So Standard Life becomes the latest indyref company to shed jobs it insisted would only be jeopardised by a Yes vote. It joins RBS, HMRC, BAE Systems and others in the hall of indyref ‘no-shame’.
The news that seventy Edinburgh based workers are surplus to requirements was a minor footnote on BBC Scotland online news. It didn’t rate a mention on the flagship evening news programme Reporting Scotland.
What a difference from February 2014 when an anodyne statement from Standard Life took BBC Scotland by storm.
The independence referendum campaign was heading for its last six months and Yes was closing the gap. Suddenly the hounds of hell were unleashed. Yes meant no more jobs. Companies queued to issue veiled threats. Standard Life was one. The company issued a statement.
Below is how Reporting Scotland covered the news.
The official statement from the company contained little by way of real news – it merely pointed out that some relatively inexpensive measures had been put in place just in case things didn’t work out in the event of a Yes vote. The BBC though took the contingency plans and inflated them into a huge Zeppelin sized story that hung around for days.
In several subsequent Reporting Scotland broadcasts, Douglas Fraser would repeat the BBC’s interpretation of the announcement. Indeed in one example, he even went as far to exaggerate the company’s statement by telling viewers that the whole company was planning to move from Scotland if it was felt necessary.
The Standard Life story, or to be more accurate the way the BBC presented it and other similar announcements, was less about the hard reality of independence and more about creating perceptions. The aim was to convince viewers that a Yes vote would result in thousands of job losses. And it worked.
At the same time as hyping negative news, the BBC was burying news that challenged the narrative of an independent Scotland being an economic basket case. Did you know that on the same day Standard Life issued its statement, an international ratings agency issued a statement of its own?
Standard & Poor’s said that an independent Scotland would qualify for its “highest economic assessment” even without north sea oil. In an official analysis released on 27th February 2014, the company said: “Even excluding North Sea output and calculating per capita GDP only by looking at onshore income, Scotland would qualify for our highest economic assessment.”
BBC Scotland edited this segment of the statement out of its coverage. None of its reporters ever acknowledged it had been made.
Later, in another never-reported exchange at Holydood, BBC Scotland bosses were challenged on the news blackout. In the clip below, watch Ken MacQuarrie do an impression of a fish when he is asked about the omission. Oh, and the claim by John Mullin near the end that they did cover the statement is bullshit. The bastards never did.
Indyref2 is coming. We forget the BBC is a pro-Union entity at our peril. If you need more convincing just listen to the introduction to the clip below from March 2014.
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