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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

  • 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.

  • Parks Life

    Like death and taxes there's currently no escape from the strains of "It's coming home". 
    We reflect on the complexities and contradictions of a multi-cultural England football team representing,what seems to be,an increasingly xenophobic,insular English polity, and the hypocrisy of the UK government riding on the coattails of its success.
    Indyref2 in the first part of this parliamentary term was an SNP manifesto commitment.  We explore the vital role of the SNP membership to deliver on this promise for the whole Yes movement.
    It came as no surprise to most of us when Dominic Cummings revealed that Boris Johnson was an "unthinking unionist" who,despite all the spin, would gladly see devolution dismantled. However we ask if Johnson is the aberration or the norm for UK Prime Ministers for whom devolution is a bulwark against Scottish independence rather than a solution to the failings of a centralised state.
    Devolution did see the creation of Scotland's two national parks. But are they hamstrung by competing priorities,acquiescent leadership,and most importantly the private ownership and control of vast areas of Scotland?
    As usual there are the usual meanderings,mostly to do with cycling this week, along the way.

  • 1966 and aw that

    England's win v Germany in the Euros unleashed a wave of exceptionalism across the media. We examine the,not inconsiderable,links between national success,and failure, on the football pitch and the fortunes of political parties. Precisely what impact will that result,when added to Starmer's lacklustre leadership and the intervention of George Galloway,have on the Batley and Spen byelection?
    Michael Gove's ill advised foray into satire on the short lived C4 show, A Stab in the Dark, has resurfaced. Starting from this genuinely toe curling attempt at humour we look at not only the Scottish cringe but why some politicians manage to pull off the illusion of authenticity while others fail miserably.
    The Tories have been spinning the Matt Hancock resignation fiasco as a purely personal tragedy while bigging up his "achievements" in tackling the pandemic. However what,and more importantly,who,was behind the leak to the Sun and what were they seeking to achieve? And will Hancock end up being the fall guy when the Covid inquiry finally takes place?

  • Oor hame

    So Scotland is out of Euro 2020 and as far as football is concerned it's back tae auld claes and porridge and possibly supporting Wales, and anyone who's playing England.
    However back on the political pitch the UK government seems hell bent on privatising Channel 4. What's the real motivation behind this move,and why, as Scots, should we care?
    All predictions point to a massive surge in folk from the rest of the UK holidaying in Scotland. Should we welcome this boost to local economies struggling because of Covid or is it a blight for local folk?
    Andy Burnham launched an attack on Nicola Sturgeon this past week over the travel ban between Scotland and Greater Manchester. Gleefully covered by the the media. Sturgeon claimed it was all about Burnham throwing his hat into the Labour leadership ring. Lesley reckons there's a bit more to it than that,if that at all.
    The One Britain One Nation campaign has shot from West Yorkshire obscurity into national proninence. What's the campaign all about and why have Gavin Williamson and the Department of Education thrown their whole weight behind it?

  • Meeting ourselves

    Cummings,Covid, that dodgy Aussie trade deal,falling out with Joe Biden and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol. You would think that this would be a premiership and a government in crisis. However the Tories, yes we'll still call them that, are riding high in the opinion polls and Sir Keir Starmer still seems incapable of landing a telling blow. What is going on?
    There is a mounting housing crisis in the Highlands and Islands,exacerbated by Brexit, tourism,soaring land prices,and the growth of second homes. This is a challenge not just for the newly elected MSPs for these areas but for the Scottish government and its possible new partners,the Greens. Will they be up to it?
    Scotland is in the midst of Euro football fever and we try and get to grips with the hold the success or failure of the men's international side has on the nation,while looking at the unbreakable link between sport,politics ,and national well being not only in Scotland but in three of our closest neighbours.

