Indyref changed everything – except what makes ‘news’ at BBC Scotland


By G.A. Ponsonby

Scotland has changed, and things will never be the same again. How many pundits have you heard saying that?  You can’t pick up a paper or turn on the TV without being confronted with a talking head jabbering on about political engagement and a tide of change.

I don’t know if there is evidence of any meaningful change. I know that polls currently suggest the SNP is on course to trounce Scottish Labour in the UK general Election, but we’ve had similar polls before and, in Scotland at least, Labour always seems to get the vote on the day.

As ever, the talking heads and professional pundits ignore the elephant in the room when discussing Scottish politics – the BBC. Devolution didn’t change the BBC in Scotland, the SNP’s 2007 win didn’t change it, the nationalists 2011 historic majority didn’t change it either. The referendum even saw the BBC regress into a pro-Union colonial broadcaster.

BBC Scotland will alter this UK General election, at least in Scotland, of that there is no doubt. Whether the corporation can arrest completely the SNP surge remains to be seen, but it will try.


On December 21 last year I predicted (above) that Gordon Brown would appear alongside Jim Murphy with BBC cameras in attendance.

On Monday, 43 days later, Brown and Murphy appeared together in front of BBC cameras.  BBC Scotland and the Scottish Labour party really are that predictable.

The meaningless waffle that was packaged up as ‘Vow Plus’ wasn’t scrutinised in any meaningful way, it was just broadcast over the airwaves.  Has nobody noticed that a key plank of the Smith Commission – full control of income tax – is backed by Murphy but opposed by Brown? Did anyone witness Brown being subjected to the same forensic examination SNP politicians routinely endure?

Of course not.  The ‘Vow Plus’ event was given high profile coverage by the BBC because that is what the corporation’s job is.  Expect more of this type of ‘news’.

frackingSimilar coverage has been afforded Jim Murphy as the Labour MP has embarked on a strategy of issuing calls for changes that are already about to be enacted [through the campaigning of others].  I’m thinking of the decision to scrap the Women’s Prison and fracking.  Murphy’s input had nothing to do with the prison decision but it was presented by BBC Scotland as though his calls had forced the hand of the Scottish government.  Similarly, the MP’s pledge to block fracking in Scotland was headlined whilst his refusal to attend a Westminster vote which would have banned it across the UK was ignored.

The East Renfrewshire MP has also embarked on a strategy of adopting policies which he previously opposed.  Did you know that Murphy, prior to the last general election, announced his support for the lowering of the top rate of income tax?  The Labour MP has now altered his stance, but nobody – certainly not the BBC – is going to highlight this.

BBC Scotland is on general election mode and the usual stories are now being pushed.  It’s why statistical irrelevancies that are Accident & Emergency waiting times are turned into major ‘NHS Crisis’ stories by BBC Scotland.  Jim Murphy appeared on Reporting Scotland using A&E waiting times to attack the SNP.  The BBC Scotland cameras filmed the Labour MP outside my local A&E department at Monklands hospital – which his party had wanted to close.

It’s why the low-brow radio phone-in programme Morning Call promote this NHS ‘doom and gloom’ narrative by encouraging people to phone-in with their tales of woe in the waiting room.  What possible public service did this show provide?  What next, tell us about having your teeth pulled?

murphy bbcYou’re going to see more of this, lots more.  I also sense a move to use education as a means of attacking the SNP.  Don’t be surprised to see headlines suggesting strike action by teachers is on the cards.

The aim right now is to present the Scottish Government and the SNP in as bad a light as possible the nearer we get to the polls.  If BBC Scotland can help promote Scottish Labour, then it will.  If it can push smear stories and/or Labour demands for inquiries it will.  If it can headline ‘reports’ with conclusions that fit an anti-SNP agenda, it will.  If it can marginalise stories damaging to Labour, such as the recent and growing scandal over a housing contract award at North Lanarkshire Council, then it will.

bbc pollThere seems nothing BBC Scotland will not do in an effort at preventing the destruction of the Labour party in Scotland.  Remember the “poll” the BBC carried out just before the 2011 Scottish election which found Labour’s policy on cancer waiting times was the “most popular”?  It set the news agenda for days and even led to Scottish Labour modifying its election strategy.

