Monday, 4 September 2017 | Sepsis Awareness | Queensferry Crossing | Labour Leadership | Air Missile Defence System | Independent Living Fund
Fiona Stalker’s report on the call from “lobbyists” for the Scottish government to implement a national sepsis awareness programme is a perfect example of scaremongering and negative news. Regardless of the response from the Scottish Health Secretary, Shona Robison, in which she outlines the “good progress” that has been made and the 21 per cent reduction in the sepsis mortality rate in Scotland since 2012, the report focuses almost exclusively on the tragedy of one family.
Ms Robison’s reply is cut short by Craig Stobo, a survivor of sepsis who lost his wife and unborn baby to the condition, and who set up the FEAT sepsis charity, stating emotively and emphatically that this was “inadequate” and “not acceptable.” The segment is introduced by Jackie Bird underlining the dangers of sepsis; that it kills around 44,000 every year – in the UK. Her introduction emphasises what “lobbyists” have said of the Scottish government’s “inaction” and “complacency.”
What constitutes the “growing pressure” on the Scottish government here is the devastating experience of one family. Yet in spite of the significant progress in tackling the condition spelt out in the Health Secretaries response, the position clearly taken by the report is that of Mr Stobo; that there are “people dying” because of the government’s inaction and that this is a “health scandal.” Over this, the music and visuals of the “hard hitting” ad created by the FEAT charity adds to the sense of menace and danger posed by sepsis.
In a number of respects the presentation of the royal opening of Scotland’s newest bridge, the tallest of its kind in the world, is interesting. Understandably the report by Steven Godden centres on the guest of honour, the Queen, but there is a studied and conspicuous absence of many of the other features of the project that have been topical in Scotland. Twice the terms “royal seal of approval” is used, once by Jackie Bird in the studio and again on location by Godden, giving the impression that the essential ingredient of the construction’s acceptability is what the monarch thinks of it.
The centrality of the Queen in this report is poetically accompanied by a narrative discussing the occasion as “laced with symmetry.” This symmetry, rather than a comment on the bridge being an addition to a landscape dominated by two other significant and historical bridges, is an appeal to royalist nostalgia. Queensferry Crossing was described by the Queen, we are told, as “breath-taking” and an “extraordinary achievement,” but no mention is made of the fact this was the achievement of the Scottish government. No mention is made of the previous ceremony lighting up the bridge, which many more – uninvited guests attended. This, like the presence of the First Minister, is completely side-lined. Nicola Sturgeon is named only in the on screed text and the name of country, Scotland, is left out entirely.
Brian Taylor’s report on the Labour leadership contest, introduced in the studio as a “referendum on the UK party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn,” bore all the hallmarks of a party political broadcast on behalf of Richard Leonard and therefore Jeremy Corbyn. While Richard Leonard is showcased as a left-leaning trade union organiser and a Corbynite, Anas Sarwar is given short thrift with the curt note that he’s merely “a dentist.” If the report’s partisan positioning wasn’t clear, Taylor goes on to spell out that the left – where Labour in Scotland has been struggling to hold members – is cheering for Leonard, and that Sarwar, like Kezia Dugdale, was initially critical of Corbyn.
From this point the report appears to make an appeal to the class antagonisms surrounding the question of private school education. Leonard was sent to private school by his parents, but chose not to do the same for his own children – implying his affinity with working class voters. Sarwar, we are told, also went to private school, but that he – proud that his family “prospered” in Scotland – sends his children to a private school; making his statement that his “family has been rooted in Labour values” ring somewhat hallow.
In closing the segment Brian Taylor switches the focus to the election itself and the trends in support for Corbyn in the UK Labour Party. New members have largely favoured Corbyn, and the suggestion in this otherwise irrelevant point is that a Labour Party recovery in Scotland depends on it being onside with Corbyn – thus, and again, hinting strongly that, of the two contenders, Richard Leonard is to be preferred.
Air Missile Defence System
This brief article on the successful test of Sea Sceptre missiles off the coast of the Hebrides smacks of militaristic propaganda. It’s emphasis on the missiles being fired from the HMS Argyll, a type 23 frigate, and their role in the protection of the new aircraft carrier is, on the one hand, an appeal to martial-nationalistic pride and, on the other, another attempt to draw attention to the achievement of the British government in the construction of the controversial £3bn aircraft carrier.
