One of the main reasons we started Wings Over Scotland 15 months ago was a recurring frustration at the Scottish media’s constant failure to represent our views. Time after time we’d sit watching the TV with our blood pressure rising, shouting “Why aren’t you asking this CLEARLY lying idiot the staggeringly bloody obvious question that anyone with a IQ higher than a badger’s bawbag would be asking?” at the screen until the neighbours started banging on the wall again.
We’ve come a long way in 15 months, and we can at least now draw a sizeable audience’s attention to such unasked questions. But the phenomenon hasn’t lessened any, and last night’s Newsnight Scotland provided a textbook example.
No-campaign frontman Alistair Darling was shown in a piece on the Scottish Government’s independence transition plans, making an extraordinary assertion which passed completely without challenge. You can see it four minutes into the edition for as long as the recording linked above is live on the iPlayer, and we’ve recorded the audio ourselves for when it’s deleted.
(We’ve also included for posterity Willie Rennie’s preposterously dishonest claim that an independent Scotland would need to negotiate “14,000 international treaties” between the referendum and Independence Day.)
Here’s what Captain Darling told the BBC, with a straight face:
“When you have a situation where the SNP cannot tell us what their position now is on things like the currency, or on pensions, or on defence, or on Europe, they’re asking us to [blah blah blah]”
Yet the truth is that we, and anyone else in Scotland with even the slightest of passing contact with the media, could in fact barely have AVOIDED finding out the SNP’s position on those matters even if we’d tried.
On currency, SNP policy is for an independent Scotland to use Sterling. (What’s more, we KNOW that Alistair Darling knows that, because less than a month ago he backed the policy on the very same TV show.)
On pensions, the YesScotland website has provided comprehensive responses to questions covering every aspect of the subject.
On defence, SNP policy is that an independent Scotland woud remain in NATO, but expel nuclear weapons (indeed, would explicitly ban them under a new Scottish constitution), and maintain its own defence force with a budget of £2.5bn a year (a 25% increase on the amount currently spent in Scotland by the UK Ministry of Defence).
On Europe, SNP policy is, and has been for many years, that an independent Scotland would negotiate the terms of EU membership while remaining a member in the intervening period.
Whether Alistair Darling believes these things will actually happen or not, it is nevertheless absolutely undeniable that the SNP has made it clear what its position is. So why is he happy to appear on television telling the bare-faced lie that they haven’t? We feel sure that if the former Chancellor had suffered some sort of brain injury affecting his short-term memory it would have been on the news.
Our question is of course rhetorical. Safe in the knowledge that the Scottish broadcast and print media won’t pull him up on such claims, Darling can keep hammering them into the electorate’s subconscious, hopeful that an inaccurate impression of an evasive, shifty Scottish Government will take hold. And his supposed interrogators will sit opposite him all the while, respectful “elder statesman” expressions on their faces, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye and playing dumb.