By a Newsnet reporter
BBC Scotland is facing serious questions over its handling of the independence debate after it was found guilty of breaching its own editorial guidelines on accuracy.
According to documents seen by Newsnet Scotland, the broadcaster is said to have misled viewers by implying that a foreign minister had said that a newly independent Scotland would be forced out of the European Union.

The ruling by the BBC Trust follows a broadcast on January 25th on BBC Scotland’s flagship news programme Reporting Scotland.

In the item, which coincided with a trip to Dublin by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, viewers saw an interview with the then Irish European Minister Lucinda Creighton in which the minister told interviewer Raymond Buchanan that she believed a newly independent Scotland would have to apply for EU membership and that this process could be lengthy.

The broadcast also contained comments from Scottish Secretary Michael Moore who was heard to say that a newly independent Scotland would find itself out of the EU having to negotiate its way back in.

There then followed what many viewed as misreporting of Ms Creighton’s remarks when the BBC reporter told viewers that both Ms Creighton and Mr Moore “shared” the same view.

The broadcast was seized on by pro-Unionist politicians and commentators who launched attacks on Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, claiming the Scottish Government’s own stance on EU membership had been undermined.

However in a surprise move, the Irish Minister issued a series of official responses distancing herself from the interpretation placed on her interview.  Lucinda Creighton complained her words had been “misconstrued”, “spun” and “manipulated”.

The Irish Minister also made it clear that her views on EU membership following a Yes vote were in line with those of the SNP and not, as suggested by the BBC, with Michael Moore.

In their draft ruling the Trust said the broadcast, “was in breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guideline on Accuracy,”

However the Trust added that, “there was no evidence that the BBC had knowingly and materially misled audiences.”

In the draft minutes of the appeal, the Trust says: “The complainant said that BBC Scotland, in its coverage of the interview with Ms Creighton, gave the misleading impression that Ms Creighton thought an independent Scotland would be forced to leave the EU and would then have to negotiate its way back in from outside, and the misleading impression that her views were at odds with those of the Scottish Government.”

In its conclusion, the Trust said: “The Committee, on balance, agreed with the complainant in relation to this particular broadcast.”

It added: “The Committee agreed that this juxtaposition of clips, connected as they were by the word ‘and’, would have led viewers to believe that Ms Creighton and the UK Government shared the view that Scotland would be outside the EU and would need to negotiate its way back into the EU. The Committee concluded that this piece was therefore, in breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guideline on Accuracy.”

Newsnet Scotland can also reveal that, despite not challenging a claim by the complainant that the BBC employed a news blackout of Ms Creighton’s emails to Nicola Sturgeon and Newsnet Scotland, the Trust refused to uphold a claim that the BBC broke guidelines on impartiality.

According to the Trust, a Sunday afternoon interview with Scottish Government Minister Fiona Hyslop on the Politics Show, offered an opportunity for the Scottish Government to “set the record straight”.

It wrote: “In the Committee’s view, Ms Hyslop had plenty of opportunity, which she employed to some extent at least, to emphasise that Ms Creighton understood the Scottish Government’s timetable and that Scotland would not be “thrown out” of the EU.”

This, said the Trust, when placed alongside further opportunities offered by the BBC reporter to both the Irish Minister and the Scottish Government meant there was no breach of impartiality.

It added: “Overall … the Committee decided that the further interview opportunities and invitations to comment that Mr Buchanan had offered, plus the extensive interview with Ms Hyslop the following day, meant that there had been no breach of the Accuracy or Impartiality guidelines.”

However, the Trust dismissed claims by BBC Scotland that the clarification statements issued by Lucinda Creighton had no news value and added nothing to the debate.

The Trust said: “The Committee agreed that there was some new information in Ms Creighton’s statement about what Ms Creighton understood in relation to the Scottish Government’s intended timetable for negotiations. It noted that BBC Scotland’s judgement had been that this clarified little and did not constitute a further news story in its own right.”

The decision by the Trust to investigate the issue followed a refusal by the BBC’s own Editorial Complaints Unit to carry out its own inquiry.  In July, the BBC’s internal complaints department refused to deal with the complaint, citing a technicality in the way the complaint was drafted.

Commenting, the individual who launched the initial complaint, said: “This complaint has taken almost a year to reach a conclusion, which is nothing short of a disgrace considering its significance in relation to the independence debate.

