Monday, 25 September 2017 | Brexit Talks | Brexit Transition | ScotRail Losses | Energy and Renewables | Scottish Labour’s Target
In this report by Reporting Scotland’s political correspondent David Porter on the ongoing negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments on what should happen with repatriated powers after Brexit we are told that some progress has been made by the two governments. Again the focus is on the role of the British government, with an emphasis on its optimism that a solution can be found. It is from Westminster’s perspective we are told the talks should be “serious and constructive,” giving the impression these are not the priorities of the Edinburgh government.
Despite John Swinney’s remarks on the importance of not rewriting devolution and the Scottish government’s objective of protecting the devolution settlement, little is said of the nature of what both the Scottish and Welsh governments see as a power grab. What we are given instead of this much needed analysis is a show of soft British nationalism in a Dad’s Army animation of returning powers coming from Europe as serpentine, flag-headed arrows invading Britain. In closing, the viewer is shown Theresa May meeting Ireland’s Taoiseach and David Davies at work in Brussels; reminding us that Britain is doing the real job of Brexit.
This segment, with Glenn Campbell reporting on Philip Hammond’s visit to Scotland, appears to entirely gloss over the causes of the issues raised in the report. During the video of his tour of Dundee University it is reported that colleges and universities are struggling to attract staff and students, but nothing is said of the role Brexit is having in the creation of this problem.
Business leaders from the Scottish Chamber of Commerce tell the Chancellor that business would prefer a longer transition period so as to tailor business models to the changing business and economic landscape being created by Brexit, but all that we are given to assuage such serious concerns is a vague agreement with the need for a transition period – without mentioning that none of this has been agreed in Brussels – and a commitment that Brexit must be concluded by the next general election. Given that no one knows what Brexit will mean for business and the Scottish economy, these concerns are serious, but nothing of this is discussed.
With £3.5m in losses reported this year by Abellio, the Dutch owner of ScotRail, we are reminded of the weaponised transport bad news stories of last year – the “delays and cancellations.” As a consequence of the Network Rail engineering works of 2016 Abellio has had to carry the costs, forcing it to borrow from its Dutch sister company – all of which is introduced with the phrase “it gets worse” from David Henderson. The language of the report is unmistakably reminiscent of the rail stories used to criticise the Scottish government, while there is no analysis in the report of the UK government’s hope to cut transport subsidies in the coming year.
Energy and Renewables
Douglas Fraser’s report is quite impressive in how it manages to transform Scotland’s successes in renewable energy into a provisional cautionary tale. Eaglesham Moor is home to Europe’s largest windfarm, but rather than this being a cause for celebration it is used as the centrepiece in an article on how green energy in Scotland is driving up demand for green energy – making the focus of the piece about the “problem” of supply. It is somehow not important in the BBC report to mention that greater demand for electric cars is a huge step towards reducing pollution and the use of fossil fuels. What is given is a hint that Scotland may be incapable of meeting the growing demand for green energy services.
Scottish Labour’s Target
Alex Rowley’s comment at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, that his target is for Labour to win the next general election, is nothing more than a pretext for yet another swipe at Anas Sarwar in the Scottish Labour leadership contest. Sarwar, we are informed in Nick Eardley’s report, is critical of Richard Leonard’s position on Brexit. This is of course an indirect criticism of Jeremy Corbyn, but no sooner is this said than we are again reminded of the rancour around Sarwar’s family business. At the end of the segment the viewer is given a recap on Corbyn’s plan for gaining more seats; a plan in which Scottish seats will play a central role, and his and Leonard’s vision of remodelling Labour around more classically socialist ideas.
Tuesday, 26 September 2017 | Economy | Vulnerable Persons Database | Cancer Waiting Times | Homophobia in Schools | Kezia Dugdale
David Henderson’s report on the economic costs of an aging population bears all the hallmarks of the now familiar “too poor” news item of the BBC in Scotland. With Scotland’s population getting older demand will only increase on health services and the NHS, an increase in demand that will have knock on effects across the whole of the national economy – meaning that government spending will have to rise to meet these costs. Without any attempt to consider the UK government’s tax spending choices, this report focused exclusively on the choices of the Scottish government; free bus passes, free personal care, and free university tuition – all economic benefits we are told that “benefit the middle classes.” Given that government budgets are limited, and with the onus solely on Holyrood, the segment asks what cuts the Scottish government will have to make in years ahead.
Having created this hypothetical future crisis, which Jackie Bird describes as a “problem,” business correspondent Douglas Fraser spells out that with Scotland’s new tax powers there are opportunities, but “with opportunities come risks.” Every mention of the powers of the Scottish government is immediately followed by a caveat. Derek McKay’s plans might “work a treat,” but they might also “backfire.” What decisions the Holyrood government makes “could harm growth, could reduce revenue.” The financial difficulties being experienced in Scotland are “not just from austerity;” there is a high deficit and an aging population to blame as well.
