Reporting Scotland – Curiouser and curiouser

brexit-plan-headlinesWhat’s been the biggest story in Scotland this week?

Few would argue that the unveiling of the Scottish Government’s Brexit proposals by Nicola Sturgeon was the number one item.

The story generated headlines across Europe and prompted encouraging statements from senior European figures, both past and present.

Former Swedish Prime Minister CarlBildt tweeted:

“Scotland today makes clear that it is determined to remain in the EU Single Market. Makes eminent economic sense.”

Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform tweeted:

“Agreed, the Scottish govt paper is serious and thoughtful, and more detailed on post-Brexit options than what has come out London so far.”

Even former Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm was moved to tweet:

“I can’t find anything in ScotGov Brexit Plan to disagree with and hope all parties will get behind it.  Even Ruth Davidson in previous mode. Even Ruth Davidson in previous mode!”

reporting_scotlandYou may be surprised then to find out that the First Minister’s Brexit speech was not the number one item on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.

The story chosen to lead the flagship national news programme was a re-heated story about a former monk, Chrysostom Alexander, facing deportation from Australia over historic sex allegation claims.

monk-original-storyThe story was initially covered by Mark Daly over three years ago [See image].  It’s been returned to by BBC Scotland periodically, the last time being just over a year ago.

The new angle was apparent a complaint by an alleged victim over delays in extraditing the man.

As far as I can tell, the story didn’t feature on BBC Scotland until 18:05 when it suddenly appeared in a Radio Scotland news bulletin.  It found itself the number one story on the flagship evening news programme twenty five minutes later.

So a story that wasn’t making the headlines, was already well-trodden and was certainly not a scoop, was chosen to lead Reporting Scotland, relegating the First Minister’s Brexit speech to second place.  The biggest story in Britain wasn’t big enough for the editor of Reporting Scotland.

Rennie Time is Any Time

And this brings me to Wednesday evening’s edition of Reporting Scotland and the story chosen to lead that particular programme.  Below is the item in full, including the initial introduction.

At first this appears to be a bog standard BBC Scotland bad news story based on a tragedy.  The broadcaster has enlisted the help of Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie to add a bit of political edge.

But all was not as it appeared, for it wasn’t that day’s news at all.  It wasn’t even the previous day’s news.  The story was actually a two day old exclusive published by the Scottish Daily Express.  You can see from the screenshot below that the last update by the newspaper was 21:30 on Monday.


The newspaper article includes the following:

Mr Rennie told the Scottish Daily Express: “My thoughts are very much with the family and friends of the deceased.

“It sends shivers down the spine to have another fail-to-respond case so close to the scene of the M9 crash last year.

“The circumstances may be different but failing to respond to such an incident requires a thorough investigation. We need to know the role of Bilston Glen call centre, which was implicated in the M9 incident.”

He added: “We also need to know whether an overstretched and under-resourced police front line was a contributory factor.

“The PIRC needs to investigate to establish the facts.”

van-death-bbc-originalSo the story was broken late on Monday.  Was BBC Scotland aware of it?

Indeed it was, for it appeared on the BBC Scotland regional news page on Tuesday 20th December, replete with the Rennie quotes.

Other news outlets, including STV, also picked up the story.

The Falkirk Herald ran the story at 12:17 on the Tuesday afternoon.  The Daily Record ran the story that evening.  The Record acknowledged that it had been broken by the Scottish Daily Express.

So how does this two day old story, first broken on a Monday and covered extensively by media outlets [including the BBC] on Tuesday, find itself the top item on the flagship evening news programme on Wednesday?  I can think of no good journalistic reason for punting a stale story.

Willie Rennie was invited onto Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive early Wednesday evening where he gave the following interview.


For someone who claims to have only the thoughts of the deceased family at heart Rennie seems happy to compound their grief by suggesting, on national news, the tragic death may have similarities with the A9 case.  I can think of better ways to help a grieving family than implying their loved one may have lain alive but helpless for hours or even days.  Innuendo and speculation are not what grief stricken families need.

Reporting Scotland ensured that the story received as wide an audience as possible and of course placed call handling by Police Scotland back at the top of the news agenda.  Which was fortuitous, because the following day [Thursday] Police Scotland was back at the top of the agenda with the scheduled release of the Auditor General’s report into Police Scotland finances.

Police Scotland featured at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood which again ensured the organisation remained in the spotlight.

Two bizarre choices as the lead story on Reporting Scotland prove nothing of course.  What they do is provide further circumstantial evidence suggesting institutionalised problems at Pacific Quay.

This week Ken MacQuarrie’s replacement, Donalda Mackinnon, admitted there is a “deficit” in news coverage at BBC Scotland.  I’d suggest the problem is a tad bigger than that.  How she deals with it will be interesting.

One final thing

Did you know in this month alone, BBC Scotland has broadcast critical stories about Police Scotland no fewer than four times.  The first was back in December 2nd with a Freedom of Information request relating to emergency call handling.  The second was on Tuesday with another Freedom of Information request about training foreign regimes.  The third was the totally unexpected Sunday Express exclusive and the fourth was the widely expected Auditor General’s report.

