By G.A.Ponsonby
Jose Manuel Barroso, Bob Dudley and David Nish – three men who have dominated recent media coverage of the independence referendum.  They are the heads of the European Commission, BP and Standard Life respectively.
Vaclav Klaus, Joelle Garriaud-Maylam, Michael O’Leary and Willie Walsh – four people who haven’t featured quite as much, indeed if at all in some cases.

Mr Klaus is a former Czech president and Mme Garriaud-Maylam, a senior French senator specialising in foreign policy.  O’Leary is the head of Ryanair and Walsh the top man at British Airways.

The first three have expressed views on independence that have been less than helpful to the Yes campaign, or at least been portrayed as such.  The latter four have made comments that are less than helpful to the No campaign.

Speaking at an event in Edinburgh University this week, Mr Klaus – referring to comments made by Jose Manuel Barroso in a BBC interview – said: “It is arrogant of the EU to say Scotland and Catalonia will not be members.”

Speaking in the French Senate, Mme Garriaud-Maylam said: “The threats formulated by Mr Barroso are inappropriate and the result of Spanish and English pressure.  London is increasingly worried. They (EU threats) are not credible.  If Scotland votes for independence, it will stay in the European Union.  It would be in England’s interest.”

Neither of these comments each critical of Barroso featured on the BBC, thus to the general public who rely on the broadcaster for their referendum information, they may as well not have been said.

Not so with Barroso, Dudley and Nish who owe their increased public profile to this same BBC.  The broadcaster has, for some time, employed an editorial policy that amplifies and pushes anti-independence stories and opinion.

On areas like the EU, which is by its very nature clouded in political and legal fog due to the unique scenario presented by Scotland, it has embraced the apparent uncertainty in order to push the anti-independence line.  Probability and common sense have been ditched, replaced by partisan melodrama.

At times the BBC goes a little too far as the recent guilty ruling from its own Trust demonstrated when it was found to have misled viewers over comments made by the then Irish European Minister Lucinda Creighton, when she was asked about the EU membership of a newly independent Scotland.

That same desire to present EU membership as an insurmountable obstacle led it to make a bit of a fool of itself when it headlined comments from Barroso that were, frankly, nonsensical as most serious observers of EU politics will tell you.

His use of Kosovo as an illustrative example of the difficulties a newly independent Scotland would face as it negotiated a continuation of its EU membership were a sitting duck for any competent interviewer, as was his equally bizarre claim that it would be impossible for Scotland to remain in the EU after a Yes vote.

Barroso went too far, which was probably down to his failure to appreciate how the BBC operates on referendum issues where it will helpfully fill in the blanks when provided with anodyne statements.

It was the same on Thursday when Standard Life dominated the news agenda.

When Standard Life chose to enter the debate, there was almost no analysis of the practical business costs of what was being inferred from the company’s official statement.  It was making contingency plans, fair enough, but what did it think was the probability that they might be employed?

Did Standard Life buy George Osborne’s threat to block a currency union?  What, in its view, would be the impact on the rest of the UK if he did?  What about UK debt if Osborne found himself landed with the £1.4 trillion?  Would Standard Life consider moving parts of its business to a newly independent Scotland if the rest of the UK began acting out of spite instead of basing decisions on economic concerns?

And why was it making the contingency plans public?  Would not these statements, coming in the middle of a constitutional debate, balanced so precariously, not potentially harm the company if people viewed it as blackmail?

Last month, analysts Winterflood Securities said: “Of course it is possible that an independent Scotland may prove a more welcoming regime for investment trusts, particularly in terms of tax treatment. This could see a growth in the sector there akin to that seen in the Channel Islands over recent years.

“However, while uncertainty exists, it is reasonable that boards and managers consider the potential downside as well.”

So, we have the BBC presenting sensible planning by Standard Life as though a sensational development in the independence debate, but with absolutely no consideration given to the possibility that a Yes vote could in fact benefit the industry.

