Salmond’s plan to break up the BBC may please Murdoch but will be a disaster for Scotland

Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran warns against Alex Salmond’s disastrous plans to break up the BBC.

Margaret Curran MP (Labour, Glasgow East) is the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Scotland has always been well known as an exporter of arts and culture. From Walter Scott to the Glasgow Boys to Carol Ann Duffy, Scots have made a contribution to the arts that goes well beyond Scotland, and the UK. And as the traditional arts have expanded to include an even wider range of creative industries, Scotland’s contribution has also changed.

For many people inside and outside of Glasgow, Clydeside means shipbuilding and heavy industry.

But today the area boasts one of the most advanced TV production facilities outside of London. The BBC’s headquarters at Pacific Quay represented an investment of £188 million – part of a development that has brought a new lease of life to an empty part of the riverside.

It’s also had a knock-on effect for the whole city and the surrounding area.

More than 100 TV production companies are now based in Scotland and about 15,000 people are employed in the industry. These are the companies behind shows like Question Time and The Culture Show, which are broadcast every week across the UK.

And on Thursday night millions tuned in to see the new series of Waterloo Road on BBC One. What they may not have realised is that production of the show is now based in Greenock, 25 miles down the River Clyde from Glasgow. This production alone is bringing 200 jobs and £20 million into the Scottish economy over the next two years.

This TV boom in Scotland has been one of the success stories of the last few years, even through the recession. But on Friday Alex Salmond said he wanted to push the BBC out and create his own Scottish Broadcasting Corporation in a separate Scotland.

This came with no detailed explanation of how it would be done or what it would mean for Scottish viewers or the jobs that rely on the BBC.


See also:

Experts slap down Salmond’s plan for a two-question Scottish independence referendum 23 Aug 2012

The phoney war on Scottish independence is coming to an end 21 Aug 2012

Brown weighs in on Scottish independence 14 Aug 2012

The Scottish press’ verdict on the launch of the “Better Together” campaign 26 Jun 2012

Darling launches campaign for the Union: ‘Better Together, united not divided’ 25 Jun 2012


There’s a bitter irony in the fact the first minister came to tell the TV Festival he was going to break up the BBC, just 24 hours after Elisabeth Murdoch gave it her support.

It seems Alex Salmond is happy to pick up the baton where the Murdochs left off.

The first minister wants to convince us that in a separate Scotland, our TV industry will continue to go from strength to strength. But what he fails to recognise is that it is taking advantage of everything the UK has to offer – the appeal of working in a new and dynamic creative centre such as Glasgow, combined with free access to a market of 55 million people – that draws many of the new and cutting edge creative companies to Scotland.

There are three lessons I think we can learn from the success of our television industry in Scotland.

The first is the creative industries offer an opportunity to create sustainable jobs and economic growth for Scotland, and for the whole of the UK. As we look to rebalance our economy after the economic crisis we need to look to these new and growing businesses for examples of success that offer long term opportunities and don’t just rely on retail and banking.

Secondly, the creative industries can’t, and increasingly aren’t, the prevail of one particular part of our country. It’s something we can all share in. To see this, you don’t need to look much further than the Digital Media Quarter in Glasgow. There’s no reason our other Scottish cities, or even the towns surrounding them, can’t share in this growth, with the right infrastructure and support.

Finally, it requires political will. The burgeoning independent production sector in Glasgow didn’t land there by chance. It was a political decision by a Labour government that resulted in large parts of the BBC relocating to Glasgow, and we can be rightly proud that 9 per cent of the BBC’s network spend now comes from Scotland – a dramatic increase in a very short period of time.

Like much of Alex Salmond’s case for independence, his speech on Friday was high on assertion and low on detail. We know Labour’s policy on broadcasting meant jobs and growth for Scotland and a new lease of life for parts of our towns and cities; can the first minister say the same for his?

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28 Responses to “Salmond’s plan to break up the BBC may please Murdoch but will be a disaster for Scotland”

  1. PeterABell

    What Curran dismisses as “assertion” less soured observers see as a vision for Scotland’s future founded on confidence in the people of Scotland. The kind of vision that Curran and her British nationalist ilk not only lack, but actively eschew. Yet again we find “Scottish” Labour sadly lagging behind a debate which long since abandoned the status quo as an option and instead embarked on an exploration of the possibilities offered by independence. Maggie Curran is evidently unable or unwilling to be a part of this debate.

  2. Tristan Price-Williams

    What a bitter woman Curren now sounds. When I met her 8 years or so ago, she was fresh, enthusiastic and likeable.

  3. Roger McCarthy

    Actual full independence is like it or not now a serious possibility and is the whole raison d’etre of Salmond’s party.

