By a Newsnet reporter
Officials in charge of the anti-independence campaign are facing calls to issue a correction and apologise after they misrepresented comments from new EC President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The calls follow a speech by Mr Juncker in which he said that enlargement of the EU should be suspended for five years.
Juncker, who replaced Jose Manuel Barroso as head of the EC, said: “There will be no new enlargement in the next five years,”.
He added: “The EU needs to mark a pause in its enlargement process so that we can consolidate what has been done with 28,”
However, despite Mr Jucnker making it clear he was referring to candidate countries, in particular those from the Balkans, officials from the Better Together campaign claimed the remarks were proof that a newly independent Scotland would be forced out of the EU and barred from re-entry for five years.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said today: “It is now clear that if we leave the UK, we would be leaving the EU. This would put thousands of Scottish jobs at risk and would be massively damaging to our country.
“Two weeks ago Alex Salmond hailed Mr Juncker as someone he wanted to do business with, but today he will no doubt accuse him of being wrong or of scaremongering. This is not good enough. We cannot walk away from all the benefits of EU membership simply so that the SNP can achieve their political ambitions.”
On the official Better Together website, a hastily written article under a ‘latest news’ section and headlined ‘Juncker Ends Salmond’s European Dream’, said: “Alex Salmond’s dream of a separate Scotland quickly re-joining the EU lies in tatters today after the new President of the European Commission said there would be no new EU member states for 5 years.”
It added: “Unfortunately for Alex Salmond, Mr Juncker has indicated that a separate Scotland would face a difficult journey to join the EU,”
However the claims from the anti-independence campaign group were left in tatters after an official from Mr Junker’s office confirmed the EC President was not referring to Scotland when he made his speech.
BBC reporter James Cook tweeted: “Jean Claude Juncker’s spokeswoman says he was not referring to Scotland when he talked about a five year pause in EU accession”
BBC Scotland News later confirmed the reporter’s tweet a short while later.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanded the No campaign apologise and said: “This blatant act of dishonesty is a major blow to the credibility of the No campaign.
“In their desperation to talk Scotland down and spread fears and smears, the No camp have wilfully twisted what Jean-Claude Juncker said. They said that Mr Juncker was talking about Scotland – and his spokeswoman has confirmed that he was not. Their claims now lie in tatters.”
Ms Sturgeon said the campaign against independence had distorted remarks made by Mr Juncker and called for them to withdraw their “bogus assertions” immediately and apologise.
“The only threat to Scotland’s place in Europe is a Westminster in/out referendum.”
The episode is also hugely embarrassing for BBC Scotland after the broadcaster made the claim from Better Together one of the top stories on its flagship news programme Reporting Scotland.
Viewers heard presenter Jackie Bird repeat Better Together’s claim that Juncker’s comments had ‘dealt a blow’ to an independent Scotland’s EU membership.
Bird asked her BBC colleague Tim Reid what the “effect on Scotland” would be. According to Reid, any mention of EU membership was “seen through the referendum prism”.
Viewers also saw Conservative MP David Mundell say: “I think it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t see Scotland becoming a member of the EU if it was an independent state, within five years.”
Within an hour of Junker’s office denying the claims from Better Together, BBC Scotland had altered its online report of the episode.
However it is not known if the corporation will issue a similar correction over misleading broadcasts.
The misrepresentation of Jean-Claude Juncker by the BBC and Better Together follows a similar episode last week when comments made by the official were presented as though a reference to a newly independent Scotland.
BBC Scotland reported that Mr Juncker had said, in relation to a newly independent Scotland, that “One does not become a member of the EU by sending a letter.”
However, Spanish newspaper reports confirmed that the official was in fact referring to a letter written by Catalan President Artur Mas.
Despite being made aware of their error in an email by Newsnet Scotland, BBC Scotland Chiefs refused to correct the ‘mistake’.