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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

  • 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.

  • The Shortest Day

    In last week's podcast Lesley mentioned a Facebook friend who has decided to come off social media because of a bad cancer diagnosis. It prompted some discussion about the number of Yessers who would love to record their support for independence while they're still able. So Lesley recorded this conversation with Andi Holmes and his partner Sue Livingstone a few days ago - edited by Chris Smith. They hope it delivers a strong, upbeat message about Scotland's future on this cold Shortest Day 

  • Those by-election blues

    The Liberal Democrats pulled off a stunning victory in the North Shropshire by-election taking a constituency which had been true blue Tory for 200 years. We look at the result, the events that led to the contest, what it says about the changing political climate in England, and the future, if any, for the Johnson premiership.
    This latest disaster for Johnson came hard on the heels of a back bench rebellion over new Covid measures where he depended on Labour votes to secure a majority. We examine not just these splits in Tory ranks, and potential leadership challengers, but what the Starmer's Labour is doing to position itself as a potential government.
    Meanwhile in Holyrood the Scottish government has once again been forced to go cap in hand to Westminster to plead for support to mitigate the impact of the restrictions to combat the spread of the Omicron variant. Once again throwing into sharp relief the burning need for independence.
    And while we  are lining up for booster jags, variants, like Omicron, are spawning across the developing world. Is nobody safe until everyone is safe and is vaccine justice not just the moral thing but the smart thing to implement?
    All of this plus much more in the final podcast episode of 2021

  • Polls Apart

    We begin with the ongoing controversy over the Cambo oilfield and the accusation in certain quarters that Nicola Sturgeon is a latter day Margaret Thatcher overseeing the destruction of an industry and communities in the NE of Scotland. Can the Scottish government do more to enable a just transition within its limited powers or is it hamstrung by the conduct and policies of Westminster?
    Shocking claims have been made by a civil service whistleblower over, what he claims, was a failure at all levels of the UK government to meet its obligations to evacuate Afghans linked to Britain during the Taliban takeover.
    Is this symptomatic of a governing party mired in corruption, incompetence ,and malice on a massive scale?
    Dominic Raab was at the centre of these claims and was also the latest government minister rolled out, this time on the Marr Show, to try and spin the way out of the Covid law breaking parties alleged to have taken place during London lockdown last Christmas.
    Will these revelations cut through to the voting public down south?
    And in the week where a poll showed support for Scottish independence at 55%, and dissatisfaction with Boris Johnson among Scottish voters at 80% the Tories still held Old Bexley and Sidcup in a by election. However the voter turnout was risible at just over 33%. A symptom of voter disillusionment or the a result of the first past the post voting system?

    All this plus our thoughts on the power of music with the release of the Peter Jackson Beatles documentary, Get Back.
    And if you want to contribute to Michael Yellowlees fundraiser visit

  • Resolutions and reshuffles

    It doesn't seem two minutes since the last one but it was the 87th SNP Annual Conference, once again in its online version, last week.It saw two significant motions passed on the setting up of a Scottish Reserve Bank and a Scottish Civil Service. Dr Tim Rideout spearheaded both of these and he spoke to us about their importance and chances of becoming SNP policy. Plus we got an insight into the internal workings of the party ,from his perspective, in terms of the chances of conference resolutions becoming party policy and the role of the Policy Development Committee.
    We also look at what was contained in Nicola Sturgeon's keynote speech.

    The media focused on the row over who knew what and when about Keir Starmer's Labour Shadow ministerial reshuffle. However there seems to be a definite split over both the creation of a National Energy Company and a move away from fossil fuel reliance when the change in portfolio for Ed Milliband at a UK level, and the resignation of Monica Lennon from her Holyrood post, are taken into account.

     It's St Andrew's Day,so we shamelessly plug "The Coach's" charity to restore the birthplace of our national flag,the saltire.
    To find out more you can visit the website . You can also follow them on Twitter @saltirescotland.
    As usual there's also a whole lot more including Pat's, mercifully cut short by Lesley, trip down Catholic holidays of obligation rabbit hole.

