BBC Scotland chiefs are facing questions after David Mundell denied threatening to resign over a proposed Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.
On Sunday, BBC Scotland news claimed to have been told by ‘sources’ close to the Secretary of State that he would resign if Northern Ireland was allowed to have a deal that kept it in the EU Customs Union.
The broadcaster also claimed Mundell’s Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had also threatened to resign.
In an online article, BBC Scotland claimed: “Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Secretary David Mundell could resign from their roles over a possible Brexit compromise, BBC sources say.”
The news led that evening’s edition of Reporting Scotland. Presenter Sally McNair told viewers: “The Scottish Tory leader and Scottish Secretary would be prepared to resign their positions in a row over the Prime Minister’s Brext strategy.”
However asked about the alleged threat two days later, Mundell denied having made it at all saying bluntly: “I haven’t threatened to resign.”
The issue has led to questions over BBC Scotland’s handling of the story, with critics asking why Davidson and Mundell weren’t asked directly before the story was headlined. Despite Mundell’s denial, Ruth Davidson has still to be asked whether reports of her own ‘resign threat’ are true.
BBC Scotland has also been accused of trying to play down Mundell’s subsequent denial. Hours after the Scottish Secretary of State flatly denied having made any such threat to resign, Reporting Scotland presenter Jackie Bird told viewers that he had merely “played down” earlier BBC reports.
In the news item that followed Bird’s comments, reporter Nick Eardley made no specific mention of either Mundell’s alleged resign threat or that of his leader Ruth Davidson. Eardley would say only that “there had been talk of resignations” amongst Scottish Conservatives.
The episode has led to more questions being raised over BBC Scotland’s apparent reluctance to confront Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Davidson, who is on maternity leave, has yet to be asked whether Sunday’s reports of her own resignation threat were actually true.
There will be questions also as to why BBC Scotland failed to question Ruth Davidson and David Mundell on the day the story broke in order to confirm its veracity.
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