Thursday, 8 May 2014

I'm Sorry, They Haven't A Clue

Dog-walkers in the vicinity of BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay stronghold are feverishly speculating about the source of the high-pitched whine they keep hearing.  Is it Lord Reith approaching escape velocity as he rotates in his crypt?  Is it fire alarms constantly going off as Better Together commentators’ underpants spontaneously combust?  Or is it simply the squeak of air escaping from the saggy, patched-up hot-air balloon of the BBC’s credibility?

“We’re not biased, it’s just a series of unfortunate events,” insists the corporation’s spokesman Lemony Snicket, emerging gingerly from the front door on the end of a cattle prod. “We can’t explain why every regrettable blip in our referendum coverage seems to favour the No side, unless of course the rumours that God hates Alex Salmond are true.  But we’ve consulted Professor Brian Cox, who knows all about string theory, and he says there must be at least one parallel universe where our output accidentally favours Yes, so we’re legally watertight on the impartiality front.”

What about the CBI debacle?  “Yes, that was terrible, wasn’t it?  Fortunately, James Cook outed himself as the whistle-blower and was put on five months’ toilet-cleaning duty before he could do any further damage.  To console him in his exile, his desk’s been covered in gifts from well-wishers - flowers, whisky, tablet and Wings Over Scotland badges from vicious Cybernats, and what appears to be a carefully-wrapped alarm clock from Blair McDougall.”

But is the BBC actually going to resign CBI membership, like other organisations still in possession of a moral compass? “That’s an issue for senior management in London, whose in-trays you probably don’t realise are crammed with important stuff.  Currently they’re busy in a farting-about workshop, then next week they’ve got their regular indoctrination session at MI5, followed by a group shopping excursion to “Tories-R-Us” to select a new chairman for the BBC Trust.

“In the meantime, we’ve mobilised a squad of unpaid interns to find out which other organisations we’re involved in without knowing. Fortunately, it seems that many of them don’t officially exist, so we don’t have to tell you about them, although you’re welcome to submit a Freedom of Information request countersigned by five grandparents.  As for the others, please note that SAS isn't an airline or a crack military unit - it's Sad Absurd Sycophants, of which royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell is Life President.  I'm also reliably informed that the terrorist organisations Blue Peter inadvertently funded during the 1970s have now promised to return our milk bottle tops to us.”

How is all this affecting the morale of staff as they rehearse for becoming unbiased during the formal campaign period?  “Oh, it’s a nightmare.  We were already struggling to train Kirsty Wark to interview Alex Salmond without sounding like a hysterical macaque.  Then we had a crisis with Jackie Bird, whose face became stuck when she tried to say the words “Sunday Herald”.  Glenn Campbell is forever complaining about the load of compromisin’ on the road to his horizon.  Only Gary Robertson keeps smiling throughout, but we suspect that it’s because he doesn’t actually have the faintest idea what’s going on.”

The chaos gradually taking hold has, says Snicket, spurred the BBC to a momentous decision.  “We’ve decided the only option is to take our referendum coverage entirely out of the hands of the newsroom, and move it into the area of comedy.”

This opens up tremendous opportunities for the BBC’s team of teenage animators, who did such a great job ridiculing an independent Scotland’s ability to defend itself on Sunday Politics Scotland a few weeks back.  “They’ll be getting a regular slot on a new show called Alistair Carmichael’s Cartoon Cavalcade,” explains Snicket, “where they’ll produce hilarious animations in which Alex Salmond, dressed as Captain Pugwash, will patrol the coast in an old bathtub, his frustration mounting as Scotland is destroyed by death rays from outer space.”

The animators will also play a large part in the opening titles of 2014, a side-splitting sitcom about organising the Commonwealth Games.  “Suffice it to say that the demolition of the Red Road flats is back on the agenda.  Not to mention the Forth Bridge, the Wallace Monument and of course the Scottish Parliament.”

Meanwhile, Gavin Esler, whose film on the Vote No Borders group was widely hailed as “comedy genius” after saturation coverage on BBC News 24, has agreed to bombard viewers with similar masterpieces.  “It’s an exciting moment for the debate,” comments Snicket, “with so many grass-roots campaigns being organised by Conservative Central Office.”  Esler, who has renounced all aspirations to be Jeremy Paxman in favour of making people pee themselves with laughter, is hard at work on his follow-up, No Shit Sherlock, about a group who believes that Scotland should jack in independence and just let itself be governed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

“We’ve also got big plans for panel shows,” drools Snicket. “Queue? Aye! will feature Stephen Fry and some of his clever pals making hilarious jokes about how long it will take Scotland to join the EU.  Then there’s Have I Got Trews For You, where teams led by Alan Cochrane and Susan Calman will discuss the ridiculous costs of the First Minister’s wardrobe.”

It’s not all good news, though.  Snicket still shudders at the memory of the pilot recording of the new, revamped Just A Minute.  “It was all going fine until we asked the panel to give the positive case for the Union without hesitation, deviation or repetition.  I think it was eleven hours before the emergency services broke in and rescued the audience.”

So the BBC is all set for the final straight, it would appear.  Not that things are ever straight with the Beeb.  Isn’t this still, er, a wee bit biased?  “Oh, yes, of course.  But it’s only the Electoral Commission we have to worry about, and if they get stroppy our smartarse lawyers will soon have them tied in more knots than Spaghetti Junction.  Anyway, just in case we need something to redress the balance, we’ve got Blair McDougall and Alistair Darling on standby to be filmed trying to deliver a piano up a long flight of steps.”

What if, despite the Beeb’s valiant efforts, the people of Scotland still vote Yes?  “We’ll have a group hug, collect our P45s, sprint to a fleet of waiting limousines, watch Pacific Quay being blown sky-high with dynamite, then do a 100 mph dash with police escort to Carter Bar, where Rory Stewart and a group of hand-holding acolytes will be waiting to welcome us to our new lives.”

And if Scotland votes No?  “Ha ha, you’ll get exactly what you deserve.  Wall-to-wall Jeremy Clarkson until the end of time."


  1. "Alex Salmond, dressed as Captain Pugwash, will patrol the coast in an old bathtub, his frustration mounting as Scotland is destroyed by death rays from outer space"

    Fantastic. Someone has to make this.

  2. I contacted the Electoral Commission. They said:

    Schedule 4 section 3 para 2(d), of the Scottish Referendum Act 2013 specifically excludes:

    any expenses incurred in respect of the publication of any matter relating to the referendum (other than an advertisement) in—
    (i) a newspaper or periodical,
    (ii) a broadcast made by the British Broadcasting Corporation, or
    (iii) a programme included in any service licensed under Part 1 or 3 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 or Part 1 or 2 of the Broadcasting Act 1996.

    If however you have a complaint in relation to the BBC you should contact the BBC Trust. You can find their details at: