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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

  • Win lose or draw

    The Supreme Court's verdict on whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate for a Referendum Bill will be reached this Wednesday. Lesley has been one of the major driving forces behind the ever-growing number of rallies across Scotland, and increasingly across Europe, supporting Scotland's right to choose.
    In the first part of the podcast, we focus on why these rallies, no matter the decision reached, are so important, and how Yessers can get involved'
    If you want to know more about where and when you can join a rally click the link below
    "NHS leaders in Scotland have discussed abandoning the founding principles of the service by having the wealthy pay for treatment" was the headline on the BBC as James Cook broke the story that the idea of a "two tier service" had been discussed by NHS Chief Executives back in September during "brain-storming".
    We pick apart the furore that erupted over the reporting, the faux outrage of the Tories,Labour, and Lib Dems, and try and get beneath that to the underlying pressures the Scottish NHS is under within the current constitutional arrangements.
    Tory budgets seem to be like buses. You wait ages for one then two come along at the same time. Jeremy Hunt may seem like a "grown up" to the markets but what are the implications for ordinary folk of his Autumn Statement?

  • So run

    There's been plenty speculation about the contents of Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement. Will there be tax rises? Where will the cuts in public spending fall?
    Across most of the press, media, and other political parties(yes you Labour) it seems that Austerity 2 is not just inevitable but unavoidable. We question not just these implicit assumptions but also where that £50 billion "black hole" came from.
    Dire predictions about a red Republican wave in the US mid-term elections were being made but the Democrats defied them and look like retaining a majority in the Senate though losing the House of Representatives. We reflect on the results and wonder if this is the end of Trump and his hold over the GOP.
    Back in Scotland Labour MSP Alex Rowley has introduced the Domestic Building Environmental Standards (Scotland) Bill which would force all new-build properties to meet the Passivhaus standards, include triple-glazed doors and windows, and increased insulation.
    What chance of success does it have?
    The campaign to hold rallies after the Supreme Court reaches its decision on Holyrood's ability to legislate for Indyref2 goes from strength to strength with eight now planned. If you want to sign up here's the link
    The football World Cup begins this weekend in Qatar. The buildup, Eh ken Scotland didnae qualify, has been distinctly underwhelming. Given the controversy surrounding the awarding of the tournament to Qatar, its record on LGBT rights, and treatment of migrant workers, is this any wonder?
    Lesley also pays tribute to the late, great Mike Blackshaw

  • The Promised Land

    After the "I've more important issues to deal with" Rishi Sunak has u-turned and gone to COP27. Greta Thunberg thinks the summit is about 'greenwashing, lying and cheating'. Is she right?
    Meanwhile in Scotland a new generation of "green capitalists" is seeking to cash in on carbon offsetting. But at what cost to local communities, and has the resultant explosion in land values ruled out future community buy outs?
    The UK government's handling of immigration and asylum seeking has done the unthinkable and united parliamentary voices from both the left and right in condemnation. Patel and Braverman have been playing the "invasion" and "overwhelming numbers" card but how well does that stand up to analysis?
    Sir Keir Starmer redefined car crash interview with his appearance on BBC Scotland's The Sunday Show. Why was he so woefully underprepared and poorly briefed? He, like Liz Truss before him, made it clear that even if the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament had the power to legislate for an independence referendum, he, if PM, would veto it.
    If you want to sign up to be notified about the planned, peaceful, demonstrations to take place when the Supreme Court reaches its decision here's the link
    There's also a fabulous trad gig, With Love to Ukraine, on November 16th at the Eden Court in Inverness where the Highlands will pay tribute to Ukraine, its people and their struggle for freedom.
    To buy tickets go to

  • Podcast Special-the future is cooperative

    While Britain struggles with sky-high bills, and private water, electricity and oil companies make record profits, Finland relies on a unique system of economic shock absorbers. Cooperatives deliver everything from water and electricity to hotel breaks and ferries. They started in the late 1800s and today there are more cooperative memberships than Finns. How does it work? Lesley visited Finland this summer to find out.