“For fully eleven months, pro-Union politicians and commentators have cited Lucinda Creighton as evidence to back their claims that a newly independent Scotland would be forced out of the EU.  Indeed many have been provided a platform by the BBC themselves.

“Only last week Ruth Davidson became the latest Unionist politician to misrepresent the views of Lucinda Creighton when she listed the Irish Minister amongst people she said believed Scotland would be outside the European Union after independence.

“Whilst I welcome the Trust’s ruling that the BBC misled viewers when they broadcast the initial interview, their failure to acknowledge the news blackout that followed her subsequent emails to Nicola Sturgeon and Newsnet Scotland is just as bad.  If wall to wall coverage on TV, Radio and Online was considered appropriate for the original interview then the same should have been provided for Ms Creighton’s follow up statements.

“This ruling will do little to assuage fears that the BBC is now institutionally corrupt and incapable of covering the independence debate in anything approaching a balanced manner.

“There is now an urgent need for an independent inquiry into BBC Scotland.  Those at the top must explain why there was a complete news blackout when Lucinda Creighton complained that her words had been manipulated and spun.

“Who took the decision to employ a complete news blackout?”

Newsnet Scotland has asked BBC Scotland for a response to this ruling.  As yet we have received no reply.

[On Sunday, Newsnet Scotland will publish an editorial which looks at this episode in depth.  This story would not have been pursued had it not been for citizen journalism.  Please help us continue by supporting our crowdfunding appeal below.]

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[Newsnet comment – The Lucinda Creighton episode is a thorn in the side of the BBC in Scotland and one which was easily avoidable had basic journalistic practice been adhered to.

The original report by Raymond Buchanan attempted to link the views of Ms Creighton to those of Michael Moore, especially with regard to whether Scotland would lose its membership of the EU after a Yes vote.  A simple question posed to the Irish Minister would have removed any doubt as to her own view.

Sadly that did not happen and Unionists used the misleading broadcast and subsequent reports in order to portray Ms Creighton as holding views that we now know she did not. 

When the Irish Minister issued her subsequent statements alleging she had been misrepresented, it ought to have been a major news story, given the profile the BBC had afforded her initial comments.  Sadly, the BBC refused to report the statement which would have neutered a major Unionist attack line in the independence debate.

The ECU dragged its feet and was only compelled to address this complaint after being prompted to do so by the BBC Trust.  That they refused to investigate the complaint merely compounds the BBC’s handling of the whole affair.

The Edinburgh Agreement, signed by both the Scottish and UK Governments makes it clear that impartiality was to be at the centre of any referendum coverage.

According to the signed agreement: “The governments agree that it will be important to ensure that broadcast coverage of the Referendum is impartial.  Broadcasters, Ofcom and the Electoral Commission will discuss the best way to achieve this.”

Clause 44 of the BBC Agreement provides: “The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output.”

The BBC in Scotland should have reported Lucinda Creighton’s clarification statements in the same manner it reported her initial interview.  It didn’t and in employing a news blackout of Ms Creighton’s clarification comments – given in an official capacity to Scotland’s Deputy First Minister – it surely broke guidelines over impartiality and accuracy relating to all relevant output. 

That the Trust refused to find BBC Scotland guilty of a breach of impartiality guidelines despite overwhelming and damning evidence, now casts a shadow over the Trust itself.]


2013-12-19 21:06

Brilliant, well done all involved. I’ll expect to hear Mr Brewer discussing it at length later and announcing the apology…..
2013-12-19 21:07

Well done to everyone.
2013-12-19 21:22

This ruling is the least the trust could get away with. I confidently expect it to go unreported by the BBC and the MSM. Ruth Davidson will continue to spin this lie up to the date of the referendum.
2013-12-19 21:25

Great stuff Newsnet. Donation on the way.
call me dave
2013-12-19 21:33

Newsnet’s dogged determination on this issue in pursuing the complaint has paid off.

The impartiality of BBC can no longer be cited by the undecided or the NO support as a fair and honest example of unbiased reporting.

It will also provide encouragement for the YES supporters everywhere in Scotland in the remaining time to the vote.

Well done!
2013-12-19 21:40

Routinely making complaints like this should be the way forward to expose the BBC’s bias and duplicity.

They will then get the message that we are not going to put up with it.
2013-12-19 22:15

Well done Newsnet! I look forward to BBC Scotland’s apology on this evenings Newsnight Scotland. I also hope it is reported on Scotland Tonight.
On the other hand, there may be pigs flying tonight!
2013-12-19 22:21

“there was no evidence that the BBC had knowingly and materially misled audiences.”

