It was all entirely predictable. I know because I predicted it. BBC Scotland’s so-called General Election leaders’ debate was a corrupt sham.
It started reasonably enough with questions on Brexit and immigration. Nicola Sturgeon took control and Ruth Davidson began to display the aggressive behaviour she is renowned for.
Then the whole thrust of the programme changed. Out went Westminster issues and in came issues that had nothing to do with this General Election. All of a sudden Nicola Sturgeon was placed on the backfoot.
First we had a second independence referendum. Why? Because the three Unionist parties have based their entire campaign on opposing one and the BBC has insisted that it, and it alone, dominates this general election. Thus viewers got to hear the now familiar refrain about a ‘divisive referendum’ from all three Unionist parties.
Things descended from there. A question about education saw Nicola Sturgeon attacked again. Another question on income tax saw the First minister pressed by the debate host – Sarah Smith.
A nurse was invited to ask a question. Said nurse complained about nurses’ pay. Nicola Sturgeon was again the focus of attacks.
Education, income tax and nurses pay are all devolved to Holyrood. Voters in Scotland can’t alter these policy areas during a UK general election. Yet here they were, front and centre in a general election debate.
Something I had accurately predicted fully three hours before the programme began.
Social media was awash with angry people demanding to know why the BBC had turned the general election debate into a Holyrood one. Word of the mounting criticism reached the ears of the host who blurted out a quite extraordinary admission.
Sarah Smith told viewers: “Education is a devolved issue that is controlled from Holyrood but we had a lot of interest from our audience and of course a lot of people care very much about this so it will probably influence how they vote.”
The admission from Sarah Smith is gobsmacking. That BBC Scotland openly admits allowing issues into a debate that has nothing to do with the subject in question, namely the general election, is bad enough. However to compound it by admitting the reason is that people will be influenced by its inclusion just beggars belief.
Non-Westminster issues dominated a debate that was trailed as a general election debate. Viewers have been let down by BBC Scotland. Many have now been duped.
BBC Scotland had a responsibility to educate licence payers by ensuring devolved issues did not contaminate the debate and confuse the watching public. It didn’t just abdicate that responsibility. It wilfully ignored it.
Towards the end of the debate, as the issue of welfare was raised, Sarah Smith informed the audience that they had run out of time. But there was indeed more time. The broadcaster then gave over the remaining twelve minutes to known partisan journalists who injected their own opinions into proceedings.
The first of these was Daily Record political editor David Clegg who homed in on a contribution from an audience member. Nurse Claire Austin had confronted Nicola Sturgeon over nurses’ pay, claiming to have been forced to use foodbanks. Clegg identified this exchange as “the most memorable moment of the night” adding that Nicola Sturgeon “a much more difficult time than any of the politicians on the panel did tonight”.
The nurse received considerable attention on social media with some people questioning her claim that she had been forced to use a foodbank because her pay was so low. It isn’t for me to comment on the veracity of Ms Austin’s claim, save to say that she herself later admitted to earning over £22,000 a year and has a background one would not ordinarily associate with those relying on foodbanks to eat.
Ms Austin is also alleged to have posted offensive messages about Nicola Sturgeon online. Not an unknown phenomenon amongst those with a passion for politics but one that calls into question her motives in attacking Nicola Sturgeon. Her debate contribution is now featuring prominetly in known pro-Union newspapers.
Regardless of this nurses’ background, the biggest issue is of course why BBC Scotland invited someone to make emotive claims that could not be verified on an issue that has nothing to do with the general election?
The so-called general election debate is what I predicted it would be. A sham set-piece that would be dominated by issues of no relevance to the general election, but that would offer the greatest opportunity to attack the SNP.
Not covered in the debate was the issue of Trident, Rape Clause, Pensions, Welfare or the shipbuilding broken promise reported that same day by the Sunday Post. Also missing was the racism and bigotry that has led to the suspension of two Tory councillors.
BBC Scotland is institutionally corrupt.
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