Due to Australia’s small population and high concentration of few media voices, public broadcasters play a pivotal role in shaping the media ecosystem and cultural landscape. With the ABC and SBS under scrutiny ahead of the budget, The Future of Public Broadcasting series looks at the role of these taxpayer-funded broadcasters, how they shape our media and whether they provide value for money.

The Conversation, April 30 2014

Douglas Alexander appeals to emotion as one element of a successful ‘No’ campaign. For example – our sense of identity and solidarity with the Union which won Britain two world wars. This is a valid call, and I speak as someone whose father, when just a young child in Clydebank, was bombed by the Nazis. I feel real emotional loyalty to the multi-nation state entity – the UK – which fought and won that war.


But emotions are less important than facts, and the rational choices the facts suggest to be prudent in the name of naked self-interest (individual and collective).


An example. The two world wars of the twentieth century were won by allliances led by the United States and the United Kingdom. For a ‘No’ supporter like me, this is good evidence that we are, indeed, better together. Had Scotland been a separate nation state in 1939, I think it quite likely that Hitler would have invaded, as he did Norway. He might even have used Norway as a launch pad, like the Norsemen all those centuries ago whose language named the place where I was born, Thurso.


Nationalists, some of them at least, will argue that had Scotland been an independent country at that time, it would have been able to stay out of the war. Ireland did.


And if that questionable logic is deemed morally complicit in the face of Nazism, it will be argued that the era of total war is over. Such a conflict could never happen again, and thus the military and diplomatic might of the UK will never be needed by Scotland. Neither will nuclear weapons. If there is no existential nuclear-armed enemy anymore, who needs a nuclear deterrent?


The problem with this interpretation of the facts can be spelled out in one word: Ukraine. As that country of 44 million people, which gave up nuclear weapons in 1996 demonstrates, political processes and the conflicts they sometimes lead to are unpredictable and chaotic. One cannot foresee everything, and nothing is impossible. Black swans are real. The recent past is no guide to the medium term future (though events over a longer  period may be). Thus, in 2014, Europe is watching a sovereign nation state being dismembered by a more powerful neighbour on ethnic grounds, threatening a conflict that could very easily escalate far beyond post-Soviet Europe.


I do not think this will happen, but what if something like it did? Would Scotland be stronger as a small country of 5 million cut off from the UK and unprotected by the US, perched strategically at the north western edge of Europe with no obvious means of defence against a hostile power armed with weapons of mass destruction? Or would strength lie in remaining a highly valued part of the NATO alliance, hosting a key plank of its nuclear deterrent and sharing a common defence apparatus?



This is not just or even mainly a question of emotion, but of sober risk assessment. I support the Union not because I fear war in Europe next week, or next year, or next century, but because it has protected its composite nations from annihilation twice in the last century, and because it is irresponsible naivete to believe that the Scots will never face such a threat again, ever. ‘Yes’ in September will set the Scots free to hope and work for the best. ‘No’ will enable them to plan for the worst.















Tom Morton’s excellent piece in the Guardian of April 22 made me realise something: just because the Nats engineered it so that Scots living in another country like me couldn’t vote, doesn’t mean I can’t have a voice. It was by coincidence that having lived in Scotland for all but three of my then fifty years, I was out of of the country when #indyref was called. Working in Brisbane, Australia, enjoying the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition to spend at least some of my life down here in the Lucky Country, as they call it. Many Scots, including many Nats and ‘Yes’ supporters, have lived and worked for significant periods of time in London, New York, Sydney, or other places beyond Scottish borders. I chose Brisbane, because of the challenge and opportunity presented by the job on offer. I haven’t regretted it, even though it means no vote in #indyref (as opposed to a ‘No’ vote). There’s only so many Maryhill winters a man can take and stay sane, and I was near my limit when Queensland University of Technology made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.


Most of us come back, and maybe I will. For those past forty two months it’s  been my intention to do just that, when the time is right. But we never know what’s round the corner, do we, and I never close off my options before I have to.


But for now I’m here, and instead of a vote I’ll use my online voice to articulate and propagate some more reasons to stay part of the Union. I got to #6 last time, back in early 2013, then let it fall away at the thought of 18 months more of THIS!


We are now only five months away, and Mr Morton has got me going again. Thanks, Tom, for making the simple but fundamental case for solidarity rather than separation. Someone has to remind the non-nationalists thinking about voting ‘Yes’ why we Scots used to take pride in solidarity of the old-fashioned class kind. And why separation from the UK is entirely the wrong approach to solving Scotland’s daunting national problems. I’m in!

I wasn’t one of Thatcher’s children, but was certainly one of Thatcher’s early adults. My first vote was cast in 1979, which was her first election victory, and my political persona was entirely formed in her 1980s shadow. The Falklands, the anti-nuclear movement, the miners’ strike, all engaged me and my peers in political protest. She and her party ran the country for 18 long years, before New Labour came along and kicked them out. They succeeded in 1997 because they understood that, for all her brutality and lack of empathy, not everything that Thatcher did in government was wrong, and not everything she destroyed was worth preserving. Allowing council house tenants to buy their own homes was right, ending an era of paternalism which kept too many working people meek and subservient. Recognising the need for global action on climate change was right. After her key late 80s speeches on the subject, the world woke up to a problem that we still haven’t got to grips with.


I opposed most of what she did, and in doing so my politics were formed. I won’t be dancing in the streets to celebrate her death, which seems a rather primitive response, and neither will I miss her. But she was important, and changed the world we lived in.

We’re back!

After a period of inactivity Kelvin Grove is back in business with news of my latest book, Porno? Chic! How Pornography Changed the World and Made It a Better Place.