ALTHOUGH there are interesting parallels and similarities between Scotland and Catalonia, there are also some very big differences. The biggest obstacle facing Catalonia as it attempts to achieve independence is the intransigence of the Spanish state, and the fact that the Spanish constitution explicitly rules out an independence referendum. The biggest obstacle Scotland faces is our truly lamentable media, a media which is grossly unrepresentative of the views of the country it purports to serve.

Opinion polls have been pretty consistent. A tad under half the population of Scotland support Scottish independence. The numbers who oppose independence and support independence are in the same ballpark, yet that’s not the view you’d get if your sole source of information about Scotland was a Scottish print media which is overwhelmingly tilted against independence. For a print publication to support independence is seen as being “political” in a way that opposing it is not, even though both points of view are equally political. Out of all the many and various newspapers published in this country, just one daily and one Sunday support a view of the constitution which has the backing of almost half the population.

We have a print media in which frankly bigoted and ignorant assertions about aspects of Scottish culture are repeated as though they are fact and allowed to go unchallenged. It is not merely objectionable for a print journalist to assert in the pages of a newspaper that the Scots language is nothing more than English slang, or that Gaelic is a dead language, it is also factually incorrect. Gaelic is in fact amongst the top 10 per cent of languages of the world in terms of its number of speakers. Most languages are spoken by very small populations. There is a legitimate argument to be had about the status of Scots, but what it’s certainly not is “English slang”. Far from challenging the infamous Scottish Cultural Cringe, all too often the anti-independence print media in Scotland sees its job as being the propagation and reinforcement of it.

Loading article content

Equally you’d find it difficult to discern in the Scottish media the reality that the much touted GERS figures tell us very little about the finances of an independent Scotland. The GERS figures give us some very rough estimates of Scottish revenues, and tell us about UK spending priorities and UK taxation regulations. The entire point of independence is to do things differently. If the GERS figures are bad for Scotland all they tell us is that UK economic policies are not working for Scotland. You’d struggle to see that in a media which crows about Scotland being poorer than Greece as though this was some great argument in favour of continuing UK rule.

This is the same media which give huge prominence to statements from supporters of the Better Together campaign which assert that Scotland is a basket case, only all too often they neglect to tell us that the person concerned was a supporter of the Better Together campaign. Meanwhile comments from independence supporters are presented dripping with quote marks if they are presented at all. Think tanks which are opposed to independence receive huge publicity for their reports, even the Fraser of Allander Institute which sounds like a knitwear shop in Pitlochry. Reports from the pro-independence think tank Common Weal get reported in The National and the Sunday Herald and nowhere else.

The Scottish print media is overwhelmingly a British nationalist cartel in which opinion is dressed up as fact, but our broadcast media is every bit as bad. It is a sad and lamentable state of affairs that it is not widely realised in Scotland that the UK is the odd one out in not permitting its devolved and self-governing nations their own public service broadcasters. Catalonia has five TV channels. Even the tiny Faroe Islands and Gagauzia in Moldova have their own broadcasters. Catalonia even has its own 24-hour, seven-day-a-week news channel, but in Scotland we were reduced to pathetically pleading with BBC management for an hour-long news programme on BBC1, a request that the BBC has seen fit to deny.

One anti-independence commentator referred to the campaign to get the so-called Scottish Six as the “holy grail” of the independence movement. There was us thinking that the holy grail of the independence movement was independence, but thanks to British nationalism we’ve now learned that it’s really an extra half hour of Jackie Bird.

Instead the BBC sees fit to grant Scotland a few hours per evening on a poorly funded new ghetto channel. Then in a couple of years time they’ll turn round and claim that its low viewing figures prove that there’s no demand for Scottish public service broadcasting. We’re being set up for failure. What Scotland really deserves is Scottish control of the BBC in Scotland. British nationalists routinely decry this as “SNP TV” and assert that it’s going to be biased and propaganda, while at the same time denying vehemently that the existing set-up is biased. The truth is that if the new Scottish broadcaster is set up according to the same charter that governs the BBC, then it will be neither more nor less biased than the BBC is. Opponents of Scottish public service broadcasting can’t have it both ways. If they claim that a new Scottish public service broadcaster is going to be biased, then it’s a tacit admission that the BBC is biased in a pro-British nationalist direction, and that only makes the case for a Scottish public service broadcaster much stronger.

Since the Scottish Government isn’t going to press ahead with the case for independence for the time being, then it’s incumbent upon them to highlight the inadequacies and shortcomings of the existing devolution settlement. One of those inadequacies is the lack of a Scottish public service broadcaster. The SNP needs to be more assertive in pressing the case for a Scottish media which is truly representative of the diversity of Scotland. Europe is full of examples of self-governing territories, nations and regions which are far smaller than Scotland, and often far poorer, yet they manage to have thriving national public service broadcasters of their own. The reason Scotland doesn’t have one has very little to do with money, and a great deal to do with the politics of British rule.

The reality is that if Scotland had a media which was as diverse and as representative of public opinion as the Catalan media, we’d already be independent. That’s precisely why the British nationalists are determined to ensure that we don’t get one.