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The BBC and the ‘Brexit Veto’ scam – Towards Indyref2…

The BBC and the ‘Brexit Veto’ scam

marr tweetsHave you ever tweeted something you thought was fact but that you later learned was nonsense?  I have.  Several times in fact.  Honest mistakes but embarrassing nonetheless.

Andrew Marr caused a near twitter meltdown at the weekend, or rather whoever is responsible for his show’s official twitter account, when he tweeted the following: “Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland has a veto over Brexit”

The problem for Marr was that the First Minister had said no such thing.  What Nicola Sturgeon had in fact said was that signals from new Prime Minister Theresa May that the latter would not invoke Article 50 until there was agreement across the UK, left the First Minister in a “strong position”.

Here is a clip of the actual exchange.

It’s clear from the exchange between Andrew Marr and the First Minister that the BBC presenter desperately wants her to confirm she does indeed believe she has a veto.  The problem for Marr is that Nicola Sturgeon refuses to indulge him.  Whoever administers the show’s official twitter account wasn’t going to let facts get in the way of an agenda and posted the tweet you see below.

marr tweet1

If there’s one thing we know about social media, it’s that pro-independence users know when those who control our news are ‘at it’.  It wasn’t long before Marr’s twitter time-line was fielding tweets from people angry at the misrepresentation of Nicola Sturgeon.  One of the tweets was from the First Minister herself.

It prompted another tweet from the Andrew Marr account, that sought to correct the misinformation contained in the initial tweet.  However the ‘corrective’ tweet was just as inaccurate, claiming Nicola Sturgeon had confirmed it was “possible” Scotland could veto Brexit.

marr tweet2

The second tweet prompted yet more criticism over its accuracy.  So many complaints were received that someone decided to delete both tweets.  Alas not before several pro-Union newspapers had picked up the BBC message and had headlined the erroneous claims.

newspapers veto july 17

There has been much speculation as to why Andrew Marr would claim Nicola Sturgeon had said something she patently had not.  There are two possible answers.

The first is that Marr was deploying a bit of journalistic licence by adopting as dramatic an interpretation of Nicola Sturgeon’s comments as he could.  In short, he extrapolated a meaning to the First Minister’s words that would make them more controversial, and in turn, more newsworthy.

The second is that Marr was applying some pro-Union spin to the interview by seeking to portray Scotland’s First Minister as the reason for any possible delay to Brexit negotiations beginning.  Why would Unionists want this?  Well any delay to the activation of Article 50 will almost certainly lead to claims that it is creating economic uncertainty.  If Unionists are able to pin the blame for that onto the SNP then all the better.

So we can see there are journalistic and political reasons for wanting to misrepresent Nicola Sturgeon.

But this wasn’t the first attempt to portray Nicola Sturgeon as either threatening to veto Brexit or claiming she has the power to do so.  BBC Scotland had a stab at it three weeks before Andrew Marr did.

On Sunday June 26th the First Minister was interviewed on the Sunday Politics Show.  Gordon Brewer asked her about a little known procedure in the Scottish Parliament called legislative consent.  This mechanism allows the Scottish Parliament to give its consent to Westminster to act on Holyrood’s behalf on an area that is devolved.

Protocol dictates that such consent would be required from the Holyrood Parliament before Article 50 could be triggered.  The consent is effectively symbolic given Westminster could simply ignore a vote at Holyrood that declined such consent.

Below is a clip of Nicola Sturgeon explaining to Gordon Brewer why she would advise Scottish MSPs not to grant such consent.

The First Minister’s stance is perfectly understandable.  If, as things stand, the Scottish Government grants consent to the UK Government to activate Article 50 then she is effectively agreeing to Scotland’s withdrawal from the EU.  That would be a politically bad move.

However within minutes of the interview concluding, the following headline appeared on the BBC Scotland online news page.

bbc brexit veto june 26

Sturgeon of course had said no such thing.  Within a couple of hours the nonsense was being headlined by newspapers across the UK.  The headlines below are not from the Andrew Marr interview on July 17th, but from the Gordon Brewer interview on June 26th.

newspapers veto june26

The ‘Brexit Veto’ claim is a perfect example of how the BBC can instigate the spreading of misinformation.  The broadcaster wields enormous power and influence.  Any hint of a story that might make life difficult for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP will be seized on.

