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The Lesley Riddoch Podcast

The Lesley Riddoch podcast started way back in 2008 - the brainchild of my tech savvy husband Chris Smith, who was also my podcast partner till 2015 when old pal and media lecturer Pat Joyce took over. So it must have been one of the earliest podcasts about the Scottish political and cultural scene. This year (2020) Pat and I started recording via Skype, because each of our households have folk who were shielding during the Covid lockdown - and remote recording works so well we are still Skyping away. The other big development has been acquiring a (volunteer) coach in the shape of Fraser Thompson who’s encouraged us to make a small video about each episode, change the very dated artwork and has updated this website.

Since that first LR podcast twelve years ago we’ve broadcast more than 600 weekly podcasts and had over a million downloads. So enjoy browsing the back catalogue and subscribe to get each new episode. And in case you are wondering, no Pat and I don’t discuss subjects before we start recording each week. We don’t want to get TOO organised!

Pat Joyce

Pat Joyce is a former curriculum leader for journalism at Fife College, a Lochee boy, Dundee United fan, socialist, modernist and grandpa. 

Lesley Riddoch

Lesley Riddoch is an award-winning broadcaster, journalist, cyclist, land reform campaigner & lover of all things Nordic.

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Scottish politics dissected from a left, pro-independence stance. Each week, award-winning broadcaster and journalist, Lesley Riddoch chews over the week’s news with former media lecturer and Dundee United fan, Pat Joyce. If you like intelligent, quirky chat about Scottish society and culture, and Scottish, UK and international politics analysed from a Scottish perspective; this podcast is for you.

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Latest episodes

  • Shooglin things aboot

    The tragic murder of Sir David Amess has once again thrown into stark relief the potential dangers faced by MPs and MSPs when carrying out public duties. We try and get behind the circumstances behind this awful event and examine the role elected officials play within their constituencies and what,if anything,can be done to ensure their safety.
    The results of a review of UK parliamentary consituency boundaries certainly got the leader of the Scottish Tories,Douglas Ross, all het up. However he might just have a point when the proposals are looked at more closely. But beyond this present controversy are there underlying problems with the electoral system?
    The UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care,Sajid Javid,has defended the government’s decision to publish league tables for family doctors, but denied that it amounted to the “naming and shaming” of GPs.Surgeries which fail to provide appropriate “access” will be listed in league tables – with patients given a new right to demand face-to-face appointments. Although not applying to Scotland there is a narrative developing across the UK "blaming" GPs for the crisis in Primary Care. How fair is this?
    It was the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet, author and dramatist George Mackay Brown on October the 17th. This,and the delivery of the Tay Whale sculpture to Dundee,provided the opportunity to visit his poem The Year of the Whale,in the light of the past week's events.

  • Rhetoric and reality

    A joint report by the Health and Science select committees has been absolutely damning of the UK government's response to the Covid pandemic. The response to this from government ministers has been to focus,yet again, on the success of the vaccine roll out, say that lessons will be learned , to wait for the results of a future official inquiry,and that they followed scientific advice. We ask just plausible all that is.
    The UK and the EU seem to be heading for a complete impasse over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Central to this now seems to be the impact of the protocol on the relationship between GB and Northern Ireland,and the role of the ECJ. But is this all a narrative of EU intransigence being spun in the lead up to another,"Let's get Brexit done.", General Election?
    Lesley looks back at the recent Borders Forest Trust Conference,in particular the contribution of George Monbiot, and the outstanding work being done by Trust volunteers.
    We finish with thoughts on the,bizarrely,linked topics of the Great Tapestry of Scotland and the World Porridge Making Championship.

  • Conference calls

    The recent Conservative party conference,in particular Boris Johnson's keynote speech,takes up the bulk of this week's podcast. Policy light,rhetoric and "joke" heavy we try and figure out why this appears,at least in electoral terms, to appeal to voters in England.


    However there was much more to the conference than Johnson. We give our with our thoughts on Sajid Javid's chilling remarks on social care,Priti Patel's shameless populism and  Alister Jack and Michael Gove's recent statements on Scottish independence.
    Despite overwhelming support in the wider party for PR the motion proposing it as Labour Party policy was defeated at their conference.Lesley analysises what this says not just about Labour strategy but,more importantly,the central ideology of its leadership.

