Why is BBC Scotland targeting devolved areas in a General Election campaign?

What was the biggest story of the general election campaign last week?

In terms of the UK campaign it was the leak of Labour’s manifesto. But what was it in terms of the Scottish campaign?

I’d argue it was a photograph linking Ruth Davidson with someone who it later transpired was responsible for posting racist and sectarian abuse on social media.

John William Buchan had also called for someone to “take down” and “take out” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.  The Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Company Director and former fisherman were later closed down.

The Press and Journal newspaper reported that Buchan has since been reported to the police. This though hasn’t merited a mention on BBC Scotland which is odd given that similar online threats against prominent Better Together supporter JK Rowling back in 2014 did lead to headlines.

The exposure of Buchan followed a catalogue of exposés involving several Scottish Conservative councillors. The revelations included a new Scottish Conservative councillor who had been posting sexually explicit messages online. Another was found to have posted racist material on social media.

It’s an absolute disaster of a general election campaign for Ruth Davidson by any measure, her latest blunder-stunt involves tweets about the IRA.

But she’s not the one currently in the BBC cross-hairs. That accolade has gone to Nicola Sturgeon.

Last week I came across an article on the BBC Scotland news page. The article headline read Sturgeon: 50p income tax rate ‘under review’.

The article was puzzling as I knew that Nicola Sturgeon had been highlighting the growing use of Foodbanks in Scotland.

Why would she overshadow the Foodbank campaign message with a statement on high-rate income tax, especially when it wasn’t a Westminster issue?

Shortly afterwards I heard a news bulletin on Radio Scotland. The newsreader informed listeners that the issue of higher-rate tax had “dominated” that day’s general election campaign. Below is the clip in question.


The news report, as you can hear, includes attacks on the SNP by the party’s Unionist opponents. But was it an issue that had genuinely dominated the day’s campaign as claimed? Had it emerged, well, organically?

The answer is no. The so-called ‘dominant’ issue was in fact planted by the BBC. Nicola Sturgeon, whilst holding her campaign event, had been door-stepped by a BBC reporter and asked whether the party would be altering its 50p tax rate policy. The First Minister gave a lengthy answer which made clear the policy remained as stated in the party’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto.

The 2016 manifesto included the following paragraph:

“We will ask the Council of Economic Advisers to consider how and to what extent this risk can be mitigated and if we are sufficiently assured that it can be, we will consider raising the additional rate from 45p to 50p from 2018/19 onwards.”

The issue had been raised at Holyrood the previous day when Labour MSP Anas Sarwar asked Finance Secretary Derek Mackay to set out the SNP government’s current position.

Mackay responded by virtually quoting the 2016 manifesto: “The First Minister has asked the Council of Economic Advisers to consider how and to what extent this risk can be mitigated, and if we are sufficiently assured that it can be, that we consider raising the additional rate from 45p to 50p from 2018/19 onwards as part of budget considerations.”

So, a policy that had been clearly stated for a full year had not altered one iota. But BBC Scotland presented it as though it had. This allowed the SNP’s opponents to attack a ‘change’ that was in fact a BBC fabrication.


But I had another issue with the BBC’s coverage of higher-rate income tax. The issue is devolved. It has nothing at all to do with the Westminster General Election. And it’s not the only devolved issue that the BBC is quietly shoehorning into this general election campaign.

This weekend witnessed a virtual hijack of Nicola Sturgeon on the Andrew Marr show. Marr, as can be seen in this clip, interviewed the First Minister on his Sunday morning programme.

Incredibly, in what was billed as a general election interview, Marr spent his time ignoring Westminster issues. Nicola Sturgeon was quizzed mainly on Scottish education, a little on Nurses’ pay and finally membership of the European Union in the context of Scottish independence.

Immediately following the interview, the BBC included the First Minister’s answers on education in its general election news coverage.

The interview was the top story on the BBC Scotland online news page. It was also included in the BBC’s general election coverage on the UK national news.

A devolved issue has nothing whatsoever to do with the general election. Why was it being presented as though relevant?

Reporting Scotland was even worse. The opening remarks from the presenter will ring a bell “Devolved issues dominated”. She also claims “…the parties chose mainly to talk about subjects which are the Scottish parliaments responsibility.”

The SNP of course didn’t choose to talk about devolved issues. Nicola Sturgeon was asked about them by Andrew Marr. It was the BBC who made the subject of Scottish education that day’s subject. Just as in the case of the higher-rate tax rate, the BBC had determined what issue would ‘dominate’ that day’s news.

