BBC claimed Irish Minister’s EU indy views had “far greater alignment” with UK Government than Scottish Government

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  By Martin Kelly
 
Comments made in a controversial TV interview by Ireland’s former European Affairs Minister on the EU status of an independent Scotland were more aligned with the views expressed by the UK Government than those of the Scottish Government, BBC Scotland bosses claimed.
 
Evidence submitted to the BBC Trust by the corporation shows BBC Scotland chiefs believed Lucinda Creighton’s reference to Iceland meant her views on “the whole issue of EU membership, from a position outside the EU…” showed “far greater alignment” with the official view expressed by the UK Government than that expressed Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The revelations follow news exclusively revealed by Newsnet Scotland on Friday that the Trust has found the BBC guilty of breaking editorial guidelines.  The ruling, yet to be officially announced, follows a complaint that an item on the flagship news programme Reporting Scotland misled viewers by suggesting the Irish Minister backed comments made by former Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore.

The broadcast heard Mr Moore claim a newly independent Scotland would find itself outside the European Union and having to negotiate its way back in.  According to BBC reporter Raymond Buchanan, this view was shared by Irish Minister Lucinda Creighton.

However within days of the broadcast, the Irish Minister issued statements complaining her comments had been misconstrued, spun and taken out of context.  Lucinda Creighton also claimed her comments had been manipulated.

BBC Scotland bosses denied the corporation was the target of Ms Creighton’s complaint and a subsequent item on the Sunday Politics Show featured a studio discussion with Scottish Minister Fiona Hyslop in which BBC presenter Andrew Kerr defended the Reporting Scotland item.

However in another exclusive, Newsnet Scotland can reveal that BBC Scotland bosses did indeed believe that Lucinda Creighton held a view that was in agreement with that expressed by Michael Moore.

In their evidence to the Trust, the BBC claimed that Lucinda Creighton herself had indicated she was of a view that was in line with the UK Government on the issue of whether an independent Scotland would be outside of the EU.

Newsnet Scotland can reveal that in their submission to the Trust, BBC Scotland bosses said: “Consequently the whole issue of EU membership, from a position outside the EU, with specific reference, by way of comparison, to the case of Iceland, was one which Ms Creighton herself raised.  In this respect, there is far greater alignment between her comments and those of Mr Moore than there is between what she says and the position of the Scottish Government, as articulated by Ms Sturgeon.”

The statement will call into question claims by the BBC that it had not misinterpreted the views of the Irish Minister and that she was not referring to the corporation when complaining her comments had been “misconstrued”.

In a subsequent submission to the Trust on October 24th, the BBC said: “This was a straightforward interview, accurately reported on Newsdrive on radio Scotland and on Reporting Scotland on television later that day.  Ms. Creighton clearly expressed her view on the future status of an independent Scotland, the comparison between Scotland and Iceland that she thought relevant and expounded on this, not once but twice.”

Newsnet Scotland can also reveal that currently no specific guidelines have been issued to BBC Scotland covering the independence referendum.  According to the BBC, guidelines on how to cover the referendum will not apply “until closer to the date of the referendum”.

Newsnet Scotland asked BBC Scotland for a response to the ruling by the BBC Trust.  A spokesman said the corporation would not respond at this point.  Newsnet Scotland understands that BBC Scotland chiefs have been made aware of the decision by the Trust themselves.

The decision to find the BBC guilty of breaching editorial guidelines on accuracy was taken by the Trust Committee on November 7th.  The decision was scheduled to be relayed to the complainant on December 5th – however this was delayed until December 18th.

Newsnet Scotland understands that the Trust will not officially release the ruling until January 14th 2014.