    All this plus,the underlying causes of the energy crisis-hint short termism and privatisation- that Supreme court decision,and a wee tribute to the late Robin Morton.

  • Speechless

    We try and make sense of both Cressida Dick's and Kit Malthouse's  reaction to the conviction in the Sarah Everard case and reflect on the the apparent culture of cover up and tolerance not just in the Metropolitan Police but across all forces.

    Sir Keir Starmer made his big set piece speech setting out his vision for Labour at his party conference. The speech itself was,to these Scottish ears,cringe making and at odds with the motions passed by party delegates. Plus,as usual, when added to Andy Burnham's recent comments, it definitely struck the wrong note in terms of "winning back" Labour's lost Scottish votes.
    A major part of the speech was focused on setting up the comparison between Starmer,serious and organised,versus Johnson,trivial and haphazard. However at FMQs Nicola Surgeon showed that in Scotland she's the benchmark all other leaders are measured against.Once again proving  herself to be the consumate communicator when dealing with both Douglas( get off the phone) Ross ,Jamie Greene ,and Anas Sarwar.

    Malcolm Offord a serially unsuccessful Tory politician,and major Tory donor, has been parachuted into the Lords and the Scottish Office.Have we become so innured to this level of anti democratic behaviour that it passes almost unnoticed and unremarked? We,however,certainly noticed and are happy to remark.
    Kwasi Kwarteng says the lights will not go out over Christmas but the shambles of privatisation,not just in the energy sector,but right across the board goes on. We Own It has come up with startling figures on just how wasteful this ideology has been but the  Labour leadership seems afraid,despite conference decisons,to go down the route of wholesale re nationalisation. In terms of energy provision there are major lessons to be learned across Europe when it comes to both state and locally owned utility companies.

  • Anger is an energy

    Michelle Thomson grabbed all the headlines with her "No indyref in 2023" statement at the Big Indy Debate but there was a lot more to the event,and what she and the other panel members said,than that.
    Hard questions were asked,and candidly answered, on the fluctuating support in the polls for Yes,currency,borders,and the EU. There were also some surprising revelations.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXHdzhoO3bM
    We also look at the energy crisis and the failure of the Scottish Government to create the promised National Energy Company. This despite memebers at the recent SNP conference voting to establish just such a body. Holyrood also saw the rejection of a Labour amendment to the Net Zero Nation Motion supporting the setting up of a non profit,publicly owned, energy company, by a voting alliance of the Greens,SNP,Lib Dems,and Tories.
    On the positive side there is cross party,other than the Tories this time, support for the recently announced change in drug policy where folk found in possession of small amounts of Class A drugs will see them given a police warning rather than a court conviction.

    As is our usual we vanish down our usual highways and byways on other related,and not so related, matters including the unveiling of the Jim McLean statue at Tannadice and the Scots Language Awards

  • Matters constitutional

    It's been all go at number 10 with Boris Johnson rearranging the chairs around the Cabinet table. What do his new appointments tell us about his direction of travel,the internal Tory Party power struggle, "muscular unionism".
    Is it all about a General Election in 2023 with its impact on Indyref2?
    There's a growing sense that the SNP leadership just doesn't trust the Scottish people when it comes to political activism and involvement. We examine the decision to criminalise gatherings outside Holyrood and the proposal to hand over the drafting of an interim constitution not to a Citizen's Assembly but to a hand picked group of Yes supporters.
    Norway has made a dramatic swing back to the left and if Iceland does the same next Saturday all of our Nordic neighbours will have left leaning governments,not so as you'd notice from the coverage(lack of) in the UK media.
    However,Gordon Brown has been getting plenty of media attention with the recent poll carried out by his merry band of "progressive unionists",Our Scottish Future. We take a look at what Brown's claims are and if they actually stack up on closer examination.

    All this plus Lesley's thoughts on the SNP and Alba conferences.

