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BBC Scotland and the sham interviews – Towards Indyref2…

BBC Scotland and the sham interviews

BBC ScotlandOn Wednesday the SNP announced its intention to use Scotland Questions at Westminster in order to press the Scottish Secretary David Mundell on the issue of Scotland’s EU membership.  Nicola Sturgeon’s party is concerned that Scotland may be dragged out of the European Union against the will of the Scottish people if the rest of the UK backs an exit.

Running alongside the issue is the prospect of a second independence referendum should Brexit come to pass.

During the recent Scottish election campaign, Nicola Sturgeon warned that Scotland’s forced expulsion from the EU could lead to calls for a second independence referendum.

Regardless of the constitutional consequences of the EU referendum result, the SNP has an obligation to argue Scotland’s position on the issue of the EU referendum.  The party is Scotland’s representative opposition to the Conservative government courtesy of the 56* MPs it returned in the UK general election.

On Wednesday morning Radio Scotland covered the issue.  I tuned in in time to hear Good Morning Scotland presenter Hayley Millar interview Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael on the subject.  What transpired was not an interview but a sham where the shamed former Secretary of State for Scotland was allowed to attack the SNP and the prospect of a second independence referendum.


Throughout the four and a half minute item Carmichael was asked the sum total of three questions, one of which was “what do you think of this concerted attempt by SNP MPs today”.  Not the most difficult question ever faced by a politician on Good Morning Scotland.

Millar asked a further two questions.  She put it to the Lib Dem MP that the results of last year’s UK general election and last week’s Scottish election gave the SNP a mandate for indyref2.  She also highlighted the overwhelming support in Scotland for remaining in the EU and asked if a vote for Brexit would leave a “feeling of discontent” and “raise some issues in Scotland”.

At no point was the stark situation of Scotland being forced out of the EU actually clearly spelled out.  Carmichael was allowed to ramble on at length without acknowledging the seriousness of such a scenario.  At one point so relaxed was the Lib Dem MP that he shares a joke with the GMS presenter.

The interview was little more than an invite for the disgraced Unionist MP to attack the SNP and the prospect of a second independence referendum.  The consequences of Scotland being forced out of the European Union against her will was never actually dealt with.

I’ve heard these kind of interviews before on Radio Scotland.  Their purpose is more an attempt to push a Unionist narrative onto a story that is naturally disadvantageous to them than to press them on the issue.  In this case the very real possibility of Scotland being dragged out of the EU was supplanted by attacks on a second referendum.

A similar interview took place several hours later when Labour MP Ian Murray faced the normally reliable Radio Scotland presenter John Beattie.  Unlike his colleague earlier, Beattie did indeed present the stark possibility to Murray.  However just as Carmichael did hours earlier, the Labour MP was allowed to waffle out of the question and launch an attack the SNP.


Again the Unionist MP faced his one solitary difficult question right at the end of a pretty tame interview.  There was no comeback.

Scotland has a total of three Unionist MPs.  Two of them found their way onto BBC Radio Scotland on Wednesday and both attacked, not the Conservatives, but the party most Scots support.  I have no idea if David Mundell faced any questions from BBC Scotland presenters that day.

All three of Scotland’s Unionist MPs were part of the No campaign which, during the independence referendum, told Scots that a No vote would secure Scotland’s EU membership.  Yet with the EU referendum only six weeks away there’s little appetite within our state broadcaster to hold them to account over these false claims.

In between these two interviews was the radio phone-in presented by Kaye Adams.  The subject was the European Referendum.  Listen to the clip below as Adams introduces her show.


One individual was specifically named by the Radio Scotland presenter as being in favour of leaving the EU.  That person was Jim Sillars who is identified as a “veteran nationalist campaigner”.

Adams’ decision to use Sillars as somehow representing the ‘Leave’ campaign was odd given that he has played no major role in Scottish politics for years.  Indeed if she had wanted to, there was a far more relevant and contemporary elected politician she could have used – Tory MSP for Central Scotland, Graham Simpson, backs the leave camp.

The recording above also includes a clip of the first caller to Adams’ phone-in.  A person calling herself ‘Jacqueline from Sheffield’ has appeared on the show before and is an avid pro-Union contributor.  Was it the same caller?  Her distaste for the SNP is apparent in the call.  This Jacqueline had a clear anti-SNP agenda.  Sadly [and predictably] she was not alone in using the topic to attack Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

Wednesday was not the worst example of pro-Union politicians being ‘interviewed’ in a manner that presented them not with scrutiny of their own views past and present, but an opportunity to attack the SNP.  Carmichael and Murray were there not to clarify their opinion on what Brexit might mean for Scotland, but to counter any news narrative that might serve to benefit the SNP and indyref2.

In the House of Commons SNP MPs eventually asked questions on the NHS, renewables and agriculture.  They emphasised the overwhelming case for remaining part of the EU and challenged the UK government to concentrate on making a positive argument.

It didn’t quite come across like that by the time it had been covered by BBC Scotland.  Murray and Carmichael popped up again on Reporting Scotland along with the only other Scottish Unionist MP David Mundel.  Incredible isn’t it.  By the time the tea-time news had finished, every single Scottish Unionist MP had appeared on BBC Scotland that day.

What about the SNP you ask?  Did they appear?  Yes is the answer.  An SNP MP appeared on Radio Scotland and was interviewed.  The recording is below.


Finally, if you want to hear a soft interview to end all soft interviews, may I present Hayley Millar [again] interviewing Ian Murray in November 2015.  He is pressed on absolutely nothing.  He must have thought Christmas had come early.


*Two SNP MPs have stepped down from the party since the general election.

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NOTICE: Three weeks ago saw the launch of a ‘final push’ appeal to help complete the documentary based on my book ‘How the BBC stole the Referendum’.  The appeal is approaching its final week.  Donations to the appeal can be made by clicking here.

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3 thoughts on “BBC Scotland and the sham interviews

  1. Cadogan Enright

    EBC radio news this morning

    Reform of EBC will require it to give up the power of investigating itself

    This power will be transferred to OFCOM

    While this proposal won’t solve the problem of bias (if it gets through) but it will help

    This shared website is great, and you have some excellent fellow authors – will you be keeping the ‘Ponsonby Post’ site??

    1. GA Ponsonby

      Hi Cadogan

      The Ponsonby Post will remain live for the time being but I won’t be updating it. It was never supposed to be a long term project. Its role was to promote my book.

      I’ll keep contributing to this site and we’ll see how it goes.

  2. Giving Goose

    I would really love to understand the Backoffice process that goes into conducting these interviews. There must obviously be editorial decisions made, i.e. what the topic will be, creating the question set, anticipating the answers, then formulating additional questions, and probably, “what is the attack on the SNP?” etc.

    The interviewer is not operating autonomously.

    Do you have any insight into this? Or ideas on how it may work?

    I can well imagine many ways that the strings are being pulled and potentially where the back trail leads.

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