Newsnight Scotland’s first half last night was devoted to the question of what lasting benefit, if any, will result from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It started well, asked the right questions of the right people, including Dr. Libby Porter of Glasgow University, who as far as I know is Scotland’s only expert on international urban regeneration projects, and John Beattie, former rugby internationalist and now a broadcaster.
Both made highly relevant contributions: both questioned if there was any real legacy of such events. Dr. Porter asked what should be the central questions in this debate - who benefits by such projects, and the one that is never asked - who suffers because of them? The answer is clear - property developers, athletes and politicians benefit, and the local people - the beating heart of the area being ‘developed’ - suffer, and are, on occasion, destroyed economically and emotionally by the development juggernaut.
This first part of the Newsnight item occupied one third of the total time budget - the remaining two thirds were devoted to a talking heads studio discussion of mind-bending banality and irrelevancy between Gordon Brewer and Doug Gillen, a sports journalist, and Professor Joe Goldblatt of Queen Margaret University.
Newsnight Scotland had the choice, of course, of including real people, ordinary Scots whose lives had been turned upside down by Glasgow City Council and the Commonwealth Games developers - the Dalmarnock families and small businesses, who have been forced out of their homes and have received no compensation whatsoever because they had the temerity to challenge the derisory sums offered to them, while already rich property developers were having millions thrown at them by GCC - or the mothers of the disabled children who are wholly dependent on The Accord Centre, which is being taken away from them, with no satisfactory replacement.
But such an injection of real life and real people into the debate would have been emotional, untidy and difficult to manage, whereas a couple a talking heads, however, irrelevant to the debate, was the infinitely easier option, the default choice of lazy journalists and lazy producers everywhere.
Alternatively, Newsnight Scotland could have given Libby Porter a place on the panel, or even the total slot, because she has lived and breathed the Dalmarnock experience, got involved with the real, vulnerable human beings who are obscured by the glib PR of politicians and Glasgow Council, and their ever-compliant companions, the Scottish Press. Libby, an Australian, didn’t just theorise in the groves of academe, she was there on the streets, and behind the barricades, sharing the pain when the full force of the Glasgow City Council, the law and the Glasgow Police were thrown against one of the families, the Jaconellis.
I look forward to the New Scotland after independence, but some of its people and its institutions are going to have to take a long, hard look at themselves if they are to be a part of it. The people of Dalmarnock have been betrayed by their media, their press and above all, by the professional classes of Scotland, with a tiny number of glowing exceptions.