By mid-day on the day of the Andrew Marr interview, the ‘Brexit Veto’ claim lay in tatters.  It didn’t though prevent Gordon Brewer from rather incredibly arguing that it was in fact the First Minister who appeared unclear whether she had been handed a veto by Theresa May.

The interview also witnessed Nicola Sturgeon being asked whether she might call a second independence referendum if Article 50 was activated without Scotland having been given guarantees over its EU membership.  Below is a short summary of the exchange which can be seen in the clip above.

Gordon Brewer: “Should it come to December […] when they might trigger Article 50, and you were not satisfied that you are not on-board, and the British Government says ‘sorry, we’re just doing this anyway’,  realistically is there anything you can do? […] Would you take that as a trigger point for a referendum?”

Nicola Sturgeon: “Of course that would be an option and a decision I would have to consider […]”

Gordon Brewer: “But would you really be happy to have a referendum on independence say in the first half of next year?”

Nicola Sturgeon: “I will have an independence referendum if I come to a conclusion that I think that is in the interests of Scotland.”

Below is how BBC Scotland reported the exchange:

indyref next year

The presentation of the story implies that Nicola Sturgeon has issued an unsolicited statement of intent.  The First Minister is presented as having warned of an early indyref2.  The truth of course is that she was responding to a hypothetical scenario painted by Gordon Brewer.

This is manufactured news.  We see it time and again with BBC Scotland where a controversial scenario is presented to a senior SNP politician who is then compelled to give an answer.  The answer then becomes a headline with the public misled into believing this is in fact the SNP’s favoured option.

Many members of the public will now be of the mistaken belief that Nicola Sturgeon is in fact planning to hold an early indyref2.  The ‘early referendum’ story led the news on Sunday’s Reporting Scotland.


It also featured on the following day’s Good Morning Scotland.  The analysis can be heard below, some of which borders on bizarre.

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18 thoughts on “The BBC and the ‘Brexit Veto’ scam

  1. Brian MacLeod

    We can work this to our advantage.

    Every time misinformation like that crops up, we need to get on FaceBook and the comments pages in the Daily Hate Mail/Express/Sun and encourage the frothing knuckle-draggers to contact their MPs to expel Scotland from the Union.

    There’s more than one way to skin a cat…

    1. Iain Barker

      I have been doing my best to yank their rusty irradiated Brit Nat chains but they keep banning me from their sites.

  2. Macart

    Never let the facts get in the way… etc.

    The media have a lot to answer for in our society and the BBC have done more than their fair share of the shovel work.

  3. Lawrence

    It’s all very well feeling that social media is our saviour of disinformation but the reality is we lost the last referendum because of OAP’s who are not web savvy, not on Facebook not online, it’s getting the right information to them that matters and how you do that against the might of the BBC propaganda machine I don’t know, but let’s not make the same mistake twice and target information to the right people

    1. Mark Rowantree

      The ‘Early indyred2’ piece is quite frankly ,astonishing. It’s totally discursive jumping from one unrelated point to the next. A total embaressment to be honest!

    2. Roy

      You have some cheek, us grey voters don’t believe everything the politicians say and surprising enough are quite internet savvy, plus don’t live our lives on Facebook believing all the drivel that people spout when they have very little life experience, I voted for indy also voted for exit of EU so no way I’d vote to go back in, have a nice day!

  4. John Sharp

    I’ve just submitted a complaint via the usual BBC process. Regarding the Marr show tweets, it’s interesting how it comes about that the BBC get themselves into such a mess.

    Marr makes the Brexit veto just about the main point in a short interview. It’s not particularly suprising that he repeatedly presses with leading questions that hope to get some reaction to “veto”; nor that the FM handles that fine, and sticks to a positive message about exploring all options – just as in other recent interviews. Anyone tuned into the politics of EU – UK – Scotland relations would have known what to expect, and should have absorbed the FM’s response correctly. So how does it turn out that someone on the Marr show comes up with such mis-representation – and attaches a video clip that immediately contradicts it? Is it sloppiness, or deliberate bias, or something else? Maybe a metropolitan mindset that thinks it already knows what Nicola Sturgeon is threatening to do – based on prevailing media chatter- and so it’s not necessary to expend time on listening to and understanding exactly what she said.

