Inverness Tory tries to ‘gaslight’ Question Time audience with volley of diarrheal comments

Ed: My metaphors are murder?

By stewartb

I didn’t watch BBCQT from Inverness but did catch comments and clips on twitter. Looks to have been a more balanced audience – if not panel – with pro-indy voices making good points, coherently and eloquently.

However, one clip I watched was of the contribution of a Tory ‘activist’ in the audience and it triggered this comment. It concerns the constantly repeated Unionist refrain: ‘Scotland’s failing education system’.

This is an only too obvious tactic. It’s well know from psychology that repeating something many times reinforces the message and – unless contrary information is acquired and/or the discourse is reframed – eventually may get accepted by the subconscious as being the truth.

Repetition is one of the most simple but highly effective ways to ingrain information or pass a message. If the media is dominated by those taking a particular political position, ‘repetition’ is of course made more feasible.

I sympathise with SNP politicians on panel shows or in televised debates in seeking to rebut or reframe. Firstly, the charge ‘failing education’ is often made in a list of similar unsubstantiated negatives – the ‘Gish Gallop’ debating tactic (see below). It takes a VERY skilful debater to counter claims on what is one or multiple complex policy areas in the limited time available.

Secondly, and related to the above, those claiming ‘failure’ never have to define what they mean by this, and on education, rarely provide evidence beyond ‘PISA’! ‘Education’ is a complex, multifaceted area of public policy. Even rebutting PISA scores is a substantial task!

Thirdly, the fact that Scotland’s education system is NOT perfect is not disputed by me – nor by the Scottish Government. How could it possibly be otherwise? Show me any education system – indeed any area of public policy – anywhere, anytime that is perfect? Mature political discourse would acknowledge, and make use of, space between ‘successful’ vs. ‘failed’ positions. But I doubt the Tory activist claiming education failure on BBCQT was interested in debating education!

But my main point here is different. Gaslighting of the Scottish education system has been going on for years. Are members of the teaching profession and their representatives, notably the EIS, unaware or unconcerned with this? Are they aware but content to ignore it, to refrain from pushing back in public fora? Or have I missed the profession’s push back?

For the intrinsic status and reputation of Scottish education – and more, for the public standing of the teaching profession in Scotland – is this OK? Is simply responding as individual teachers at the ballot box sufficient? Should a point come when teaching – as a profession – decides ENOUGH UNSUBSTANTIATED DENIGRATION IS ENOUGH and begin defending its reputation and achievements out of professional self-interest? I wonder.

For those new to the concept of the ‘Gish Gallop’ -see


14 thoughts on “Inverness Tory tries to ‘gaslight’ Question Time audience with volley of diarrheal comments

  1. John , the lack of ”push back ” from , particularly the EIS can , in part , be attributed to the political leaning of Larry Flanagan with his long time links to Labour in Scotland .
    I assume that he was comfortable with generalised criticism of Scottish Education as it was usually directed at the SNP Government .

