Holes in Alex’s trial

No, not that Alex. Alex Prentice, of course, the prosecutor in the Craig Murray contempt-of-court case.

Craig is proposing to bring forward individual witnesses who say they couldn’t identify any anonymised witnesses from reading Craig’s blog. The prosecutor wants to rule this evidence inadmissible, on the grounds that the individuals are too few to make a difference: “…the state of knowledge of a limited number of individuals cannot assist in the central issue [of ‘likelihood’]…”. This is an unfortunate argument for the prosecutor to have used, because it concedes the point that likelihood is measurable: if these individuals are too few, there must be a number that is not too few.

Further, Alex Prentice has to decide what that number is, because he’s going to need it. He’s going to need it to deal with the second implication of his argument, which is his presumption of guilt: these numbers are too few, he implies, to show Craig’s innocence. But Craig doesn’t have to show his innocence; the prosecution has to show his guilt, and by their own argument they can only do that by presenting numerical evidence of individuals to whom Craig’s blog has revealed the secret identities. Arguing that such numerical evidence is inadmissible doesn’t seem to be the brightest step to have taken. (If they’d had numerical evidence that lots of people had learned identities from Craig’s blog, they’d have tried to rule that out, too, wouldn’t they? Surely? WOULDN’T THEY?)

The prosecution’s only way out of this mish-mash is to argue that ‘likelihood’ is not measurable, is not statistically based, and exists only in the mind of the beholder. Like hell it does.



Craig Murray is facing trial for publishing information “likely to disclose the identity” of persons involved in the Alex Salmond trial (they have statutory anonymity for life). What a can of worms that word “likely” is! Longman’s dictionary defines it as “can reasonably be expected [to happen]”. Reasonably, that’s the word.

Craig wants to bring in two pieces of evidence: first, evidence from people who read the mainstream-media accounts of the trial, and were able to tell from those accounts who the anonymised persons were; and second, parallel evidence from people who read Craig’s blog and were not able to tell who the anonymised persons were. The prosecutor has asked the Court to disallow these two sets of evidence, but the reasons he gives don’t meet the point. Moreover it seems clear that he’s intentionally missed the point, so that he can muddy the waters. He can’t be so thick as to have merely got it wrong.

Likelihood – as Longman’s dictionary tells us – depends on ‘reasonable expectations’, and that depends on knowledge. I believe that I’ll get lung cancer if I smoke like a chimney, because the data says so. I can express a hunch that I won’t get lung cancer – “I think I’ll be OK. I’ve got good lungs” – but the data says that that belief is mince. Likelihood is like that: it’s the same as probability, and probability is based on evidence. Craig’s two sets of evidence show that mainstream media leaked the identities, and that his blog didn’t. That means that his blog was not likely to have leaked the identities.

The prosecutor fudges the issue here. He pretends that Craig is bringing this evidence to show that other media have committed the same offence as he’s charged with, and that he’s therefore innocent, and that won’t do: “The question of whether other commentators have breached the order cannot be a defence to the Respondent,” he rightly says. But Craig isn’t bringing this evidence to show that others have committed the same offence. He’s bringing it to show that, since the identities had already been leaked, his blog couldn’t have aided identification. The prosecutor is intentionally misrepresenting Craig’s point here, in order to muddy the waters and get Craig’s evidence ruled inadmissible.

On Craig’s second set of evidence – that people who had read his blog had not been able to identify the anonymised persons – the prosecutor says that there aren’t enough of them to be useful: “Evidence based on the state of knowledge of a limited number of individuals cannot assist in the central issue [of ‘likelihood’],” he says. No, prosecutor, you’re categorically wrong there: “likelihood” is measurable, and an assessment of likelihood that doesn’t take account of available measurements can’t be said to be “reasonable”. Since Craig’s witnesses constitute the only measurable evidence that has surfaced so far in this affair, they matter. Let’s run a thought-experiment:

You contract a rare disease, and are “likely” to die unless they cut your arm off. “How likely?” you ask.

