Lukewarm: Dugdale welcomes Corbyn, but does her party?

AS A RECENT joiner of the Labour Party, I want us to do well in the May elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, London mayor and English local government among others. But witnessing the lukewarm support for the party leader at the recent Scottish Labour conference, I was concerned. Read the rest of this entry »

Bankers running away from businessmen

Bankers fleeing business borrowers

As small businesses report their highest confidence for three years, banks are still refusing to lend. And it’s not just that; the banks’ rules are unfair and “harsh” according to the British Bankers’ Association. Bruce Whitehead reports here for Realbusiness.co.uk

Mr Referendum: but small firms don't back his anti-Europe views

Mr Referendum: but small firms don’t back Farage’s anti-Europe views

WITH A survey showing that a majority of British small firms want to stay in Europe, and Mr Referendum himself on the panel of BBC Question Time, it was odd that Europe didn’t even figure in last week’s edition. Bruce Whitehead wonders why. Read his latest Realbusiness column here:

Indha Adde: al Qaeda protector... and US employee

Indha Adde: al Qaeda protector… and US employee

From GREG PALAST: Every Tuesday, President Obama personally checks off the names of people he wants killed.  George Bush, a bit more squeamish than Obama, never did that; but Mr. Obama felt those decisions were the president’s responsibility: he want[s] to keep his own finger on the trigger,” according to one report.  A tidy, scheduled man, the President only picks his victims once a week, now called “Terror Tuesday.” GREG PALAST reports:

In today’s Scotland on Sunday,

Amber: will BID legal challenge get green lit?

Amber: will BID legal challenge get ‘green lit’?


Bruce Whitehead reports how traders in the Edinburgh seaside town of South Queensferry are taking legal advice on a possible challenge to the Business Improvement District levy, introduced last year. They feel the figure is too high, and many believe the scheme is unfair. Read his report here: Scotland on Sunday

(you can read a fuller version of this story below)

AS STRATHCLYDE Business School reports increased dragon activity in Scotland – start-ups now match those of the top 20 economies – there’s growing disquiet about one key government initiative: Business Improvement Districts. With smaller firms quicker to employ staff in any upturn, the scheme aims to force the pace of economic recovery by Read the rest of this entry »

Queensferry: will BID be the lifeboat the economy needs?

Queensferry: will its BID be the lifeboat the economy needs?

AS FUNDING for lending falters, Bruce Whitehead looks at the latest wheeze being peddled around the country by a coalition of networking enthusiasts – the levy-funded Business Improvement District, or BID. In one Scottish town, its backers confidently claim the venture will bring an extra £0.5m worth of investment, and they’ve enlisted government backing and council sheriff’s officers to enforce it. Whether the town likes it or not. Read Bruce’s latest article for Realbusiness.co.uk here

STOP PRESS: This story has temporarily been removed from Realbusiness.co.uk

It will be re-instated soon, and re-printed here.


Published in the Guardian, Friday 24 May 2013


Tidal turbines: totally reliable power

AS MPs issue a lukewarm report on the controversial fracking industry, could Scotland be about to see a Klondike-like energy rush from SMEs in renewables? In his latest column for Realbusiness.co.uk, Bruce Whitehead reports…

It doesn't have to be this way

Online win: it doesn’t have to be this way

AS A Scottish journalist, I am naturally concerned about the latest redundancies at our national quality daily, The Scotsman, which fired thirty journalists last month. As a sometime contributor, I will try to be sympathetic to the paper’s publishers, Johnston Press if the reason is falling advertising revenue – down by 16% this year for print copies. But there is Read the rest of this entry »

Copyright: Alan Melville

Copyright: Alan Melville

MRS THATCHER was part of what Napoleon described as a nation of shopkeepers; her dad ran a grocer’s in Grantham. But she remained a supporter of small business throughout her battles with the left, right and centre. Bruce Whitehead was surprised though, to discover that she championed small business through the unusual medium of television. Read his latest article for Realbusiness.co.uk here

sheepieAs the cold snap shows tiniest glimmer of a thaw, what effect has it had on our struggling rural small businesses in the agriculture line? Bruce Whitehead takes a baleful gaze at the compensation culture of some benefit-hungry country folk. Read his Realbusiness.co.uk article here:


The guilty man

Conference darling?


