THE favoured model of national broadcasters for reporting on industrial disputes has hardly changed in 50 years. It’s hard-wired to evoke hostility and resentment towards striking workers. Footage of empty railway stations or mountains of uncollected refuse immediately set the desired tone: this strike is crippling the country.

This is usually followed by a rudimentary vox pop with frustrated members of the public directly affected by the strike action. They are targeted at moments of peak exasperation when they are most likely to vent their anger.

Yesterday’s BBC lunchtime news package on the RMT strike opened with two inconvenienced commuters expressing their anger at the striking rail workers. No-one is ever asked if they know what the dispute is about and why they seem opposed to the fundamental right of workers to withdraw their labour.

In the studio analysis that follows, the eternal narrative of the government and the bosses proceeds unchallenged: that the workers’ demands are unreasonable; that the unions won’t engage; and that strike action is extremist and hurting the country. There is a subtle but persistent drumbeat that infers these workers are being unpatriotic and cynical. We’ve just emerged from a pandemic and the basic cost of living is traumatising working families. “Aren’t you being a bit selfish?”

READ MORE: Anas Sarwar ignores Keir Starmer’s orders amid Labour civil war over rail strikes

In the current RMT dispute, two prevailing concepts are being peddled – that Britain’s railway infrastructure needs modernised and the dinosaur unions are resisting this and that these greedy workers are already being paid a king’s ransom. Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group went with the age-old Luddite myth that bosses and management have been using for three centuries when anything threatens the business of making money.

He cited union opposition to non-voluntary Sunday working. The traditional day of rest is the only day that working-class people and their families have an opportunity to live beyond the influence of their employers: to be free for a few hours from the voracious appetite of capital. Resisting this demand of the bosses isn’t outdated – it’s civilised.

Chief among several government untruths about the dispute is around median salaries for rail workers which can be anything from £48k to £59k. We are invited to agree that, as such, their wage demands are unreasonable.

This rests on the assumption that those jobs considered to be the preserve of working-class people have an invisible ceiling. This kicks in at the point where affluent people say: “You can’t expect workers to be paid as much as we managerial and professional types.”

Most train drivers, though, are not part of the RMT strike and the union has accurately pointed out that the median pay for its members is around £33k.

Already, assorted government ministers are saying the strikers are failing in their duty of care to the wider population. They must show “collective, society-wide responsibility,” said Simon Clark, the UK Treasury Minister, as he inferred that union demands will encourage inflation.

Yet he must know what Unite the Union revealed last week – that huge corporate profits were a far greater factor in increased inflation than workers’ wages. And that the salaries of Britain’s workers have failed to keep step with inflation, meaning that “large” wage demands are nothing of the sort. And that the average profit margins of the top 350 companies in the FTSE were 52%.

Very little of this appears in the BBC’s analysis of the rail dispute. And when rail operators and the UK Government point to the billions handed out to the railway sector during Covid no-one ever mentions the annual dividend of more than £200 million which rail franchise shareholders take from profits.

JOINING in the anti-union propaganda has been Sir Keir Starmer. Not long ago, the Labour Party advocated for the Britain’s railways to be returned to public ownership as the extent of profiteering on the network became clear. Now, a Labour leader has ordered his MPs not to go anywhere near picket lines. Never has UK Labour been so closely aligned with the Conservatives.

Starmer issued his astonishing diktat as Boris Johnson sought to ease restrictions on executive pay limits and to overturn laws around hiring agency staff to maintain essential services in the face of lawful strike action, a dangerous precedent that could endanger lives and jeopardise public safety.

In the face of this anti-trade union onslaught by the British political and media establishment, the Scottish Labour Party has begun to locate its backbone with its leader, Anas Sarwar, and other Labour politicians backing the RMT workers. The SNP should be wary of this. A large part of the popular appeal of the independence offering in 2014 was provided by the trade union movement following years of hard work at grassroots level by several SNP politicians and activists.

Since the inception of the Labour movement the trade unions had provided finance and a moral compass for the party. Starmer now obviously believes that only by presenting himself as a better-dressed version of Boris Johnson can Labour regain power at Westminster. Perhaps Labour in Scotland have woken up to the fact that the support of several large trade unions in Scotland for independence was crucial in the Yes surge eight years ago.

Perhaps, too, they’re alive to the prospect of the SNP losing grassroots union support as tensions between them have risen in recent years. They’ll have been delighted to see senior figures such as Susan Aitken the SNP leader of Glasgow City Council, describe the unions as fascists.

READ MORE: Watch as Glaswegians are asked whether they support RMT rail strikes

Nor will it have escaped their attention that some SNP activists were accusing Aslef, the train drivers’ union, of being London Labour shills when they staged their own industrial action earlier this year, causing widespread disruption. Their reasoning was predictable: we’ve just nationalised ScotRail, so what more do you want?

The reason why so many trade union figures were happy to back independence, or at least back another referendum are not difficult to divine. The overwhelming majority of trade unionists I’ve discussed this with in the last eight years simply feel now that England is a lost cause for socialism, a belief borne out by the recent conduct of Starmer.

They may not be committed evangelists for Scottish independence but, like many other former Labour Party supporters, they feel that independence offers a chance of addressing inequality on a re-distributive model.

The SNP would be advised to encourage their MPs and MSPs to join the RMT picket lines on Saturday. It would be a much-needed demonstration of good faith with a movement whose support may yet be crucial during the next independence referendum.