Connery strikes discordant note to shatter Holyrood harmony
AFTER several years of angry recriminations and accusations, not to mention £431 million, the Scottish parliament’s protracted and difficult birth was finally over. In a celebration of goodwill and unity, Scots of all backgrounds and political hues agreed the time had come to move on. All except Sir Sean Connery, that is.
In a staggering attempt to settle old scores, the veteran actor launched a bitter attack on the Scottish media, calling on MSPs to pass a law to prevent negative attacks on the parliament. Sir Sean let rip during a BBC radio interview, insisting they only way to deal with the press was to “sort them out".
His feelings about the Scottish press have been well-documented in the past, but Sir Sean has never before gone so far as he did yesterday.
Interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sunday Live programme, he said: “I think they [MSPs] should start legislating now to deal with the media in Scotland. It should be a political issue. They [the media] are totally dominant.
“They have just got everything and they do feel it’s a war and the way to do it is to defeat them by the parliament democratically. Sort them out. Attack the parliament if it makes mistakes but for Christ sakes assist it if it is doing well.”
Sir Sean was asked onto the programme ostensibly to comment on the opening of the Holyrood building and chose to take another negative tack by criticising the Prime Minister for failing to turn up. Striking an oddly discordant note when the almost universal response to the opening ceremony has been positive - with the Scottish media largely gushing in its praise - Sir Sean said he was “really disappointed” Tony Blair did not attend.
However, he described the new building as “really beautiful” and praised the opening ceremony. “My God, what a message for the world to see and hear,” he said.
Sir Sean’s call for anti-media legislation were immediately dismissed by the First Minister.
A spokesman for Jack McConnell said: “While a number of people across civic life in Scotland are concerned about what is perceived to be particularly negative reporting, the First Minister has always made it clear there is no role for parliament to legislate on the press or trying to tell independent newspaper or broadcasters what to do.”
The spokesman said the First Minister had called on MSPs to “raise their game” and, rather than legislating, he believed it was time for the press to raise its game, voluntarily, as well.
This is the second time in the last couple of weeks that the Oscar-winning actor has hit out at the press. In a recent article in a newspaper, he claimed the press treatment of devolution was a bigger problem than the Holyrood building fiasco.
“Basically, in Scotland we have a parliament that is too weak and a press that is too strong,” wrote the actor.
There was, Sir Sean said, “a press pack instinct to savage MSPs and their work at any opportunity and often unfairly", and he criticised newspapers - presumably including The Scotsman - for exposing security failures at Holyrood, describing this as an attitude of: “Have a go at Holyrood regardless and fill in the how later".
Much of Sir Sean’s anger about the press goes back a long way. He was castigated repeatedly in various publications over comments he made in Playboy back in 1975 when he appeared to condone violence against women.
The accusation which riles most with the actor, however, is the claim that he should not be preaching to the Scots about independence - he has been a major supporter of the SNP, making several large donations to the party - when he spends most of his time living abroad.
This has upset Sir Sean, but many of those who have criticised him might point out that it was his decision to get involved in politics, albeit indirectly, and he has to expect the brickbats that come his way as a result of that.