Speaking of the news, I had a skim over the latest Private Eye. I noticed Dave McEwan Hill got a letter published rightly chastising Eye for calling many of the SNP MPs “Braveheart dreamers, useless time-servers and local authority drongos” in the previous issue. So naturally, instead of sucking it up and acknowledging they were being a tad insulting in calling SNP MPs naive idealists, worthless wastes of time, or political no-hopers – you know, like grown ups – they put Dave’s letter in a column headed “Even more thin-skinned than UKIPPers…” The irony of petulantly acknowledging criticism with a passive-aggressive title like that while calling someone else “thin skinned” seems lost on them.
I guess Private Eye feels it’s allowed to say whatever they like about whoever they like with impunity, because they’re a satirical magazine. But if you say it’s unfair for them to characterise elected officials as naieve, useless or drongos, then you’re being unreasonable.
This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t have “Auld McSparky” (the “cute” Scotchified handle of Old Sparky whenever he talks about Scottish energy – would he call himself “Ord Spalki” when talking about Chinese energy issues, or “Mohammed Al-Sparkeh” for Pakistan?) perpetuating the old “Scotland is heavily subsidised by the UK” myth and the newer “oil price is 1/10th what Alex Salmond predicted” misconception – though at this point, calling them “myth” and “misconception” rather than “slur” and “flat out lie” is probably being overly generous.
Again I feel the need to point out how much I appreciate Private Eye, even if I can’t bring myself to buy it anymore. It started off with a belter about the Chancellor’s RBS sell-off, and just about everything that doesn’t regard Scotland is usually top-notch, so far as I could see. The problem is that Private Eye is not operating in a vaccuum: the SNP are constantly attacked from all corners of the media, from the press to television, from all the Westminster parties, from big business and beyond. They’re not saying anything new, or unique, or ground-breaking: they’re just another wasp buzzing around nipping at the SNP, and too often, that spills over into anti-Scottishness.
Again, this is not because I believe the SNP and Scots are synonymous, or even the SNP and the independence movement – it’s because criticisms of the SNP too often throw Scots under the bus in their desire to get at Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon. Hence they couldn’t resist calling Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh a “Scot on the make,” Old Sparky gives himself a shortbread tin makeover when spouting nonsense about Scotland’s energy, and all the jokey stuff in the back can’t help but make comparisons to Braveheart or Trainspotting or Brigadoon or whatever piece of Pop Scotch comes to mind. And when this comes within memory of some of the most outrageous statements, accusations and editorials, it isn’t a case of having a thin skin – it’s a case of being fed up with the nonsense we’ve put up with for too long.
We’re getting along fine without Private Eye in Scotland: we have our own champions taking the media, government and business world to account. But England and Wales needs them more than ever: they owe it to themselves to better themselves.