BBC Scotland’s General Election debate was a predictable sham

It was all entirely predictable. I know because I predicted it. BBC Scotland’s so-called General Election leaders’ debate was a corrupt sham.

It started reasonably enough with questions on Brexit and immigration. Nicola Sturgeon took control and Ruth Davidson began to display the aggressive behaviour she is renowned for.

Then the whole thrust of the programme changed. Out went Westminster issues and in came issues that had nothing to do with this General Election. All of a sudden Nicola Sturgeon was placed on the backfoot.

First we had a second independence referendum. Why? Because the three Unionist parties have based their entire campaign on opposing one and the BBC has insisted that it, and it alone, dominates this general election. Thus viewers got to hear the now familiar refrain about a ‘divisive referendum’ from all three Unionist parties.

Things descended from there. A question about education saw Nicola Sturgeon attacked again. Another question on income tax saw the First minister pressed by the debate host – Sarah Smith.

A nurse was invited to ask a question. Said nurse complained about nurses’ pay. Nicola Sturgeon was again the focus of attacks.

Education, income tax and nurses pay are all devolved to Holyrood. Voters in Scotland can’t alter these policy areas during a UK general election. Yet here they were, front and centre in a general election debate.

Something I had accurately predicted fully three hours before the programme began.

Social media was awash with angry people demanding to know why the BBC had turned the general election debate into a Holyrood one. Word of the mounting criticism reached the ears of the host who blurted out a quite extraordinary admission.

Sarah Smith told viewers: “Education is a devolved issue that is controlled from Holyrood but we had a lot of interest from our audience and of course a lot of people care very much about this so it will probably influence how they vote.”

The admission from Sarah Smith is gobsmacking. That BBC Scotland openly admits allowing issues into a debate that has nothing to do with the subject in question, namely the general election, is bad enough. However to compound it by admitting the reason is that people will be influenced by its inclusion just beggars belief.

Non-Westminster issues dominated a debate that was trailed as a general election debate. Viewers have been let down by BBC Scotland. Many have now been duped.

BBC Scotland had a responsibility to educate licence payers by ensuring devolved issues did not contaminate the debate and confuse the watching public. It didn’t just abdicate that responsibility. It wilfully ignored it.

Towards the end of the debate, as the issue of welfare was raised, Sarah Smith informed the audience that they had run out of time. But there was indeed more time.  The broadcaster then gave over the remaining twelve minutes to known partisan journalists who injected their own opinions into proceedings.

The first of these was Daily Record political editor David Clegg who homed in on a contribution from an audience member. Nurse Claire Austin had confronted Nicola Sturgeon over nurses’ pay, claiming to have been forced to use foodbanks. Clegg identified this exchange as “the most memorable moment of the night” adding that Nicola Sturgeon “a much more difficult time than any of the politicians on the panel did tonight”.

The nurse received considerable attention on social media with some people questioning her claim that she had been forced to use a foodbank because her pay was so low. It isn’t for me to comment on the veracity of Ms Austin’s claim, save to say that she herself later admitted to earning over £22,000 a year and has a background one would not ordinarily associate with those relying on foodbanks to eat.

Ms Austin is also alleged to have posted offensive messages about Nicola Sturgeon online. Not an unknown phenomenon amongst those with a passion for politics but one that calls into question her motives in attacking Nicola Sturgeon. Her debate contribution is now featuring prominetly in known pro-Union newspapers.

Regardless of this nurses’ background, the biggest issue is of course why BBC Scotland invited someone to make emotive claims that could not be verified on an issue that has nothing to do with the general election?

The so-called general election debate is what I predicted it would be. A sham set-piece that would be dominated by issues of no relevance to the general election, but that would offer the greatest opportunity to attack the SNP.

Not covered in the debate was the issue of Trident, Rape Clause, Pensions, Welfare or the shipbuilding broken promise reported that same day by the Sunday Post. Also missing was the racism and bigotry that has led to the suspension of two Tory councillors.

BBC Scotland is institutionally corrupt.

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24 thoughts on “BBC Scotland’s General Election debate was a predictable sham

  1. Arthur Martin

    “BBC Scotland is institutionally corrupt.”

    And that quote in a nutshell is why I opted out of paying the license fee.

  2. Frank

    Anyone on that income using foodbanks is deceitful at the least.
    This lowers stock availability for truly desperate families.
    She needs to learn how to budget and take a look in the mirror.

  3. ScotsCanuck

    Bloody disgraceful …… but as you say, why are we surprised ? …. it’s just “the same old, same old” from the State Broadcaster ….. how the old Soviet Propaganda Machine would have been impressed …. “Pravda” (truth) …… aye, right !!!

