A BBC Scotland complaint: Jackie Bird – Scottish & UK GDP comparison

The following complaint relates to an edition of Reporting Scotland in which presenter Jackie Bird tells viewers that Scottish economic growth of 0.4% was the same as that of the UK for the same period. UK growth was in fact 0.2%.


Complaint submitted on August 19th

On August 15th the presenter of the 18:30 edition of Reporting Scotland told viewers that Scottish GDP had “roughly matched” the GDP of the rest of the UK for the first quarter of 2018.

She said: “Growth in the Scottish economy was stronger at the start of this year than previously thought. Figures published today show that it roughly matched the growth rate of the UK as a whole.”

Jackie Bird made the claim hours after it emerged that readjustments to economic data for the first quarter of the year found Scotland’s GDP was 0.4% for the first quarter. This was double the corresponding UK figure of 0.2%, it did not “roughly match” that of the UK.

BBC Guidelines state: “The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences.  We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.

“We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately.”

Viewers to Reporting Scotland were misled and thus a breach of accuracy guidelines 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3 and 3.2.4 has been made.

A correction should be broadcast on Reporting Scotland at the earliest opportunity.  A failure to do so will cause those who were misled to remain misled.


Response from the editor of Reporting Scotland, received Sept 6th.

“Thank you for being in touch about the teatime edition of the programme on 15th August and our story about GDP growth figures.

“The first sentence was “Growth in the Scottish economy was stronger at the start of this year than previously thought.”

“That is correct: it was first estimated in June to be 0.2% which was revised in August to 0.4%, equivalent to double the UK growth rate of 0.2%.

“The second sentence read “Figures published today show that it roughly matched the growth rate of the UK as a whole.”

“The implication is that this was a reference to the growth rate in the first quarter, when it was actually a reference to two ways of comparing with the previous year, both set out in the Scottish government’s figure – Quarterly National Accounts Scotland, published on 15th August.

“One is to compare Gross Value Added in the first quarter of 2018 with Q1 in the previous year. The other is to compare the four quarters leading to the most recent one (Q2 of 2017, plus Q3 plus Q4 plus Q1 of 2018), with the preceding four quarters (Q2 of 2016 plus Q3 plus Q4 plus Q1 of 2017).

“As explained in the Scottish government publication, one of these measures put Scotland slightly ahead of the UK figure, and the other measurement put Scotland slightly behind.

“Rather than put our early evening audience through this explanation, the wording of the report said it was “roughly” the same growth rate as the preceding year.

“In seeking to simplify a complex set of statistics, we did not say that the comparison was with previous years, and it was open to interpretation that the comparison was with UK growth during the first quarter of this year alone. That was not clear as it should have been, and I am sorry about that.

“The rest of the report is accurate – “Scottish Government experts have re-thought the way they measure activity in the construction sector, meaning that the whole economy is estimated to have grown by 0 point 4 percent in the first quarter of the year.”

“I do not believe that what we did materially misled our audience and what we did was certainly not intended to mislead audience members.”


Follow up complaint submitted Sept 10th

The response to my initial complaint is unacceptable. To try to suggest Jackie Bird was not referring to the 1st quarter GDP growth when saying it “roughly matched” that of the UK as a whole, is literally unbelievable.

She said: “Growth in the Scottish economy was stronger at the start of this year than previously thought. Figures published today show that it roughly matched the growth rate of the UK as a whole.”

The *it* being referred to is growth in the Scottish economy “at the start of this year”. The presenter later underlines the period being referred to when she adds “…the whole economy is estimated to have grown by 0 point 4 percent in the first quarter of this year”. No other period is mentioned.

BBC Scotland’s business and economy editor Douglas Fraser made *exactly the same error* in his article published that same day. He published an acknowledgement of his error online when it was pointed out. He then corrected the article. The article contains a message informing readers it has been corrected.

I do not know if Douglas Fraser was consulted prior to the Reporting Scotland broadcast. What I do know is that Jackie Bird made exactly the same error. Rather than this bizarre and embarrassing attempt at covering the error up, the editor of Reporting Scotland should admit the broadcast was inaccurate and viewers were misled as a result.


Response from BBC Scotland received Oct 10th

We raised your further concerns with the Editor of Reporting Scotland who has nothing to add to the response you’ve already received.


Complaint passed to the ECU on November 1st.

Complaint acknowledged by the ECU on November 14th.

