The BBC’s Question Time programme is often a joyless affair. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t serious questions than need serious answers, but a touch of humour wouldn’t go amiss. The programme needs people with the ability of Boris Johnson, who can find the balance between the two.
Maybe this was the reason that Ed Byrne was added to the panel for last week’s Question Time from Edinburgh. It certainly wasn’t successful, he was dire. There wasn’t the vaguest hint of lightness of touch from anyone on the panel, consisting of Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, shadow International Development secretary Douglas Alexander, Lib Dem MP and Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and Irish comedian Ed Byrne.
There’s another point I’d like to make, and in this I’m not looking to offend here. It’s that political discussions involving Scottish panelists, or questions about Scotland are predominately grumpy and inward looking. I agree with Neil O’Brien in the Daily Telegraph, when he says the Scottish “political class is locked in an unending constitutional wrangle about the details of devolution”, and if not that, then on the complexities of the Barnett Formula.
Surely, it doesn’t have to be like this. It was mostly the sons of Scotland that fashioned the British Empire. Famous Scotsmen like Andrew Carnegie who built huge industrial empires, and Adam Smith who provided the philosophical underpinnings of our modern industrialised society. Where has that mercantile, entrepreneurial, and intellectual spirit gone? Policy Exchange’s report The Devolution Distraction that ‘calls for a new approach to politics in Scotland, based on honesty in measuring performance, radicalism in policy making and a generational truce on the constitutional issue’.
Scottish politicians must be careful that the famous grumpiness of Andy Murray doesn’t become the image that non-Scottish people have of Scotland in general.