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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

  • Euro Trash?

    Shocking stuff this episode as Lesley and Pat fa oot oer Eurovision. Was it a glorious celebration of the human spirit or a festival of over hyped musical mediocrity? Guess which of us thought what!
    As we await Liz Truss's statement which looks as if it will signal the ditching of the Northern Ireland Protocol we look at the threat this poses to stability and peace on the island of Ireland.
    Cost of living crisis. Work longer hours. Get a better job. Claimed Conservative minister Rachel MacLean. Just how out of touch are the Tories?
    Eilidh Barbour walked out of the annual Scottish Football Writers Association awards ceremony after 10 minutes of Bill Copeland's speech which she said was racist, sexist, and homophobic. The SFWA has since issued an "apology" promising to review and improve in the future. Was this an isolated mistake or is there still an underlying air of prejudice at the heart of journalism? 
    Nicola Sturgeon has been in the USA meeting Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and other top officials in the Biden administration. She made significant statements on NATO membership and the constitutional future of the UK. This was covered by The Times, The Telegraph, and Bloomberg, but not by the BBC. 

  • Shoogly pegs

     The Queen's Speech allied to the Times story of the failure of Liz Truss's latest negotiations  give every indication that the Tories are prepared to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol. This despite the majority support in Northern Ireland for Remain in the Brexit referendum and the electoral success of pro Protocol parties in the recent Assembly elections. We look at the current state of Northern Irish politics,with particular focus on Sinn Fein, and the threats posed to the Good Friday Agreement by the UK government's stance.
     I'll resign if fined. Is Starmer risking everything over Beergate? Can the alleged breach of Covid regulations in Durham be compared to the catalogue of parties at No 10? And just who is orchestrating the Labour leaks?
    Disastrous results for the Scottish Conservatives but who'll take the leader's poison chalice from Ross? The candidates, just as with Boris Johnson, don't seem to be lining up to take on what looks like the worst job in Scottish politics.

  • The power of local

    The local elections are upon us and we ask how democratic Scottish local government actually is.
    When compared to our Nordic and European neighbours the answer is, not very. Lesley reflects on this and wonders if the SNP is not just  missing an opportunity to create genuine local democracy but fertile ground for independence.
    https://www.nordichorizons.org/powerful-pint-sized-democracy-nordic-style/?fbclid=IwAR0bjcfd-SQtmLXZTFESU87tiAsjgNY5c-7fbOKkAEqGSGxsEDFwY0uTtCk
    We examine the performances of Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar and question their electoral strategies both in Scotland and England. 
    Likeability in Scotland,and being neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn in England, seem to be the tactics. Will this be enough to ensure any form of electoral success on Thursday?
    Billy Kay's recent address in Scots to the Scottish Parliament kicked off a storm over his use o the Mither Tongue. What is it about Scots that so upsets so many unionists?
    We also look at the ongoing non coverage by the BBC of the Michelle Mone PPE Medpro investigation and Andrew Marr's belief that unilateral nuclear disarmament is a vote loser if and when we get to indyref2.

  • The Old One Two

    We begin with the sexist and classist Mail on Sunday article on Angela Rayner. It's been roundly condemned right across the political spectrum. But what does it say about the Mail, its readers ,and certain elements among Tory MPs.
    The Met has, apparently, issued more fines to those who attended the notorious "Bring your own booze" Downing Street party that took place on May the 20th 2020.However, it appears that Boris Johnson has not received one. We wonder how and why it looks like he's  escaped scot free.
    We examine Macron's victory over Le Pen in the recent French presidential elections, what it means for the EU, European security and at the underlying reasons behind the growth in support for the far right not just in France.
    Gillnet fishing around Shetland seems to have spilled over into some sort of fishing war with claims and counter claims over so called "ghost fishing" and who is responsible for the abandoned gillnets which are causing such environmental damage. Lesley looks at this in depth and in particular at the inaction of both the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and Marine Scotland.
    Finally we delve into the Scottish local elections. What are the party manifestoes saying? Why are Labour so agin formal coalitions? What "Vote until you boak" actually means and what's wrong with SNP 1 and 2 in the local elections. And why is no party committed to reforming local government along Nordic lines?
    If you want to know more about how Norway's local governance works register at Home | Nordic Horizons for this Thursday's Zoom event

