By a Newsnet reporter
A BBC presenter is at the centre of a row after appearing to voice his own opinion on the issue of a newly independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union.
In an interview with First Minister Alex Salmond, Andrew Marr ended an exchange with Mr Salmond on EU membership by saying he believed a Yes vote would see Scotland forced out of the EU and finding it hard to get back in.

“I think it will be quite hard to get back in, I have to say”, viewers heard the BBC man say.

The BBC presenter was immediately challenged on the airing of his personal view by Mr Salmond who appeared to have been taken by surprise by Mr Marr’s statement.  Marr defended the statement, saying he was basing the comment on views expressed by EC President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Marr’s personal view is expressed at 2 mins 21 secs into the clip

However the incident has now sparked a row between the broadcaster and the SNP after MSP Stewart Maxwell called on the BBC to explain Mr Marr’s actions, which appeared to break the BBC’s own guidelines on its handling of the independence referendum.

The call comes after the same presenter Andrew Marr was criticised for his failure to press Mr Barroso during an interview last month in which the soon to be retiring EC President compared Scotland to Kosovo and suggested it would be all but impossible for Scotland to obtain a continuation of its current EU membership.

President Barroso’s personal comments have been criticised by EU experts and questioned by his own Vice President.  Following the interview, the EC was forced to issue clarification statements distancing itself from Mr Barroso’s views.

Speaking after his BBC interview, Mr Barroso’s vice-president for Justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, Vivienne Reding said Scotland was “Nothing like Kosovo…Because Kosovo did not leave a country that was a member state of the European Union, it can’t be compared.”

Speculation has been rife for some months that Mr Barroso has been seeking the support from the Governments of London and Madrid for a move to the top job at NATO, when his tenure at the EC ends.

Senior French Conservative, Mme Garriaud-Maylam, secretary of Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces commission recently said in a special statement to the French senate, “The threats formulated by Mr Barroso are inappropriate and the result of Spanish and English pressure.

“London is increasingly worried.  They (the threats) are not credible.  If Scotland votes for independence, it will stay in the European Union.  It would be in England’s interest.”

Mr Barroso’s intervention has brought criticism from others:

  • Professor Charlie Jeffery, Professor of Politics at Edinburgh University, “Barroso’s was a personal, not a Commission statement, made by an outgoing Commission President with no influence on what might happen in the event of a Yes vote, on a matter where there is neither treaty provision nor precedent.”
  • Former Czech President (2003-13), Vaclav Klaus, speaking at a conference on secession movements at Edinburgh University answered a question regarding Mr Barroso’s comments, “It is arrogant of the EU to say Scotland and Catalonia will not be members.”
  • Sir David Edward, former ECJ judge has rejected Barroso’s approach on 23 Jan 14 to the EERC Committee he said “The simple fact is that there will be a gap between a vote for independence and the moment of separation.  My point is that, during that period, there will be an obligation to negotiate a solution that does not lead to the absurd result that is being suggested.” Sir David later added: “I will just say this. I was a judge at the European Court of Justice for 14 years
  • Jim Currie, former EC director general, said of Barroso’s comments “The statement he made was extremely unwise and I also think it was inaccurate.”
  • Graham Avery, Honorary Director-General of the European Commission, (who wrote Commission opinions on membership applications of 14 countries and 19 negotiation frameworks for accession): “It is obvious that the common sense solution would be for Scotland’s membership of the EU to be effective on the same day as its independence, and it is obvious that 5 million Scottish citizens, who have been European citizens for 40 years, should not be treated in the same way as people of non-member countries, or third countries as they are called in the Euro-jargon.”

Commenting on the comments from Mr Marr, Stewart Maxwell MSP, who is also Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee which took evidence on the BBC’s approach to referendum last week, said:

“The Scottish Parliament has heard a number of incredibly eminent witnesses explain how and why Scotland would continue as a member of the EU on independence.

“That appears to have been ignored by the Andrew Marr programme in favour of an opinion from the President of the Commission that has been roundly rejected by EU experts.  Any assessment of the balance of evidence would show an independent Scotland continuing in the EU.”

Mr Barroso’s comments were this week criticised by French MP Axelle Lemaire who became the latest European politician to attack the EC President’s intervention.

“Well, more than anything else, I think it’s important to remain neutral in this debate. It’s up to the Scottish people and to the people who live in Scotland, in general, to express their views. There is a very heated but democratic debate going on, and I don’t think it was up to President Barroso to say what he thinks about it.” She said.

Ms Lemaire also suggested the Portuguese politicians interventions into the independence referendum were more to do with personal ambition than anything else: “We all know he’s the current President of the European Commission, but his mandate is coming to a term soon with the new commission that will be nominated after the European elections taking place at the end of May, so he has a personal agenda- he apparently wants to be the next General Secretary of NATO.

“In order to become that, he needs the support of the United Kingdom and David Cameron, so, clearly he did that for reasons that probably aren’t as legitimate as they appear, so I wouldn’t like to do the same. I think it’s important for foreign countries or foreign politicians remain neutral and respect the will of the Scottish people.”

