REMEMBER the Alanis Morissette song, Ironic? A catchy tune about all the ironic things that can happen in life that is probably now more famous as proof that Americans don’t understand irony, as none of the examples she used were actually ironic. Morissette is of course Canadian so ironically… And this last week or so Scottish politics has been steeped in irony. A new news service called Sputnik, a Russian state owned broadcaster named after the first satellite launched by the USSR has opened a satellite office (oh, I get it) in Edinburgh and announced plans to broadcast live radio programmes “telling the untold” to Scottish and UK audiences.
The mainstream media has been almost universally offended “a state mouthpiece of Vladimir Putin’s increasingly uncompromising Russian regime” shouted the Herald. Kremlin mouthpiece sang the Evening Times headline and that “the voice of the Kremlin is to bellow from Edinburgh’s West End”. The head of Sputnik overall is a well-known and, to be fair, controversial Russian journalist, but instead of CEO or head of Sputnik he is invariably described as Putin’s propaganda chief. Those quotes are pure propaganda as there is no real attempt to provide balanced journalism on the story. Maybe someone should point out that the BBC World Service operates from 74 satellite news bureaus around the world (twice as many a Sputnik) and has been broadcasting the UK’s take on global news which critics could describe as a propaganda exercise since 1932 when it was called the British Empire Service – I kid you not. I know this because I asked the BBC’s head of propaganda, er, sorry communications manager.
The BBC covered the story going for a more conservative headline used the trick of “some critics” (not the BBC) have said Sputnik was propaganda. The BBC. which some critics (not me) have claimed is a state owned, right wing, Royalist sycophantic, anti-independence, anti-socialist, highly conservative broadcasting organisation, even had a quote from SNP MP Martin Docherty. Docherty said he would “urge caution seasoned with a heavy dose of cynicism” regarding state-sponsored broadcasters “that are never reflective of the reality of life in their own nations”. Alanis take note! An SNP MP giving a quote to the BBC stating you can’t trust anything a state-sponsored broadcaster says, now that’s ironic.
So is Sputnik going to present the Russian view of the world and will that differ from the BBC view and the Al Jazeera view and the Fox News view? Yes absolutely the main news will, but the individual outputs of the local Edinburgh office should be understanding of Scotland and its place in the world because the people they have hired are highly talented and that makes Sputnik Scotland interesting. Jack Foster and Carolyn Scott, who will front Sputnik’s national news programme from Edinburgh, used to present NewsShaft, a crowdfunded satirical news programme that unfortunately didn’t raise enough money to keep going. The Sunday Herald was critical of them for this but the real story should have been that talented Scottish broadcasters are not being supported. I donated to News Shaft and the only problem I have with it is that we didn’t give enough to give it a future. I probably wouldn’t even have looked at Sputnik if they hadn’t hired those two. We sit a juncture in the history of communications where state and corporate owned media are locked in a death struggle to capture diminishing attention and to fend off an exponentially increasing army of citizen journalists and opinion bloggers. The UK state broadcaster doesn’t have a monopoly on the truth but in truth Sputnik’s global output is no more one sided than anyone else’s – caveat emptor.
Keeping with the theme of propaganda, the BBC and the Unionist press fell over themselves last week to announce that RBS would move their headquarters from Scotland in the event of a future independence vote. The RBS CEO actually said he was talking about the [brass] plaque, saying “it’s not about where our people are because we have a very big business up here in Scotland”. He also added: “Two years ago when we had the Scottish referendum, I made it very clear we’d have the people in the right place, that moving the plaque didn’t make any difference to them.” So clearly no threat to jobs in Scotland from an administrative move based around the claim that Scotland would be too small to bail RBS out if it fails again. Newsflash – the UK is broke. It is indebted to the point that it cannot bail out any bank again without leading to total and complete UK financial collapse. An independent Scotland would surely not want to make the mistake of bailing out failed banks again but would firstly regulate so they can’t fail and then if it did happen we should follow Iceland’s example and bail out the savers, as for the shareholders – caveat emptor again.
Pure propaganda, the CEO of a state-owned bank gives a quote to the state-owned media company that is deliberately misrepresented as a threat to an independent Scotland’s economy when it isn’t. It is a classic distraction technique. The biggest threat to Scotland’s economy and the prosperity of ordinary people is the frankly delusional approach to Brexit by the Westminster Government. Caught between a rock and hard place of their own making The Westminster Government is trying convince the Little Britain separatists that immigration will be curbed, while simultaneously promising big business that a deal will be done to maintain EU single market access. They are lying to one of them and chaos will engulf either our politics or our economy when we find out which.
Back to irony, Bloomberg reports that all the big investment banks are planning to move their European HQs and not just the brass plaques but jobs out of London as soon as Article 50 is triggered. The reason is that they know that no freedom of movement for EU citizens means no full access to the single market for the UK and the main penalty the EU will use is to withhold financial passporting rights. This means London’s finance sector will have to physically relocate pan European operations away from London. So just as everyone else is saying they will leave London, state-owned RBS announces it will re-register its office in a place that it will struggle to do EU business. Many of the big London finance houses are actively looking at relocating to Edinburgh and Glasgow on the basis that they predict Scotland will become an independent EU member. Of course if Scotland doesn’t move towards independence pretty soon after Article 50 is triggered, those jobs and even some currently in Edinburgh, may be moved to Dublin or Frankfurt – not London.