Courtesy: Steve Bell

Courtesy: Steve Bell

In Bruce Whitehead’s latest column for Realbusiness.co.uk he’s scooped together some of the fan mail received from SMEs (small-medium enterprises) in reaction to Tuesday’s Budget Statement. Click here for the full article:

Photo:  Bruce Whitehead

Independencers react to a “no” vote

Scotland today is a nation divided, and not equally. There’s the wealthy and middle  classes, with plenty to spend in M&S, two cars, holidays in the sun, gardens and home improvement on their minds; and then there’s the unemployed and working poor, their livelihoods precarious, their aspirations low. Education is often piecemeal for the poor, sophisticated for the rich. Healthcare is there, if you are eloquent and Read the rest of this entry »

Can he escape negative growth?

Gideon: Can he escape negative growth?

When the chancellor George ‘Gideon’ Osborne delivers his budget on 21 March, one part of his recipe for growth will be scrutinised very closely. Since the government has laid so much importance on the potential for smaller enterprises to spark economic recovery, there will be particular interest in his promised measures to help them. With a review of competing demands for budget favours, here’s the second of my opinion pieces written for Realbusiness.co.uk

Steve Bell cartoon, 01.03.2013

I’m writing a fortnightly column for Realbusiness.co.uk about politics and small businesses, and their potential to help re-start economic growth. Here’s the first piece; it’s about the Prime Minister’s trip to India, presumably to help them spend their meagre foreign exchange on devalued British products… oops, – sorry, that should read: work together in a mutually beneficial trade partnership… David Cameron’s Indian Bazaar



With work on the so-called Forth Replacement Crossing safely past the point of no return, the Scottish Nationalist government has finally admitted it has no case for building a new bridge. After wasting millions on the project, engineers have halted the corrosion alleged to have Read the rest of this entry »

Speech and Prejudice

28 January 2013


The BBC’s World Service: it allows ethnic accents; why not the UK Beeb?

Am I prejudiced? Probably; most of us are. Some of us try to cut down a little, a bit like saying “make me chaste Lord, but not yet”. Sometimes though, my subconscious prejudice alerts me to a wider, more insidious bias. This morning I heard the sveldt new voice of BBC News science, from the larynx of one Jason Palmer. I don’t care for his tone; it’s smooth, glutinous and Read the rest of this entry »

18.05.11-Steve-Bell-on-th-008Apparently the Queen (you know, that woman whose German ancestors married-in to a posh English family who get free publicly funded homes and huge salaries for smiling at horse races) regularly gives David Cameron advice with his Prime Ministering because, well she’s been Queen for 60 years and he’s aged less than that, so it’s fine, according to Hugo “Licker” Vickers, the man with the longest brown tongue in history. So what I want to know is; like what? Give us an example of the wise counsel which this great grandmother gives know-it-all spiv and Eton bully David Ca-moron?

Mervyn King at the Bank for International Settlements press conferenceOld moneypenny himself, Bank of England head cashier Mervyn King says he’s depressed that bankers will wait until tax rates fall before taking their bonuses for fleecing the world’s economies. Here’s my comment on the Guardian website:


Why are they getting bonuses? They are paid a very good salary to manage other people’s money prudently, ensuring a stable rate of return at an agreed level of risk. When this happens smoothly, they get paid a huge bonus. When it goes wrong they get maybe a later tee-off at the golf course, or a mild rebuke at the club over port. The bonus culture is the problem; it is crazy to pay employees to gamble with clients’ money, and when it goes wrong on a vast scale, ruining world economies and causing widespread suffering, they should face severe punishment. Instead it’s simply a slight delay entailing a reduced payment to the inland revenue. Our system is grossly unfair and in urgent need of complete reform. No wonder Merv’s depressed. How does he think we feel?

Illustration by Simon Pemberton

illustration by Simon Pemberton – ta

From The Guardian yesterday:

The breathtaking hubris award is the knighthood for Hector Sants, who was head of the Financial Services Authority before and during the crash, responsible for regulating the City (verdict of MPs on the FSA: “asleep at the wheel”). The new Dame Margaret Beckett is only slightly less horrible, because the Labour party’s first female leader should be more mindful of what her career was for, that is, not being suckered into an elite. The light entertainment award was to Arlene Phillips, the former Strictly Come Dancing judge, although this is probably a swipe at the BBC, who fired Phillips for daring to be middle-aged while female. Danny Boyle, who directed the opening ceremony of the Olympics, declined an honour, which was decent if necessary; had he accepted it, it would have implied he didn’t understand his own work.

