By G.A.Ponsonby

In my predictions for the coming year, published on Hogmanay, I said that media coverage of the independence referendum would move away from real issues and onto areas of little interest to the general population.

My exact words were: "The No campaign is now relying to an even greater extent on the esoteric issues of the EU and currency.  BBC Scotland will play its role in keeping these issues simmering, to the exclusion of the real referendum issues of welfare, opportunity and a fairer society."

I added: "Westminster will continue to issue reports highlighting the perils of independence.  BBC Scotland devours such reports, and this will also continue.  Currency will be pushed more and more as we near September 18th.

"Expect to see Westminster attacks appear more and more on Reporting Scotland.  The tea-time news programme is the most effective vehicle for getting the message across to the public, and it doesn’t allow questions to be put to those making the claims."

It’s panned out pretty much as I expected it to with BBC Scotland playing its role to perfection.  Cameron and Osborne have featured prominently, with the latter’s visit to Scotland last week dominating the BBC’s Scottish news output for almost two days before the Conservative MP had even spoken.

Unsurprisingly, Osborne - despite eventually commanding no fewer than four days news output at BBC Scotland - managed it without facing a single broadcast interview from BBC Scotland.  Salmond, Sturgeon and Swinney were grilled on the subject of currency, even Blair Jenkins from Yes Scotland was interrogated, but Osborne faced no scrutiny.

The BBC has now taken on the role of cheerleader for the No campaign when that campaign issues attacks on independence, and the bodyguard for the same campaign when it finds itself in trouble.  The latest diversionary tactic in the shape of another interview with Jose Manuel Barroso is just the latest in a string of interventions by the BBC which has now lost credibility as it struggles to contain the move towards a Yes vote in seven months’ time.

The latest comments from Barroso, made yet again in a televised interview by the BBC, have served only to highlight the blatant holes in the broadcaster’s claims to be neutral in its coverage of the referendum.  The BBC is not, and never has been, neutral – it will do all it can to persuade Scots to vote No.

Marr’s interview with Barroso was not designed to elicit anything new as far as the independence debate was concerned.  It was designed to deflect from the damaging fall-out that followed George Osborne’s poorly conceived visit to Scotland.

Within hours of Marr’s interview, which produced precisely the kind of coverage the No campaign required, Barroso’s comments were being torn apart by people with the kind of intimate knowledge of the subject Marr failed to demonstrate.

On Paul T. Kavanagh’s excellent blog, Wee Ginger Dug, the blogger and one time Newsnet Scotland member tore Barroso’s claims to shreds.

Highlighting Barroso’s political past, Kavanagh writes: "Barroso is a member of the European Popular Party.  He belongs to the same centre-right cabal as the Spanish Partido Popular, and the UK Tories (before they went off in a collective huff and left the European Popular Party to join up in the EU parliament with far-right Latvian holocaust deniers).

"The Spanish PP has spent considerable time and effort persuading fellow members of the European Popular Party to adopt its line that states which become independent from existing EU members must leave the EU and reapply for membership."

Readers of Newsnet Scotland will recall how, in November 2012, we revealed the secret meetings between the Conservative Party and the Spanish PP.

Readers will also be aware how we exposed as lies, official statements from the office of Barroso after it rubbished reports that a senior Vice President had given an interview in which she said there was no international law that would force a newly independent Catalonia out of the EU.

The interventions from Barroso are not new.  He pops up every few months uttering a variation of the same line that always seems to fit the requirements of the No campaign, but he is rarely unequivocal and always claims he is not specifically addressing the situation of Scotland.

This time though Barroso went further and suggested Scotland’s situation was comparable to that of Kosovo.

In a bizarre show of contempt for the office he holds, the EC President said: "We have seen that Spain has been opposing even the recognition of Kosovo, for instance, so it's to some extent a similar case because it's a new country and so I believe it's going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, a new member state coming out of one of our countries getting the agreement of the other [existing member states]."

Spain of course has already officially stated it will not seek to block the EU membership because Scottish independence will have come about with the agreement of Edinburgh and London.  Kosovo declared its independence unilaterally without agreement from Belgrade, which (given the situation in Catalonia) is why Spain refuses to agree to Kosovo becoming a member of the EU.

The issue of course isn’t Barroso’s contempt for his own office and the views of the EU members he is misrepresenting – although it should.  It rather underlines the breathtaking ineptitude of the BBC, which has reported Barroso’s claims uncritically.

Indeed this very point is highlighted by former BBC presenter Derek Bateman who is scathing of Andrew Marr’s inability to challenge Barroso on this most basic aspects of the interview.

In a swipe at Marr and his London based colleague James Naughtie, who last week refused to employ the same aggressive tone with coalition minister Danny Alexander as he had with Alex Salmond, he said: "Does Andrew Marr receive any pre-interview briefings, or is he too important like Mr Naughtie?"

On the Kosovo comparison, Mr Bateman writes:

"What was somewhat galling to those of us who are Europhiles and look to Brussels to provide some leadership on international matters, is the linking of Scotland with Kosovo, where a million ethnic Albanians fled or were forcefully driven out, more than 11,000 deaths have been reported to the UN prosecutor, nine Serbian and Yugoslavian commanders have been indicted for crimes against humanity and in one the accused were charged with murder of 919 identified Kosovo Albanian civilians aged from one to 93, both male and female.

"Kosovo declared UDI, it did not got through a legal process and is in such a relatively poor state that the EU is nursing it towards normalization. Does that sound like Scotland? The most outspoken country opposed to Kosovo’s recognition is Spain which objects to any EU or NATO initiative on which refers to it as a state.

"Just where the comparison is found between Kosovo, created from the fire of war, and exemplary, modern Scotland, meeting every acquis and with a 40-year record of membership is hard to say if you are applying logic, rather than Barroso weasel words. Isn’t it also a little presumptuous of Spain, a member since only 1986, to imply blocking us?"

"Spain would be wary of setting a precedent..." with regards to Catalonia, said Laura Bicker on the BBC news last night.  The breathtaking ignorance of Marr was clearly infectious.

Bicker was either ignorant of the issue she was presenting to hundreds of thousands of people, or she was deliberately seeking to mislead viewers by failing to inform them that Spain has already officialy stated that there is no similarity between Scotland and Catalonia.

My feeling is that Bicker, like Marr, was deliberately presenting what both knew to be contrived propaganda.  In doing so, they have become the antithesis to that which they aspired when both set out on their respective career paths.

The BBC is behaving as I expect it to behave and it will continue to behave in this manner.

It isn’t a conspiracy, what’s at work is the intrinsic and unavoidable reaction of a state broadcaster to what it views as a threat to the state it is designed to protect.  Its employees, from Andrew Marr to Laura Bicker and James Naughtie, are merely carrying out the roles they have been conditioned to carry out - they are conforming to the BBC’s internal pro-British culture.

The BBC is the bedrock upon which the modern Union has been built.  It has replaced the navy that once sailed the world maintaining the empire.  With the UK no longer a world power in any real sense, the BBC has replaced the navy and continues to project this image to the home audience.

Marr and his colleagues are living in the past.  As part of the machine that projects the image, they have become duped into believing their fantasy is real.

The referendum has brought cold, hard reality into their cossetted and insulated existence.  Ordinary people, the people Marr and Naughtie left behind years ago, are about to burst this bubble

A Yes vote in September is a nightmare scenario for the Union, for the BBC and for people like Andrew Marr and every other Scot whose power, influence and privilege is under threat.

They will fight a Yes vote.  Win or lose, they will destroy the BBC.

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