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A Hitman For The Gaelic Mafia

Jeff Zycinski | 20:44 UK time, Thursday, 19 October 2006

Out on to the rain-soaked streets of Edinburgh this afternoon, squelching towards a restaurant on Jeffrey Street for a lunch with Magnus Linklater. He's writing an article for this week's edition of Scotland on Sunday and had contacted the BBC Scotland press office saying he wanted to ask me about BBC Radio Scotland's market position, the commissioning process and "dumbing down". Magnus has been critical of the station in the past, but having never yet refused a request for an interview, I agreed to meet him. I felt like a condemned man who decides to have his final meal with his executioner.

As it happens, Magnus is one of Penny Junor's guests in our series on former newspaper editors, Paper Tigers and, truth be told, I would much rather have spent the time talking to him about his own career in journalism. He did, in fact, share a few funny stories about his experiences at the Sunday Times and his editorship of The Scotsman. I could have listened to this all afternoon, but then he produced his little tape recorder and started quizzing me about radio.

In these situations you quickly begin to be bored with the sound of your own voice and really have no idea if what you are saying is making any sense. He asked me about my plans for radio drama, about the amount of football on the station, my views on phone-in programmes, the "over-chirpy" nature of our presenters and why I had recently asked listeners to give me their views on our programming. I was only taken aback when he asked me if I was part of the BBC's "Gaelic Mafia" . I tried to laugh this off by saying I was a hitman for the Gaels but then I realised he was serious. I had to 'fess up that I spoke no Gaelic at all and, indeed, was planning to improve my Polish. When I later revealed that I was the youngest of seven sons he gave a knowing look and said that explained everything. Of course.

After an hour or so he switched off his machine, put away his notebook and paid the bill. I asked him if I should avoid reading Scotland on Sunday this week and he made reassuring noises while saying "well it will be a critical piece."

That's good to know! I think I'll just buy the Sunday Post this weekend. I only hope Oor Wullie hasn't got some kind of grudge against me.

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