They’re at it again. The people behind the scenes at BBC Scotland who decide what is ‘news’ and what isn’t, have decided to help in the concoction of a smear they know is almost certainly false.
Two SNP MPs have behaved like fools. Angus McNeil and Stewart Hosie have had an extra-marital fling. The added titillation in this made-for-tabloid scandal is that both had an affair with the same female journalist. Not at the same time I hasten to add … thank heaven for small mercies.
That’s the story in its entirety. A couple of newspapers have sought to expand the fidelity fiasco into something it’s not – a tale of possible expenses corruption. The justification for this is that one or both men dallied with the lady when they were residing in accommodation they subsequently paid for using their MPs expenses.
Paying for accommodation in this manner is of course perfectly acceptable, as is inviting an adult to share that accommodation. There is no stipulation that the adult guest be married to the MP. Nor is there any rule prohibiting married MPs from sharing their accommodation with anyone other than their spouse.
The actions of McNeil and Hosie whilst regrettable are not corrupt or fraudulent. Beyond the pages of politically partisan newspapers, the suggestion of expenses misuse has no traction and should not treated seriously … or so you’d think.
On Wednesday afternoon I tuned into BBC Radio Scotland. The John Beattie show was airing. I was looking forward to some coverage of the days two big stories – the Queen’s speech and Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet reshuffle.
I hadn’t been listening for long when the host segued effortlessly into the next item. John Beattie began: “There are lots of allegations about two SNP MPs on the front of some of the papers today …”
I listened and was appalled at what followed.
The broadcaster had aired the newspaper expenses smear and deliberately conflated the ludicrous allegations with the very real expenses scandal that hit Westminster in 2008. The ‘interview’ of an investigative reporter who had authored a book on the subject was styled in such a way as to suggest McNeil and Hosie may have similarly transgressed.
Anyone listening to the interview would not have been informed as to the merits of the claims against the two SNP MPs, they would have been misinformed. BBC Scotland wasn’t reporting news, it was conditioning listeners for the smear story which was being readied.
BBC Scotland online followed soon after with news that a Conservative MSP had asked the parliamentary watchdog at Westminster to investigate the expenses claims submitted by both MPs. The MSP, Jackson Carlaw, appeared to have no evidence beyond the baseless smears published by the newspapers.
The complaint from Jackson Carlaw made it onto the lunchtime edition of Reporting Scotland.
The story appeared as the second most important story on the BBC Scotland online news page.
A smear with absolutely no evidence to back it up was being touted by BBC Scotland. Moreover the facts of the story as they were known disproved the smears.
But BBC Scotland hadn’t finished. Radio Scotland’s evening news programme Newsdrive was also promoting the story. It was broadcast on every news bulletin.
Now I repeat; two MSPs having an affair is a news story. Having an affair with the same woman adds to the story. There may be political interest in terms of strained relationships within senior ranks of the SNP, but that’s really it as far as the BBC’s remit goes. The state broadcaster is not a purveyor of sleaze and certainly should not be in the business of promoting smears.
The expense smear is an invention given life by newspapers with an agenda. The complaint by a Conservative MSP is a political stunt from someone who hopes his status as an elected politician will act as media leverage in newsrooms. But BBC Scotland needed no leverage. It was already actively conflating the fidelity story with the 2008 expenses scandal.
The smear featured on that evening’s Reporting Scotland. Political reporter Nick Eardley struggles to inject any substance into the item and, as you can see below, basically ended up rubbishing the ‘expenses’ angle. It looks quite pathetic.
The ‘sexpenses’ smear made it onto the late night BBC Scotland current affairs show, Scotland 2016. One of the ‘impartial’ guests invited to comment on the smear was the political editor of the pro-Union, pro-Labour Daily Record. Both guests indulged in some baseless innuendo when discussing the issue.
The smear had found its way onto every single BBC Scotland medium – online, radio and TV. Don’t be surprised if it turns up again on Good Morning Scotland.
How a story as flakey as this was allowed to take root and flourish within the news room at BBC Scotland is simple. The organisation is politically corrupt. The evidence of that is overwhelming.
What can we do about it? We can circulate stories like this for a start. What else? Well we can donate a few quid to a project that aims to produce a documentary exposing the BBC’s biased coverage of the independence referendum.
Believe me, when people see this documentary, they will see BBC Scotland political news in a completely different light. Donate to the project by clicking here.Views: 14631