Scotland’s First Minister has criticised media outlets, including the BBC, for describing as ‘UK and British’, the looting and violence that has spread throughout cities in England.
Mr Salmond was speaking on Radio Scotland this morning when he claimed that the BBC and other media outlets were in danger of presenting information in a way that threatened to hamper Scottish tourism by giving the impression that the violence and looting was also happening in Scotland.
The four days of continuous rioting and violence in England’s major cities has led to the recall of the UK parliament. 250 specially trained Scottish police have been sent down to England in order to help with the situation.
The First Minister claimed that with Scotland relying so much on tourism and the Edinburgh festival underway it would be unhelpful if people were left with the impression that the violence was also happening in Scotland.
Mr Salmond described Scotland as a “different society” and insisted it was important that this was presented.
He said: “One of my frustrations was the events being described on the BBC network and SKY television as riots in the UK.
“Well, until such time as we do have a riot in Scotland then what we’ve seen are riots and events in London and across English cities.”
Mr Salmond called the presentation “unhelpful” given the dangers of copycat actions and said he hoped that cooperation would be forthcoming in order to report the situation properly.
The SNP leader also highlighted the front page of the Scotsman newspaper which had also described the riots as ‘UK’ riots. Mr Salmond pointed out that Scotland had just experienced record tourism figures and the industry could be harmed if events were not reported accurately.
Mr Salmond agreed that it was less likely that the rioting would spread to Scotland but insisted that the Scottish government were not being complacent and that resilience meetings had been held with police chiefs in Scotland to ensure a state of readiness.
Asked about the deployment of Scottish police to help their English colleagues the First Minister said “We’ve got an obligation to help if we can and that’s what’s been done”.
The BBC, which broadcasts worldwide, has received complaints from viewers and listeners incensed at the corporation’s continued description of the riots as ‘UK’ and ‘British’. Some presenters at BBC Scotland have also been using the terms to describe the anarchy.
However Conservative junior minister David Mundell defended the media descriptions and attacked Mr Salmond’s intervention calling it parochial and petty. The Tory MP claimed the riots have affected the whole of the UK.
Mr Mundell responded to Mr Salmond’s insistence that it was important to report that Edinburgh and Scotland are free of rioting and open for business and said:
“The rest of the UK is open for business, London is open for business and to suggest that there is some sort of differentiation I think is deeply unhelpful and it is aimed at securing a nationalist viewpoint, a separatist viewpoint, not a pulling together a time of difficulty for our nation.”
The Conservative MP was joined by Labour’s Iain Gray who described Mr Salmond’s comments as “embarrassing”.
Mr Gray added: “Alex Salmond does not seem to recognise that there are many parts of England that are luckily untouched by riots like Scotland and that an argument about their geography helps no one.
“He has let himself and Scotland down badly trying to push his narrow party political point at a time of crisis.”
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