The BBC hasn’t just acted as a benign conduit for the Standard Life announcement; it has actively sought to place as strong an anti-independence interpretation on the statement as it possibly can.  Derek Bateman has already commented on the manner in which the BBC initially broke the Standard Life story with presenters over keen to stress not WHETHER it was damaging to the Yes campaign, but asking by HOW MUCH.

Indeed the headline on the BBC online news site stated the company had announced a ‘quit plan’, not you’ll notice a mere contingency.

Alongside the article were several links that added to the sense of drama and significance.  “Is Standard Life alone?”, “View boosts currency case”, and just in case readers mistook the stance from the company as an anti-Scottish threat, we had “Standard Life ‘very Scottish'”. 

Less than 24 hours after it gave massive coverage to the Standard Live statement there arrived three unexpected flies in the anti-independence ointment.

First up was Willie Walsh who was asked by an expectant BBC reporter if independence would harm the company.  Walsh skilfully turned the tables on the hapless reporter by backing a Yes vote.

The BA chief was of course using the indy debate in order to push his own agenda for the scrapping of Air Passenger Duty.  But the damage was done and Walsh slowed down the BBC’s anti-independence juggernaut.  Comments from Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, who also backed the Scottish Government’s post-indy plans, were equally unhelpful to the BBC.

Both men effectively blew the narrative apart, but neither was afforded anywhere like the coverage enjoyed by Standard Life.

Indeed when a third blow to the No campaign arrived in the shape of a report by credit agency Standard and Poor’s, the BBC decided this particular boost to the Yes campaign would be reworked in order to remove conclusions that were very damaging to the No campaign.

Here is the key part of Standard & Poor’s analysis into Scottish independence that the BBC were less than keen to report:

“Scottish wealth levels are comparable to that of the U.K. (‘AAA’), Germany (‘AAA’), Ireland (‘BBB+’), and New Zealand (‘AA-‘).

“Even excluding North Sea output and calculating per capita GDP only by looking at onshore income, Scotland would qualify for our highest economic assessment. Higher GDP per capita, in our view, gives a country a broader potential tax and funding base to draw from, which supports creditworthiness.”

This brings me to BBC Scotland’s Business and Economy Editor Douglas Fraser.  Followers of Scottish politics will know that Mr Fraser was once the political editor at the Herald newspaper.  He was widely believed to adopt a stance more sympathetic to those in favour of the Union than to those advocating independence.

Below is a clip of how Mr Fraser chose to report the Standard Life statement on Reporting Scotland.  The clip has poor quality audio but everything can be heard.  Note how the BBC reporter handles the Standard & Poor’s issue by simply ignoring its conclusion on the credit rating of a newly independent Scotland.

The entire item lasts five and a half minutes.  A considerable amount of resource has clearly been mobilised in order to promote this story, which is devoid of any pro-Yes input.  Radio had broadcast bulletins throughout the day saying much the same thing.

There are several things jump out when viewing Douglas Fraser’s piece to camera.  His use of the word “clout” for example, a favourite amongst Unionists who often suggest Scotland will lack it.  In this case of course the BBC Scotland reporter is implying the clout will damage the Yes campaign.

Another is the highlighting of access to European markets as a challenge for Yes.  Yet at no point are we told whether Standard Life views independence as the bigger threat or David Cameron’s In/Out EU referendum.

But it’s the area of credit ratings that really highlight the agenda at work.  Telling viewers of the ‘risks’ RBS has cited, Fraser lists credit ratings before going on to reference the Standard & Poor’s analysis.  However rather than detail the paragraph reproduced above which deals specifically with credit rating, Douglas Fraser quotes one phrase “…the challenges facing an independent Scotland would be significant but not unsurpassable.”

What Fraser wants viewers to remember is two words – “challenges” and “significant”.  Allied to his use of the word “risks” we can see how this reporter is able to craft an item through selective quotation and well chosen words.  Standard & Poor’s goes from being beneficial to the Yes campaign to harmful.

Then follows one of BBC Scotland’s favourite tools when it wants to influence viewers – the vox pop.  A reporter stands in the street asking passers-by to comment on the loaded news item.  Most people of course, faced with questions that suggest businesses will leave Scotland in the event of a Yes vote, respond accordingly.  Some will go further and allow either their own ignorance or prejudice to amplify the message sought by the BBC.