This weekend it emerged that the BBC had published new guidelines designed to ensure balance and impartiality from its reporters when covering the independence referendum.  Currently the BBC’s standard editorial guidelines on impartiality state:

“Our audiences should not be able to tell from BBC output the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.”

Mr Maxwell added: “There are questions for the BBC to answer over their coverage of this issue. Firstly, they failed to press President Barroso about his comparison of Scotland – which has been part of the EU for over 40 years – with Kosovo. And now a presenter offers what appears to be a personal view on an independent Scotland’s EU membership.

“The comments from Andrew Marr appear to be outside the BBC’s editorial guidelines, and no amount of backtracking can change that.”

The issue of an independent Scotland’s EU membership has already led to the broadcaster being rebuked by its own watchdog.  In January the BBC Trust found BBC Scotland guilty of having broken editorial guidelines after it misrepresented the views of Irish European Minister Lucinda Creighton.

The ruling followed a broadcast on flagship news programme Reporting Scotland in January 2013.  Despite the ruling coming over one year later, BBC Scotland bosses have refused to issue a correction to their original broadcast or to issue any apology to viewers.


2014-03-16 15:24

I watched the programme this morning, and when Alex Salmond challenged him on his personal view comment, Marr kept talking over Alex to try and drown him out.
I think Marr panicked because he didn’t expect to be challenged so quick on his sneaky comment at the end of the interview.
2014-03-16 15:35

I am glad you picked this up so quickly, I heard it and was somewhat surprised especially at his wriggling out of it, which was laughable.
Marr has form on this approach, once before again with the First Minister, as they finished talking,Marr turned to the camera and said ” That will be a no then”, it was detached to what they were talking about at that moment.

It was clear he just wanted to fit the comment in, with no redress allowed by the First Minister.
Auld Rock
2014-03-16 15:39

Like gopher3 I also heard Andrew Marr clearly say “I THINK”, now if this is not a personal opinion then I for one do not know what is. By talking over he was trying to cover-up his mistake both of which were hanging offences as far as the EBC is concerned but of course they’ve torn-up the rule book for the Referendum campaign.

Auld Rock
2014-03-16 15:48

Retirment beckons Andrew – BBC mask slipping.

Wonder what Professor Robertson of University of the West of Scotland would make of that then ? Surely that’s a stated opinion in a fit of pique – oops no bias then.
2014-03-16 15:53

Looks like Marr’s gaffe will get an airing on air soon. STV have now posted an article entitled SNP challenges BBC after First Minister appears on Andrew Marr show on their website – see…/…

Let’s hope it makes their next news bulletin at 17:30 UTC. Wonder if the BBC website will follow suit?

No sign of that yet, but the BBC website does have Alex Salmond says UK should share…/… – complete with a touchnauseating picture of the latest Gideon & Ed “sofa” moment.
2014-03-16 18:03

Surprisingly, even the BBC are now covering it in the link I give above, and now closing with:
Quoting the BBC:

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “Though the specific comment made was surprising, the first minister responded at the time and we do not intend to complain about a programme we were represented on.

“The BBC face a more generic issue in relation to referendum coverage that has been highlighted by independent academic research and it is for the BBC to explain their overall approach.”

The BBC has yet to comment.

Gloves about to come off?


2014-03-16 16:03

Marr’s gaffe is already on the BBC:…/…
2014-03-16 16:15

Highly amusing, but I was thinking of the pacific version.

2014-03-16 16:14

Honestly the BBC have no leg to stand on.

There have been too many instances over the past months of the BBC taking a stance that is clearly opposed to Scottish independence.

Too many bad news stories, too many “Salmond accused” stories, too many personal opinions expressed as facts, too many interviews with unionists where views are unchallenged, too many occasions where complaints are dismissed, and now we have a BBC on the defensive and in full denial.

This has gone too far. The BBC have no place in Scotland’s future.
2014-03-16 16:17

Salmond has a bit of a nerve challenging Marr. Doesn’t the FM realise how magnificent, splendid and influential Marr is? Why, he has off-camera private chats with Barroso. He is in the know, on the inside track and has rich, allusive anecdotes to tell his intimes at rather important dinner parties.
2014-03-16 16:30

Nothing will happen to Marr; he’s the darling of the British nationalist BBC.
2014-03-16 16:51

Marr caught out as we all heard what he said.
Did anyone else see that a life time Tory was banned from their conference as he has said he is voting YES.
call me dave
2014-03-16 17:30

Here it is in the Sunday Post…must be true.

On another day Mr Salmond might have let that slip by, but not today. Good on him and it has turned into a big story in it’s own right.

Marr made a mistake this morning, show boating with the FM, implying to us watchers that he has all the good stuff, but the FM taught him a harsh lesson.

Marr’s ‘Frost with Nixon’ moment never materialised and Mr Salmond consigned another London pundit into the dust before moving on to enjoy a full Scottish breakfast.