If you watched the Reporting Scotland item closely you’ll notice that the Scottish Greens were also presented on the defensive. Patrick Harvie’s party has already being presented as being in some kind of secret electoral pact with the SNP. BBC Scotland online headlines are helping promote the idea.

What we have is an attempt by BBC Scotland to help pro-Union parties in this general election by turning devolved areas into general election issues. This of course ensures that Nicola Sturgeon’s party is presented on the back foot.

It’s why the racism and sectarianism running through branches of the Scottish Conservative party are being ignored.

It’s why Ruth Davidson’s car-crash interview wasn’t featured on BBC Scotland news, save for a heavily spun article claiming the Scottish Conservative leader was open to reviewing the Rape Clause policy.


Ask yourself, does the BBC Scotland ‘open to review’ article really match the content of the interview above?

The state broadcaster is protecting one party leader whilst at the same time cultivating a news narrative designed to place her rival onto the back foot. Devolved issues are being hijacked.

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7 thoughts on “Why is BBC Scotland targeting devolved areas in a General Election campaign?

  1. Kangaroo

    This is not surprising. The British Establishment including the BBC STV and all the MSM are doing all they can to undermine the independence cause. There is not much that can be done about it unless we set up our own News channel on line.

    Ohh! That’s a good idea.

  2. Philip Maughan

    Regarding Ruth Davidson’s ‘car crash interview’ This was quite illuminating in it’s vacuity and incoherence. Early in the interview she stated that the reason for less immigrants coming to Scotland was because we are the ‘highest taxed’ part of the UK. Later she suggested that the Scottish Government could mitigate the UK imposed welfare cap by – increasing taxes!

  3. Proud Cybernat

    The BBC concentrating on devolved issues is unsurprising, especially with the negative spin they are putting on everything. The underlying narrative is as clear as a broken windae: “Oh look–Scotland’s shit. Cannae run a bath. Treeza, please take these devolved powers back to WM an please run our country properly.”


  4. bringiton

    Since the only item in the unionist parties manifestos in Scotland is to stop a second independence referendum and that only because they know they will lose,they have to fill out air time with something.
    Their only function in Scotland is to represent their London masters interests and oppose the SNP,so consequently they have no Scottish policies to offer.
    They are irrelevant to Scotland,might as well not be there and allow the Scottish colonial office to act as HM opposition.

  5. m boyd

    An old English guy was at my door a couple of weeks ago canvassing for the SNP. When I asked him about BBC bias he looked at me in bewilderment… as if I was so naive to believe the BBC could be anything other than pro British pro Unionism and told me when he was a kid the BBC was all about justifying the Empire etc etc.

    Didn’t BBC actually unilaterally denounce German peace overtures to Britain at the start of the second world war after “the miracle of Dunkirk” without any recourse to the views of the Cabinet?

  6. W Brown

    You can’t place all the blame on puir Andrew Marr, he’s doing his best for the UK establishment. But Nicola Sturgeon knows that – so why did she not say, ‘here’s a quick answer, but education is a devolved matter and this is a UK election’ ? Open goal for a quick thinker, which she is. So why?

  7. Lochside

    Tonight’s RS programme was a classic demonstration of more of the above: re-runs of Marr’s interview and attempts to make the clear narrative of the SNP wanting the best deal for Scotland out of the Brexit ballsup as ‘confused’. We had Despicable Davidson shown triumphantly leading TM into an unidentified location of adoring audience of tory stooges then another of her talking out her arse about the SNP ‘not knowing what side of the EU table they were on’!…no irony there then.

    Then more supreme irony: Dugdale in a Foodbank ffs again with the same ‘confused ‘ narrative re. the SNP; and Wulli Winkie talking about them not being ‘trustworthy’…this from the party that has the avowed and proven liar Alistair Carmichael as an MP. Not once was a question asked of each one of these comics what THEIR policy on Brexit was?

    The crowning glory was the balding pate of Glen ‘torn manifesto’ Campbell. His faux analysis of ‘what I don’t understand ( Scottish identity Glen?) is why NS wants a single market when she didn’t get TM to agree to this last time when she had 56 MPs?..Because you don’t understand this Glen baby it demonstrates your complete suitability to be the resident shill on BBC Scotland politics..because you’re a complete and utter phoney.

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