Independent Living Fund
The Scottish government’s decision to invest a further £5m into the Independent Living Fund to help young disabled people transition from child to adult services is another example of a good news story completely overlooked by BBC Reporting Scotland. Jeane Freeman, the Scottish government’s Social Security Minister, describes how this investment will help disabled youngsters, but the article fails to drive home – as is the case with a number of socially proactive Scottish government initiates – how much of an achievement this is for the government and a boon for the people who need it. As austerity continues, and with endless pressure on the Scottish government to put out fires caused by London’s cuts, much more could be made of stories like this.
Tuesday, 5 September 2017 | Programme for Government | Trams Inquiry Secrecy | Inflexibility on Brexit | State of the Oil and Gas Industry
Programme for Government
Broadly speaking, the programme for government announced in the Scottish parliament by the First Minister today was progressive. It set out plans to end the public sector 1 per cent cap, phase out petrol and diesel motors by 2032 – by the end of the governments climate change plan and 8 years ahead of the UK deadline, tackle issues in education, address child poverty, and advance key justice reforms. Yet in introducing the opening segment to this Reporting Scotland bulletin Jackie Bird prefaced the programme with a reminder that the opposition blasted the SNP’s record on education as “woeful.”
This jingoistic approach did not change. On the topic of jail sentences, where the government is looking at removing the presumption of imprisonment on shorter sentences the camera pans to Ruth Davidson calling out “soft touch Scotland just got a whole lot softer.” Even on the removal of the pay cap there is a distinct hint in the opening of the discussion with public sector workers that it is the Scottish government’s fault people are “over worked, underpaid.” Nowhere in this discussion is the role of Westminster in the imposition of the cap mentioned. Echoing Jackie Bird’s “woeful” remark, Labour’s Alex Rowley is given a prolonged onscreen litany, outlining what he perceives to be the government’s bad record on education.
An entire raft of other socially progressive proposals – including the free provision of sanitary products for girls and young women in schools and colleges, the plan for a public bid on the rail network, and a ban on fatty and sugary food advertising – are read out and quickly passed over. Even “Frank’s law,” the extension of dementia and other care to under-65s, another positive, is credited to the Conservatives. Nothing proposed by the Scottish government was actually good according to this report.
This jingoism carries right to the end of the segment with Jackie Bird repeating the tabloid trope of the SNP “focusing too much on independence and not so much on the day job.” In reply, standing outside Holyrood, Glenn Campbell simply repeats the “day job” line. With 16 new pieces of legislation proposed, the BBC returns to independence. It “hasn’t gone away.” In closing, considering what the First Minister actually said, the appraisal from Campbell was that she was determined to stick to “bread and butter issues,” almost as though doing the political day job was an effort for Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government. Ending the segment Jackie Bird leaves the “suggestion” that income tax might be raised hanging in the air.
Trams Inquiry Secrecy
Jenny Dawe, former leader of Edinburgh City Council, gave evidence at the trams inquiry. On the Reporting Scotland item we are given short soundbites of her referencing “highly secret memos” between officials and the construction company and councillors being kept in the dark. The public, as the inquiry presumes, is looking for answers, but this report gives more than a hint of obfuscation.
It is not made clear that this was a brainchild of the last Scottish Labour government, but the “SNP government” is given due mention for its attempt to limit the damage being done by the project going over budget and over time. Signing off on the report news reporter Lisa Summers says that a vague “some” have questioned the need for “another” costly public inquiry, leading the viewer to either agree or wonder if there is an attempt to bury the story.
Inflexibility on Brexit
Jackie Bird presents a short piece on the Brexit negotiations in which she reports on Peter Grant’s challenge to David Davis in the Commons, accusing the British government of being inflexible. Davis, the UK Brexit Minister, described the negotiations in Brussels as “tough, complicated, and confrontational.” After the challenge from Grant, we are told, Davis responded that he had briefed Michael Russell, the Scottish government’s Brexit Minister, the previous day – leaving the audience with the impression the Scottish government simply isn’t joining the dots.
State of the Oil and Gas Industry
This report by Kevin Keane from Aberdeen, covering the UK government-backed oil and gas industry by-annual conference, Offshore Europe, takes a look first at the personal cost to some of the “tens of thousands” who lost their jobs during the industry downturn. One industry worker was out of work for six months and found himself competing against people on higher grades and those with more experience for the few jobs that were available. Another, a young woman, shared how she had to sell her car just to heat her house while she struggled to keep her business going.
The work the Scottish government has been doing to protect jobs and assist the industry is completely overlooked in the report which, while outlining the rapid technological changes in oil and gas industries, presents a bleak outlook on the jobs front as a “new normal.” The closing message is that the heartache will last, apparently indefinitely.