  4. m boyd

    The Sun, god bless them, have actually found fotos of Nurse Austin wining and dining in New York earlier this year!

    1. GLO

      Claire Austin , the English nurse, has made a very public laughing stock of herself as pics of her champagne lifestyle emerge.Skint my a–e. Nothing but a great big plant.

    2. David Anderson

      I don’t really think The Sun ‘found’ them. They were plastered all over social media within an hour of the programme ending.

  5. Hamish S

    It is a shame that a debate which should have been on the issues of brexit, defence, nuclear weapons etc was hijacked by the BBC. The BBC knew exactly what they were doing. From Sarah Smith to the back room boys and girls.
    A complete setup.
    Of course the BBC could produce evidence as to the who what where and whom was just pure coincidence. My erse.

  6. Sandy

    Time for the SNP to stop engaging with the BBC? Or at the very least, to call them out on this type of bias and manipulation?

  7. Bob p

    The next time an snp member is taking part in a live televised debate on bbc ,He/She should ask “are there any plants in the audience who would like to ask a question “.

  8. Ann Rayner

    The ‘nurse’ is definitly a plant as she was in the QT audience when it was from Edinburgh. I don’t think she got a question (too tedious to scroll through)but she was sitting beside a man who went on and on about independence referenda and would there be more and more until people said Yes. She had the same red hair and was nodding away in and it looked like they were together.

    It seems abit daft to keep planting people who are so distinctive – unless they are really winding us up.

    1. Robert Unwin

      Yes. She she just happened to be sitting between two Conservative Councillors from Clydesdale East who both got to ask questions.

  9. Kevin Taylor

    Excellent piece, GAP.

    I’ve said this before; anyone remotely interested in viewing a political programme has got to be smart enough to realise the tone or direction of its agenda. People can be intentionally swayed as it suits them, but Scotland has a great many people who are still non-participants or as passionate about the country than Twitter folk, and I believe these people will be fed-up of BBC one-sidedness.

    BBC is the bad-bastard in the black hat and is incapable of doing ‘balanced’ politics when its political existence is so married to anti-SNP output. However, the villain of this story is easily recognised and folk will identify it from the BBC.
    No, Rape Clause, Pensioners etc wasn’t discussed and devolved matters were, but open hatred is extremely difficult to conceal and the BBC are hating openly; that will be their undoing.

  10. Philip Maughan

    I see on the BBC website that they (and the Tories etc.) are now blaming the SNP for ‘smearing’ the nurse, with Joanna Cherry’s apology as a sub-heading. Absolutely no mention of the reality that NHS Scotland is devolved and so not a GE issue, or that Scottish Government pays more than E&W. So first the BBC allows questioning on a non-GE subject then traduces NS/SNP for their response. Orwellian doesn’t cover it.

  11. Robert Unwin

    BTW, at the last Question Time episode from Edinburgh (11/5/17) Claire Austin was sitting between two Conservative Clydesdale East Councillors, Alex Allison and Eric Holford, right at the front of the audience (you can see them together 40 seconds in when camera pans around).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruRS0zrhCIY

    Assuming the seating was not preallocated, if Allison and Holford obviously knew each other, why did they choose to sit apart and let a ‘stranger’ sit in between them?

    1. Bibbit

      oh i also see a wee nod of recognition by the plant to the panel and judging by their seating, it was a wee smile of recognition between ‘nursey’ & that SIU spokeswoman Meriam Somerset Webb: at 35m 22s

      They both live in Edinburgh….

  12. John

    Some real investigation required into this “nurse ” and her political affiliations something smells here

  13. Dan Huil

    The real villain in all of this is the bbc. If the disgraced bbc continues to milk this as an anti-Scottish government story – and it will – it will only convince more and more people that the bbc in Scotland is fundamentally untrustworthy and a danger to democracy.

  14. annie Coll

    The nurse may well have been a plant — but the white-haired man who said he was a teacher then went on to rubbish the SNP attainment fund needed checked too. He claimed it was a waste because it barred the hiring of extra teachers,, This is not true – headteachers are empowered to use the money as they see fit and
    in a school near me it has resulted in two short-term appointments plus an admin post to address attendance.. Noone countered this man’s assertion!

  15. m boyd

    Sorry, i’m a couple of days late with this. I have just discovered that Andrew Marr put the exactly the same question to May in April and Hunt in May re nurses using foodbanks. May as usual never answered the question and Hunt waffled on.

    We therefore either have nurse Austin being fed the question by the BBC or being inspired by it but why Nicola Sturgeon had to answer rather the Tory local rep is beyond me.

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