Big turn out at the tory conference.. Not!
2014-03-16 23:44

OMG Have the Sunday Post finally seen the light. That’s their second pro-YES item. Perhaps they have been given a leaked view of Bitter Together’s canvas returns.

2014-03-16 17:36

I see Severin Carrell has now picked this story up in the Guardian online…/…
From The Suburbs
2014-03-16 17:38

BBC London is so arrogant and thinks the jumped up Scots should keep their place as North Brits.

They fail to challenge London and EU politicians on their wild assertions or the practical consequences of their stance on currency uncertainty and on EU membership.
2014-03-16 17:46

This is now on the BBC website with a transcript of the interview. It is however near the bottom.…/…
2014-03-16 18:26

Telegraph has it too and the bitter and vile comments again the FM are just atrocious. Talk about “Cybernats”, If they talked about a Moslem Cleric that way they would all be arrested.
2014-03-16 18:37

Remember, nothing would suit the media more than having Alex Salmond and the SNP attack old Auntie BBC. They are desperate for Alex Salmond to have a battle with our public broadcaster.

This event with Marr should be highlighted and the SNP should now STEP BACK and allow others to do the complaining.
2014-03-16 19:07

I’m not an Andrew Marr fan, and haven’t read his books, but a cursory ‘google’ reveals in his book “My Trade: A short history of British Journalism”, he is quoted as writing about the need to remain impartial and “studiously neutral” whilst delivering the news and “convey fact, and nothing more”.

2014-03-16 19:34

No surprise really, it’s just the anti-independence bias from BBC Scotland contaminating the whole organisation. The BBC is corrupt, and is corrupting the debate. The good thing about it showing on Andrew Marr’s show is that it will trash the BBC’s reputation internationally in the same way it’s been trashed in Scotland. What I don’t understand is how people like Andrew Marr will distort the truth to undermine Scotland.
2014-03-16 20:22

Andrew Marr was extremely unprofessional when he gave his opinion and clearly hoped he would get away with his opinion being the parting shot in the interview but thankfully Alex Salmond didn’t let it go and challenged him straight away.

Marr’s credibility as an unbiased interviewer during the referendum is now well and truly destroyed.

This was excellent work by Alex Salmond.

Other YES campaign leaders who are interviewed by the BBC please note.
Brus MacGallah
2014-03-16 21:06

I’ll bet Andrew Marr is feeling an arse…/…
2014-03-16 21:25

Watched this program and it was clear that Marr was back peddling quicker than a uni-cyclist heading towards a cesspit when he had realized that the first eck was on to his standard BBC “last word” ploy. I must say it was so good to see the F.M take him to task and totally embarrass him in front of the whole uk
2014-03-16 22:39

The First Minister is a credit to Scotland. He will defend Scotland to the hilt and take no prisoners in doing so. He is the equal of the major world leaders past and present (to use a Marrism “I think better than all other world leaders”) and certainly head and shoulders above anything the union parties have. Excellent work and another bbc presenter gelded!
2014-03-17 05:27

This is a gift of precedent. Now that the new BBC guidelines are out, Salmonds challenge on air will make other interviewers think twice.

The ink is not even dry on the new guidelines and they are broken live on air for all to see, all on a flagship show. Oh dear.

That is why there is no need to pursue this further as the BBC need to be more careful in hiding their bias from now on.

The bias will remain eg. no HYS in Scotland but the journos in the BBC will certainly avoid ‘I think’ or similar opinion, in the near future.
2014-03-17 08:23

Played catch up this morning on iplayer and couldn’t believe what I heard. Marr spotted his own howler immediately and tried to explain himself away, but oh dear. That one was out there for all to see. By the end of the interview the shoe was most definitely on the other foot with a flustered and put out interviewer and a decidedly cheery looking interviewee. 😀

Well played FM.
2014-03-17 09:23

I was left with the impression that the whole thing was a set up and fortunately Alex Salmond (As always) was on top of the situation. Why was there a delay on the line? That would be understandable had Alex Salmond been on the moon, but he was in Aberdeen. Call me paranoid if you wish, but the whole thing stank.
2014-03-17 10:11

Yes, Mr Marr must have been getting an ear-full when he blurted out and “nor is it the BBC’s” ( views )
2014-03-17 10:28

The delay was pretty close to that with last night’s conversations between Dermot O’Leary and the Astronauts on the International Space Station.

Deliberate or accidental? Hmmm. You choose. What actually causes a delay anyway? Or is that something technical we shouldn’t worry our fluffy little heads about?

(NASA I readily excuse, but the BBC?)
2014-03-17 16:53

I agree 100% CapnAndy.

The net is slowly closing in on the BBC and they don’t like it one bit. More people are becoming wary of their reporting and coincidently last week we had the Holyrood Committee looking at BBC bias highlighting Professor Robertson’s great academic study.

Cue DEFLECTION tactics by the BBC- The media are now trying to make this look like an ‘Alex Salmond attacks the BBC story’- very few people (outside the political bubble) watch the Marr programme, – but we just need to look at papers such as the Daily Record to see how it is being reported.

As for the time delay- well – a very ‘convenient’ tool for the BBC.

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