. Is it okay to place a portion of this in my site if perhaps I post a reference to this webpage?

  2. Pingback: The charge of the slight brigade « WordsForPress

  3. The last two comments demonstrate perfectly the problems with the level of debate in the mainstream media. Both start off with a statement of neutrality but descend very quickly in criticising the pro-independce position, ending up with insults.

    Thanks ‘Longshanker’ and ‘intentionally blank’. The blogosphere has nothing to learn from the mainstream news media.

    • You seem to be implying that if you criticise the SNP you’re criticising the case for Independence. But that’s simply not true. If someone, anyone, can provide me with an overwhelming reason or reasons to vote for Independence I’ll do it. My dichotomy regarding the SNP can hopefully be summed up by my opinion of Alex Salmond.

      When the 1999 air strikes on Serbia began I was horrified. As I remember it, the only notable politician (there were a couple of others) to speak out against it in mainstream politics was Alex Salmond. And for that I salute him and admire him. He knew the vicious backlash that would result from it but clearly demonstrated his willingness to stand by his principles regarding war and its legality. And, I was proud that it was a Scotsman who chose to make such a public stance.

      In 2009 he deigned to publicly lecture Diageo, the owners of the Johnny Walker brand and associated assets. He did so in his position as First Minister. In doing so he undermined the excellent work being carried out behind the scenes by John Swinney. This action effectively put the shutters up at Diageo’s board level. You don’t publicly censure these guys regarding their conduct and product without expecting repercussions. The workforce in Kilmarnock paid for it with their jobs.

      When the expenses scandal broke Salmond sounded just like any other Westminster MP caught with his hand in the till. It wasn’t his fault it was the Westminster expenses process that was to blame. There were guys with duck ponds and moats who churned out a similar defense.

      Sadly, the above, and more, is why I don’t trust him. It’s also part of the reason why I’m a ditherer regarding Independence. I’m sorry that you think I was insulting him.

      • Longshanker – it would be a pity if we judged something as important as independence on the basis of our opinions of a single member of the movement, even if this person is the leader, or indeed of a single party, if there is only one main independence party as is the case of Scotland, Even more so on anecdotal evidence, however compelling at the time. If you looked on the present situation as a means to an end, which is a fairer deal for Scots, you would not be alone, even among people very committed to independence.

  4. Excellent blog. It’s funny, informative, balanced and free of the rabid megalomaniacal pantomine pedantry indulged in by some of the more ‘out there’ pro-independence blogs.

    I am a native resident Scot ambivalent regarding the subject of independence. Like the vast majority of Scots I see through the anti-independence bias of the mainstream media for what it is and, like you, find it boring.

    I don’t need Wee Scotlanders pedantically nit picking the semantics of words used by politicians and the press either. One ludicrous pro-independence blogger went as far as to expostulate on the meaning of the word ‘gauletier’ depending on whether it was spelled with a capital letter or not. Er. Hello. Am I missing something here?

    It’s a genuine and unwelcome dilemma though. I find much of the SNPs political history and recent conduct questionable, bordering on distasteful. It makes me extremely wary of them and anything they have to say on the matter of independence. Yet, they seem to offer the only political voice available capable of giving a feasible account of why Independence would be an improvement over Union.

    Much as I admire Salmond’s oratory, I remember feeling distraught and helpless as I witnessed in 2009 his penchant for demagoguery which assisted the delivery of the killer blow to the workforce of the Johnnie Walker factory in Kilmarnock. I can’t help drawing subjective parallels with what’s at stake in 2014.

    Ironically, during this self aggrandising grandstanding by Salmond, the hapless victims were cheering him for his inspiring and hope evoking eloquence. Consequently, given the outcome of his intervention with Johnnie Walker, I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

    So there’s the dilemma. Who or what do I listen to when it comes to making up my mind? I don’t have a clue. Help.

  5. As an undecided I have been trawling the pro-separation sites in the last few weeks adn have been very disappointed by the quality of the blogging.
    Newsnet is lots of blogspam ie a story lifted from a major news site and re-written often without adding anything. And rarely even a link to the original story.
    Lots of massively inaccurate stuff too – Bella Caledonia has a long Iceland piece that is awful, factually incorrect on so many items and they know but have left it up. They seem more interested in passion than accuracy and this damages the whole site. Even the good articles are desperately in need of being edited and fact checked.

    Finally the comments sections on some of the sites are verging on self congratulatory (apologies for this Americanism) circle jerk.

    Bloggers need to be better than a regular news site to get readers and respect, there are a lot of Scottish ones out there who think they can write anything and needn’t be as good as those they criticise because they aren’t paid.

