by Dan Iron

OK, you’ve probably clicked on the link thinking, “how on Earth can you make a connection from the Oscars to Independence?" Well, I’m going to have a bash. Please stay with me.

I forced myself to watch the whole sequence of the presentation of the 2017 Best Picture award, the very last award of the evening. I used to watch the Oscars live when it was shown by the BBC, way back in the day when I had both a TV and a licence. It was a long Sunday night with frequent advertising breaks during which the coverage turned to the BBC’s own studio and Barry Norman’s comments. And why not. But now we have Youtube.

By now, you all know what happened. The award was initially given to La La Land by mistake, then to the actual winner, Moonlight. It’s excruciating to watch and your heart goes out to the La La Land producers who’d thought they’d won.

The whole sequence lasts over 12 minutes and starts with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty (who starred as Bonnie and Clyde in the 1967 film, 50 years ago). Warren is holding the envelope containing the card with the supposed winner of the Best Picture Oscar. The envelope is red and, at first sight, watching on TV it looks like there is nothing obviously written on the outside of the envelope. It turns out that the award category is written on the outside of the envelope but it’s gold lettering on a red background - not the easiest to see under the lights.

Why doesn’t the red envelope have

Best Picture

Winner

printed in big bold letters, possibly black lettering on a white label, on the outside of the envelope?

It gets worse. When the winning card itself is shown to the audience, it says

Oscars

“Moonlight"

Followed by the names of the producers. The category of “Best Picture" is in tiny letters at the very bottom of the card. Warren Beatty reaches the age of 80 later this month. He’s never going to be able to read that. Why on Earth doesn’t the card have

Best Picture

Winner

“Moonlight"

printed in big bold letters on it?

What really is astonishing is that Faye and Warren are out on stage for over 5 minutes going through all the nominated films. Nobody rushes out from backstage with the correct envelope. Warren then opens the envelope and appears to be puzzled. He’s obviously confused by what he’s reading but then shows the card to Faye who says “La La Land". The producers of La La Land come on stage and start making their speeches. It’s over 7 minutes before someone from backstage comes to look at the card. Finally, more than 8 minutes after Faye and Warren come on stage is the actual winner announced and the winning card shown to the audience.

It seems that there are two people each of whom has a full copy of the winning envelopes and Warren was mistakenly given the envelope that was left over from the previous award, Best Actress. It’s a woefully designed system. There’s no sign of a backup plan if something goes wrong. The presence of two people with copies has backfired. It was supposed to make the system safer but has resulted in the system being less safe. Why not, for example, have different coloured envelopes? The two people with the envelopes would then be able to be backstage facing each other holding up identically coloured envelopes, so if one makes a mistake the other can correct it. Why not have the name of the award on the envelope? Why not have the name of the award in big bold letters on the card itself? Warren would then have noticed that the envelope had Best Actress, Winner printed on the envelope. Even if he’d missed that, upon opening the envelope, he would have seen Best Actress, Winner on the card.

What really is amazing is that the Oscars is just about the biggest media event on the planet and the people entrusted with counting the votes and custody of the envelopes are from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the biggest consultancy firms in the world. And they can’t get it right. In fact, given that system, it’s a wonder that this kind of mistake doesn’t happen more often.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought that they were safe in outsourcing the counting of the votes and the envelopes and cards. After all, this was one of the biggest consultancy firms in the world and they had done this job for 83 years. Apparently this relationship is now “under review".

Is this ringing any bells for us in Scotland? For that is what we have done with the governance of our country. We have effectively outsourced it to the British Establishment. After all, these people have run an empire! They must know what they are doing! I think it is becoming more obvious to more and more people that they don’t have much of a clue, especially with the unfolding saga of Brexit. To some of them it’s even just a game. If Brexit turns out to be a disaster these people will be perfectly OK. They won’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods, unlike the rest of us.

What if the successes of the United Kingdom all along have been down to the peoples of the UK rather than the Establishment? Perhaps the successes have been achieved in spite of the Establishment?

It’s time to stop this outsourcing of the governance of our country and act like a normal country. There are currently 193 Member States in the United Nations. There should be 194 and Scotland should be one of them. Scotland is a country and has been a country for over 1,100 years. Its borders have not changed since before Columbus boarded the Santa Maria. If any country has a claim to being an independent nation, it’s Scotland.

It’s time to take the job in-house.