    And it is absurd to imagine that an independent Scotland will continue to allow a foreign neighbour (particularly one which without Scottish Labour MPs will be effectively a one party Tory state) to control its public service broadcasting and to fund it by imposing what is in the first and last analysis a regressive poll tax on its citizens.

    So the SNP has to have a plan for Scottish broadcasting and while one can and should criticise the details rthat is not what we are doing here and elsewhere – the fundamental debate is over independence and if that goes the SNP’s way then Scottish Labour will have to have its own plan for achieving broadly the same ends.

    And as specific criticisms of the plan go do you really imagine that if Scots vote for independence a wall of jammers will be set up along the border and every Scot in the BBC sacked overnight?.

    If not just American but Danish and Norwegian TV shows flood BBC schedules there is no reason why they would not continue to buy popular content from Scottish programme makers or indeed (as long as rump Tory UK stays in the EU) continue to produce its own programmes north of the border – just as many US TV shows are actually shot in Canada or anywhere else that has cheaper production costs than the US.

    So the argument that somehow all of this will disappear with 15,000 jobs is fundamentally a dishonest one (as is the assumption that those jobs are safe in a United Kingdom which is actually ruled by the Tories and not us and in a BBC controlled by a greedy and incompetent managerialist elite).

    There is much to criticise specifically in the plan: not least its assumption that over the long timescale required to manage a complete separation of Scotland from the UK the way in which we access mass media will continue to remain the same and that political parties can write policies as if it was the 1950s and we all had just one TV and a couple of radio stations.

    Above all if we are too persuade Scots to remain in the UK we need to argue not just for keeping things as they are but for changes of our own that makes the BBC in Scotland more independent and more responsive to Scotland’s needs rather than that of the metropolitan elite who currently run it.

  4. James Mackie

    It’s a genuine shame that the only time the Labour Party seem willing to speak up on the arts is when they can be used in an argument to bash the SNP.

    Maragaret says:
    “Scotland has always been well known as an exporter of arts and culture. From Walter Scott to the Glasgow Boys to Carol Ann Duffy, Scots have made a contribution to the arts that goes well beyond Scotland, and the UK.”

    …and yet in the last Scottish Labour Party manifesto the party confused the National Theatre of Scotland with the National Theatre in London.

    It was a Labour MSP who tabled a motion in parliament when The Sun criticised Creative Scotland for giving a dancer a grant.

    Our culture and heritage and tourism must surely by now be one of the biggest economic drivers in Scotland, and those of who work in the sector are grateful to the Labour party for being partly responsible for laying the foundations of this. But they could do with being a better friend to the sector.

  5. dougthedug

    I’m not sure where Margaret Curran gets her figure of 15,000 people employed in the TV production industry in Scotland. Scottish Enterprise published a report called “The Economic Contribution Study” in June 2012 using data from 2010 and that data says that there were only 3,500 employed in the Film and Video sector and another 3,500 employed in the Radio and TV sector when the data was collected. A total of 7,000 if you add the two sectors together.

    As Roger McCarthy already pointed out an independent Scotland could not have the state broadcaster of a neighbouring country as its public service broadcaster and assuming that England will stay in the EU after independence I’m not sure why the free access to the 55 Million people next door would be cut off. Perhaps Margaret assumes that England will not stay in the EU after Scottish independence.

    It’s nothing to do with Murdoch although it’s quite funny that the Labour party can’t let go of that particular bone especially as they went into bunny-boiler spurned lover mode when Murdoch switched support to the Tories during the Labour conference of 2009. Sun newspapers were ripped up on stage as the rejection hurt after all those years of sucking up.

    This is just another “Scotland is too poor, wee and stupid” article informing us that without England the Scottish media industry will die.

  6. John Ruddy

    I’m guessing that Salmond’s new friend Rupert wrote his media policy for him.

  7. Newsbot9

    Long timescale? Again, you’re talking nonsense. If your seperatists win your referendum, a date will be set, and anything Scotland hasn’t got sorted out…18 months at the outside.

    Moreover, given the nature of media contracts it IS likely to hurt Scottish media production badly.

  8. Newsbot9

    I see, you’ve already decided what’s happening (for which you’d need to know you’d rigged the vote…)

    And of course you want to exclude people from talking…

  9. Newsbot9

    I’d strongly suggest you read up on the way films are typically made…no, they won’t typically be made cross-border, should you get your independence.

    And of course the Tories will try and take England out the EU, probably regardless what you do, should they be re-elected

  10. PeterABell

    Your paranoia is showing.

  11. Newsbot9

    It’s not paranoia when you stated it.

    As usual, you’re trying to use mental illness to exclude MORE people from speaking up. Good social darwinist practice!

    (And no, I don’t care what you claim to be, using the accusation of mental illness against people has very, very clear antecedents!)

