BBC Scotland – The evidence continues to mount

bbc liesOn Wednesday I highlighted what appeared to be a deliberate attempt by the main presenter of Good Morning Scotland to mislead listeners by misrepresenting Scottish Government Minister Shona Robison.  My article, which can be read here, coincided with a tweet by the MSP herself to that same presenter that challenged his presentation of her views.


When a Scottish government minister has to resort to using social media in order to correct claims being broadcast by senior presenters at the BBC, then we have a problem. But it isn’t a problem I’m unfamiliar with.  You really don’t have to look hard for evidence of, shall we say, the ‘questionable’ presentation of political news by BBC Scotland.

David O’Neill

David O’Neill is a Labour councillor.  He is also the head of the local authority umbrella group COSLA.  On Thursday BBC Scotland ran a story based on a forthcoming speech O’Neill was due to make in which he would criticise the Scottish government’s plan to give more autonomy to head teachers.

The key proposal underpinning this new autonomy is a pledge to fund head teachers directly from the proceeds of the council tax increase on expensive-home bands.

cosla-resistThe story appeared on BBC Scotland’s main online news section.  The article listed criticisms O’Neill intended to make of the Scottish government.

However despite O’Neill being a senior Labour politician, the party affiliation of the councillor was not revealed in the article.

The story was mentioned in bulletins on Good Morning Scotland.  As you can hear from the clip below, the bulletin made no mention of David O’Neill’s party affiliation.


The thrust of David O’Neill’s criticism of the Scottish government was that poverty, and not control of schools, was the main barrier to raising attainment.  O’Neill claimed the move by the Scottish government to bypass councils was evidence of centralisation by the SNP, an accusation repeatedly levelled at the SNP by O’Neill’s party.

OK, you ask, so the BBC made no mention of O’Neill’s party affiliation – is it really such a big deal?  Well yes.  Because the plan for autonomy that this senior Labour party politician is criticising was exactly what his own party proposed during the Holyrood election campaign barely five months ago.

In the lead up to the Holyrood election, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale proposed to give head teachers extra cash, and more autonomy to decide what to do with it.  Dugdale argued handing the funding “directly to head teachers” would ensure that the “people who know best” would have the freedom to decide what changes they need to make.

Dugdale said:

“Where you are going in life should not depend on where you start your life. So our manifesto sets an ambition to close the gap in educational attainment between the richest and the rest within a generation.

“We will provide £1,000 extra investment in every child from a poor background, direct to head teachers, funded by bringing back the 50p top rate of tax.”

Dugdale showcased the pledge at a Labour party conference.

So here we have a Labour councillor, appearing across BBC Scotland criticising the Scottish government for doing something his own party pledged to do if it won power last May.

Now, that doesn’t mean O’Neill himself backs Dugdale’s pledge.  But it does raise the question as to why neither his party affiliation nor his party’s own similar plans were highlighted by BBC Scotland.  Wouldn’t it have been an easy and a journalistically ethical thing to do?

Joint Statement

Let’s go back a day to Wednesday and a joint statement issued by Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas.  The respective leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the England and Wales Greens were responding after Home Secretary Amber Rudd, in a speech at the Conservative conference, revealed plans to force firms to disclose how many of their workers are non-British.

The three female leaders denounced what they called the UK Government’s “toxic rhetoric on immigration”.  The joint statement was also signed by Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie and Green Party leaders in Wales and Northern Ireland.

It said:

“The countries of the United Kingdom face a spiralling political and economic crisis.

“At the top of the Conservative party, the narrow vote in favour of leaving the EU has now been interpreted as the pretext for a drastic cutting of ties with Europe, which would have dire economic results – and as an excuse for the most toxic rhetoric on immigration we have seen from any government in living memory.

“This is a profoundly moral question which gets to the heart of what sort of country we think we live in.

“We will not tolerate the contribution of people from overseas to our NHS being called into question or a new version of the divisive rhetoric of ‘British jobs for British workers’.

“Neither will we allow the people of these islands, no matter how they voted on June 23, to be presented as a reactionary, xenophobic mass whose only concern is somehow taking the UK back to a lost imperial age.