• “We don’t know. We believe that many people have had this disease, but we only have records of five cases.”
• “Ok,” you say. “What happened to them?”
• “Oh, don’t worry about them,” they say. “There are too few of them to be relevant.”
• “There may not be many of them, but they’re the only evidence we have. What happened to them?”
• “No, really. That information isn’t useful. Evidence based on the outcome for a limited number of individuals cannot assist in the central issue of whether to cut your arm off or not.”
• “But they’re the only thing we can base a decision on! Without these five cases we’re just waving our fingers in the air! Tell me what happened to them!”
• “Oh, they all died.”

You probably want them to cut your arm off now.

I do hope the judges give proper weight to the fact that “likelihood” is measurable, and that without that dimension any judgement is mere prejudice. If they go for muddle-headed intuitions like “His blog must have probably enabled a lot of people to work it out,” or “If it happened even once, then it must have been likely“, that will be perverse.


They came for the protestors, but I wasn’t a protestor….

As immediate fall-out from the Alex Salmond trial stitch-up, the commentator Craig Murray is being prosecuted for saying that the Alex Salmond trial was a stitch-up. The grounds for the prosecution are that, by saying that the Alex Salmond trial was a stitch-up, he committed contempt of court. Contempt-of-court cases are heard not by a jury, but only by judges, and carry a possible sentence of two years in prison.

The first step is a procedural hearing, scheduled for Wednesday 10th June at 10:00 a.m. This hearing will be on line, and therefore open to anybody with an internet connection. But you need to apply for access. Please do so – it’s important that as many people as possible know what was actually said in court, because the mainstream media and the judiciary will try to stamp on anything they see as threatening, and what Craig Murray has to say undoubtedly fits that bill.

You can apply for access by emailing judicialcomms@scotcourts.gov.uk. And please circulate this to friends, and post it on any internet forum you have access to, so that there’s more public observation of these proceedings.

POSTTHOUGHT: The amount of effort that the authorities are putting in to suppress allegations that the Salmond trial was a fit-up does suggest that it was.

Construe as Mince

Craig Murray’s petition to bring in OSCE observers for the next Scottish referendum (which I hope you’ve all signed – DO IT NOW!) has resurrected the doubts about postal votes in 2014. These doubts solidify, for some people, into the claim that the 2014 referendum was rigged by the UK Government packing the postal vote with “No” ballots, as evidenced by the extraordinarily high postal turnout. This is a consoling narrative for those indy supporters who were gutted by the massive “No” wrecking-ball that crawled out of the woodwork on September 18th to steal the referendum (which many Yessers feel in their bones was in truth a clear victory for Yes) and demolish their dreams. So we need to look at that claim again now.

The claim

The detailed account of this rigging (the “Dunoon Report”) has gained some traction among the Indy community. It was authored by Andy Anderson, Education Officer of the Dunoon Unit of the Democratic Socialist foundation, and a video of Andy explaining the report to a group of activists shows him as a sober, thoughtful and concerned individual. We can summarise his report as follows:

1. Three public figures (John McTernan, political strategist and advisor to the Labour Party; Susan Dalgety, former Labour councillor and civil servant; and Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives) said in public, before the count had started, that the postal ballot showed a clear lead for No. It’s illegal to count postal votes early, so these people couldn’t have acquired this information legitimately: there must have been government malpractice.

2. The reported postal-vote turnout is not believable as it stands, and broke world records in four local authority areas. To quote the Dunoon Report, “[The Electoral Management Board’s] claim that there was a spectacular world record 96.4% turnout in the PB in Argyll and similar spectacular results in the PB all over Scotland, needs to be carefully assessed, before it can be accepted as a fact.”

2. In Argyle and Bute, more people voted postally than were on the postal-ballot register. “We have a grand total of 743 people on the PB register who could not vote,” says the Report, when the count shows that only 526 people did not vote.

3. Areas with a higher proportion of postal votes returned a higher proportion of No votes; this correlation held across all 32 local authority areas. In the words of the Report, “[A]s the level of the [postal ballot] rises, so the No vote rises with it and takes a stronger and stronger lead.”

