BBC Scotland and Lamont re-ignite row over Irish Minister’s EU comments

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Both BBC Scotland and Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont have re-ignited the row over comments made by the Irish European Minister on the status and process of an independent Scotland’s position in the European Union.

Yesterday at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Lamont claimed Lucinda Creighton had been “bombarded with abuse” after the Irish Minister had given an interview to a BBC Scotland reporter.

The Scottish Labour leader also claimed the SNP had made a “hysterical response alleging the comments from Ms Creighton had been “misconstrued”.

Last week, responding to a question from BBC Scotland reporter Raymond Buchanan on the EU status of an independent Scotland, the Irish Minister was heard to say that “Scotland would have to apply for membership” and that “there would be an application and a negotiation process”.

In a later BBC broadcast Mr Buchanan told Radio Scotland listeners that the opinion of the Scottish government that “EU membership would be automatic although there would need to be some negotiations” was “not the view held by Ireland’s Europe Minister”.

Speaking in the chamber yesterday, Ms Lamont said: “When the BBC reported Lucinda Creighton’s comments they were accused  by the SNP of misconstruing what she said.”

Calling for “a degree of honesty” the Scottish Labour leader said that people giving “accurate facts” had been “pilloried by the cybernats”.

She added: “What does it say about Scotland, when the Minister of a foreign country is bombarded with abuse for telling the truth and news organisations from the Scotsman to the Herald to the BBC are traduced for reporting facts that turn out to be true.”

However, as reported exclusively by Newsnet Scotland last Sunday, the claims that her words had been misrepresented were made, not by the SNP as claimed by Johann Lamont, but by the Irish Minister herself.

Following a request for clarification from Newsnet Scotland and others including the Deputy First Minister, Ms Creighton claimed her comments had been “misconstrued or perhaps manipulated by some quarters” that they had been “spun” and “seem to have been presented or taken out of context.”

The Irish politician told Newsnet Scotland: “I was asked about the future of negotiations with the EU in the event that Scotland votes for independence.  I thought that my reply was largely in line with that of the Scottish Government.  I certainly did not at any stage suggest that Scotland could, should or would be thrown out of the EU.  Scottish people are citizens of Europe.”

Ms Creighton also expressed agreement with the Scottish government’s view, that a simplified process would follow the period between a Yes vote and independence that would see Scotland’s EU membership continuing, saying “I think that sums up the situation quite well.”

The claims by Johann Lamont follow reluctance on the part of BBC Scotland to report Ms Creighton’s clarification remarks.  Despite Newsnet Scotland and the Deputy First Minister publishing the Irish Minister’s clarification statements, the broadcaster has refused to carry the news.

Yesterday on Reporting Scotland, BBC reporter Glenn Campbell, despite Ms Creighton’s very clear follow up statements, said only that she “seemed to accept an application could be completed within the SNP’s timetable for independence by May 2016”.

However, the Irish Minister very explicitly said that she believed that the SNP’s position, that they would negotiate conditions after independence from within, as a continuing member, summed up the situation quite well:

She added: “I did go on to say that a newly independent Scotland would be welcome as an EU partner (and I think that applies to all EU member states including Ireland).  My understanding is that the Scottish Government has already committed to a negotiation with the EU between 2014 and 2016, if you vote for independence in 2014.

“If my interview suggested something other than that, this was not my intention.”

The reluctance of BBC Scotland to acknowledge and report in full Ms Creighton’s clarification comments is sure to increase concern over the willingness of the broadcaster to report key areas of the independence referendum in a balanced manner.