By a Newsnet reporter
BBC Scotland’s handling of the independence referendum has come in for more criticism after a Labour MSP bowed to pressure and pulled out of a role which would have seen her co-host a new current affairs radio programme.
Anger had surrounded news that the programme, which would have focused on the independence referendum, was to be jointly hosted by Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale.
In a statement issued today, Labour MSP Dugdale said: “I can confirm that I’ve withdrawn from talks – it was never signed and sealed but I’ve decided not to take part.”
Dugdale had already recorded a pilot episode of ‘Crossfire’ with co-host Andrew Wilson. The show, which is to replace the popular ‘Headlines’ hosted by Ken McDonald, is scheduled to begin broadcasting this weekend.
Her announcement that she has decided not to take part in the programme follows criticisms of the BBC, which had been accused of breaching its own rules by paying a serving politician during an election campaign.
Commenting on his blog, former BBC Scotland presenter Derek Bateman ridiculed the handling of the episode by his former bosses.
Bateman lambasted the decision to drop a popular show with an experienced presenter, and then “offering a contract to someone entirely unsuitable” only for the individual herself to be dropped.
He added: “That looks to me like making a big mistake first and then wheedling a way out. If this was Kezia’s idea to pull out, it doesn’t sound as if the BBC made herculean efforts to retain her.
“Put another way, it implies they’re happy to wash their hands of her, after realising too late that there’s an election on.”
The decision by Dugdale has thrown plans for the show into chaos and leaves BBC Scotland Chiefs with a headache with only three days to go before the first show airs.
It will pile more pressure on Pacific Quay bosses who are already under fire for having presided over what many believe is an appalling mismanagement of coverage of the independence referendum.
Morale at the Glasgow based HQ is said to be at an all-time low with relations between management and unions strained. Critics have questioned the decision to import London based presenters to host high profile current affairs programmes at huge cost and at the expense of local talent.
The corporation is also facing protests from up to 1500 people on June 29th as anger grows over its growing tendency to favour the No campaign in coverage of the referendum.
This week the Head of its referendum unit, Jim Mullin admitted that an item on currency had not been fully accurate after a BBC Scotland item contained misleading information on the currency adopted by Ireland when it gained its independence.
Colletta Smith, a reporter on loan from Northern Ireland, had told listeners that Ireland had adopted the punt when it became independent in 1921. Ireland had in fact continued to use the pound for fully seven years after independence.
BBC Scotland eventually corrected an online article after being contacted by Newsnet Scotland. However the original broadcast was not followed by any correction.