  • Rishi Rich

    Rishi Sunak becomes Prime Minister and pledges to be a compassionate Conservative who will restore integrity,stability and trust. Do his Cabinet appointments bear this out?
    We are highly sceptical to say the least as the old boys from the Johnson administration are back and Suella Braverman returns as Home Secretary.
    The majority of the podcast is taken up with our reactions and reflections on the day of reshuffles as they happened and thoughts on the policies, not just the personalities, of the Sunak premiership.
    We also look at Keir Starmer's doubling down on "making Brexit work", Labour's stance on immigration, and ask if he has thrown Scottish Labour under the bus.
    All this plus our review of The Banshees of Inisherin.

  • A Very British Coup?

    It took just four weeks for the Trussonomic revolution to collapse leaving the pound trashed, mortgages soaring, and the only folk smiling the hedge fund managers who, just like with Brexit, made a killing through their speculation.
    After sacking her "in lock step with me" Chancellor,Truss was visible through her noticeable absence leaving Kwarteng's replacement, Jeremy Hunt, to be lauded by the media as the "safe pair of hands". We ask if there has been a political coup right under our noses and if Liz Truss is now merely a Prime Minister in name only.
    The return of Hunt to not just the front benches but to the second most important office of state has been met with almost spectacular amnesia by most of the media and commentators on his disastrous spell as Secretary of State of Health. 
    We also look at the unedifying spectacle of Penny Mordant's performance during the Urgent Question debate where revenge for her defeat in the Tory leadership contest was a dish eaten not even half cold.
    In sharp contrast the Scottish Government published its Building a New Scotland: A stronger economy with independence paper almost simultaneously. Is it an oasis of stability and calm in the midst of Tory economic chaos or a missed opportunity to flesh out a different economic path for an independent Scotland?

  • Speechless

    The final speeches of Liz Truss and Nicola Sturgeon at their respective annual conferences threw into sharp relief not just their vastly different communication skills but the chasm in their beliefs and values.
    Truss focused her attention on attacking the "anti-growth coalition" and those who would break up her precious union. All to the background of outright rebellion in her ranks, as her Home Secretary, Suella Braverman was reveling in her reactionary dreams of deportation to Rwanda.
    Meanwhile in Aberdeen the SNP exuded rigid discipline with limited outbreaks of minor dissent particularly over land reform.
    We compare and contrast those speeches and consider some of the motions that passed, in particular the raising of the school starting age.
    However, the focus of the media at the conference was on that Laura Kuenssberg interview that the FM gave on Sunday where she stated that she detested the Tories.
    We look at the reporting of Nicola Surgeon's comments by the BBC and the media feeding frenzy that followed.
    Meanwhile back in the real world there's been a massive leap in interest rates. Lesley examines the growing crisis in housing fueled by soaring mortgages and its impact on folk.
    The Supreme Court began its hearing on the right of the Scottish Parliament to hold an advisory referendum on Scottish independence. The Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Government, and the Attorney General for the UK Government, presented their cases for and against the ability of the court to even make a judgment on this.
    Currently this is in the balance please sign up to to rally and make our voices heard no matter the outcome.

  • Trickle or retreats

    The disaster of the "mini-budget" nearly crashed the UK's pension funds and saw a massive drop in value of sterling with calls from Tory big beasts to reverse the plans to borrow to fund tax cuts and threats of a back bench rebellion. Truss and Kwarteng caved and u-turned on the cut to the top rate of income tax, but can they survive?
    Will their refusal to raise benefits in line with inflation, unlike pensions, lead to another revolt?
    We look at the current state of opinion polls, the mood music from Tory MPs worried about holding on to their seats and speculate on the imminence not only of a General Election but of yet another Conservative leadership coup.
    We also consider the mental gymnastics now being performed by Scottish Tories who demanded the Scottish Government copy that top rate tax cut but who now totally support Kwarteng's U-turn.
    Truss also signaled her complete opposition to another Scottish independence referendum even if the Supreme Court ruled in the Scottish Government's favour. Where would this leave Scottish Labour,Lib Dems, and Tories, in this blatant attack on democracy?
    Focus has finally turned on the economics of Truss's plans for growth. Do they stack up?
    The Tories also made great play on claims of Labour's economic incompetence. How well do these hold up in reality?
    Labour gained great publicity on its plans to create the Great British Energy Company. This seemed to throw down a challenge,from the left, to the SNP. However, will this publicly owned company challenge the current privatised system in any meaningful form?
    All this plus praise for STV's political coverage, BBC local radio presenters, and a couple of very different movie recommendations.

