Thursday, 16 February 2012
Barry and John: was your journey really necessary?
How important is the wrapping on a present? Or the print lay-out of your newspaper? Last night the BBC's 'Spotlight' took Barry McElduff and John Laird to Edinburgh to learn more about the move towards Scottish independence. We got nice shots of the underbelly of a plane taking off, flowers, Barry drinking from a glass and John Laird chewing his grub, a few guys playing at a pub session - oh, and a few jokes exchanged between Barry and John. The two men came back shaking their heads and saying they'd learnt a lot from their trip.
Eh? Lucky them. I learnt nothing. Nothing was said that couldn't have been said at least as well and probably better in a five-minute discussion in a TV studio in Belfast. There may be a great deal of complexity to the Scottish question or it may be clear and stark, but the visit left me none the wiser as to which was the case. The nearest the programme got to an articulation of the case for Scottish independence was a brief chat with a Pakistani-Scot who's an MSP and, we were told, is tipped as a future leader of the Scots Nat party. He said it was insulting to compare his party's drive for Scottish independence with the IRA's campaign for Irish independence, since the IRA was a group engaged in "mindless thuggery". You can only hope he has a better grasp of the Scottish question than he has of the Irish question.
Am I being too hard? Do people need to have the pubs and dinner tables and plane underbellies and little jokes before they'll absorb information on a political question? I don't think so. If the topic is important enough - and what could be more important than national independence? - and views presented thoughtfully enough, most people, in my experience, are more than willing to listen.
Next time, guys, just put Barry and John in a room and ask them to say three interesting things about Scottish independence and its relevance to us. It'd save a lot of time and even more public money.