Wednesday, 6 September 2017 | Glasgow Frigate Factory | Edinburgh Tram Inquiry | Repeal Bill | Oil and Gas Downturn Report | Low Emission Zones
Glasgow Frigate Factory
After so much was promised to the Clyde shipyards during the independence referendum the Westminster government is now accused of breaking its word following the MoD’s decision to put the orders for new frigates out to tender across the UK. In David Henderson’s report Gary Cook, a spokesperson for the GMB union, says that few are surprised this has happened, stating that Michael Fallon’s position is now to have the Clyde frigate factory put on indefinite hold as the shipyards are forced to compete in a “dog eat dog” contest with sites all over Britain.
Rather than acknowledge the broken promise as a legitimate grievance, the BBC reduces the whole issue to an accusation as it effectively echoes the position of the Ministry of Defence. The piece becomes something of a promotional video for the British government’s “new strategy,” explaining how competition will reduce cost, save the taxpayer money, and benefit all the “regions.”
As this is being explained the impressive and epic footage, in stopgap animation, of a frigate being built is shown. The proposed construction of parts in multiple locations, we are told, was how the new aircraft carriers were built. The aircraft carriers have become a recurring theme on Reporting Scotland, being wheeled out as a conversation stopper.
Rather than having a representative of the Scottish government address this issue; one which will have an impact on the Scottish economy, the report turns to Labour MP Paul Sweeney. Sweeney, himself a former shipyard worker, does challenge the MoD’s position. He says the multiple location construction model and transport will put costs into the bill and that the Clyde is the recognised centre of excellence. Yet this is brushed aside when the report goes on to make another promise; that the strategy hopes to see more frigates built for use by the Royal Navy and for sale abroad, resulting in more work – not less – for all the shipyards.
Edinburgh Tram Inquiry
This report on Edinburgh City Council’s tram inquiry singularly fails to ask serious questions on information given which points to the possibility of corruption in the council’s handling of the construction of the tram network in the city. Donald Anderson gave evidence that those responsible were not honest and clear, and that serious problems were hidden from elected members. Lesley Hinds, a former councillor, states in footage from the inquiry that the then Liberal Democrat council leader did not get more involved. It was even pointed out that had the congestion charge been introduced, the revenue could have been spent on the trams.
Rather than delving deeper into the significant problems exposed in the report the reportage is kept to the surface and a quite unnecessary remark is made about Labour accusing the SNP of using the trams issue as a political football. Quite clearly there is more to be asked about what went wrong. This is a tram network for the capital that cost twice budget, covered only half the proposed route, and was completed five years late.
On the day before the Repeal Bill was to be debated and voted on in the Commons both Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary and SNP MP Ian Blackford state in interview that the lack of involvement of the devolved administrations by the UK government in the Brexit process is problematic. The forum in which this is supposed to happen, the Joint Ministerial Committee, has not met to discuss Brexit since February; six months ago. Lesley Laird describes this as having removed “democratic process and openness and transparency” from the situation. Blackford echoes this by saying that it poses real questions about democracy and respect.
Yet, avoiding these real concerns, Nick Eardley, without comment from any UK government minister, speaks on behalf of the state. He says that the London government has met with individual governments to discuss these matters and that UK ministers have said the JMC will meet, possible next month – after the debate and vote. Nothing is said of that fact that individual meeting between the UK government and the devolved administrations is not the correct context in which these discussions should and must take place.
Oil and Gas Downturn Report
Reporting Scotland’s energy correspondent Kevin Keane’s report on the oil industry should have been optimistic but it wasn’t. Deirdre Michie, speaking for UK Oil and Gas, explained that jobs were still being lost, but that the rate of losses had significantly reduced since the height on the downturn in 2015. This was in fact the news in this item, but the stress of Keane’s report was on the figures of redundancies since 2014, an overall loss of about 150,000 jobs.
Jackie Bird concludes from the figures of the Oil and Gas UK report that this year’s losses were “even worse than previously thought.” What she did not point out was that these figures were only at best a rough projection from the previous year, with real figures contingent on multiple global economic factors. Keane’s assessment that these figures are “pretty stark” is of course true, but these are to be compared with the far greater initial losses between 2014 and 2015. No attempt is made in the report to explain the international economic reasons for the downturn – OPEC’s decision to regulate oil prices for example – thus leaving the viewer with the false impression that any faults and failings in the industry in Scotland are indigenous.