5. The fraud was committed by the UK Government replacing unused postal votes with fake votes for “No”. Clandestine government agencies will have access to local authority records, and therefore will have known how many postal ballots had been issued. They also knew, as the referendum approached, who had voted and who had not, and had copies of their signatures (which are on local government computers). So they printed postal ballot papers for electors who had not voted, and submitted them in the normal way through the mail or at local authority offices, reversing the result of the referendum. To quote the Dunoon Report, “[A] massive No vote was inserted into [the postal vote], ensuring an overall No vote majority at the Referendum.” This fraud left no trace in the counting process.


I found this account persuasive (and worrying!) when I read it in detail for the first time recently, so I decided to flesh it out with numbers. The data I used comes from Wikipedia, with postal ballot details from the Electoral Management Board, as quoted in the Dunoon Report. A copy of the Dunoon final report, and my extracted data-sets, are on my website here. Let’s take the Report’s five claims in order:

1. Public figures knew some postal results before the count. These politicians’ comments are consistent with there being government-sponsored fraud: they would have made the comments to soften up the public for the massive No that was about to engulf them. An alternative explanation is that some unscrupulous busybody had counted postal votes, and had primed three political idiots to talk about it in support of No.

2. The postal turnout was unbelievably high, and set world records. The postal-vote turnout was 93.7%, as against 82.5% for the in-person turnout. Postal-vote turnouts are always higher, but I could find no data that would show whether this particular turnout was unbelievably high or not. I could find no data at all on world records for postal-vote turnouts. The claims that these turnouts are unbelievably high and constitute world records are concrete and verifiable, so the absence from the Report of data to support them is worrying.

3. In Argyle and Bute, more people voted than was possible. The electoral register was a year old at the time of the referendum, and therefore included people who could not have voted. The Dunoon Report estimates their numbers as follows:

Those who had died since the register was updated: 125
Those who had moved away since the register was updated: 250
Those in prison: 6
Those with dementia: 362
TOTAL: 743

This total of 743 people who could not vote is clear evidence of fraud. 14,409 people were registered for postal votes, and 13,883 votes were received (13,926 in my data-set, due to rounding differences): so only 526 people did not vote. But 743 people could not have voted, so more people voted than was possible.

If we examine the data critically, however, more holes appear than we can be comfortable with. Firstly, “couldn’t have voted” – the form of words used consistently throughout this section of the Report – is not the same as “a ballot paper couldn’t have been sent in”, and the outstanding case of this is the group of people with dementia.

People with dementia can of course vote; in fact it is probably illegal to prevent a person from registering or voting on grounds of dementia. So care-home staff will take steps to ensure that such people are registered and vote; the care staff or a family member may even mark the ballot-paper for them (and there are statutory provisions for bypassing the signature, for persons who can’t sign their name). So it’s difficult to see the justification for including these 362 patients among those for whom a ballot paper could not have been sent in. Removing them reduces the number of impossible votes from 743 to 381, well within the count of 526 people who did not in fact vote.

Similar considerations apply to those who had died or moved away: the ballot papers were sent to their old addresses, and the current residents there could have sent in those votes, and no doubt in some cases did. This means that the Report’s third claim, that more people sent in ballot papers than was possible, doesn’t stand up.

4. A high postal vote correlated with a high No vote across all 32 local authority areas. This at least looks sound: the chart below shows the relationship between postal votes in the local authority areas (ranked by the proportion of the vote that was postal, and divided into four groups) and the No vote in each group:

dunoon-chart-1“R-squared” is a statistic that shows how closely two data-sets match: 0.0 is no relationship at all, 1.0 is a complete match. A value of 0.98 is extremely good for any human-society data, perhaps even too good to be true. So let’s look at it more closely.

