They’re after Humza

bbc-sorryThe following is an excerpt from my book – London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum.

Few people will forget Monday December 6th 2010 when snow hit the Scottish Central Belt and motorists were stuck in their cars, some overnight.  The weather front that hit just before the morning rush hour was unprecedented.  It caused chaos as lorries jack-knifed and commuter traffic ground to a halt.

The forecasts had predicted two to five centimetres of snow.  When the blizzard had passed it had deposited up to eight times the expected amount in places.  By the time authorities realised the severity of the blizzard it was too late, the M8 was packed with rush hour traffic.  Motorists were angry.  The public were looking for answers.  Why had this been allowed to happen?

Twenty four hours after the freak event and with emergency services still struggling to bring any kind of normality back to the Central Belt, one person questioned whether the Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson should consider his position.  The question didn’t come from any of Mr Stevenson’s political opponents.  It didn’t come from Labour, the Conservatives or the Lib Dems.  It came from BBC Scotland presenter Gary Robertson who in an interview with the Transport Minister on the morning of December 7th said:

“Minister, we heard from some people saying that they believed that heads should role as a result of this.  Given your admission that your department was caught off guard here have you considered your position?”

I still have the full interview.  Below is the clip in question.


A freak event.  A perfect storm, the severity of which caught everyone by surprise, had hit Scotland’s central belt at the worst possible time.  Stewart Stevenson eventually resigned as Transport minister following a media witch-hunt in which the BBC acted as chief rabble-rouser.

Deja vu

On Thursday, six years later, a similar freak event occurred.  A train broke down at the worst possible time in the worst possible location with the worst possible failure.

The issue was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Kezia Dugdale.  In keeping with Scottish Labour’s penchant for opportunistic politics, Dugdale demanded the First minister apologise for the train breaking down.

Nicola Sturgeon, faced with the prospect of a media screaming how she refused to apologise for the inconvenience endured by thousands of commuters, Nicola Sturgeon duly obliged.

Scotland’s media is nothing if not predictable.  The train breakdown and apology was covered as though it was the Apocalypse.  It was headline news on BBC Scotland.  It topped the BBC Scotland web page and was the lead item on Reporting Scotland.  A Broken down train was the biggest story in Scotland bar none.

herald-train-apologyAs is usual these days, STV followed the lead of its big brother.  Scottish newspapers also piled in.  A mini-frenzy ensued.  In the middle of it was a call for Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to be sacked.

The call came from the General Secretary of Trade union ASLEF.  In a statement Mike Whelan said:

“The Scottish government response to the rail crisis has been pathetic. Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has stood by while Abellio Scotrail takes Scotland’s passengers and taxpayers for a ride.

“Nicola Sturgeon must take personal responsibility for this situation as her government awarded this contract. She should sack her incompetent Transport Minister.”

Mike Whelan is a member of the Labour party.  The Labour party of course has form in calling for SNP ministers to resign.  Former First minister Alex Salmond once joked that every member of the Scottish Government ministerial team had faced resignation calls from the Labour benches.

The call for Humza Yousaf to be sacked was entirely predictable.  Indeed the ground work was already being laid in order to target the MSP.  The vehicle was to be the company currently running Scotland’s trains – Abellio.

Cast your mind back exactly one month.  On October 18th the ‘Thirty Eight Degrees’ train petition appeared across every BBC platform.  It was on radio, online, the morning phone-in and the evening news.

The petition had in fact been covered nine days earlier as you can see here.  But that didn’t matter to BBC Scotland.  The broadcaster ran the story as though it was new.

At the time I wrote: “Look out for trains becoming a media issue over the coming weeks.”

The petition hadn’t been that successful and to have it dominate that day’s news was odd.  I sensed an agenda was at work and suspected that the difficulties being experienced by Abellio were going to be used in order to target the SNP.  The Dutch company had already warned of delays in the coming months due to upgrade work.

rail-warningOn October 12th, BBC Scotland reported the following:

Scottish rail passengers are being warned to expect disruption as upgrade work begins across the network.

ScotRail said a revised timetable would come into place on 22 October, lasting until December.

Some services are being cancelled and many journey times will be longer during the works.

Abellio is a political sitting duck … and Scottish Labour knows it.  The company has virtually guaranteed that there will be delays and cancellations all the way into Christmas.  It hasn’t helped that it’s also currently struggling to meet its timetable targets.  This means that Humza Yousaf is vulnerable to the type of coordinated attack that took out Stewart Stevenson.

Indeed Scottish Labour have already sensed weakness.  Last Saturday the party accused Yousaf of having misled the Scottish Parliament.

