The cornered beast

I’m sure we would all wish to associate ourselves with the comments made by Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison thanking NHS Scotland staff for the extra effort they put in at times when our health services come under particular pressure due to seasonal or other factors.

I’m certain health workers in England are every bit as dedicated and hard-working as their counterparts in Scotland. So there must be some other explanation for the difference in outcomes north and south of the border. Since the British political parties and their accomplices in the media are always always falling over each other in their slavering eagerness to blame the SNP administration for what they insist is the perpetual ‘crisis’ in NHS Scotland, logic would seem to dictate that some credit must be due to the First Minister and her team when things go relatively well.

But, of course, logic has nothing to do with it. No more do niceties such as honesty, integrity and professional standards. The onslaught of grinding denigration and corrosive carping against our health service continues regardless of how well the staff cope or how effectively the Scottish Government performs its function. British politicians will persist in talking down NHS Scotland whatever the circumstances. The better NHS staff cope with problems, and the more effectively the Scottish Government supports their efforts, the harder the British media works at peddling distorted and dishonest tales of inefficiency and failure.

Recent events suggest that the British media even go so far as to hold negative stories about Scotland’s heath service in reserve to be deployed as a counter to any positive news. While Nicola Sturgeon and Shona Robison were congratulating NHS staff on a job very well done over the festive season, ‘journalists’ at BBC Scotland were blowing the dust off a four month old Tory Freedom of Information request about ambulance crewing. These ‘journalists’ then applied all their professional skills to spinning this as yet another piece portraying crisis, collapse and catastrophe in Scotland’s health service.

It was all nonsense, of course. Not only was the information dated, it was presented in such a way as to create an impression that was completely at odds with the reality. There seems little point in going into detail. We’ve all seen enough of these atrocious articles to be familiar with the genre. Effectively, the story was a lie. A lie that was very promptly exposed.

Like countless others before it, the contrived and contorted ‘ambulance crewing’ story was quickly and comprehensively debunked. The truth was revealed. But none of this was reported in the mainstream media. The lie was allowed to stand. The damage was done. The media had flaunted its power. People were misled. People were manipulated. Petty political points were scored.

The calumny against the Scottish Ambulance Service was incidental. The people insulted by the story were just collateral damage. Defaming ambulance crews and support staff is deemed perfectly acceptable when it is done as part of the British establishment’s project to undermine public confidence in Scotland’s public services.

It is important, not only to be aware of this project, but to understand what motivates it. At one level, the campaign to diminish and denigrate NHS Scotland is part of an ongoing effort to prepare public attitudes for wholesale privatisation. The usual pattern is that the service (or industry) being targeted for privatisation is first crippled by underfunding and other policy measures. Privatisation is then presented as the only way of ‘saving’ the service. But this won’t work with NHS Scotland because the British government doesn’t have enough direct influence on its funding and management to be able to do the necessary damage. That’s where the British media step in.

Because the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland staff stubbornly refuse to abandon the principle of a true public health service in favour of the profit-taking parasites; and because they maintain the quality and level of this public health service despite the efforts of the British state, the media are called upon to use convince people that the health service is failing and that it’s all the fault of the hated SNP.

Be in no doubt that there are political as well as economic motives driving the wanton attacks on NHS Scotland, Police Scotland and any public service which represents Scotland’s distinctive political culture.

It’s not just about discrediting the SNP. Although that is certainly a factor. It may only now be dawning on many in the Yes movement, but the British political elite long since recognised both how crucial the SNP is to Scotland’s independence campaign and how susceptible it is to negative propaganda, given the generally low public regard for politicians largely occasioned by the behaviour of that same British political elite.

The SNP is certainly, and quite justifiably, perceived as a threat by the British establishment. They are desperate to get Holyrood back under the control of the British parties. Failing that, the British state will cripple and destroy the Scottish Parliament with the same calculated, casual, contemptuous malice it exhibits when attacking Scotland’s public health workers and ambulance service staff.

But there’s more to it than tawdry party politics and the commonplace of British politicians conniving with the private sector. This isn’t only about seeking electoral advantage by any means or an unprincipled scrabbling for profit. The unrelenting effort to smear and slander NHS Scotland and all of Scotland’s public services, as well as our democratic institutions, is aimed at eradicating the distinctive political culture that has developed since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened, and at an accelerated pace since the SNP came into power in 2007.

Scotland’s political culture stands in stark contrast to that which prevails in England. The relative success of this alternative political culture is a constant and increasing embarrassment to a sickeningly corrupt and woefully incompetent British political elite which insists that there is ‘no other way’ than their toxic recipe of socially corrosive austerity; economically destructive neoliberal orthodoxy; and democratically untenable ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism.

These persistent attacks on NHS Scotland and the rest are not merely the run-of-the-mill propagandising which, however much we may disapprove, is a normal part of politics. This is established power responding to the challenge of a countervailing power which threatens the whole political and economic system on which it relies. It is the reaction of a cornered beast. And it will get worse.

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About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. No attitude immutable. No conclusion final. No opinion humble. Lifelong campaigner for the restoration of Scotland's independence.
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7 Responses to The cornered beast

  1. Clarinda says:

    Clear, concise and accurate ‘bigger picture’ of the seemingly lesser issues hauled up for sneering propaganda by the ‘Scottish’ MSM. I hope you don’t mind me commenting like that but it’s so reassuring to consistently read critical thinking that sets issues in rational context. One of my old philosophy teachers kept telling us always to ask why – an endless task perhaps , but one that tries to get at the real reasons for human behaviours. Something our malign insurgent ‘journalists’ presume we won’t question and even when we do it’s inevitably reactionary and the damage is done. How do we get there first!


  2. Alan J. Magnus-Bennett says:

    Is this not the start of a similar pattern of lies we experienced in 2014? By hitting our NHS and then the local government departments where infrastructures is concerned and then once again state pensions, is this the Westminster (once again) attempt to undermine Scotland’s necessary independence with bad performance perceptions no matter how wrong or outdated they might be?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Whatever you may think of Kezia’s leadership, she did at least push the case for ‘more autonomy’ within Scottish Labour, and she was not averse to considering separate Scottish policies – for example, by backing the FM’s Scotland in Europe case. Now, she has gone, and so too – if we read Mr Leonard’s outpourings – has any idea that there can be a Scottish Labour distinct from the Westminster party. I don’t doubt that Kezia’s resignation and a diktat from Jeremy to take a harder line are connected.

    We also know that Ruth Davidson – that passionate Remainer – crumbled into toeing the party line just a few days after the Brexit vote, and then fought two elections without a single policy other than No more Referendums, while consenting to her 13 Scottish MPs to become Brexit voting fodder (with one honourable exception).

    It’s all of a piece. Westminster is turning the thumbscrews and will only be satisfied when devolution is dead and buried.


  4. broadbield says:

    Incisive analysis. It’s deeply worrying that so many in the media lack both moral and professional integrity and any sense of self-awareness that they are nothing more than cyphers in the Establishment’s propaganda war.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Derek Millar says:

    Excellent piece,as usual,from Peter A Bell.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. angusskye says:

    So correct, Mr Bell. How on earth can we make the non- and less-aware, “aware” of what is being shovelled over them by our msm day after day? I wish we had the answer to that and fear that, until we do and can hit back in ways that we cannot do at present, we are still in a losing position.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Aikenheed says:

    Isn’t it about time the unions stepped in with counter statements in defence of their members?

    Liked by 1 person

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