  • Revelations

    Will Joe Biden get Boris Johnson telt over breaching the Northern Ireland Protocol at the G7 Summit?
    Meanwhile,another week.Another court judgement.Another government minister under scrutiny.The latest in this long line of shame,Michael Gove.
     The English High Court ruled that a £560,000 contract to a firm run by former colleagues of Michael Gove and the PM's adviser Dominic Cummings was unlawful.
    However,yet again, Sir Keir Starmer missed this political open goal at PMQs.Just what is going on with the leader of the opposition? A man who looked so assured on the front bench before taking over from Jeremy Corbyn.
    Sticking with PMQs Ian Blackford focused on government plans to cut foreign aid. A whole set of Tory MPs were set to rebel until their amendment was ruled out of order by the Speaker. It looks as if the cuts will go ahead but what impact will they have on the world's poor?
     Andrew Wood ex-SNP now Conservative councillor has started a hare coursing with his proposal that if Scotland becomes independent those areas which voted No should remain the UK. Nonsense clutching at straws or a suggestion that might find favour at No 10?
    You may have noticed a spate of Tory politicians becoming involved in sporting and cultural matters. Oliver Dowden, and the PM, condemning the ECB's prompt action over Ollie Robinson's tweets. Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield saying he won't support England at the Euros if players continue to take the knee and fellow MP  Brendan Clarke-Smith comparing it to giving a Nazi salute. Random interventions or part of a "culture wars" agenda being pursued by the No 10 Policy Unit?

  • There's been a Murdo

    This week's podcast has leadership and history at its core as themes.
     However we begin with Murdo Fraser who seems to have undergone a road to Damascus conversion with his proposal that Scotland should move to STV for Holyrood elections.
    Lesley was stunned to find herself agreeing with him but reckons he should be careful what he wishes for while admiring his sheer brassneckedness given his silence on First Past the Post for Westminster.
    Joanna Cherry and Douglas Chapman are the latest members of the SNP NEC to resign over matters of "transparency and scrutiny". Chris Hanlon has decided to hang on in there. We look at the background to this ongoing dispute and wonder whether staying or going is the better course of action. 
    The Royals seem to have got it right in terms of their reaction to the Johnson proposal for a new royal (not) yacht but revelations concerning the Royal Household's exemption from equalities legislation, at their request, brings into sharp focus, once again, their position at the centre of the   anti-democratic nature of the British state.
    Joe Biden visited Tulsa to memorialise the hidden from history Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 signalling a fundamental shift,at least in domestic terms, of leadership in the USA.
    All this plus the usual meanderings.And no, it wasn't Roy Plomley whose catch phrase was "As the sun slowly sinks in the west".It was James A. FitzPatrick.

  • Cummings and Covid

    Dominic Cummings made his much anticipated appearance in front of a joint select committee on Wednesday. He'd already trailed a significant proportion of his revelations on Twitter but seeing the man himself make them in Parliament did make this a major political event.
    We examine what he said,how he said it,the circling of the wagons around him by the Tory Party,and place it all within the context of how this Conservative government "governs".
    We also ask if,as Hancock claims lessons will be learned, can we believe himgiven that earlier reports clearly showing how unprepared the UK was for the pandemic were ignored.
    Prior to the Scottish elections senior SNP sources were floating the idea of an SNP/Green coalition. Negotiations are now ongong to formalise some sort of agreement between them. 
    We speculate just what form this might take and what's in it for both parties.
    There was a landmark court decision in the Netherlands making Shell cut its CO2 emissions by 45% compared to 2019 levels.
    This hit the headlines but all sorts of unlikely alliances between climate activists and hedge funds forcing major companies like Exxon and Chevron to move much faster away from carbon fuels have been taking place.
    We also revisit the creation of Great British Railways, the Friends reunion, and Eurovision.

  • The Bute House Shuffle

    We focus the first part of the podcast on Nicola Sturgeon's,somewhat underwhelming ,reshuffle of her Cabinet after her outstanding victory in the Scottish election. A sensible,steady as she goes,or picking pals to subdue debate?
    Sticking with Holyrood we wonder just what Willie Rennie was up to when he stood for election as First Minister earlier this week. We also challenge the Tory "no mandate for indyref2" narrative and caution independence supporters on getting sucked into that spurious discussion.
    Glasgow witnessed two incredibly contrasting pieces of "taking it to the streets" with the uplifting Kenmure Street action against the UK government's deportation policies, and the rioting of Rangers fans "celebrating" their team's league title win.
    What can be deduced about modern Scotland from these differing displays of people power?
    Finally the UK government has announced the creation of Great British Rail signalling,yet another,shift away from Thatcherite dogma. Scotland has already implemented sweeping changes to the ownership and structure of our rail services.Will this be the first major battle over devolved and reserved powers in Brexit Britain?