  • Charades

    As we recorded Boris Johnson was about to appear in Parliament before jetting off to India. He was there to "apologise", but maintain that he did not realise that his birthday gathering was against the rules,  claiming that he did not mislead the House. We examine the implications of what Lord Peter Hennessy has described as the "shredding of the ministerial code" by Johnson who has made his office" an adventure playground for one man's narcissistic vanity".
    We ask whether it was a matter of coincidence or a classic "dead cat" that Priti Patel announced the appalling asylum deal with Rwanda in the middle of the Partygate revelations. 
    Andy McIver, writing in The Herald, floated the idea of the middle way of Home Rule out of the constitutional impasse over independence. How credible is this given our previous experience with Vows, and its dependence on a Labour government at Westminster?
    Finally Lesley forensically takes apart the cumbersome crofting community right-to-buy legislation, and the seeming indifference of the Holyrood Land Team towards the struggle of the crofters of Great Bernera to buy out their absentee landlord.

  • Systems of a down

    To say Lesley's travels to and from the Netherlands were a richt trachle is an understatement. But beyond the not inconsiderable personal inconvenience what do they tell us about post Brexit Britain's relationship with the EU?
    Lots of us struggled to get our meter readings in before the April 1st deadline. Thank goodness for those smart meters then. Not quite. After 2 months of research Lesley uncovered a catalogue of disastrous decisions and non decisions leading to a colossal waste of public money which is in danger of harming, once again, the most vulnerable during the era of soaring energy costs. A series of errors by both Labour and Tory governments made possible by the acceptance of privatisation.
    Privatisation also looms large in the future of C4. We ask the question why "fix" something that patently isn't broken.
    Ian Blackford was accused by Kay Burley of sexism when he raised legitimate concerns over the non dom tax status of Akshata Murty ,the wife of Rishi Sunak. We take a look at, the complex residency and tax statuses of both Murty and Sunak and ask why is all this only coming out now, and who benefits in the Tory Party?

  • Andy Wightman

    In the first part of this wide ranging interview with Andy we look back at his time as a Green MSP, his bid to become an independent MSP for the Highlands and Islands in 2021,his thoughts on indyref2 , and how to win popular support for independence.
    In the second half we focus on his work creating a draft "Land Bill for the People", a root and branch reform of land ownership and control in Scotland.

  • Sans Ferries Rien

    The row over the much delayed, and much over budget CalMac ferries has been going on across the Scottish media all week. Lots of claims and counter claims of political spin and bias being thrown around. But Lesley asks if there's a far more fundamental set of problems at the root of the issue which are not being addressed.
    The UK government has come out ,apparently, swinging on the sacking of 800 P and O seafarers promising strong action of plugging loopholes in employment legislation and calling for P and O's Chief Executive to resign. However, is this just a load of soundbite and fury signifying nothing?
    The shine seems to have gone off, the heir apparent to No 10,Rishi Sunak. Clunky photo opps and tetchy media appearances have taken the headlines while some outlets seem to have bought into the Tory narrative of tax cuts to support hard pressed low paid workers. We examine  the reality of the Spring Budget Statement. We also discuss whether Sunak's fall from from grace is good news for Boris Johnson .
    The Oscars hit, literally, the front pages with Will Smith's assault on Chris Rock but Lesley's petition on plots of Scottish land being "gifted" in Oscar goody bags got over 8000 signatures in under 2 days. Lash Fary , the founder of Distinctive Assets, the company that provides Academy Award hopefuls with presents before the ceremony, defended the inclusion of a Highland Titles gift as “light-hearted fun”. We reckon there's a lot more to it than that.

  • Headline News

    Lesley began the podcast back in 2007 and in episode 701 we can see that the debate surrounding independence has moved on and there have been tectonic shifts in the balance of political power in Scotland. However are we stuck in a quagmire where all political parties are struggling for candidates within the framework of a local government structure not fit for purpose and where every election is fought as a de facto independence referendum?
    Boris Johnson ,in his crass comparisons between the fight of the Ukrainian people against the Russian invasion and Britons voting for Brexit, seems to have made himself persona non grata at the upcoming European Council. Will there be sufficient support for a blanket ban across Europe for Russian energy exports? Will Russia be impacted by any European ban when countries like India seem more than willing to take advantage of discounted Russian oil and gas?
    Lesley dives into the complexities of Ukrainian politics in particular the recent history of the Donbas region, and the notorious Azov Battalion.
    We also discuss Rishi Sunak's Spring Financial Statement. He has been tight lipped in the media but we suspect that Austerity Mark 2 is on the cards.

