Below is the full text of a complaint submitted to the BBC following an item broadcast on Reporting Scotland on March 1st, 2018. The complaint relates to comments by BBC Scotland presenter Jackie Bird who claimed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had criticised HGV drivers for taking vehicles onto snowbound motorways.
Complaint submitted on March 04th, 2018
On the March 1st edition of Reporting Scotland the following remark was made by presenter Jackie Bird. “There was criticism today from the First Minister for some HGV drivers who ignored the red weather warning to stay off the roads.”
The related item that followed contained footage of the First Minister speaking. The footage appeared to support the presenter’s claim.
However, not shown was additional footage of the First Minister in which she very clearly goes out of her way to make clear she *isn’t* criticising drivers.
The claim by Jackie Bird was demonstrably false. The First Minister did not criticise HGV drivers, whose safety she had been concerned with, she did though criticise HGV companies.
The error was not restricted to Reporting Scotland. Three days later presenter Gordon Brewer repeated the claim in an interview with Transport minister Humza Yousaf, falsely claiming the First Minister had blamed truck drivers. Even when corrected, Brewer persisted with the false claim.
Two presenters in four days have made exactly the same inexcusable error.
Response from the BBC, received March 6th
During the headlines we correctly highlighted that the First Minister accused some transport companies of sending lorries on the road for nonessential journeys despite the warnings. Our subsequent script unintentionally misquoted Ms Sturgeon in making reference to HGV drivers and we accept that should have been clearer. That said, our comprehensive coverage surrounding this story has been balanced for our audience. It included the footage of Ms Sturgeon making her comments during First Minister’s Questions so our audience could hear exactly what she had to say on the matter.
Follow on complaint submitted March 8th
The response states: “Our subsequent script unintentionally misquoted Ms Sturgeon in making reference to HGV drivers and we accept that should have been clearer.”
This is unacceptable. A presenter misrepresented the First Minister. An unequivocal admission of this is required and not some weak excuse that it was just a misquote that lacked clarity. It didn’t lack clarity. It was crystal clear. It was also inaccurate.
Moreover, the item on Reporting Scotland did not include *all* relevant footage of Ms Sturgeon making her comments. The key clip of her making it clear she was *not* criticising HGV drivers was missing from Reporting Scotland.
Finally, my complaint regarding similar accusations directed at the First Minister by Gordon Brewer three days later, have been ignored. Brewer not only accused the First Minister of blaming truck drivers, but then aimed the accusation at Humza Yousaf, after being corrected by the Scottish Transport Minister.
BBC response received on March 12th
We raised your further concerns with Editor of Reporting Scotland who has little to add to the response you’ve already received. She reiterated that we unintentionally misquoted the First Minister and that we apologise for that.
Turning to your comments regarding Sunday Politics Scotland broadcast on 4 March 2018. Our initial response made it clear that you may not receive a detailed response to all your points. It stated: “We’re sorry we can’t reply individually, but we hope this will address most of the points raised.”
That said, we would like to offer the following response to address your concerns. During the introduction to this story the programme correctly highlighted that the First Minister suggested nonessential HGV lorries were to blame for the delays on the M80 near Stirling. During the subsequent discussion Gordon Brewer asked Humza Yousaf whether more could be done to anticipate bad weather conditions, rather than retrospectively blaming truck drivers. Mr Yousaf made clear that he did not believe anyone was blaming drivers, and went on to outline some of the things he will be looking at in order to avoid future problems.