Media Watch 15: BBC pulling way ahead in Scotland’s climate of fear


Reporting the Run-up to the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in 2016: STV and BBC Scotland News: Number 15: Thursday 14th April to Wednesday 20th April

BBC Reporting Scotland continues to pull ahead on the negativity for the SNP/SG count. It’s now 81:21 for them against STV creating quite climate of fear for those still watching. On reports favourable to the SNP/SG, STV lead by 23:13. Both however, were guilty of protecting Labour from association with the Schools PFI scandal during this period.

Dr John Robertson
Dr John Robertson

Thursday 14th:

‘Labour is accused of failings leading to the closure of 17 Edinburgh schools. Labour Leader in Scotland, Kezia Dugdale, refuses to apologise because she was only wee, back then.’

‘Questions about why things went so badly wrong will take time to answer.’  Reporting Scotland

I know, I must have dreamt either BBC Scotland or STV uttered those first words. Reporting Scotland told us the private scheme was responsible for signing-off the building but don’t seem to know why the local authority were forced to accept such schemes when they were already known to be flawed, 12 years ago. This is the new Liebour Scandal – bias by omission. Of course, it could be the purdah rules holding both broadcasters back from commenting in ways potentially damaging to the parties. However, the complete absence of any contextualisation to answer the viewers’ inevitable question – ‘How did this all come about?’ – is unjustified.

‘Conservative plans to jail offenders who breach community services have been described as mad by the Prison Officers Association.’  STV

‘Whooofff!’ Hamilton Accies staff on STV

Ruth Davidson scores a belter of a penalty, hit hard and right in the corner. The rest was less impressive as her justice rep, Margaret Mitchell, gave away more than one own-goal by revealing the whole thing was un-costed, that she’d no idea how many offenders there might be or how many places were available. They hadn’t consulted the prison staff so the latter were now justifiably mad. In addition, Margaret knew it had worked well in America, but again was caught out by the cheeky McKay guy.

‘This is a policy (short sharp shock custodial sentences) that’s worked well across 20 states in America including…. Texas and….em….ah..ah..another…. state there.’ 

Impressive command of the evidence I think, m’lud. Wait a minute, what about purdah rules Colin? Well the SPOA wouldn’t comment because of the election, according to Colin, but then, quick as you like, he said: ‘one official did describe it to me as state-sponsored bed and breakfast.’

Then an SPOA guy appeared, named, and said: 

‘Naïve and confused is about as polite a description as I can give it and if I’m not being polite, I think it’s mad.’ 

Well, this is a stitch-up of poor Ruth and her pals. STV have revealed serious bias against the Tories. This could stop them (the Tories not STV) overtaking Labour. Had Colin been in goal when Ruth scored that penalty? Some men just don’t know how to cope with strong women without undermining them all the time. I expect to see a full apology from Colin.

Friday 15th:


‘And later in the programme we’ll be looking at the private funding used to build and run those schools.’ Sally

But, but, some people will be gone by then, Sally. It’s not easy watching the whole show. Say ‘Labour’ now. Go on.

And now, fast forward to 6.53pm, after the Sport, and a quick reminder that John Major had started it all off:

‘In came the UK Labour Government, led by Tony Blair, promising lots of new schools and hospitals……The SNP in opposition was strongly critical.’ Douglas Fraser

So there we have it the first sight of the Lesser Red-breasted Liebour Bird returning to its PFI nest, since the falling bricks on that school nearby scared it away. STV didn’t mention the word in that context either. BBC Scotland is surely now in a strong position to reject any claims of bias from me. Lord McConnell of Mallaig’s reputation is saved.

Further summing-up by Douglas, arrives with only the weather report to follow

‘But is there evidence that this approach to funding led to mistakes being made in the building standards of Edinburgh schools? Well…NO…not yet, anyway.’ 

Oh good, that means Labour couldn’t have known this might happen. Surely that, along with the Tories having started the whole thing way back, BT (Before Tony), will preserve second place? Then, right at the end, Douglas goes for it, telling us that some projects funded by conventional means, such as the Parliament at Holyrood, ‘didn’t go so well.’  Frankly, Douglas, that’s nonsense. To compare an innovative experimental building of extraordinary quality with a run-of-the-mill series of well-tested, system-built, structures using techniques that should not go wrong is facile. As for the evidence you say we don’t have yet, how about this from page 26 of House of Commons Treasury Committee Private Finance Initiative Seventeenth Report of Session 2010–12?

