Ruth Davidson and the BBC … What’s going on?

In September last year I published an article in which I highlighted the Scottish media’s refusal to pursue Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson on several controversial issues.

It was clear to me that blunders and gaffes committed by the MSP were not resulting in damaging headlines or difficult questions.

The article, Protecting Ruth, contained the following paragraph.

All leading Scottish Unionist politicians enjoy a ‘blind eye’ approach from the traditional Scottish media. Most of course, given the party’s domination of Scottish politics then its place as the main Unionist opposition to the SNP, have been from Labour. Ruth Davidson has inherited the mantle of ‘Unionist saviour’ and the ‘media privileges’ that come with it.

Having replaced Labour as the main pro-Union force at Holyrood, the Scottish Conservative leader was now enjoying the trappings of ‘office’.

These ‘media privileges’ were best demonstrated when it emerged a Scottish Conservative councillor had posted sectarian messages on social media.

Not long after Alastair Majury hit the headlines, it emerged another councillor had posted racist messages.

The two councillors were suspended by Ruth Davidson’s Conservative party, only to be reinstated weeks later.  The Scottish Conservative leader claimed each had apologised, although to whom has never been fully clear.

The councillor who posted the racist messages eventually left the party after refusing to apologise for his tweets.

BBC Scotland

Did you know that Ruth Davidson hasn’t faced one solitary question on camera in relation to these councillors?  She hasn’t been doorstepped by anyone from BBC Scotland.  No one has thrust a microphone in her face and posed a searching question.  The only time Ruth Davidson has appeared in front of camera was in order to make what appeared to be a pre-prepared statement.

That’s as far as it went on Reporting Scotland.  There were no follow up questions despite the fact that the charity mentioned in her statement later appeared to challenge Davidson’s version of events.

Davidson did appear on Good Morning Scotland [GMS] days later on September 1st.  The radio interview was scheduled to coincide with a housing policy statement the Scottish Conservatives had issued that day.  GMS presenter Gary Robertson had to deviate from the expected line of questioning in order to ask about the two councillors.  A clearly flustered Davidson didn’t handle the situation well as the short clip below demonstrates.


During this period other Scottish Conservative councillors have hit the headlines.  On September 22nd Kathleen Leslie was struck off the teaching registry after it emerged she had posted abusive tweets targeting Nicola Sturgeon.  On the same day, another of Ruth’s councillors, Michael Jamieson, was charged over child abuse images.

Interestingly, when BBC Scotland published the ‘child abuse’ story, the word ‘Tory’ was missing from the headline.  Now why would they do that?

The damaging headlines haven’t been restricted to local level.  On September 28th Tory MSP Alexander Burnett was barred from asking written questions at Holyrood for two weeks.

The millionaire Tory had omitted to declare a personal business interest before asking questions about a proposed housing development in his constituency.

What’s more this wasn’t the first time Burnett had been in breach of the Scottish Parliament’s rules.  The MSP had already did the same thing earlier that month.

Throughout all of this, Ruth Davidson has carried on unencumbered by difficult questions from the BBC.  She has popped up on Reporting Scotland several times commenting on a range of issues.  The latest was on the eve of the SNP conference.

The item above was based on a lengthy interview Ruth Davidson gave to Nick Robinson on Radio 4.

But why was Ruth invited onto the BBC on the weekend of the SNP conference given that she had already enjoyed positive coverage the previous weekend due to her own party conference?  Could it be something to do with the ongoing media campaign that is seeking to present her as the next UK Prime Minister?

Some BBC presenters aren’t even trying to hide their fondness for Ruth Davidson.  Take a look at the clip below which was broadcast on the very day the SNP conference began.

In the space of two days, as the SNP’s conference got underway, Ruth Davidson has been invited on to two separate BBC current affairs programmes.  She has been feted by both presenters, fielded little more than pat-ball questions then allowed to give lengthy, unchallenged statements in response.  Both have led to leading news bulletins.