Even when found guilty the BBC find themselves not guilty. I despair!

That is the only part of the BBC Trust ruling that unionists will read ad it’s nothing but a get out clause for BBC Scotland. THey can essentially be as biased as they like but as long as there’s a suspicion that it’s down to incompetence rather than institutionalis  ed bias then all is forgiven.
2013-12-19 23:07

Quoting DonUnder:

“there was no evidence that the BBC had knowingly and materially misled audiences.”

Even when found guilty the BBC find themselves not guilty. I despair!

That is the only part of the BBC Trust ruling that unionists will read ad it’s nothing but a get out clause for BBC Scotland. THey can essentially be as biased as they like but as long as there’s a suspicion that it’s down to incompetence rather than institutionalis  ed bias then all is forgiven.

The BBC always answer these matters in the same fashion as the MOD.
It wasn’t us but……….


2013-12-19 22:25

Good work from all at NNS.
Will it change the biased coverage by BBC “Scotland”?
Only time will tell.
2013-12-19 22:47

The rotten foundations of the bbc and the unions argument are beginning to crumble. Once the foundations go, their house of cards, their union will collapse.

Well done NNS….excellent news!
2013-12-19 23:02

Excellent job NNS. It is very rare that anyone manages to successfully challenge the untouchable bbc.

It will be interesting to see how the mighty beeb cover this story, or not.

Funny how Raymond Buchanan left the bbc not long ago. They obviously knew what was coming.

The Trust is just a joke, a bbc fig-leaf to help keep the pretence of accountability and impartiality. Sorry auntie, your union underpants are showing very clearly.

Imagine having a Scottish broadcaster that was trying to do the best for the country rather than the bidding of westminster and the britnats.
2013-12-19 23:40

Excellent work by NNS, exposing just how corrupt and twisted the BBC are. Will be sharing this article around.
2013-12-19 23:51

I have already donated to NNS in the last week… and have discontinued all funding of the BBC (completely above board)… thanks NNS for all your efforts. Everyone, …You are not alone! 🙂
2013-12-19 23:51

This proves what we have all known for some time; that the BBC is not impartial on the subject of Scottish independence and cannot be considered a trusted source of information or recording of events without political bias representing the Unionist view.

But then STV are not that much better sadly – Careers come first (Scotland and the people are way down the list of priorities). We’d be better of with a service from a Banana Republic dictatorship.

Brilliant work by all at Newsnet Scotland to force this issue all the way.

If only an international documentary crew or a foreign investigative journalist would take this up.

Christ would they make a name for themselves.
(Probably never work for the BBC right enough)
2013-12-19 23:55

No mention from Brewer tonight the only good thing is that he is gone until the NewYear but that will not stop the smears and is it not funny that this has came out at this time when FMQs is finished.Well done NNS.
2013-12-20 07:53

I was pleasntly surprised by Brewwre’s attitude on last night’s Newsnight.

First of all we had 2 Yes supporters to 1 No supporter i.e. Alex Bell & Joyce McMillan v Ian Smart

Unlike normal practice Brewer allowed Joyce and Alex to make their case with far fewer interruptions as usual and was lacking his usual aggression plus he actually gave Smart quite a hard time while allowing him to make an absolute t-t of himself.

Now this morning I read of the BBC Trust judgement – are the judgemnet and Brewer’s performance last night in any way connected – seems like quite a coincidence.

2013-12-20 00:07

This is as damning as we’ll ever get from the BBC on alleged malpractice by BBC Scotland, but it will be of great interest to RT and their Mr Kaiser.

It should also be waving a very yellow caution card into BBC Scotland’s ‘News and Current Affairs’ face. Not to mention being penciled into the margins by the Electoral Commission who already await with baited breath, the joint-statement from the Westminster and Scottish Governments as to future plans for post-referendum Scotland.
2013-12-20 00:07

Well done NNS – share this everybody….
2013-12-20 00:21

Well done NNS in your pursuit of this story. This is the first blow to the BBC and hopefully there will be many more to come. The BBC should really take this ruling on board and adopt a more balanced approach to the referendum, unfortunately I don’t think this will happen.
2013-12-20 00:31

Aye. The pigs flew all right tonight.
2013-12-20 01:58

By this judgement the BBC Trust has shown that BBC Scotland news and political shows are politically biased and not fit for purpose.

