Friday 15 November 2013, 15:58
Is the Westminster political establishment asleep?
In 10 months an event is taking place which could result in the end of the United Kingdom as we know it, and which could trigger the dismemberment of these islands as a political unit.
To take some examples: for over 100 years the main debate in Northern Ireland has been about whether it should be part of the United Kingdom, but what if the UK as we know it no longer exists? Will Ulster choose to become independent? Will the Orkneys and Shetlands, who think Edinburgh is as remote as London, want to be part of an independent Scotland? What will happen to the Scottish regiments; to the Royal Navy whose nuclear ships will have to sail south, to the RAF?
The event I refer to is of course the referendum on Scottish independence. If there is a ‘yes’ vote then much of what we take for granted will have to be renegotiated.
As someone who was born and still lives part of the time just short of the Scottish border, I am bewildered at the apparent indifference to the debate that exists outside of Scotland.
Perhaps it is because the opinion polls show a clear majority saying ‘No’, but these figures are far less solid than some suppose, and the debate has hardly started. Few psephologists believe the actual result will be so clear-cut.
The British Broadcasting Corporation will inevitably be at the centre of the debate, not only because of its journalism but because it too may have to be broken up in the event of a ‘yes’ vote. It will also face criticism from all sides on its reporting and on whom it allows or does not allow to appear on its programmes.
The SNP leader Alex Salmond has already called Ric Bailey, the BBC’s Chief Political Adviser, a ‘gauleiter’ for stopping him from commenting on an England v Scotland Rugby match. If someone schedules Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’ movie in the next few months - with its distinctly partisan historical account of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce - expect a row, and for it to be pulled from the schedules.
Those at the top of the BBC are well aware of what is at stake. I am told that when the Director General Tony Hall was appointed he said that the referendum campaign, alongside the issues around the renewal of the BBC’s Charter, was his chief concern.
In Feedback this week I talked to the above mentioned Ric Bailey, whose bed of nails seems to get sharper by the minute. Here is our interview:
Do let us know what you think about that interview and about anything you have heard on BBC Radio. You set Feedback’s agenda, and I am proud to be your advocate.
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Friday 15 November 2013, 12:03
Monday 18 November 2013, 13:10