  • The Dating Game

    The aftermath of last week's Scottish elections has raised questions of when Nicola Sturgeon should go for indyref2 and has seen the Tories scrambling to deny the mandate pro independence parties have to call one.
    The Conservatives have been tying themselves in ever increasing arithmetical knots on this while folk like ProfessorJohn Curtice and Roz Foyer of the STUC say that there is an unequivocal mandate.
    We look at all this and the quandary Anas Sarwar faces being squeezed from both sides. Does the future of Scottish Labour depend on his decision?
    Meanwhile at Westminster the Queen's Speech,once again, revealed the direction of travel of the UK under the Johnson government.Silence on his oven ready comprehensive social care plan but plenty on compulsory voter ID. A solution to a problem that doesn't appear to exist and one which looks very like voter suppression. Plus the repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Putting this together with the kicking of the opening of the  inquiry into the UK government's handling of the Covid crisis until 2022 it looks like it's a 2023 General Election.

    Away from domestic matters the scenes from Israel and Gaza have been appalling. We try and give some context to what the media have,in the main, referred to as clashes and tensions. We also focus on the central role the new Biden administration should have in resolving not only the current situation but also forwarding the two state solution abandoned by Trump.

    Back home the Craig Murray sentence for contempt of court has,rightly, been a focus of attention. We dip our toes into the murky waters of jigsaw identification ,the decision of who to,and not to, prosecute,and sentencing policy. Plus,what role did dirty tricks and dark money play last Thursday in the Holyrood election?

  • Holyrood 2021 Election Special

    In this week's late night episode we give our immediate reaction to the results of the Holyrood election trying to make sense not only of what it means to the political parties but also its impact on the path to indyref2 and Scottish independence.
    We also take a look at the Hartlepool by-election,and what it might tell us about Tory pro union strategy in Scotland.
    It also,inevitably, leads us to the state of the UK Labour Party.

  • Sleazy does it

    As more and revelations come to light concerning Boris Johnson how long will it be until something sticks to the Teflon PM?
    The Tory Party message on the mysterious funding of No 11 Downing Street's refurbishment is,"Who cares?" Will it survive an Electoral Commission investigation?
    Channel 4 News hosted the latest Scottish leaders debate. Was it simply an exercise in sound and fury signifying nothing?
    A brand new campaign group, supported by some very significant folk, called Europe for Scotland. They want the people of Scotland to know that Europeans everywhere would welcome them back in the European Union if this is still our democratic wish.
    www.https://europeforscotland.com/  Follow this link to find out more and sign up, if you fancy it.
    Arlene Foster has resigned as leader of the DUP.We ask what lay behind her decision, who might be her successor and what the state of play is in the run up to the Stormont elections.

  • Limbo land

    Party manifestoes for the Holyrood election have been arriving thick and fast. 
    We ask is this a phoney war where, despite all the promises and policies in those manifestoes, what it boils down to,with the parties and the electorate, is support for,or opposition to,Scottish independence?
    The SNP, the Greens, and Alba have all voiced support for Community Wealth Building as part of their electoral platforms. We look at the Preston Model and examine how those parties plans match up to the reality of what full implementation of Community Wealth Building is.
    And,just in case Labour and the Lib Dems feel left out, we discuss the progressive consensus in Scottish politics which is constantly stymied by those parties rigid support for the union and the vacuity behind their promises of federalism.
    Professor Adam Tomkins has caused a bit of a stooshie with his recent article in the Spectator forwarding the argument that a new Act of Union is needed to end talk of "secession" ,while drawing on a very "interesting" analysis of the constitutional histories of the USA,Canada, and Spain.
    To say the least, we're not impressed.
    We also give our thoughts on the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

  • Manifesto destiny

    The Holyrood election campaign is nearly at the half way mark and today,Thursday, saw the launch of the SNP manifesto.
    We give our immediate reaction to the headline proposals.
    STV hosted the second leaders debate and it was a very different affair to last week's BBC effort. Who were the winners and losers?
    Ciaran Martin,now of Oxford University, was the senior civil servant who negotiated the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012. He's now written a new paper analysing the the potential approaches the current Tory government mignt take to a future Scottish independence referendum with some surprising conclusions. 
    Almost simultaneously Michael Kenny,Jack Sheldon and Philip Rycroft, of Cambridge, have published their paper questioning not only Boris Johnson's version of unionism but also the commitment of the UK state to the union itself.
    It's back to the future, for those of us who remember the sleaze of the end days of the Major government, as David Cameron and ex civil servants find themselves mired in a lobbying scandal involving Greensill Capital. Will Johnson be able to limit the damage by focusing any inquiries on Cameron?
    All of this plus our thoughts on the death of Prince Philip,Lesley's memories of Shirley Williams, and some groundbreaking sporting moments. 