The clip above demonstrates just how effective this kind of ‘reporting’ can be with one poor soul duped into believing there will be no jobs left in an independent Scotland. “If all the jobs are going to go down south…” she says.

The contrast between the way the BBC handled the Standard Life statement and the following evening’s Reporting Scotland which reported on the backing for independence by BA boss Willie Walsh, could not have been more stark.

Walsh had surprised the broadcaster in an earlier interview, and BBC Scotland, caught with its pants down put together what appeared to be a rush item.  Gone was Douglas Fraser and also missing was the vox-pop that had been broadcast the previous evening.  Instead we had an item that focussed more on Air Passenger Duty than on the damage to the No campaign.

The item even gave the last word to Labour MSP and Better Together member Richard Baker.  The item lasted a little over two minutes, less than half the time allotted to the Standard Life story and nowhere near the resource.

It’s just this kind of broadcast that was highlighted in the study carried out by Dr (now Professor) John Robertson that found the BBC’c evening news coverage of the referendum, favoured the No campaign.

The handling of the independence debate by BBC Scotland is now treated as a bad joke by those in the independence movement and by a growing number of people who hitherto would not have entertained the notion that the broadcaster was anything but fair and impartial.

Douglas Fraser reproduced a similar one sided analysis of the independence issue in relation to business in his weekend Radio Show, Business Scotland, a section of which we have recorded and reproduced below.

The BBC is not impartial and as long as there are people like Douglas Fraser, Glenn Campbell and Gary Robertson fronting its independence coverage in Scotland, supported by Head of News John Boothman, then that’s the way it will stay. 

I have said many times that the BBC is the logistical supply line, without which the anti-independence campaign falls apart.  They know we know, but until there is a Yes vote, they are beyond our reach.

The way the BBC handled the Standard Life issue is revealing.  If we take everything at face value then what the state broadcaster is effectively telling licence payers is that it is now in the interests of the Westminster Government to wreck post-independence negotiations.

George Osborne says he will block a currency union and we now have a business saying it may move part of its Edinburgh operation to England if such a threat is followed through.  In other words, the subliminal message being delivered by the BBC to voters is not that Osborne is bluffing, but that it is actually in his interests to carry out the threat.

[This item took two days to prepare before it was ready to be published.  The author takes no payment.  Newsnet Scotland will allow its publication – unedited – on any website or blog, there is no need to cite Newsnet Scotland as the source.]


Flower of Scotland
2014-03-02 20:29

Thanks for a very good article , one which I will bookmark for further reference .
It’s so frustrating that our National Broadcaster is siding against Yes ! My local MSP Rod Campbell has informed me,that there will be new guidelines for reporters in the referendum , this month .
I’m not holing my breath !
There was a mention this morning about what will happen after a yes vote . It seems the BBC will play awkward and charge and even refuse us programmes !
george davie
2014-03-02 22:53

Totally off topic.

YES IN THE GLEN need our help.

Donate now!…/…

2014-03-02 20:45

Saw Gary Robertson on TV this morning. Thought he looked like a troubled soul. Especially in comparison to Bruce Crawford.
2014-03-02 20:55

That’s another very good article.Once you realise what’s going on at the BBC it all becomes so very obvious.The trouble is,not enough people know.Its up to us to spread the word.We need more people to read this site.
2014-03-02 21:27

Well done GA. – you nailed that one.

Anyone looking out for media bias or thinking of complaining to the BBC or even writing about the issue – this is how to do it.

Careful, methodical dissection of every integral part.
2014-03-02 21:49

What is frustrating is that the process to have the BBC account for itself is long winded, so long winded that it would be too late.

I stopped paying the BBC tax several years ago because of this type of reporting and other things. In the event of a No vote I hope other Scots would do the same thing.

I really wish Scots would recognise that the BBC have become the propaganda outlet for the No campaign and take action affirmative action.