Low Emission Zones
Andrew Black’s segment on the Scottish government’s plans to introduce low emission zones into cities and towns around Scotland next year is prefaced with a negative rhetorical question from Jackie Bird. She asks if drivers will be “banned” from driving into town. Then, heedless of the scientific data and the international agreements on pollution and climate change, Black suggests that the move to change our behaviour comes from what the Scottish government “thinks.” During a vox pop with the public on the streets of Glasgow the initiative is presented as unpopular, with only those able to afford charges being able to pay for the luxury of city driving.
When the First Minister is interviewed she is presented with a voice over describing how her government is spending £60m on a fund designed to get big polluters off the road by 2032, but what she has to say is immediately countered by an expert opinion from Sandy Burgess. His thoughts are that the technology is too far behind the ambitions of the government. Burgess is, however, a spokesperson for the Scottish Motor Trade Association; an industry body heavily invested in the fuel economy. His opinion leaves the view with the idea that the government’s plans are moving faster than the available technology will allow. This opinion was not challenged.
Thursday, 7 September 2017 | Income Tax | National 4 Qualifications | Gender Pay Equality | UK Government Power Grab | Labour Market Flexibility
As the Scottish government prepares to put forward a discussion paper on the future of taxation in Scotland Brian Taylor’s report injects a strand of scaremongering that is essentially, at this point, non-news. The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Holyrood that she would stay open-minded on the question of income tax, adding that it made no sense to rule anything out in advance. His comment on the power of the First Minister becomes a repeating motif in his article, beginning with his comment that Nicola Sturgeon, like a child, can’t always have her way.
While no changes have been made to income tax, Taylor reminds the viewer of the SNP’s “promise” on taxation – implying this was somehow broken. The video cuts to a soundbite of Ms Sturgeon’s previous remarks on income tax at the end of which Taylor interjects with a “but,” before the video shifts to her recent comments on remaining open-minded.
In a piece of pure commentary Taylor then leaps into speculation as to how keeping income tax untouched “works for them;” suggesting that it is a tool used by the SNP in order to invent the idea of Tory cuts and show that Labour – which is in favour of an increase – would simply pass those cuts on to the Scottish taxpayer. In closing he gives an almost ominous reflection on the power of the First Minister: “Power! Balanced power!” For whose benefit was this?
National 4 Qualifications
The focus is again put on education in another report on the National 4 qualification. We are informed both from the Reporting Scotland studio and by education correspondent Jamie McIvor that “some critics” see the National 4 as “worthless.” Yet Seamus Searson of the Scottish Secondary Teacher’s Association acknowledges that it is a “good qualification,” but that people on the outside and employers see it is less valuable. Brandon, the pupil interviewed in the section, is happy with it and says it helped him progress to the National 5.
While little information is given on where the “serious criticism” is coming from, it is clear that this is a problem of perception. Perhaps the report would do the qualification more justice had the report interrogated this perception rather than the course. Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney even takes the time to remind viewers that the National 4 was designed with the needs of a particular group of students in mind. Over all this is a report that puts more emphasis on what outsiders to education think of the value of a given qualification over the requirements of young people in order to manufacture what comes over as a negative education story.
Gender Pay Equality
Addressing the problem of the gender pay gap in the country, this report at first focuses on the historical failure of local councils across Scotland to meet the targets set for 2004. It underlines the fact the over 70,000 claims have been made across the country, costing in excess of £750m. A care worker, Shona, is interviewed, giving the issue a face to which the viewer can relate.
At this point the segment narrows in on Glasgow City Council, the council with the most claims made against it. This highlights the current SNP head of council, Susan Aitken, while failing to note that this issue relates to the period in which Labour dominated Glasgow City Council. It is only in the quoted response of Ms Aitken that this problem is described as “inherited.” Even at this, the report is closed by Catriona Renton adding the warning that there “could, potentially, be more claims to come.”
UK Government Power Grab
Considering both Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Westminster, together with the SNP and the majority of other parties in the Commons, openly consider the proposed Repeal Bill to be a “power grab,” this report by David Porter immediately compares the question to the Big Ben makeover. “Some say Brexit offers the constitutional equivalent to the UK as a whole.” The lens we are to see Brexit through is one in which the process is a “chance to repair and renew.” Even before the current standoff is discussed the camera jumps to David Davis promising “a significant increase” in the powers of the devolved parliaments as a result of the repatriation of powers.