    Like you , I am surprised at the lack of defence of Scottish Education by the teaching unions . There are plenty of successes that can be thrown back at detractors – who are invariably Scottish unionists writing the script for UK unionists .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are a bit unfair on Flanagan and on the EIS.
      For one thing, his responsibility is to his members, not to the Scottish Government (who ultimately are the employers after all).
      Then there is this – his valedictory now he is retiring which includes this ““When Nicola Sturgeon said ‘judge me on education’, on the one hand you could say ‘that’s great, we have got a First Minister who is ­supporting it’. But I knew it was just going to become a political football because those who are opposed to her don’t want to judge her positively. That ­political divide has worked to the ­detriment of Scottish education.”
      Flanagan said as a result of the ­kicking that politicians are ­continually giving education in Scotland, a narrative had developed that it is ­failing, which is completely untrue.
      As an example, he referenced how Jamie Stone, LibDem MP for ­Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, had asked Tory education ­minister ­Nadhim Zahawi (below) “to share best practice with the Scottish ­Government” so the “scandal” of Scottish education could be “sorted out”.”
      Then there was an interview with Flanagan this year on the Nine when Martin Geissler went off on a long, rather typical diatribe about the state of Scottish education. Unfortunately for Martin, he made the mistake of prefacing it with “Unless I am wrong”, so Flanagan began his response with “Yes, Martin, you are wrong” before going through and rebutting every one of his points.
      I have been out of education for 10 years now, so all I know is what I hear from ex colleagues and read/hear in the media, except for one other source. Our daughter gave up a job with a charity (I wont name – that’s a whole other can or worms) to teach. Unfortunately she started her teacher training in August 2019, so the course hit the lockdown wall in March 2020, the remainder being largely replaced by an extended essay.
      However during one placement in a very deprived area of Glasgow she pretty much floored both her parents (my wife was a teacher and Educational Psychologist) by telling us that in this school one of the senior management was designated as “Head of Nurture”. You might ask – we did – what’s that. Well we’ve all heard the stories about kids starting schools with their dummies, even still in nappies. The Head of Nurture’s job was to help kids who had never been able to develop a relationship with an adult due to the chaotic lifestyle – drink and drugs – of their parents or whoever was responsible for their care. Now that is not an Education problem – its social work and welfare, and long term, but these kids were turning up and the school had to do something, Not succeeding though will be put at the door of the schools. But would we blame Flanagan (or his successor) for being critical?
      Her probationary year was spent in a school that could not have been more of a contrast – the leafy housing estates of the middle class. Problem free? We thought so, but actually just different problems – no discipline, behaviour was consequence free, the only “sanction” was “phone the parents” and when that didnt work “phone them again”. Adjust marks so parents arent disappointed.
      One other issue before this rant comes to its end. How many are aware that at least one Council (and a VERY large on at that) are advertising “term time only” jobs – ie you dont get paid during the holidays? See this From memory, councils were taken to a Tribunal several years ago for not paying holiday pay when their employment – since they were expected back after the holiday – was clearly continuous – and lost. Maybe we have forgotten that – Falkirk seem to have done just that


    2. “Are members of the teaching profession and their representatives, notably the EIS, unaware or unconcerned with this? Are they aware but content to ignore it…..?” The fact is that for decades, long before Larry Flanagan was even a teacher, the most voluble critics of Scottish Education has been a minority of Scottish teachers, with members of the SSTA and the former SSA being the main culprits. Every time there was any attempt to hold teachers to account or if a pay claim was on the way, the teachers bombarded the media with ‘horror’ stories of ‘the blackboard jungle’, of teachers ‘desperate to leave the profession’, etc. The Ferret does a fair bit of this ‘gaslighting’ and, sadly, Darren McGarvey devotes a whole chapter in his recent book to a rant based on Ferret ‘research’ (i.e. prejudiced opinion).


  2. It looks like telling Scots how inferior they are is to be one of the main thrusts of the No campaign, it may be their only policy as I can’t think of any of the 2014 ones which would stand even cursory scrutiny.

    It’s a sight to behold listening and watching these unionists telling us we would be so inadequate at running our own country, maybe they don’t realise they are including themselves in the description. Or possibly being a British Nationalist make you believe you are the exception.


  3. I often ponder this question having worked as a school secretary for over 20 years. Do the very able people employed in the teaching profession take kindly to their work being rubbished so frequently and so publicly? I don’t know many who would not take this as a personal insult for the job they have, in many cases, given their lives to. Do they agree that the Scottish Government is at fault for all of this abject failure and therefore they are somehow not to blame? Or do they simmer angrily every time they hear these words but feel powerless to act because of their conflicting political views?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A different take on what I saw but then again it is the Express.

    BBC Question Time audience member rages at Sturgeon over 2023 IndyRef2 – ‘No means no

    I am sure we all remember the other anti SNP people QT had on the programes.


