THE dull triumph of mediocrity in managerial Scotland defined the BBC’s decision to curtail Nicola Sturgeon’s daily coronavirus updates. That executives in the corporation’s Pacific Quay headquarters had caved in to political pressure is beyond reasonable doubt. The Labour Baron Foulkes of Cumnock gleefully announced in a tweet how he had played a crucial role in chivvying BBC Scotland’s executives into making their decision. A week on from his juvenile posturing BBC Scotland haven’t denied his involvement.

More depressing than this, though, were the wider messages this chapter conveyed about how you get ahead in civic Scotland and how genuine talent and honesty are dispensable. Steve Carson, the new head of BBC Scotland is not due to assume his new duties until October but it seems unthinkable he didn’t have a say in this matter. If so, his tenure will take some time to recover from the perception of bias. He seems a decent enough chap so I wish him well in that endeavour, though he really could have done without it.

In a rambling and incoherent response to the public backlash against the BBC decision their head of public policy (no, me neither) came up with this gem: “We have determined that the best way forward would be not necessarily to be there every single day but to be there when important messages are being imparted.”

It seems then that daily updates from Scotland’s political leader about the extent of a lethal pandemic menacing the lieges as the numbers are on the rise again is not in itself sufficient to meet BBC Scotland’s exceedingly high editorial standards. If BBC Scotland executives don’t consider this to be worthy of daily coverage it’s surprising that the Scotland channel’s flagship news programme The Nine manages even to make it to air.

I feel sure that the 280,000 viewers who tune in to watch Nicola Sturgeon deliver the latest statistics and explain lockdown decision-making might disagree with the BBC’s editorial judgment here. If The Nine managed even a fraction of this number it’d be double skinny, de-caff lattes all-round and virtual high-fives in their Zoom meetings.

What more do these executives want from the First Minister’s daily updates to make them newsworthy? Perhaps they could bring an interactive approach to these briefings. In this, the viewers could play coronavirus bingo at home by guessing how many new positive tests the First Minister will announce. “Higher! Higher! … Lower! Lower!”

Perhaps we could persuade some Scottish celebrities to add an old-fashioned music-hall touch to the proceedings. Maybe a wee song-and-dance routine to bring us all together during this time of crisis and show we’re not taking it lying down. We could maybe get Janey Godley to interview Frank, the legendary Bute House doorman and ask him what Ms Sturgeon likes with her Gregg’s steak-bake.

The redoubtable Ms Godley has kept us all entertained with her alternative coronavirus updates but few of them are as absurd as the concept of Baron Foulkes descending on Pacific Quay demanding that the BBC stop giving the First Minister a daily platform. Thus we have an unelected member of a crumbling, toffs’ dining-club who has said nothing of any consequence for the entirety of his undistinguished career telling news executives that Ms Sturgeon’s broadcasts must be stopped. Why was this political chancer allowed over the door?

The real problem here is that Nicola Sturgeon is just too good at her job and that this has caused a degree of apoplexy among Labour and the Tories. If it had been the SNP’s equivalent of Baron Foulkes doing the broadcast they’d be delighted. You simply can’t envisage His Lordship in full flow and not also hear the Benny Hill theme tune running around your head.

It’s worse than this for the Unionists. For Ms Sturgeon’s eloquence and attention to the wretched detail of this pandemic compares favourably with the shambling performances of Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. The dishonesty of the Johnson regime has been evident over the Brexit Withdrawal Bill and questions over dodgy, multi-million-pound PPE orders. Viewers can never be sure if they’re getting the full picture when he takes the stand.

No political leader will face a greater challenge than guiding a nation through an extended period of mortal threat to its citizens. In these briefings Ms Sturgeon has displayed honesty, confidence and no little empathy for the suffering of her fellow citizens. She has avoided making any comparisons with Downing Street and resisted all attempts by journalists to entice her into a debate about the constitution.

Scottish voters aren’t stupid. They would know instantly if Ms Sturgeon was using these briefings to make political capital and react accordingly. The problem with Labour and BBC Scotland is that they have each become so detached from the lives of the people they are tasked with serving that they are ignorant of this.

Neither of them seem to be aware that these daily briefings constitute, quite literally, a lifeline service to many thousands of Scottish people and their families who belong to various vulnerable categories. The largest of these groups are the elderly who, deprived of visits from their loved ones, feel marooned and alone in their own homes. For them, Nicola Sturgeon’s daily briefings offer hope and solace as well as a sense that they aren’t going through this alone.

More than this, they are comforted that the leader of their country seems to care about them. I’ve not been slow to criticise the First Minister in several aspects of her stewardship but during this pandemic she has formed an enduring bond with at-risk groups and their families who have come to rely on her daily appearances. The Labour Party and BBC Scotland obviously have problems dealing with this.

Lord Foulkes’ intervention and the sickening conceit of it encapsulate why Labour long ago forfeited the right to speak for Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities. He should be ashamed of himself. And those supine BBC Scotland executives who thought this was a good idea are symptomatic of how bad judgment is no bar to advancement at Pacific Quay. They need to reverse this decision immediately or be forever disfigured by it.

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