  • Neutrality on a moving train?

    The Russian invasion of Ukraine is forcing the old certainties of neutrality and attitudes towards NATO membership across the Nordic nations to be re-examined. Lesley reflects on the recent Nordic Horizons event which she hosted and considers the potential for a non-nuclear European Defence Force.
    The link to the podcast of the event is
    https://www.nordichorizons.org/
    Britain has been, rightly, criticised over its approach to the Ukraine refugee crisis with, yet again, the government's rhetoric failing to live up to the reality of our European neighbours' responses. We look at the new Homes for Ukraine scheme and ,sadly, find it wanting, again.
    Boris Johnson is cosying up to the Saudi regime in the face of mounting pressures on energy supply. This despite the appalling record of the Saudis in Yemen and on human rights. Meanwhile both the Tories and Labour are talking up nuclear power as the answer. Lesley reveals why it isn't.
    All this plus the campaign  of "sportwashing" being carried out by the Saudis in an attempt to mask their brutalities ,and how embedded they are within English football. All with the explicit approval of the UK government.

  • Dr Philippa Whitford

    Lesley tested positive for Covid last week - she's  self isolating and in her own words" nae bad but heid a bit fuzzy". So we're putting out this recent podcast extra where we speak with Dr Philippa Whitford MP current SNP Shadow Spokesperson on Europe and until recently SNP Shadow Spokesperson Health and Social Care.

  • The currency of courage

    In this episode we focus entirely on Ukraine. The escalation of Russian actions, the reaction of the EU to the crisis, and whether the UK's rhetoric is matched by action.
    Lesley reflects on the experience of Finland's relationship with the former Soviet Union , and now Russia, post the invasions in the aftermath of the Winter War. Will Putin risk another Afghanistan if dragged into an unexpected war of attrition or will he look for a "Finlandisation" settlement?
    Meanwhile the EU is taking unprecedented measures to support Ukraine militarily, welcome refugees, and is even considering fast tracking them into full membership. The UK ,while working with the EU,USA and Canada,on excluding Russian banks from SWIFT, seems stronger on rhetoric and self promoting visuals than assistance to Ukrainians fleeing the war.
    We also evaluate what impact if any the blows to the Russian economy, through the extension of sanctions, will have on Putin's policies.
    The conflict has also revealed significant racism not only in terms of the treatment of black and Asian refugees trying to escape Ukraine but also in the coverage of the conflict by major news outlets.
    The Tory Party and its relationship with Russian donors with strong links to the Putin regime has been thrown into sharp relief yet again by recent events. Will there be a clean up of the sewer of Russian influence on UK politics?
    Alex Salmond has suspended his show on Russia Today. RT is currently under investigation by OFCOM over its coverage of the Ukraine invasion. Lesley believes suspension isn't enough, quitting RT is the only moral decision to make.
    Bella Caledonia has just published an anthology containing "some of the best writing from Scotland in the last fourteen years combining new and established writers. It includes some classic contributions from 2014 that went viral at the time of the independence referendum as well as reflecting the themes and obsessions that have been our focus since then."
    It's genuinely well worth the read, and the contributions are as relevant now as they were then.
    https://leamingtonbooks.com/bella-caledonia

