Sunday was Sillars day on BBC Scotland

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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11 thoughts on “Sunday was Sillars day on BBC Scotland

  1. Davy

    Jim Sillars doesn’t seem to realise the bbc and the rest of the MSM are taking the pish out of him, just to suit their own agenda. I believe he thinks they are giving him a platform for his views, when they are actually using him against his own country and its independence.

    As for the rest of them that you mentioned, you would have to be a complete idiot to believe they would give an unbiased report on Scotland and its government.

    I do hope with independence we remember all those who chose to denigrate our country.

  2. PM

    A little off topic but did anyone see Dateline London on the BBC news channel?
    The treatment of the Catalonian independence movement was disgraceful..Sean Ley allowed Agnes Poirier to get away with saying the independence referendum was all about money and the those behind it were ‘nasty people’!!!
    Utter, utter ignorance on show and no push back from the host after that last abusive comment.
    I’m still shocked thinking about it now.

  3. Samdyw

    Jim Sillars is a climate change denier and therefore deserves no more air time than a flat earther or creationist or any other delusional nut job.

  4. Pentland Firth

    Jim Sillars should consider carefully how much time the BBC gave him in the run up to the independence referendum in 2014. The only coverage I can recall is some film of him in the Margo Mobile addressing an empty street. It seemed to me that it was an attempt to mock him as an absurd irrelevance. Consider the facts, Jim, and then ask yourself whether the BBC views you as a wise elder statesman or a useful stick to poke the SNP with?

  5. Dan Huil

    Poor old Jim is The Day Before Yesterday’s Man.

    The bbc’s anti-independence propaganda is getting more and more desperate, more and more obvious to all except rabid british nationalists.

  6. Willie John

    I’ve taken an interest in the SNP since the seventies although I couldn’t vote for them as they never had a candidate in the constituencies where I lived. I only have one question about your article, Who the h*** is Jim Sillars? He certainly didn’t make any impression on my memories of the day!

  7. liz

    Neither Clegg nor Boyd understand the tax rise.
    Either that or they’re using it as a stick to beat the SNP gov.

    Richard Murphy already explained in great detail that tax rises are ineffective whilst tax avoidance is not illegal.

    Loved the knowing smirk from Brewer whilst asking the ‘radical’ one about it.

    Presume absolutely NO mention of Nicola at #articcircle2017?

  8. KennyM

    Of course there’s no discernible mention of NS re arcticcircle or anything else remotely positive about Scotland, can’t have the natives getting ideas above their station can we?

    What puzzles me is why some people still seem surprised by it.

    I see the old fool Sillars has pished his troosers again, something else that’s not exactly a surprise.

  9. Bibbit

    Jim Sillars wants the SNP to allow fracking by INEOS (owned by one billionaire) in Scotland. Sillars hates the Greens. He also thinks Fracking is a ‘good thing’ for workers.

    Fracking is the fossil fuel industry’s latest false solution. It’s expensive, polluting and dangerous whilst Scotland is the world’s new Suadi Arabia for clean, renewable energy.

    In the USA, house owners near fracking sites can light the methane gas from the water coming out of their taps! This causes health problems which the industry denies in the same way as the smoking industry denied for decades that smoking caused cancer. This is the fracking industry Sillars supports.

    More than 100,000 wells have been fracked in the United States.While companies like INEOS claim fracking is safe, we know very little about long-term environment impacts. Behind the scenes, US companies have warned investors fracking carries the risk of chemical leaks, spills, explosions and other environmental damage, not to mention serious injury to workers. This is what Mr Silly Sillars advocates is in Scottish workers’ best interests!

    In Texas and Colorado, more than 3.6 million gallons of water are used every time a well is fracked, which is multiple times during the life of a well. Injected with the fresh water are toxic chemicals — called fracking fluids. Fracking companies claim fracking fluids are harmless because they’re roughly 2 percent chemical and 98 percent water. But 2 percent of the billions of gallons of fracking fluid, equals hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals, many of which are kept secret by the industry.

    Worse, the companies have no idea what to do with the massive amount of contaminated water it’s creating. Fracking fluids and waste have made their way into drinking water in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Wyoming, New York, and West Virginia.

    Worst of all the US’s Environment Protection Agency has connected fracking with increased US earthquakes since 1990. The companies simply deny this too. These are the companies Mr Silly Sillars is in favour of being let loose on Scotland.

    Oklahoma averaged 21 earthquakes above a 3.0 magnitude per year between 1967 and 2000. Since 2010 and the beginning of the fracking boom, the state has averaged more than 300 earthquakes above 3.0 magnitude every year! Mr Sillars wants this to happen in Scotland!

    Most earthquakes are caused by underground injection wells, created to ‘dispose’ of the billions of tons of contaminated toxic water created by fracking. It’s just hidden out of sight by the companies who simply don’t care if it eventually seeps into the larger environment. Not our problem! say the companies Mr Sillars is in favour of coming to Scotland!

    Because shale drilling and fracking is understood so poorly and regulated so little, we don’t know exactly how much air pollution is leaking from fracking wells across the country. States like Colorado have seen tremendous spikes in air pollution due to fracking wells.

    And one of the most troubling aspects of shale drilling and fracking is its impact on the climate.

    Methane gas — the main component of natural gas — is a less common but more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In fact, it’s 85 to 105 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at disrupting the climate over a 20-year period.

    There is still no consensus as to how much methane is leaking into the air due to shale drilling and fracking, but some studies suggest it could be worse than burning coal for the climate.

    All of the above is what Mr Silly Sillars wants to happen in Scotland.

    No other country’s media but Scotland’s would put such lunatic views forward as being a good thing and allowed to spout his pish completely without a balanced point of view reply.

  10. Jas

    There is only one Jim Sillars, and there is only one Jim Sillars Party. It has one member: Jim Sillars. Jim Sillars only cares about the Jim Sillars Party and the Jim Sillars Party has only one aim – the promotion of the views of Jim Sillars. These views often manifest as barbed attacks upon one party and one party only: the SNP. The Jim Sillars Party rarely has anything critical to say about any of the London- based parties, including the one within which Jim Sillars used to be known as ‘The Hammer of The Nats’.

    Seems like nothing much has changed for both Jim Sillars and the Jim Sillars Party!

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