Former Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, is given space to describe the proposed framework for the return of powers from the EU to London as a “power grab – pure and simple.” Labour is in agreement. In response to these, and to the assertion of Michael Russell that the lack of consultation is “outrageous,” the current Scottish Secretary David Mundell simply reduces these serious concerns to a quip about the absurdity of the suggestion that the British government would want to be “micromanaging hill farming.”
Instead of the London government offering anything approaching a detailed set of answers to what have become genuine fears concerning democracy and respect, the camera simply cuts back to Big Ben and an image of the union flag blowing in the wind. It is, beyond doubt, a remarkably hollow piece of reportage.
Labour Market Flexibility
Here is another example of the Scottish government being proactive in addressing inequality; this time in the labour market, and Reporting Scotland treating the news as a failure of the SNP in government. This report into the flexibility of working conditions in Scotland was commissioned by the Scottish government and launched by Angela Constance the Equalities Minister. Ms Constance agrees that more flexibility is good for people and the national economy, but the numbers in the report – those negative figures relating to lack of flexibility and lower pay scales for flexible positions that the Scottish government has responded to in the report – are presented as a failure of government.
Friday, 8 September 2017 | Police Scotland Investigation | HMS Prince of Wales | 20 Years of Devolution
Police Scotland Investigation
Following the special leave of Phil Gormley, the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, amidst allegations of misconduct, this report by Reeval Alderson picks up on the questions around why Gormley never stepped aside sooner. It also asks why he was not asked to take this leave by the Police Authority before the second and the third serious allegations were made.
Despite Police Scotland having its own independence disciplinary procedures, this Reporting Scotland item invites political comment, effectively making the issue a political matter. Green MSP John Finnie, a former police officer, agrees that it is right he step aside while the investigation is ongoing because it has reached a third complaint. Willie Rennie takes this further by saying Gormley should have stepped aside sooner. Labour is then quoted as saying that this investigation “risks further damaging the public’s confidence in Police Scotland,” suggesting that this had already been damaged.
Therefore when the Scottish government declined to give comment due to this still being an active investigation, it is made to look like the only party unwilling to act or speak. Yet the report fails to mention the obvious difficulties that would be caused by the government involving itself in an as yet uncompleted internal Police investigation.
HMS Prince of Wales
David Henderson presents an entirely uncritical report on the formal naming of the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier being built on the Clyde, the HMS Prince of Wales. From the opening shot to the closing words there is military pomp and militaristic propaganda. We are told that this project has involved some 10,000 workers and 800 companies from across the whole of the UK, but there is no definite statement on how much of this was Clyde-based and of benefit to the Scottish economy. What we are told is that this is four acres of sovereign territory, able to exert “pressure” anywhere in the world.
The massive public cost of £3bn – or £6.2bn for the pair – is brushed over with a rather clinical description of its purpose. Captain Ian Groom describes the type of armed conflict in which it might be involves as a “political option” for the British government. The overarching impression is that this is a solid steel artefact of pure national pride, without mention of the political opposition this build has generated.
20 Years of Devolution
Marking 20 years of devolution, this is an interesting piece in Reporting Scotland this evening. Introduced from the news desk as a parliament that “failed to deliver,” the report oscillates back and forth between various opinions from the time of the devolution referendum. The late Donald Dewar’s advisor, Wendy Alexander, hints in her repeated use of the word “scepticism” at the resistance within Whitehall to the devolution of power back to Scotland, but Andrew Kerr – reporting – goes on to quote her as saying Labour did most of the heavy lifting. This is vociferously contested by Jim Wallace, insisting that Labour added or took nothing of significance from what the Scottish Constitutional Convention had already covered.
Prof Tom Devine says in interview that devolution was the most significant development in Scottish politics since 1707, becoming the prerequisite for every development that followed – including the 2014 independence referendum. But, in the final analysis, given by Nigel Smith – introduced as the man who led the cross-party Yes-Yes campaign – we are told of the disappointment. He would give it a mere 6 out of 10! So what Andrew Kerr then describes as “the beating heart at the centre of the nation’s politics,” wasn’t a success – not in the eyes of the man the BBC puts behind it all.
The above analysis forms part of a pilot project that will cover the month of September. The other strand of this project is a short documentary style video which will take isolated examples of BBC Scotland political output and examine them. The team would like to continue the above written analysis beyond September [for which funding is already secure]. In order to do so requires funding of £150 per week to capture/edit each programme and to commission the freelance journalist. If you would like to see this written analysis continue beyond September then feel free to make a donation using the button below.