Monday, 9 October 2017 | Tax Changes | Electric Highway | SNP on Catalonia | Brexit | North Sea Oil
Progress and ensuring public services are adequately funded requires money, but Brian Taylor’s comments here are interesting for their infusion of quite unnecessary negativity. With its new powers over income tax it is only to be expected that the Scottish government will be considering changes. Ministers are considering, among other things, the possibility of a new band of tax for higher earners while maintaining the same basic rate of 20 per cent.
Brain Taylor’s take on this is that Nicola Sturgeon has “big choices to make,” a phrase – while meaning little but the obvious – that is worded in such a way so as to imply challenges. His description continues in this vein with a serious tone when he reminds the viewer that “progress requires cash.” In closing the segment he introduces a Catalan term meaning “little by little,” no doubt to create a connection between the Scottish government and recent events in Catalonia.
Every technological shift requires investment in time and money, and poses certain challenges. Yet this report on the creation of the so-called A9 electric highway focuses entirely on the challenges posed by what is in the main a positive environmental development in Scotland. In spite of Emilia Hanna from Friends of the Earth Scotland stating that electric cars are currently capable of covering over one hundred miles between recharges, this report makes a point of limiting this to thirty-five miles from the reporter’s on-camera experience.
In the video interviews it is much the same. The owner of a fuelling depot on the A9 is optimistic that he can deal with the changeover from fossil fuel to electric power, but the report does not deviate from its fixation on the infrastructural technicalities of the changeover. In doing this it highlights the current lack of charging points and the need for further development, concerns that cannot be expected to be instantaneous.
SNP on Catalonia
Glenn Campbell’s report on the SNP conference’s comments on events in Catalonia is both weighted and somewhat problematic. The segment reports that the SNP condemned the use of force by the Spanish authorities in Catalonia and that a resolution was passed calling for international mediation in the situation, but again BBC Reporting Scotland uses this as an opportunity to link another independence referendum in Scotland to Catalonia. It achieves this at the end of the article with footage of what Campbell calls a “show of nationalist solidarity” in Glasgow.
In its coverage of the crackdown in Catalonia the report minimises the force used by the Guardia Civil in Catalonia by describing the police violence as merely “heavy-handed,” and the images shown betray an attempt to tone down the violence. It is concerning that this piece does not give the impression that almost 900 unarmed civilians were hospitalised as a result of the Spanish police’s actions.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP has, we are told in this report, accused the Prime Minister of “showing a lack of respect to Scotland over Brexit.” Reporting Scotland political correspondent David Porter outlines that the “SNP” desires to remain in the single market, seeks guarantees on EU citizens, and – while studiously avoiding the language of a power grab – notes that it wants amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Without further interrogation of the Scottish government’s position the report uncritically sets out the Prime Minister’s response; that the Scottish government is being fully consulted on the EU negotiations – an assertion contested by the Scottish government – and that discussions are taking place “at a UK level, and of course Scotland is part of the UK.” This, however, says nothing of the Scottish government being kept in the loop. It simply implies that the UK government is acting on Scotland’s behalf.
North Sea Oil
This report on the discovery by Norwegian oil company Statoil of between 25 and 130 million barrels of oil at one prospective oilfield in the North Sea is conspicuous for its brevity. The segment states that this find is proof there is still potential for the oil industry in the area, but it is greatly understated and brief.
Tuesday, 10 October 2017 | Public Energy Company | Ulva Community Buyout | NHS Tayside
Public Energy Company
In her keynote address at the SNP national conference in Glasgow the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her plans for the formation of a publically owned and not-for-profit national energy company. This is the purported focus of this report by Brian Taylor. The BBC political editor describes this announcement in the context of what he calls a “policy rich address,” but his emphasis in the report is largely on the costs of such policies and the “waiting game” on independence.
There are some cursory comments on the promised national energy company and the positive response it has received from the public and the private sectors, but by and large it is a report on the conference as a whole; noting that it does not have the same energy as previous SNP conferences.
Ulva Community Buyout
The residents of the island of Ulva have been given the go-ahead to buy the island west of Mull as part of a community buyout plan. Craig Anderson’s report outlines the asking price of about £4 million and comments that this is not a blank cheque from the Scottish government. Roseanna Cunningham, the Land Reform Secretary, confirms this by saying that the residents need to come up with the money themselves; a project that promises to be the most expensive community buyout in Scottish history.
In the main this is a positive story, but this positivity is understated. The implication seems to be that land reform is something the Scottish government ought to be doing for communities, and that the minister is somehow selling this community short. There is no attempt in the report to explain to the public how the idea of community buyout works; namely that it is the community and not the government that will be purchasing the property. Without this explanation the viewer is left with the feeling that the Scottish government could be doing more.
