Reporting Scotland went international on Wednesday. The top news item wasn’t about fitba, murder or claims of another Scottish NHS ‘Crisis’.
Viewers tuned in to be presented with images of a rally in Pakistan.
They’ve gone all Scottish Six I thought. International news through a Scottish lens. Alas the truth was rather less radical.
The rally in Pakistan was featuring as the top item because those in attendance were there in support of a man currently languishing in Barlinnie prison. Tanveer Ahmed is currently serving 27 years for the murder of shopkeeper Asad Shah.
The killing of Shah was due to sectarianism. Tanveer Ahmed travelled from England in order to confront Shah. The confrontation ended with Shah being stabbed to death.
Sectarianism is something we in Scotland have experience of. People have died on our streets as a result of nothing more than the colour of a football top. It’s a subject that needs to be handled with care lest tensions ignite.
Why then did BBC Scotland lead their flagship news programme with a rally that ought to have been left in Pakistan? Why give a platform to an issue so divisive and so obviously dangerous? Why, given the current pre-Brexit anti-immigration atmosphere, portray the Muslim faith in such a manner?
The story initially appeared on the BBC’s Asia website. It quickly found its way to the top of the news agenda at Pacific Quay, conveniently pushing a key speech from Nicola Sturgeon off the top spot.
The Reporting Scotland item wasn’t of course to help Scottish viewers understand the complexities within Pakistan’s religious communities. It was a lazy opportunity to re-run an earlier melodramatic story about the man who is in Barlinnie jail.
So-called audio messages “sent by Ahmed from jail” was a story covered by BBC Scotland in September last year. The messages were in fact recorded phone-calls from the prisoner which had been posted on youtube. The phone-calls have long since been barred. The story is over.
At least it was until it was regurgitated when a few hundred religious fanatics began chanting in Pakistan.
Scottish viewers were presented with tabloidesque images of Muslims that, for many, will have re-inforced a stereotype. How will that have helped race-relations in Scotland?
Worse, it potentially may re-ignite issues within Scotland’s muslim community that died down after the murder of Asad Shah and that followers of the faith would rather have remained in Pakistan.
The ‘trip’ to Pakistan wasn’t the only foreign sojourn for Reporting Scotland on Wednesday. The programme also contained an item that can best be described as an attack on ‘foreign food’.
Queen of the Freedom of Information request Lucy Adams served up a ‘scoop’ that included carrots from Belgium, potatoes from Germany and Chicken from Thailand. Adams is living proof that you can make a national story out of any FoI response. Just ask a question, add up the numbers you get in response and off you go.
This time the FoI Queen, with the help of Conservative MSP Brian Whittle, was ‘investigating’ whether food served up in Scotland’s schools was foreign – i.e. bad.
It wasn’t made clear whether ‘Proud Scot’ Whittle was demanding produce from England be classed foreign.
Like many I support initiatives that will increase the amount of local produce purchased within Scotland’s borders. Indeed BBC Scotland covered this very issue only last month. It interviewed Fergus Ewing who explained he would not force local authorities to buy Scottish but would rather they were persuaded on cost and quality.
So why run it again and in such a cack-handed manner? Are we really to believe that nothing should be sourced from beyond Scotland’s borders? Should all local authorities be compelled to buy Scottish and only Scottish? Imagine were the SNP to attempt to implement such a policy. Xenophobes anyone?
Foreign sectarianism and foreign food. What would Pacific Quay have done with a genuine Scottish Six? I’m almost happy they didn’t get an hour to produce peak-time ‘news’.
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