Here’s my Guardian CIF comment on the issue:

Honours for the privileged and gifted make no sense. The people who deserve honours are the doctors and nurses who treated my 80-year old mum last week and stabilised her after a nasty broken shoulder. Step forward, Fife NHS, who immobilised her arm after rescuing her from a pavement in Leven; the local GPs in Queensferry who visited her and helped get her medication right; the on-call A&E doctors who admitted her to the Western General for tests when she wasn’t getting better, and who eventually admitted her for surgery next week.

She’s not out of the woods yet, but I would give every gong there is to the teams of kind, hard working and decent people who work for our NHS. There’s none like them in the world, and our politicians, media and business leaders should hang their heads in shame at the mediocre and greedy behaviour for which they reap the lion’s share of the Queen’s so-called honours.

Lord LevesonFrom The Guardian today:

Newspaper owners and editors are due to meet leading politicians on 10 January to table their latest proposals for press regulation amid signs that divisions are emerging within the industry that could lead to clashes with some politicians.

When Lord Leveson exonerated former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt over alleged improper contacts with Rupert Murdoch’s News International, the entire phone hacking inquiry became worthless. Labour didn’t object to the whitewash because they’d been drinking at the same well. Ex-Sunday Times editor Harold Evans confirmed recently how Thatcher bent the rules to help Murdoch grab enough share of national newspapers to ensure Tory rule by editorial endorsement.

With evidence like this Leveson could and should have named the guilty – including Blair and Campbell – who agreed to deliver whatever media ownership rules Murdoch wanted in exchange for his papers’ election support. Crucially, what enabled him to claim reader influence was the massive circulation guaranteed by repeated tabloid exposes of celebrities and unlucky ordinary people, obtained illegally through phone hacking.

Leveson has already failed to save our media and the poisonous arrangement of politicians, media and hapless victims will continue as before, with new illegality yet to be discovered.

imagesHow apt that the person chosen to deliver the latest blow against the BBC, Nick Pollard, is a former employee of Rupert Murdoch. A few years ago, James Murdoch waded into the BBC and forced the closure of much of its excellent online output. Since News International’s public shaming we have seen no restoration of that excellent service, so the BBC’s leadership clearly still feel under the Murdoch cosh.

However, the report is far too easy on the complacent and internecine fiefdoms which spend licence payers money. Those responsible for the lapses, whether willful or not, should pay a price for their incompetence, or trust in BBC standards will indeed plummet.



Now that The Sun has been implicated in fabricating stories I look forward to it following the same fate as the News of the World. Perhaps tabloid journalism can revive in the vacuum, and return to the standards of Cudlipp and the decent journalism of a pre-monetarist Britain.

Snapshot 2012-12-18 12-56-36

Barack Obama said last week that each time there is a massacre in America, he reacts not as President, but as a parent. Perhaps he should think again, and act as only the President can in finally confronting the insidious and lethal grip on public policy by the weapons industry. Not just the Newtown murder weapon maker Glock, the Austrian importer of pistols which boasts on its website that countless users swear by its advantages at work and leisure. Nor just Sig Sauer, the US company which supplied the backup weapon, which recently invested $18m in tripling its workforce.

Defence contractors also feed a parallel passion for destructive power by arming nations and encouraging conflict and insecurity. The President alone can start a real global disarmament, not just of nuclear warheads, but the lethal market in guns which enables the criminal traumatisation of millions. By using American power and influence it can treat all weapons manufacturers as parties to a global scourge and bring them to account through tax sanctions, human rights enforcement and laws to discourage and remove state and street weapons from our society. Only he can start this process; the various well-intentioned campaigns have utterly failed to stem the arms industry.

That said, I also recognise that the most lethal mass murder weapon in America was an airliner. So we do need to consider the motives for the murderers. Even the most deranged mentally ill person has some sort of rationale for their action. We need to stop ignoring the outcasts from society who tend to perpetrate mass killing, understand why they do it and try to put right the injustices that drive them to it. On a larger scale, that includes outcast states and cultures to which we deny basic human rights and respect. Have a guess who I mean. Start in the Middle East. Have a look at Africa. And don’t forget the Korean peninsula. Yes, we have a lot of ignoring to put right, and a lot of alienated angry nations and individuals to bring into the fold of caring, charitable humanity. Merry Christmas.