Shelley Jofre’s report on the state of NHS Tayside amounts to another bad news story on the NHS in Scotland. We are told that in spite of a previous Scottish government bailout and the government’s decision to suspend repayments, NHS Tayside continues to be on “life support.” The latest forecasts for the health authority show that it expects to have a £50m shortfall in the year ahead and that one in five patients are now having to wait up to twelve weeks for hospital treatment.
Yet the positives are almost completely side-lined in the report. Regardless of the difficulties being faced by NHS Tayside, little comment is made on its commitment to both patient care and staffing; there being a no redundancy policy in the Scottish NHS. Rather, the viewer is asked how much of an “embarrassment this is for the Health Secretary.” This, it would seem, is quite unfair as both sides – NHS Tayside and the Scottish government – appear to be doing everything in their power to improve the situation. Members of the public interviewed in the segment all agree with this assessment.
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 | Edinburgh Tram Inquiry | Common Fisheries Policy | Public Energy Company | Scotland’s Environmental Leadership
Edinburgh Tram Inquiry
The Edinburgh Tram Inquiry is an unfolding story that arouses a significant degree of suspicion, and still its coverage on Reporting Scotland remains overly shallow. Following earlier reports about details of costs and contracts being withheld from elected members of the council, tonight we are told how a lawyer involved in the works at the time allowed false information to be submitted to the council and that he knew this amounted to fraud. The tram works were completed three years behind schedule and cost hundreds of millions over budget. Now, with evidence of serious fraud, the BBC in Scotland is beginning to give the impression it is part of a cover-up. Questions have to be asked about why this story has not merited a more in-depth report.
Common Fisheries Policy
Answering questions put to her on Brexit and the Common Fisheries Policy, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has answered uncategorically that the UK will be leaving the Common Fisheries Policy in 2019 when it leaves the European Union. Nick Eardley’s report covers the unpopularity of the CFP among Scottish fishermen before turning to the question of an EU exit transition period. Much of the talk around Brexit on the BBC has been about the length of this transition, creating the impression that matters are in hand. The problem – something that has not been mentioned so far by the BBC – is that no transition period has been agreed on in Brussels. Essentially we are dealing with an idea being treated as something real.
Missing from the item was the admission by Michael Gove that leaving the EU, and the CFP, would not lead to foreign boats being banned from UK waters. The reluctance of Reporting Scotland to cover this revelation has been covered by Newswatch Scotland.
Public Energy Company
Andrew Kerr’s piece on the plans of the Scottish government to roll out a national – not for profit – energy company is quite interesting. On the one hand he makes it clear that one third of homes in Scotland are suffering from fuel poverty; spending a tenth or more of their overall income on energy, and that the government’s plans should be realised by mid-2021. Then the report moves to the plans of the UK government to cap fuel bills, but no figures are given for this UK proposal.
Following this, at the closing of the segment, viewers are told that this initiative has “fired up debate about the role of the state in the corporate world.” It is assumed that energy, thought by many to be a natural monopoly, is a concern of the corporate world. There is no reason why energy should be the preserve of the private sector, and so this comment makes little sense unless it is intended as a signal to interested private sector parties.
Scotland’s Environmental Leadership
SNP policy has, in the party’s time in government, made Scotland a world leader in terms of environmental thinking. This much is confirmed by the remarks of Manuel Palgar Vidal, the man behind the Paris Agreement. It is as a result of these policies that Scotland is well on its way to being a zero emissions economy by 2050; well ahead of the rest of the UK. Yet it is worth noting that in this short article there is no discussion on the specific policies of the SNP. What has been happening in Scotland in terms of environmental thinking and policy-making is muted. It is now common to hear “the Scottish government” being given praise when the action of the government follows directly from the policy initiatives of the SNP in government.
Thursday, 12 October 2017 | Missing Children | Renewables Funding | Fire Brigade Reorganisation
This report by Lucy Adams must surely constitute the manufacturing of a horror story out of thin air. ‘Missing child’ is a phrase which cannot but send shivers down the spines of everyone, and it is from this very phrase this Education bad news is concocted. As is usual in such articles the viewer is presented with a series of statistics. In this case we are told that about 390 children aged between 5 and 16 disappear – often for months at a time – from Scottish schools, and that from 2014 to the present 32 of those have disappeared “without a trace.”
Adding to this sense of heightened alarm the case of murdered five year old Danielle Reid is brought into the discussion before Angela Voulgari, speaking for the Bright Choices charity, explains that children may be taken out of school and even out of Scotland “to be married” or to undergo female genital mutilation. Of course, in a small number of cases of unaccounted for children – not reported missing to the police by their parents or guardians – this might be true, but neither the report nor Voulgari offer a single example of such an incident.
