ALAN CLINCH on the search for quality political coverage in Scotland


I have an unhealthy obsession with politics. This obsession eats up hours of my day, as I scour the internet looking for new things to read and more importantly comment on. I get my fix any way I can: websites, Facebook, Twitter, blogs – on particularly quiet days, in desperation, I’ll even buy a newspaper. Since the May election I have found myself being a lot more interested in Scottish politics and much less so in UK politics. This has led me to realise that there is a dearth of Scottish political coverage.

Television coverage of Scottish politics is usually limited to a few minutes on the evening news and a bit tacked on to Newsnight. While UK politics is covered extensively, most of the time they are discussing devolved matters, which I find hard to engage with. Programmes like Question Time, Daily Politics and The Andrew Marr Show, while sometimes entertaining, are rarely important to the future of the Labour Party in Scotland or to Scotland itself.

Then we come to newspapers. Political coverage in Scotland-based newspapers is limited to a few stories a day in the Herald and the Scotsman. The tabloids will sometimes include a little bit of politics but rarely is it worth reading. The main newspaper websites I visit for national news are the Guardian and the Telegraph (I know, I know). They cover everything on a rolling basis, constantly updating and with plenty of opinion pieces and analysis thrown in. For me, though, what really make them a worthwhile visit are the comments underneath the stories. I love reading what people think, whether they be left, right, red, blue, gold or completely crazy. The Herald and Scotsman websites are not even worth comparing to Guardian and Telegraph. It may be a money issue with regards rolling news coverage but they should at least encourage political debate in the few stories they do print.

On to to social media and I have to say it does fare a little better. There is now a decent Scottish Labour Facebook group, LabourHame and a fair number of blogs to read and people to follow on Twitter. Since the May election social media has taken over and is now my main form of political interaction. One thing is missing though and that is differing opinions (Stop laughing, members of Scottish Labour for Scotland at the back!). I really want to know what Joe Public thinks: what’s going through the mind of Hamish McSeparatist? Will Harry Heartland come back to us with the changes we are making?

There isn’t a place to get these kinds of interactions in Scotland that I am aware of. I can go and find out what members of the SNP are saying, but they will be saying it among themselves and people are different in a closed group. Trying to find out what the general public thinks is very difficult in Scotland. Most people I talk to have little interest and there isn’t a website like the Guardian where the people with a bit of an interest can go. Can you blame them when there is so little coverage?  I think it would be in all our interests to find a way to bring some political banter to Scotland.

Alan Clinch is the treasurer of Motherwell & Wishaw CLP. When not starting arguments on the Scottish Labour for Scotland Facebook group he can be found selling IT equipment for a large computer company. Follow Alan on Twitter at @alanclinch.

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8 thoughts on “Where’s the banter?

  1. “I really want to know what Joe Public thinks: what’s going through the mind of Hamish McSeparatist? Will Harry Heartland come back to us with the changes we are making?

    There isn’t a place to get these kinds of interactions in Scotland that I am aware of. “

    Indeed, which is why I suspect you’ve had so many SNP commenters on this blog. Many of us genuinely hunger for reasoned, vaguely intelligent debate and lack somewhere to have it, since perhaps the two most-used sites (the Scotsman and Newsnet Scotland) are both full of tubes.

    It’s a shame, therefore, that your moderators have taken to deleting so many comments which are neither aggressive nor rude.

  2. Hamish would probably prefer to be known as Hamish McIndependence. He doesn’t like perjorative descriptions that suggest watchtowers and gun emplacements at Gretna.

  3. See, the thing is other Alan, it was always thus in terms of coverage of Scottish politics. The problem is two fold. Firstly the Anglocentric media just aren’t bothered covering Scottish politics, either through the belief that it’s too dull or its just winging jocks so who cares what “they” think. As a result it feels like the “Only An Excuse” sketch where there’s some spare time/space, so lets put some Scottish news there.

    Secondly, the coverage here is just mind numbingly awful. You pinpointed the websites of the Herald & The Torygraph as comparisons – the caliber of commentry is not particularaly great with pre-conceived positions being clung too, despite us now having had 4 years of New Labouresque SNP government. Political programming here in Scotland is not any better with just a couple of presenters who are any good – I think I abused most of the rubbish ones on my blog.

    By the way, the best way to find out what people are thinking is to ask them, without partonising them.

  4. Here with the comments above, we see the quality of argument.

    I agree with Alan Clinch, there is no depth to the discussion. It has to be broader than politics. It must include detail on Scottish economics, Scottish fiscal policies, the terms of any apportionment of assets and liabilities. Who are the principal experts on these subjects? Where can the discussion be published? I have asked John McTernan to highlight who and where. I hope he can give some indication on the matter. I do not see any benefit by not grasping this thistle. Hopefully the SNP could provide some part of this rational argument.

  5. I agree with this, as someone with as unhealthy an obsession with politics and current affairs as you I often find the same problems, although I wouldn’t describe it as quite as bleak as you put it. Newsnight Scotland does provide a lot of good coverage and spares you from having to watch the usually completely pointless third story on the Newsnight that goes out accross the rest of the UK. Scottish Newspapers were alright during the election but are often blank during the in between years.
    As for UK-wide Newspapers I tend to read the Times and the Independent mostly because they tend to be the two most neutral papers (-ish, Times a tad right, Independent a bit Left, but mostly good quality); how you can bear to read some of the comments on the Guardian and the Telegraph without wanting to punch the moniter I have no idea. I mostly find the Times to be the best paper for Scottish coverage, since I believe its the only UK-wide paper with an office in Edinburgh, followed by the Guardian, although it often misses some fairly important stories. As for the others, the Telegraph didn’t report any Scottish politics before a month ago, and the Independent is so London-centric I still have a newspaper page from 2005 where a story about Jack McConnel is reported in the “International News” section…
    The real shame I find about the lack of Scottish coverage on TV is that they do so much, and a lot of it very good, coverage of Scottish Politics and current affairs on the radio, and I often wonder why even another half hour or so a day isn’t moved onto the TV…

    1. The “qualities” circulation are all dreadful in Scotland. Scottish and English. I say English as opposed to UK as they are London-centric (Guardian, Manchester obviously). None or all reach a major audience in Scotland.

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