With a direct threat to the dominance of an English-centric establishment, the gloves came off and the full power of the media was deployed to twist the facts and remove the threat of Scottish Independence.
The video clip below shows a seriously biased program designed to paint an extremely bad picture of the sentiments behind Scottish Independence. This is a rollercoaster of how brilliant and accommodating the English are - and conversely, how ungrateful and hateful the Scots are.. This is a recording of 'The Wright Stuff', a day-time show that is aired nationally on the ITV network. The show is very popular and is a source of entertainment and information for millions of viewers - many of whom live in Scotland.
The presenter of the program is Richard Madeley, (who rose to fame with his co-presenter and wife, Judy Finnegan). As the program unfolds, amazing ignorance and utterly blinkered thinking, based on stereotypical assumptions about Scotland, the Scots and the way recent devolution has been implemented goes unchecked. The host is in constant communication via earpiece with the director of the show, but at no time was he instructed to make any retraction or to apologise for any of the ill-informed assumptions aired on the show.
To add further insult to the proceedings, the host continually speaks of his bewilderment about why Scots would have a problem with their relationship with ordinary English people.
A phone-in is part of the show. As is the case with many of these comments, the caller is encouraged to expand their views if it supports the agenda of the host/program, but callers are cut short if it conflicts with this. Examples of this are evident at the end of the recording.
The program has an extremely 'stage managed' feel to it. A number of key points promoted by the Better Together campaign were volunteered in response to claims and demands from Alex Salmond.
There was a token Scot on the panel (Ronni Ancona) who initially contributed absolutely nothing of value to the debate, other than to appear to be above all this independence nonsense, and gave a historical reference to the creation of the Union and how she thought the UK was better together.
Jeremy Edwards came over as an extremely tolerant Englishman who was giving the Scots the benefit of the doubt - but tempered this by declaring they only had one chance at a referendum and the result would be binding.
Katie Hopkins was her usual brash uncouth self and used this to spread unbelievable misinformation.
Madeley orchestrated the whole proceedings and didn't say a single thing that was based on truth - other than personal anecdotes about how he loves Scotland and all things Scottish. This love for the Scots was echoed at every opportunity to show a stark contrast to the anti-english attitudes they attributed to Scots in an alarming number of guises.
Watch the clip a few times to get the full impact of how the bias was implemented, then look at the post mortem to see each instance fully explained, and how each one contributed effectively to an overall one-sided view that was relentless from start to finish.
So, we get off to a bad start: What does Alex Salmond Want? - The Pound, the Queen or Dr. Who. The answer turns out to be all three (greedy Mr Salmond, he wants everything). Madeley then adds another snippet of info, it turns out that asking for Dr. Who is a funny way of saying he wants the BBC as well. This sets the tone from this point on. No mention is made of sharing, its all about demands and coveting of precious institutions that belong to the long-suffering, tolerant English. This assumption is reinforced continually throughout the programme.
Next, we have a few cherry-picked items from the white paper (Scotland's Future, launched the previous day) which highlight some of the more emotive items from a document that is 670 pages long, packed with aspirations for improved social and financial affairs. This is followed by statistics showing differences between the English and Scottish desire for separation - this morphs into a divorce situation where splitting the assets becomes a nightmare. Hopkins then paints a picture of Salmond's demands actually taking assets - not sharing them. She accuses Scotland of abusing the innocent English partner and gets in a jibe about Alex Salmond as an impotent male assuming the role of the wayward wife. This quip was far too slick and well delivered to be an off the cuff comment - clearly a detailed script is at work here.
3:05 Ancona does her bit as the voice of the reasonable Scot and is no way representative of the nasty nationalists. She is asked where she was brought up in Scotland and we learn her family was victimised by the locals when they moved into the area. She also makes a comical intervention about golf which really highlights the intolerance of the Scots her family encountered. She claims she is against independence and we get a history lesson into the bargain. She also echoes the assumption that Salmond should make a clean break and leave the Queen, BBC, etc in England. Yet again, this reinforces the assumption that these institutions are the sole property of England and that a UK dynamic of shared resources doesn't apply here.
