By a Newsnet reporter
The Yes campaign is facing an onslaught from BBC Scotland as oil threatens to make an impact in the independence debate.
Fresh from its decision to give headline coverage to Sir Ian Wood after he launched an attack on the Scottish Government over its estimate of the amount of oil remaining in the North Sea, the BBC has given coverage to yet another similar claim.
Melfort Campbell, who once chaired a commission into the future of North Sea oil, has claimed companies will be “hard pushed” to extract 15bn barrels from the sector. Mr Campbell’s claim is the basis for a BBC article, headlined ‘Further warning over North Sea oil extraction figures’.
Campbell is also a former Chairman of pro-Union organisation CBI Scotland whose parent – the London based CBI – briefly registered as an official supporter of the anti-independence Better Together campaign. The registration was deemed void after CBI Chief John Cridland said it had been made in error.
The decision to promote claims which challenge Scottish Government, and industry, estimates relating to North Sea Oil, are in contrast to those statements which back the Scottish Government.
On the same day the corporation headlined the Melfort Campbell claims, the BBC also sought to suppress a statement from Sir Donald Mackay in which the respected economist challenged comments from Sir Ian Wood.
Sir Donald’s intervention was eventually appended to the end of the Melfort Campbell article.
A similar editorial decision witnessed a report from think-tank N-56, which challenged UK Government oil estimates, given a low order of ranking on the BBC website before disappearing altogether within a matter of hours.
By contrast Sir ian Wood’s claims were heavily promoted by the BBC across all platforms, including TV, radio and online.
BBC attempts to undermine the Scottish Government over the issue of oil followed recent reports of a huge oil find to the West of Shetland. The Clair Ridge story has dominated social media with rumours that the phase 3 part of the project will yield significant oil reserves.
In a promotional video released by BP this year, the oil giant described the Clair Ridge field as “massive”. A recent unannounced visit to Shetland by UK Prime Minister David Cameron fuelled speculation that the 1600 round trip from London was related to the new oil discovery.
The emergence of the BBC as a firm supporter of the No campaign has witnessed the corporation promote a series of Better Together inspired issues, with the EU and currency dominating.
However the extent of the political news manipulation has led to the corporation’s own watchdog finding it guilty of a breach of its own guidelines on one of the key issues of the independence referendum. In 2013 the broadcaster overstepped the mark in a broadcast on the EU membership when it misrepresented the views of an Irish politician and was subsequently deemed to have misled viewers.
In April this year it emerged that the BBC had been – for years – secretly paying tens of thousands of pounds to a pro-Union lobbying group.
The broadcaster had been paying the CBI over £22,000 per year in membership fees. Despite anger over the use of licence payer’s cash, the BBC refused to cancel its membership.