I first asked myself why, and on what basis, the 32 areas had been divided into four groups, but the Report is silent on this. Then I looked at the figures for each of the 32 separate areas, and found that the postal-vote levels do not in fact fall into natural groups at all (red bars on the chart below, which show what percentage of that area’s vote was postal). Similarly, the percentage of No votes (blue bars on the chart below) shows no observable relationship to the size of the postal vote (red bars), and in Group Two and Three goes down as the postal vote goes up:

dunoon-chart-2Deeply suspicious now, I inserted the 32 data-lines for the separate local authority areas into a scatter-plot like the first chart above, plotting the full data, rather than just the four group-averages. The scatter-plot looked like this:

dunoon-chart-3A statistician’s professional verdict on this correlation (R-squared = 0.14) would be that it’s a bit below piss-poor. What the Dunoon Report has done here is to hide the detailed data of the 32 local authorities by reducing it to four averages, which give a spectacularly different result. My own qualifications in statistics are nothing to write home about, but I do know that this is elementary data-rigging, arrived at by ignoring the principle of data integrity. Data integrity says that the investigator should look at all the data, not just the bits she likes; next time you meet a statistician, ask them whether data integrity matters, and then hide under a rock until they’ve finished exploding. So no cigar for the Dunoon Report on this one: the full data shows that the level of postal votes has no correlation with the level of No votes, and blows its fourth claim right out of the water.

5. A clandestine government agency replaced unused postal votes with fake No votes, compromising the result. The clandestine tactic, it is claimed, was to hoover up unused postal votes and replace them with fake No votes. So how many votes would have been available to these purveyors of state-sponsored skulduggery? We’ll have the answer if we can estimate how many postal votes were genuine.

We know the electorate size and the votes cast for all voters, and the electorate size and the votes cast in the postal vote, so by subtracting one set from the other we can get the turnout for the in-person vote. It’s 82.5%, slightly lower than the 84.6% overall turnout, which was inflated by the high postal vote. Nobody thinks that the genuine postal-vote turnout could have been lower than the in-person turnout, so let’s take that figure of 82.5% as our baseline, our threshold for genuine postal votes. The possible number of fake votes is the difference between that number, 82.5% of the postal electorate, and the number of postal ballots received, 93.7% of the postal electorate.

A turnout of 82.5% of the postal electorate gives us 657,410 genuine postal votes; the number of postal ballots received was 746,308. The difference between the two – the window for fraud – is 88,898 votes. However, “Yes” lost the referendum by four-and-a-half times that number, 400,000 votes. These numbers are not shown in the Dunoon Report; but, presented or not, they mean that the Report’s fifth claim, that a clandestine government agency changed the result of the referendum by faking postal votes, can only be construed as mince.

Working through these calculations to verify the Dunoon Report’s claims has made me angry. Not because my comfort blanket – that the referendum was stolen from us by some malign agency – has been stripped away, but because of the egregiously dishonest presentation of data. The Dunoon Report says the postal-vote turnout was unbelievably high and broke world records, but shows no evidence for this; it claims that more people voted than was possible, but the choice of words is sloppy and the figures do not stand up; it says that a high postal vote, area by area, always gives a high No vote, but it does not, and the Report hides the data that show it does not; and the Report says that packing the postal votes “ensured an overall No majority”, when the putative packing amounted to less than one quarter of the majority, and this data is not even referred to. That this dishonest Report should have been going the rounds for five years, consoling Yessers with its unexamined data and false claims, annoys me.


What can we learn from this? I think there are two take-aways for us. The first is fairly obvious: if a document comes your way that makes a data-based case, examine the data carefully, compare it with other data that you know or can easily acquire, and verify that it all makes sense. The second relates to how we expect to win IndyRef2. We should not console ourselves with comforting narratives, false expectations and wishful thinking. Instead we need to concentrate on clear, factual arguments, presented soberly and straightforwardly; at the end of the day, we want an IndyRef2 that has been properly thought through by the electorate and reflects the considered consent of most voters. That’s not an impossibility; all the facts are on our side, and we just need to put them over properly.

Jocks Away?

