Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Day UK Democracy Died

If you live outside of the United Kingdom (UK), you may or may not know there's an election currently taking place to decide which political party leads the country for the next five years. And, as you would probably expect, there's daily wall-to-wall media coverage.

But, in a sense, there's really two elections taking place simultaneously. There's the one here in Scotland where all the polls indicate the Scottish National Party (SNP) is likely to take the majority of seats and return a record number of Members of Parliament (MPs) to the UK parliament in London.

Then there's the one in the rest of the country, where neither of the main parties, Conservative and Labour, look likely to win an overall working majority. And, if the polls prove true, that will mean they'll have to co-operate formally or informally with one of the smaller parties, the Liberal Democrats, UK Independence Party, Greens, SNP, Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Féin, Plaid Cymru, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, or the Respect Party.

So why does the political landscape appear to be so different here in Scotland, where traditionally Labour have held sway until relatively recently? Four words - the Scottish independence referendum.

Last year's independence referendum changed everything, particularly the way the Scots now look at politics. Indeed, the referendum, which independence supporters narrowly lost by a 55% to 45% majority, was simply a natural progression, driven initially by a resurgent SNP who proved beyond doubt they could run a government - the Scottish government - in a responsible and progressive manner.

But all of that is about as much as I'm going to say about the UK general election. On the independence referendum, however, which I fully accept was a defeat for the Yes campaign, I want to say a couple of things.

Firstly, the two-year-long campaign was an energising experience for millions of Scots. For the first time in my life, I took part in a march and rally in Edinburgh, joining more than 30,000 independence supporters from all over Scotland. My whole family was there, all marching proudly. None of us will ever forget it. I can now cross that one off of the bucket list!

Secondly, I'd like to say something about the media, particularly the BBC. It was bad enough every daily newspaper in Scotland was aggressively anti-independence, spewing bile and hatred on an unprecedented scale.

Yes, that was their right, I hear you say. Sorry, but I vehemently disagree, and that's me saying so with my ex-journalist hat on. I was always taught a journalist's job is to report in a fair and balanced way. If I'd ever written the sort of biased stories that I constantly read during the referendum campaign, my old editors would have chewed both my ears off - and quite rightly.

And the BBC, what happened there? I, along with most other journalists I once knew, always looked at the BBC as the pinnacle of any career, a byword for fairness, accuracy, impartiality and professionalism when it came to news reporting.

The referendum proved how naive I'd been for so many years. Disappointed and disillusioned doesn't even come close. Now I can't stand to bring myself to even listen to BBC news coverage, or to read any newspapers come to that. Ultimately, democracy within the UK is a sham. I now realise it died a long time ago.

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