Scottish independence: Rory Bremner in comedy call

Rory Bremner says the independence debate needs some humour. Picture: TSPL
Rory Bremner says the independence debate needs some humour. Picture: TSPL
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Impressionist Rory Bremner has called for a dash of humour to be injected into the bad-tempered independence debate, saying arguments over the future of Scotland are far too important and far too funny to be left to the politicians.

He said there was huge potential for laughs as the campaigning heats up. “There’s great humour to be had,” the Scottish-born comedian said.

“There’s a lot of big, different characters involved and good arguments, and there are plenty of good Scottish comedians who can have plenty of fun with it. It’s far too dangerous to leave it only to the politically minded.”

Thus far, observers say the debate has been notable for a sense-of-humour failure that consumes a great many of the cyber warriors who take to Twitter to campaign for both the Yes and No sides.

Many observers have complained of a lack of satire in the mainstream media and lamented the fact even light-hearted attempts to lampoon the Scottish political scene have triggered an explosion of online bile.

Earlier this year, comedian Susan Calman received a torrent of abuse for daring to poke fun at the referendum debate on BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz.

When she was subjected to an onslaught of online abuse, Bremner leapt to her defence and called on the Yes and No camps to “rein in their shock troops”.

Yesterday, he elaborated on his view, saying: “I think sometimes there’s a tendency to think that if a comedian is having a go at politicians, whichever side of the argument they are, that in some way you’re insulting the people who voted for them.

“But I don’t see it that way. I think it’s a very healthy thing in a democracy.”

Looking back on a year that saw him make BBC documentary Rory Goes to Holyrood, which explored the humour – or lack of it – in Scottish politics, he said he completed a crash course in Scottish politics before the show by talking to experts on oil, energy and independence.

He has now received a copy of the Scottish Government’s white paper as a Christmas gift to keep him up to date. “I know there’s a lot of reading waiting for me,” he said. I’m looking forward to reading that over the holidays.

“I haven’t taken a position on [independence] myself, but it’s a national debate and I think it’s important to have some humour in it. There’s a big national debate going on and I think there’s a place for comedians, just as there is for politicians and all others.”

Bremner’s take-offs of UK politicians has made him one of Britain’s best-known satirists, and the Westminster scene is no stranger to political mickey-taking. In the past, Spitting Image puppets of politicians were as well-known as their human counterparts, while satirical current affairs programmes such as Have I Got News for You are used to prick politicians’ egos.

Rory Goes to Holyrood showed Bremner seeking material for a humorous Edinburgh Festival Fringe show about Scottish politics. He met other comedians to find out their views of life at Holyrood.

Stand-up Paul Sneddon told him he thought devolution and the opening of the Scottish Parliament would have given him new material but found out a lot of people did not even know who the politicians were.

Bremner, who is from Edinburgh, revealed he had been impressed with his first visit to the Scottish Parliament, designed by architect Enric Miralles, which cost more than £400 million.

“It’s impressive,” he said. “It feels very European, by which I mean it is modern and massively over-budget.”

He made the comments as he hosted a Christmas fundraising lunch for care charity Quarriers, which brought in £80,000 to help provide life coaches for young people.