BBC Scotland doesn’t reflect changes in our society, it sets itself up as a barrier against them. BBC Scotland is going to go after the SNP because that is what it does.

If our professional pundits want to ensure the increasing political engagement is meaningful and leads to change, then they have to take the BBC on – collectively.

Nothing has changed.  Not yet anyway.

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  1. I really love most of the stuff you write, however this piece is really dismal in tone. We all know what you say is correct but if you criticise then you must have at least 2 different suggestions to combat the BBC or give examples of hope. Negativity isnt going to work, losing hope wont work thats why people turned themselves off from politics in the first place. Fools we are but we still want and need hope and it sounds to me that you also need some of it as well. Keep going we will still read your stuff.

    • I read this differently from you, I guess. Fair point about the positive suggestions but I would say that the first one is constantly reminding ourselves that “you can’t trust the BBC” and also being informed enough to be able to explain to others why “you can’t trust the BBC”. Explaining this to others is a bit like vaccinating people against a dose of pre-election BBC. I think the article helps with this and that has to be a positive contribution.
      Happy campaigning!

      • You have a point Ian, but the constant reference to “Scottish Labour” really sticks in my craw. There is no such beast, and I cannot understand why such an otherwise critical writer insists on using the term, which is pure Labour/BBC propaganda.

  2. Throughout January the BBC gave us constant coverage of A&E waiting times throughout the UK. For one solid week it remained the main headline on every news bulletin and has remained in the top few stories throughout the entire month. The position pushed was one of desperate times and a health service on the edge of disaster. I heard everyone blamed: – old people, immigrants, NHS staff (managers and nurses), the weather, irresponsible drunks. Everyone except for the government and a lack of funding.

    Yet the NHS were roughly 80- 90% successful in meeting waiting times.

    On balance then, how much coverage should be given to the dire economic situation we face ?

    Osbourne told us in 2010 that the deficit would be zero by now, he’s since revised his figures accordingly. So, from a health service that is largely hitting it’s targets to a government that has completely failed to reduce borrowing, why isn’t the deficit the headline on every single news bulletin every day ?

    Surely this would be a reasonable and fair way of treating each news item on a level playing field, if something that is largely successful can be vilified for a solid month, then something that has actually failed should surely receive a corresponding news presence according to it’s degree of success ?

  3. BBC Scotland hate us. Really hate us! That’s because we challenged their authority and had the temerity to question their biased journalism. Their hatred of the SNP is clouding their judgement now. The thing they have missed. Is that by hating the SNP they automatically hate over 50% of the Scottish voting public. Its a dangerous game siding against a minority. Its total suicide to do the same to the majority. Like it or not the SNP supporters are now the majority in Scotland. Our national broadcaster therefore hates the majority of Scots. This is the level of their stupidity. Red mist has truly descended.

  4. I have never, ever heard an interview with Murphy on BBC Scotland, in which he is given a tough time. He is allowed, without interruption, to repeat his two talking points, the only two he has. Firstly, Slab have “changed” and are “under new management”. Secondly, vote and get the Tories.

    No questions are offered on the lines of
    1. Your backroom staff are taken from the Better Together campaign and contain several avowed right wingers who detested the YES campaign how does that gel with your desire to move Slab to the left to appeal to YES voters?
    2. Is your belief in Devo Super Max Vow 2 not a complete departure from your stated position after the Smith Report was published and the vow in the form of Smith was supposed to have been delivered?
    3 Why did Slab vote against a fracking moratorium?
    4 Why did Slab M.P.’s vote with the Tories on £30 billion of further Austerity cuts last month?

    There are four off the top of my head and I am not even a journalist. But I do and have lived Licence Free since the 19th September because I know these questions will never be asked of Murphy by Pacific Quay. Until they are my £12 and change each month stays with me. A gesture maybe, but only one I have.