    Whatever the explanation for the first tweet (and on BBC form no explanation will emerge) the further handling of the “correction” with its additional misleading speculation, and the deletion of both served only (as pointed out in the article here) to promote the distribution of misinformation. At a minimum, there should be in the @marrshow timeline an apology and succinct statement of what the FM did/did not say (even it it required more than 1 tweet).

    I was glad to see this article mention other examples of how the BBC (and other press reporting) creates misleading information, which is then use to wrongly frame political discussion. The FM is often asked complex (and deliberately leading, of course) questions to which she then gives carefully constructed answers, ensuring that appropriate qualifications are included; and she does it very thoroughly. It is entirely typical that the subsequent reporting mis-represents what she has said. Essential qualifications are omitted or pushed down the report. Ambiguities are introduced in the language. Unless the FM absolutely and categorically rules something out, it becomes something that she is saying she *could* do. Maybe it’s usually the Daily Mail or the like that translates that into Nicola Sturgeon is threatening to do something (bad, in their view) and is even boasting about it. But it’s frequently sloppy and inaccurate reporting in regulated media that helps.

    It all corrupts political discussion. Ruth Davidson’s stock in trade is to use a false position outlined in the press as the basis on which to mount an attack. Oh that when she does this in an interview, the reporter should immediately “hold her to account” by pointing this out.

    1. Bugger le Panda


      Better still but C 4 HQ it is Scotland and London under Jon Snow and dump the BBC

  5. Graham

    The media regulators are toothless pussy cats. Whenever someone says the media need to be controlled up they jump talking about freedom of expression and democracy. Well, I think much of the media actually subverts democracy (as GA showed in his forensic analysis of the BBC and the Referendum), by lying, inventing, misrepresenting, smearing and character assassinations, never mind actual illegality. And, of course, politicians regularly lie as well, a la Carmichael.

    We need a better mechanism to bring the media to account and force them to publish retractions/corrections on their front pages (or at the start of programmes) in large headlines. Perhaps this is something a citizen’s panel of randomly selected individuals could arbitrate on.

  6. Graeme Strang

    Nice to see that reporting Scotland is keen to jump on spinning whatever SNPBAD they can out of thin air, but fail to catch that, in the piece they use, David Davis doesn’t know that the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK.

  7. Iain Alexander

    Brewer, failed Paxman, Marr, ex inspirational journalist who has succumbed to the brainwashing of the broadcasting company who claim to be impartial to the countries within the ‘ so called ‘ united kingdom…..any lower in the barrel and they will have skelfs in their fingers……

  8. Helena

    You are right, in part. However I know people well past retirement, well off, who voted no even though they are well savvy at using the internet, were well aware of sites like WoS, read the wee blue book etc. They do however, make their life decisions on what the bbc and the right wing rags tells them, including voting no.

    One major thing I make of this propaganda about Scotland and the SNP and the Scottish people, is to create animosity from those south of the border. My reason being that in my own experience, friends and family in NE england now view Scotland as a poor, parasitic neighbour. They are full of ridicule and contempt for their Scottish neighbour, some even seeing us as a threat to security and their economic survival. It is a very very dangerous game that the britnat media are playing, but it is all very orchestrated. They are partly jealous about things like Scotland not imposing prescription charges or tuition fees, but as far as they are concerned, they are paying for those freebies out of their taxes. Remember the myth has suck in, that Scotland is subsidised by england.

    There are 17million potentially angry people in england, who may even take their anger out on Scotland if article 50 is not actioned, due to media propaganda. It is a deliberate divide and rule tactic, and it is most convenient to have a neighbour, so close, such as Scotland, to blame for what could be economic disaster, etc.

    Dangerous, and premeditated othering, something we need to be aware of.

  9. Helena

    Tried to post my comment in reply to Lawrence, no.3 comment, it didn’t work, so it may appear a bit out of context at the start. Sorry.

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