I’ve written before about what I term ‘Agenda Days’ on BBC Scotland.
These are days when the news narrative has already been planned and nothing, bar a catastrophic event, is going to shift it.
Last week saw just such an Agenda Day when BBC Scotland exaggerated the importance of a moderately successful petition. On October 18th the ‘Thirty Eight Degrees’ train petition appeared across every BBC platform. It was on radio, online, the morning phone-in and the evening news.
The petition had in fact been covered nine days earlier as you can see here. But that didn’t matter to BBC Scotland. The broadcaster ran the story as though it was new. Look out for trains becoming a media issue over the coming weeks.
This weekend we had another ‘Agenda Day’. On Sunday I tuned into Radio Scotland to be confronted by yet another so-called ‘Long Form Interview’. These half-hour set-pieces are generally worthless indulgences that serve the ego of Gordon Brewer. Sunday’s was more of the same, but with a twist.
The guest was none other than Gordon Wilson the former leader of the SNP. Wilson is a figure from the past as far as Scottish politics is concerned. He has no influence within the party he once led and is seen as a bit of a bitter maverick by the contemporary party faithful.
Wilson, like another former SNP leading figure Jim Sillars, is regularly wheeled out by the pro-Union media when criticism of the current party or its leadership is required. My alarm bells went off when I heard Brewer invite Wilson to give his views on a second independence referendum. Needless to say, Wilson obliged.
Within minutes of the pre-recorded interview ending, a summary of the interview was leading Radio Scotland news bulletins. Listeners were told that, according to Wilson, a second independence referendum “could be a waste of time”. As though to underline the news agenda, the bulletin featured Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale also attacking the idea of Indyref2.
Subsequent news bulletins also featured BBC Scotland’s interpretation of the Wilson interview, this time garnished with classic referendum ‘issues’ of Scotland’s so-called budget deficit and currency.
My suspicion that BBC Scotland had planned to use the Wilson interview to push its news agenda that day was confirmed when first he appeared on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Show, then an article appeared on the BBC Scotland online news page.
Someone who long since had ceased to have any influence within the ranks of the SNP and had no relevance to Scottish politics, was being paraded by BBC Scotland as though important to the issue of Brexit and a second independence referendum. Gordon Wilson was being granted a platform way beyond that which he should have deserved.
But why? The reason of course was that Wilson offered an opportunity to undermine Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to Downing Street the following day. On Monday October 24th, the First Minister will meet Prime Minister Theresa May in the first face-to-face since their meeting in Edinburgh immediately after the EU referendum result.
By headlining Gordon Wilson’s criticisms, the BBC has ensured the mood-music surrounding the First Minister’s visit is not as positive and harmonious as it might have been. The broadcaster has deliberately used Wilson in order to undermine Sturgeon. And it had to be deliberate else why invite Wilson to give his views at all?
But there was more to the BBC handling of Wilson who was warning of the dangers of holding a second independence referendum. Back in May 2015 Gordon Wilson argued that Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will was enough for the SNP to call UDI. This colossal piece of strategic idiocy was headlined by … yep, you’ve guessed it … the BBC.
In doing so Wilson and the BBC handed the SNP’s Unionist opponents a nice wee stick with which to beat Nicola Sturgeon’s party in the run-up to the 2015 UK General Election.
Yet barely eighteen months later and the BBC was prepared to headline Wilson saying almost the complete opposite.
Gordon Wilson also turned up on Reporting Scotland again as a kind of warm-up act for Kezia Dugdale.
A man who represents nobody but himself had by now featured on every single BBC Scotland news outlet. He had appeared on Good Morning Scotland, Radio Scotland news bulletins, Sunday politics Scotland, BBC Scotland online and the flagship TV news programme Reporting Scotland.
Gordon Wilson is yesterday’s man. He has little or no relevance in today’s Scotland. His opinions are deemed newsworthy only because he is prepared to attack the party he once led. Like Jim Sillars and to a lesser extent Alex Bell, he has become a pro-Union media court-jester, repeatedly performing the same little parlour trick for his ever grateful masters.
Have a look at the profile afforded Wilson on the BBC Scotland online news page and how he quite remarkably leapfrogs the First Minister’s calls to Theresa May which slips down the news agenda. Note also the very low profile afforded Patrick Harvie [circled green] who very publicly backed a second independence referendum in an interview with Gordon Brewer that same morning.
This is why BBC Scotland remains the Yes campaign’s most formidable opponent. It’s why the real alternative media and the real grassroots independence movement is working to minimise its effectiveness in readiness for Indyref2.
It’s why I continued writing after it became clear Indyref1 had not killed off the Yes campaign.
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