BBC Scotland comes under fire over lack of coverage of Tory ‘Dark Money’ scandal

BBC Scotland has come under fire over its refusal to cover a funding scandal that links a shady organisation, the DUP and the Scottish Conservative party.

The so-called ‘Dark Money’ scandal was exposed in May last year after it emerged hundreds of thousands of pounds had been funnelled through Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party during the EU referendum campaign.  The money was then used to fund pro-Brexit campaign adverts in the UK.

The cash, £425,000, had been donated by a company called the Constitutional Research Council whose chairman, Richard Cook, was a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party.  Cook stood as a candidate for the Scottish Tories in East Renfrewshire during the 2010 general election and has links to many senior Tory figures in Scotland.

On Tuesday another story emerged involving cash donations worth over £300,000 to Conservative Party branches throughout Scotland.  According to investigative news-site ‘The Ferret‘ the source of the cash is a “secretive trust without a fixed address or known current trustees”.

The revelations have prompted an investigation of the Scottish Unionist Association Trust [SUAT] by the Electoral Commission.  An unincorporated organisation, there have been suggestions that organisations like SUAT are being used to “exploit loopholes in electoral law”.

The issue was raised in the House of Commons by SNP MP Pete Wishart who described the funding as “Dark Money” and the donations as “dodgy”.

However, save for a single broadcast on Radio Scotland on Wednesday afternoon, there has been no coverage of the scandal on BBC Scotland TV and radio news.  The failure of BBC Scotland to cover the story has led to an online spat between Wishart and BBC Scotland reporter Nick Eardley.

On Thursday, after raising the issue in the House of Commons, the SNP MP questioned BBC Scotland’s lack of interest in the story, tweeting: “BBC NI have done incredible investigative journalism around this and it is screaming ‘Scotland’. Thought @BBCScotlandNews would be at least curious….”

The claim was denied by Eardley who insisted the story had been covered by Pacific Quay.  Further exchanges between the two resulted in the BBC man accusing the SNP politician of not knowing that the story had been covered.

The coverage referenced by the BBC Scotland reporter included the single interview with the BBC Northern Ireland correspondent on Newsdrive and an online article, also published by BBC Northern Ireland.  BBC Scotland’s flagship news programme Reporting Scotland had ignored the story as had the morning news programme Good Morning Scotland.

Prompted by the attack on Wishart by Eardley, scores of other users of social media rushed to defend the SNP MP.

One poster challenged Eardley’s claim that the story had been covered: “There is a distinction between “mentioning” and “covering”. “Cover” implies adequate attention to make the audience aware of the story and its implications. A story of this political importance requires a lot more “coverage” than others. You didn’t cover it.”

A second poster wrote: “”Please point us to BBC Scotland story covering Scottish Tory Party aspects of this Where are interviews with @RuthDavidsonMSP and Treasurer Bryan Johnston demanding full transparency on secret Finances over this and other irregularities?”

Another tweeted: “BBC Radio Scotland news 8AM stories…. NOT mentioned. Where is the communication to Public on these concerns? What Politicians are being held to account?”

In response, Eardley tweeted: “Coz the story was two days ago….”

The tweet prompted furious responses with many people highlighting stories involving SNP politicians that were covered in depth for days at a stretch.

One poster highlighted the recent case of Gillian Martin: “So the story isnt headline enough but a blog from 11 years ago is more newsworthy. Labour & Tories with racist councillors getting a easy ride by the BBC. Dark money insignificant story. If you were a journalist of merit instead of a cut and paste merchant imagine the career high.”

Another compared the lack of coverage of ‘Dark Money’ to the wall-to-wall coverage of Michelle Thomson, “Yeah Nick, the story is from 2 days ago. Funny how that didn’t stop Reporting Scotland go on about the Michelle Thomson non story day after day. Anyone would think BBC Scotland are guilty of double standards. Laughable organisation.”

One poster claimed investigative journalism at BBC Scotland was dead: “Where’s the follow-up? This story points to the potential of major fraudulent funding of the Tory Party. How far up does it go? Is investigative journalism dead at the BBC?”