“At a time of increasing violence and tension, we will call out the actions of politicians who threaten to inflame those same things.”

joint-statementNewsworthy?  Well STV certainly thought so as the image alongside shows.  However the cross-party statement was ignored by BBC Scotland.

It wasn’t covered by the evening radio programme Newsdrive, nor was it covered on Reporting Scotland, despite the flagship news programme covering the Tory conference.

The following day Good Morning Scotland host Gary Robertson was challenged on twitter over the failure to cover the cross-party statement.  Robertson, in typical arrogant fashion, replied that it had indeed been covered on Reporting Scotland the previous evening because he himself had heard Nicola Sturgeon’s response.


Was the joint statement covered?  Below is the item in question.

At no point is the cross-party criticism of the UK government mentioned.  There is merely the briefest mention of Nicola Sturgeon by the reporter Nick Eardley.  To suggest, as Gary Robertson did, that the joint-statement had been covered was disingenuous at best.


The afore-mentioned joint statement included references to a ‘reactionary, xenophobic mass’.  There is currently an acceptance amongst many political observers that the recent Conservative party conference has been the most xenophobic ever.  Attacks on immigration and signals for lists to be made of non-British workers have pock-marked an unseemly coming together of the UK ultra-right wing.

On Thursday, at First Minister’s Questions, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wasted no time in condemning the xenophobic rhetoric that oozed from the conference.  Her first statement called it out and there were continual references to the xenophobia throughout.

By the time the flagship news programme aired that night, all references to xenophobes by the First Minister had disappeared.  The Reporting Scotland item made no mention of what was very clearly the most newsworthy aspect of the proceedings.

The previous evening Reporting Scotland had no hesitancy in showing Theresa May attacking what she claimed was ‘Divisive Nationalists’.  It was a clear reference to the SNP.

So BBC Scotland was quite happy to portray Scotland’s party of government as non-inclusive, as perhaps isolationist.  It wasn’t though prepared to portray the UK government as intolerant, as xenophobic.

Including the misrepresentation of Shona Robison, in the space of two days there have been four examples of what I would diplomatically describe as ‘questionable’ coverage of Scottish politics.  Believe me when I say I could have included more examples.


There was talk this week of the setting up of a so-called independence think-tank with a view to updating the vision for independence.  Might I suggest that those currently indulging their fantasies on such a flawed idea consider how such a body would be presented by the one organisation capable of promulgating any publications emanating from the think-tank?  It would be mostly ignored, sometimes ridiculed and occasionally misrepresented.

The Yes movement can create think-tanks and churn out ‘visions’ until the cows come home.  It won’t make a deal of difference if the major media-conduit is controlled by London.

Ask yourself why so many people in Scotland remain hopelessly misinformed.  Then ask yourself how best to persuade these same people to question the source of their misinformation.
It’s not a think-tank we need.  It’s a means of exposing and challenging media misinformation.

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21 thoughts on “BBC Scotland – The evidence continues to mount

  1. Gwyn Moses

    Small error. Caroline Lucas is not Leader of the UK Greens, but joint leader of the English Greens. The SGP is not part of the English Greens

  2. Tony Little

    Totally agree. But the problem which you raise in your final line is the one that is most difficult to overcome, in my opinion. The BBC in particular is now (perhaps always was, but not so obviously) an Establishment mouthpiece worthy of comparison with Pravda and Tass.

    I remain completely confused as to why the SNP (in particular, but the YES movement in general) seems so reticent in challenging forcibly the lies and misrepresentation of the BBC. The evidence is clear and voluminous and has been mounting for quite some time, so why the reluctance?

    When the trigger for IndyRef2 is pulled, we can not pull our punches this time. the media will spin and manipulate anyway, but we must be prepared to attack with evidence and with strength in our position. We are too positive last time. Calling out the lies isn’t running a negative campaign, it’s presenting the truth.

    If we get this one wrong, Independence in my lifetime would begin to look like a dream. (I’m in my 60s).

    Tie for the YES movement to use its teeth.

    1. Clachangowk

      You ask why the SNP does not challenge the BBC. you do not say how they should do this. It can’t be through the MSM and particularly the BBC – the whole point of GAP’s article.