According to a recent poll, if achieving Brexit meant that Scotland left the UK, then 63percent of Conservative Party members would consider that a price worth paying. This is of course good news for independence. The Unionist narrative for the last decade has consistently been that Scotland lives off England’s £14bn annual subsidy, a fiction that GERS was designed to support. In that case, you might ask, why does the UK not just get rid of the scroungers and used the saved cash to paint another slogan on a bus? The reason is in The Answer That Dare Not Speak Its Name: that Scotland in fact contributes so much to the UK economy in natural resources and human skills that, without it, the UK Battleship Galactica would be holed below the waterline and bound for the deep glug-glug. A call to kick out the scrounging Jocks exposes this Unionist hypocrisy, and leaves Unionists with no message.

Wee Ginger Dug puts this far more forcefully than I can, so I give you his words:

What British nationalists thought was their greatest strength has turned into their greatest weakness. This poll is actually a victory for all those people who have been constantly producing graphs telling Scotland and the world that Scotland is a financial basket case which relies upon the goodwill and largesse of the rest of the UK in order to stop it turning into an even more impoverished form of Greece, only without the nice weather. It’s a victory for those who never question the methodology or politics of the annual GERS figures because they are eager to use those figures as a weapon. It’s a victory for those who think that the supposed financial and economic weakness of Scotland, a land blessed with an embarrassment of wealth, talent, and natural resources, is an argument for the UK instead of an indictment of generations of Westminster’s rapacious financial mismanagement. – Wee Ginger Dug, 19th June 2019.

Do read the rest of his post.

Soldiers of the Queen

If you think this post is going to be a rant about unredeemable bigotry among those that fought under the butcher’s apron, think again. We need to be more nuanced than that.

My wife and I had an encounter with a non-indy person after the march, two Saturdays ago, as we were coming out of the Mitchell Library (ah, the arcane leisure pursuits of the Byres Road glitterati!). He’d been leaning on the balustrade by the kerb opposite the outside door, smoking, and walked across the pavement to speak to us, a bearded and tidily turned-out man in his twenties. “See this march,” he said, making eye contact. No doubt he’d noticed the SNP badge throbbing yellow on my lapel. “Ah don’t haud wi’ a’ that.”

We raised an eyebrow.

“See me, Ah’m a soldier,” he said. “Ah wiz sent by Blair and Bush to Iraq, and when I came back, there was no help of any kind for me. Naethin, not from the British Government nor from the Scottish Government. So these politicians, Ah don’t believe anything they say. That’s why I think this Home Rule is a’ mince.”

Home Rule is an endearingly old-fashioned way of describing what we campaign for (is that really what the British Army calls it?), but this wasn’t the moment to take up that point.

“They should have helped you,” I said. “Whether they’re Scottish or British, they’re the government, and they should have helped you.”

“Helped me!… Helped me!!!…..” He roasted them for their failure by producing a content-free stream of expletives, sullying the ears of my public-school-educated octogenarian partner. And with each expletive he reached out and touched her, apologetically, reassuringly, on the arm. “Sorry…sorry…” He really was contrite; they teach you manners in the British Army, and deference towards the posh elderly. “See, Ah fought for Britain. And this Union – it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it.”

My answer needed some thought. This Union is broken – England has exploited Scotland for more than 300 years, sucked the lifeblood out of it, and is still sucking benefit from the husk. But being a soldier is no joke, and someone who’s shown that level of commitment is not going to react positively when told they’re talking nonsense by some toffee-nosed tosser with an Oxford accent. So I discarded, “We never get the government we voted for,” and, “They’ve stolen all our oil,” and settled for, “This is a rich country. We have renewables, oil, water, agriculture. We could be much more prosperous that we are.”

He didn’t look convinced.

“It’s England that’s holding us back,” I went on, “because we don’t have the powers to develop our potential.”

That sounded vague and unconvincing to me even while I was saying it, and not surprisingly he still looked sceptical. But he hadn’t interrupted, so I went for the jugular. “Norway has a one-trillion-dollar oil fund. We could have had that.”