Just as in 2010 when Stewart Stevenson was targeted in opportunistic fashion, the BBC played a key role.  Now, six years later, I suspect it may be about to play a similar role in pursuit of Humza Yousaf.

Below is how the Good Morning Scotland team introduced their programme at six o’clock this morning.


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17 thoughts on “They’re after Humza

  1. Alex Wright

    Once again, there will be a supine response from the Scottish Government. Would it be too much to ask, just once, for the SNP to go on the offensive against this fifth columnist organisation.
    I really do despair.

    1. Philip Maughan

      I agree. The SNP do seem to let the MSM get away with murder. It’s as if they believe that, by treating the MSM with kid gloves, they’ll get a more sympathetic coverage. Well, pigs might fly. I think the SNP needs to take a page from Donald Trump’s play book and call them out. What have they got to lose?

      1. Stuart Clark

        Frustrating as it is, it is impossible to win against the MSM by tackling them head on – that is exactly what they would like to happen. Complain and the SNP will be portrayed as weak whingers incapable of governing. I think Nicola and her team do a fantastic job and come out of these encounters looking strong and credible.

        1. Philip Maughan

          I take your point Stuart, however I also note that this morning (Sunday) ASLEF the rail union are demanding Humza Yousaf’s resignation. Like Andy McKirdy below, I think it would be a disgrace if HY does resign over this. At the very least this needs a very robust response from the FM, he shouldn’t be left to defend himself.

  2. Dan Huil

    The bbc in Scotland will grasp at any straws in can in the hope of dulling down the coming brexit effect on Scotland. It really thinks we’re that daft?!

    bbc misreporting Scotland

  3. Geoff Huijer

    Unfortunately, many people still get their news solely from the BBC (the BBC knows this) and will be suckered into believing that this manipulated ‘journalism’ has a point.

    Also, any form of complaint to the BBC will be batted away with a patronising ‘we’re impartial’ nonsense reply if at all.

    I wrote to the BBC as an eleven year old about their ignoring of Scotland (Cup Final football) on the main teatime news – I never even got the courtesy of a reply; even Glen Michael’s Cavalcade managed to respond to letters albeit in a photocopied/generic style.

    The BBC are still a disgrace, just even more so these days.

    I see the BBC as the greatest threat to independence because of their manipulation of ‘news’ to the masses notwithstanding their flat-out lies.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Scott H

    I’ve got to be honest and say I didn’t have a problem with it being the headline news on both sides. It was major disruption to 100s if not 1000s of Scots. There have been issues with ScotRail recently and these should be reported. I did think however, it was notable that the two Unionist reporters interviewed by Brian Taylor after FMQs admitted they thought Labour was “after a scalp” . I also believe many Scots will not be impressed by Kezia Dugdale attempting to make political capital out of a train breakdown, especially the nonsense about Humza swanning about in a ministerial limo. Parallels with 2010, yes, but six months later the SNP got their incredible majority so it hardly did any damage.

    Having said all that, the BBC website and GMS are consistently appalling. They are both far worse than Reporting Scotland in my opinion.

  5. Sandy

    Can I blame Humza for the emergency roadworks on Queensferry road too?

    Funnily enough, I just finished reading that part of your book. The BBC are an absolute disgrace, this is simple deflection to point us away from all the Brexit u-turns the Unionists have performed. The Scottish Government should respond robustly and the transport minister should absolutely not step down.

  6. Proud Cybernat

    In the midst of the BREXIT uttercatastrophuck what do we get from the BBC in Scotland, “Oh look – a train’s delayed.”

    Complete arseholes!

  7. Andy McKirdy

    I too despair of my party’s lack of offensive action. The comments and analysis in this article and many more like it on this site and others are the very things the SNP should be firing at the media and the opposition at every opportunity.
    If Humza even thinks about resigning over this I will consider my membership of the party!!!!
    Whelan’s connection with Libor should be highlighted the minute he opens his mouth.
    There was an article last year or the year before on Wings highlighting the relationship of a large number of BBC employees, in front of camera and behind, with the Labour Party. If ever there was doubt that the BBC was pretty much the media wing of the party, it was dispelled there.
    Our MSP’s at every opportunity, on camera,should be shouting this from the rooftops.
    I know that sometimes it’s counter productive to shout and bawl but come on Nicola we need start doing a bit more barking and a bit less rolling over for a tummy tickle!!!!!

  8. millie

    Good article from GA Ponsonby.