A reminder sent to the ECU on December 24th.

A further reminder was sent to the ECU on February 10th 2019.

ECU finds against Reporting Scotland on June 4th 2019 – Click Here

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10 thoughts on “A BBC Scotland complaint: Jackie Bird – Scottish & UK GDP comparison

  1. Robert Graham

    Even the staff who seem to be cocooned in this bubble at Pacific Heights operating under the guise of a news organisation must wonder is the country really falling apart , does nothing here work .

    A totally unhinged interview of Jamie Hepburn this morning with a screaming screeching deranged interviewer who insisted the SNP government were solely to blame for the bombing of a school bus in Yemen , with British supplied weapons and backed by the British government who control all export licences .

    This is surely stretching guilt by association to incredible lengths until you remember it’s the SNP the ones who are questioning this rotten Union , oh dear it looks like Aunty is on full on attack the SNP Mode .

    1. John

      Totally agree , that interveiw was disgraceful , even the hysterical way she used words , “your relaxed by that ” what about “bairns not bombs ” , that’s your words says she , then she cuts him off in a fit of pique, she should be sacked ! .

    2. gordon

      Yep, interruption after interruption and at the end she was almost screaming at Hepburn for an answer to a stupid question. You know what political party is being interviewed without knowing the person’s name. The EBC Scotland interviewer becomes this aggressive, arrogant interrupting prat. I really don’t know why the SNP interviewee’s don’t just call the prat’s out for what they are, little London Lackie’s. An embarrassment to their country.

      1. John

        Your right , Jamie Hepburn should have stopped Gillian Marls in her tracks and asked if she would have the manners to let him answer one question at a time , they don’t want the SNP to explain things ,why are the SNP always so nice to these clowns ! .

  2. Lochside

    Hepburn should have stopped her and asked why she was not posing these questions to Ruth Davidson, who is the leading Tory representative in Scotland? Also as to what evidence she had to prove the allegations that there ‘may have ‘ been evidence that Scot Gov money was going to pay for components for bombs made by this company.?

    Her hysterical unprofessional and ugly attempt at an interview signalled her being worked from the back by a producer shouting in her earpiece. The final shutdown of the interview was for her benefit as she was hysterical at the end.

    This and the recent Penny Taylor’s partisan attack on the SNP’s Health policy in concert with her old boss posing as an ‘independent ‘ expert ,( one that was removed from the Iplayer) demonstrates that the BBC SNPBAD bias continues unabated despite being caught out red handed and red faced by the ‘Wings’ attempted takedown.

    Hepburn won on points, but a spirited response and counter attack would have destroyed Marles pathetic attempt at character assasination. and shown her up for the puppet she really is, along with the rest of the Pathetic Quay rabble.

  3. Robert Peffers

    The point you all seem to be missing is that each of you are here complaining about how Jamie Hepburn didn’t cut the interviewer off and stop the interview. Now here is the real truth that has flown right over your heads.

    Jamie Hepburn exercised superhuman restraint by NOT doing so and by that restraint he exposed the interviewer/inquisitor and BBC Scotland, BBC London and their entire raison d’être is NOT to serve the Kingdom of Scotland’s people but to serve instead their Westminster Establishment paymasters.

    The BBC’s longest lasting propaganda item is that the Broadcast Licence fee pays for the BBC’s programmes. It doesn’t for the BBC is funded by a Government grant paid from general taxation and he who pays the piper calls the BBC’s tune. It isn’t BBC Scotland it is Westminster BBC in Scotland. Ergo the licence payer is happy to pay the Westminster Government to brainwash the people of Scotland.

    1. Ghillie

      Yes Robert Peffers, Jamie Hepburn behaved exactly as I would have wanted him to. Dignified, calm and informative.

      And so did Miss Marles…

      Both she and Jackie Bird are a true credit to the BBC.

      And lay bare their bias for all to see =)

  4. Lochside

    Robert, stick to Wings and pontificating about how great the SNP are performing against the BBC by allowing them to slander them daily. Of course the BBC is funded by the UK gov. But by continuing to state that responsible and calm counterattacks on blatant lies by individuals like Marles by SNP or pro YES commentators when being howled at the likes of her, is frustrating and counter-intuitive to most YES minded people.

    You certainly don’t like anyone challenging your arrogant opinions by demonstrating ‘superhuman restraint’. But maybe that ‘truth flew over your head’?

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