Friday, June 04, 2004

Gutless! – the BBC strikes again

It is fair to say that one of the main issues in Scotland during the Euro-elections is fishing – or to be more precise, the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and its baleful effect on the Scottish economy.

The Scottish National Party have made it the centrepiece of their campaign, the Lib-Dems are wobbly on the issue and the Tories have pledged immediate repatriation of the policy, once they are able to form a Westminster government.

Clearly, the time was right to inform the debate with a hard-hitting expos̩ of precisely what damage has been caused, especially after years of misinformation Рwith series ranks of mindless hacks faithfully trotting out the Commission's mantra that the cause of the problem is "too many fishermen chasing too few fish".

Enter the BBC with a film about the "Cod Crusaders", Carol MacDonald and Morag Ritchie, and the fishermen of Fraserburgh. The film tells the gripping story of skipper Sandy West who was forced to decommission his six-year-old trawler, Steadfast 4, ending a tradition of fishing in his family that goes back generations.

Yet, while the British government has spent £31 million on decommissioning the Scottish fleet, the EU is paying £200 million to the new accession countries to upgrade theirs, with £36 million of that being paid to the three landlocked countries.

Such a film – appropriately called "Gutted" - would have undoubtedly set the Euro-elections afire, especially as it was scheduled for showing on prime time in Scotland for last Wednesday. But that was to reckon without the BBC. After showing the film privately to a preview audience, the film was unceremoniously pulled as being "too politically explosive". It has been rescheduled for 16 June, when the Euro-elections are safely out of the way.

Local politicians have protested, but to no avail. The BBC is adamant that it will not be shown. "Gutted" may be the name of the film, but "gutless" is the organisation that refuses to show it.

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