Thursday, February 27, 2014

Scotch Mist - Occasional reflections on a referendum. No 3 - the BBC debate and what it reveals

Should Scotland become an independent country it will naturally want to establish its own broadcasting services. There is no particular reason why a publically funded system such as that used for the BBC should be employed but doubtless Scots like the model and appreciate the quality and range of the huge range of BBC services. However as always there is a fascinating subtext in the arguments about money.  In an article in The Guardian the culture secretary has highlighted the proposal of the SNP to retain all of the licence fee collected in Scotland and to spend it funding its new service.  This is the key bit
The Scottish government has argued that in 2016 the BBC will raise £320m through the licence fee in Scotland, but it will spend only £175m on services for Scottish viewers and listeners.
Yes, BBC Scotland does not get all of the money raised in Scotland. So what? Nearly all of the BBC's budget goes on programmes that go to the whole of the UK. If the SNP are proposing to keep the licence fee for their own purposes and to go on having the full range of BBC programmes made available in Scotland then this simply won't fly. As a statement of principle it is so obviously stupid that I must have misunderstood their position. But they have stated they will keep all the cash and will not charge their citizens any more for receiving BBC output.

Now, citizens in Ireland receive BBC programmes and pay nothing for them and no doubt there will be an excellent signal to most of Scotland for some time to come (Whether terrestial television and radio continues  or whether the BBC goes subscription based is another story).  But it is the attitude of the SNP that grates.  "We want to share whatever you've got and we want to keep whatever we've got." Not "How can we best work together in future?". As with the currency union idea, it is all about what the SNP wants,  and sod the views of anyone else involved,  because if you are not Scottish and have a view then you are interfering, bullying, out of touch, elitist and probably a disciple of Beelzebub.

And on another note a major company suggested it might want to relocate if an independent Scotland left the sterling currency area. Another instance of interfering, bullying etc etc? Er, no. This is the highly respectable epitome of canny financial management Standard Life, HQ firmly (for the time being) in Edinburgh. And why? Because 90% of their income comes from the rest of the UK. Seems fair. If the licence fee argument, as quoted above, is a guideline then it works in exactly the same way for businesses reliant on the stability of the sterling financial system that are essentially based south of the border.

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