  5. For those who are feeling very sick of the BBC attitude towards democracy in Scotland – and in reality, the whole of the UK, could this be something to make you really puke?

    Jimmy Savile’s lechery and abuse was going on from God know’s when, but, from 1964 he was being paid by the BBC with our licence fee, also by our parents and also by all those who thought the best about the BBC.

    Did the BBC let that happen while knowing all about his abuses before his death in 2011?

    According to Wikipedia..’ After his death, hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse were made against him, leading the police to believe that Savile was a predatory sex offender,[3] and that he may have been one of Britain’s most prolific sexual offenders.[4][5][6][7] There had been allegations during his lifetime, but they were dismissed and accusers ignored or disbelieved….’

    It’s really therefore absurd to believe the BBC did not know of these allegations whilst he was still employed by them, and worse, using our licence fee to pay him very well during it all.

    And if the BBC were so myopic then, what gives us certainty that it’s not changed?

    So, if there is uncertainty about the present situation – and the BBC cannot guarantee it is not happening – do you really want to pay the licence fee which might be going where you would not want it to be going in a million years? Only asking.

  6. The media are finding it increasingly hard to gain traction with the voting public and the work done by sites like NNS are the primary movers in this change in attitude. It ain’t over yet and they still have the upper hand in access to the public, but little by little their grip is loosening.

    Happily their own arrogant, condescending lack of subtlety and lemming like approach to public interaction is a bit of a help there. 🙂

  7. BBC being used as a weapon. Just as it was in the Miner’s strike. It is simply the State Broadcaster. The same way the Soviet Union had a ridiculously tame state TV news station in the 80s, we have BBC News now. We laugh at Fox News but fail to see how bad BBC is. Misreporting news, ignoring complaints and setting their own agenda. Wait for stories attributed to ‘Academics’ and ‘Reports/Studies say..’ coming out almost every day in the run up to May. BT pulled this in the Indyref, planting stories then responding to them. BBC was either utterly incompetent or utterly corrupt. (it took me 15 mins to investigate and discover ‘Academics Together’ were behind the so-ca!!end stories). So how come experienced BBC journalists could miss this, its page one of how to be a journalist!

  8. Do you think there will ever come a time when the people of Scotland lose all hope and just pull the masts down? Silence can be better for the ears than state broadcasted propaganda.

    I wonder how Orwell would portray our non-social and domineering commercial democracy today? Corporations control the government and the information tools and our institutions. Did anyone see the documentary the other night about Aaron Swartz? If not get a copy and watch it. Our world has becoming too small a place for capitalism to exist. Imagine a scenario where all the companies in the world take each other over until only one vary large corporation is left. It would then be apparent to all that the workers could never buy their own production back. It would be apparent that the system is fundamentally flawed, unequal, and unjust. It would be apparent that corporations are totalitarian fronts for actual financial tyrants. That we are ruled through proxy corporations which are protected under law as though they were real and human.

    How did we let it get like this?

  9. There SHOULD be a danger that this kind of commentary would be dismissed as “prejudice and paranoia from overreacting separatists”. But I’m not aware of these in MSM – but maybe I’ve just missed them since I simply don’t view Scottish mainstream news.

    So to obviate this danger, even if it isn’t there presently, then we must show corruption which has no possible connection to Scottish Independence or straightforward party politics. I propose “we” take down Robert Peston for his propaganda on behalf of the banks since the 2008 credit crunch.
    You think Peston was a hero back then, because you saw him on BBC News? You believe BBC News has only recently become so completely corrupt? And only corrupt on Independence, bias for the Labour party and against the SNP? As I’ve said elsewhere, because of the annihilation of the Tory party in Scotland, the place for mercenary, greedy, amoral people to make it into power in Scotland is the Labour party – hence Jim Murphy, who would be in a safe Tory seat in England if he’d been brought up there.

