There’s a lot of genuine news these days. Trump and Brexit have ensured that. The latter, thanks to the UK Supreme Court decision, has been a godsend in Scotland.
Scotland has been treated like dog dirt in the House of Commons for as long as I can remember. The disrespect has been largely hidden from the public eye. Not any more.
It’s been refreshing observing BBC Scotland as it is forced to adapt to this new, albeit temporary, reality. Even Reporting Scotland has had to look beyond its evening diet of fitba, murder and NHS waiting times to cover the proceedings at Westminster.
But the resistance to this ‘news where we aren’t’ which shows the London establishment in its true colonial light is still evident. On Monday evening this attitude burst from the belly of the beast à la John Hurt in Alien when SNP MP Joanna Cherry was blocked from giving a speech by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.
The situation had been brewing for days. SNP MPs had been repeatedly overlooked as they sought permission from both the Speaker and his Deputy to deliver their speeches on their own party amendments.
The SNP group sat for hours at a stretch listening to MPs from other smaller parties drone on. The third largest party in the House of Commons was ignored as speakers from other parties were allowed to dominate proceedings.
When Joanna Cherry was silenced by the Deputy Speaker after having waited hours to deliver her speech, the frustration that had built up boiled over. So enraged were the SNP group that former First Minister Alex Salmond felt compelled to challenge the Deputy Speaker.
Remember that the SNP are representing Scotland. With fifty six of the Scotland’s fifty nine MPs going to the SNP, they are our voice. We speak through them. If they are silenced, which they very clearly were, then Scotland is silenced.
This was a major news story. It should have dominated the following day’s news. It didn’t.
Good Morning Scotland
This brings me to Good Morning Scotland. The flagship morning radio programme begins broadcasting at 06:00. If a story breaks late the previous evening then it’s here you’ll hear about it first.
The show did indeed cover the episode as the image alongside shows. GMS presenter Gary Robertson and Radio Scotland journalist Chris Wands addressed criticisms from listeners unhappy at what they perceived was a lack of coverage of the silencing of SNP MPs.
The tweet from Chris Wands is respectful and informative, giving the times the issue was covered. Gary Robertson on the other hand is sarcastic. I decided to have a look at the coverage.
The story was covered in a brief item that aired at 06:10. A full recording can be heard below.
The exchange is presented pretty much in full but with very little context and no analysis. That it is broadcast so early means that few people will hear it anyway. The item lasts just over two minutes.
The story was covered again at 06:35 during a discussion between GMS presenter Gary Robertson and the BBC’s Westminster Correspondent David Porter. I’ve extracted the segment that deals with the silencing of Joanna Cherry and reproduced it below.
The extracted segment lasts 1 minute and 48 seconds during which time Porter effectively dismisses the silencing of Joanna Cherry, and the wider issue of the silencing of her party colleagues, as routine and insignificant. The Joanna Cherry row wasn’t even the main thrust of the whole item which lasted 5 minutes 45 seconds.
It’s worth noting how this second item was introduced. Listen to the clip below.
Yep. An item billed as coverage of the silencing of Joanna Cherry [it was actually a minor and very weak part of the discussion] was introduced using a well-worn piece of ‘Better Together’ rhetoric.
Now we come to the third time the story was ‘covered’ by Good Morning Scotland. Below is a discussion with political commentator Nick Jones that took place at 08:35.
Gary Robertson does indeed invite the pundit to comment on the very specific issue of SNP MPs being ignored. However Nick Jones doesn’t address the row specifically but simply provides his own analysis of the more general issues around the amount of time the UK Government has allotted the issue of Article 50. Jones appears to have been prepared for a more generic discussion on wider criticisms of the UK Government.
To claim, as GMS presenter Gary Robertson did, that the Joanna Cherry story had been ‘covered three times’ may have been technically correct given it was mentioned three times throughout the programme. However the claim is more than a tad disingenuous when one actually listens to the coverage. Indeed it was noticeable that not one SNP MP was invited onto the programme to fully explain the reasons for their anger.
Good Morning Scotland provided minimal analysis and almost no contextual information that would have enlightened the listening public to just what the SNP MPs had been complaining about for days.
The issue never received the coverage it deserved. The story that was pushed on every single news bulletin that morning was a bog-standard report into NHS midwifery. It’s apparently ‘buckling’ in Scotland.
The silencing of Joanna Cherry was missing from that evening’s Reporting Scotland save for a passing reference by Nick Eardley.
Brexit is a sideshow BBC Scotland could have done without. It’s clearly uncomfortable with it. It’s meant ‘SNPBad’ stories have been thin on the ground.
Never fear though, the station will revert to type as sure as night follows day. The council elections are looming. Normal service will soon be resumed.
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