      I keep hearing the SNP should do more to challenge the MSM but no-one ever comes up with an answer how

  3. Janet

    I suppose part of the problem is that indy politicians still want access to mainstream media. Attacking the media as biased, which it is, doesn’t of itself make that same media any less biased, but it could reduce access in a detrimental way.

    Agreed that we can’t be so nicey-nicey next time around. There has to be a robust means of dealing with the lies. But mainstream media is never going do that.

  4. Gwyn Moses

    I see you have Caroline Lucas as leader of the UK Greens. Please can you correct this, as she is co-leader of the English (and Welsh) Greens. Patrick Harvie and Maggie Chapman are co-convenors of the Scottish Greens. At the moment the article implies that the SGP is subservient to the UK Greens (which do not exist).

  5. Jockanese Wind Talker

    A high profile non payment of TV Licence in the same vein as the Poll Tax revolt led by some one like Sheridan with a “Don’t pay the propaganda tax, your are paying to be lied to” tag line” is long overdue.

  6. Toby Lerone

    I believe a think tank would be a good thing, especially if it started thinking about broadcasting as a priority.
    You, Prof Robertson & others have played a major role in highlighting deficiencies & bias in the current arrangements. I agree that until the BBC is reformed many people will continue to be misinformed and misdirected either by omission or commission.
    A respected think-tank could assist you in delivering your message.

  7. Dan Huil

    As individuals the best thing we can do is refuse to pay the bbc tax. The SNP should issue a statement in its official website stating its belief of bbc bias and using the evidence of bias gleaned by GAP and others to prove its point. The SNP has nothing to lose since the bbc is not going to change its unionist bias – not until we achieve independence at least.

  8. Clydebuilt

    Great effort George

    Means of exposing media bias

    In the absence of a pro Indy broadcaster, methods at hand are

    1. The Internet, blogs, Websites
    2. Marches/ Demos.
    3. Leafleting
    4. Word of Mouth.

    G.C.C. Are out to stamp on Indy marches , requiring 1 paid for steward per marcher.

    As a first step, more activity by readers of this site , Wings etc

    Probably What we will do is more of what we have done in the past. ie The above Four points.

    1. Eddie

      Yes more of the same, way to go. Plus we have more ammo, Better Together lies from 2014′ The Vow Was A Lie, the disaster of Brexit still to fully unfold.
      It will be hard for the Yoons to hide or disguise the problems of Brexit from Scottish voters.

  9. Leslie cordingley

    The BBC reporters are now reconstructing the news and are without doubt politically motivated . Since they I assume live in the greater community it begs the question , just how many friends & neighbours have they alienated ?

    1. Iain More

      I honestly don’t think they give a toss Leslie. They are part of the UKOK eff you I’m alright Jock amoral culture. As long as they can afford one of those flats with a view of the River Clyde and the Heilan holiday home and or have enough cash to pay the private school fees and their Golf Club memberships at Gleneagles etc and or pay the stable fees for their ponies and no forgetting the diesel guzzlers.

  10. seanair

    Remember when the BBC, especially in London, had John Reid MP on the morning programme almost every day putting forward the Labour Govt.point of view for whatever was topical?
    It would be great if this could be done in Glasgow, but sadly Fat Ken pulls the strings, and SNP Bad is chosen for attacks by the usual suspects, and SNP Good is missed out.
    Also sadly, there are not enough people to boycott the BBC to make a difference. A drop in listeners perhaps, but not enough to make a difference. It was easy for me to give up my licence (age) but not for others unfortunately.

  11. Philip Maughan

    The i Newspaper of 6.10.2016 briefly reported the joint statement but chose not to report the ‘xenophobia’ word. Seems it’s the new word which must not be spoken.

    1. Toby Lerone

      Might be explained by the fact that it was bought by the Scotsman owners, Johnston press, therefor not as “Independent” as it once was.

      1. Philip Maughan

        Interesting, thank you. I’ve written to the i in the past to suggest that despite it’s self proclaimed non-partisan stance, it seems to offer far more space to pro-union voices (David Torrance and Jackie Bailey for instance) and that in the interests of balance, some pro-Indy voices should be encouraged. Letter wasn’t published and I’ve not noticed any change in their approach – although I also haven’t seen any DT pieces for a while.

