Paxman back on the attack over Reid's Scots Raj
BROADCASTER Jeremy Paxman has renewed his dispute with Health Secretary John Reid by claiming he is part of a "Scottish Raj" now running the UK.
Paxman’s comments follow his alleged slight on Reid’s Glasgow accent during a Newsnight interview last week which sparked a flurry of debate over whether the Health Secretary’s pronunciation influenced public perception of his character.
Following the argument Paxman is reported to have last night expressed concern at the growing influence of the "Scottish ruling class".
Sparks flew on the BBC set last week when Reid accused Paxman of patronising and insulting him because of his accent. "I have said to you before that if you have a PhD and a posh accent from a school like yours, you are regarded as a sophisticate," he said.
Paxman responded by asking Reid "what on earth" he was talking about, to which the Health Secretary replied: "You called me an attack dog because I’ve got a Glasgow accent."
The incident highlighted a typically British obsession with accent and social class and reminded Scots that in some circles their more robust accents are considered a sign of aggression.
But according to speech expert Jim Scobbie, of Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University College, such perceptions are nonsense.
"Nothing in his accent should make him sound aggressive or tell about his character," said Scobbie. "Two people from the same family could have very similar accents, but totally different characters."
Since Reid’s accent hit the news it has been suggested the way he speaks has become less Scottish over the years. One close friend of the politician said: "When John comes back up he has taken on an English accent. He has definitely become very proper now that he lives down there."
But after analysing two recordings of Reid’s speech, one made during a visit to Ravenscraig in 1987 and the other made during a debate in Westminster last summer, as well as his speech on the Newsnight programme, Scobbie said he detected no change in pronunciation.
He said: "I think he sounds overwhelmingly the same. He has many of the characteristics of Scots English."
Scobbie pointed to a number of Scots traits in Reid’s accent such as saying "gerring" rather than "getting" and "sivin" rather than "seven". However, he added that many of the sounds which would single him out as a Scot to English people would be barely perceptible to Scots, such as a slightly longer "ah" sound at the start of a word such as "average".
"He doesn’t sound overly Glasgow. He’s more Jimmy Logan than River City - it’s a middle-aged accent."
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