Vulnerable Persons Database
Police Scotland’s creation of a vulnerable person’s database, intended to “prevent future crime,” is presented here as something perhaps overly sinister. As a method of assisting the police – often the first responders to racist and homophobic hate crimes – this Reporting Scotland report, in spite of one victim of racist abuse describing the project as a good thing, goes to some effort to construct the image of a Big Brother machine; listing names without people’s knowledge or consent, unable then to remove personal data from the list, and constituting a possible breach of people’s human rights.
Cancer Waiting Times
Jackie Bird informs the viewers in this short segment that cancer waiting times are the worst they have been in ten years, with 13 per cent of new and urgent referrals not being seen within the Scottish government’s 62 day target time. Mention is made of the Health Secretary Shona Robison’s announcement that a group is to be set up to consider this issue with a further £4m to be invested in cancer care, but what is entirely left out is that the Scottish NHS has consistently outperformed England and Wales in cancer patient waiting periods. While this is a serious issue in healthcare in Scotland, the report appears to function as a bad news story critical of a legacy system the Scottish government has been improving year on year.
Homophobia in Schools
Jamie McIvor’s report on the findings of research conducted by Stonewall Scotland, an LGBT advocacy group, underlines that teachers in Scottish schools are unsure as to how to address homophobic bullying. Rather than this being presented as a story dealing with the progress made on the back of cooperation between advocacy groups and the Scottish government, as is clear from the John Swinney’s comment, this comes across as a failing on the part of the government to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.
This report on Kezia Dugdale’s criticisms of the Labour Party’s position on Brexit neglects to unpack what certainly looks to be an admission from Ms Dugdale that her about-face during her last days as Scottish Labour leader was insincere. She had, we were led to believe, made her peace with Jeremy Corbyn following his general election performance. Now we are hearing that she has reverted to her previous position on Corbyn and the new Labour line.
Nick Eardley quotes her as saying Jeremy Corbyn did not do enough during the Remain campaign, before she says in interview that “Labour is not doing a good enough job” at making the case for the single market. She is giving voice to what many in Labour are thinking, but with both Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard distancing themselves from her comments Reporting Scotland seems reluctant to explore what looks to be a growing dispute in the party.
Dugdale is, according to Leonard, blaming the “wrong guy” for the Brexit problem. He is keen to point out that it was in fact David Cameron who was behind the mess. Sarwar manages to make this Labour infighting about another independence referendum, stating that we have “election and referendum fatigue in Scotland;”. No evidence is provided by Sarwar or Reporting Scotland to back up his ‘fatigue’ claim.
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 | Mesh Implants | Labour Leadership Row | Sepsis Awareness | Susan Aitken Apology |
A report into the safety of mesh implant procedures was not felt by one of its authors, Dr Wael Agur, to reduce as much harm to women as he had expected, causing him to step down from the medical working group behind the report and remove his name from the study. Dr Agur’s belief is that changes were made to the final document that downplayed the risks of the procedure. The implication is that the Scottish government is responsible for a whitewash, but a response from the government states that there was no whitewash and nothing pertinent was hidden from the final report.
Labour Leadership Row
Another Scottish Labour rift has been sparked by comments made by the party’s interim leader Alex Rowley. In what he says was a private conversation, but recorded and published by The Sun newspaper, he voiced his opinion that Richard Leonard was the “best candidate” in the leadership contest after previously stating his neutrality.
Once again the emphasis of this BBC report is on Leonard being the favoured candidate of the Labour left and that under Corbyn’s leftist programme “Labour is on the way back in Scotland.” Yet what is exposed is the depth of the growing divide in Scottish Labour, with former party leader Kezia Dugdale and Anas Sarwar very much at the heart of resistence to Corbyn in Scotland. Brian Taylor in the studio picks up on this, saying rather sardonically that after the leader is picked “it will be unity and harmony, won’t it?”
Interestingly, after all the fuss that has been made of Anas Sarwar’s family business by Reporting Scotland, nothing is said of the fact that Richard Leonard’s daughter, Danielle Rowley MP – featured in the report – is his campaign manager.
Continuing on from a previous report on the Scottish government’s reluctance to launch a national sepsis awareness campaign this segment reports on Shona Robison’s change of mind. In spite of Ms Robison saying that she was persuaded by listening to people’s stories and learning more of the dangers of the condition, Reporting Scotland turns what should be a good health news story into an account of the apparent inconsistency of the Scottish government.
