A BBC Scotland complaint – MSPs didn’t vote to ‘scrap’ P1 assessments

The following complaint was submitted to the BBC following several broadcasts which falsely claimed MSPs had voted to “scrap” standardised P1 assessments.


Complaint submitted Sept 20th

On Wednesday, Sept 19th a vote took place in the Scottish parliament.  MSPs voted on a motion to halt standardised P1 assessments and called on the Scottish Govt to review the evidence and its approach.

Following the vote, BBC Scotland broadcast several news bulletins claiming MSPs had voted to “scrap” the assessments.

Here is a radio bulletin broadcast shortly after the vote that claims MSPs voted to scrap or abandon the assessments.


Here is the introduction to that evening’s Reporting Scotland where the newsreader tells viewers: “MSPs have voted in favour of scrapping standard assessments for primary one children in Scotland.”

The newsreader later in the programme reports accurately that the vote was to “halt” the tests.  However accuracy is required for the entirety of the flagship national news programme and not just parts of it.

In summary, both broadcasts are misleading.  MSPs did not vote to scrap P1 assessments.  A motion specifically calling for them to be scrapped was indeed lodged on the 10th Sept, but never voted on.

BBC Scotland needs to acknowledge it inadvertently misled viewers on not one, but two occasions, and issue a correction on the programmes on which the errors were made.


Response from BBC Scotland’s Deputy Head of News and Current Affairs received Oct 1st

Thank you for being in touch about our output on 19th September.

The word “halted” was indeed used in the parliamentary motion; but all four opposition parties made clear that, in voting for the Conservative motion, they wanted the standardised assessments in primary 1 to end completely.

For example, Labour’s Iain Gray said “ … surely [the Government] must listen to the teachers and scrap the tests in primary 1”.

For the Greens, Ross Grier said “Teachers, parents and education charities have all raised concerns and called for the P1 tests to be scrapped.

After today’s debate, a majority of members of this Parliament could be added to the ever-growing list of those calling for a rethink”. He added “I urge the Deputy First Minister to walk back his previously stated intentions to ignore the will of this Parliament”.

Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott said that there were “sensible educational arguments why the P1 testing regime is not appropriate and should be stopped”, adding in his final remarks “Tests are not appropriate for primary 1 girls and boys. The Government should accept that and it should accept the will of the Parliament”.

Conservative Murdo Fraser said “The vote must be not to have standardised tests in primary 1, because the evidence tells us that they are not in the best interests of our children. For that reason, I support the motion in the name of Liz Smith”. (Ms Smith is the Conservatives’ education spokesman in the Scottish Parliament.)

Fellow Conservative MSP Alison Harris said “we must support the motion that calls for a halt to P1 testing”; and a little later, quoting the executive director of Connect (formerly the Scottish Parent Teacher Council) “it’s time to scrap (the tests) for Primary 1 children”.

And a final example – Labour’s Daniel Johnson said “If we are serious about the education of our five-year-olds, testing them should play no part in their school experience”.

Our reporting teams recognised that, while the word in the motion was “halted” – which could mean stopped permanently or temporarily – the intention of the opposition parties was clearly, from their own words, to bring the whole exercise in Primary 1 to a permanent halt or, in other words, to scrap them. Their use of both words was not, as you suggest, a question of correctness or incorrectness; but rather a nuanced reflection of the mood of the Chamber during the debate which they were reporting.


Follow on complaint submitted Oct. 18th

Your response cites comments made by some MSPs in the chamber on the day of the vote.  Some MSPs do indeed want P1 assessments scrapped.  However the views of these MSPs are not what was voted on.  They voted on a motion lodged by Tory MSP Liz Smith.

Speaking on the eve of the vote, Liz Smith stated: “On primary one I’m now very sceptical about whether we need the tests in the way that we supported in 2016.”

The motion reflects Liz Smith’s scepticism. Her motion asked for the tests to be halted and for the Scottish government to reconsider the evidence.  There is no point in reconsidering the evidence if the policy is already scrapped.

The BBC Scotland broadcasts weren’t reflecting “a nuanced reflection of the mood of the Chamber during the debate” they were very clearly reporting on the outcome of the vote.  Here again is the introduction to that evening’s Reporting Scotland: “MSPs have voted in favour of scrapping standard assessments for primary one children in Scotland.”

BBC Scotland needs to acknowledge it inadvertently misled viewers on not one, but two occasions, and issue a correction on the programmes on which the errors were made.


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5 thoughts on “A BBC Scotland complaint – MSPs didn’t vote to ‘scrap’ P1 assessments

  1. Robert Graham

    Long gone is any pretence at any kind of accuracy they just put out what they want , no one in the Scottish media are going to question them , they are busy cheering them on

  2. Jockanese Wind Talker

    They are still pushing the “voted to scrap” line this morning.

    An additional SNP now “ignoring the will of the Scottish Parliament by refusing to scrap thes ‘tests” line of attack being propagated.

    Aberdeen City’s British Nationalist Coalition Council now seeking legal advice on refusing to deliver these (despite assessing P1s for years just not to a National standard).

    Heard Tory Deputy Leader of ACC on Radio Shortbreid this morning saying “what is the point of the Scottish Parliament if the SNP Government don’t respect the results of votes that go against them”.

    Coordinated BritNat campaign to abolish Holyrood post Brexit and a return to Direct Rule from Westminster’s Neo Facist Right Wing Government now underway as a few of us predicted.

    UK Government in Scotland will be our version of Vichy with Mundell or more likely Colonel Yadaftie installed as Governor General.

  3. Robin McHugh

    A small victory.
    On the Johnnie Beattie show bulletin at noon today, the newsreader said “tests” and “testing” when referring to P1 assessments.
    I texted them at 12.06 pm asking that this be corrected in the next bulletin and that they might, perhaps, apologise for their error.
    The bulletin at 1pm mentioned “assessments”.
    But no apology, unsurprisingly.

  4. Kenny Higgins

    BBC is well versed in manipulation of facts into faction or fiction to suit the needs of Unionism. The very “BRITISH” Broadcasting Corporation is exactly that – the promotions and marketing department of the British Conservative Party.

    Fabrication, Invention, scandal creation, manipulation and all other forms of distorted facts appear almost daily for those Scots watching and listening in smaller numbers. BBC Scotland is the North Britain branch and some of its well known Marketeers are excessively viscious in their reporting. A cruel version of Fake News.

    It’s very evident from the high growing number of apologies being put out over mis-reporting or getting facts quite wrong, that they have been rumbled after the damage is done and can no longer get away with their deliberate disgusting tactics. But, still it continues. Sadly, those generating and those announcing the deliberate lies and fabrication appear to be a protected species and survive another day to do it all over again.

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