By a Newsnet reporter
The BBC has been accused of misreporting comments from a former Northern Ireland First Minister after the corporation claimed he said a Yes vote would threaten peace in the province.
In its broadcast and online news reports on comments from Lord Trimble, the broadcaster said the politician viewed Scottish independence as “the biggest threat to peace in Northern Ireland”.
The claims by the corporation followed an interview in which Lord Trimble had said he believed a Yes vote in the independence referendum would lead to strains in Northern Irish politics.
He said: “If the referendum in Scotland goes in the way I regard as the wrong result, that will change the political context in Northern Ireland and that would cause strains.
“It would put what is now a non-issue [a possible referendum] into a major issue and it would be divisive, obviously.”
However, claims by the BBC that Lord Trimble had said Scottish independence would lead to a return to violence in the province were challenged by the former First Minister himself who accused the BBC of attributing views to him that he did not hold.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland, Lord Trimble confronted BBC Scotland presenter Bill Whiteford who had earlier repeated the claim, saying: “Unfortunately you are not the only person who has made this mistake.”
Referring to several BBC reports claiming he had said a Yes vote would mean a return to violence, he added: “I did not say that. It is not my view.”
Referring specifically to his original interview given to the BBC Daily Politics Show in which he had spoken of a Yes vote causing strains and division in Northern Ireland, Lord Trimble said this did not mean a return to violence.
On the contrary, he added, Scottish independence would lead to the complete opposite of what the BBC was reporting and reduce further the possibility of a return to violence.
He said: “Actually, a Yes vote in Scotland would reinforce the argument against violence because it’s a demonstration of how you can achieve major change through the political democratic process.”
Lord Trimble is not the first Irish politician to challenge interpretations placed on interviews given to the BBC.
In January 2013, the Republic of Ireland’s European Minister Lucinda Creighton challenged reports claiming she believed a newly independent Scotland would find itself outside the EU and having to negotiate its way back in, saying they were untrue.
The Irish politician issued several statements making clear that her view was in fact the opposite of what had been presented following an interview with BBC Scotland reporter Raymond Buchanan. The episode resulted in BBC Scotland being found guilty of having breached editorial guidelines on accuracy. The ruling by the BBC Trust followed a near year-long investigation by the watchdog.
The latest controversy over the BBC’s handling of the independence debate follows increasing suspicions that the broadcaster is now actively favouring the No campaign in many of its broadcasts.
Yesterday, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray accused the BBC of broadcasting anti-independence propaganda after the corporation gave widespread uncritical coverage to a newly formed pro-Union group called ‘No Borders’.
Murray challenged BBC claims the group was a ‘grass roots’ organisation after he claimed to have uncovered links to the UK Government and the Conservative party.
He wrote: “But what makes this propaganda utterly unforgiveable is that Vote No Borders is not a grassroots campaign at all but a government organized campaign which has mysteriously acquired start-up cash of 400,000 pounds with no declared origin.”