  • Conference calls

    Sir Keir Starmer closed the Labour Party annual conference as polls showed a 17-point lead over the Tories. He described this as a Labour moment harking back to 1945,1964, and 1997. What was his vision for a future Labour government, and what if anything did he have to say about Scotland?
    We also wonder what impact his statements on the Green transformation and a publicly owned energy company might have on SNP policy.
    Meanwhile the SNP has published its agenda for its annual conference in October. We take a look what's in there, and possibly more importantly what's not.
    Lesley has been attending umpteen Yes meetings recently and reckons it's time for the movement to be proactive instead of waiting for the lead from the SNP to get out there and campaign.
    Gordon Brown's much trumpeted review on the future of the Union has been leaked. Was it worth the wait? Does it live up to the hype?
    When is a budget not a budget? When you don't want the OBR carrying out detailed analysis of its impact.
    All this plus some thoughts from Pat on the recent Italian elections on his return from Tuscany.

  • Jim Spence-Meh Dundee

    In this podcast Pat flies solo and is in conversation with fellow Lawsider, and Arab, Jîm Spence about their home city, Dundee.

  • Malachi O'Doherty

     Malachi O’Doherty is a writer and broadcaster based in Belfast, a columnist for the Belfast Telegraph and a frequent contributor to several radio programmes as a respected commentator on Northern Ireland. His last book for Merrion was a novel, Terry Brankin Has a Gun. It was hailed by critics as ‘a superb thriller’. Malachi was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing by Queen’s University Belfast and has received a Major Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland .Malachi's new book "Can Ireland Be One" will be published by Merrion Press in September 2022.

  • One day like this

    So, after almost two months of non-government at Westminster and a Tory leadership battle that filled the political pages and airwaves Boris Johnson finally left office and Liz Truss went to Balmoral to "kiss the hand" of the monarch
    We look back at Truss's performances and examine her policies and find both wanting at so many levels.
    Truss is focusing on tax cuts and breaks for the well off and big business and we ask if this is a return to debunked "trickle-down economics"?
    There have been leaks aplenty over her plans to tackle energy price rises Do they stack up or are they simply kicking the pain further down the road until after a General Election?
    Meanwhile back in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon laid out the Programme for Government with headline policies such as an immediate ban on evictions and a rent freeze while calling for a robust response by the UK government to the cost-of-living crisis.
    But will the Scottish government be forced into yet more mitigations of Tory policies as the Truss economic policies kick in?

  • The bairn necessities

    As consumers and businesses real from the latest energy price rises where are not only the Tories but also the Labour opposition on tackling the root causes of the crisis?
    Liz Truss, apparently waiting for the full briefing available only to a "functioning government", has pledged to tear up any semblance of a green energy policy to expand North Sea oil and gas exploration and restart fracking. 
    Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer, despite the growing popularity of renationalising public utilities, has abandoned his commitment to public ownership.
    Labour, before Starmer's team rolled back on it and after being blasted by Welsh Labour, which is currently in coalition with Plaid Cymru, had signaled a potential change to Labour's rule book barring any deals with pro-independence parties such as the SNP. Was this a move which would, given Labour's willingness to do such deals with the Tories in Scottish local government, be an electoral disaster in Scotland at the next General Election?
    Meanwhile Stephen Noon, chief strategist of the 2014 Yes campaign, urged Nicola Sturgeon to halt plans to use that election as a proxy independence referendum and enter a conversation to build a better Scotland within the UK. We ask just how practical this is given the embedded unionism of both major parties and the lack of any meaningful progress on enhanced devolution.
    Emily Maitlis was excoriating in her condemnation of direct Conservative Party interference in BBC reporting in her MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival. We reflect on this, with specific insights from Lesley on her time with the BBC, and Pat looks back at Maitlis's involvement in the demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn. 
    Finally, delegates head to the SNP annual conference in Aberdeen this October and hopefully they will have a chance to vote on a transformational motion to raise Scotland's school starting age to six. As Lesley said in her recent Herald article," ..our children require a collective act of faith in their own innate ability to learn without judgement, uniforms, desks, formality, and tests when they're just four or five. Are SNP delegates ready to deliver?"