  • Living with the bear

    We recorded this episode just minutes before Germany announced its decision to shelve its Russian gas pipeline.
    Russian troops crossed the border into the self declared Peoples Republics of Donetsk and Lubansk. We ask if the West will present a united front in terms of sanctions given the obvious divisions, particularly in Europe, in terms of energy dependency and Russian financial clout in the UK.
    Clear divisions are once again emerging between England and the devolved administrations over tackling Covid with the announcement of the UK's dropping of all regulations and ending of free testing. Is this a strategy based on any scientific evidence or yet another attempt of Johnson to curry favour with the right wing of his party?
    Sarah Smith hit the headlines this week saying she felt relieved to have left the country after enduring years of misogynistic “bile and hatred” in her role as BBC Political Editor. We try and delve beneath this very personal take on her tenure and question whether anyone within the current BBC climate can successfully navigate what is essentially a situation where Scotland is evenly split on independence.
    The UK government has announced its "Living with Covid" plans and the reaction from the devolved governments, the BMA, and the scientific community has been almost entirely negative. Is this yet another attempt by Johnson to play to the Covid Recovery Group of right wingers to stave off a leadership challenge?
    The Scottish Climate Change Assembly has published its reply to the Scottish government's response to its findings, and they're no very happy.
    Along the way there's also talk of driving in the snow, why wind in the SE of England is more important than wind in the Highlands plus a wee reference to a draw at Tannadice.
    Nordic Horizons links
    The Nordic Verdict - which focuses on the way district heating works in Denmark and Sweden
     https://www.nordichorizons.org/latest-event-cop26-success-or-cop-out-the-nordic-verdict-mon-29th-november-2021-1900-2130-gmt-by-zoom/
    The next Nordic Horizons event on the response of Nordic neighbours (inc Finland) to Russian invasion on March 10th. Free but register please
    https://www.nordichorizons.org/nordic-reactions-to-the-russian-challenge/ 

  • Stories Untold

    The front pages are full of the ongoing Russia/Ukraine crisis. Lesley brings her Nordic lens to bear on the situation and asks what lies behind the super power posturing.
    If you want to know more about this,register for the Nordic Horizons event-- Nordic reactions to the Russian Challenge- March 10 7pm GMT.
     Free but you need to register.
    All details https://www.nordichorizons.org/nordic-reactions-to-the-russian-challenge/
    Boris Johnson made his much heralded visit to Scotland on Monday. But who was he really speaking to? Certainly not Douglas Ross and the Scottish Tories and definitely not the 75% of the Scottish public who think he should resign over Partygate.
    A definite split emerged between the SNP and the Greens over the Scottish Government's decision to engage with Westminster and set up so called "Greenports".This also after opposition to this at conference and from the SNP Trade Union Group. 
    The issue of pensions post independence reared its head again this week. Another iteration of Project Fear, yes, but also a timely reminder that not only does policy in areas like pensions, currency, and borders need to be clarified but that any successful campaign has to be built around more than facts and figures. We need stories to tell of how Scotland has got to where we are now, and how our future can be so much better.

  • Belfast to Dublin

    Lesley is in Ireland this week and has travelled down from Belfast to Dublin . We open by looking at the resignation of DUP First Minister Paul Givan, and the latest opinion polls on Irish re-unification. 
    On the day that the movie Belfast, we may have mentioned it in passing previously, has been nominated for seven Oscars the deckchairs on the sinking ship of SS Boris Johnson's Cabinet have been reshuffled. Will this sleight of hand save his premiership?
    Rivalling Jacob Rees-Mogg's Minister for Brexit Opportunities in the ludicrous stakes is Chris Philp the Disinformation Minister. He and Kwasi Kwarteng have been rolled out to double down on Johnson's Savile slurs after Starmer was harassed by protestors.
    NPF4 ,the National Planning Framework for Scotland is out for consultation. Dull though it sounds,Lesley picks its main proposals apart and tells us why we should all pay attention to it.
    We also reflect on the controversial Raith Rovers signing of David Goodwillie and that Jimmy Carr Roma/Sinti "joke".

  • Shifty Evades The Gray?

    The Sue Gray report, full version to perhaps be published after the police investigation, finally appeared on Monday. Boris Johnson was subjected to a lengthy grilling MPs. We look at the events in the Commons and the appearances by his surrogates on TV and radio in their aftermath. Not surprisingly this takes up most of the podcast.
    Michael Gove's White Paper on "levelling up" is due out this week. the UK government says that this will regenerate our town centres and high streets, support individuals into employment, improve local transport links and invest in local culture, while giving communities a stronger voice to take over cherished local assets that might otherwise be lost." Lesley drives a coach and horses through these extravagant claims.
    January 30th was the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. There was a cross community and multi faith service in commemoration in Derry on Sunday. We reflect not only the events of that day in 1972 but the struggle of the victims' families for justice