There was a lot of harrumphing, and objections I didn’t quite get, and more streams of expletives – all with the obligatory apologetic touches to the arm, of course. When it subsided, out came his summing-up. “See this SNP.” he said, “If we did this, would they be a good government?”

Gobsmacked, I tried to show no emotion. “Yes, of course.”

We parted on good terms.

A Quiet Word about the Debate

Last Sunday, on the day after the AUOB march in Glasgow, the Herald gathered and published comments by three SNP politicians about the conduct of the independence debate. This was a remarkably unprincipled piece of journalism. A four-page front spread, it did two things: it crowded out any mention in that day’s Herald of the joyous and sensationally good-natured 100,000-strong march, and it manipulated the three politicans’ comments into a narrative where Yes-supporters were portrayed as vigorous abusers of their own side. It’s also thrown commentators on Wings Over Scotland (the seriously outspoken pro-independence blog, which Unionists hate and fear in equal measure) into a fury. Fantastic smack in the eye for indy! Herald’s job done!

However, under the fury with and the contempt for the various participants, there’s a serious point which indy-supporters need to consider, namely that our goal is to win the coming referendum. It’s true that our goal is independence, but, as we stand now, we’re not going to reach that goal by declaring UDI, or using the entrails of Michael Gove to strangle Boris Johnson, or by telling the UN that we really, really want it: the only way we’re going to get independence is by winning a referendum. And that means winning over to our side a proportion — a small and manageable proportion — of those who voted No last time. (Even if we went UDI, we’d still have to ratify it by a vote, so that goal would still be there – we’d still have to persuade enough people that it was the right decision.) Think about that for a moment, and think about how you would persuade someone who disagrees with you to change their view. Clearly you wouldn’t shout at them that they’re a lying fascist scum-bag, or a piece of zombiefied Unionist maggot-feed; you’d suggest to them – gently – that Scotland could be more prosperous if England had less say in its development, and you’d do this in a quiet, friendly one-to-one conversation. That’s how we’re going to win the referendum – by a million such conversations.

Wings Over Scotland would be a more effective promoter of such conversations if its comment forums were less strident. At the moment, the forums are unpersuasive – they’re talking only to the Yes side, and participants shout and holler. My guess is that the only non-Yessers who read the forums are Unionist trolls wanting to undermine them, and that Undecideds won’t bother to brave the onslaught of violent opinions. This is a pity, because the Rev Stu Campbell, who runs the site, has created a runaway success in terms of visibility – his readership is awesome, and the sheer quantity of comments on his forums is to die for. More than that, with his political acumen and his formidable research skills, he exposes on a daily basis the untruths spread about by the lying toads who oppose us. The Rev Stu is cantankerous and outspoken, and not easily deflected from his chosen path. But could he be gently nudged to move the forums in a more positive direction, so that they influence more people?

Stu already has form on this – his Wee Blue Book, published one month before the 2014 vote, looks as though it shifted opinion by about 10 percentage points, and it was (as one would expect) abuse-free. So he’ll readily understand how an abuse-free forum could positively influence the debate. The steps that he could take towards this are, shall we say, (KLAXON: PUN AHEAD!) fairly pedestrian: establish a ‘play the ball, not the person’ rule (contravening posts get bombed), ditto for foul language, ditto for posts without substance, spread the workload among a team of moderators, close comments after 24 hours, etc., etc. – and these could be implemented incrementally, so as to make the workload manageable, and to gently nudge the participants towards a more productive engagement.

This is what we need to do to win. Could you give it some thought, Stu?