There’s definitely something going on at the BBC where Ruth Davidson is concerned.  She isn’t being pursued with anything like the vigour and robustness Nicola Sturgeon regularly endures.  Even baseless smears will see BBC Scotland despatch its top reporters to confront the SNP leader.

So eager to promote Ruth Davidson has been the BBC that some people have began comparing her to Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader who managed to appear on BBC Question Time almost every other week.

Like Nigel, Ruth has managed to cultivate an image of a good-for-a-laugh, tells it like it is, down to earth politician.  Like Nigel, dig deeper and you find a rather unpleasant character with equally unpleasant party members.  A stench of Xenophobia hangs in the air.

From where I’m sitting there’s no appetite within BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs to do anything that might tarnish Ruth’s carefully-crafted image.  They appear to treat her as though she, and not Nicola Sturgeon, is the real First Minister.  Not surprising I suppose.  Ruth won the general election in Scotland remember.

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19 thoughts on “Ruth Davidson and the BBC … What’s going on?

  1. Big Jock

    The more I hear the more I despair. Someone is pulling the BBC’s strings. It must be wealthy donors in the Tory party.

    They have plenty of willing ambassadors in Nick Robinson et Al. Nicola is treated like the opposition nowadays. The opposition to the BBC’s Little Britain.

    The plan is to destroy the Scottish governments credibility. To transfer negative emotions onto the populace and create an illusion of failure.

    On the other hand Ruth is treated like the Queen in waiting. You can feel their hatred towards Nicola and the Snp.

    Of course you realise we are just paranoid nationalists and it’s dilusion….right?

  2. Ayrshirelass

    it probably helps that she worked for the BBC. The modus operandi is similar. An ability to ‘ believe’ whatever it is politically expedient to believe, the sheer brass neck and lack of accountability.
    The good news for the infependence movement is that clearly the BBC know that labour is no longer able to defend the union which is why they have switched allegiance.

    Labour voters will have learned from their mistake. Voting Tory is not a ‘ safe option’ as it , surprise surprise, gets you a conservative government with all the destruction which comes with it.
    It will be a straight fight between the competent , caring social democratic SNP and the incompetent, cruelthy of far right conservatives

  3. Davy

    I watched the two interviews on the Andrew Marr show, in the first one with Ruth Davidson their was no interrupting of Ruthie when she was giving her answers, she was allowed free rein to avoid any difficult situations, infact it was quite the love-fest.

    Watch the difference when Marr was constantly interrupting Nicola as she was answering his questions, but the real difference was Nicola could and did answer the difficult questions. She stood up for our country and the SNP and put Marr on the back foot more than once, Marr appeared to be getting a lot of info/questions through his ear-piece, they must have had quite a large group speaking into his lug trying to catch Nicola out.

    Two interviews, two different approachs, a normal two-faced bbc program.

    1. C avery

      Wasnt he Red Andy? How come Scots like him can travel to England for a day and come with an anglicised accent and English be here for 30 years and retain the accent god graced them with?

    1. jon southerington

      They were obviously trying to curry favour. Even though the Tories campaigned on no more onshore wind turbines in England, in Scotland it is safe to say that major land owners are Tories. They’ll gladly make a mint from having turbines on their land (not viewable from the big hoose mind), whilst supporting fracking under the Plebs hooses.

  4. William Lennan

    I consider anyone in Scotland who believes anything that Davidson says is a Scottish tory,ie a traitor to their country,in the same mould as Edward 1,offer people position,and they will follow you through sheer greed,she is an english pawn,and a very loudmouthed ignorant person who should be seen for the treachorous person she really is!

  5. Big Jock

    To me the BBC see Nicola as the Gerry Adams or McGuiness of Scottish politics. She is the enemy of everything they believe in , which is unionism, the Queen, London rule and a divided Scotland.

