The UK government did not pledge to build thirteen Type 26 frigates on the Clyde during the 2014 referendum campaign, according to the BBC’s watchdog.
In a ruling that will shock many, BBC Trustees have said there is no evidence that such a specific pledge was ever made by any UK government minister.
The ruling follows a complaint over news bulletins broadcast on November 4th on BBC Scotland’s flagship morning news programme Good Morning Scotland. According to the three bulletins a UK government indyref pledge to build eight Type 26 frigates on the Clyde was set to be honoured.
The bulletins coincided with an announcement by the UK government of its intention to build eight frigates at the Clydeside yards.
The bulletins prompted a complaint by a listener who pointed out that the pledge made during the referendum campaign was for thirteen Type 26 frigates and not eight as the BBC had claimed. The complaint also alleged that listeners would have been misled into believing a UK government indyref pledge was soon to be honoured when in fact the reality was that it had been broken.
The complaint resulted in the programme producer issuing a private apology. Despite the apology, the BBC refused to broadcast any correction and also refused to accept the pledge was for thirteen frigates.
In its ruling the BBC Trust agreed that eight frigates had not been pledged as claimed by the programme. However, the trustees refused to accept the complainant’s claim that thirteen frigates had in fact been promised.
A confidential draft ruling seen by Indyref2 says: “Trustees agreed that while various UK ministers had warned of the possible impact of a Yes vote on future MoD contracts, they had seen no evidence that the UK Government had made a specific campaign pledge to build 13 Type 26 frigates or eight Type 26 frigates on the Clyde before the referendum.”
The document adds: “Trustees noted that BBC Scotland had apologised at Stage One of the BBC’s complaints process for giving incorrect information about the Type 26 frigates. Trustees decided that in these circumstances a broadcast correction was not required and that the apology at Stage One had resolved the matter.”
The document contains evidence, provided by the complainant, which clearly shows UK government ministers, newspapers and senior BBC reporters all referring to thirteen Type 26 frigates during the 2014 independence referendum campaign.
Official statements from UK government ministers were supplied:
Sept 2012 – Philip Dunne confirms 13 Type 26 frigates will be built.
Nov 6th 2013 – BAE’s Scotstoun and Govan yards have been chosen to build the Type 26 Global Combat ships after the 2014 vote. UK Govt minister Alistair Carmichael warns that a Yes vote will place the order in doubt.
July 2014 – Philip Hammond confirms 13 Type 26 frigates.
Leaflets issued by the Labour party during the referendum campaign also highlighted the thirteen frigate pledge. The leafet stated: “Within the UK Govan and Scotstoun will get the order for 13 Type-26 frigates from the Royal Navy.
“For more information, read the Scottish Affairs Committee report on shipyards and Separation online…”
According to the Scottish Affairs Committee report, “The Strategic Defence and Security Review proposed there would be 13 Type 26 frigates.”
The BBC Trust ruling was ridiculed by documentary filmmaker Alan Knight who said it showed why trust in the BBC was ebbing away north of the border.
Knight, who directed London Calling, the documentary which looked at the BBC’s coverage of the first referendum, said:
“The ruling defies logic. Everyone knows that thirteen Type 26 frigates was a key referendum pledge by the UK government.
“If ever proof was needed that the BBC has lost its way, it is this. If this can be deemed not to have been an indyref pledge then it means anything can be deemed thus.
“What’s next? There was no Vow? Our EU membership was not guaranteed with a No vote? This kind of nonsense is the reason trust in the BBC in Scotland is low, and getting lower.”Views: 13378