‘Where possible it is useful to compare PFI buildings to non-PFI buildings to see if benefits are being realised. The Audit Commission did a report on PFI schools in 2003. Although it found no difference between the construction costs of PFI and non-PFI it did find that the quality of PFI schools was significantly worse than that of the traditionally funded schools. The average score given by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for the PFI schools was lower than the non-PFI schools in all of the areas tested such as architectural design, user productivity and ownership costs.’

Note the year of the Audit Commission Report (2003) which would have been just in time for Scottish Labour to cancel the Edinburgh Schools PFI scheme. I know big Chancellor Gordon Brown wouldn’t have allowed them to do it. In the context of hospitals, there is also this, in the Summary, for the same document:

‘We have seen reports which found out that building quality was of a lower standard in PFI buildings.’

I hope this is useful Douglas. Feel free to use it and the Sunday Herald front page in your next report.

Monday 18th:

‘73% of respondents trust the Scottish Government – compared to only 23% who trust the UK Government…Scotland’s nearest challengers were Finland and Denmark, ranking 60% and 55% respectively.’

Someone just shared this with me on FB, from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey carried out by NatCen at Edinburgh University. I hadn’t seen this. Did STV or BBC broadcast it on Sunday 20th March, when it came out? I can’t check for certain because I haven’t been doing or recording the Sunday reports (too short) but there was no sign the next day.

Back to 18th April:

‘EU Referendum Clash!’ STV

STV took advantage of their pole position to keep up their Scottish 6 show with a balanced and informative piece on this international story, from a Scottish perspective. Reporting Scotland kept the school closures crisis in the headlines, with extended illustration of the effects on parents and pupils, but clearly hadn’t seen the Sunday Herald front page: ‘Revealed: £30 billion. The true cost of Labour’s toxic PFI legacy to Scotland. Brown and McConnell blamed for ‘Crumbling Schools’ scandal.’  

For a more comprehensive demolition of the BBC, read this brilliant piece: The Broken BBC

From Public Service to Corporate Power by Gavin Lewis.

Tuesday 19th:

‘Alzheimers breakthrough! Scottish scientists are on the verge of a breakthrough that may help hundreds of thousands of people who are affected by Alzheimers.’ STV

‘Back to class! Most pupils affected by the Edinburgh Schools Closure resume their education.’ STV

Compensation cash! Paper mill workers are awarded one and a half million pounds.’ STV

STV’s John McKay puts us all in good mood with three upbeat headlines.  Things are good in this wee country it seems. I might just vote for the government party now. Some BBC Scotland staff, watching before they go on air at 6.30, fall off their stools.  What is he playing at? Don’t worry Kezia, we’ll sort this out.

‘It feels awkward being bussed all over the city but I’m glad we’ve been off for a few weeks’  – Wee girl on Reporting Scotland.

No, that’s not negative enough! Who chose that bairn?

‘It might have been fun for the children but an extra week’s Easter holiday has meant extra childcare costs and more time off work for many families and now there are fresh concerns [as to] how all this disruption will affect their children’s education.’ Poe-faced RS Reporter.

OMG, it’s a disaster of epic proportions! Someone must pay for this. It was the Labour/Liberal Coalition wot done it, Miss! Ah, it wasn’t the SNP then? No, they were in opposition then. Well why didn’t they speak out? How can we trust them now?

Seriously, though, I’m all for blaming Lord Jack McConnell for this but let’s keep our hair on and our breeks untwisted. Having just read the previous sentence, you might not believe me but I was a school teacher and teacher education lecturer for more than 30 years. I was Head of Department for six years, Associate Dean for Quality Assurance for three years and even Acting Dean of the Faculty of Education (Ta Ra!)  for one year. I’ve got a PhD, one MEd, two PGDips, two PGCerts and BA Hons (Attila the Hun or 2:1) and I know that children’s education cannot be damaged by an extended Easter holiday. In fact, it probably put them in a better frame of mind to get stuck in, when they came back, cheered by feeling they’ve cheated the system of oppression a wee bit. If you want to damage their education, try imposing longer days, league tables and a rigid curriculum. Oh, you’ve done that already? For goodness sake, gie the weans a brek!

