Starting Early: BBC Scotland’s Ecology of Fear: Monthly Interim Report


Edvard Munch

‘The NHS is failing to achieve key waiting time targets and struggling to balance the books’

This was the headline on BBC Scotland this morning, 27th October 2016 at 09:02. I wasn’t quite awake so when the presenter said ‘NHS’ I thought they meant NHS England as they (BBC Salford) usually do and my reaction was ‘Yes, I know that. NHS England really is in a crisis!’ I should have realised. It was NHS Scotland and just another contribution to the creation of an ‘Ecology of Fear’ when morning TV news watchers, mainly the elderly and the sick, get their meds. You don’t take these meds internally. BBC Scotland, habitually now, no conspiracy, just create an ecology, an environment, an atmosphere, a climate, where negativity seeps into your subconscious mind producing the necessary level of anxiety to keep you voting for the status quo – the Union. The early morning strategy works. See:

Ironically, BBC 1 at 1pm did report on a crisis in the NHS across the UK and mentioning specifically both the GMC the Audit Scotland reports. BBC Scotland then repeated the Audit Scotland report but did not mention the problems in England. Well they never do. I’ve heard there have been several junior doctor strikes in England but none in Scotland. You wouldn’t know unless you watched BBC 1 News. Thank goodness for BBC 1. No Scottish 6 with added Unionism for me, thank you very much.

It’s been about a month since I started again counting these bad beans. It doesn’t happen every day. That would just be too obvious, like in North Korea. People might get suspicious. Concentrating on only the most anxiety-inducing headlines, here’s the story so far. First, the totals:

Running total 21/9/16 to 27/10/16*                              Number of reports

Bad news for SG/SNP                                                            22

Good news for SG/SNP                                                         9

Bad news for Labour                                                              1

Good news for Labour                                                           5

Bad news for Conservative Party (CP)                              0

Missed bad news opportunities for CP                             endless

Good news for CP                                                                   3

* Monday to Friday only

The clear tendency to protect the two main Unionist parties by not reporting the numerous scandals afflicting them both is quite apparent here. Also, the neglect of the ‘No hate crime spike in Scotland’ story, which is now all over UK and international news, is beyond sad. How much do they despise their own viewers? However, I want to concentrate on the ‘scare the old folk’ agenda, denied by BBC Scotland of course but let slip by one of their major contributors Blair McDougall of Bitter Together in 2014. I won’t repeat all the general negativity or the individual, easy, rebuttals of them, here. You’ll find those in the original reports. So, here we go:

25.10.16:    The Scottish Police Federation (trades union) has criticised Police Scotland for waiting 12 hours before releasing details of the attempted murder of two officers.

19.10.16:    Scotland lags behind most of Europe in 5 year [lung cancer] survival rates

17.10.16:    The Royal College of Midwives has warned that Scotland is facing a retirement “time bomb”. About 40% of midwives are now in their 50s and 60s, compared with 30% only four years ago.

12.10.16:    The closure of the Longannet power station in March cut back Scottish economic output significantly according to the latest figures. It contributed to Scottish growth being three times slower than the UK as a whole over the year to June.

11.10.16:    Overweight 5 year-olds crisis – Scottish Government needs to do more.

4.10.16:       Scottish taxpayers and businesses face a Scotland Surcharge of up to one billion pounds over the next four years…

3.10.16:       It is the UK that is negotiating to leave the European Union. It is the UK that voted to leave the European Union and it is the UK Government that has the task of conducting the negotiations!

29.9.16:       New figures reveal that councils have been given £140 million for child care by the SG which has not been spent on the programme.

27.9.16:       Oil and gas capital investments falls ‘dramatically’ and Number of jobs in oil and gas still ‘falling.’

23.9.16:       Figures obtained by the BBC show that more than 100 children have been trafficked into Scotland in the past six years and more than half of them came from Vietnam.

22.9.16:       The current system of social work in Scotland is unsustainable! Elderly people consume more and more of social work budgets.’

So, that’s every second day or so, just to keep the anxiety levels up but not too manic.

Just a few words on today’s tale of missed targets. It’s worth noting of course that missing targets is a problem but it’s a far better situation than not having targets at all or having ones which are not very challenging. The Scottish Government is to be applauded for setting the targets so high. Also, today, we heard ‘MSPs will debate calls for improvements in the standards of Scotland’s mortuaries after a (one) bereaved family complained.’ No survey, no report, just one complaint. Is that evidence of good editorial judgement or of an agenda to undermine the Scottish Government, whenever possible? It is of course an ideal, ‘scare the old folk’ story.

Finally, Audit Scotland, how strong are their research methods? They’re not very good at all. I wrote Audit Scotland’s Limited Ability to Comment on the Scottish NHS in March 2016. Here’s a short extract:

‘The Audit Scotland report has not been able to find or use any empirical evidence representative of Scotland as a whole, to justify its negative conclusions. It relies far too heavily on a small number of selected case studies and interviews which are then not reliable nor are they triangulated with broader empirical data. AS seem over-concerned with planning documents which authorities charged with the actual tasks often produce largely to satisfy auditors. Further, AS has not used its resources to assess what is actually happening on the ground, across the country. Too detailed planning documents can stifle improvements and result in ineffective, but satisfying for auditors of course, tick-box exercises. After nearly 40 years of school and university inspections or audits, I have seen the often obsessive and useless effects of such. AS seem almost indignant that authorities have not jumped to satisfy them first.’

The end


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