I am now publishing all my Guardian comments here as draconian moderators are removing more and more of them without due cause:

Bradley Manning is escorted away from his Article 32 hearingIs it true that the Guardian accidentally published the password which allowed redacted material in the original files to be read, exposing the names of informants and whistleblowers and putting them at risk? If this comment is removed I will definitely keep republishing it on my blog and twitter a/c, because the Guardian will have finally lost my trust.

If it’s not true then why did the names get released, against Julian Assange’s wishes?

Leveson: the real issue

11 December 2012

imagesIf the police had done their job properly, and journalists had refused to work illegally, none of this would have been needed. But the PCC was always toothless and a new one won’t be any better without effective legislation to force it to change.

What’s far more important is the iniquitous link between large-circulation tabloids which package ordinary tragedies to sell papers, and election-time endorsement backing whichever party is willing to legislate to help their owners. Leveson lost credibility by whitewashing Jeremy Hunt, Cameron, Blair, Campbell et al when he should have damned them for their duplicity and manipulation of the media for political and war gains. The media remains the biggest impediment to lasting reform of our moth-eaten democracy because it is not free and not fair.

as seen in South Queensferry Scotmid

As Palestinians try to rebuild their shattered homes and businesses – again – we can help by buying the little they are able to produce, and by boycotting Israeli fruit and vegetables grown on their stolen land.


Remember the 90s? Birtism returns to the BBC: with big glasses

My comment on Tony Hall’s appointment is No. 1 in the Guardian CIF article:

MPs must act to defend Gaza

20 November 2012

A Gazan family made homeless by Israel Photo: Suhaib Salem

OUR ELECTED representatives have a grave responsibility to bring diplomatic pressure to help end the murderous Israeli attacks which are killing Palestinian civilians. The coalition government in particular, despite William Hague’s spineless support of the bombing, can influence the war criminals in Tel Aviv, and must do so. Britain is a huge market for Israeli produce grown on stolen land. It could ban Israeli imports – and Palestinians, many of whom work in the fresh produce industry, have confirmed their support for this. We also supply Israel with Read the rest of this entry »

BBC rushes over libel cliff

16 November 2012

…but it needn’t have. Lord McAlpine would not get a penny from a libel court because he was not named or implicated in the Newsnight report of 2 NImageovember. The BBC once again compounded its problems by squandering £185,000 of licence payers’ funds out of court. McAlpine’s defamation action should be against those journalists who may have uttered his name at a social function in Oxford on 1 November, and against those who wrongly identified him on Twitter as the suspect in the child abuse investigation. Newsnight’s mistake was not in identifying Lord McAlpine but its assumption that police photos shown to the victim were his; they were not. The BBC should also re-publish video of the Newsnight report on its website, to correct the misleading view that it identified the Tory peer. (It can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osv4THiW81Q

ImageEx ITN chief Stewart Purvis was suggested by a former employee of his today, writing in the Guardian, as a possible next Director General of the BBC. Here’s why she’s wrong:

1. He is a “Professor” of journalism at City University, home of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which brought Newsnight low. He cannot criticise the BBC while holding a senior job at the institution which produced the faulty report.

2. In 2000 he forced the Read the rest of this entry »

George Entwistle is the new BBC Director General. Former BBC freelance Bruce Whitehead offers the new boss a list of priorities – read here

Lord Leveson: Investigating press and media practices

For legal reasons, the NUJ was obliged to “redact” the names of the broadcasters about whom I gave evidence in the Leveson Inquiry into the press. Now I am revealing the redacted details in bold:

Read the rest of this entry »

Blair & Murdoch: do we really want these people controlling our media?

There is a degree of scepticism about Leveson, as there is among the proprietors. However, it’s still our best chance in a long time to make a formal contribution via a quasi-legal process which could at least start a dialogue that might in time bring the results we desire. This should entail regulation of media lobbyists (and those in other sectors of commerce) so as to ensure transparency and the ending of improper relationships with legislators. We need Leveson to find:
1. that improper media/governmental links are the most important issue for the Inquiry;
2. that ways must be sought to sever these links;
3. that diversity and pluralism are the top priorities in media legislation.

This is now available here from 7.22 to 7.27 inclusive. I am awaiting NUJ approval before re-publishing with the names etc. re-instated.

The Forth replacement crossing scandal continues without proper opposition from any political or campaign group. The two Green MSPs and the ForthRight Alliance, of which I was chair, have apparently given up fighting against this flawed scheme.