The Mysterious Schools Closure Crisis has now become the Mysterious Schools Closure Saga as RS prolong their run of reports telling us how frankly awful it is but failing to mention it’s real name, known only to the Illuminati of course, as the non-mysterious Labour Schools Closure Scandal. To be fair, they did kind of mention it last Friday late-in-the-show and after the sport but, as the say in Edinburgh: ‘You’ll have hed your wall-cevity-ties.’ Their persistence with the story if not the story reminds us of the Forth Road Bridge Closure Saga in December 2015, where they went on for weeks taking every opportunity to mention that the SNP were probably to blame in some way. Of course, this time they can’t really suggest the SNP were to blame for the PFI scheme that they opposed so if they don’t blame anyone, maybe some viewers will think it must be the government of the day – Bias By Careless Implication (BBCi)? Who said they weren’t clever? It was me?

‘Can I ask you what the mood was like in the plant today?’ RS Reporter asks outside the gates of the closing Carron Phoenix plant owned by FRANKE.

RS also did this story the previous day. Has nothing closed today that we can tell everyone about? How inconvenient! Then we saw Falkirk High Street with several For Sale signs above the shops against the background sound of a sad fiddler. Was that a selective shot in any way do you think?

Wednesday 20th:

‘Ronnie Deila quits! As the Celtic boss announces his departure…to join the Conservative Party as its Chief of Strategy!’

It’s true, it is! After seeing Ruth take that penalty kick at Hamilton Accies’ ground last week (Whooofff!) and knowing he was on the way out, Ronnie has applied or been heid-hunted by the Tories to help them in their life-or-death struggle with Labour for the title….no sorry….second place.

Irresponsibly, STV failed to give us a long gloomy, one-sided report on the ‘state’ of the Scottish economy. We only heard one sentence about it in the wee bit with Ruth driving a bus. Who will do that for us, I wonder?

‘We look at the state of the Scottish economy as the latest figures show a 20 000 rise in the number of jobless.’BBC

Look at the state o that economy, David. I ken Jackie it’s a fracking mess so it is, hen. I know they didn’t say that on-air but I have a ‘mole’ there who heard them say that beforehand. Name my source? No way, they never name their anonymous sources.  Immediately after Brian Taylor’s patronising celebrity metaphors (support act, boss, backing band) on the SNP Manifesto Launch, while those ‘fans’ are still cheering, Jackie hits us with something that might be connected in some not-so-subtle way, to those receding images of ‘fools in love’:

‘Well the state of the economy is always a crucial part of the agenda. Today, new figures were published showing that Scotland continues to have a higher unemployment rate than the UK as a whole. The jobless total increased by 20% in three months.’

Five long minutes with David, Jackie and Brian on the state of the economy yet STV only gave it one sentence. Don’t they realise how damning these figures are for the SNP and any dreams of independence? These figures show that the Union has been damaging for the Scottish economy over decades, centuries, of Tory and Labour control. No, wait, David, you’ve got it back to front! Ooops, sorry Jackie….no, I meant these figures show how impossible it would be for a Scottish government, with strategies not designed to favour London, to grow the Scottish economy in the future. Nearly David, what you meant was that London has been protecting us from even worse figures and we should be damn grateful. I think I see, Jackie, how does that work, again? Do what you’re told David!

Going back to the quote, look at this from the same source (Office for National Statistics):

‘For the 3 months ending February 2016, the highest unemployment rate in the UK was in the North East (8.0%) and the lowest was in the East of England (3.5%). The unemployment rate estimates are generally showing small changes for most of the regions of the UK’.

Are they evil or just plain stupid at reporting Scotland? You cannot meaningfully compare statistics referring to a two quite different units of population, economy, geography, geology and so on. There is even less point comparing Scotland with the ‘UK as a whole’ which includes Scotland!

There’s a table on page 6 which reveals the more meaningful regional breakdown. Unemployment in Scotland is the fifth highest at 6.2%, after London mind you, with the North-East of England the highest at 8.0%. It’s less than 4% in the South-East. Why might that be, I wonder? Scotland is, more positively, fifth highest in the UK for the employment rate. Despite centuries of neglect, like the North-East of England, a degree of control, unlike there, has clearly helped.

On the SNP manifesto launch, STV put it well down the list but treated it respectfully letting Nicola speak for herself for some time. On Reporting Scotland, as often before, it’s clearly better for us if Brian Taylor tells us what he thinks she was trying to say.


House of Commons Treasury Committee Private Finance Initiative Seventeenth Report of Session 2010–12 at:

ONS Statistical Bulletin, 2016 at: