The Cruddas story, anonymity and BBC Scotland’s political news agenda


By G.A.Ponsonby
The biggest story of the week broke on Saturday, ex Tory party Treasurer Peter Cruddas claimed that the Tory party may be faking its support for the Union and in fact was positioning itself for negotiations post-independence.
The Times broke the story and backed it up with a video recording of Cruddas making the claims.

By G.A.Ponsonby
The biggest story of the week broke on Saturday, ex Tory party Treasurer Peter Cruddas claimed that the Tory party may be faking its support for the Union and in fact was positioning itself for negotiations post-independence.
The Times broke the story and backed it up with a video recording of Cruddas making the claims.

In terms of the independence debate it is the biggest story thus far.  That senior members of the UK government have either privately conceded defeat or are actively in favour of Scottish independence is dynamite.

How so?  Well consider for a moment if a senior figure within the SNP had claimed that some Ministers within the Scottish government were privately against independence and were in fact faking support and wished the Union to continue – yep, it would be a big story.

The BBC gave the Cruddas story its due online prominence when it broke, not surprising really since every major newspaper and outlet had pounced on it.

It was a ready-made Sunday Headline and that’s pretty much what happened.  The story was big political news, in particular Scotland where the referendum dominates the political landscape.

Even Radio Scotland’s Shereen show, not normally known for covering stories that might help the cause of independence, mentioned the story – for thirty seconds, although this was probably more to do with the fortuitous invite to Ewan Crawford, a former SNP media adviser, than any desire to give the story prominence.

Scotland on Sunday splashed on the story, even the Sunday Mail ran with it and the BBC’s broadcasting rival STV also gave the story a high prominence.  It was a political behemoth of a story, of that there was no question.

However it coincided with the publication of the UK Government’s referendum consultation, and the spin being pushed by London was that most submissions wanted the independence referendum sooner rather than later.

A ‘sooner than later’ headline wasn’t exactly a scoop, nor was it a surprise given that many submissions to the consultation had been solicited via a Labour party website.

So, given the almost universal agreement amongst news outlets in Scotland that the new Cruddas revelations was Sunday’s hot political item, or at least in the top three, how does one explain what happened on BBC Scotland’s Politics Show that afternoon.

The number one item was, believe it or not, a Labour party inspired accusation that the Scottish government’s referendum consultation was unfair and had been deliberately designed to be abused.

I have to admit to having been thrown by this gambit by Labour and indeed the BBC in Scotland.  Where was the Cruddas story?  Why had, what amounted to a Labour smear, been allowed to displace real and sensational news?

There isn’t an answer, unless you entertain the thought that this was pre-planned and organised. 
The UK government consultation was scheduled to be published this weekend and presented an opportunity for Unionists to dictate the political narrative.

It was the ideal opportunity for London to once again run with their ‘sooner rather than later’ tagline and try to undermine the Scottish government’s consultation at the same time.

In Scotland though the attack on the integrity of the Scottish consultation required the assistance of the Labour party.  Any attempt by the Conservatives or Lib Dems to generate momentum would have fallen flat.

So it was that Labour stepped in and provided the smear and, as is typical, the state broadcaster provided the platform.

The BBC had clearly agreed to allow this Labour attack to form the centrepiece of this Sunday’s political show, and ordinarily nobody would have batted an eyelid. 

However the Cruddas story presented BBC Scotland with a dilemma – do they drop the pre-arranged smear in order to cover the emerging (and significant) story or do they keep to their schedule?

Not surprisingly they chose the latter and myself, and I suppose many others, sat open mouthed as a bizarre discussion then took place based exclusively on Scottish Labour party claims.

Isabel Fraser handled the ensuing debate well, and to be honest Labour Deputy Scottish leader Anas Sarwar dug himself into a bit of a hole after implying that submissions to the UK consultation, made via a Labour party website, had been monitored.

But as good as Ms Fraser is, the elephant in the room was the Cruddas story and everybody knew it.

The choreography was evident when, within moments of the show, BBC Scotland placed the smear at the top of its online news site. 

It beggars belief that Scotland’s top politics show could have ignored Scotland’s top political news story, then compounded things by supplanting the top story with a very clearly contrived smear.  Hours later the Cruddas story was considered less important than a piece about Welsh rugby player Gavin Henson.

The choice of wording for the online headline, as is becoming the norm for the BBC, was again misleading ‘Row over independence responses’ it bellowed – ignoring the fact that the consultation is about the referendum and not about independence.

In fact the Scottish government’s consultation makes no mention of independence – quite why the BBC is presenting it in this fashion is unclear.

Not for the first time a Labour inspired complaint had knocked a news story that was damaging to the Conservative party, and by extension the Unionist anti-independence campaign, off of the BBC’s top spot in Scotland.

The Cruddas story did make it onto the Politics Show in a hasty discussion right at the end, but you would have been forgiven for wondering what was being discussed.

Whoever made the editorial decision to give a Labour party smear such a high profile in a political programme whilst all but ignoring the Cruddas story and the huge implications it has for the Conservatives in Scotland in terms of the referendum campaign has some explaining to do.

BBC Scotland’s reputation when it comes to political coverage is low at the moment – and it is slowly getting worse.

[Newsnet Scotland comment – Usually we place a news story as the top item on the site.  However, such was the orchestrated nature of this episode that we felt that as many people as possible ought to be aware of what was happening.

The ‘Scottish’ press have decided to run with the Labour party smear as can be seen from the links below.  The first two headlines read out on Good Morning Scotland’s newspaper review at 06:15 this morning were the Scotsman and the Herald stories.


The Scotsman – Scottish independence: Nationalists anonymous spark new referendum dispute

The Herald – Salmond accused of rigging poll feedback

To suggest that people ought to be forced to reveal their identities when either voting or submitting their political views is reprehensible in any democracy.

This demand to know who you are and where you are coincides with new legislation being planned by Westminster that will allow the British State to monitor every email, text, telephone call and website visit each one of us makes.

The right to express one’s views anonymously is fundamental to a free and open society.  To deny anonymity is to invite tyranny and retaliation from those who wield power.

If the denial of anonymity and the demonisation of those who challenge the status quo without wishing to reveal their identity is now a basic tenet of Unionism – then we want no part of it.]


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