  • Making Plans

    It's hard to imagine any other senior politician, let alone a Prime Minister whose whole reputation is built on his powers of speech, surviving the shambles of Boris Johnson's CBI debacle. However, surviving he currently is, but for how long given the long list of crises queuing up in the wings along with dissatisfied and disgruntled wings of his own party? Or will the establishment veneer of superficial competence and confidence see him through?
    What then of the opposition? A Labour party seemingly scared of its own shadow, with a leader seemingly stronger on tackling dissent within his own ranks than putting forward a positive vision of a Labour UK.
    We also speculate on to whom some MPs actually owe their loyalty but whether the focus by both Labour and the SNP on the second jobs issue is letting the Tories off the hook over the VIP lane for Covid contracts scandal?
    There's been a shift in Scottish government policy on the Cambo oil field but why the reluctance on this, and other issues, of the SNP to attack the UK government on its policies, or lack of them, in not just this but so many other areas.
    Priti Patel launched an attack on Scottish local authorities for their apparent lack of involvement in refugee and asylum seekers resettlement. We try and put the record straight and once again Tory privatisation and the revolving door between that party and profiteering private sector providers is at the heart of the matter.

  • The Survival Instinct

    We, unashamedly, begin with our unbridled joy at the success of the Scotland men's football team in qualifying for the World Cup play offs after a stunning victory v Denmark.
    COP26 ended with after two weeks of intense negotiations and we reflect on where 1.5 to stay alive stands now.
    Lesley also talks about her experiences at the recent Revive one-day event, People, Wildlife & Environment.
    Boris Johnson seems befuddled and beleaguered. Can he survive in the light of the impending HS2/Northern Powerhouse Rail u turns and the ongoing corruption bourach? The Tory Party is notoriously vicious in ridding itself of electorally vulnerable leaders, but has Johnson and his Cabinet of Brexiteer incompetents done irredeemable damage not only to the economy but to peace in Northern Ireland?
    Nicola Sturgeon has come under fire from the usual quarters over her presence at COP26 with particular ire being reserved for her photos with the great and the good. Was there more to this than self promotion.? We think there was.

  • The Kids Are Alright

    It's been a week with young people leading the way on climate action not only in Glasgow but around the world. 
    The media decided to focus almost entirely on Greta Thunberg but there are lots more inspiring young "leaders" out there advancing the cause of climate action and justice.
    We take a look at what political power they might be able to wield.
    There's also been a lot to admire in community action in Maryhill where local residents are campaigning for a community buy out in the Valley area to build eco friendly social housing.
    However we also had to look at the swirl of corruption surrounding the Tory party and government with the Owen Paterson case and cash for peerages scandal.
    Along the way we touch on the future of HS2,Brian Cox v Sir Keir Starmer ,Andrew Marr's Dundonian roots, and the joys of compost.

    Brilliant, vivid, thoughtful poems on the climate crisis by Glaswegian Peter Clive. This slim, eminently dip-able collection of climate/planet poetry will make you sad, furious, hopeful and scared but also inspired by the natural wonders of our embattled world.
     Ideal green-prezzie for Christmas says Lesley. 
  • COP26

    In this episode we focus almost the entire podcast on COP26.
    Lesley attended COP26 this week. She describes her experience and gives her observations on the organisation and structure of the event,who was there,who wasn't, who spoke,who had to listen and reflects on their significance.
    We also look at major issues such as the failure of Climate Funding,ongoing lawsuits against the major fossil fuel companies,and the role of those companies in sowing doubt about climate change and blocking meaningful action.
    If,like us,you want to get involved and help bring climate justice to COP26 go to
    The brilliant Dispatches programme
    Black, Black Oil on BBC Scotland channel 10pm on Wednesday November 3

  • Unions and the union

    The Scottish media is full of the strikes planned for during COP26. We try and look behind the headlines to make sense of why,and why now.

    We also examine the UK government decision not to go with the Acorn CCS project. Was it blatant politicking and playing to "red wall" areas by the Tories? Why did they feel so confident in their ability to ignore Acorn's unanswerable economic case and why didn't Scots Conservative MPs not take the chance to "stand up for Scotland"?
    The BMA and other medical organisations have said that the vaccine alone won't tackle the rising tide of Covid cases in England,yet Boris Johnson seems,for now,implacably opposed to the implementation of "Plan B". What does this say not only about the underlying ideology of the current Tory Party but also,what appears to be, that of a substantial section of the English public.

  • 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.
    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.

  • 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.

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