What’s the point of Reporting Scotland? It’s a genuine question of a programme that seems incapable of finding anything positive to say about the nation within which it broadcasts.
On Tuesday the so-called flagship evening news programme took to the air with news on the Scottish NHS, the Named Person scheme and Scotland’s streets. All three items were a feast of negativity. More on that later.
In this article though, I’m going to begin by highlighting something that happened last month and involved speeches given by the leaders of the three main parties at Holyrood.
On Monday, February 13th, Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale both travelled to London to give speeches. Both, not surprisingly, attacked the SNP and the idea of independence.
Both speeches were covered on that evening’s Reporting Scotland as you can see below.
Significant resource was assigned to coverage of the speeches as the clip above evidences. Graphics were produced especially and camera crews were despatched to film Davidson and Dugdale. The speeches from the two Unionists were treated as a significant news story with over four minutes of air-time allocated.
Well on February 28th Nicola Sturgeon gave an equivalent speech. Given her status as the First Minister of Scotland you would think that Reporting Scotland would allocate, at the very least, an identical amount of time and resource. You’d be wrong.
No camera crew was despatched to film Nicola Sturgeon and there was no resource in terms of graphics in order to visually help the viewer appreciate the point the First Minister was making. Instead we had a summary from Glenn Campbell. The whole item lasted just over one and a half minutes, which was nearly three minutes less than that enjoyed by Davidson and Dugdale.
There’s no obvious reason for the lack of parity. All we know is that a speech by Scotland’s First Minister is deemed less worthy of time and resource than those of her pro-Union rivals.
On the same day Nicola Sturgeon gave her speech, another story was doing the rounds courtesy of BBC Scotland. The story involved calls from Orkney council for ‘self-determination’ for the islands.
Incredibly, a camera crew was despatched to the islands so that viewers could hear Graham Sinclair promote an idea that seems to crop up whenever the subject of Scottish independence is current.
The story is of course a re-hash of a similar piece of nonsense that surfaced during the 2014 referendum campaign. The clip below is from Reporting Scotland in February 2012.
Let’s move on now to Tuesday evening’s Reporting Scotland which was as negative a programme as I can recall. The programme started off with two items, one on attempted murder and one on a murder … then it moved onto politics.
Before you view the first clip from the programme it’s worth noting some statistics released that day by the Information Services Division of the Scottish NHS.
- Staffing levels in the Scottish NHS are at record levels. Nursing is at a historic high.
- Scotland’s A&E waiting times during January was 91.8%. In England it was 82% – worst in 13 years.
- There were 5,170.3 WTE medical and dental consultants in post, an increase of 1.7% (88.2 WTE) since December 2015.
- There were 59,709.1 WTE nursing and midwifery staff in post, an increase of 0.7% (421.7 WTE) from December 2015.
- 6.8% (377.0 WTE) of consultant posts were vacant. This compares to 6.0% at 31 December
2015 and 7.0% at 30 September 2016.
- 4.1% (2,525.5 WTE) of nursing and midwifery posts were vacant. This compares to 3.6% at 31 December 2015 and 4.3% at 30 September 2016.
The positive far outweigh the negatives. Indeed the only negative to be found is the consultant and nurse vacancies. Both have increased since December 2015 but both are down from September 2016. In other words it’s a bit mixed.
OK, now you have an idea of what the overall picture is, let’s first see how Reporting Scotland introduced the item.
Let’s leave aside the decision to lead with the only negative aspect of the statistics just for now. Listen again to what Jackie Bird says.
“A big increase in consulting and nursing vacancies in the NHS in Scotland …”. The vacancy aspect is presented as a statement of fact. There has indeed been an increase in both. Whether it is “big” is open to interpretation.
Bird then adds: “… but the government says there’s more staff than ever.” This is presented not as fact but as a claim by the Scottish government. The question is why? Below is what the ISD report says:
The number of staff employed by NHS Scotland continues to increase gradually. The headcount of 162,302 staff represents a rise of 0.5% over the last year. Adjusting for part time working, the WTE has risen by 0.7% to 139,262.0. Over the last 10 years the WTE has risen by 9.6%.
If BBC Scotland has information that proves the Scottish government ‘claim’ wrong then why not produce it? The reason is that there is no such information. Reporting Scotland has cleverly ensured the viewer will cast some doubt on what is in fact true.
The full item that followed Bird’s introduction has to be contrasted against the essentially positive report issued by NHS Scotland’s Information Services Division.
It’s quite incredible. If you took the same approach to a football match report you’d criticise a team that had just won the match because it conceded too many corner kicks.
The negativity continued on the programme when the issue of the Named Person scheme was covered. I’m not going to dwell on this save to show you a clip of Ruth Davidson making claims which this time are demonstrably false.
Named Person wasn’t ruled unlawful. The court didn’t rule against it. The UK Supreme Court ruled that the policy was legitimate but insisted concerns over information sharing had to be addressed. The scheme has been delayed in order to allow time for the law to be amended.
What purpose was served by allowing Ruth Davidson to make false claims is beyond me. It did though ensure that the relentless negativity of the programme continued, right into the next item which was about Scotland’s dirty streets. If you really want to see that item you can watch it here.
I’ve said it often and I’ll say it again, BBC Scotland is institutionally corrupt. There is a serious problem within its news and current affairs department and it isn’t going away.
What can we do? Nothing … save for making people aware of it. You can help do that by ordering one of these ‘London calling’ DVDs.
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