  • Professor Mark Blyth Part 2

    In part 2 of our interview with Professor Mark Blyth we focus on "Angrynomics" the book on the rise of populism and solutions to tackle its root causes which Mark co-wrote with Eric Lonergan.
    http://cup.columbia.edu/book/angrynomics/9781788212793
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angrynomics-Eric-Lonergan-ebook/dp/B0888SG7Y7/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

  • Headline News

    Greta Thunberg's words on Scotland and climate change were definitely mangled by the BBC but should we patting ourselves on the back on our response to the emergency?
    Lesley reflects on the opportunities missed by the SNP government in terms of district heating and insulation in particular and what difference,if any, the agreement with the Greens will make to future decision making.
    Yesterday saw the FM field questions from opposition parties on that agreement. Has she and her party pulled off a master stroke politically in making progressive unionists seem to be carping from the sidelines rather than cooperating in areas of policy agreement?
    Last weekend saw the first Celtic Rangers game and the almost inevitable outbreak of anti Irish,anti Catholic racism on the streets of Glasgow. Pauline McNeill raised this at FMQs and there,at last, seems to be a move away from the "sectarianism" narrative to one which calls this out as the racism it's always been.
    Dominic Raab,unlike the FM, point blank refused to answer questions from Stewart McDonald on the timing of his holiday during his session in front of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.He also came under attack for his failure to act on intelligence reports back in July on the deteriorating Afghanistan situation.
    Finally Pat's visit to the Night Fever exhibition and Dundee's V&A sparks off a discussion of the role of UK wide cultural institutions in Scotland and memories of the great Michael Marra.

  • The Real Deal?

    Afghanistan continues to dominate the headlines and with no extension to the August the 31st deadline for US withdrawal what future awaits the people of Afghanistan,particularly the women,and what does the whole sorry saga say about the international order?
    The SNP and the Green Party have reached an agreement on the coalition,that isn't a coalition. We ask why,why now,and what impact it can have not only on tackling the climate crisis but in securing a majority for Scottish independence in a future referendum.
    We also look at the ongoing scandal over the pork barrel politics the UK government has engaged in with its siphoning of money from its Levelling-Up Fund to prosperous Tory dominated regions. Does this give a hint as to what tactics they'll employ to undermine the Scottish government?
    Sharon Graham has just won the election to become the new leader of Unite. A definite new broom who promises to focus on workers rights and looks likely to increase the distance between the union and the Labour Party. She also strikes a very different tone from both Scottish and UK Labour on independence.

  • The I word

    All of us have been shocked by the stories and images emerging from Afghanistan as the Taliban take over.
     Beyond the growing sense of horror what do they say about the future of that country,the competence of the UK government,the UK's relationship with the broader international community,and the injustice of Priti Patel's proposed refugee legislation?
    Indyref2 seems to have undergone a rebranding exercise and emerged from it as the Recovery Referendum. Is this a smart move to build on the undoubted boost to Nicola Sturgeon's personal popularity by contrasting her Covid performance with that of Boris Johnson's. Or an aspirational  sounding exercise with little or no appeal to the foot soldiers of the Yes movement?
    Mike Russell appeared on the latest National online Roadshow last night and we try and pick our way through what he said to get some sense of where the SNP stands on that referendum,Mike's role in the process, and get some answers to the big questions the next campaign will have to address.
    There has been much made of a "just transition" to a green Scottish future but the treatment of  folk of Torry in Aberdeen,yet again, brings into question the rhetoric when it comes to the reality of what this working class community is facing in the creation of an Energy Transition Zone.
    This stands in stark contrast to what's been achieved by the islanders of Eigg where community ownership and empowerment has created a model of genuine just transition away from fossil fuels.

  • Duncan McCann-Our Land Report

    REVIVE commissioned the New Economics Foundation and Common Weal to produce the Our Land report asking what a Scottish Government could do within the present constitutional position to tackle the acknowledged problems around land ownership and use. We spoke with Duncan McCann,one of authors of the report.

  • Root causes and real solutions

     The horrifying  Scottish drug deaths statistics are the main thrust of this week's podcast bringing into sharp focus the necessity of the Scottish government to challenge the reserved powers Westminster holds over this area.It's now time, we believe, for Holyrood to take control and enact progressive policies to tackle the root problems and defy the Tory government to stop them.
    There's a bizarre current paradox facing the Scottish islands,depopulation but lots of folk wanting to move there to live. The Scottish government is proposing that 100 folk get £50000 each to resolve this conundrum. Is this enough, or,as we suspect,just another headline grabbing sticking plaster that ignores the real issues?
    Last week we asked just what was the point of the Lib Dems. This week the talk of the steamie has been,what's the point of SNP MPs being at Westminster? We examine the ideas floating around not only their role in London,but what part they could play in Scotland if the SNP developed a practical independence strategy.
    All Under One Banner organised a demo in Dundee last Saturday which was underwhelming in its turnout. What's the future for any other AUOB events, which proved spectactularly successful in the past, and is there a need for a new broader Yes street campaigning orgnaisation?

  • What we did on our holidays

    We're back after our wee break and Lesley is full of the amazing things happening on Eigg as she reflects on all that's happened there since the community buy out nearly 25 years ago.
    As the UK government lurches more to the right with its policies on asylum seekers in particular, we look at how Scotland has done things differently and whether there's an inevitable conflict between Holyrood and Westminster looming.
    Johnson is also acting tough on criminal justice with talk of chain gangs of offenders wearing hi viz jackets. Back in 2008 the Scottish Prisons  Commission  published its report" Scotland's Choice". But 13 years down the line has anything changed fundamentally in light of the Commission's finding and proposals?
    The Lib Dems are back,for now, in the news as they seek to elect a new leader after Willie Rennie's resignation. Lots of attention has been focused on the likely winner Alex Cole-Hamilton and his personality. Looking beyond this we ask the question,just what are the Lib Dems actually for these days.
    However,it was a Lib Dem researcher,Lily Humphreys, using a Freedom of Information request who brought to light a series of secret interventions by the Queen,67 in total, in Scottish legislation, most recently gaining an exemption from green provisions in the Heat Networks Bill. We wonder why the Scottish government is so in thrall to the outdated rules of Crown Consent.

    All this plus a dodgy pun and Pat's 1969 revisited reminiscences brought on by watching one movie and failing to see another.

  • Professor Mark Blyth Part 1

    Mark Blyth is Director of the William R. Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance.
    He's also the William R. Rhodes ’57 Professor of International Economics and Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs.
    Mark's a political economist whose research focuses upon how uncertainty and randomness impact complex systems, particularly economic systems, and why people continue to believe stupid economic ideas despite buckets of evidence to the contrary. He is the author of several books, including Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century: Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea:The Future of the Euro (with Matthias Matthijs): and Angrynomics(with Eric Lonergan). In this,the first part of his interview with us,we focus on his perspectives on Scottish independence and the hard discussions we need to have both within the movement,and with the Scottish people.

  • Seven Days Too Long

    Sometimes a week is a very long time in politics and this was one of them.We try and pick our way through the welter of Westminster controversies from accusations of racist dog whistling to the cuts in overseas aid and the controversial English health legislation.
    It began with Boris Johnson standing outside a number 10 Downing Street festooned with English flags and ended with the England team,apparently,turning down an invitation to the Prime Minister's residence because of the actions of his Cabinet in failing to condemn the booing of taking the knee.
    We examine the appalling scenes at Wembley,the online aftermath,and question what part Johnson et al had in stoking up the racist flames.
    Possibly slipping under the radar of the football stories there was a lot of legislative activity in the UK Parliament.

    An English health bill which seems to be opening up the NHS down south to ever more privatisation. The dreadful cuts in overseas aid, the scrapping of EVEL,and the removal of the £20 top up to Universal credit.

    Plus confusion appears to reign over the lifting of Covid restrictions in England and the,at best mixed messages,coming from the UK government on mask wearing. Experts are also questioning the seeming drift back to a "let it rip" herd immunity strategy.
    Finally Lesley pays tribute to Emma Ritch who died suddenly this week.

    All this plus a totally gratuitous reference to Dundee United and our loss in the 1987 UEFA Cup final.

  • Parks Life

    Like death and taxes there's currently no escape from the strains of "It's coming home". 
    We reflect on the complexities and contradictions of a multi-cultural England football team representing,what seems to be,an increasingly xenophobic,insular English polity, and the hypocrisy of the UK government riding on the coattails of its success.
    Indyref2 in the first part of this parliamentary term was an SNP manifesto commitment.  We explore the vital role of the SNP membership to deliver on this promise for the whole Yes movement.
    It came as no surprise to most of us when Dominic Cummings revealed that Boris Johnson was an "unthinking unionist" who,despite all the spin, would gladly see devolution dismantled. However we ask if Johnson is the aberration or the norm for UK Prime Ministers for whom devolution is a bulwark against Scottish independence rather than a solution to the failings of a centralised state.
    Devolution did see the creation of Scotland's two national parks. But are they hamstrung by competing priorities,acquiescent leadership,and most importantly the private ownership and control of vast areas of Scotland?
    As usual there are the usual meanderings,mostly to do with cycling this week, along the way.