In certain other countries on our continent their citizens would be taking their grievances to the state broadcaster’s front door.
2014-03-02 22:07

The Dambuster strategy has fallen apart.

The plotters, the UK government, Labour, business leaders, the BBC and their plans to snuff out Plan A and then Plan B on currency have been exposed.

Worst still for Better Together has been the angry response from Scots to the Sermon on the Pound and Standard Life’s intervention.

We now know what the YES campaign is up against – a vindictive British state that has completely no respect for the democratic process in Scotland.
2014-03-02 23:26

Whoever it is co-ordinating all of this Unionist manipulation cannot be enjoying watching it fall apart. They are playing for high stakes, and now they’re caught out trying to rig the game.

Too many slack reporters who can’t quite suppress their prejudice, insufficient reach to ‘touch’ loose ends like Dr Robertson UWC, Governors losing their magic touch to knock the legs from under dissenting voices. Too many BBC Labour apparatchiks being seen through their camouflage.

They held all the cards and still conspired to deal themselves the losing hand.

The BBC is a bloated dinosaur too dim to know it’s already dead. All they have actually done with their nonsense is discredit the legitimacy of any NO vote delivered.
2014-03-02 23:36

BBC News online were quick to open up for reader’s comments when the Standard Life ‘story’ broke. A Cyberbrits feeding frenzy ensued, with the usual vitriolic too wee, too pure, too stupid mantra appearing by the thousand.

Mr Walsh makes his assertion and behold, no reader’s comments section opened by the BBC.

I would write to the BBC to complain, but as I refuse to pay for their unionist propaganda anymore, I’m not really entitled to.

BBC = Blatantly Biased Coverage
2014-03-03 02:48

Whenever the increasingly chirpy Douglas Frazer appears on screen to deliver blows to the YES camp my eyes roll back. He`s taking on a kind of Robert Peston persona with his over emphasis of words like difficulty,chal  lenges, blow, etc. Has anyone else noticed he has been wheeled out to deliver his personal opinion pieces with not an ounce of economic journalism in sight? I can`t stand listening to the guy. He knows he is untouchable and has to answer to no one. Just like the rest of them who continue to abuse their positions at our expense.
It has to change, if there`s a no vote the previous demo`s outside the BBC will be dwarfed by one very angry crowd!
2014-03-03 08:58

Another clear and revealing article from NNS. Keep up the good work and we’ll keep spreading the news!
2014-03-03 09:42

“There was a mention this morning about what will happen after a yes vote . It seems the BBC will play awkward and charge and even refuse us programmes!”

Let them do their worst – it will make it all the more satisfying as we watch them crumble and disappear in an independent Scotland and replaced by a much more worthwhile Scottish organisation. If there’s any justice in the world, Fraser and his like above won’t even get a job on a parish newsletter.
2014-03-03 10:13

Sorry for being O/T but this is part of a story in the Energy part of the P&J;,a photo of a bearded George Osborne in it.

Latest attempt at tax piracy by the Treasury.
Anger is growing within the UK off-shore industry including vessel owners and drilling contractors over the HMT bareboat charter taxation plan which will load additional costs on the North Sea.It could be £1billion extra for the Treasury every year.
2014-03-03 11:13


I see that The Telegraph, referring to the Weirs’ latest donation to YES, is accusing Salmond of ‘buying votes’.

Unlike, of course, the millions being spent by Westminster in producing assorted scare stories by the dozen which in turn are exagerated and shouted from the rooftops by The BBC and MSM in the equivalent of countless further millions of free publicity – sorry – lying propaganda.

It was, however, nice to see that charming paragon of modesty Clarkson doing his bit for YES on last night’s Top Gear – that must have been worth several thousand converts to YES.
Dundonian West
2014-03-03 11:29

Goodwill, Once Lost, Can Never Be Regained.
Trust, Once Gazed Upon, Can Never Be Regained.
2014-03-03 11:52

Intrigued to see Rupert Soames, CEO of Aggreko making a spirited attck on Scottish Independence and its effect on business.

Even more intrigued ti see the Herald story of him leaving Aggreko to become CEO of Serco – failing outsourcing specialists.