The episode is the latest example of a growing mistrust of the BBC within Scotland’s pro-independence community.  Other recent examples of what many consider to be the refusal to scrutinise the Scottish Conservatives include Ruth Davidson’s tax-hike stance, which is at odds with her UK party leader.

Despite headlining attacks on the SNP’s tax policy by Ruth Davidson, BBC Scotland has refused to question the Scottish Conservative leader on her own party’s admission that taxes will have to rise to pay for the NHS.

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11 thoughts on “BBC Scotland comes under fire over lack of coverage of Tory ‘Dark Money’ scandal

  1. Davy

    I would have thought a story of this possible magnitude would have been a first priority for all news organisations, especially the BBC.

    then I remembered how unionist the media is in Scotland and how the likes of the BBC would rather protect a unionist political party than do its actual job of getting to the truth of corruption and political dishonesty.

  2. Geejay

    It’s time this propaganda machine was closed down. There’s no public oversight, complaints are treated with contempt and blame is pinned on the complainer, they fail to be impartial and refuse to tackle any of the Unionist issues and its “journalists” have lost all credibility. I don’t listen and I don’t have TV. Close it down and replace it with a properly constituted Scottish public broadcaster where the public have control.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald

    The coverage devoted to the Gillian Martin posts from 2007, and the paucity of coverage of this, indicate an editorial policy in favour of the Tories.

  4. millie

    From the first minute to the final second, BBC Sunday politics Scotland was about the ‘SNP’ – nothing else was discussed.

    Education- attack on SNP.
    Brexit- attack on SNP.
    Gillian Martin piece- attack on SNP.

    End topic with pundits- attack on SNP (re education, reshuffle, Gillian Martin and Brexit).

    The pundits tried to inject some positivity.

    But, there you have it, BBC Scotland focuses entirely on the SNP and Scottish Government.

    I feel I am living in a parallel world of events that BBC Scotland does not inhabit and has absolutely no interest in covering.

  5. Jockanese Wind Talker

    Royal Charter of the BritNat Broadcasting Corporation:

    6. The Public Purpose

    (4) “….help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the United Kingdom.”

    They are obeying their Charter.

    Don’t pay the propaganda tax.

  6. Robert Graham

    Their Baw , Their game , and they don’t give a monkeys ,because the compliant media will never criticise their defence of the Union ,

    99.99% of the media in the bag , and the independence movement still growing , that simple fact must be very, very Troubling to the Unionist propaganda machine , nothing they have tried so far has worked.

    Westminster in the last few weeks have been doing the heavy lifting , all the attacks have done is let supporters of the Union see how they don’t have any influence or indeed have any place in this rotten Union that has never served Scottish people .

    Keep it up chaps your playing a blinder .

  7. Lisa Robertson

    I wish we could go higher than Ofcom, it seems we are completely kneecapped in being able to hold BBC Scotland to account. I found this piece when I was searching, its over top of my head at this late time of night so only read a bit of it. Not sure if there is any relevence in it.

  8. Thispageisrunbyamaterurs

    This post ad all these tweets demonstrate that all on this page are talking out their holes. You haven’t the faintest clue what counts as news. Your beloved Pete Wishart couldn’t get his facts right – neither can you

    1. Jockanese Wind Talker

      You aren’t paying attention (or your a cheeky wee British Nationalist Troll).

      The amateurs are currently trying to negotiate the UKs withdrawal from the EU without tearing their Tory Party in half, while at the same time lying to the electorate North and South of the Border that it will be great with global trade and no foreign immigrants.

      Like I said amateurs.

      Planning for IndyRef2 bubbling along nicely judging by the increase in BritNat trolling 😉

  9. Pete Ikswogel

    The ‘Auntie’ honorific often used to describe the BBC is, at best, misleading and at worst, dangerous. It’s a benign term portraying the organisation as warm and familiar, as part of the family. In reality, it’s the mouthpiece of the state and that state has an imperialistic past and its present MO is worryingly intolerant.

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