The latest development Read the rest of this entry »

Savile: mates with royalty and politicians at home…

As “catastrofuck” I posted this Guardian comment on Mark “Jaws” Thompson’s decision to leave the BBC for more money; at the time we didn’t know his most senior news programme Newsnight had spiked a story critical of Jimmy Savile, as costly tribute programmes were ready to roll… but Thompson sure did.

…and at court

Savile shows Tony Blair his feelings about children

Miserable tartan-trewed old fiends who guard the refreshments at Holyrood have been roundly ridiculed in the Guardian diary

Steam excursion on Stranraer line last week

Steam excursion on Stranraer line last week Photo: Marc Turner

by Bruce Whitehead, Sunday Herald 18 April 2010

Transport campaigners have warned that the rail line which links Stranraer to Glasgow could face closure in under three years due to rising costs and the loss of direct ferry connections to Ireland next year.

The Scottish Association for Public Transport says there is a real prospect that the line could face closure south of Ayr from 2014, when the franchise is due for re-tender.

A spokesman said: Read the rest of this entry »

Gaza – a year on

20 March 2010

I’ve finally managed to open more photos of the convoy to Gaza in Feb 2009. Here are some of them.

BBC Strategic Review

7 March 2010

Since Mark Thompson announced cuts to 6 Music and other programmes (no doubt partly to pay for his enormous £800,000 salary), there’s been a massive howl of fury from music fans and staff. But the problems with the BBC go much deeper. Here is my response to their consultation for the Strategic Review; please feel to free to borrow from it and to make your own response here

The headings are the BBC’s from its strategy review consultation website:

Are the priorities right?

No. They should be: Read the rest of this entry »

On Tuesday the Scotsman – noisy cheerleader for a second Forth road bridge – finally did its job as a nationally trusted newspaper and reported the facts about the government’s flimsy case for building a new one. My letter (unpublished, surprise surprise) sums it all up:

Dear Editor,

At last The Scotsman has seen the light: the case for the new Forth road bridge is falling to bits. As Damascene conversions go, this one takes the biscuit. This paper was the cheerleader for the renewed campaign in 2006 which led to the main parties foolishly scrambling to win votes in 2007 on the rash promise of a new bridge. At last Bill Jamieson – executive editor no less – has decided to put into print what he must have known all along – because the ForthRight Alliance has been saying it – by reporting the manifest flaws in John Swinney’s collossal bridge folly, to whit: FETA are highly confident drying will arrest the corrosion so why spend £2.3bn on a new bridge? The FRA chair Read the rest of this entry »


30 December 2009

I am very sorry to announce that Al Noor from Preston, one of the best of our group of convoy drivers who brought medicines to the people of Gaza last February, has died in a road accident. He was killed along with two of his brothers-in-law. I know that his steadfast faith would have been a comfort to him in his final moments, and to his family in this sad time. I would like to say that his conversation, his joie de vivre and even his jaunty walk left me with a smile on my face every time I was with him. I shall miss him and regret always not having met up again after our return.

Bruce Whitehead, co-driver, Vehicle 7 (Ryder)

Al Noor, on extreme right.


TOMORROW the long awaited Bill for a new road crossing of the Forth will be presented to parliament with the likely support of all MSPs except the two Greens.

The government is pressing ahead despite last week’s YouGov poll for Friends of the Earth showing that 57% want the bridge repaired, not replaced. A funding row with Westminster means the government will have to take money from other public transport schemes to pay for what environmentalists say will be yet another subsidised car route. A local residents’ pressure group say the new approach roads will be illegal, as the two access slip roads will be too close together to meet European traffic planning safety rules. On top of all this, the ForthRight Alliance, which is considering a legal challenge, says the engineering and economic case for another bridge is highly dubious, contradictory and worst of all – a colossal waste of public funds on a project which will double traffic CO2 across the Forth. Read the rest of this entry »


Bruce's press watchdog, Buzz

Nice to see that after a stiff email to the Press Complaints Commission and the Scotsman’s Readers’ Editor Ian Stewart, the letter referred to below has now been re-instated on the Scotsman website for the publication date, 1 June.

TS_mastheadTHE SCOTSMAN has landed another blow for press freedom – by proving it has the freedom to ignore and suppress those views it doesn’t like. After publishing my letter criticising plans for a new Forth road bridge in the paper on Monday 1 June, editors at the increasingly tabloid rag took umbrage at my opinion and decided to censor it by dumping the entire letters page! Read the rest of this entry »

snapshot-2009-02-10-11-58-12See my piece in the paper here; last item

Even more France…

23 April 2009


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