    It is obvious to anyone paying attention and viewing with a skeptical or even mildly cynical eye that the BBC is corrupt.
    If you are confident in this assessment you must then accept that for them there is no barrier against any manipulation or lie they will tell for the advantage of the suits with power & money; so there must be other analysis available which has no possible connection to Scottish Independence or straightforward party politics.

    That analysis is performed by myself on Robert Peston, the BBC’s former Business editor, now Economics editor.
    It is my deduction that he is in the pockets of the banks, and the manipulation of news he performs can only be broadcast with the collusion of the ‘BBC News Group’ – managers.
    I’ve written three related articles; two on Peston, and one on BBC News. I’d be extremely happy to rewrite these for, missing out the swearwords!

    Here is the analysis and, I think convincing, deductions:

    Peston’s 2008 Bank Propaganda Piece

    Robert Peston: Lying To A Nation and getting away with it

    BBC News: Lying To A Nation and getting away with it

    See me on Twitter:

  10. Well done to McWhirter on GMS this morning. He told Torchill of the Record to stop misleading the public. I am of course referring to the myth that the largest party forms the government. The rules are quite clear. It’s only the party with the wowrkable majority that can run the show. So if the Tories and Labour get the same votes. Only the SNP can decide who gets into power if they were to have 40-50 seats. The Tories having more seats than Labour make not one jot of difference if it’s not a majority, which it wont be. I am surprised that McWhirter didn’t tell Torchill to stop lying. Maybe Torchill is really that stupid that he doesn’t actually know the rules. However I suspect he is just playing the Labour game of vote SNP get Tories!

    I am not sure why a so called political journalist is invited onto a programme if he is just a Labour mouthpiece. The message to to Torchill is. We are the majority now and you are siding with the minority. Where are you going to go after May?

    • There must be a hope for the BBC after independence or they will be left with no option but to go down all guns blazing. Though what would entice them to turn coat remains to be seen. Labour politicians about to loose their seats must be wishing they had supported independance with its need for diplomats etc. I wonder what would be a better future for BBC Scotland.

  11. As ever Mr. Ponsonby you have hit the nail on the head. I have been arguing ever since I came on this web-site (not yesterday!) , and others like it, with the same theme: stop the BBC lying, and we will win.

    It has been well documented that BBC Scotland has a group of politically connected and committed ex Labour members running its news programmes. I won’t waste time listing them all, because there are literally so many of them.

    And as your article illustrates since at least 2007, the BBC in Scotland has been running and colluding with Labour’s campaigns. During the Referendum there were many blatant examples, but the one that sticks in my mind was the ‘set-up’ Better Together street scene in Edinburgh on the day of the Calton Hill rally. The BBC reported 8,000, the Police confirmed 30,000 YES on the march. Yet in a further desperate move, the BBC fabricated a dozen punters( actually activists) walking in single file down a street taking BT literature of a Labour Party member.

    It was laughable but sinister. And yet they got away with it. And they continue to get away with it.
    The North Lanarkshire Council scandal mentioned is truly a ‘story. But will we hear about it on ‘auntie’?

    I get frustrated when people go on about Murphy and Brown etc. ad nauseum. They keep missing the point..these people would have no meaning or traction unless they are given unquestioning forums to spout their lies! The collaboration and collusion of the BBC with Labour is a crime, a perversion of the BBC constitution and in any other democracy the offenders, Boothman and MacQuarrie, would be in a dock being charged with corruption.

    However, that won’t happen. But as Mr. P points out, unless our professional pundits and politicians take on the BBC now, the G.E. result is still very problematic. Remember Blair Jenkins powder puff performances and the softly softly approach of the SNP/YES alliance. It was allowed to be undermined and blown away by the msm/BBC led VOW. As long as the BBC is trusted as being honest and truthful by the old and middle class, we are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. We must not allow a repeat of the Referendum robbery of our Freedom!

    • I listened to Good Morning Scotland today, and speaking from memory, it was a mixture. On each hour, the headline covering the poll and expectations finished with a short quote from Murphy saying that the majority party legally formed the government. Several times.