  12. Lochside

    Spot on as ever. Surely it is time that the SNP legally challenged the BBC on breach of its charter. You have got literally (!) volumes of evidence to confirm their dissembling and blatant distortion fo the truth to provide to them, if they needed it.

    We lost the REF because of the BBC.We are not winning Brexit because of the BBC, whose behaviour is demonstrably worse than two years ago, and a unilaterally unionist narrative is spewed out daily. The SNP are frankly naive if they think the decent defensive approach is working. If they keep this up non politicos will be conned into the bullshit being crafted of a brighter British future instead of the reality of a failed UK State plunging headlong into economic and political meltdown, whilst being bigged up by its media mouthpiece,

    The other tactic on the back of this: mass non-payment of the BBC Licence led by the ‘YES’ movement would be a good counterstrike. Even the yellow scum press and STV would have to report this.

  13. J R Tomlin

    You seem to say at the end of your article that because of the horribly biased Scottish media that Scots shouldn’t use think tanks and other means to make plans for independence. I strongly disagree. Of course they will be attacked and misrepresented as is everything that the Yes movement and the Scottish government does. That won’t stop until Scotland is independent. But the Yes movement still needs to start putting solid plans in place and that can be helped with an independent think tank in my (foreign) opinion.

  14. Geejay

    @JR Tomlin Strongly agree and have said so for the past couple of years, but no-one seems able to get anything going.

    RE the BBC maybe we could “crowd” complain. Other campaign groups produce template emails where you just fill in a few personal details and these are sent off to the minister or whatever.

  15. Jim Gauld

    I am lost as to Why Ruth Davidson called all Scots THEIVES and BBC Scot tv & RADIO Never mentioned it !!!

  16. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh

    Refusing to pay the licence fee no doubt irks the BBC, but without public knowledge of the numbers involved there can be little publicity impact. OK, so at least the BBC is denied some funding. Sure. But in the measure of things so what? Is it not obvious to us that even if NO-ONE in Scotland paid the fee, nothing would alter. These are special times.

    Almost all newspapers greatly subsidize their product in Scotland due to so many of us disdaining their atrociously cynical unionist spin. But clearly the financial outlay required to daily bombard us with Brit propaganda is considered well worth it. After all, shelling the enemy always costs a bit. Indeed, one imagines these newspapers would be dropped from helicopters if need be.

    Likwise the BBC. It has proven itself to be the single most effective weapon against Scottish independence. What more needs to be said? It is going nowhere soon. Especially with another referendum almost certain. We can reasonably assume that just as the news-editorial line of command from London is clandestine, so is the cash-flow. Save the Union at all costs. That is surely the nod. (And it is as well to ponder that however pivotal broadcasting is, British security infiltration of Scotland will by now be at optimum operational-saturation in all areas of our society.)

    What to do? What the little guys have always done. We disperse info however we can. The fact that we have come so far shows that, given time, it can work. Older readers may remember the booklet ‘England’s Vassal State’ we canvassed with in the 1960s. It contained powerful statistics such as how many skilled Scots were chronicly draining South for work. “A trainload every…”. And so on. The disparity between unionist self-delusion (never mind deliberate distortion) concerning Scotland and the tragic reality is truly astounding.

    GA Ponsonby’s tenacious case-study monitoring of the BBC (bolstered by Prof John Robertson’s professional statistical analyses) has established beyond any doubt whatsoever that the BBC is utterly intent on subverting Scottish democracy. It is one of the great scandals of our time. We now have copious hard evidence. How do we get it out there? Whatever else, we do the termite thing. We each use our own jaws. Respectfully. And if so many of the general public are frustratingly slow on the uptake, maybe we can cut them some slack by recalling how many high-profile figures on the independence side still refuse (for whatever reasons) to call out the BBC.

    How the Scottish Government handles this is clearly a necessarily nuanced judgement. One tentative suggestion might be for the Government to choose a specific uncontestable example of BBC misreporting and to boycott the broadcaster for a specified time, eg a week.

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