  • It's a ganging wrang

    If we've learned anything from this Tory leadership contest it's that muscular, unitary state unionism is back with a bang. We examine the statements by Truss and Sunak at the Perth hustings and the recent musings from Lord Frost and consider just how far the Tories will go in undermining devolution to stave off independence. We also speculate that given the polls on Scottish attitudes to the EU and the powers of Holyrood in terms of calling indyref2 just how successful that strategy will be.
    The Perth hustings also provided an insight into the mindset of Scottish Tory members not just on independence and the powers of Holyrood, but also social issues. However much of the media coverage focused on the abuse BBC journalist James Cook received from a tiny group of protestors. 
    Does this indicate what's to come and the start of the anti-independence campaign for real?
    As inflation continues to rise inexorably leading economists have pointed to Brexit as a self-inflicted trade war which accounts for 80% of core UK inflation. Yet the BBC continues to shy away from any meaningful analysis of its impact. Why?
    Grant Shapps suggested that bicycles should have registration plates and cyclists should have compulsory insurance. A dead cat from a struggling Transport Secretary of yet another piece of the culture wars playbook?

  • Stormy weather

    As Labour unveils its plans to tackle the energy price rises crisis are all political parties simply tinkering with a broken,  privatised utilities system?
    Keir Starmer looks as if he's ignored even the modest proposal from Gordon Brown to bring the Big Six energy companies into temporary public ownership in favour of a price cap freeze across the board.
    Why has he rejected what, according to opinion polls, would be popular voters and what are the flaws in his plan?
    Meanwhile, as the energy producers rake in massive profits and reap the benefits of the UK tax system no political party seems willing to back any form of public ownership.
    Will the Scottish government bring us in line with all other developed countries and raise the age kids start school to six?
    Check out how the Norwegian system works by visiting the Nordic Horizons podcast site
    The Tory leadership candidates are in Perth for their sole Scottish hustings. 
    Both have issued their challenges to the SNP focusing on greater "scrutiny" of both the civil service and the Scottish government.
    These hardly seem rallying cries for the unionist faithful in fighting the drive towards independence. While in the wings two thirds of their supporters would welcome the return of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

  • Crisis. What crisis?

    As Boris Johnson is posted missing and suddenly discovers a set of Parliamentary rules that conveniently means he can't create an emergency budget the two Tory leadership candidates continue to punt themselves to their narrow constituency. Liz Truss's economic plans being rubbished by left and right both and Rishi Sunak letting slip the reality of "levelling up" in Tunbridge Wells.
    Both claim to be the inheritors of the Thatcher legacy and both as Prime Minister would fail to tackle the root causes of the current economic crisis within privatised  Brexit Britain.
    However Truss's policies make even Sunak's appear logical and progressive.
    Lesley questions whether any of this will have any impact on the 160,000 Tory members who will be deciding our next PM?

    Great play has been made by both, that any public sector pay rises would fuel inflation.  We look at what Tory economic policies have meant to working people over the last decade and just who the winners and losers are.
    There's growing momentum behind the "Don't Pay" campaign demanding a reduction of energy bills to an affordable level. With another massive hike on October 1st and predictions of the cap rising to over £4000 in January is this a campaign whose time has come?

    Meanwhile Angela Rayner in Edinburgh,once again, revealed quite how out of touch Labour is on the issue of indyref2. She ruled out working with the SNP in a hung Parliament, claiming that Scottish independence would lead to "perpetual Conservatism at Westminster". We ask what difference, if any, a Starmer Labour government would make.

  • No more heroes?

    Liz Truss, the favourite to become the new PM, said that Nicola Sturgeon was an attention seeker who should be ignored. This went down a storm at the Tory hustings but was it a major tactical error?
    Has she, despite what Murdo Fraser claimed, misjudged the mood of even non indy supporting Scots?
    Truss still is the front runner in the leadership contest, but it looks like Sunak is gaining support in the big southern English branches. It might not be all over.
    While both candidates have been making lavish tax cutting promises, are they on the horns of what economist David McWilliams calls a "Trilemma "? The attempt to have a balanced budget while cutting taxes and levelling up.
    Martin Lewis, Marcus Rashford, and Jack Monroe have become "people's heroes" with their single-issue campaigns. Lesley asks if they've become the unofficial opposition but one that will only be successful if not focusing on systemic political change.
    The Tories looked to play the Thatcher anti-union card with their repeal of trade union legislation banning the use of agency workers to break strikes. Have they picked the wrong fight given the public mood?
    All these plus thoughts on the England women winning Euro 2022, the proposal to raise the age Scottish bairns start primary school to six, and the Commonwealth Games.