3:30 Madeley is in total agreement with the concept of Salmond 'cherry-picking' what he wants to TAKE from the English. This is followed by more inferences that we are looking at a messy divorce which will cause trauma for all concerned. To assert England as the injured party, we move on to the analogy of unpicking all the ties that bind each party together and how this would be a nightmare to resolve.
Notice Madeley keeps glancing at his script. The other panelists have paperwork in front of them too - is this normal for guests in a chat show?
3:44 Which brings us neatly on to the issue of currency. Madeley cites the Bank of England, implying the clue is in the name, so why would the bank become Scotland's first bank of last refusal (what he meant was bank of last resort) as Scotland would be a foreign country. To illustrate the point, he mentions that this wouldn't happen with other foreign countries like France or Belgium. This avoids any acknowledgement of the fact that Scotland is part of the shared legacy of the UK.
4:00 And the voice of Mr. tolerant, nice-guy, England says a word or two. He is dumbfounded as to why there is this desire for separation, then casually slips in his belief that in his view, there has always been ill-feeling from Scottish People towards English people - hence this want for independence - but he has 'never got it'. Despite just explaining its existence. He is just soooo lovely and cuddly - he wants Scotland to separate if they are so unhappy - he loves Scotland so much, yet if they want to leave, then so be it. Then comes the twist. If they vote and decide to stay, its straight back into their box and that's the end of the matter for ever and ever and ever...
4:50 And we swiftly move back to the voice of Scotland. Ronni Ancona appears to stand up for the Scottish Nationalist enthusiasm, but then demonstrates this by recalling how her English accent at school in Scotland would result in bullying (although she cleverly doesn't say it happened to her). So we are back to the hateful Scottish attitude to English people - ingrained and indoctrinated from childhood.
5:05 Madeley tries to compare this to other rivalries that exist in other parts of the country, but Ancona chips in and provides a specific example that hijacks the notion that the rivalry is just a normal part of life in the UK. She fears she is about to get into trouble for voicing her opinion (well, the Scots are a vicious, vindictive lot aren't they) but procedes to complain about how she is deeply unhappy when Scottish football fans would prefer to see another country win the World Cup rather than England if Scotland was knocked out of the competition.
5:50 Takes us back to another chance to ask the question, why does the flow of negativity flow from the Scots to us [the English presumably]. This is followed by another look at the football scenario and this time, Madeley gives anecdotal evidence that he personally was rooting for Scotland to win a major title when England were eliminated. Yet another example of how brilliant and fair-minded the English are - and how anti-English the Scots are. This is compounded as the focus shifts to the Scot, Andy Murray...
6:05 Madeley wanted Andy Murray to win ... but he knows he has backed away from it now... (this is a reference to the time when Andy Murray came out in support of Scottish Independence). So, it was a really bad thing for Andy Murray to voice this opinion (our really nice, tolerant Englishman pipes up that he was really upset by this) and the question is asked again - why is the flow of hate coming from the Scots to the English.
6:15 Our resident historian blames the Highland Clearances. Madeley is incredulous - that was hundreds of years ago! (how spiteful are these damned Scots?). Ancona goes on to make the assumption that these events sit heavily with Scots, which allows Mr. Nice Guy to once again confirm that he is extremely keen to let this be a once only opportunity for Scots to move on and leave these issues behind if they want to stay as part of the UK.
6:40 Madeley confirms Hopkins was correct in her statement about Salmond 'cherry-picking' all the good stuff from poor England. Time to get back onto greedy Mr. Salmond.
6:45 Madeley asks what the BBC would be called if Scotland was independent. He comes away with a ludicrous suggestion that it might be the EWNIC (England, Wales, Northern Ireland Corporation) to which the nasty Ms Hopkins replies 'call it the S.O.D.O.F.F' - yet more evidence of a closely followed script.
6:55 Hopkins states 'We shouldn't be giving them the choice to be independent'. A direct comparison is made between Europe and the UK and makes the assumption that the UK is part of and governed by the EU. Since she has never had the chance to object to this arrangement, she feels its a bit rich when Salmond asks for something and 'We give it to him on a plate'....
7:15 ...this brings us nicely onto the subsidy myth as she launches into some financial details to reinforce the lie. 'Now, we pay £40bn - or they spend £40bn on their public services, things like schools, health centres, blah, blah, blah.' and now for the main point, 'They bring in £27bn from their taxes - so a little problem there that they might spot... we subsidise their spending!' So, independence (if you don't realise this is all lies) would be a big financial worry - and the fantastic English wouldn't be there to give you cash 'on a plate'.
7:40 Madeley moves the conversation along to the next bit of propaganda. Incredulously, he asks what will happen to the Diplomatic Service (he has just admitted he hasn't gone through the document, so he has no idea if there is an answer to this - so let's just assume the rash, stupid Scots have forgotten about this). He states 'If Scotland becomes an independent country, they can't expect us to represent them'... 'are they going to open their own Embassies around the world!!!'. Hopkins says it drives her crazy. Clearly we haven't the ability to manage these grown-up affairs.
8:00 More level-headed thinking from the token Scot who makes some sort of claim about Europe and a security umbrella it provides for all member states (this, presumably is back to the UK/Scotland comparison which affords a safety-net for the poor impoverished Scots.)
8:20 Back to the subsidy myth - clearly there are more things that could be said to reinforce the lie - and here it comes. Madeley refers back to the 'good point' made by Hopkins about subsidy (it must be true then) and goes on to say that England has been subsidising them [Scots] for centuries as we[England] help them financially.
8:30 'What have we done wrong?' A perplexed Madeley just doesn't understand what England has to do to win over these ungrateful Scots. Ancona puts on a 'winging Scot' accent and says 'What about our oil'. This is the cue for Hopkins to answer back with 'Yeah, that's the line they come back with every time'. This is highlighting the assumption that Scotland is under the impression that oil will answer everything (at least, that's the unrealistic myth this program is attempting to spread)
8:40 Madely sinks a nail into the coffin of oil by stating the oil would have to be negotiated and a fair settlement reached (so don't think all that oil will automatically go to Scotland is what he is really saying).
8:45 Having dealt with the oil, lets get back to the victimisation of England by those horrible Scots as Madeley asks once again - 'What have we done wrong?' He embellishes his question with a untrue facts: 'We give them our money, Our English taxpayers money goes north of the border'.....
8:55 Ancona interjects. To stand up for the Scots, she tells a story of the burden of freezing cold winters where Scots pensioners have to deal with this in silence, yet a rare cold snap in England results in huge exposure in the news. What a lame counter-argument to all that English money that keeps pouring into Scotland, which would surely allow Scottish pensioners to heat their homes with no problems. We don't know we are born up here, that's for sure.
9:35 Time for a break. Madeley takes the opportunity to recap on what's been said and to add his 2 cent's worth, confirming his utter love for the Scots because of his amazing experiences working in the north of England. He is having a problem understanding why some Scots think they are different and don't embrace his 'country' (UK).
10:15 Another poll to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats during the advert break. According to the Scottish Sunday Express, how many voters would leave Scotland if it became independent? A:6,400 B:64,000 or C:640,000
Bearing in mind the context of the show, it should be obvious it would look great if the answer was C:640,000... oooh the suspense is killing me.
10:55 ...and the answer is... C:640,000. Madeley is blown away - 'Wow!' he says, he then goes on to say that he thinks that would qualify as a migration! '640,000 Scottish voters say they would come down if Scotland voted for independence that's 2/3 of a MILLION!' 'Incredible' he says, 'that's 16% of the electorate!'. What amazing facts to have at hand when you have just tried to kid on that the figure of 640,000 came as a complete shock!
