BBC Scotland and Better Together – Two organisations in trouble


By G.A.Ponsonby

Alex Salmond is in the USA this week.  The First Minister is meeting businesses and giving speeches and interviews.  He’s promoting Scottish business and culture and of course his visit coincides with the annual Scotland Week celebrations in the USA.

But Mr Salmond has struggled to grab the headlines over here.  One reason was a speech given by former Labour MP George Robertson.

Robertson was all over the newspapers, radio and TV.  What had earned the former Labour MP top billing in the Scottish media was a speech in the USA.

Scottish independence, said Robertson, would be “cataclysmic for the West” and would be welcomed by the “forces of darkness”.  The rhetoric was extreme, and clearly nonsensical, but the Scottish media applies no drivel filters when it comes to attacks on independence.

As ever, at the front of the now familiar media-conga was the BBC in Scotland.  The corporation has a reputation which, if not gone already, is fast dissolving.

The corporation’s Scottish branch is almost unrecognisable to what it was set up to do, which is to inform, educate and entertain.  Instead what we now have is a broadcaster that has shut itself off from criticism and refuses to accept it has very serious issues.

There are so many things wrong with BBC Scotland’s handling of the referendum that a book is now inevitable.  Whether it makes print before the ballot in September remains to be seen.

Yesterday morning, moments after having repeated Robertson’s incredibly obnoxious and insulting claims, Good Morning Scotland carried out an interview with the editor of Bella Caledonia.  Gary Robertson, who is fast losing credibility, confronted Mike Small with the latest incarnation on the ‘Cybernat’ accusations.

Small was measured and controlled as he dealt with the BBC’s ubiquitous presenter who had clearly rehearsed his loaded questions.

The thrust of the interview were that people were being abused by pro-independence online contributors.  It followed more accusations from figures associated with the anti-independence campaign as that campaign flounders.

The ‘cybernat’ interview from Gary Robertson was broadcast on the same day it emerged an SNP MSP had been physically assaulted in a pub after debating with a Unionist.

The wall-to-wall coverage afforded Lord George Robertson mirror similar coverage given to the Weir Group after the business claimed independence would cost more.  Robertson of course is a director of the Weir Group.

In October 2012 I wrote an article ‘The Echo Chamber’ in which I chronicled how the BBC in Scotland had helped contrive a campaign against Alex Salmond.  The article centred around a notorious interview between Mr Salmond and Andrew Neil around the EU and whether Mr Salmond had received advice.

BBC Scotland has not changed, despite one high profile presenter resigning prior to being found to have misled viewers over that same key referendum issue.

The broadcaster misses no tricks in order to promote stories which harm independence.   Some (not all) of its presenters are also guilty of using gratuitous asides, as we saw when James Naughtie, reporting from New York, informed viewers that nobody was shouting “independence” from the sidewalk.

The BBC presenter failed of course to clarify whether there were cries in favour of the Union.

BBC Scotland is now in the same position as the official anti-independence campaign in that it is losing credibility at a rate of knots.  Its stock has never been lower.

Scots licence payers were promised improved coverage of the referendum which, we were told, would begin at the end of last year.  Thus far what we have is James Naughtie displaying his very clear pro-Union credentials and Gary Robertson popping up on almost every political programme showing off his crisp, humourless and charisma free delivery.

The BBC in Scotland is now beyond saving.  It is little more than the go-to place for anyone with a gripe to have a go at the SNP and/or independence.