By Martin Kelly
The BBC is today facing questions over their reporting of Scotland’s local authority election results after figures reported by the broadcaster gave the impression that Labour had outgunned the SNP in terms of councillors gained.
According to BBC Scotland, Labour gained an extra 58 councillors to the SNP’s 57 after Friday’s count. However it has emerged that the more accurate figures indicate the SNP gained 61 councillors to Labour’s 48.
The anomaly is thought to be down to BBC Scotland ignoring the widely accepted method of comparing election results with those of the previous election when calculating gains. The broadcaster has instead chosen to calculate changes based on council standings the day before last Thursday’s election.
The method adopted by BBC Scotland means that a party who won a ward in 2007 would be shown as having gained the ward in 2012 if the 2007 councillor subsequently left the party and the voters opted for the same party again.
In Glasgow for example, where several Labour councillors resigned from the party weeks before the local elections, these have been designated Labour gains if voters from the ward again opted for Labour – which is exactly what happened.
Evidence of just how bizarre BBC Scotland’s calculations are, can be seen in the result for Glasgow where a new party, set up by disaffected former Labour councillors, won their first ever seat. Glasgow First, despite never having stood in any elections prior to Thursday’s vote, are reported by BBC Scotland to have lost seats!
Others who disagree with BBC Scotland’s figures include Scottish Television who accurately reported a 61 seat gain for the SNP against a 48 seat gain for Labour. Respected commentator Gerry Hassan also gives as the figure for SNP gains as 61. Another who agreed that previous elections should be used for comparisons is respected journalist and commentator David Torrance.
However several national newspapers appear to have picked up BBC Scotland's interpretation of the results and have reproduced articles containing the same spurious figures.
There is also dismay at the BBC's apparent refusal to acknowledge the SNP as having won the election, despite the party winning the largest share of first preference votes and to have amassed more councillors than any other party.
Newsnet Scotland understands that the BBC has already fielded complaints by many viewers unhappy at their interpretation of the results, as well as other aspects of the broadcaster’s post-election reporting. On a special Friday edition of Newsnight Scotland the BBC assembled a panel of three pro-Unionist commentators to give their views on the election results.
In another example of what many claim is manipulation of political output, a BBC Scotland online slideshow of images has now been altered after it showed jubilant Labour figures in one image followed by an image of dejected SNP officials.
The original negative image of Nicola Sturgeon was eventually replaced by an image that more accurately reflected the fact that the SNP had emerged as the most successful party nationwide.
The first image readers saw was of senior Labour figures celebrating.
The second image showed a concerned Nicola Sturgeon.
The image showing a much happier SNP group replaced the original negative image a day later.
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