However, in not being far more condemnatory of BBC Scotland, and in being so very very painfully slow with its findings, the BBC Trust has shown that it itself is not fit for purpose.
2013-12-20 02:30

No reason now why Tricia Marwick can’t rebuke anyone making reference to this issue again. Ruth Davidson’s recent use of this issue during FMQ’s should now be revisited by Tricia and the record put straight. RD made to apologise in view of this BBC Trust ruling would be a clear signal to others that debate in the chamber needs to be greatly enhanced.
2013-12-21 19:09

I cant see Tricia Marwick picking up on this in the chamber. It has taken her till recently to pull up opposition leaders on their offensive name calling with regard to Alex Salmond. I find her disappointing as a PO.

2013-12-20 04:41

Given your other story “Spanish Foreign Minister torpedoes No campaign EU claims” this whole saga has surely run out of steam and will never be heard again. Or will they find a crofter in Tibet who will cast doubts on Scotlands continued EU membership. Unionism once more exposed as the sham it surely is. The BBC are beyond parody. Lets face it any organisation that can cover up child abuse, yes even the sainted Rantzen, is not fit for purpose. The BBC are a joke. I will never pay the licence fee ever again.
2013-12-20 05:38

A damning summary. Long may you continue to be a thorn in the BBC’s side. What happens now?
2013-12-20 07:11

The BBC is an integral part of the NO campaign.Asking it to be unbiased is a bit like asking Darling to be unbiased.
2013-12-20 08:04

Outstanding piece of work. Well done NNS.
2013-12-20 08:36

Not so much a white-wash as a grey-wash. Newspapers have to place corrections of factual errors in their reporting in prominent places, do they not? Is the BBC not obliged to undertake an equivalent public correction of their failure to accurately report this situation? Or can the Trust, having ticked the right box, simply sweep the lot under the carpet and let normal service resume at Pacific Quay?

I don’t intend paying for this blatant propaganda anymore. Well done the individual who persued this with the BBC Trust and well done NNS.
2013-12-20 08:54

Great work by NNS and well done to the complainant for pursuing this.

Responsibility must be shared between the programme editors and the reporter. I remember at the time Raymond Buchanan seemed to be taking every opportunity to spin every possible anti-independence position. Similarly, GMS interviews of SG ministers verged on the insolent. We remember, for instance, the disgraceful hounding of Stewart Stevenson.

When it came to UK ministers, BBC interviews became somehow more respectful.

Of course government ministers must be challenged. But are we asking for much when we ask for truth and accuracy from the BBC?
2013-12-20 09:01


In their draft ruling the Trust said the broadcast, “was in breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guideline on Accuracy,” However the Trust added that, “there was no evidence that the BBC had knowingly and materially misled audiences.”

So, basically, they’re not evil, they’re just totally incompetent?

2013-12-20 09:11

It’s the crack in the wall of the BBC’s claim to being the one to trust.
Always teh most damning is to fail by the standards they not only claim for themselves but lay out in charters and documents like Quality First.
I wrote to them long ago about sections of that last document in relation to some interviews but got no answer.
So the work of the community based journalists on NNS are essential and bit by bit, effective. It won’t all end with the Referendum.
2013-12-20 09:34

‘Taking food from the hungry’: UK govt rejects EU food bank subsidy

I see no mention of this story in MSM or BBC have just read it on,I don’t know how to do the link bit.
2013-12-20 09:54

Just copy url and paste it in the link (ball & chain) box above.…/…

2013-12-20 10:24

Bravo citizen journalists at NNS.

BBC found guilty of pro-union bias in Scottish Referendum debate.

Tell it to everyone you know. You get caught lying then you forfeit all trust.
2013-12-20 11:04

I’ll believe BBC Scotland has changed its blatant anti-independence stance and output, when they replace the likes of Bird, Magnusson and Brewer with slightly more “neutral” presenters. A little less airtime given to the ubiquitous Professor Curtice and Alf Young would also be an improvement.

If the excellent and more even-handed Izzy Fraser were reinstated as a presenter on political and current affairs programmes, that would be a vast improvement too. I could even then thole her Private Fraser-style “doom & gloom” hubby Douglas putting his usual negative spin on Scotland’s business prospects!
Dundonian West
2013-12-20 11:25

Response from the initial complainant: “This ruling will do little to assuage fears that the BBC is now institutionally corrupt and incapable of covering the independence debate in anything approaching a balanced manner.

