BBC Scotland has denied being biased against the Scottish government after several of its reporters claimed Nicola Sturgeon’s administration was “under pressure” over the Power Grab row.
In a response to a complaint submitted last week, a BBC official insisted the reports were justified and added that the SNP led administration had been left “isolated” after the Welsh government agreed a deal.
The complaint followed several broadcasts on BBC Scotland after the Labour run administration in Wales agreed to accept UK government proposals over devolved powers returning from Brussels. The deal allows London to take control over some devolved areas for uo to seven years.
However, unlike its Welsh counterpart, the Scottish government stood firm and rejected the UK government proposal. Following news of the Welsh deal BBC Scotland ran news bulletins throughout the day which characterised the Scottish government stance as “under pressure”.
The claim from BBC Scotland that the Scottish government “was under renewed pressure” also appeared in multiple news bulletins on Radio Scotland.
Following the broadcasts a complaint was submitted to the BBC, which read:
“There may be some people who feel the Scottish government is indeed under pressure and may also feel that pressure is ‘renewed’. There will also be some who feel the UK government is under pressure and may also feel that pressure is ‘renewed’. The BBC however ought to adopt a neutral stance.
The claim that the Scottish government is “under renewed pressure” is a subjective and partisan viewpoint and something that the BBC, as a supposedly impartial public service broadcaster, should not be doing.
BBC Scotland may argue that the decision by Welsh Labour to accept the UK government’s proposal justifies its claim that the Scottish government is ‘under renewed pressure’. The counter argument could be made that it has always been the UK government which has been ‘under pressure’ to reach agreement with both devolved administrations and that having managed to reach agreement with only one, means that it, and not the Scottish government, is under ‘renewed pressure’.
It can thus be seen that there is more than one interpretation, in terms of pressure, of the outcome of the talks between the UK and Scottish governments.”
However the corporation rejected the complaint. An official wrote:
“There are examples across all platforms of our referring to the “Scottish Government” being “under pressure”. There are also numerous examples of our describing the “UK Government” as being “under pressure”. In other words, if one or other government is under pressure, we may say so. I do not regard that as being exceptionable.
I think it is clear to all those of our viewers, listeners and online readers who have been following this story that previously the Welsh and Scottish governments, acting in tandem in their opposition to what they both called a “power grab”, were putting effective pressure on the UK government to come up with compromises suitable for both devolved administrations. The dynamic changed when the government in Wales decided to accept terms offered by the UK government, leaving the government in Scotland isolated from their previous “tandem” position.
To suggest that in these circumstances, and on that day, the use of the phrase “the Scottish Government under pressure” is “subjective and partisan” is, I believe, unsustainable.”
Responding, the complainant said:
“This response from the BBC is indicative of the arrogance that pervades the organisation which appears to believe that its subjective interpretation of a situation is the one and only truth.
“It isn’t the job of the BBC to take sides, it is the job of the BBC to remain neutral. This response, like the broadcasts that led to the complaint, is very clearly not neutral.
“As I stated in my complaint, both sides can be viewed as being ‘under pressure’ for different reasons. To report only one side as being ‘under pressure’ is self-evidently partisan.
“I will be pursuing this complaint.”
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