    A quick look at your posts indicates you believe you can free-ride on NATO, spit on anyone who thinks they’re British, and have stated anyone who isn;t with you is inherently able to provide no facts and are “corrupt, incompetent, dysfunctional…”

    All good exclusionary, separatist, right wing expressions of hostility and xenophobia, bluntly. And you accuse OTHERS of paranoia? There’s a word for that – Chutzpah

  12. Mike Mac Kinnon

    You’re guessing wrongly.

  13. Hearthammer

    Labour in Scotland have now shown their true colours. They have now become part of the Tory “No” campaign and joined in a photocall with their “hated” partners.

    Their “Better Together” campaign proved to be a bit of a damp squib when they went out canvassing at shopping centres throughout Scotland at the weekend. Labour and Tory activists, standing side by side, managed to sign up only three people in Greenock, five in Glasgow, while in Arbroath, Itvine and Galashiels, they were unable to persuade anyone at all!

    Labour have made mistakes in the past, but this one is monumental! I have said for years that Labour were just Tories with a red rose, but I never, ever thought they would go out and prove it!

    Labour in Scotland have just dug their own grave and buried themselves.

  14. Newsbot9

    As usual, you’re burying live people, cackling.

    Given you’re to the right of the Tories…

  15. Xander

    Can you please point me to the assertion of mental illness?

  16. Newsbot9

    You think that paranoia is normal? k.

  17. Xander

    As a former Labour voter, I have to say that Labour are certainly not the party they once were. I was willing to give New Labour the benefit of the doubt in 1997 when Blair continued the Tory spending plans but I fully expected them to revert at some point. The problem for Labour is that they never reverted and remained a centre-right party ever since Blair. That makes them ineligible for my vote. Like the late trade-unionist Jimmy Reid – I never left the Labour party, the Labour party left me. A point I have made clearly to a close family relative who was Labour mayor of Croydon. The idea that UK Labour are a left of centre party is now a myth. After independence I may return to a new left of centre party unconnected in anyway with existing UK parties, but I most certainly wont vote for Labour again this side of the referendum, nor afterwards if they are still controlled from London.

  18. Newsbot9

    Er…yes, as I’ve said *repeatedly* I’m a left winger, not a Labourite. And I’ve been calling for a new left wing party for the UK for some time.

  19. Xander

    No, my point is that instead of making an argument on the points raised by Mr Bell, you have deftly changed the subject and failed to rebut his argument. You had the opprtunity to have your say, but went off on a tangent instead.

  20. Xander

    Absolutely agree with that sentiment -it is direly needed.

  21. Newsbot9

    You’re entitled to think that, I disagree.

  22. Newsbot9

    Thanks. The left in England in particular don’t have ANY good options when it comes to voting, and generally are NOT voting. (This also translates to a chunk of SNP support, but which won’t support Scottish Independence, of course).

  23. Xander

    I am a Scot and agree that the collapse of the left in England is a factor in the success of the SNP up here. I have no great yearning to be independent, however unless I detect a resurgence of the left in the UK as a whole before the referendum, I will be voting for independence. Unfortunately, I dont foresee that resurgence occuring in time, and am willing to go for independence as a result of the right wing attacks on the NHS and Education. At least the Scottish parliament can protect Scots from these attacks currently. I now trust the SNP more than any of the other 3 main parties up here. I hope that there is a resurgence, but Scotland and indeed many areas in England have been subjected to this kind of right-wing vandalism before – never again. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to stimulate that resurgence in England not having lived there, though I would be interested in any ideas that you have as a left of centre voter.

  24. Newsbot9

    Unfortunately, at this point certain people who I thought would be…receptive to the idea of a left-wing party are resistant.

    I’m not going to stop pushing, but the current situation is frustrating, to put it mildly.

    (Also, it’s not so much the left collapsed as Labour walked away, from my POV)

  25. Xander

    I think all of us lefties are frustrated now. In any event, I wish you the best of luck and every success in your ongoing battle. Keep pushing. I must admit that if Scotland is to become independent, I will harbour more than a little sadness and guilt about leaving the left in England to its fate whatever that may be. That said, I cant sit back and allow the Tories to attack Scottish communities yet again. Best wishes for the future.

  26. uglyfatbloke

    More BBC production from Scotland is to do with lower costs for locations, staff and equipment contractors. Compare lighting or audio hire costs between Glasgow and London or Edinburgh and Birmingham.

  27. Newsbot9

    I’m not sure how you think a Tory-run state with a common border will be any LESS hostile, frankly. This is why I call for a federal UK…

  28. Evelyn R McCulloch

    Scotland should now have an International Film Studio in Edinburgh……..but this was, in effect, blocked by the Labour party all because Sean Connery was a Nationalist and woud not give support to the Labour Party! Ms Curran? get over yourself! Your party are no longer in control! and long may that continue as the SNP have done more for Scotland in the last 5 years than Labour managed in the last 50!!

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