  • 1966 and aw that

    England's win v Germany in the Euros unleashed a wave of exceptionalism across the media. We examine the,not inconsiderable,links between national success,and failure, on the football pitch and the fortunes of political parties. Precisely what impact will that result,when added to Starmer's lacklustre leadership and the intervention of George Galloway,have on the Batley and Spen byelection?
    Michael Gove's ill advised foray into satire on the short lived C4 show, A Stab in the Dark, has resurfaced. Starting from this genuinely toe curling attempt at humour we look at not only the Scottish cringe but why some politicians manage to pull off the illusion of authenticity while others fail miserably.
    The Tories have been spinning the Matt Hancock resignation fiasco as a purely personal tragedy while bigging up his "achievements" in tackling the pandemic. However what,and more importantly,who,was behind the leak to the Sun and what were they seeking to achieve? And will Hancock end up being the fall guy when the Covid inquiry finally takes place?

  • Oor hame

    So Scotland is out of Euro 2020 and as far as football is concerned it's back tae auld claes and porridge and possibly supporting Wales, and anyone who's playing England.
    However back on the political pitch the UK government seems hell bent on privatising Channel 4. What's the real motivation behind this move,and why, as Scots, should we care?
    All predictions point to a massive surge in folk from the rest of the UK holidaying in Scotland. Should we welcome this boost to local economies struggling because of Covid or is it a blight for local folk?
    Andy Burnham launched an attack on Nicola Sturgeon this past week over the travel ban between Scotland and Greater Manchester. Gleefully covered by the the media. Sturgeon claimed it was all about Burnham throwing his hat into the Labour leadership ring. Lesley reckons there's a bit more to it than that,if that at all.
    The One Britain One Nation campaign has shot from West Yorkshire obscurity into national proninence. What's the campaign all about and why have Gavin Williamson and the Department of Education thrown their whole weight behind it?

  • Meeting ourselves

    Cummings,Covid, that dodgy Aussie trade deal,falling out with Joe Biden and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol. You would think that this would be a premiership and a government in crisis. However the Tories, yes we'll still call them that, are riding high in the opinion polls and Sir Keir Starmer still seems incapable of landing a telling blow. What is going on?
    There is a mounting housing crisis in the Highlands and Islands,exacerbated by Brexit, tourism,soaring land prices,and the growth of second homes. This is a challenge not just for the newly elected MSPs for these areas but for the Scottish government and its possible new partners,the Greens. Will they be up to it?
    Scotland is in the midst of Euro football fever and we try and get to grips with the hold the success or failure of the men's international side has on the nation,while looking at the unbreakable link between sport,politics ,and national well being not only in Scotland but in three of our closest neighbours.

  • Revelations

    Will Joe Biden get Boris Johnson telt over breaching the Northern Ireland Protocol at the G7 Summit?
    Meanwhile,another week.Another court judgement.Another government minister under scrutiny.The latest in this long line of shame,Michael Gove.
     The English High Court ruled that a £560,000 contract to a firm run by former colleagues of Michael Gove and the PM's adviser Dominic Cummings was unlawful.
    However,yet again, Sir Keir Starmer missed this political open goal at PMQs.Just what is going on with the leader of the opposition? A man who looked so assured on the front bench before taking over from Jeremy Corbyn.
    Sticking with PMQs Ian Blackford focused on government plans to cut foreign aid. A whole set of Tory MPs were set to rebel until their amendment was ruled out of order by the Speaker. It looks as if the cuts will go ahead but what impact will they have on the world's poor?
     Andrew Wood ex-SNP now Conservative councillor has started a hare coursing with his proposal that if Scotland becomes independent those areas which voted No should remain the UK. Nonsense clutching at straws or a suggestion that might find favour at No 10?
    You may have noticed a spate of Tory politicians becoming involved in sporting and cultural matters. Oliver Dowden, and the PM, condemning the ECB's prompt action over Ollie Robinson's tweets. Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield saying he won't support England at the Euros if players continue to take the knee and fellow MP  Brendan Clarke-Smith comparing it to giving a Nazi salute. Random interventions or part of a "culture wars" agenda being pursued by the No 10 Policy Unit?

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