Where’s the banter?
ALAN CLINCH on the search for quality political coverage in Scotland
I have an unhealthy obsession with politics. This obsession eats up hours of my day, as I scour the internet looking for new things to read and more importantly comment on. I get my fix any way I can: websites, Facebook, Twitter, blogs – on particularly quiet days, in desperation, I’ll even buy a newspaper. Since the May election I have found myself being a lot more interested in Scottish politics and much less so in UK politics. This has led me to realise that there is a dearth of Scottish political coverage.
Television coverage of Scottish politics is usually limited to a few minutes on the evening news and a bit tacked on to Newsnight. While UK politics is covered extensively, most of the time they are discussing devolved matters, which I find hard to engage with. Programmes like Question Time, Daily Politics and The Andrew Marr Show, while sometimes entertaining, are rarely important to the future of the Labour Party in Scotland or to Scotland itself.
Then we come to newspapers. Political coverage in Scotland-based newspapers is limited to a few stories a day in the Herald and the Scotsman. The tabloids will sometimes include a little bit of politics but rarely is it worth reading. The main newspaper websites I visit for national news are the Guardian and the Telegraph (I know, I know). They cover everything on a rolling basis, constantly updating and with plenty of opinion pieces and analysis thrown in. For me, though, what really make them a worthwhile visit are the comments underneath the stories. I love reading what people think, whether they be left, right, red, blue, gold or completely crazy. The Herald and Scotsman websites are not even worth comparing to Guardian and Telegraph. It may be a money issue with regards rolling news coverage but they should at least encourage political debate in the few stories they do print.
On to to social media and I have to say it does fare a little better. There is now a decent Scottish Labour Facebook group, LabourHame and a fair number of blogs to read and people to follow on Twitter. Since the May election social media has taken over and is now my main form of political interaction. One thing is missing though and that is differing opinions (Stop laughing, members of Scottish Labour for Scotland at the back!). I really want to know what Joe Public thinks: what’s going through the mind of Hamish McSeparatist? Will Harry Heartland come back to us with the changes we are making?
There isn’t a place to get these kinds of interactions in Scotland that I am aware of. I can go and find out what members of the SNP are saying, but they will be saying it among themselves and people are different in a closed group. Trying to find out what the general public thinks is very difficult in Scotland. Most people I talk to have little interest and there isn’t a website like the Guardian where the people with a bit of an interest can go. Can you blame them when there is so little coverage? I think it would be in all our interests to find a way to bring some political banter to Scotland.