    • Intentionally blank – I totally agree with you about that outrageous Iceland article in Bella Caledonia – why they let it stay there goodness knows. But let’s not generalise. Reviewing your comment, I don’t understand your disappointment with the voluntary Internet press. Why should it be better than a regular news site? It has no resources, it’s ordinary people. Of course it is partisan, that’s its motivation. Of course it reprints stories from elsewhere, that’s part of its function. If you start thinking along these lines, you might well also consider that the Scotsman is “guilty”. That the Internet press could be better noone denies, but in my view you are in danger of doing the equivalent of criticising Wikipedia because it isn’t the Encyclopedia Britannica.

      • Thanks. I mean don’t get me wrong I’ve gone from being a solid no to a complete undecided – so I guess they have achieved something.

        My point is not that the internet press could be better – there are many that are. But that the Scottish Internet Press could be better – I genuinely think that it’s problems are easily fixed (and one of them is that they need to see that any criticism is not de-facto political). I think that’s why I bothered commenting on newsnet and bella sort of so near and yet so far.

        If it was me I’d link to Scottish stories with a short editorial (ie 140 characters or so) like rather than just re-write them.

        If I was doing the magazine format (ie bellacala) then they only need a couple of changes to really transform the whole site and add credibility. Word limits (to tighten up the writing style); correct mistakes (and make fewer); and reply to objective comments with an objective response – rather than no response.

        In many ways Wikipedia is better than Britannica and there are many many blogs who have their stuff nicked by the mainstream. There are also many blogs that hold themselves up to a higher standard than print. So they can keep the high ground.

        Anyway what do I know (well I’ve been reading the internet for years!).

  6. NewsnetScotland is the perfect antidote to the trite, tremulous and trepidatious unionist commentary by the mainstream media, be it newsprint or broadcast. There are very few journalists,pundits, editors or media outlets that you can trust in reporting Scottish politics in a fair and balanced way.I dare you to name them against those who don’t command popualr trust. NewsnetScotland gives that rare other-side of the arguement so lacking in mainstream media. That is why it is popular and becoming more so – 75000 unique visitors per month and counting.

    If there wasn’t a NewsnetScotland someone would have to invent something similar.

  7. Newsnet Scotland as has been said does what it says on the tin, for the last couple of months I’ve been reading it regularly and commenting now and then, in some of the articles and comments there are points of interest, and while I may not agree with those who clearly would shut BBC Scotland down tomorrow I think BBC Scotland is a badly managed, editorially suspect media outlet which needs to be challenged.
    And Newsnet Scotland differs from this blog, Bella, Scottish Review, Better Nation etc as they are trying to be a news website not a story by story blog, it’s not easy to keep going, monitoring 100’s of comments on a daily basis, updating the site and adding new stories. And as has been said it’s carried out by volunteers.
    Surely there’s a place for a range of voices? And criticism for the sake of criticism seems rather a waste of energy wherever it comes from but as someone who reads most of the Scottish sites daily I’m pleased to say the constructively critical commentators more than outweigh the rest.

  8. I completely agree with your sentiments on Newsnet Scotland, and have felt that way for quite a while now. I am glad someone in the pro-independence camp found the courage to utter it that I lacked.

  9. Watch Blackadder Back and Forth, where Blackadder gives WIlliam Shakespeare a kicking!

    With regards to Newsnet, I think it is a bit unfair to criticise privately run blogs – sorry, serious alternatives to the msm. If you want to liven things up, criticise Big Eck, Nicola or declare your undying support for the BBC……….

    (that should confirm my status there as a Tory Labourite Fifth Columnist Heretic!)

  10. This is turning into a real ‘Newsnet Bashing Thread’ as it isn’t following certain codes of operandi. Fine but think would we be so far in front of the unionist without it personally I don’t think so and last May would never have happened to the extent it did without them highlighting Labour’s misdemeanour’s, in my opinion. It is run by volunteers on a shoestring and needs all the help it can get from moderation to article production, anyone can snipe from the sidelines, as we are forced too regarding the BBC blatant bias, so get get involved and help change it from the inside as most of you have something to give for the better.

    Read Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph today which is well balanced compared to his last thread which ended up with mass comment moderation showing his pure hypocrisy.

  11. You know, this might seem like heresay, but at the moment the plebecite is not actually the most importaint thing going on in this country. The UK econnomy is still tanking, the official opposition at Westminster is still posted AWOL, while there is the prospect of war in both the Middle east and in the South Atlantic. In the meantime, like you say, the pro and anti independence camp seem engaged in a pedantic and spiteful squabble which will alienate pretty much most of the population.

    Not so sure that Newsnet Scotland is that much of a welcome addition to the Mac-Media landscape, too often it falls into the trap of becoming a parody of itself.

  12. Yep, nail on the head with regard to Newsnet. It’s an absolutely vital source of coverage of stories the MSM conveniently ignore (like the Denis MacShane one this week), and when they do exercise restraint it’s excellent. I just wish they’d rein in the frothing polemic a bit more – it does nobody any favours, especially since it’s mostly pretty poorly-written and therefore comes off as drunken pub-bore ranting – because it undermines the site’s apparent intent of being a proper news source with a nationalist perspective.

