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Guilty: Reporting Scotland misled viewers about GERS – Towards Indyref2…

Guilty: Reporting Scotland misled viewers about GERS

BBC Scotland’s flagship news programme Reporting Scotland has been found guilty of broadcasting a misleading claim relating to Scotland’s finances.

The corporation’s Editorial Complaints Unit [ECU] has upheld a complaint relating to an item that aired on August 24th 2016.

The item related to the GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] report which purports to show the financial status of Scotland.

According to the complainant, Reporting Scotland anchor Jackie Bird misled viewers when she read out the introduction to the item.  Viewers heard the presenter say: “The Scottish Government is spending nearly fifteen billion pounds more than it’s bringing in in tax.”

The statement, according to the complainant, was misleading as it implied ‘Expenditure’ in GERS is by the Scottish Government, and that the Scottish Government brings in all the ‘Revenue’ in GERS.  Official documents showed that £40,536M of ‘Expenditure’ was by the Scottish Government and £28,045M was by the UK Government.

The complainant also argued that the use of the word ‘tax’ by Ms Bird was also inaccurate.  The ‘Revenue’ – actually ‘Public Sector Revenues’ – in GERS is defined as mostly taxes, but also non-tax items.  Moreover, GERS states that ‘the majority of public sector revenue payable by Scottish residents and enterprises is collected at the UK level.’

In its ruling the ECU said of Jackie Bird’s introduction: “The sentence complained of gave the impression that the report which followed was about revenue raised and spending incurred by the Scottish Government, whereas it combined figures for the Scottish and UK governments.  Though the report itself was duly accurate, it did not offset this misleading impression.”

Despite a request from the complainant that a correction be broadcast that “reaches the same audience that heard the inaccurate statement”, there has been no correction broadcast from the BBC.

The refusal to broadcast any correction follows a similar refusal in March when the corporation refused to broadcast an apology or a correction after false claims over indyref frigate promises were broadcast on Good Morning Scotland.

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.

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27 thoughts on “Guilty: Reporting Scotland misled viewers about GERS

  1. C avery

    To be perfectly honest I stopped watching and listening to BBC Scotland after 2014, but I dread to think of the fake news I was fed by this organisation during my formative years with the Falklands, N. Ireland, Iraq etc etc. I occasionally listen to Radio 4 in the morning but they are more obsessed with scrutinising Trump than May.

    1. Andy Stuart

      I agree with the reasoning behind your boycott of BBC, however, we need to hold them to account and publicise when they broadcast falsehoods. Remember the majority of One Direction supporters (not the pop group – that is what Better Together are now called) get ALL of their news from the BBC and most especially the vulnerable pensioners who were so disgustingly, but effectively, targeted in the closing days of the referendum. It’s essential that we do everything in our power to ensure that biased reporting is challenged at every possible occasion.

      1. Mary Godfrey

        Vulnerable pensioners were not all fooled by the bbc a lot of them came through the war and remembered the westminster propaganda that came out of that and subsequent strifes!! My mother being one who said, “In London, there is no such place as Scotland!!” So she voted for independence, as did a lot her age!!! Their hatred of Churchill definitly helped!!

        1. Enid Anderson

          Yes, the odious Churchill was ousted from his rarely visited constituency of Dundee (he could barely conceal his contempt for the Dundonians).

          It is telling that they replaced him with a tee-total prohibitionist. Dundee showing its contempt for Churchill.

          p.s. – I boycott the BBC as well!

  2. Col

    Well I was at the BBC demo on Sunday and the turnout wasn’t as big as some previous demo’s. Unless the public demand that the BBC stops misreporting Scottish affairs in large numbers and more importantly does it very publicly they will get away with their subversion of scotlands democracy.
    They are possibly our biggest barrier to independence.
    We know this so unless we mobilise now the unionists will have a headstart and we’ll be constantly on the back foot once again.
    London calling is good but we need a line of attack which is up to date and able to instantly get the word out as soon as they broadcast their fake news. We must archive and point out the lie and have it available to share online ASAP while the lie is fresh in folks mind.
    Maybe give the b+st*rds ten chances from now till December until we do what should have been done by now and start a very public campaign of non payment.
    They wouldn’t last a month if that happened.