It’s disappointing, for three reasons, to see that the EU has extended the Brexit deadline to October 31st. The three reasons are:

  • It’s a compromise between those EU leaders who called for an extension of a year, and those who called for no extension. What do you do when you have opposing extreme viewpoints? You agree at a half-way point. However, that doesn’t deal with the underlying issues, which are that one side thinks the UK can get its act together if given time (Donald Tusk), and that the other side thinks that EU should cut its losses and terminate the Brexit process in short order (Emmanuel Macron). The ‘half-way’ compromise doesn’t settle that point (it doesn’t even come near to acknowledging it), and the underlying issue bubbles on, underlyingly.
  • The second reason it’s disappointing is that the EU, in my view, has misjudged the UK’s ability to come to a consensus. The UK – and that means England – doesn’t do consensus: it’s the only European country, and one of only one-third of countries worldwide, to use First Past The Post in national elections. Its record of consensus-building since the EU referendum is beyond non-existent. So if we can guess at the future by looking at the past, the UK Parliament is not going to agree any deal before the October 31st deadline. (And how does the end-of-June review change that prospect? Not at all. “They’re not ready. – Oh, dear, we must tell them again.”) The EU has bottled it. The April 12th deadline was firm and final, and the October 31st deadline is equally firm and final, which means that the EU will bottle it again then.
  • The third reason it’s disappointing is that it kicks not only the Brexit can down the road, but also the IndyRef2 can. Nicola Sturgeon’s constant promise had been that she will lay out the IndyRef2 strategy “when the terms of Brexit are known”, and they won’t be known now until maybe six months hence, and possibly not even then. This leaves the SNP open the charge that it’s not really serious about independence, a charge that’s difficult to refute without revealing prematurely your strategy, and it demands from supporters more trust than many feel comfortable with. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that the SNP is playing a very long hand indeed, keeping the independence démarche under wraps until most voters give it their engaged support. That (as Ian Blackford has said) is the kind of IndyRef2 we need, where we convince doubters by the merits of the argument.

We live in interesting times.


Quips for today

Nice wee comment from Dr Jim on Wings over Scotland recently, about Scottish cultural practices:

Damn Scots insisting on being Scottish, they’ll be wanting to speak their own language next, dear God what’ll happen if they decide to drive on the wrong side of the road or do *all* their counting in centimetres

Yoon wummin/manny goes into a shop and says can I have 3LBS of Ayrshire potatoes please, the assistant says *It’s aw Kilos noo* Yoon wummin/manny says OK 3LBS of Kilos then

It’s the future

Trouble is, I can’t find this comment on the WoS website. I think it was time-stamped as 12:56pm on 1 March 2019, but there’s no post of that date in the WoS archives. But thanks to Dr Jim all the same.

It’s wrong to think that politicians are more hated now than they’ve ever been. Viscount Castlereagh was probably the world’s leading politician in the first 20 years of the nineteenth century, masterminding the recovery from the Napoleonic Wars, re-establishing the old elite and stifling aspirations of liberty throughout Europe. So it wasn’t unexpected that he should be savaged by Shelley:

I met Murder on the way,
He had a mask like Castlereagh.

and (of Castlereagh and his buddy Sidmouth):

Two scorpions under one wet stone…
Two vipers tangled into one.

Castlereagh, the epitome of stability and frozen power, committed suicide by cutting his own throat on 12th August 1822. Byron marked it with this epitaph:

Posterity will ne’er survey
A nobler grave than this.
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh:
Stop, traveller, and piss.

Our invective skills aren’t what they were. I blame the SNP.

Definitely no pals at Pacific (updated)

Response from BBC Scotland: “We couldn’t be arsed. Now go away.”

And this from an outfit that is still recovering from the public relations disaster of messing with Wings Over Scotland’s YouTube channel!

Oh, well.

Mr Ian Small
Head of Public Policy
BBC Scotland
40 Pacific Quay

Dear Mr Small,

I’m offended by the enclosed response that I’ve received from the Editor of “Reporting Scotland”, and I think you should be concerned about it too. It’s a public relations disaster: she hasn’t been sent half the information (two charts), she refuses to read the other half (online supporting data), she makes a cheap jibe at my using the wrong name for the UK-wide broadcaster, and she ignores the main question (which was “Please explain your policy”).

In an article in The Scotsman on 20th August, you wrote, “We want to engage, constructively, in dialogue with those who question our journalism or are suspicious of our decision-making.” In this instance, you failed spectacularly to do that.

When Scotland becomes independent, this way of treating your customers will not look good. I would welcome it if BBC Scotland could engage with the issues I raised.

