BBC Scotland and Scottish politics: their small part in my ‘Downfall’

Reading this in the Herald today has made me think (8.9.18):

‘Scotland’s most senior civil servant has been commended for speaking about her personal experience of mental health problems. Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans said she had worked through “several tough and very stressful episodes” in the past and had seen a health professional at one point.’

In particular, the last few words in the quote above, made me think it time to tell my own story of mental health problems.

In January 2014, I published some research revealing that BBC Scotland’s reporting had been biased against the Yes campaign. It went ‘viral’. I went viral too. BBC Scotland wrote to me, copying in my boss, THE Principal (!) condemning the research as flawed. It was, a wee bit. It had ‘secretarial errors’ of the kind most research reports have but are not exposed. BBC Scotland had used a team of ten or so new graduate employees, I was told by a former senior manger there, to go through the research with a ‘fine tooth comb’ and they had found these errors. No other researcher had ever had this inquisition by the BBC. I had hurt their feelings.

Needless to say, I was very worried. Knowing the research findings were still reliable but realising the BBC would make much of the minor errors and not knowing how my employer would react.

In March, I appeared before a Holyrood committee, having unknowingly shared the train through to Edinburgh, with three senior and quite beefy BBC staff. They were of course in first-class, so they didn’t see me. The skies opened. From a quiet life as a back-room researcher and teacher, I was catapulted into public view, demonised in the Unionised media and lionised by thousands of Yes sympathisers. Back on the campus, colleagues with links to BBC Scotland were warned by them to stay away from me. In wider academia, no one spoke out to defend my academic freedom. I felt good but a bit isolated.

18 months later, suffering serious sleeping problems, I was encouraged to stay at home before ‘retiring early’. Over the next year but for reasons not yet entirely clear to me, I became addicted to opioid painkillers (as well as killing pain they make you feel good) and sleeping tablets. I also started to drink alcohol more.

In November 2016, I was hospitalised and weaned off the opioids with benzodiazepines but then became addicted to the latter which are even more addictive. Regardless of any commendation, I won’t be revealing the ‘places’ I went to in the year and more it took me ‘come off’ the benzodiazepines but by May 2018, I was clear. All is well now but I’ll never forget it. Most of all, my understanding of what it means for those suffering mental health problems today is sharp.

I’m NOT blaming BBC Scotland for anything. I’m NOT blaming anyone for anything. There were too many other factors and decisions made by me, in that time and, in the end, I’m responsible for me.

Now, what I want, is a commendation, in stylish handwriting and with a heraldic shield, for my experiences requiring me to ‘see a health professional’ or twenty, at somewhat more than ‘one point’, and surviving.

Older readers will have recognised the Spike Milligan reference in my headline. It seems right that I finish off with him too:

Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light


16 thoughts on “BBC Scotland and Scottish politics: their small part in my ‘Downfall’

  1. Contrary September 8, 2018 / 10:07 am

    Well, funny you have posted this John just when my little brain was thinking about the BBC refusal to accept your research in 2014; I was reading this

    Over on wings. Now I believe dialogue is a good thing, and we should all engage to compromise and find a way to make things work etc etc. BUT,,, the BBC still do not accept that their output is biased, even when they have been told time and again, they have not looked into it, they have not attempted to rectify any of it, they just flat out deny it again and again. I have no idea how you engage in dialogue with people that flat out deny the existence of the outside universe.

    So these Yes campaigners engaged Mr Small at the BBC and had a productive (to their minds) two hour meeting: where nothing was agreed, except maybe that the BBC complaints process was ‘clunky’ and that FOI requests didn’t work. The visitors agreed that they may be suffering from a kind of self-confirmation bias (that the BBC are biased). So, the BBC are trying to win back trust. So, they appear to be doing this by doing what they have always done, claiming there is no such thing as bias, and it wisnae me, and the big boy telt me to do it and ran away: it’s the procedures old boy! Nothing I can do! It’s your imagination!

    So, no change then.

    The BBC ARE biased. That is a fact – it has been presented to them as fact, years ago. But they chose to obfuscate that fact with petty whining and trying to make the researcher’s life miserable (John). When you attack the person for what they say, and not the substance of what they say, we know that you don’t have counter argument. Until they admit to being biased, which they will not, the BBC will remain untrustworthy. The first step on your road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, after all.

    Back to your post John, yes you made all the decisions for your life, and it is not the fault of the BBC your life took the turns it did. Must have been quite a shock to be thrust so far out of your comfort zone back then maybe? Happy in the world of acedemia, unaware that there was only one correct answer you were supposed to give, oblivious to this you went ahead and gave honest and straightforward reporting: to be told that your research was shite, you were shite, and others should treat you as such – maybe only a small handful, but it rocks your confidence, and if you haven’t already shored up your defences and expecting the negative deluge, if you haven’t prepared for it, if you believe people on the whole are fair and reasonable, it can really knock the stuffing out of you. None of us live in a vacuum after all. It is having those defences against the unfair and unreasonable that are important: the BBC pulled an unfair flanking manoeuvre and must have thought job done, not giving a rats arse what the consequences of their actions were, but then they just don’t care really, about the consequences of any of their reporting.