      In between it featured several interviews which gave other versions of this view, but then in the 8-9 slot, there was the excellent MacWhirter-Torquil debate when MacWhirter insistently and effectively corrected this error, but was signed off with “there’ll be plenty of time to argue this out”.

      What would you call this? Deliberate interference with the truth? Working to an agenda? Rushed and poorly prepared material? All three and more? The truth was there, but from listening to the headlines alone, you’d never find it.

  12. I do wish “pundits” would stop calling them Scottish Labour, they are an unashamedly bigoted British Nationalist Party, the Referendum illustrated that. I do have to take issue with the SNP as well, since they are also guilty of perpetuating the BBC/ Brit Media myth that the Brit Nationalist Labour Party can be in any Brit Govt as a majority or even a coalition after May election.

  13. Oh and I expect performances from Eleanor Bradford, daily ones at that as the BBC machine attacks the NHS in Scotland on behalf of Corporations wanting to get their grasping mitts on it, with intermittent breaks to attack Education in Scotland, they are predictable. The only cure for the BBC drivel is to hit the off switch and make sure that everybody you know hits the off switch as well. I now make a point of phoning elderly relatives when the Brit Propaganda Service is on so they cant watch it. The BBC will never change.

  14. We won’t stop the BBC, they have nailed their colours to the mast. How deep the wormhole of corruption goes , we will never know. We know that the MSM is on message at least 50% of the time. That includes Scotland Tonight. Anyone that witnessed Sarah Smith, cooing while interviewing corupt Mohammed Sarwar last night. Will have been in no doubt about waht is going on.

    The 45% is what will make the difference this time. It might only be 45% in a referendum. But 45% voting SNP in a GE is incredible. We haev to bear in mind turnout will be about 75% at best not 85%. The 45% translates to over 50% on a lower turnout. If Labour claw back some waiverers in the other 55% it won’t be enough. That 55% will be split between SNP,Tories,Greens and Labour. The polls are reflecting the mathematical facts.

    We will win despite the BBC. They will go down with her majesty’s glorious Britanic empire. BBC Scotland are finished as we know it.

  15. Newsnight’s response to the Ashcroft polls yesterday was to give 10 minutes to Murphy ,out running with Emily Maitlis, who clearly thinks he is a great guy for that, and another 5 minutes with an analyst who was not identified as a Labour spokeswoman. Not an SNP spokesman in sight. Whatever the SNP achieves, every story is framed as a Labour story, with the SNP as a cartoon villain in the wings threatening the stablished order.

  16. Never thought in my lifetime, that Russian news would contain more factual content than the so called BBC Scotland.

  17. Hopefully post May 7, we will see a reform of broadcasting in Scotland as one of the changes the SNP can force through for supporting a minority Labour government. This could prove vital in a second referendum campaign.

  18. The BBC are not to be trusted in any way shape or form. Even before the referendum i spoke to a well known writer, who shall remain nameless, he wrore a series of detective novels based in glasgow which were going to be made into a TV show, but only if the man would bend over on the casting couch! Needless to say that never happened and therefore no TV show! They are all completely corrupt!

  19. # Ian More. I was apprehensive before hearing Louise White on Morning Call earlier in the week with the most recent Eleanor Bradford story slating the NHS in Scotland on the subject of waiting times at A&E. No doubt as one of the BBC’s Labour stalwarts, she was hoping for some calls telling horror stories of people lying on trollies breathing their last for hours before being attended to. Instead, the calls were almost without exception fulsome in their praise for the treatment they had received. Like the babies’ ashes story and the Megrahi release, this has a bit of mileage in it yet.

