Alex Salmond has said the SNP will not be caught off guard by the BBC’s pro-Union coverage when the second independence referendum is called.
The former First Minister revealed that he had a “blind spot” for the broadcaster in 2014 believing it would cover the referendum campaign impartially.
Speaking at an event in Morningside this week, the SNP’s former leader said: “Why was my blind spot the BBC? Well, every single election campaign I had fought in 30 years – every single one, once you got into the campaign proper, broadcasting was fair and square. It was absolutely fair and square. And that didn’t happen in the referendum.”
He later said: “Television during an election period is regulated, and it is regulated to give parity in the referendum, and it was enforced during the European referendum.
“That didn’t happen in the Scottish referendum, and it should have happened – to give parity to both sides of the argument.”
Mr Salmond insisted his replacement would not make the same mistake he did, adding: “I’m quite certain that Nicola will not have that blind spot next time round.”
In a statement issued in response, the BBC denied claims of bias. A spokesperson said: “We covered the referendum in line with our editorial guidelines on fairness and accuracy. No complaints of bias in our reporting of the referendum were upheld by the BBC Trust.”
However the corporation’s claim that no referendum complaints were upheld is called into question by a ruling from the BBC Trust in December 2013 that found the broadcaster guilty of misleading viewers. The Trust found that an edition of Reporting Scotland eleven months earlier had misled viewers by implying that a foreign minister had said that a newly independent Scotland would be forced out of the European Union.
In its conclusion, the Trust said: “The Committee, on balance, agreed with the complainant in relation to this particular broadcast.”
The 2014 referendum campaign witnessed a deterioration in the political output at BBC Scotland with scores of examples of bias in favour of pro-Union parties and the pro-Union Better Together campaign. Headlines from pro-Union newspapers regularly featured in BBC news bulletins.
One of the worst examples of bias occured on September 11th 2014, just one week before the ballot itself, when the BBC’s Political Editor Nick Robinson falsely claimed Mr Salmond had failed to answer a question.
Clips of the exchange showed the then First Minister had provided the BBC reporter with a lengthy and in depth reply.
The BBC was also accused of colluding with the UK government when claims of job losses at RBS, in the event of independence, appeared across BBC platforms. On September 10th 2014, the UK Government was involved in releasing market sensitive information to the BBC, in breach of financial regulations.
The broadcaster claimed that RBS was preparing for a Yes vote in the independence referendum by registering its business south of the border and that it would lead to an exodus of financial jobs from Scotland. The reports forced the bank to issue an official statement to its employees denying independence would hit jobs.
In October 2014, just weeks after Yes lost the referendum, it emerged the claims had eminated from within a Westminster ‘Dirty Tricks’ department. The BBC never acknowledged its own role in the episode.
In 2015 a book written by GA Ponsonby chronicled the descent of the BBC from impartial public service broadcaster, to pro-Union state broadcaster. ‘London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum’ can be purchased here.
In 2016 an independent documentary ‘London Calling’ produced by filmmaker Alan Knight exposed some of the worst practices employed by the BBC during Scotland’s independence referendum.
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