Susan Aitken Apology
The SNP head of Glasgow City Council has apologised for the mishandling of the report information showing that a number of privately owned flats in the city had been found to be clad with materials similar to that used on Grenfell tower in London. This story continues to be one in which the BBC is determined to exaggerate. In the report the properties in question are referred to as “high rises,” when in fact it was already determined last week that this was not the case. It was also stated last week that these properties did not pose a realistic threat to residents.
Ms Aitken has assured the public that there “is no Grenfell waiting to happen in Glasgow,” but each time Reporting Scotland returns to this story it seems to be determined to force a link between the Grenfell disaster and Glasgow City Council. Reporting Scotland has certainly adopted an alarmist stance on the issue of cladding.
Thursday, 28 September 2017 | Alex Rowley | Brexit Talks | Scottish Dawn | Mesh Implants | Land Ownership Reform | Complaint to John Swinney
The fallout continues from the publication of a conversation in The Sun of a discussion in which Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour’s interim leader, voiced his opinion that Richard Leonard would be the best candidate for the Labour leadership job in Scotland. This has become such a serious issue in the party because Rowley had previously indicated that he was neutral.
What we see here is the continuing deterioration of the Labour Party in Scotland under the weight of old rivalries and more recent infighting, described by the First Minister as “selfish and self-indulgent.” Yet, again, this is another opportunity taken by the BBC to remind viewers that Leonard is the left-wing candidate. When the question of a plot to remove Kezia Dugdale is put to Leonard he is given the opportunity to broadcast that the only plotting he will be doing will be to defeat the SNP.
Reporting from Downing Street David Porter acknowledges that talks between the Scottish and UK governments over Brexit powers have become bogged down. This is a situation the Prime Minister also recognises, hence her decision to speak with Nicola Sturgeon. Rather than covering the issues behind this deadlock, the report focuses on Theresa May repeating the same substance-free assertions; that Scots should be upbeat and that new powers will be given to Holyrood as a result of the Brexit decision, but no indication is given as to what these new powers might be.
In interview the Prime Minister makes it clear that the whole process of the talks is to keep Scotland in the UK and within the internal UK market. These are the only intentions on which she has been clear from the start, but she undermines this inclusivist stance when she uses the end of the interview as a platform from which to launch an attack on the Scottish government over health and education. These closing words are so out of place in the context of the discussion that they smack of political product placement.
It is reported that the neo-Nazi hate group “Scottish Dawn” – an alias of the far-right National Action group – is to be banned under UK terror legislation. While elsewhere in the UK media this group was wrongly linked to the nationalism of the Scottish independence movement, the BBC does not do this. Yet, even though the video footage of the group shows them waving the union flag as well as the Scottish saltire – indicating its unionist position on the question of independence, the report is silent on the group’s unionist orientation.
Returning to the report on the use of mesh implants yesterday this segment focuses on the response of women suffering from the adverse effects of the treatment, despite the fact that we are told that only the UK government has the power to ban the procedure. These women believe they were cynically used by the Scottish government in order to make the report sound less biased. Lucy Adam’s report suggests that the Scottish government did not listen to the women’s pleas for help, and implies that there was an attempt on the part of the government at a whitewash.
Even the fact that the Holyrood government has announced a further review of the report is taken as an opportunity to manufacture a sense in the piece of government incompetence; the “review of the review” being a “complete waste of time.”
Land Ownership Reform
This short piece on reform of landownership in Scotland is presented almost entirely from the perspective of the landowners. In an interview the observation is made that the ownership of so much of Scotland’s land simply “concentrates power and wealth” in the hands of a tiny minority, but this is then ignored as the report turns to the landowners. One landowner interviewed is of the impression that urbanites see only a place for recreation and so ignore the fact that land is used to produce goods and services. There is no further investigation made into the nature of these goods and services. What the viewer is presented with is another expert opinion – this time from Aberdeen University – that changes to the law in Scotland won’t be easy.
Complaint to John Swinney
We are told in this report that teacher shortages are a common problem for Scotland’s rural councils, but a letter from one primary school pupil in the Highlands provides more ammunition for Reporting Scotland as it continues its attack on the Scottish government over education. Once again the language of the report is pointed, with the Education Secretary conceding that there is a problem.
Yet with 20 vacancies in Highland Council, little is said in the piece of the role of the local authority – an independent led council – in the recruitment of teachers or indeed of the part Brexit is playing in the shortage of skilled employment across the board. Instead the focus is squarely on the Scottish government, with great stress put on the fact that parents in the area had not received a reply from Mr Swinney on the teacher shortage.
Friday, 29 September 2017 | Nursing Shortages | Education | Building Cladding | Offensive Tweets | SNP Confused on Nuclear Weapons
In this report we have another survey, this time on nursing staffing levels. Eileen Clarke delivers the figures; 51 per cent of the 3,000 nurses and midwives surveyed said their last shift was short staffed, 53 per cent said care was compromised, and 54 per cent reported being upset they could not provide an adequate level of care. We are told that with 1 in 20 nursing posts now vacant that this is the highest nursing shortfall ever.