    Having watched main BBC news tonight with Sarah Smith’s piece including Govanhill, and Reporting Scotland trying to skewer Angela Constance live on BBC, can I just say the Londing Calling DVD can’t come soon enough.

    Can’t wait to deliver this DVD to people who do not use the internet.

    The BBC wants Scots to ‘think’ they ‘should’ pay more tax to ‘offset’ tory cuts. The BBC would not ‘dare’ interview a UK Government Minister ‘live’ in studio on the evening news programme..

  9. Bibbit

    A stone flew up and cracked my car’s front windshield.

    This stone was on a public road for which Humza is ultimately responsible.

    He must resign!

    I have emailed this shocking story to the BBC and expect it to be headline news tomorrow night on ‘Reporting Brigadoon’.

  10. Peter A Bell

    I’m sure Humza Yousaf was well aware when he took on the transport portfolio that he would immediately be targeted by the usual shrill mob of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) loyalists and assorted British nationalist fanatics. Resentful at being deprived of the political power that they took for granted over a period of decades, BLiS now wields the only power that is left to it. Power that derives, not from any kind of democratic mandate, but from the uncritical support of the British media.

    It matters nothing to these Angry Villagers that Yousaf may be one of the nation’s most dedicated public servants; or that Scotland’s governance would be seriously diminished by being deprived of the contribution he makes. For BLiS, it is all about venting their bitter resentment of the SNP. For British nationalists in general, it is entirely about returning the Scottish Parliament to the control of the British parties. For the entire slavering mob, it’s a matter of ‘The Union At Any Cost’.

    The First Minister must not pander to the Angry Villagers. Nicola Sturgeon has to take a stand against those who would inflict any damage on Scotland just for the sake of scoring points against the SNP. She must defy the mindless rabble demanding Humza Yousaf’s head. She must face down the Angry Villagers. and those of us who put Scotland first should stand with her as she does so.

  11. millie

    Yes, ‘they’re after Humza’ – but, unfortunately he is now playing into their hands. This outrage/ crisis narrative is a ‘political stunt’. rUK performance stats bear this out. Abellio is carrying out a huge amount of infrastructure work, which will come to fruition next year. Much of the work is dealing with Victorian infrastructure- which the labour party ‘did not tackle’.

    From 1995- ‘Labour draws up plan to renationalise railways.’

    The stunt the opposition and ‘BBC’ are pulling just now is reminiscent of the lead up to the Offensive Behaviour at football Act. The Scottish government became guilty of reacting ‘too quickly’ to opposition ‘politicking’, it was a frenzy (BBC cheerleading), rather than firmly standing back to study the situation to enable a better Act for sectarianism at football.

    Humza Yousaf has just commented- ‘This week I’ll be reaching out to the unions and political parties to take their views on forming a public sector bid for our railways’.

    BIG MISTAKE- He is ‘reacting’; he is being led by ‘the media’-. He is being led into a trap.

    Instead, he should emphasise strongly the work being done by Abellio, he should allow the work to continue to completion, meanwhile allowing his transport team to THOROUGHLY assess a ‘possible’ public sector bid in a couple of years’ time. Humza should stand firm- reactive politics is WEAK politics in this case.- Where are his advisors?

    As an aside, is the ex-Better Together PR person now the PR person for Abellio? Where is he?

    1. Clydebuilt

      Well was the ex BT PR person behind this evening’s attack on the Scottish Gov. By Abellio?

      Btw. Why does Humza not point out that Scotrail’s punctuality figures are better than England’s. The Tories transport minister isn’t being asked to resign…..

      1. millie

        Re: rail service in England

        Clydebuilt, I agree, the media and opposition never ponder on the service in rUK- Hopefully, rail infrastructure will improve in Scotland ‘in spite’ of the shambles of a transport network inherited by the Scottish Government.

        The 2 links below happened in England the day after the ‘strange’ Edinburgh train breakdown.- There is only a very weak reference to the English Transport Minister in one of these articles.

        The BBC only goes after Ministers in Scotland.

        Article (England) – Rail passengers squashed like animals going to market-

        London- ‘Guards campaign reinforced by ‘total chaos’ of broken down train’.

        BTW this is a good comparison link-

  12. Lochside

    Millie..Is totally correct..Humza is displaying weakness by attempting distraction with discussions about Nationalisation. The media won’t be fooled. It’s long grass bullshit..2020 FFS! and with what capital expenditure?

    Better stick to the facts..Abellio are buying in New rolling stock…electrifying the east coast route..Border railway and Queen Steve infrastructure etching. Plus the train time performance I’d better than England. ..Go on the offensive Humza!

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