  6. Scott

    As I said before about this story if the man on the phone seen walking about could be traced he might shed a light on who Davidson was talking to.
    On another thread I emailed Donalda we must get trust back all I got was a reply from one of her flunkies stating the same crap we are not biased.

  7. Simon

    Yeah, what’s going on! The first pictured used of RD looks like an ego totally out of control or maybe a last night at the proms promo shot…

    It must be a reality filter, why can’t Scotland see her for what she really is, what’s going on!!!

  8. Alasdair Macdonald

    It is not just the BBC which is cheerleading for Ruth Davidson. The smug ‘progressive’ media in England – New Statesman, Guardian, Observer, Prospect – have been writing drooling articles about her for around three years. For example, read Mr Stephen Bush’s encomium in the current NS where he pen-pictures the various replacements of Mrs May.

    The website Left Foot Forward regularly wrote about her in worshipful tones, possibly motivated by the fact that she is gay. The change in editorship of the site has resulted in no articles about Ms Davidson.

    She is clearly being groomed as a possible PM. In this regard, I think Gore Vidal’s appraisal of US Presidents is illuminating. They were simply there to be a front for the wealthy and powerful group who preferred to remain unexamined in the shadows and, eventually, in Ronald Reagan they decided to get a real actor to play the part. I think Ms Davidson, while not an actor, is being publicly tested for acceptability for the role.

    If Mrs May’s diabetes suddenly takes a turn for the worse and she has to resign not just the Premiership, but her seat, then Ms Davidson will be parachuted into Maidenhead and in Westminster within the month. After an interregnum by Mr Damian Green, and a ‘leadership contest’ she will be in Downing St.

    Going further, I suspect that a fair tranche of ‘Blairites’ will jump ship – Liz Kendal, Chris Leslie, Emma Reynolds, Jess Phillips, Caroline Flint, etc.

  9. Scotviewer

    Ruth Davidson has been being groomed and packaged for the past 3 years. She is being blatantly and aggressively promoted on every BBC political programme being given (in all interviews) the opportunity to ‘sell’ herself.

    The interview formats for Ruth Davidson begin with (fawning) positive statements, the lighting is kind, the questions are open to allow her to give her life biography, her views on life, her career, her political ambitions – and interviews generally end with the England wishes it had Ruth Davidson or won’t you take up the pleas of English Conservative voters and come down here and sort out the party. The interview was one of those scientifically proven ‘comfortable for viewers to watch and remember’ – very chummy, very ‘fun’, friendly tone, jokey. Based on the scientific principal – viewers would want to watch Ms Davidson again because it is nice, fun comfortable viewing and would be likely to remember her and look out for her again. Andrew Marr was enabling an ADVERT interview – where the textbook of this technique describes it as ‘dwelling on the personal assets of the candidate’. When the interview finished – he finished with warm thanks and Ruth Davidson finished chummily as well. All had gone to plan. Viewers would be happy to have viewed this exchange and feel good about Ruth Davidson.

    Nicola Sturgeon on the other hand, on the Andrew Marr Show (reminder it was in Glasgow specifically for the SNP Conference), was consigned to the ‘secondary’ spot after the Ruth Davidson main event – which clearly was intended to enforce the perception that by comparison to Ruth Davidson, Ms Sturgeon was considered of less importance. This alone was an indicator that the interview with Nicola Sturgeon was going to be a negatively toned one. At the beginning of the show he also patronising referrred to her as the Queen of Scotland – implying that this is how Ms Sturgeon views herself. This was designed to tag her as arrogant and above herself. Viewers would not have liked that. He was creating a false aspect to her character and letting that ludicrous (and childish strategy from Marr) remain as an opening statement which viewers would remember – a stunning statement as it was. It would create anger against Nicola Sturgeon.

    Mr Marr immediately adopted a negative adversarial tone from the start of the interview – the viewer gets the message that there is something ‘wrong’ with this person because of Mr Marr’s deliberate tone. He adopted a type-conforming questioning sequence which under pressure is expected to produce a type-conforming answer. Nicola Sturgeon did not comply! He maintained pressure with the design of his questioning in the hope of achieving a specific unreserved response. Mr Sturgeon did not comply – she held her ground!