    So is BBC bias institutionalised? Yes, because that’s how it works, you don’t have to actively punish someone, or fire them, because they have different views – criticism, needling, etc turns people, we are social creatures and most of us need to be accepted by our peer group.

    Anyway. It has been a tough journey for you John, any addiction is a tough one to battle. Tackling the underlying problems can be so complex and needs some real guts to face up to, and take action on. More strength to you. No, we can’t blame anyone else for our own actions or reactions, but when we feel better about ourselves, we can always feel a bit resentful for other’s shitty behaviour 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  2. JSM September 8, 2018 / 10:08 am

    Reblogged this on Ramblings of a 50+ Female and commented:
    Well done on your recovery and for blogging about it. It takes courage and I commend you. I’ve suffered from severe depression and anxiety and the road to recovery is a bumpy one.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. macgilleleabhar September 8, 2018 / 10:19 am

    “Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light”

    Yes John. The last thing those on the dark side wish is even the tiniest beam of light shining on them but you floodlit them sending them scurrying like horny gollachs under a lifted stone.

    I wish you well and thank you for your part for bringing their spinning into the light!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hugh Wallace September 8, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    I am, at 43, clearly one of your older readers then! Or I had a sightly odd childhood… Ah, The Goons… 😁

    From one sufferer to another, well done for fighting two of the hardest fights anyone can have: mental illness & addiction. Thankfully I only had one to deal with but it nearly finished me off, so hat tip to you, sir. As to who was to blame, you are very magnanimous in taking full responsibility but knowing what I do about the BBC & your former employer, I think you are being a tad too generous.

    As always, thank you for one of the very best & informative political sites on the internet. Your constant barrage of good news gives me cheer each & every day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 September 9, 2018 / 6:40 am

      Thanks Hugh for your kind words. They matter.

      Neddy: ‘I traveled by day to avoid the moon!’

      Liked by 1 person

  5. caltonjock September 8, 2018 / 11:57 pm

    I was concerned you would suffer the wrath of the “State” when, (in support of “Yes” campaigners) you went public with your analysis exposing the extent of BBC bias in favour of the “Better Together” campaign. Your subsequent appearance before a poorly directed Holyrood committee confirmed my fears. The BBC executives in attendance stonewalled, avoiding any direct acceptance of the content of your report. You revelations about the disgraceful conduct towards yourself by University management do not make for good reading, but money talks and the financial clout of the BBC was clearly used as a bludgeon to close you down. People, (such as yourself) possessing a finely tuned analytical intellect can be vulnerable to unjustified verbal and other types of attack. (it doesn’t wash off the ducks back) and I believe it was a sequence of events such as previously described that triggered the extended period of depression from which you suffered. The coping measures used by yourself are common, but they don’t work. Climbing you way out of the dark hole of depression was courageous and I applaud you. So, in the battle of wills who won? You did. The inspired change of tactics restricting your blog reporting to that which is positive about Scotland, is a great success, proved by the number of daily “hits” your blog gets. I am an avid reader and often chuckle at your barbed comments exposing the hypocrisy of the BBC. I wish you well. Boris

    Liked by 2 people

    • johnrobertson834 September 9, 2018 / 6:42 am

      Thanks Boris. Praise coming from such a thorough researcher as yourself means a lot to me.


  6. Andy Anderson September 9, 2018 / 8:47 am

    Thankfully I have never suffered from any mental illnesses. However I commend your strength of character that allowed you to write this. Well done.

    Thanks a million for your web site, I use it to educate the soft no voters to open their eyes to events around them.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Finnmacollie September 9, 2018 / 11:15 am

    I gladly give you a commendation. Just wish I had the skills to attach it in stylish handwriting with a heraldic shield. In fact I would go further and honour you with a KCVO – Knight Commander of the Venerable Oddball given the daily positive waves you now communicate. I’m quite sure you could be an honorary Sir John in an independent Scottish republic.

    Having reached my three score and ten (every day a bonus now!) I am old enough to recognise the reference to Spike’s war memoirs in your headline which, if my memory still serves me begins “After Puckoon I swore I would never write another book. This is it.”

    Keep up the good work. Positive waves and humour annoy the opposition far more than anger.


    Liked by 3 people

    • johnrobertson834 September 9, 2018 / 11:29 am

      Cheers Harry. I’ll accept the virtual KVCO though I don’t know if my church, The Church of the Latter Day Dude, of which I am an ordained (by email) priest will recognise it:

      Liked by 2 people

      • Finnmacollie September 9, 2018 / 11:57 am

        Dudeists of the world unite – brilliant. Love it that Snoopy is a famous Dude 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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