BBC’s Scotland editor comes under fire after latest blunder

The BBC’s Scotland editor Sarah Smith has come under fire after yet another broadcast relating to Scottish politics contained false information.

In an item broadcast on the BBC’s flagship News at Six programme on February 7th, Smith told viewers that an incident involving the tragic deaths of two people in a car crash on Scotland’s M9 followed delays in answering an emergency 999 call.

In her report, the BBC reporter highlighted issues with Police Scotland and added: “delayed responses to 999 calls, including one in which a couple lay undiscovered in a crashed car for three days near the M9.”

The ‘999’ claim, which was also broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland earlier that same day, prompted an angry response on social media with many people pointing out that there was no such emergency call made in relation to the M9 tragedy.  Some demanded an apology from the BBC’s Scotland editor.

A call had indeed been made to the police three days before officers discovered the car on the M9. But it wasn’t an emergency 999 call. A 101 call by a passer-by had reported that a car had left the road. The non-emergency call was fielded by an officer who had omitted to record it in the police system.

Sarah Smith is not the only BBC Scotland reporter to have made the same false emergency call claim in relation to the M9 tragedy.  The clip below contains examples of other similar broadcasts.


Smith’s erroneous ‘999’ claim follows a similar episode less than a month ago when the same BBC reporter was forced to issue an apology after she claimed 100,000 people had waited longer than four hours at Scottish A&E departments.  The actual figure was 5686.

Despite making the A&E blunder on the BBC’s national UK news which is watched by millions, the corporation refused to issue a correction on the same programme. Smith tweeted an apology on her twitter account which has just under 16,000 followers.

Questions are sure to be asked as to why an experienced BBC reporter could have made not one, but two such blatant blunders when reporting on significant Scottish stories inside a month.

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13 thoughts on “BBC’s Scotland editor comes under fire after latest blunder

  1. Ian

    Given the impartiality of the BBC, you’d think that the errors of someone this error prone would be more evenly distributed than Sarah’s have been so far. Must be the SNP’s turn to benefit soon.

  2. Scott H

    Don’t forget STV News. Colin Mackay made the same mistake and I contacted him on twitter. Got no reply and about a week later he said it again. I also tweeted presenter John Mackay. He did respond, saying it was an error and it would be corrected the following day. I watched the full programme and there was no mention of the story.

  3. Big Jock

    This was a tragic accident. The police were not responsible for them crashing the car. The fact the car was hidden in a ditch meant it wasn’t seen for days. The passer by would have assumed the police would have done a routine check on the area. There were no other witnesses and the witness assumed it was nothing serious or they would have stopped and called 999. In any case there is a duty on a lone witness to stop at the scene of an accident even if not involved.

    If anyone was to blame it was the witness for misreporting and not following up on the incident. In normal circumstances on a motorway the car would have been in sight. This was a perfect storm where the car disappeared and the witness failed to stop.

    The admin assistant at the police should have logged this but the police might never have found the car and thought it was a hoax.

    People need to blame other people for tragedies. Unfortunately life is not straightforward some things happen and they are simply tragedies.

  4. Jockanese Wind Talker

    BBC’s Scotland editor Sarah Smith is a partisan BritNat Propagandist.

    A product of The Red Tory BritNat Labour in Scotlands sense of entitlement.

    Now desperately EssEnnPeeBaaading for all they are worth so the can regain there Fifedoms and lord it over us poor plebs (who only they and their ‘Radical’ International Socialism can save from the Vile Nationalists obviously).

    BritNats getting pretty desperate now.

    Loved the use of the BBC classic “under fire”

    A wee “critics say” and it would have been perfect


  5. David

    I agree, how can anyone be so bloody busy, they cannot stop and make sure the police can find the car, some people have no feelings for anyone, a car goes off a road and disappears and the driver just carries on about their business, what a truly heartless individual they are

    1. MorvenM

      What a terrible thing to say. My understanding is that no one actually witnessed the crash. The witness reported what he thought was an abandoned vehicle.

    2. Malcolm Scotland

      This was on a Motorway. It’s illegal to stop unless broken down and how far would you be prepared to walk back after travelling past at 70mph. Again illegal.

  6. Scott

    Have sent off complaint about this latest “mistake”by Ms Smith I suppose I will get the same reply as last time usual guff.
    I must say if I had seen this accident I would have stopped.

  7. David Simpson

    I think some are being a little hard on the person who first reported this to the police. As I recall it, he or she was a lorry driver. (It was too low down to be seen from a car.) Lorry drivers are often on very tight schedules and e.g. food depots will reject the entire load if it misses its slot. He reported it, which was commendable, but probably believed the police already knew about it. How many other lorry drivers spotted it over the next three days and didn’t report it?

  8. Colin

    As a frequent weekly traveler on the M9, I drove past the site of the crash on several occasions in the days and weeks after the car had finally been discovered by the farmer on whose land it had come to rest.

    Despite having a rough idea where the site of the crash was, it was only on the 4th or 5th time of passing, that I was able to identify where it had taken place.

    The only clue was a broken branch on one of the many tall trees lining an uphill exit slip road to the south of Stirling, with hardly any room for a car to pass between the trunks of the trees and down the steep slope to the fields many feet below. The area close to the base of the slope cannot be seen from a car passing on the main carriageway due to the width of the slip road at that point and the steepness of the slope.

    I found it hard to understand why the car had left the slip road at that point and how it had managed to pass through an extremely small gap in the long line of trees.

    The crashed car could only have been seen from the high vantage point of a lorry cab, and I would guess the lorry would have to be on the slip road itself for the driver to be able to see the car at the bottom of the slope. At that time, most drivers are concentrating on their driving while leaving a motorway, so full marks to the driver for spotting it and making the 101 call.

    This second significant factual error by Sarah Smith in as many months calls into severe question her competence as a basic reporter. But she is in fact the most senior news reporter employed by the BBC in Scotland, holding the post of Scottish Editor. Such a senior position requires the post holder to actually know something about the circumstances of recent events and to ensure that they are reported accurately by all staff.

    In any normal broadcasting service which prides itself in reporting the facts correctly, her position would by now be under review with the “3 strikes and you’re out” warning having been administered by her superiors.

    Should we hold our breath as we wait for an apology from the State broadcaster for another incorrect report?

    Another complaint to the BBC on the way.

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