    At this point – the tone deliberately conveyed by Mr Marr serves to make the viewer uncomfortable; they have seen his friendly tone with Ruth Davidson and suspect Ms Sturgeon must be a ‘bad’ person because Mr Marr is from the BBC, why would he take such a tone? She must be untrustworthy as his tone and questions suggest she is. She is incompetent because he implies she is. He isn’t getting the type responses he needs to get so her begins to resort to not allowing her to finish or give context to her answers. He talks faster and does not allow her to complete her responses. All the while, Marr was ‘planting’ negative messages.

    By comparison to the Ruth Davidson interview – Andrew Marr, as the credits came up, seemed to say something which looked quite harsh to Nicola Sturgeon, at which point she turned away from him and lifted her glass of water. This was a most unusual ‘look’ from Marr. Whatever he said did not look pleasant – it looked as if he had been critically rude.

    So the viewers saw a textbook technique being used to influence viewers. The old textbook scientifically proven training on interview techniques and messaging says “Consumers can take in only so much information at any one time and it is easier to implant a negative message than a positive one in a brief broadcast”. So the negative message has to be at the start of the interview; the interview tone has to influence the viewer enough to make it uncomfortable viewing for them eg. adversarial, aggressive, rising tones, not allowing completion before hurling in more aggressive questioning – with the intent of putting the viewer off listening to anything Nicola Sturgeon was saying and making it impossible for the viewer to have the opportunity to actually witness a coherent logical question and answer session. It becomes an uncomfortable mess – and of course it finished with a negative tone and negative message with Andrew Marr completing this role play with what someone described on twitter as a ‘bile’ expression on his face. Consumers concentrate on the beginning and the end.

    Nicola Sturgeon was being humiliated by having to sit through Ruth Davidson’s ‘advert’ off stage. (If indeed she was there, and had been deliberately kept waiting to witness it – so the First Minister of Scotland kept waiting to accommodate Ruth Davidson and that clearly communicated to viewers). She was subjected to what very much looked like a planned uncomfortably toned interview in order to send subliminal messaging that any interview with Nicola Sturgeon will always be uncomfortable viewing – so they are not likely to want to watch her again.

    Job done.

    That’s my take on it. The viewers were to remember with fondness Ruth Davidson, and forget or have a negative impression of Nicola Sturgeon.

  10. Fiona Johnston

    I watched them both. Agree with your interpretation mostly. However, I do think the public are more aware of these games than the BBC realise. My take was

    Ruth is just making use of her former colleagues and her training in journalism…no depth to the ” gossipy ” – type interview which I could see Andrew Marr greatly enjoyed. Actually gave negative message to me about Andrew Marr more than positive one about Ruth.

    NIcola – Very different interview as you pointed out. My impression again was negative about Andrew Marr. Felt he was poorly prepared – Nicola had to correct his info more than once. She forced the interview to look in more depth at issues raised. Could see Andrew Marr had confidently expected to demolish her and the SNP. In the end she was the one that has now put a large questiomark over his future in this role, while she continues to gain large support for what she and her team in Scot Gov are doing.

    1. stewartb

      Fiona, you say “.. I do think the public are more aware of these games than the BBC realise .. ” Perhaps, but I am inclined towards the analysis given by Scotviewer here at 04:12.

      Mr Marr was drawing on his extensive knowledge and experience of interview techniques in a deliberate – and I’m sure from his perspective and that of his peers – professional, skilful manner in order to achieve his and/or his employer’s objective.

      He was using an approach and a set of skills to ensure that the viewer was left with a particular negative opinion of the FM in contrast to the opinion he/ the BBC wished to implant concerning Ruth Davidson. None of this is by chance, but by careful, deliberate design – and for many watching, they may be wholly unaware of the underlying techniques being deployed.