    Although at least they’ve mostly binned the toe-curling “posts written in Scots” stuff.

    • Just remembered another couple of things that put me off the site a bit – the fairly regular server outages, and the big stushie a while back when there was apparently a big falling out between the folk that ran the site, and one person took control of the site and started running it himself, so the others registered another domain name and fired off emails warning about the takeover of the original site… I have no idea what actually happened because it was all so confusing, and the secretive way they handled it just made the whole operation look amateurish. It reminded me of how I’ve always imagined things go when the far-left have a bust-up and everyone starts up their own new version of the SWP.

      • As I understand it

        The group hired one of their number as a professional, but they didn’t like soemthing that was going on

        That person emailed everyone saying the site was compromised and set up a new site, same name, different TLD

        Then he disappeared but appears to have resurfaced as “the scottish times”

        But it’s quite sweet really

        The journalists look down on the political class bloggers/commentors

        and the political class bloggers/commentors look down on the public bloggers/commentors

        And, as for being embarrassed by using Scots, what is this, the 1920s, do we get skellpt for using “bad English” next?

        But generally yeah, an even-handed news site, not a nationalist one or a labour one or a tory one would be bloody welcome

    • i like posts written in Scots…

  13. There seems to be a wee misconception about Newsnet Scotland here. It does not aim to compete with the mainstream Scottish media, and should not be judged as such. It states:

    “Newsnet Scotland was launched on 12th March 2010 by a small group of unpaid volunteers from Greenock. The site was set up in order to address what we believed to be an imbalance in the reporting of Scottish News and current affairs.”

    In other words, it nails its colours to the mast, unlike the mainstream Scottish media who even boast of principled neutrality (see statements by the Scotsman’s editor in the press lately, for example) while producing articles which are often one-sided and in some cases even demonstrably inaccurate, as commentators on this forum point out.

    Newsnet Scotland has a crusading style because it has an avowed crusade to forward. Most of its articles are well sourced and well argued, and if comments are usually very partisan then please note, Newsnet Scotland does not control its commentators.

    Readers may not like it, but they should consider its remit. And please remember when you are criticising it: if the MSM were doing their job fairly, Newsnet Scotland would not exist.

    • you make some very fair points there about Newsnet and the state of the MSM. Apologies for delay in allowing your comment through – you only have to be moderated once so feel free to come back and comment on other stuff!

  14. It’s partly because there aren’t that many other stories out there. The Budget will pass so there is no drama around that. Minimum pricing might come back on the radar especially after the meeting with EU officials who confirmed that we can do it. I think a lot of folks have maybe not realised that minimum pricing is actually going to happen now, it’s not just a debate, and much as it is not a magic bullet it will make a difference to all of us. So maybe, hopefully, there will be a bit more analysis of that.

  15. While Newsnet may not be ideal it is neccessary in order to counteract this sort of thing…

    {In my view, the cry for Scotland’s Independence is at best folly and probably one of the worse ideas I have ever heard in my entire life. To make matters worse, spin doctors within the Scottish National Party have decried those Scots who vote against them in the referendum, as traitors! Traitors No Less! Strong words from Tartan Tories masquerading as patriots, and the kind of intellectual bullying that might have been expected from Machiavelli himself in days gone by.

    In a country where the Conservatives pretty much lost their deposit after after the Thatcher Poll Tax fiasco, David Cameron’s words resonated for me when he called the scheduled 2014 referendum a “never-endum”. Proposing a vote so far away in time is a thinly disguised delaying strategy by SNP. It creates the space for the Scots electorate to be fed a protracted diet of ill-thought-out patriotism, fuelled by the discontent established by a double-dip economic downturn. That’s snide.}

    Doug Daniel says..

    “Mind you, the comments sections remind me that I’ve got a long way to go before I could be classed as a bona-fide “Cybernat”. And I doubt it is perused by anyone other than pro-indy people anyway, so it’s not like it’s going to turn off undecided voters.”

    What is a ‘bona-fide “Cybernat’?

    You have me worried now as I think I may be. Do you think I should see someone about it?

    I would guess that it (NNS) is being perused by a lot (and rising ) of people who just want ‘the other side of the argument’ and at the moment there are far too few places where that can be easily found.
    I have to agree that it is predominantly (almost totally) pro-indy but it is a place where I can discover things about the Independence question that I could never without it.

    Have you ever looked at the comment section on the Telegraph, Mail, I was about to add the BBC but of course you can’t there anymore. Do you think it’s right/fair that the 2 most prominent reporters of news on the Scottish BBC should be allowed to just state their opinions every time they feel like it and not leave themselves open to comment.
    What kind of debate is that? For all it may have faults Newsnet Scotland at least allows anyone who wishes to contradict anything it publishes.

