BBC Scotland will corrupt the Holyrood campaign

GA Ponsonby

BBC ScotlandThe Holyrood campaign is officially underway and parties have been setting out their income tax proposals. Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to leave Scottish rates at the same level as they are across the UK but has confirmed she’ll reverse George Osborne’s increase of the higher-rate threshold. Scottish based high-earners will pay a little extra each year – around £300.

The SNP has come under criticism from some quarters over the timidity of the income tax proposals, but one thing that cannot be levelled at Nicola Sturgeon’s party is a lack of clarity.

Even the decision not to increase the upper tax rate to 50p has been very clearly explained. Sturgeon has pointed out that whilst the Scottish Government has control over the tax rate, it doesn’t control tax evasion. The loophole could result in less revenue being generated if the upper rate was increased in Scotland alone.

Sturgeon was quizzed on this very issue when she appeared on the BBC leaders’ debate on Thursday.

But what about Scottish Labour’s income tax proposals? Kezia Dugdale wants to increase income tax by one penny for everybody earning over £11,000. The Scottish Labour leader says her party will reimburse low-paid workers by providing a £100 rebate to everyone who earns less than £20,000.

How will the rebate work? Nobody knows. Not even Dugdale herself who floundered when quizzed on the issue when she appeared on the same BBC leaders’ debate as her SNP rival.

Of the two leaders, it is Dugdale who has been unable to explain her income tax proposal fully, refusing to provide an explanation as to how the rebate would work, not once but four times.

Within an hour of the televised debate ending, BBC Scotland had published an online report of the proceedings. Bizarrely the headline focused not on Dugdales floundering when pressed on the tax rebate, but on Sturgeon’s crystal clear explanation of her 50p tax rate stance.


Pro-Union newspapers were quick to pick up the BBC narrative with their own peculiar take on the debate. It was no surprise that Nicola Sturgeon found herself targeted by these newspapers. Although there appeared confusion as to whether the SNP was going after high-earners or letting them off the hook.


That evening and into the next day, BBC Scotland news bulletins reported that the issue of income tax had “dominated” the debate. The bulletins were misleading in that they gave the impression that the issue had grown organically, that the audience had pushed the issue and that was why it had dominated.

The truth was that the subject had been chosen by BBC Scotland as the first question on the televised debate. Host Glenn Campbell then allowed it to take up over one third of the 60 minute programme.

Thus, it was pre-determined by BBC Scotland that income tax was going to be the dominant issue. Once established, it was then relatively easy to target Nicola Sturgeon, which the broadcaster duly did. There was no way the pro-Union newspapers were going to pass up the opportunity to have a go at the SNP.

On Friday morning Radio Scotland broadcast ‘analysis’ from two journalists. The pro-Union writer Hamish Macdonell and the Yes supporting writer Michael Gray. Both were fed the line that income tax ‘dominated’ the debate and were invited to offer their opinion. Both, as you can hear below, provided the commentary the BBC was looking for.

As an aside, by inviting Michael Gray onto Good Morning Scotland, the BBC cleverly ensured the inclusion of a pro-Yes commentator, but without the risk of a diversion from their anti-SNP narrative. Gray had already written an article for the online website Common Space in which he described Sturgeon’s upper rate decision as a U-turn. The article also contained quotes from anti-SNP political wannabes known as RISE, a group that often finds its way into Mr Gray’s articles. His opinions therefore were not a surprise.

Saturday morning heard similar analysis from BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor. The veteran broadcaster refused to highlight Dugdale’s tax rebate calamity and instead chose to critique only the Tories and the SNP, as you can hear from the clip below.

With Dugdale’s tax-rebate shambles airbrushed out of the news coverage it meant the Scottish Labour leader escaped scrutiny. The road has effectively been cleared to attack Nicola Sturgeon.

A myth is being cultivated by a corrupt corporate media that the SNP is in some kind of disarray over income tax. It isn’t of course. The SNP stance on income tax is as clear as day. It was clear on the day the SNP announced its income tax policy for Holyrood 2016.

It was clear the day after when Nicola Sturgeon clarified her decision not to increase the upper rate from 45p to 50p when she addressed the issue during First Minister’s Questions. FMQ’s took place one day before the BBC debate.

Some may not agree with the SNP’s policy on income tax, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the nationalists, unlike Scottish Labour, have a very clear and workable policy. It is telling that journalists don’t appear interested in the Scottish Civil Service analysis that identified the risks to revenue that would accompany a 50p higher tax rate in Scotland alone. They’d have to confront Dugdale if they did.

When Nicola Sturgeon was asked to explain her 50p tax rate decision by Glenn Campbell, the BBC Scotland presenter already knew the answer. The entire Scottish media already knew the answer because Nicola Sturgeon had explained it a day earlier.

The headlines that followed the BBC Scotland debate were for political effect. They were designed to give the impression of a sudden U-turn or a confusing compromise on the part of the SNP leader. This journalistic corruption will rear its head time and again as May 5th approaches and the usual media suspects push the line their corporate bosses want to hear.

Finally, I’d like to draw your attention to something nobody in the traditional media ever highlights when discussing political debates covered by BBC Scotland, the performance of the host. I carried out my own analysis of Glenn Campbell’s handling – in particular his behaviour when it came to the two main protagonists, Sturgeon and Dugdale.

I found that the BBC Scotland presenter had challenged and/or interrupted Nicola Sturgeon twice as often as he did the Scottish Labour leader. When I stripped out the contributions from the other four guests, the difference in approach was quite stark. Unlike her SNP counterpart, Dugdale faced absolutely no interruptions or challenges from Glenn Campbell on the issues of welfare, education and fracking.

You can watch the edited exchanges yourself below.

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30 thoughts on “BBC Scotland will corrupt the Holyrood campaign

  1. John Fern

    It’s the tangled web they are weaving, public fall for it job done…….. Or so they think.

    1. GA Ponsonby

      Hi John. Thanks for the comment. You’re the first person to post a comment on the new site. Sadly there’s no bottle of whisky as a prize.

  2. Charles Kearney

    It is only forensic dissection like this of the nefarious disinformation of the BBC that will make the Scottish Public distrust and despise them even more than at present!

    We are forced by Law to contribute Financially to a Corporation that incessantly pumps out Unionist Propaganda and is the only Unit of the entire BBC that does not allow Comment on its Website or the ability to challenge the Pieces Published by its Correspondents!

    BBC ‘Scotland’ does not even have its own Complaints Department as all such are handled in England totally removed from the circumstances prevailing in Scotland.

    Well said, Sir!

  3. Iain Barker

    Thank you folks. It saved me from having to watch all of it and have a rabies attack at TV set. The blood pressure is also fine,

  4. Corzi

    Great article, thanks. Good wishes for your new Site – I look forward to reading your future articles.

  5. Brian Forrest

    Good precis…and for me the main irritant was, indeed, Campbell who, as I have stated elsewhere on Social Media, was as much good to reasoned debate as Claude Joubert was at refereeing a vital game of International Rugby a few months ago, leaving spectators completely baffled at his handling and decisions. Thank you…

  6. Rodric Selbie

    Why do the Unionist parties never get cornered over this tax rise, the Labour Party voted with the Tories for austerity, we are only having to talk about tax rises because we have a Tory government and the Labour Party helped them implement their austerity policies?

  7. Casper

    BBC are run by Tories for Tories so they will do their best to keep the lies going. I don’t really think much of the quality of the host either. He was very poor at holding Dugdale to account, they just talked over him.

    Need better hosts too.

    Good analyse of the programme – well done.

  8. James MacDonald

    I have never paid for a TV licence. Got my own flat aged 17 and I’m 48 now. The trick is to give false details when buying a TV etc, do not put your name on your door and do not respond to their letters.

  9. Autoclub

    Like many other people, I’ve already made my mind up as to how I’m voting. I wanted to watch the leaders debate but already knew how the BBC were going to handle it.

    It seems to me that with the current undertones of political bias that a fair chunk of society is also tuning out to these debates. The only outcome from this is a return to the feeling of hopelessness that many of us felt during the 80′ and 90′. That no matter how we vote nothing will ever change.

    The apathy in the electorate used to be generated by the political parties, now it’s done by their propaganda lapdog, the BBC.
    There’s going to be a lot of uninformed votes cast in this and future elections unless these arseholes can be reigned in.

    Thanks for making the analysis and giving us a chance to cut through the bullshit. It’s just a pity this’ll never be broadcast to the people that really need to see it.

  10. Proud Cybernat

    Well done, Mr Ponsonby. I always read your comments on the insidious BBC. We need to out them–and keep them out. The good thing is, fewer and fewer people are listening to them and even many of those that still do don’t believe much of what they hear from them. There will come a day (in the not too distant future) when the vast majority of people in Scotland will no longer be listening to them. That won’t stop them pumping out their propaganda right enough as they will still get funded from the WM Establishment. When WM lose the BBC in Scotland, they will lose Scotland. And they know it.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  11. Kevin

    Word of mouth is the most powerful method of communication and the BBC in Scotland are slowly but surely learning this.

    I enjoy those little moments of communication with my non-political daughter, elderly mother and friends when I fill them in on current political issues of the day. My daughter isn’t any type of political animal but she’s always enjoyed sensible conversation, appreciates a balanced and unbiased viewpoint and readily sees through wild flannel and exaggeration.
    My daughter has a responsible position managing over 200 people, and although she’d never utilise this position for political platform, it’s heartening to know that my information, gleaned from excellent sites like this, potentially filters-down to 200 + individuals.

    What do you think of that, BBC?

    Scotland isn’t England, it’s not Britain; we do things differently here, we think differently, we want different solutions and we want suitable politics for our citizens. We’re also far more politically astute than the BBC seem to realise, yet they still present political broadcasts to us like it’s 1953 – Brigadoon and Blighty. Should we stand for God Save The Queen now?

    #Both votes SNP

  12. Kate

    Always read your take on things, as you do it so well, so Good to know there is a wee spot on the Internet for such talent as yourself, & Peter Bell, also James Kelly, hope more join you, so that this place starts buzzing with views.

    I think without Wings over Scotland we would have been well and truly battered in the referendum. He did so much to debunk the trash the media was pouring out to the country. Now we have more STU’S it is even better.

    Between you lot here, Wings & Bateman, & Newsnet, no way will we lose next time… Keep up the good work sir…

    1. GA Ponsonby

      That’s very kind of you Kate. I agree with you on Wings over Scotland. Stuart has carried out some phenomenal debunking. We used to use his articles as the basis for news pieces on Newsnet during the Indyref.

      Newsnet and Bateman continue to impress. I’d also include Dr John Robertson in the list of people who have helped expose the way the BBC works.

      We’re hoping this new site establishes itself amongst yessers as the goto place for people keen to move to Indyref2. Some ‘alternative’ media sites are disappointing in my own view.

  13. Kevin

    “We’re hoping this new site establishes itself amongst yessers as the goto place for people keen to move to Indyref2″…

    That’s good news, GA (what *is* your first name?), however as essential another site circulating the same (excellent) info to the same group of passionates (or Passionats) is, we still need a Scottish Holy Grail resource that’s used by a larger demographic.

    The Wee Blue Book was ground-breaking in that it managed to be distributed to a hugely wider section of the population than could be thought possible – success of a physical copy?
    it’s fair to say that the WBB completely blew-away the effectiveness of the Blair Jenkins led ‘Yes Scotland’. In fact, I requested a WBB in a Yes Scotland outlet to be told; “We don’t have that publication”, like they were in competition. Incredible.
    Yes, the WBB was a completely unexpected success and a fantastic resource, but that’s in the past; what have we today that breaks-through to so many?

    Why don’t all of you – Stu, Paul Kavanagh, GA Ponsonby, Derek Bateman, Blue Lion et al and some prominent pro-Indy Yessers get heads together and coordinate a mega publication that will reach out to ALL parts of our society?
    People appreciate accuracy and candour, and respect being told the truth. Those same people aren’t as politically obtuse as the msm would have us believe – just watch how quickly it turns folk around.
    Incidentally, it wouldn’t matter if such a publication simply repeated what’s going out on Social Media; we see that vital info ever day, but non-Twitters do not.

    We have a VAST ARMY of volunteers who will distribute any such publication. My dental surgeon is a Nationalist – he would make such a publication available in his surgery waiting room. Also, my Doctors’ surgery has so many Womens’ publications lying around, all seeming to target ‘Hello’ readers, that I’m sure an equivalent WBB would make a pleasant and stimulating change.

    Fantastic work, btw. We need you guys some.

    1. GA Ponsonby

      Hi Kevin

      You make valid points. This site is a small venture. We’ll see how things go. I still have some contacts from my Newsnet days should we want to ‘ramp up’. It’s key that people see us as having no agenda save for a successful second referendum.

      There’s a lot of goodwill out there from people who did a lot during the indyref but stayed in the background. I’m sure they’ll be willing to step up to the mark again for indyref2 when it is called.

  14. Sandy

    I’ve tried to make a donation but the link does not seem to work. This is less frustrating than the BBC nonsense.

  15. Eric Morton

    I think it is a well known fact in Scotland that the BBC are bias and they will twist and turn, omit and summize, invent and create stories to suit their Tory Masters

  16. Marie Crawford

    Hi I’m sure we will witness STV bias tonight. Back to Glen Campbell..was he the odious reporter who ripped up and binned an SNP manifesto live on the unionists news where you are.If so he should of been sacked then and being that he wasn’t he should certainly be no where near hosting a live political debate. Usual bbc/ unionist disgraceful behaviour. Why can’t we organize a huge (catalonia type ) turnout on their doorstep? As for your book GA P fantastic stuff tho I must confess to not having finished it yet. Fantastic but bad for the blood pressure. Ta.

  17. seanair

    Marie Crawford
    I’ve heard this story about Campbell and the SNP Manifesto often, but I’ve never seen it. Could some kind person provide a link please? Thanks.

    1. GA Ponsonby

      Hi Seanair. It took place in 2007 before social media and the alternative media were established. I started recording BBC Scotland for Newsnet in 2010. Campbell’s atrocious act will be in the annuls of the BBC. It will never see the light of day.

  18. seanair

    Oh well I’ll just have to imagine that smug face doing the dirty. In any normal public organisation he would get the sack.

  19. Pingback: Glenn Campbell and Labour’s disappearing tax-rebate – Towards Indyref2 …

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