It didn’t take long for the BBC to seize on the latest Scottish Labour verbal hand grenade did it?
The corporation that did nothing about Jimmy Savile despite rumours of child abuse circulating amongst its staff for decades, were out of the traps like a hare when a Labour MSP called Alex Salmond a “bare faced liar”.
When the Scottish government confirmed that they were now going ahead and seeking legal advice on the specific status of an independent Scotland within the EU, at least two BBC Scotland presenters said it “appeared to be at odds” with comments Mr Salmond had made in a BBC interview in March.
Note, that these BBC presenters weren’t quoting a third party, but had decided themselves that this “appeared” to back Labour claims. On what basis Mairi Stuart and Bill Whiteford made there assertion isn’t known, unless they had viewed the Andrew Neil interview and had formed an opinion.
Mr Salmond himself read out a transcript of the interview in which it was clear what the context was. In the interview, published on the BBC’s Scottish website, The First Minister within seconds of being asked, confirms advice is held and is about to explain the context of this advice, when he is the victim of an interruption – he just manages to make it clear that he is referring to the general debate before Andrew Neil stops him from speaking.
Andrew Neil waits for the First Minister to answer yes to his question and then very skillfully prevents the First Minister from continuing. This is key to this whole row and something that might now focus minds of SNP politicians who have been seen as passive victims when being interviewed.
If an interview can be skilfully broken up by a BBC presenter, which is typical when SNP politicians are being interviewed, and then released months later when the context has been successfully manipulated by Labour then this is very worrying.
Even later on Newsnight Scotland, Gordon Brewer himself truncates the First Minister’s opening answer to Andrew Neil. Incredibly, when it is explained to Brewer that the FM specifically mentioned ‘general debate’ in his answer, Brewer denies it – despite it being clear in the recording of the Neil interview.
Brewer then goes on to do to Nicola Sturgeon exactly what Andrew Neil did to Mr Salmond, he repeatedly interrupts the Deputy First Minister. Brewer badgers and hectors Nicola Sturgeon throughout – it is clear that Brewer has made his mind up and every question is predicated with the assumption that Alex Salmond has been ‘found out’.
The whole interview is specifically designed to make the Deputy First Minister appear foolish, defending the indefensible. It doesn’t quite work, but Brewer’s ham acting is effective.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that had Alex Salmond confirmed (as is being claimed) he had indeed sought and held specific legal advice on EU membership, then Andrew Neil would have had quite a scoop and the Scottish media would have splashed headlines all over the place.
But they didn’t, and this is the weakness in the Unionist attack. Indeed, Labour themselves already knew that the no such admission was made in March by the First Minister, as is clear from their own website.
The simple question that would kill this smear stone dead is this: If Mr Salmond’s interview was an admission that the Scottish government sought and held the advice being alleged then why has Labour pursued the same Scottish government though a Freedon of Information request to reveal whether they held it?
The BBC’s approach to this, the latest attack on Alex Salmond’s ingerity, is to behave like a partisan tabloid newspaper. Instead of providing objective analysis and sober reporting of the interview with Andrew Neil and presenting it to the licence payer, the broadcaster’s Scottish branch immediately took sides and embarked on a frenzied and frothing broadcasting rampage.
Today thousands of Scots will believe that Alex Salmond is a liar, they are hearing it promoted on the ‘trusted’ BBC. The same trust that allowed Jimmy Savile to roam the country abusing young children is being used to abuse the democratic process in Scotland. Savile was granted special access to these vulnerable people precisely because of his association with the ‘trusted’ BBC.
“I tell the truth and the First Minister doesn’t”, said Labour MSP Jackie Baillie appearing on STV’s Scotland Tonight last night to discuss the issue.
This is the same Labour health spokesperson exposed by Newsnet Scotland in January when she falsely claimed that Scottish hospitals were top of the European infection league tables. Ms Baillie’s false claims were broadcast by none other than BBC Scotland – she was never challenged on those claims.
The SNP had a bad day yesterday, but this was down to two MSPs resigning in protest at the NATO vote. The resignations were an own goal by these MSPs who may well be reflecting on the wisdom of their self indulgence given that they have allowed the anti-independence camp to deflect from their own woes. The Yes campaign is closing the gap in the polls and the BBC is in serious trouble over Savile.
The ‘liar’ claim is contrived nonsense, we have seen this kind of thing before – think Trump, think Megrahi, think Lunchgate – but the BBC and the Scottish press will now use yet another Labour inspired smear to embellish the resignation’s own goal – that is how the Scottish media works. The narrative this week will be ‘SNP in turmoil’.
The silver lining on this cloud is that SNP strategists might now be a bit more wary of allowing interruptions to pepper BBC interviews. All SNP politicians can now demand to finish an answer to a question by citing the danger of being interrupted.