From the point of view of Reporting Scotland this has to be the fault of the Scottish government, and it doesn’t fail to hit its mark when it reminds the viewer that the government already had its “knuckles wrapped” by the Auditor General over inadequate workforce planning in the NHS. Shona Robison, the Health Secretary makes the point that there are more nurses working in Scotland than ever before, but that there is also more demand than ever before. Nothing is said of the impact Brexit uncertainty is having on nursing levels, and a bill going before Holyrood to help address staff to patient ratios is only given a brief mention.
Despite the Scottish government increasing the number of teacher training places available, the focus of Jamie McIvor’s report is on the government’s uptake target for these places not being met. One quarter of available training places were not taken up last year, and this does – as the union representative in the interview says – sound alarm bells. According to the report this issue stems from questions around salaries and career progression. No doubt these factors are important, but they cannot possibly stand alone without reference to Brexit and decisions being made in London.
Regardless of the number of Scottish government and Glasgow City Council statements indicating that there is “no Grenfell waiting to happen in Glasgow,” BBC Reporting Scotland insists on covering the discovery of cladding “similar to that used at Grenfell tower” in the most alarmist way possible. Today the number of privately owned flats found to be clad in suspect cladding has been revised down to 19 and all the residents have been informed together with the fire service. It has to be said that this sort of political point-scoring reporting is irresponsible as it may result in a public panic.
Robert Davies, one of the two Scottish Conservative councillors responsible of posting racist tweets to on Twitter, has been forced out of the party – after being reinstated – for refusing to apologise. The BBC had been reluctant to report on these tweets being racist and bigoted when the story first broke, but here the racist element is reported. Yet nothing is said of the fact that Ruth Davidson, the leader of the party, misled the public by claiming those responsible for the tweets had been sent on a course to address their issues when they had not. Similarly, reporter Cariona Renton states that both of the Tory councillors have already issued an apology. This is presented as fact despite no evidence being presented.
SNP Confused on Nuclear Weapons
Michael Fallon, the UK Minister of Defence, has accused the SNP of being confused over nuclear weapons and its desire for an independent Scotland to be a member of the NATO alliance. Fallon has insisted that the nuclear deterrent is a central feature of both UK and NATO strategy. When it is considered that only 3 of the 29 members of NATO have nuclear weapons, it would seem to be the case that it is Michael Fallon and not the SNP who is confused over the nature of the North Atlantic alliance.
Saturday, 30 September 2017 | Specialised Maternity Units | Ruth Davidson
Specialised Maternity Units
In reporting the Scottish government’s plans to increase the numbers of those who give birth under the care of a specialised midwifery team but out of hospital Reporting Scotland again misses the chance to report a good news health story. The Royal College of Midwives agrees that taking women out from the environment of the maternity hospital is good for all concerned, but this BBC report injects this move doubt by repeating the concern of the Scottish Tories that this may be little more than a cost cutting exercise on the part of the government.
At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester Ruth Davidson warned that over optimism on Brexit sells people short, leading them to believe that it may not come with the costs the experts are warning. Given the hardline position of Theresa May and her Westminster government on the UK leaving the EU, it is obvious that this is a gentle poke at the Prime Minister. Nothing, however, is said of this in the report and there is no attempt to analyse May’s Brexit optimism.
Sunday, 1 October 2017 | Ruth Davidson | Catalonia
Once again, given the open criticism by Ruth Davidson and other Scottish Conservatives at the Tory Party conference in Manchester, the BBC’s level of discussion on the topic is thin. Ms Davidson, after calling for greater unity in the party, pointed out that the Conservative Party and the direction of its Brexit was too London-centric, but nothing was said regarding how this puts her at odds with the position of Theresa May and her government. Ruth Davidson appears to be enjoying disproportionate coverage courtesy of the BBC.
There is open criticism of the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, from Paul Masterton – Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire – who said Johnson’s “behaviour has not been the most productive.” It cannot but be noticed that similar frankness in other parties is met with the full scrutiny of Reporting Scotland, yet the Conservatives are routinely given a free pass.
In light of later coverage of the 1 October Catalan independence referendum on the BBC, Niall O’Gallagher’s report is quite remarkable for its lack of bias. Both Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson were reported to be concerned over the police violence and to have called for restraint. O’Gallagher appears quite shaken by what he has witnessed and reports the genuine fear of the Catalan voters on the street. He even mentions the desire of the voters to have the cameras near them, fearing that the absence of the press would enable the Guardia Civil to be more aggressive.
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