  20. The rot of the Labour Party had already begun in the early seventies. At that time I was serving out an electrical engineering apprenticeship in the Imperial Tubeworks in Airdrie. A manufacturing plant and foundry, part of British Steel. I saw the writing on the wall then for it’s future and the Labour Party’s future …… and so like many a Scot before and since, I went south and sent myself to Coventry. The Imperial workforce was a closed shop controlled by the comrades. and and operated by dysfunctional management. It had precious little financial investment in new plant and even less by way of innovation of sustainable ideas or a progressive strategy for any sort of future. It was a time warp, dying on it’s feet. I put the blame for this at the hands of British Steel senior management and politicians, particularly Labour ones. The North Sea oil and gas revolution was just getting started. Orders were flowing in for pipework and well linings…… it should have had a rosy future so what became of it? It became just another housing scheme full of rabbit hutches. Sadly, within a couple of decades Coventry became just another Airdrie but on a larger scale ….. an industrial desert for the same reasons.
    Anyways, the Imperial was a nepotistic Labour fiefdom as was the surrounding area and it was there that I first had a serious run in with the comrades. I refused point blank to give a weekly “voluntary” contribution out of my wages to the Labour Party and so I was sent to Coventry even before I left Scotland. Dislike turned to hated of Labour Party minions. Shop Stewards made my working hours difficult. Even the “enforcer”, the good Doctor was involved. in the “negotiations” but I didn’t bow down and I continued to divert my sub to charity instead. A far better cause till I left, I can assure you. Years later while I was deeply involved in campaigning against privatisation and that, ( PFI to name just one despicable abortion) and my MP in Coventry was being less than helpfull I paid a visit to the neighbouring,constituency surgery of the Labour worthy incumbent on a “fishing” expedition. I was in his ” office” less than ten minutes when the meeting was abrubtly terminated and the security showed me the exit. It had dawned on the worthy that we had met before. The Labour MP was none other than Jim Cunningham and…. erm former, ex shop steward in the Imperial Tubeworks in Ardrie. lol.
    I was watching the telly last night. They were on about this contrived stushie between Labour and big beezness. Just who should appear to give his tuppence worth? My very unhelpful MP, no less. The very incarnate of all things, New Labour. Indeed was it not himself, together with his pal the prince of darkness and other creatures who were instrumental in creating New Labour. My mortal enemy, Geoffrey Robinson MP who as Paymaster General in the Treasury and a senior New Labour Cabinet Minster was in charge of all things PFI and an evangelical advocate for his pals of privatisation. He doesn’t like me much does Geoffrey, not least because of the grief I caused him and that feeling is mutual. ( Read George Monbiot’s Book, Captive State). Anyways, despite living in Coventry I have been a supporter of the SNP, member and campaigner for more years than I care to remember…… and even though I am surrounded by English friends and acquaintances, was married to a lovely English lady who I lost to cancer and I am of the opinion that Scots have more in common with English than agin …..Westmidden is unfit for purpose,be it for South Britain or North Britain and Westmidden’s apologists are pishing into the wind with their “better togerness” If Westmidden can’t or won’t reform itself then another parliament elsewhere is the solution. The same goes for a morally corrupt Labour Party that has abandoned it’s integrity and every founding principle it once stood for.

  21. Spot on Carol Williamson!!!

    Moaning will encourage labour and its buddy the bbc!

    1. A demonstration outside BBC HQ permanently (remember Carton Hill) or weekly would raise bbc bias to attention of Scots.

    2. Boycott of bbc license fee enmasse

    3. Publish known affiliation between labour and bbc in Scotland

    4. Use freedom of inform action requests to establish communications that form basis for bbc editorial position

    5. Raise the issue outside of the uk in the EU. Writing litters to mps, bbc or offcom won’t work, having the issue raised in the European Parliament is a good starting place (or UN).
    The brits fear being exposed for what they have become, they still like to be thought of as warm beer and cricket on the village green, etc.

    There’s five for a start (to be prescribed in combination for greater impact) – any others.

    D McD

  22. newsnight last week

    Evan Davis

    Asked about the surge Smaller parties,SNP then mentioning National Front(France immediately after)tainting

    SNP isn’t a surge,they have been the government of Scotland for years

  23. There seems to be same disbelief and panic at the heart of the BBC as there is in Labour HQ over the political fallout of the referendum. The BBC seem to be still fighting the referendum. They are out of step and out of time.


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