  • Following the leaders

    We're definitely smack in the middle of the  2021 Holyrood election campaigns with the first leaders' debate on the BBC, the drop of leaflets from the parties through our letterboxes, and the appearances of the party leaders on radio and TV.
    We step back from this bombardment, focusing on personalities and process, and ask if this has drowned out policy, particularly from the pro-independence parties on what an independent Scotland could and should look like?
    However, we do also look at the performances of all the party leaders so far.
    Along the way there's discussion on who's actually trying to "game the system" on the unionist side- yes you Douglas Ross- the potential impact of the Galloway vanity project, football managerial double acts, and the social history of the Masters golf championship in Augusta Georgia.

  • D'Hondt worry

    We focus in this episode on the impact the creation of the Alba Party might have on the May Holyrood elections. 
    The launch of the new party saw a couple of SNP MPs switch to Alba and the withdrawal from the election by Independence for Scotland and Action for Independence.
    We try and make sense of the past few days and ask, how will not just pro independence voters react to the return of Alex Salmond but the wider electorate. Will those who've switched support to independence precisely because of the performance of Nicola Sturgeon be happy to give their votes to Alba on the list? What are the new party's policies? What will the final list of its candidates look like, and who will select them?
    Plus a wee delve into some interesting electoral arithmetic in two key regions, Mid Scotland and Fife, and Glasgow.

    With additional thoughts on BBC Scotland's coverage of the interim report by the Scottish Citizen's Assembly on Climate Change, and the Oor Vyce pledge

  • In oor ain haunds

    Two inquiry reports and a vote of no confidence in two days. We examine the events of the last 48 hours and their implications not just for Nicola Sturgeon but their impact on the SNP and the May Holyrood elections. 
    The First Minister has survived but has she been politically and personally damaged? 


    The Tories look, once again, to be the main party of opposition in those elections. How credible is their strategy of making that campaign all about character given the antics of the Johnson government?


    We also examine the attempts to woo Scots back to the union with the appointment of Prince William as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, all things flags, and why some folk, the Labour Party, in particular, have such a problem with the Scots language.

  • Let the sun shine in

    Boris Johnson is set to announce the well trailed shift in UK foreign and defence policy. 


    We look at the proposals in terms of their impact on Scotland, if any, and in particular at the 40% increase in nuclear weapons to be based on the Clyde.


    The appalling scenes of the Metropolitan Police's aggressive handling of the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard were in stark contrast to the softly, softly tactics of the police in Glasgow to the "celebrations" of Rangers fans. Different forces, yes, but Lesley picks apart the underlying assumptions, perceptions and stereotypes underpinning those very different approaches. She also wonders if these events can create a major shift in men's attitudes and behaviours.


    There are looming elections not just in Scotland but in Northern Ireland. While, naturally, most of our attention has been focused on domestic Scottish issues recent events, and decisions taken by the UK, have thrown into sharp relief the dangers to peace on the island of Ireland caused by Brexit.


    As Nicola Sturgeon prepares to announce the latest Scottish Covid strategies Laura Kuenssberg has written what, she claims, is the inside story on how Boris Johnson and his Cabinet has handled the Covid crisis. If true, it is damning for No 10.

  • Listomania

    We begin with the behaviour of Rangers fans after their team won the league on Sunday, the police response, and the reaction/non-reaction of the club to the blatant flouting of the Covid regulations.


    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's well-trailed interview with Oprah Winfrey aired in the UK last night. Two self-confessed republicans try to make sense of the whole thing and consider the role of the monarchy as the foundation of a fundamentally unfair society.


    The Holyrood elections in May are being seen, yet again, as a test of support for independence, and an opportunity to put pressure on Boris Johnson over indyref2. Key to all this seems to now be not just a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament but the SNP securing an overall majority on its own.

    We try to unravel the complications of how to navigate the vagaries of the Additional Member  voting system

    Finally, we talk about International Women's Day from both a personal and political perspective with, not unexpectedly, a focus on the drive towards Scottish independence. 

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