Videos released on youtube have appeared to cast significant doubt on the willingness and ability of the BBC to cover the independence referendum in an impartial manner.
The videos, containing presentations on Scotland’s forthcoming referendum, show four senior BBC presenters giving their views to what is believed to be an audience of junior BBC staff.
The presenters, including BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor, are shown attacking the fairness of the SNP’s proposed referendum question and claiming that Alex Salmond is “not impregnable”.
The First Minister is also accused of wanting a devo-max option on the ballot paper in order to give him a “parachute” should Scots fail to back independence.
In the presentations, Scotland is described as being in financial deficit and requiring subsidy. Claims are also made that the SNP are “changing policy in order not to frighten the horses”.
Brian Taylor is shown claiming that Alex Salmond wants to delay the referendum in order to “sow dissent” amongst Unionist parties, and says: “He [Salmond] wants a contest as close as possible to the next UK general election because he believes that by then his Unionist opponents will be fighting each other rather than fighting independence and Alex Salmond. He wants to sow dissent among them.”
Mr Taylor also claimed that the Scottish government’s proposed referendum question was not straightforward and simple. The BBC Scotland man suggested it was designed to elicit a positive response.
On the proposed question, ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?’ Mr Taylor says: “Straightforward, simple – except it’s not.
“The word ‘agree’ according to psepholigists is a welcoming word, it draws people in. People like to agree, they don’t like to disagree so the word there is good.”
Mr Taylor added: “Why does Alex Salmond favour a second question, devo max, devo plus, why not just go for independence, which is the one he has the mandate for?
“He wants a fall-back, he wants a parachute should independence fail to win.”
The BBC Scotland political editor argues that there is a problem adding a second question to the ballot and claims that Scottish Government would have no mandate to pursue devo-max because they favour independence and Westminster does not want it on the ballot paper.
“What does devo-max mandate? Whom does it mandate?” asks Mr Taylor who adds: “Does it mandate the Scottish Government? Nope they can’t do it, it’s got to be Westminster.”
Edited clips of the presentation showing Brian Taylor and Andrew Neil
The videos also show former Scotman editor and now BBC presenter Andrew Neil launch a series of scathing attacks on the SNP’s stance on Europe.
Andrew Neil questions whether Scotland would be allowed to remain in the EU and claims it may have to join the Euro. The BBC front man also pours scorn on Scotland’s ability to maintain a stable economy and claims that the SNP are seeking to avoid accepting a fair share of UK debt.
Mr Neil is shown saying: “What does worry Alex Salmond is that an independent Scotland would have to apply again for EU membership … but if he has to apply as a new member then under the terms of application now he has to commit to the Euro and to Shengen.”
Mr Neil is also shown attacking Mr Salmond over the Scottish Government’s insistence that legal advice on EU membership remains confidential, in keeping with established protocols.
The videos also show BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders claiming that Scotland is in fiscal deficit. Despite official statistics showing the Scotland in surplus, Ms Flanders claims figures show that Scotland gets ten per cent more from the UK Treasury than it puts in.
“So the question is: Does Scotland get more than she puts in? Answer, yes – about ten per cent more.” she says.
Ms Flanders goes on to claim that by remaining with Sterling, and having to agree a pact with the Bank of England, Scotland would be weakened in terms of the eyes of the world and would therefore have difficulty in obtaining a triple-A credit rating.
The videos, although part of an in house presentation and not for typical public consumption, reveal a group mindset that is almost overwhelmingly Unionist in its logic and conclusions.
Their publication will do little to quell growing concerns over the ability and desire of the BBC to present the referendum debate in an impartial manner. There will be fears that the presentations are part of a drive by the corporation to ensure its staff are ‘on song’ as the referendum debate moves on.
The release of the videos follow complaints by the Scottish Government over the conduct and presentation of the independence issue by several presenters at the BBC, in particular BBC Scotland.
See all four presentations
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