11:40 Time to take those phone-in callers, but first, let's remind everyone (especially all you Jocks that are watching) what we have learned so far. To hopkins, he acknowledges she advocates Scotland can go, but it can't "cherry-pick" all the best bits. Turning to nice-guy Jeremy, he doesn't really comment on what he said previously, but instead reveals the conversation they had during the break. Jeremy said "at least if they do split, we won't have to put the clocks back in the autumn". Madeley echoed "yes, we do, and we do that for Scotland!". Nice-guy Jeremy was in total agreement "I know we do!". Madeley repeated "We do that for Scotland!". "Yeah, its a big thing" says Jeremy. Turning to Ancona, he recalled that she said a divorce from Scotland would make her very sad. You can be forgiven for bursting into tears at her distress.
A bit of driveling banter follows before we take the first caller.
12:40 Welcome to Kirsty calling from Inverness in Scotland. Madeley knows it well - loves it (can't you just feel the sincere affection - they just can't keep a lid on it). Kirsty is fired up with the chance for Scotland to have the vote. Madeley asks how she would vote (duh!). Kirsty replied she would vote Yes to independence and gave a good explanation about why. Madeley then asked her to be completely honest and came away with this... "Are you a BIT, or a LOT anti-english? Do you not like us very much?" (Notice there is a binary choice here - and if you stick to the choices, you automatically dislike the English - from there its really finding out by how much. This is a really loaded question).
Kirsty denied any bad feeling towards the English and even debunked Ancona's school bullying generalisation. She went on to relating grievance to the voting outcomes in past elections. This fell on deaf ears, time to move the agenda forward, so lets have a go at the subsidy myth once again.
Madeley announces how England sends vast amounts to Scotland to preserve her way of life - this would end with a Yes vote - how does she like that!. Kirsty didn't rise to the bait, she was supposed to whinge, perhaps mention oil. Instead, she countered the validity of his figures and nodding, he had to agree. She did however use the oil argument to support a scenario that was far too well thought out for a show like this.
Madeley ended the call by asking her what single thing would be the most important with independence. Kirsty replied fully and with authority. Again her answer was too well thought out for this kind of show, but...
15:05 Kirsty is disposed of and Hopkins is allowed to pick up on the fleeting mention of the Scottish Parliament in Kirsy's last answer. She then paints a picture of huge concessions because of the already devolved parliament, then ties this into the White Paper as just another long list of demands which fail to acknowledge how generous England has been to Scotland.
She flatly denies they will ever happen because an independent Scotland could never afford them (remember, England subsidises Scotland by £13billion according to her). Madeley makes the a new false claim by stating most of the contents of the white paper (which he has admitted he hasn't really read) could be done in Holyrood right now!. Hopkins is heard to say "of course they can".
15:40 Leeanne calls from Glasgow. She is a gift as she basically echoes everything they want to hear, including the unintentional support of the 'nasty nats' by admitting her parents will be really annoyed at what she says (they are both SNP). She is also asked the same anti-english question, but turns it on its head and the call ends in jig time.
17:45 The next caller, Adrien is from Carnarvon. She has an upbeat view of Scottish Independence - she would move to an Independent Scotland in a heartbeat. As she makes her points, the camera cuts to Hopkins who is in the process of pulling disparaging faces and visually maligning what the caller is saying. Madeley counters everything the caller says by claiming none of it was costed and that there would be no finance available in an independent Scotland to achieve all these ambitions. Ancona chipped in a final warning about Europe and the recession. The caller was disposed as a break was coming up.
So there you have it. Probably the best example of blatant bias you will see (so far). Sadly, this sort of thing was rife during the referendum, but perhaps not as obvious as this program - in fact, it is always bubbling away just beneath the surface of any political or chat show that features a political theme.
Watch and learn.