What is not needed in this report is the unnecessary and utterly alarmist tone. The key term here, as is mentioned in the segment, is “real world transient communities.” There is a system in place in Scotland for reporting children being taken out of school by their parents and guardians for any number of perfectly benign reasons. Frustratingly, as is also mentioned in the report, not all parents and guardians follow due procedure. This, however, does not mean that these 32 children – “disappeared without a trace” – or the 390 unaccounted for since 2014 have suffered the horrific fate of Danielle Reid or have been taken from the country to be married or to suffer FGM.
This entire piece, no doubt intended to cast a dim light on the Scottish education system, could have been reported with far more balance than it was.
Given the rough ride BBC Reporting Scotland has given the Scottish government on its renewables plans, this report is fascinating. Now we are given a renewables good news story in the form “possible funding” from a half billion pound fund for islands’ windfarms. UK Contracts for Difference, a UK government fund for renewables, could give island communities up to £725m – “if they are successful” in their bids – to assist them in getting their energy to the mainland. Of course it has been this obstacle of energy transfer from the islands that has hampered previous sources of funding. One gets the impression that renewable energy stories are only good and uncritical when the funder is the UK government, and, even at that, this funding has not been secured.
Fire Brigade Reorganisation
Unions, we are informed in this report by Reevel Alderson, are blaming the reorganisation of the Scottish fire service from eight regional services into one national fire and rescue service for the hike in stress related absences over the past four years. Alderson, while speaking over video footage of the fire service in action, acknowledges that this is a naturally stressful occupation. There has been a steady rise in the number of stress related absences in this period, but – as we discover later in the segment – the majority of these are in administration and management; hardly the naturally stressful end of the service, and that this is largely accounted for by the changes in the way such absences are recorded.
Friday, 13 October 2017 | Railway Robbery | Rigged Labour Leadership Contest
This item reported by Andrew Kerr concerns a growing standoff between the Scottish and Westminster governments on funding for rail infrastructure improvements. Scotland’s transport minister Humza Yousaf contests that the UK government is giving £600m less than is needed, while the Treasury claims it is giving £600m more atop the cost spend of £3.6bn over the five years from 2019. What the UK government is doing is spending £600m more in Scotland than it did in the last period, but this is still significantly below what is required and what was agreed upon – according to the Scottish government. The comment in the piece that this is in relation to the biggest improvement works on the Scottish rail network “since Victorian times” is superfluous. It gives the impression that Scotland is lagging behind.
Missing from the item is the reason for the cut in funding which was actually revealed by The Scotsman newspaper the day before. Below is the relevant paragraph from the newspaper.
The row has been triggered by a change in the funding formula because track owner Network Rail has switched from being a separate organisation to a UK Government body. The Scottish Government also claimed the Treasury offer was based on the Barnett Formula, where Scotland gets a percentage of spending south of the Border, rather than a higher rate agreed when Network Rail spending was devolved in 2006.
Rigged Labour Leadership Contest
UNITE the trade union has called on Labour MP Ian Murray, a supporter of Anas Sarwar in the Scottish Labour leadership contest, to withdraw his comment that the contest has been “rigged” in favour of Richard Leonard. Very little detail is provided in the report, but it has been clear over past weeks that Reporting Scotland has been favouring Mr Leonard. It is apparent this segment is intended to portray the Sarwar faction as increasingly ridiculous.
Saturday, 14 October 2017 | Education
In another negative education story Andrew Black highlights Labour’s criticism of primary school class sizes, and the party’s calls for the SNP to get on top of the problem. It is true that the number of pupils in classes of 30 and more has increased, but – as John Swinney points out – the Scottish government is continuing to invest in education; prioritising the early years, and the number of primary pupils has increased in the same period. On balance this is an ongoing population adjustment issue, but it is being used here by Labour as an opportunity to demand an increase in the rate of income tax.
Sunday, 15 October 2017 | Fracking Ban
We are told that trade unions and poverty advocacy groups should put pressure on the Scottish government to rethink the indefinite ban on fracking in Scotland. The source of this is one man: Jim Sillars, the former deputy leader of the SNP. It is important to note, despite the tenor of the report, that no trade union or poverty group is cited in this claim. It is simply the opinion of Sillars.
Again we are told that fracking is already “big business” in the United States. But while there is no will in Scotland to reverse this decision, the impression given in the interview is that the BBC is giving airtime to Jim Sillars to vent his personal opinions on “Nicola;” with him going as far as suggesting she should step down when “someone better comes along.
Missing from any Reporting Scotland coverage was a trip to Iceland on October 12th and 13th by the First Minister. Her keynote speech to the Arctic Circle can be seen below.
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