Make of it what you will.

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17 thoughts on “Reporting Scotland – Curiouser and curiouser

  1. grizebard

    You would hope that after the dismal affair that was the BBC’s witless coverage of the EUref, and its abject failure to reveal anything useful about the Leave campaign in particular until after the event, that its Scottish outpost would be more diligent about covering the detailed proposals that the Scottish Government has now published.

    The only proposals that any administration has so far offered concerning Brexit, and of topmost priority to the people that BBC Scotland is supposed to serve.

    But no, the UK Government’s lack of transparency must, it seems, be “balanced” by something of the same treatment for the Scottish Government.

    BBC Scotland’s persistent ingrained editorial credibility deficit demands urgent attention. It will indeed be interesting to see how the new chief deals with it, or indeed she deals with it at all.

  2. Lochside

    The agenda is as plain as the nose on Wiulie Rennie’s ugly phizog…it’s divert attention from a proper political proposal…indeed the only one on the UK political regards to Brexit by the hated SNP SG. And to attack at the same time,another Scottish institution i.e. the Police in order to create a faux SNPBAD narrative…again.

    It would be risible if it was not so shockingly outrageous. No other country..a democratic one that is…would tolerate its State broadcaster burying a critical constitutional subject in such a blatant manner.

    Tonight they showed Ruth the liar Davidson actually laughing at NS over the £25 million vat bill per year being stolen off Police Scotland every year by the UK. The eight year period as mentioned by audit Scotland that will create the £190 million ‘black hole’.

    Question is: How long are the SNP going to put up with what is now a black out of any positive news from our government? Are BBC Scotland goint to start putting an actor’s voice over NS?…a la Gerry Adams during the ‘Troubles’…oh I forgot…they already’s Brian Taylor’s .

  3. Dr Jim

    Former First Minister Salmond was awarded a prestgious honour by the European Union and lauded for his work in democracy and it was covered by media in several countries as this was indeed a distinguished merit

    Reporting Scotland, nothing, STV about the same

    For the past few months the media in Scotland has been deliberately keeping SNP good from our screens, so much so it’s been SNP almost non existant

    SNP Baad has worn out in favour of the new and improved strategy of not reporting news altogether (if you didn’t see it it didn’t happen)

    One wonders how the BBC will avoid reporting the European foreign Ministers who will be arriving in Scotland to support Independence once article 50 is triggered and they’re free to speak out on constitutional matters and the banks who are already supporting Independence for Scotland: eg JP Morgan and there will be more

  4. Jack Collatin

    Rennie is beneath contempt.
    I wonder how he would react if there were a terrorist attack in Inverness and the Armed Response Unit took an hour to respond because this vacuous little tubthumper had driven them off the streets and routine patrols.
    He has contributed nothing to public life for decades, and is a canker on the bum of Scottish Politics.
    What a waste of public funds and oxygen in the Chamber this hopeless little moaner is.
    Seriously, I challenge this man’s competency to be anywhere near governmental decision making.
    Still, like Dugdale, he’s on ‘£60k a year and living in a Band D house’, presumably.
    Beats working for a living.
    Sorry, I have gone off topic, maybe.
    The BBC and STV broadcasters still give this feckless excuse for a human being respect and air time despite his party’s miniscule presence Up Here.
    Yet we have 56 WM SNP MP’s who rarely if ever are given air time.
    We live in an English colony, overseen by the Fourth Estate Fifth Column.
    Of that I have no doubt.
    Not for much longer.
    Rant over.

    1. Alex Beveridge

      “We live in an English colony, overseen by the Fourth Estate Fifth Column”. Yep, that pretty much sums it up Jack, aided of course by their fellow travellers, various “Proud Scots”, who have sold their soul to the Westminster establishment for either gold, or so-called honours, in some cases both.
      Their attitude, and loyalty, to the British State, will never waver, and it’s wishful thinking to suggest otherwise. It doesn’t matter who is the heed bummer at B.B.C Scotland. They are the mouthpiece of people who are determined, using any means, fair or foul, mainly foul, to keep Scotland, and its people, as well as our riches, under their control, so any so-called devolution of power to us is just smoke and mirrors, a sop to people who believe the headlines in the unionist press.
      Again today we have the M.S.M getting into a strop about some guy starving himself to death on the steps of the Scottish Parliament building, protesting about the lack of care for the homeless. But reading down you discover that his gripe is with the staff of Glasgow City Council. So while I can sympathise with his predicament, why isn’t he in George Square, in front of the City Chambers? And why didn’t the “journalists” writing this story ask that question?
      No need. Again all the comments are about, “Why isn’t Sturgeon doing something about this”. Job done.
      Once again, another attempt to drag the good name of our First Minister, and the S.G, through the mud, and this relatively minor matter, although not to the person concerned, will no doubt be escalated further, to prove that we are incapable of governing ourselves in a responsible manner. Such is life in what passes for “journalism” in the U.K today. And it’s not just Scotland. Just look around, and see the misinformation that is being spread about stories from around the world.
      I wonder whether it was always so, and it’s only now, because of the internet, that their lies can be easily exposed.
      Our main difficulty remains. How to get the truth out to our electorate, in the face of such determined opposition from the M.S.M?
      Well, due to this blog, and many other fine writers, we will get there, eventually, and in years to come my great-grandchildren will wonder why it took so long for the majority of our people to realise that we could be a successful, independent, nation.

  5. Stephen Mann

    Whatever happened to the Glasgow Media Group? When I studied Modern Studies at school in th 70s we were referencing the work they were doing in challenging the myths and stereotypes of the printed media. It’s great to read articles here about the way our state broadcaster trickles down its agenda through placement of stories and all the other tactics they employ. The BBC in Scotland need a complete overhaul. Will Donald’s MacKinnon be allowed to ensure impartiality and cover the right stories at the right time? Doubtful!

  6. Muscleguy

    The other problem is Wee Willie Rennie now leads the 5th largest party at Holyrood, behind the Greens. BBC Scotland has failed to update their rolodexes. What did Patrick Harvie say on the matter? Why are the Greens’ views not sought in advance of the FibDems’?

    BBC Scotland has failed to adapt to the new political reality after May. Look at their politics stories, see Rennie being given his 3 seconds and Harvie is nowhere.

    Either the organisation is so utterly sclerotic is it unable to adapt to new realities which is damning enough or they are steadfastly refusing to do so which is also very bad.

    There is nothing good about BBC Scotland news. It needs root and branch reform.

  7. BSc Hons. Economics & Computer Science

    I agree. Nowhere else on the planet would a bunch of idiots like the SNP get any airtime. You need only remember they supported the acquisition of ABN AMRO by RBS – an acquisition that ended up bankrupted RBS and, if we had been independent, the country too. They built the economic case for independence on an oil price of $120 a barrel for Brent Crude. It never got anywhere near that and less than a year later it was $30. Even now it is still only $53 and will struggle to rise much above that because of chronic over supply. Sturgeon appointed Donald Trump as Scotland’s business ambassador, then sacked him, derided him and backed Clinton. Clinton lost, Trump won and Sturgeon turned the world’s most powerful man and a one time supporter of Scotland into a mortal enemy. Now she wants to remain part of the EU when it is equally clear that economically Britain would be much more prosperous outside it and the EU is in any event in the process of disintegrating and won’t exist in 10 years time. What a moron. The SNP are a party of failures, ne’r do wells, poorly educated, rude chavs who are an embarrassment and economic danger to the country. People driven by inferiority complexes and chips on their shoulders. Surely we can do better than that.

        1. Sandy

          So I do, my comment definitely proves that the price of oil fell to $30. Or do you mean it proves that Britain would be much more prosperous outside the EU?

    1. Heidstaethefire

      Actually, Jack Mc Connell appointed Trump, Brown united the R.B.S merger and said R.B.S is a transnational organisation with not very much to do with Scotland. You also believe that the U.K, in which manufacturing has been lalmost destroyed, will be a prosperous economy when the financial services which are the only thing keeping it afloat depart post Brexit? I would stick to the computer science if I were you.

    2. Corrado Mella

      Where did you buy your academic titles, pal? Because if you really believe the shit you wrote, I have news for you: the Nigerian prince that told you they were genuine may not have been fully honest.

  8. john

    Are the billboards up yet ? , they better hurry up because the war has started .This establishment tool will now completely ignore any positive news from the Snp . Besides Brexit , another reason is council elections . It would never suit the establishment purposes if most councils in Scotland were run by the Snp , it would be Independence by stealth ! .I have noticed in my local newspaper more and more posters on the letters page hammering everything the Snp is doing ,commenting how dire the governance is etc.etc., mostly by local counsellors but not always,there are quite a few Labour die-hards out there who are still living in LaLa land , the headlines of these stories are now being given bold type to attract you attention ! , even your local rag has joined the war!.

  9. John

    I complained about the running order of Reporting Scotland that evening and the Brexit story. Reply was as follows

    Thank you for getting in touch about Reporting Scotland on 20 December 2016 at 6.30pm.

    The order of stories in a bulletin is the subject of discussion and review right up to – and sometimes during –the time of transmission. Each story is considered both on its own merits and in relation to the rest of the bulletin.

    However, the story regarding the Scottish Government’s post-Brexit plans was the main story in our lunchtime bulletin on that day and also the first story in all our morning bulletins on that day. Therefore your claims of bias are without foundation.

    Please be assured that bias plays no part in our reporting. We place the highest value on accuracy and impartiality within our own journalism and rigorous editorial standards are applied across all of our output.

    Thank you, once again, for taking the time to contact us.

    Kind regards

    Stuart Webb

    BBC Complaints Team

  10. millie

    O/T just FYI- re Brexit trade.

    Today on BBC news 24 live, at 14.10pm, a U.S Journalist who appears to be an associate of an economic consultancy in London- Stryker McGuire- said that the rest of UK exports more to Scotland than to USA.

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