  5. John/Stewart I do not entirely agree with your synopsis here. As you say Education/Health/ Crime/ Economy are common avenues for Unionists and as such would have expected any SNP MSP/MP/supporter/member appearing on these programmes (especially the BBC) to be fully versed and to offer a ready made instant & robust rebuttal of their constant unsubstantiated tripe. The fact that they often don’t appear to be is very disheartening as they must know this is an area which the SNP are always going to be publicly tested on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gerry, I, respectfully, suggest you may underestimate the difficulty in countering this kind of stuff – in just a minute or two; on one complex or multiple complex topics; without coming across as overly defensive; and of course with the objective of changing minds in favour of your position. And also mindful of the challenge of ‘not mentioning the elephant’ – not providing an evidence based response that has the possibility of re-inforcing an existing negative about you or your position.

      I wrote this some time ago for TUS: it may help illustrate my point.

      ‘Thinking about this reminds me of the revealing book – ‘Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate’ by George Lakoff.

      What follows are extracts from blog posts written by Lakoff in 2018, firstly from one entitled ‘A Modest Proposal: #ProtectTheTruth’ (See: ) The blog is written in the context of US politics and Trumpian/Republican Party campaigning but seems to have wider relevance:

      Lakoff’s underlying thesis: ‘… repetition strengthens the synapses in the neural circuits that people use to think. First, repetition strengthens the synapses in the brain’s circuitry. Second, “framing first” provides an advantage. Third, NEGATING A FRAME BY SAYING IT’S “NOT” TRUE ACTIVATES AND STRENGTHENS THE FRAME. THAT’S JUST HOW OUR BRAINS WORK.’

      Arguably, the corporate media and BBC Scotland still have advantages here – through volume and reach of their repeated outputs – in delivering on the first two of these factors. This is especially so when it comes to a substantial proportion of older Scottish voters still uncertain about or presently opposed to independence.

      Lakoff adds: ‘Unfortunately, many intelligent people — including Democrats and journalists — ignore the findings of the cognitive and brain sciences. They put their faith in the outdated idea of Enlightenment Reason, which dates back to the 1650s.

      ‘As a result, they miss the often-implicit frames, metaphors and narratives that structure morally important truths. THEY WRONGLY BELIEVE THAT BARE FACTS AND LOGIC ALONE WIN THE MORAL DEBATES.’


      “the key is to direct a ‘stream’ of pro-active, accurate messaging at the targeted audience. In other words, REFRAME TO UNDERMINE THE OPPOSITION’S FRAME, AND REPEAT.’

      In January 2018, Lakoff wrote a piece on his blog called ‘The Power of Positive Persistence’. In this he noted: ‘.. the general concept here is more important than any specific tactic. This is about framing, and OUR NEED TO GET A BETTER GRASP ON HOW FRAMING WORKS IN POLITICS AND THE MEDIA.

      ‘Framing is about reclaiming our power to decide what’s important. Framing is about making sure WE set the terms of the debate, using our language and our ideas. Conservatives have beaten progressives at this for decades. It’s time for a change.’

      NOTE: ‘making sure WE set the terms of the debate’!

      Although long, I trust this is of interest!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You would expect Tories in Scotland to be desperate to keep our country under London rule.
    That is the only way they can get a Tory government in our country.
    As for other Unionists who deny Scottish independence,they must have a mental condition which makes them think it is preferable to have people in another country elect their government than for Scots to do so themselves.
    Strange “thinking”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. 1.53 minutes in if you don’t want to listen the ravings of the presenter,this should be way up front on any debate about how rich Scotland and nationalist England depends on us.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Perhaps in this case the simplistic oft repeated Tory attack could have been answered with the equally simplistic but rather more accurate riposte “Lies! Lies! Who ate all the pies?”


  9. Angus Robertson recognised the Tory plant in the audience and called him out on the programme. Quoted his name and Tory affiliation. He knew him.

    The Tory on the programme stood for election as a candidate and was never elected. Another failure.


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