JONATHAN BROCKLEBANK'S must read column: Why wasn't this Glasgow scamp not ... trends now

JONATHAN BROCKLEBANK'S must read column: Why wasn't this Glasgow scamp not ... trends now
JONATHAN BROCKLEBANK'S must read column: Why wasn't this Glasgow scamp not ... trends now

JONATHAN BROCKLEBANK'S must read column: Why wasn't this Glasgow scamp not ... trends now

From time to time I am assailed by a sense of duty to interrupt a TV drama binge that helps me forget Scotland’s troubles and tune in to a topical broadcast that forces me to remember them.

The return to our screens of BBC Scotland’s Debate Night this week brought just such an attack of conscience. The ‘big hitters’ were there to usher in the new series. With a heavy heart, I gave them a hearing.

There was Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Greens and the nation’s most incapable and least sackable government minister.

There was Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton and Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy who, throughout, was too cordial to tell Ms Slater his name wasn’t Cregg.

SNP's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn

SNP's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn

And, joining us from the SNP was Ms Slater’s tag team partner Stephen Flynn, Westminster leader of his party since December 2022, whose greatest contribution to the role thus far is to make his predecessor Ian Blackford look polished in comparison.

The debate from Rutherglen, scene of next month’s by- election, unfolded much as you would expect – not as a debate at all but the usual series of rehearsed soundbites aired for the benefit of the already converted.

Few politicians dirty their hands with real debate on these programmes any more. That would require engaging with arguments and acknowledging there may be more than one way of coming at them. 

Goodness me, panellists might have to think on their feet rather than regurgitating party lines. Then where would we be?

But, just as the eyelids prepared to shut up shop, an intervention from a young audience member shook me wide awake. 

Why, this upstart wanted to know, was Mr Flynn’s answer to everything always the same? 

How could it be that, regardless of the issue or the devolved or reserved powers relating to it, the Westminster Government was ever the bogeyman and the Scottish Government the victim bravely battling for its people in the teeth of an unending battering?

It was the most relevant question of the night, and a surprise to me coming from one of tender years and not so tender Glasgow accent.

He had eloquently put his finger on one of the central problems of Scottish political discourse: that our Government need never accept blame for the troubles it has wrought on its people, merely establish a link, however flimsy, between the thing that has gone wrong and the Westminster Government.

It is disappointing enough that it does so with such impunity, almost as if it genuinely believes there is no case to answer in the charges brought against it.

It is far more disappointing that the same weaselly excuse from a party running massive areas of government for 16 years and counting is so rarely challenged and exposed as the subterfuge it is.

Over to Mr Flynn, then, for the answer to this most apposite of points. It turns out that he had been eyeing his questioner carefully. 

And, before turning to the substance of the inquiry, there was something he wanted the studio audience and viewers at home to know: this young man was an activist for the Tory party.

How classy of Mr Flynn to do the unmasking. What do you suppose he hoped to achieve

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