      Fortunately our FM is a match for them but it makes changing negative perceptions via the medium of the TV interview very difficult.

      (By the way Scotviewer, if you’re still around, looking forward to reading more of your analyses.)

  11. Brian Powell

    The BBC has an agenda, as the State broadcaster, it persistently attempts to damage the SNP. Davidson is cultivated for that purpose.
    If she were to go to London then she would no longer serve that purpose in the face of real questions and the bear pit of UK Tory politics. And consider her opposite Westminster politicians like Ian Blackford, Mhairi Black, or even J Corbyn, in full glare of TV coverage there. The BBC couldn’t protect her like they do here.

  12. Scotviewer

    stewartb – I agree with you. Yessers have since 2014 been on a learning curve to scrutinise not the surface of political presentations – but also to recognise blatant patters of behaviour from certain presenter personalities – but also recognise that this is not a mere case of the BBC as enablers to corporates and the state; it is a presentation of Ruth Davidson as the packaged representative and desired model in their own design – the entire British Establishment and its media oligarchs, global plutocrats and all its other shadowy outriders who run and control Britain.

    The ‘Ruth Davidson Project’ is being heavily banked and promoted not merely as the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland – she is the front-man being promoted to achieve the humiliation and de-legitimising of Nicola Sturgeon specifically – as the means to ‘crush the SNP’, entrench doubt as to the need and purpose for a Scottish Parliament and ensure that Scotland is firmly nailed solidly as an integral component of ‘Brand Britain’ which is having to be swiftly re-constructed due to the catalyst of Brexit.

    Westminster and the Crown need Scotland to be firmly ‘seen’ to be and perceived globally as all of a piece to maintain or obtain those global status and power ‘seats’ and losing Scotland or worse still – Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government cannot be globally perceived as ‘legitimate’, ‘competent’ or relevant in any way.

    The rush to have Davidson perceived as the ‘go to’ person within the British state as the true representative of Scotland is a desperate one. And those 100 or so fracking licenses desperately need to be given the green light by the Treasury. The stakes are the highest they have been since WWII.

    Wherever Nicola Sturgeon was once afforded respect as First Minister by any body or establishment institution – she is being disappeared as an irrelevance and replaced with Ruth Davidson. The Labour Party must support the Conservatives in this to maintain the strength of the world-renowned and comfortably accepted duopoly of two-party hegemony of the Westminster Cartel where their global ‘clients’ can be assured that everything after Brexit WILL continue as normal as far as finance and historic join foreign strategies and interests continue to be adhered to. Labour will conform, it has to, to maintain the cartel and shore-up Britain’s declining global status. At all costs – THAT – must prevail, now more than ever. And the British mainstream media enables the cartel – as it is also a part of it.

    An interesting hint, if one were needed, from Dan Hind’s 2012 book “The Return of the Public: Democracy, Power and the case for Media Reform”:

    ‘Far from providing the general population with the information it needs to conduct itself as a public, the major media groups and the institutions of state endeavour to create a public opinion that amplifies, or at least does not challenge, their own power”.

    Jeremy Corbyn must target the SNP only in Scotland – not the Tories. Lib-Dems, Labour and Tories in Scotland must target the SNP and get shot of them together. That’s the aim. By hook or mostly by crook! But the public must be brought onside to assist it – because dirty hands always remain clean – in good old Empire strategy style – if the collaborators can convince those ‘inside’ the target state to do their dirty work for them – and the more ignorant and uninformed they are – the easier the goal can be accomplished.

    It’s how ‘Britain’ became ‘Great Britain’ – and the current situation and all that it means has been advanced in warning tones by discerning concerned authors for the last 10 years. But the domestic public do not notice – they are in receipt only of what is filtered through the mainstream media – and these are not the type of books which believers and followers of the Mail, the Express, the Dailly Record (which Scotland in Union specifically asked their supporters to read in the letter they sent out recently) are likely to come across or seek out.

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