      We were at all 4 of the demonstrations outside the BBC but they made no difference .The BBC kept reporting misleading reports & downright lies ,I hope when we get independence they are given the order of the boot from Scotland.

    2. Mary McGuinness

      I agree wholeheartedly with this comment from Col. The BBC have been blatantly broadcasting fake ‘news’ for years so it’s definitely time WE took them to task PUBLICLY in order to right the wrong and get Indy2 off to an unbiased start.

  3. keith

    as the Americans said…..no taxation (licence) without representation. If they don’t do a fair and correct job why should we pay them?

  4. Robert

    I can’t watch BBC reporting on Scottish politics any more. The bias and misreporting makes me too angry.

  5. Kevin Taylor

    Nope, gave-up on the BBC – nationwide – after they screwed us over during the last Referendum. They clearly have no intention of cleaning-up their dirty little act.

    What concerns me is that most indy-minded (and probably non-indy-minded, too) KNOW the BBC are doing this, but it’s become so ‘everyday-everyday’ that we’re almost accepting of it, and certainly expecting it. Why are we allowing this to happen? If this were any other country, people would be on the street, tens of thousands, protesting and holding to account. But in Scotland we’re too reserved (are plain dopey) to act.

    What would happen if, by some odd quirk of fate, or by sleight of hand, Scotland voted ‘No’ a second time, as occurred in Canada?* We’d be rather annoyed about sitting-by idly on all of the occasions the BBC in Scotland were permitted to simply broadcast whatever the hell they wanted, and be party to that No vote, wouldn’t we?
    That’s why I stopped watching any of their shite and it’s why I stopped paying their annual robbery fee. You know the odd thing? Not once since July 2014 have their ‘officers’ come to my door. That tells me they’re well-aware they’ve been rumbled, and there’s no point in harassing Scots who won’t pay. Stop watching that garbage and stop paying that fee, you only encourage them.

    *Quebec Referendum 1995. Should Quebec be independent?
    Yes: 49.42%
    No: 50.58

    Let’s make sure we flatten the opposition in May’s Council Elections. Go, SNP!

  6. Isabel Newlands

    Mistakes can be made but they should be publicly corrected. The BBC is funded by the whole population and must be seen to be unbiased when presenting facts. We must push for a public apology.

  7. bert fuckface

    I agree with these comments I get my news from other sources than the bbc, I only watch the weather forecast, waiting for them to fake that next, they always put a positive spin on the weather have you noticed. ITS ALL FAKE NEWS FROM THE BBC WATERED DOWN AND LIES THE SECURITY SERVICES, THEY HAVE TO APPROVE WHAT IS BEING BROADCAST. SOUNDS LIKE GERMANY 1939

  8. diabloandco

    Any ‘error’ given headline status should have an apology and correction given the same prominence.

    I have been so sickened by BBBC Scotland and it’s lying , manipulative reports that I have eased my blood pressure by not watching it since 2015.

    I am sure that I am far from alone and would be most interested to know viewing figures for their news and political output.

    Of course , that is ‘not in the public’s interest’ – is it BBBC Scotland? FOI denied!

  9. Common ground

    Not at all surprised to see this. Tiresome, dreary, annoying little programme. Ms. Bird … cringe and cringe again.

  10. Robert Graham

    lost count of the times i have complained , you can almost word for word construct your own reply they all follow the same line , twaddle , twaddle , twaddle then its the usual rejection of your complaint , I am sure they automate their complaints procedure with alternative replies on an hourly basis so it appears they are actually listening , Brick wall comes to mind .

  11. C Anderson

    We need to keep a very close eye not just on the BBC but all media outlets and make use of the comments section in order to restore balance. Since many of these outlets are English based and are clearly showing Westminster colours I think in order to succeed we need to treat Indy2 with the same spirit as the Battle of Bannockburn and destroy 30 commentators arguments before giving up on the thread ourselves, thus evening out the numbers game, which in turn will raise the spirits of the campaign over the next 18 months to heroic levels. Please feel free to share this idea amongst the Indy campaigners 🙂

  12. Edward Freeman

    I’m astonished that the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit should even have admitted that there were justified grounds for complaint, as they frequently do not respond to complaints at all, and, as we have seen, frequently lie about the facts of the case.

