Cast your mind back three weeks. Ruth Davidson was playing the part of ‘The Fugitive’ by refusing to be interviewed on the thorny subject of two councillors who had been re-instated into her party after posting racist and bigoted messages online.
The Scottish Tory leader wasn’t available when invited to appear on Good Morning Scotland.
So frustrated at the repeated refusal of Ruth to appear on his show was Gary Robertson, that the GMS presenter posted the following message on social media.
Her reluctance to face questions on ‘bigot-gate’ was in keeping with her habit of going to ground when controversial issues raised their ugly head. The DUP deal and Brexit are issues that Ruth prefers not to be drawn on.
On August 24th however things appeared to change. Ruth, we learned, had finally faced BBC cameras on the issue of the two councillors.
BBC Scotland reporter Philip Sim revealed Ruth had spoken on camera. Ruth was about to face probing questions at last. Or so we thought.
Below is what was broadcast on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.
There was no tough questions. Indeed there was no question at all. The Scottish Conservative Leader was filmed making what appeared to be a pre-prepared statement to camera. The statement was broadcast on Reporting Scotland. That was it.
Davidson had dodged questions on the issue for days. She had refused to be interviewed. Where was the probing questions? Where was the pressing by the reporter? Why was Ruth Davidson allowed to whitter on completely unchallenged?
Contrast the treatment of Ruth Davidson with that of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon when the Michelle Thomson story broke. The SNP leader was doorstepped by a hungry pack of reporters, one of which is BBC Scotland reporter Andrew Kerr who fires a heavily loaded question at Sturgeon.
Below is another example of the kind of aggressive questioning faced by Nicola Sturgeon, this time on the notorious memo-gate scandal.
Frustrated at the very clear lack of consistency when dealing with the two leaders, I fired a complaint into the BBC. My complaint accused the BBC of not pressing Ruth Davidson and of adopting two different approaches to the Scottish Tory leader and the SNP leader. The relevant segment of my complaint is shown below.
The BBC has thus far been unable or unwilling to interview Ruth Davidson on the issue of the two councillors. For fully four days BBC Scotland made no attempt to doorstep the Scottish Tory leader.
On August 24th Ruth Davidson appeared on Reporting Scotland where she was allowed to make a statement unchallenged.
The statement contained several claims relating to ‘diversity training’ the councillors in question had apparently undertaken and were continuing with. Despite continually refusing to be interviewed on a string of contentious issues, the Scottish Tory leader faced not one question from whoever filmed her.
Moreover within 24 hours of her interview, a charity cited by Davidson released statements that called into questions the claims made by Davidson.
It is now nine days since the councillors were reinstated and five since Reporting Scotland broadcast Ruth Davidson’s statement, and yet she has still to face one question from the BBC. This bizarre failure to pursue a leading Scottish politician is in contrast to the scrutiny applied to her SNP counterpart who is regularly questioned/doorstepped on controversial issues.
Below is the response from the BBC.
Reporting Scotland covered the story of the councillors on the 6.30pm edition of Reporting Scotland on Thursday 24th August. Ruth Davidson was appearing at an event at the Edinburgh Festival. BBC Scotland were not allowed access for a camera to the event, so a reporter approached her outside the venue.
Ms Davidson answered the question BBC Scotland put to her and we broadcast 16 seconds of that answer in a two way interview with our political correspondent Nick Eardley.
It is not accurate for you to say we broadcast her “statement” and that she did not face one question from the person who filmed her. Our political reporter questioned her on this.
We would like to reiterate we are determined to be impartial and fair in our coverage. We place the highest value on accuracy and impartiality within our own journalism and rigorous editorial standards are applied across all of our output.
Accordingly, we don’t share your specific views about our coverage of this story as they are patently inaccurate.
The response begins with a rather bizarre claim that BBC Scotland was not allowed access for a camera to the event.
The event, for those who do not know, was the Edinburgh International Television Event. It was held at the height of the Edinburgh Festival.
Indeed Ruth Davidson posed for pictures with Channel4 presenter Jon Snow. BBC Scotland must be the only broadcaster in the world denied entry to a television event being held in the broadcaster’s own country.
But let’s give the BBC the benefit of the doubt and accept that their camera crew had to wait outside for Ruth Davidson to appear.
According to BBC Scotland, a reporter then “approached her”. What does this mean? Are we to believe that Ruth Davidson had popped outside the event for a breath of fresh air and was pounced on by this waiting reporter? It’s a nonsense of course.
The BBC response then says Ruth Davidson “answered the question BBC Scotland put to her”. This is quite the most bizarre choice of words yet. Let’s leave aside the fact that a single unheard question is being claimed. Why is it ‘BBC Scotland’ who put the question? Why not credit the reporter, whoever he or she was?
The remainder of the BBC Scotland response is unadulterated drivel. It is as clear as day that Ruth Davidson has not had to face the kind of aggressive doorstepping that her SNP rival has endured many times. The Scottish Conservative’s appearance was cosmetic. The double standards at play are obvious.
Ruth Davidson was at ease in front of the camera crew. She appears to have been expecting them. She had prepared a statement for their benefit. BBC Scotland broadcasted it.
Her ‘interview’ is as credible as the response from the BBC.
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