Yours faithfully,

Derek Rogers

Editor, “Reporting Scotland”
BBC Scotland
40 Pacific Quay
Dear Editor,

I thank you for your reply to my letter to BBC Audience Services asking why you discriminated against some political parties. While I welcome your personal engagement with this topic, I don’t think your response will do, for reasons which I give interleaved below.

Best regards,

Derek Rogers

Their response in detail:

Dear Derek

Reference CAS-5126206-61V30W

Thank you for your correspondence. Your comments were passed to the Editor of Reporting Scotland. who has asked that I forward her response as follows:

“Thank you for writing to BBC Audience Services about various ‘leaders’ interviews in September and October when party conferences were being held.

In these interviews, you say “you did not reflect the respective strengths of political parties in Scotland, and you discriminated against some politicians.”
— I did say that, and I note that you don’t challenge it. Does that mean that you concede this point?

You further say “your interview times were roughly similar for all four parties”. That is as it should be – at the time of a party’s annual conference we endeavour to provide for all main parties parity of coverage of the conference as a whole and of any leader interviews we may do within or around that coverage.
— It is not as it should be. Coverage should reflect the relative strengths of the parties.

— The interviews were not “at other times”, so the paragraph which follows is irrelevant.
At other times, news judgements are more likely to drive editorial decisions – so that if a party is in government it is more likely to find itself being questioned than other parties because it is initiating policy for the respective legislature to pass into law. This is the case for the SNP in government in Scotland, as it was for Labour and the Liberal Democrats in previous administrations in Scotland; and it is also the case for Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats when they are or have been in power in the UK. The views of other parties are, of course, also sought and reported.

You suggest that for big stories from across the country, licence fee payers “will look not to yourselves but to BBC London”. I somehow doubt that, as BBC London serves London and some surrounding areas as a vibrant local station.
— I clearly meant the UK-wide broadcaster, in contrast to the Scottish broadcaster. Your response is a cheap jibe that demeans you.

I am afraid I do not understand your reference to “turn-lengths”, as in “the reduced turn-lengths for Blackford and Corbyn, at 11 percent and 7 percent respectively of the total relative turn-lengths for all speakers”.
— In all conversations, speakers take turns: one speaks and stops, and then another speaks. The length of a “turn” can be measured (usually in seconds). If six speakers are treated equally, they will each get one-sixth (17 percent) of the total turn-lengths. Blackford and Corbyn did not.

You also refer in your bar chart 2 to “interruptions” and “hostile comment” which are subjective labels with no measurable standards – an “interruption” can be by an interviewer attempting to get the interviewee to answer a question, a “hostile comment” might be a challenge to justify a statement.
— These are not subjective labels: I laid down objective criteria for them, which I described under “Methodology” in the supporting data. I enclose a copy.

The bar charts which I have received are in monochrome with no legends and therefore tell me nothing – so unfortunately I cannot comment on them. You have supplied a link to an unverified external source: we do not open such sources.
— The paper copies of the bar-charts that I sent to Darlington were in colour and had legends; if they didn’t reach you, you should complain to them. The charts are publicly available at:
— indyref2.scot (blog-post of October 12th)
— scotlandisdifferent.wordpress.com (blog-post of October 12th)
http://www.derek.uk (click ‘BBC’ at foot of front page – the directory is no longer hidden)
http://www.derek.co.uk (as above)
If your policies do not allow you to access any of these sites, I will send you paper copies.



You say in your concluding paragraph “Your disfavouring of the SNP leaves me, rightly or wrongly, with the feeling that I have a grievance”. The SNP is not being “disfavoured” and therefore I believe you “wrongly” have the feeling that you have a grievance.
— I still have the feeling that I have a grievance.

— My closing question, which was signalled at the beginning of my letter, was, “Can you tell me what policy decision has led you not to reflect the strength of party support, and to discriminate against some parties?” You do not address this question.

Thank you again for being in touch.”

Kind regards

Andrew McCormick

BBC Complaints Team


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