'Political Fantasy in a Realistic Situation' : The Scotch on the Rocks (BBC 1973) Controversy

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Scotch on the Rocks was a five-part drama series broadcast by BBC1 in May and June 1973. It dealt with moves towards the creation of an independent Scotland and was referred to as a ‘political fantasy in a realistic situation’ by the BBC. The series was based on a novel co- written by Douglas Hurd, then political secretary to Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath, and became the object of a running campaign and formal complaint by the Scottish National Party. This complaint was upheld by the BBC Programmes Complaints Commission with the result that the programme was never repeated and for a long time was believed to have been destroyed (though three episodes have now been discovered to exist). Although the programme’s effective disappearance has imbued it with a degree of mystique in certain quarters, there has so far been little serious discussion of it or the controversy that it generated. This article fills that gap by examining the political and broadcasting contexts in which the programme was produced, the criticisms directed at it and the curious ideological tensions evident in the series itself. In doing so the article identifies the peculiar position that the series occupies within the history of Scottish television drama and indicates how it may be understood as a work of greater interest than has so far been acknowledged.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-361
Number of pages20
JournalVisual Culture in Britain
Issue number3
Early online date18 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2017


  • Television drama
  • BBC
  • Scotland
  • Scotch on the Rocks
  • Scottish National Party
  • Douglas Hurd
  • tartanry
  • kailyard

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