    • Again fair points and yes, there is an awful lot of cant out there – which I referred to in the post. Again apologies for delay in moderating. Busy day at work and then out for the evening. Once more, again, now you are through once you won’t have to wait to get a comment up

  16. Trouble with that view of newsnetscotland is that many posters there also post to other blogs and do attempt to counter with the very real matters. I spent time yesterday on John Redwoods blog engaging with, probably, the most ignorant group of people I have ever engaged with. Every shade of anti-Scottishness, every English urban myth and every government lie was there. I made no attempt to do other than tell them the real truth behind their mistaken beliefs. All I did was show why their claim was wrong. I do the same on Labourhame, no attempt at ad hominem, no Yah! Boo! Just plain facts and truth. What else would you expect when even government ministers spout obvious drivel and downright lies.

  17. Oh aye, I knew there was something else I was going to say. I agree with your criticisms of Newsnet Scotland. They have some great stuff (particularly that article from a former senior UK civil servant recently), but at times they just seem to be a pro-indy version of the more knee-jerk mainstream media. It was great fun at the start, seeing articles that use the same methods and tricks usually used to put a negative-SNP spin on stories being utilised to put a negative-unionist spin on those same stories (“Labour accused” rather than “SNP accused”), but these articles just look like nothing more than playing to the gallery now. It’s difficult to be taken seriously in criticising the mainstream media for being underhand and biased when you’re just playing them at their own game. Far better to try and beat them by being more mature rather than sinking to their level. I used to make it my first read in the morning, but for various reasons I only bother now when I see something particularly interesting in my blog subscriptions.

    Mind you, the comments sections remind me that I’ve got a long way to go before I could be classed as a bona-fide “Cybernat”. And I doubt it is perused by anyone other than pro-indy people anyway, so it’s not like it’s going to turn off undecided voters.

    • I seriously thought Newsnet Scotland was a satirical site until quite recently. I thought it was really cleverly done – a kind of nat version of the Scotsman. But I have noticed people using it as a serious news source recently. Still find it hard to believe it’s not an elaborate joke!

      • I think that is a bit harsh – as someone else commented, it does cover stuff not to be found anywhere else (a point I also make) but a little less gushing and a little more scepticism would be welcome.

  18. I read the line “ALMOST 60,000 EU nationals living in Scotland will be allowed to vote on Scottish independence, the UK Government has revealed” in the Scotsman and my first reaction was “and your point is?” It’s quite simply borderline racism, and I’m appalled the newspapers are even giving it the oxygen of publicity. The story here should have been the fact that these MPs even have a problem with residents of Scotland voting on the future of the country, just because they were born in another country.

    It’s getting tiresome though, it really is. Take a situation like EU membership. Now, both sides have their own view on how that would go down, but the truth is we won’t know for sure until the EU commission comes out and tells us, and they may not even do that for some time. Yet instead of reporting the fact that no one knows for sure and taking a look at how likely either scenario is to come about, the media chooses to report the unionist version as if it is the gospel. Of course it’s possible that we won’t get to stay in the EU, but then it’s possible that the Tories will win the next Scottish election with an overall majority. Anyone looking at the facts in a cold, logical way can see that the EU is geared towards constant expansion, and that the cost and disturbance associated with taking Scotland out of the EU – only to take us virtually straight back in again, since we already fulfil the Copenhagen criteria – would be utterly pointless. Besides, if they throw us out, we might not come back. Any journalist worth their salt should be able to see how silly it is to put too much emphasis on the unionist position.

    But it’s the same with everything. The media are guilty of taking what is fed to them and regurgitating it without even bothering to do their own analysis. The panda story, for example, is shown to be utterly facetious by just highlighting the fact that they were a gift to the Scottish Zoological Society itself, rather than to Scotland or the UK, so the media just look stupid for reporting it without this most basic fact-checking. If there’s a story there, it’s that yet another ridiculous scare story was raised.

    This is far too important an issue for the media to play it’s usual game of “well we’re just reporting what someone said, we didn’t say it was true…” They need to up their game drastically. I’m not sure they’re capable though, except in cases where no upping of game is required anyway (MacWhirter, for example).

    Oh, and I find it really patronising when people say they’ll be sad if Scotland becomes independent, because they won’t feel “British” any more, especially those who claim to be half-Scottish/half-English. I went to school with a half-Swede, a half-Norwegian and a half-Frenchman. None of them had an identity crisis, and all were perfectly capable of feeling Scottish or not when it suited them. That’s without even getting into the fact that Scotland and England will both remain part of the island of Britain, just as Norwegians, Swedes and Danes all call themselves Scandinavian. Political independence won’t change any of that, and I certainly don’t see why Scotland should remain in the UK just because a few people in England will feel “sad”.

Comments are closed.