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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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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