Scratyching my head.
2014-03-03 12:07

For my part, I hardly ever watch the BBC news coverage of anything these days, preferring to watch Al Jazeera and occasionally STV News, the latter if there is any breaking Scottish news such as the recent Clutha Pub tragedy.

So, after we vote YES the BBC can charge as much as it likes for its propaganda output, I certainly won’t be paying for anything I don’t choose to watch right now!
2014-03-03 12:08

A few typos there!
Willie MacDonald
2014-03-03 14:04

I listened to Radio Scotland newsdrive on Friday afternoon & in their discussion of Willie Walsh & Mr O’Leary’s comments I was horrified to hear Douglas Fraser & the other presenter bring up the point that both men are Irish. Douglas Fraser goes on to say “It’s rare to find an Irish person that thinks it’s a bad idea to be independent of London”.
Now call me over sensitive but that is bordering on being a racist remark.

The remark can be found at around 1:11:00…/b03vd3g5

[Admin – Thank you. We will look into this.]
2014-03-03 17:11

Thanks for posting that Willie, I’ll check it out.

On similar ground. Lunchtime Reporting Scotland on Friday had Tim Reid outside Westminster giving us his thoughts on the Walsh statement.

After the report had mentioned Bob Dudley and Standard Life etc Tim Reid came on to tell us that of course, Walsh was making his comments for business reasons and the potential abolition of APD.

Standard Life nor BP were never talked about in such terms. The ‘greedy business just looking after it’s own interests’ seems to be reserved for indy supporting companies.
Willie MacDonald
2014-03-04 06:54

No bother, the wife and I were listening to it in the car and both saying how good it was that the BBC’s unrelenting unionist propaganda was wavering when they brought up the Irish angle. Baith of us were shocked by the blatant statements made by supposed experienced broadcasters.

Jo Bloggs
2014-03-04 10:12

Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing. I imagine their being Irish is relevant. Ireland has experience of Independence, hence their positive view?

2014-03-03 16:50

How could Aberdonians have voted for these clowns?…/…

What an embarrassment for the city.
2014-03-03 21:54

I think Willie Young is an extremely unhappy bunny having failed to get elected to Holyrood.
With Labour,politics always comes before the interests of their constituents.

2014-03-03 17:13

Quick chuckle?

BBC Headline:

Robber ‘escapes in waiting taxi’

Detectives believe a robber who stole thousands of pounds in a raid on an Edinburgh bank made his getaway in a waiting taxi.

George Osborne was here weeks ago. Come on BBC, keep up!
2014-03-03 21:48

The Guardian is reporting Ofcom have ruled Ukip are to get equal broadcast status as the other UK main parties for the European elections.

“The regulator made the decision after taking account of growing public support for Ukip in England and Wales, where it is now polling about 20% or more in opinion surveys about the European elections”

“The decision does not apply to Scotland, where Ukip does not have much support”

How will that work?

I hope the SNP are invited to take part in the TV debates.
2014-03-04 10:02

Formidable article G.A. I’ve been on two marches protesting against BBC bias. Nothing resulted from the effort. I then decided to end my custom with the BBC. Result I’m £145 wealthier, no less informed on politics via the internet, and the BBC has a marginal decrease in income. Now if you are annoyed by the BBC and wish to add £145 per annum to your income…
2014-03-05 13:56

This new evidence with the findings of the study from the University of the West of Scotland, in my view, show that the BBC in the context of Scotland is not fit for purpose. Particularly worrying when set against the background of the recent findings relating to Scotland’s ‘charge’ for the BBC, and what we actually get. Salt in the wound when it appears that money raised through licence fees in Scotland is actually being used to fund NO Campaign propaganda, commissioned and created to deceive the Scottish electorate.
Wings Over Scotland extract below.
the RTE deal gives Irish viewers the entirety of BBC 1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4, not just individual programmes. Ireland’s population of 4.6m (Republic alone) is very close to Scotland’s, so we have to assume Scotland would pay a roughly similar sum. Which leaves us with this:



You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.