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TV review: will Alex Salmond really nuke English babies?

This programme, Andrew Neil presenting Scotland Votes on BBC2 tonight, was the nightmare you'd have if you'd spent the day at a UKIP rally eating cheese, then bounced on a trampoline for 50 minutes before turning in.

In this awful dreamscape we saw the Union Jack being cut to shreds, Land of Hope and Glory drowned out by the thumping drums of Braveheart, Scots refusing to support the England team, and radioactive monsters devouring English cities.

I speak of radioactive monsters for two reasons: that is how Alex Salmond was portrayed here - as Tartan Godzilla - and because the BBC have produced a childish programme so why shouldn't my response refer to cartoons?

Ostensibly, Scotland Votes is about how independence would affect the rest of the UK but really it's an attack on Scotland for having the cheek to consider leaving. We're portrayed as ungrateful children who can't possibly grasp what independence means and, if we take our baw and go home, it's the rUK who'll suffer.

But, back to Godzilla. If you thought Salmond was regarded by Westminster as a provincial roly-poly sort, then you're wrong. He's a monster. He has the power to rear up on hind legs, roaring and crashing, swiping at English cities. He can reduce the rUK to a post-apocalyptic ruin. He'll do this by forcing it to surrender its nuclear weapons.

In an independent Scotland, Godzilla will eject Trident and there's nowhere the rUK can relocate it (translation: no English voter will allow that monstrosity near them). Westminster will try to reason with the monster, but he'll roar and tug some planes out of the sky.

As they have nowhere to put Trident, England will have no choice but to surrender their nuclear deterrent entirely, leaving them vulnerable to nuclear attack and all the little English babies will be nuked in their beds.

This hysterical portrayal of Salmond as a cross between King Herod and Godzilla was supposed to be taken seriously. That's the absurdity this programme was feeding us: Salmond will leave England ruined and defenceless. There was no mention of whether Trident could be retained in exchange for a currency union and only a few seconds were given to a civil servant who said nukes can be delivered from a bomber or silo. Trident is not the only option.

But balance and reason don't stir up fear, do they? Andrew Neil interviewed various Westminster hard nuts about Trident and referred repeatedly to 'what is left of the UK', conjuring up images of the country as a smoking ruin.

We need our deterrent, he wailed, to show we still matter in the world. It's a depleted nation indeed which depends on nukes to prove its worth. It's rather like an ageing man who bankrupts himself so he can cruise in a Porsche 911. Shouldn't a healthy nation's value be demonstrated through its culture, history, industry, universities and wealth? Must it rely on submarines, leaking and sneaking through dark water? Poor Britannia.

Yet it's supposed to be Scotland who's 'poor' and 'wee' but, if we're so small and ineffectual, how is it that we apparently have the awesome power to singlehandedly disarm the mighty UK?

And if we did prompt nuclear disarmament, Neil warned us the Americans wouldn't be happy. So, Westminster is annoyed that the upstart Jocks can call the tune, but at the same time is happy to let foreigners influence their defence policy? Again, poor Britannia.

'If an independent Scotland stuck to its guns it could be the end of Britain as a nuclear power. Not because of a democratic decision taken by the rest of the UK……in effect a forced nuclear disarmament', said Neil, proving the stage lost a fine tragedian when he opted for politics, or whatever it is he does these days. To my generation he's more famous for that recurring photo in Private Eye than for any effective journalism.

He then moved on to assessing the UK's place at the mythical 'top table'. Churchill considered us relegated from it in the 50s unless we had the H-Bomb to keep our shaky place but, according to Neil, the UK is still the fragrant bride at the centre of the table, but now petulant little Scotland threatens to dislodge her

In dreamy tones, he listed all the status symbols the UK could lose if Scotland leaves: being 'permanent member of the Security Council, the second most important member of NATO and America's special friend'. And that's not all we'll lose. As Land of Hope and Glory softly began to play, he said the UK would 'lose five million people and a third of its land mass.' ('lose five million people'? Again, utilising the language of nuclear destruction.) The Union Jack is then shown being attacked with scissors and there's surely not a dry eye in the house.

Just when you thought this programme couldn't sink lower, they present Nigel Farage. He was interviewed in a pub, as he always is, because he's a decent man of the people, the pint glass demonstrating that in ways his policies never could.

Nigel was annoyed that Scots can vote on issues unique to England and which the English care passionately about. With a straight face, he named these as 'education and foxhunting.' But that's not all. He feared an independent Scotland would stir up English nationalism and resentment.

Clearly, he's worried we'd be putting UKIP out of a job, but that doesn't seem to be his main concern. No, his main complaint was that English people will start to hate Scotland because they will 'see [Salmond's] supporters. They're rude about us! They don't like us! They don't support our football team!'

Fear, fear, fear. That's all this programme was concerned with. We'll start to hate each other! We'll lose our place at the top table! America won't fancy us anymore! Salmond will nuke our babies!

But this is the BBC and they have a duty to avoid bias, so they evened the score by showing a clip from Braveheart. By now the absurdity was so great I expected a Monty Python foot to clump down on Mel's head.

I don't know what this programme was trying to achieve. It was clearly ridiculous, but was offered as a serious politics show. It was openly hostile to Scotland, whilst pleading the case for why we shouldn't leave. It portrayed us as simple children yet said we have such power the UK will be weak without us.

The No camp in Scotland imply we're too small to stand alone, whereas the rUK is told we're so disproportionately powerful that we'll strip their status and defence if we go. It was a mangled hysterical mess; a headless chicken of a programme with no other purpose but to stir up fear.

Perhaps they can get away with this, though, as it's aimed at England, Wales and NI. Maybe, with respect, they're not as savvy or as involved as we are on these questions as, in Scotland, we are immersed in the debate.

If that's the case - if many in the rUK think the indyref is irrelevant as it's happening in a land far away, a land of mist and thistles and benefit claimants - then this programme might be their only sustained exposure to the campaign, and that thought is more frightening than any tartan Godzilla.

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