BBC accused of deception over Scottish export figures

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  By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
 
BBC Scotland is under fresh fire following accusations that it used out of date and ‘massaged’ figures to significantly understate the value of Scottish exports in a recent report.
 
According to the Wings Over Scotland website, the BBC downgraded the value of Scotland’s export from £98.1bn to just £16.9bn by excluding Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK and, controversially, by failing to attribute oil and gas exports to Scotland.

According to writer Scott Minto, figures crunched by the Financial Times indicate that Scotland’s export potential actually sits closer to £100bn. 

Scotland’s exports include food and beverages, chemicals, business services, electronics, mechanical engineering, textiles, oil and gas and renewable energies, among other things.  The country’s main export markets are the rest of the UK, the United States, the Netherlands, France and Germany.

However, excluding both Scottish exports from oil and gas and exports to the rest of the UK, the BBC’s figure should still have sat at a higher £25.9bn according to the FT’s stats, and not the £16.9bn quoted by the BBC.

Further investigation from Minto showed that the BBC appeared to have used statistics from 2010 instead of more up to date figures from 2012 which shed a more favourable light on Scotland’s export value.

“What the BBC has done here isn’t just careless, it’s deceptive,” Minto wrote.  “In order to gauge the reality of Scotland’s finances you clearly need to look at exports as if the country was already independent, in which case the rest of the UK would be an export market as well, radically shifting the balance.  And obviously you need to include ALL of Scotland’s exports, not just an arbitrary selection of them.

“Readers may feel that the state broadcaster – in using outdated figures and assuming an independent Scotland would end all trade with the rest of the UK and have no oil or gas revenues – has somewhat overstepped the bounds of impartiality.

“On the basis of the evidence it would be difficult to construct a case for the defence.”

The episode followed a similar ‘analysis’ by the BBC which initially showed Scotland to be a net contributor the UK in terms of GDP.  The broadcaster subsequently altered its angle to imply Scotland was a net recipient.

Last Wednesday figures published by the BBC showed Scotland boosted UK GDP to the tune of £282.50 per head.

However within 24 hours the BBC analysis had been altered and almost £400 per head had been wiped from Scotland’s GDP.  The amended article showed Scotland not as a net contributor to UK GDP, but as a net recipient.

The latest episode follows mounting criticism of the BBC in recent months over its handling of the independence debate.

On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered outside BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow to protest against the broadcaster for showing a pro-union bias in its Scottish independence campaign coverage.

The demonstration – the third in recent months, followed a report earlier this year by Professor John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland which identified a pro-union bias in broadcast coverage of the referendum from both BBC Scotland and STV.

Professor Robertson blasted the BBC’s response to the study and claimed he had been bullied by the broadcaster for carrying out the research and efforts had been made to cause him problems with his university superiors.

Professor Robertson’s research found that BBC Scotland showed 272 news items more favourable to the anti-independence campaign compared to 171 favourable to the Yes campaign.  In addition, he found that statements using academic, scientific or independent evidence were far more likely to be used in pieces relating to the No campaign rather than the Yes campaign.

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