“There is now an urgent need for an independent inquiry into BBC Scotland. [Those at the top] must explain why there was a complete news blackout when Lucinda Creighton complained that her words had been manipulated and spun.

“Who took the decision to employ a complete news blackout?”

Personally,and that of my friends is the complete absence of this on the BBC Scotland’s website or ‘news’.
Not surprised. What’s new?
As always,view/listen with a long spoon.
2013-12-20 12:29

This must be spread far and wide and to European and United Nations bodies! This perversion of democracy brings disgrace to the BBC – who assume they are the world’s best and most honest – and shames those of us who unfortunately live in their sphere of influence!
2013-12-20 12:56

Well done NNS – I am so pleased that I stopped paying my licence fee 4 months ago.
2013-12-20 14:34

No mention of this anywhere on the BBC Scotland website, so they can be found guilty of misinforming the Scottish people and they don’t have to apologise or at the least correct the story! I doubt they’ll be any mention of this anywhere in the MSM, so the only people who’ll know about it are the readers of NNS and possibly some other pro independence websites. They can just carry on like it never happened.
Ayes On The Prize
2013-12-20 15:45

Bravo NNS !
Keep hounding the vast propaganda machine that is the MSM, and this shows that positive results are possible. I complained to the BBC over Gordon Brewers attitude during the interview he had with the FM on White Paper launch day. The BBC respsonse was as dismissive as Brewer was with AS but at the very least I am one more complainant the BBC has had to address.

So don’t just sit there seething – COMPLAIN !
2013-12-20 16:12

A big heads-up to all those praising Newsnet for their sterling work on this case : Be aware that the BBC Trust are currently running a consultation on their proposed editorial guidelines for the Referendum coverage next year.

I think everyone here (and more) should respond to this consultation, and with this case in your armoury, tell them what you expect of their attempts at impartiality – even to say we are well aware of the bias at BBC Scotland, and will be watching them like a hawk. I think it’s still important to tell them. The more the merrier.…/…
2013-12-20 16:19

I have e-mailed my local MSP asking what the government intends doing about adhering to its commitment in the Edinburgh Agreement re media impartiality in terms of the BBC, as well as asking him to raise this specific instance of inaccuracy and bias in parliament as a matter of general public interest. I would encourage many of you to do likewise. When the BBC is forced to admit its own errors this provides an opportunity to focus around as it is a concrete and admitted example, and not just the paranoid ramblings of cybernats!

The only pressure to come on the BBC will come from us as citizens. The MSM will not pursue them, but together we can make a difference.

Great commitment by NNS, it gives me faith that in our new Scotland we might have a media worthy of it.
2013-12-20 16:27

I look forward to seeing if this appears on the six o’clock news. I have to say though, guys, while I assumed that the “Trust” mentioned was the BBC Trust, nowhere does it actually say that in the article. You might want to add it to the first paragraph?
2013-12-20 20:26

I suggest that Newsnet offer the finding to Newswatch…/b00qjrk2
They seem a decent lot to me and maybe prepared to allow one of the team to appear and put the case for more balanced reporting from BBC Scotland. At the very least you will get a reply, as I have done in the past
2013-12-20 20:33

If Ken Macdonald’s Headlines programme is broadcast this Sunday morning the Newsnet Team should puff this into its main story. There is a fair chance Ken will reference it when he draws on the internet, citizen journalism. If Iain Blackford is guesting there is an even better chance that we may get some discussion on it.
2013-12-21 08:56

It is my view that not only should the BBC apologise, they should also highlight the speech in full. If not, why not?

[Admin – There was no speech. There were only clarification emails.]
2013-12-21 10:19

Great work NNS. Citizen journalism at it’s finest. It would be interesting to see figures for discontinued TV licences for the last year. I wonder if there has been a significant drop.

[Admin – That is a good question and one that readers themselves can pursue. A Freedom of Information question to the BBC may well elicit and answer. If they refuse then the Freedom of Information Commissioner for England (not Scotland) can be asked to obtain the information.]
2013-12-21 11:45

Everyone should be aware of the great work done by NNS and others on line. Hope my wee personal tribute here helps.…/
2013-12-21 13:48

That was very thoughtful of you.

Merry Christmas to you, to the contributors, and all the staff on Newsnet Scotland

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