    TV licence money paid in Scotland must be kept in Scotland, choices of what to buy in from outside broadcasters – including the BBC in the rUK – should be made in Scotland, and the new SBC must be managed IMPARTIALLY, and at arms’ length from government. Government’s only involvement should be to appoint a representative panel of governors to oversee the transition and then oversee the institution.

    The whole existing editorial and news team must be required to reapply for their jobs.

    I know two wrongs don’t make a right, but if Theresa May believes she can already start acting towards EU “immigrants” as if Brexit were an established fact – though with all the confusion it is difficult to know what is true and what is not – I believe our First Minister might propose certain steps to the Scottish Parliament that may be technically ultra vires – I mean, how can that make the Westminster regime’s obvious contempt for our democracy any worse?

  13. George Trist

    Having a complaint upheld is great but not forcing bbc into on air apology makes it pointless.

  14. Greigor

    PUBLIC WARNING! I’ve essentially been bullied out of the BBC public complaints process (i.e. threatened with sanctions). Apparently I’ve sent too many complaints since the first Scottish referendum (Orwellian BBC took great effort to cite my personal statistics over a number of years – in fine detail). Autocratic BBC ‘Thought Police’ asserts the nature of my complaints often have a recurring theme, are my own personal views, and are not shared with other members of the public (which is evidently and demonstratively not true).

    The most recent complaints I lodged with the BBC were namely: BBC’s double-standards/bias/misrepresentation (re. UK Government = UK Government; Scottish Government/parliament = SNP/Nicola Sturgeon).

    In another recent complaint, I asked BBC to describe examples of UK core values (especially given that BBC’s public purpose is to represent the UK, ‘UK values’ are a current topical issue, and core values are a fundamental pillar of civilized society). Interestingly, BBC asserts that UK values are not BBC’s remit and steadfast refused to recognise UK values and their fundamental importance to the BBC/UK society.

    I also recently lodged a BBC complaint asking for a valid explanation as to why an entire public comment section on a BBC article (re. GCHQ role/Trump spying issue) which was publicly visible for a number of hours – completely vanished. Interestingly, BBC evaded my specific/straightforward question and instead cited BBC’s standard practice and referred to public admission/closure timescales for public comment threads (such has absolutely nothing to do with my complaint). It is clearly not standard practice for the BBC to completely vanish public comment sections on BBC articles, in fact, such an action (i.e. manipulation of public discourse/’public voice’) is extremely unusual and strange behavior.

    It isn’t the fault of the public if BBC continually does not take public responsibility for its actions/output, is unwilling to accept legitimate public criticism, and is deliberately evasive. I now fully intend to avoid the BBC like the plague and will be using far more credible platforms such as grassroots – social and alternative media (while sharing my horrendous experiences with the BBC with other members of the public). The BBC is the most rotten, sinister and corrupt institution I’ve ever experienced.

    Shame on you BBC.

  15. Abulhaq

    Britishness=conceited, smug, insular, needs to get out more.
    We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by severing ourselves from this monument to colonialism and its agencies.

  16. Laing French

    If they ( BBC) can cover up Paedofilism then there’s no limit they will stoop to to destroy any ligitamit claim of automony . Jackie Bird has now placed her self in a very precarious position and should now take more attention to hat her name is associated with. She can destroy her own career by continuing this bleeding of propaganda, lies and deceit . Be very careful what you say next cause it might come back and bite you on the arse.

  17. R Knight

    Lies, damned lies, and BBC Scotland News & Current Affairs.

    Zero credibility for “impartial” broadcasting and honest reporting.

    The mask hasn’t slipped – it was thrown under the bus in 2014.

    The tragedy is that public taxation pays for it.

  18. james keegans

    Boycott the biased BBC’s licence fee until the otganisation can be shown to be impartial.

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