  • Days Like This

    It almost seems not if but when will Boris Johnson be removed as PM after yet another No 10 party revelation, coupled with claims of Islamophobia at the top of the Tory Party, and a very public resignation over a "lamentable track record" in tackling fraud in the Covid loan scheme.
    However, just what, other than as Matthew Paris put it, a more palatable ,less untrustworthy, head of the UK government , difference would dropping this particular pilot make?
    Wales FM Mark Drakeford appeared on the Today programme. Did his refusal to ask for more powers to be devolved signal what might be in,or more importantly what might not be in, Labour's much trumpeted Brown report on the UK constitution?
    Nicola Sturgeon was in the prime spot on BBC's Sunday Morning show. Sophie Raworth pushed her, given previous SNP statements, on an impending indyref2, and recent polls showing the country still evenly divided Yes v No.
    We look at the opportunities, and threats, that this current crisis has created both for the SNP and the Yes movement. Will the SNP finally bring all its guns to bear on the big policy decisions it has to make to advance beyond the current 50% pro independence that the polls show? What strategy will it employ after the inevitable rejection of the granting of a Section 30 order?
    Lesley brings her knowledge of the Nordic and Baltic states to shed light on the increasing tensions between Russia and the Ukraine. Is invasion inevitable?
    Finally we review Kenneth Branagh's "Belfast". Our verdict? Go and see it. Now!

  • Disconnects

    Douglas Ross and the Scottish Tories were quick to call for Boris Johnson's resignation in the light of recent Partygate revelations. Former Conservative MSP, Professor Adam Tomkins, has called for a separate Scottish party to stand in Holyrood and local elections while retaining the link with the UK party for Westminster. We pick apart this "intriguing" suggestion.
    The No 10 parties seem to have cut through  as recent polls have shown, far more than crony contracts, lockdown delays, and any number of other issues. Just what is it about the unfolding stories of an "alcohol culture" at the heart of government that has touched the public so deeply?
    Despite this groundswell of popular opinion there seems little appetite among Tory MPs, other than an odd minority of hard core Brexiteers and "wets", to call for Johnson to go. We go behind the public declarations of loyalty to try and analyse the internal party manoeuvring.
    The Irish had their own Covid regulation breaking scandal, Golfgate. Heads rolled. Is First Past the Post to blame for Westminster political entropy in toppling the PM?
    Like many of us we're instinctively opposed to anything that Nadine Dorries proposes. However, again like many of us, we're disquieted about the role of the BBC ,particularly in its stance on and coverage of Scottish politics dating back to Indyref1. Where then does that leave us with the current threats to BBC funding?

  • Party Fears 2

    A new year but an old set of problems for the Prime Minister as evidence mounts of yet another illegal gathering at No 10 during lockdown in 2020.
    We examine what's going on within the Tory ranks and wonder just when the "grey men" may wield the axe on Boris Johnson.
    Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer made a couple of mind numbing speeches outlining his vision of a Labour UK,while wrapping himself in the Union flag and conveniently forgetting the left of centre pledges he mad to get himself elected party leader. The only policy he seemed certain on was a blank refusal to countenance any post electoral agreement with the SNP. Unionism trumps all with Starmer's Labour and does this signal that he's given up on Scotland in pursuit of lost English votes?
    Devo Max, remember that from 2014, was back in the news this week with former SNP  policy chief Chris Hanlon calling for three options - including "devo-max" - to be put to voters in a second independence referendum in order to break the constitutional logjam. Spoiler,we don't think it's a goer for a multitude of reasons.
    Four people accused of illegally removing a statue to Edward Colston were cleared of criminal damage this week. This set Lesley thinking why there have been no similar incidents in Scotland.
    As usual we wander down some other highways and byways including Icelandic cricket!

  • The Preston Model

    We speak with Sarah Longlands Chief Executive of CLES(The Centre for Local Economic Strategies), and Councillor Matthew Brown,Leader of Preston City Council,about all things Community Wealth Building and in particular what's come to be known as the Preston Model.
    https://cles.org.uk/
    https://cles.org.uk/the-community-wealth-building-centre-of-excellence/
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paint-Your-Town-Red-Preston/dp/1913462196
    https://repeaterbooks.com/product/paint-your-town-red-how-preston-took-back-control-and-your-town-can-too/
    https://www.preston.gov.uk/article/1791/The-definitive-guide-to-the-Preston-model

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