  • Thatcher's bairns

    The final two standing in the battle to become Tory leader and Prime Minister faced off in the first televised debate last night, both vying to wear the mantle of Margaret Thatcher. We watched so you didn't have to,and reflect not only on the performance of Truss and Sunak but also what the BBC deemed to be the big issues.

     Meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer turned Labour's back on pledges to take public ownership of rail,mail,energy, and water. Does Starmer's "pragmatism" mark a complete surrender to and acceptance of Thatcherite privatisation? However on his visit to Liverpool he couldn't escape the justified anger of a veteran Labour socialist.
    We also try and make sense of what Starmer means by "distinctively British".
    An independent review into allegations of racism in Scottish cricket has found the governance and leadership of the sport to be institutionally racist. Folk on social media complained about what they saw as wall-to-wall coverage by Sky and others of the report as another attempt to talk down Scotland claiming that when related stories/reports emerged in English cricket no such blanket reporting took place.
    Was this justified?
    Things may be grim for many in Scotland - they're truly terrible for millions in Somalia with the Ukraine grain shortage & worst drought in 40 yrs. Powerful report on News at Ten by Peter Smith. If you can give, please do.
    UNICEF link here

  • Issues of Truss

    As Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak emerge as the final two candidates for leader of the Conservative Party and the next Prime Minister, we pick over the debris of those debates and cast another eye over their policies and pitches to the Tory faithful.
    The contest is being presented as a battle between Sunak-left, and Truss-right, but is there that much difference between the two? Our answer will come as no surprise. We reflect on the composition of that Tory electorate and what influence the right-wing press may have on them. We also reach the conclusion that, given the current polls, Liz Truss will soon be facing Sir Keir Starmer and Ian Blackford across the despatch box.
    Starmer recently ruled out any reform to the outdated First Past the Post electoral system saying, "It's not a priority." is this not only an affront to genuine democracy but politically illiterate?
    The Scottish Government has opened up its latest Land Reform Bill for public consultation. Is it so mired in technocratic speak that it's impossible for any non-expert to get to grips with it and is it even asking the right questions?,range%20of%20land%2Drelated%20issues.

    Public Events

    • Glenmoriston Millenium Hall, Invermoriston on Monday 25 July 2022 (EventBrite link)
    • Timespan, Helmsdale on Tuesday 26 July 2022 (EventBrite link)
    • Stornoway Town Hall, Stornoway on Wednesday 27 July 2022 (EventBrite link)
    • Victoria and Albert Halls, Ballater on Thursday 28 July 2022 (EventBrite link)
    The Minister will also be holding an online event between 6:30pm and 8:00pm on Thursday 21 July 2022 (EventBrite link).
  • The Passing Parade

    The Tory Party leadership contest following Boris Johnson's resignation is the only show in town this week and we have our own particular take on it. This involves our attempts to find any utterances on Scotland beyond, "You'll have had your indyref!" and a kind of trivia quiz for the politically obsessed.
    Within this rather dubious framework we try and pick apart the candidates' platforms and chances of inheriting the throne. This means looking at the make up and attitudes of the Tory Party membership who'll have the final say. Not a pretty sight.
    Much is being made, in the usual places by the usual suspects, about the blow to support for Scottish independence that Johnson's departure will mean. Lesley dismantles this piece of wishful thinking.
    Having pinned the Labour Party's colours very definitely to the Brexit mast it really seems that Starmer has given up on Scotland to focus on winning back that "Red wall". Has he made a tactical error and is there a remote chance that their vote of no confidence motion before the Commons tomorrow will succeed?
    Several of the leadership contenders have made much of their "rags to riches" immigrant back stories. This despite their vociferous support for reactionary immigration and asylum seeking policies. The shocking story of Mo Farrah's trafficked childhood throws this all into stark relief.



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