Last week a poll emerged which showed the SNP on 40 points for Westminster, up three on the general election result in June.
Ruth Davidson’s Tory party was at 23 points, down a whopping six on the same election result.
The Labour party had moved back into second spot on 30 points, up three.
This wasn’t what the media narrative had told us was happening in Scotland where Ruth has been portrayed as someone enjoying a soaring popularity. The SNP was supposed to be on the way down. Ruth was being groomed to replace Theresa May.
The SNP had a fantastic conference last week. Momentum appears to be with Nicola Sturgeon. In contrast the Unionist parties are in turmoil. Labour in Scotland is in the midst of a bitter leadership contest and the Tories are enduring a slow Brexit death. The Lib Dems have disappeared.
Mindful of the pro-Union leanings of what passes for a media in Scotland, I posted the following tweet on Friday.
My reasoning was simple. A new anti-SNP narrative was required in order to arrest the conference momentum. The problem was that there were few genuine political stories that would serve this purpose. The only stories available were Brexit and the Scottish Labour civil war and these offered no realistic opportunity to attack the SNP. The Herald smear stories were all that there was. But there are other ways to skin a Nat-Cat as you’ll find out.
On Saturday the anti-SNP story was provided by a Scottish Labour press release. It led the news on Radio Scotland on Saturday morning and was the number one item on that evening’s Reporting Scotland.
Over two minutes allotted to this bland Scottish Labour press release – 2 minutes 19 seconds to be precise. It’s the number one national news item. Quite a bit of resource has been earmarked with impressive graphics. Finance Secretary John Swinney has been sought and is shown addressing the claim.
Contrast this with the way Reporting Scotland reported a bitter internal row involving Labour MP Ian Murray and a trade Union. The clip below is from Friday evening. It lasts 26 seconds. It was the sixth item on the programme.
It doesn’t take a genius to see Reporting Scotland took two different approaches to stories involving Scottish Labour. The story attacking the SNP was given significantly greater time, resource and priority than the one that damaged Scottish Labour.
The Scottish Labour press release allowed Reporting Scotland to run an anti-SNP lead story on its flagship news programme on Saturday. But how would it cover Sunday? The answer is that BBC Scotland would manufacture its anti-SNP content itself.
Below is a short clip from Sunday morning’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme.
The show really did open by asking if the situation in Catalonia would damage Scottish independence. You’ll notice also that comments from Kenny MacAskill featured in the news bulletin. The ex-Justice Secretary is fast carving out a career for himself as the latest go-to SNP figure keen to provide a quote attacking the party. He fills a post vacated by the late Gordon Wilson and joins Jim Sillars who has built a media career doing just that … more on him later.
When the discussion on Catalonia aired it was with the following introduction.
Yes, Bill Whiteford really did ask if the chaos of Brexit is damaging the cause of Scottish independence. The discussion was, as you would expect on BBC Scotland, three talking heads providing us with their opinion on the subject. Having listened to the discussion I can tell you it was no more informative than listening to any opinionated loud-mouth in a pub, and I include myself in that category. Some of the comments about pro-independence Catalonians were appalling and bordered on Xenophobic.
But that was only the start of what was essentially pre-fabricated news output from BBC Scotland on Sunday. The next item to catch my attention for the wrong reason was the Sunday GMS newspaper review. Listen to the following introduction.
The two guest reviewers were former Labour politician Margaret Curran and the political editor of the Labour supporting Daily Record, David Clegg. Not only is the Daily Record a Labour supporting newspaper, but it played a significant role in helping to dupe voters during the 2014 independence campign – remember ‘The Vow’? Listen to the clip below as Clegg praises the Indyref output of the Scottish press compared to London based newspaper coverage of Brexit.
The Scottish press behaved abominably during the indyref campaign. There was, until near the end when the Sunday Herald came out for Yes, no pro-independence newspaper. Clegg’s comments are worthy of ridicule as is Curran’s interjection of agreement.
But it’s the background of both guests that is the main problem here. I really shouldn’t have to point out that it does nothing for balance and impartiality if two people from similar political backgrounds are allowed to review newspapers, especially if one of the front pages concerns a leadership contest for the party both have links to.
Listen to the Curran and Clegg as both are invited to ‘review’ the Sunday Herald story about dirty tricks in the Scottish Labour leadership contest. Subdued, hesitant and reluctant are three words that spring to mind. Curran’s excuses for the increase in members in Sarwar’s constituency are particularly ridiculous.
Clegg and Curran only really got going when the opportunity to bash the SNP was presented. Below is the two getting stuck into a Scottish Mail on Sunday piece about the cost of the new Scottish welfare agency followed by a bizarre story about Alex Salmond.
That was the kind of newspaper review you’d expect if you’re asking Scottish Labour supporters to carry it out. Incredibly David Clegg turned up later on the Sunday Politics programme where he was again the guest reviewer alongside one Cat Boyd.
Those who follow Scottish politics will recall the last time Cat Boyd appeared on the Sunday Politics programme.
So we have David Clegg again together with a self-styled ‘radical’ and SNP critic who stood for RISE in the last Holyrood election and now thinks people should vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
But Cat Boyd wasn’t the only RISE supporting SNP sniping figure on the programme, for BBC Scotland had wheeled out the daddy of them all for a special interview. The icing on SNPBad Sunday was Jim Sillars. Jim Sillars could provide an anti-SNP headline if you asked him if he took sugar in his tea. He didn’t disappoint.
I’m not going to embed the interview which you can watch here if you really want to. Instead I’ll show you the lead story on Sunday evening’s Reporting Scotland.
By way of justification for interviewing Sillars [and for making his opinion headline news], BBC Scotland always introduces him as the ‘former SNP Deputy leader’. Jim Sillars was SNP depute leader for just 1 year – from Sept 1991 to Sept 1992, and that was a quarter of a century ago.
Jim Sillars’ opinion on political issues is irrelevant. He ceased to be a political figure of influence years ago. He has a minor fan base amongst some on the radical left, but even some of them deserted him when he argued Nicola Sturgeon’s Holyrood win in 2016 did not give her a mandate to call a second referendum.
The truth is that BBC Scotland wanted a juicy anti-SNP story to run on Sunday and they knew who to invite on in order to obtain one. On Saturday and Sunday the lead items on Reporting Scotland both attacked the SNP.
- On Sunday BBC Scotland invited the editor of the Labour supporting Daily Record [David Clegg] as a guest pundit on two political programmes.
- It invited a former Scottish Labour MP/MSP [Margaret Curran], who is known to harbour a deep resentment of the SNP, to provide commentary on political stories.
- It invited the former Justice Secretary [Kenny MacAskill] who lately has been taking pot shots at the SNP.
- It invited a radical left figure [Cat Boyd] who is a constant critic of the SNP and supports Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
- It invited someone who hasn’t played a significant role in the SNP for years [Jim Sillars] and who regularly snipes at the party.
- Sillars’ attack on the SNP and its leader Nicola Sturgeon was the lead item the flagship evening news programme.
BBC Scotland had an agenda on Sunday. Was it due to the poll showing support for the SNP rising? Does it matter?
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