BBC Scotland colluding with Better Together as oil debate threatens No campaign


  By a Newsnet reporter
A document allegedly ‘leaked’ to BBC reporter Raymond Buchanan which the corporation is using to mount an attack on the SNP, was originally obtained by anti-independence group Better Together before being passed to the broadcaster.
The document, a Scottish government draft energy report, contains plans to move Scottish electricity generation away from volatile fossil fuels and into renewables – a long term goal of the SNP.

However in what appears to be a co-ordinated attempt to help the beleaguered pro-Union campaign, the BBC yesterday suggested the contents of the report undermined the SNP’s recent claims regarding Scotland’s oil industry.

The report emerged yesterday morning when BBC Scotland reporter Raymond Buchanan appeared on Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland with news that he had obtained a ‘leaked’ Scottish government report on energy. 

According to the BBC reporter the draft document detailed plans by the SNP to move away from volatile and damaging fossil fuels and into green energy.  Buchanan also claimed the document ‘revealed’ that an independent Scotland would rely on “subsidies” from English consumers in order to help pay for renewables.

Reporting Scotland

The BBC reports included an item on Reporting Scotland which headlined the subsidy claim and, in a move that appears to have been an attempt at conflating the oil industry with electricity generation, Mr Buchanan held the document up in front of a distant oil rig.

The claims made by Buchanan apparently centre on a paragraph in the draft document which reads:

“Higher levels of public acceptance of renewable energy developments in Scotland, including onshore wind, helps other parts of the UK, where public acceptance is more polarised.  The transition to renewable energy reduces our dependence on damaging price-volatile fossil fuels, bringing greater stability in energy prices for consumers.”

The document adds:

“The shared regulation of a single GB-wide energy market, by the new Scottish regulator and the England and Wales regulator, presents the best approach for an independent Scotland.

“An independent Scotland will seek a new strategic energy partnership with the rest of the UK – a partnership of equals – where the UK and Scottish governments jointly steer policy towards the energy sector.”

On the cost of renewables it says:

“It is equitable that these costs continue to be shared among consumers in Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

However, far from being a revelation as presented by Mr Buchanan, the energy generation plans are long held by the SNP who have already made public their view that renewable green energy is the way forward and that electricity generation through fossil fuels such as coal and gas is unsustainable. 

The party have also already made clear its belief that English electricity consumers will continue to be reliant on Scottish generated electricity after independence, the costs of which will be reflected in household bills.  This appears to be the basis for the BBC’s use of the word ‘subsidy’.

The Scottish government have also argued that an integrated energy market is the way forward and that carbon reduction targets can only be met through the use of Scottish green energy.  Scotland already exports around a fifth of the electricity generated here south of the border.

Better Together

It has now emerged that Buchanan was handed the leaked report by the pro-Union Better Together campaign after the group itself obtained it.  The ‘leak’ follows publication this week of plans by the Scottish government to safeguard Scotland’s Oil and Gas industry.

It is the second time in six months that the BBC reporter has been at the centre of controversial political reporting by the corporation.  In February this year Buchanan was left embarrassed after suggesting that Irish Minister Lucinda Creighton agreed with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore who had claimed that a newly independent Scotland would be outside the EU having to renegotiate its way back in.

The Irish Minister issued a statement denying she held any such views claiming she had been “misconstrued” and alleging her words had been “spun”.

Oil and Gas

Unionists have found themselves on the back foot over oil with industry figures and leading academics challenging Westminster claims regarding future oil revenue and the amount of reserves still to be extracted.

In a predictable move, the BBC reports have now been picked up by pro-Union journalists who have also attempted to link the renewable energy plans to the Oil and Gas sector.

Writing in the Herald, Magnus Gardham says: “The paper, titled Scotland’s Energy Future, emerged a day after Alex Salmond unveiled a major report stressing the value of North Sea oil to the economy.

“The pro-UK Better Together campaign, which obtained the document, said it revealed ministers’ private fears about relying too heavily on oil, despite claims of a second North Sea boom.”

Times journalist Lindsay McIntosh wrote: “Alex Salmond has been left embarrassed after a government document branding fossil fuels ‘damaging and price-volatile’ was leaked the day after he began a charm offensive aimed at North Sea oil firms.”

The purpose of the story, which was to try to link renewable energy plans to the Oil and Gas industry was exposed when, according to the Herald, Better Together themselves issued their own official statement which read:

“This leaked paper yet again makes public the private concern of SNP ministers about the volatility and instability of oil prices.

“The tax we get from the North Sea is so volatile that the difference between the highest and lowest years is the equivalent of Scotland’s NHS budget.

“By pooling our resources across the whole of the UK we can better manage the peaks and troughs of oil revenue.”

The episode also saw the re-emergence of former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray, who is now Scottish Labour’s Holyrood finance spokesman, who said: “Today’s leaked paper reveals yet again the confusion and chaos at the heart of the SNP’s energy policies.  Yesterday oil was booming and a bonus, today it’s a damaging price-volatile fossil fuel.”:

However a spokesman for the First Minister ridiculed the attacks: “True to form, the No Campaign have missed the point entirely in their desperation to talk Scotland down.

“The Scottish Government, whilst welcoming the huge oil and gas reserves remaining in the North Sea – around 24 billion barrels with a wholesale value of £1.5 trillion – have consistently warned of the need to reduce our domestic energy dependence on fossil fuels and, within the powers available to us, accelerated the development of renewable energy to harness our abundant green power, strengthen our energy security and provide a more stable price structure.”

Alistair Darling

The episode follows a troubling few days for the anti-independence campaign which has struggled to rebut estimates and figures detailed in a Scottish government paper which focuses on the Oil and gas industry.

On Monday, Better Together head Alistair Darling claimed there was only two billion barrels of oil left in Scotland’s waters.  Mr Darling accused Alex Salmond of exaggerating the reserves left by 12 times after Mr Salmond said there was around 24 billion barrels still to be extracted.  However Mr Darling’s claims collapsed after it was revealed that the industry itself has already confirmed that there is at least 24 billion barrels remaining; a figure also accepted by official Westminster departments.

The Labour MP’s oil claim follows an admission from another former Labour Chancellor that the party deliberately hid the true value of oil from Scots in the seventies in the run-up to the first Scottish Home Rule referendum.