By G.A.Ponsonby
BBC Scotland bosses answered questions this week, an unusual event from a broadcaster whose standard response to queries from licence payers in Scotland is usually to tell the complainant to bugger off.
These questions though were posed, not by members of the public, but by MSPs from Holyrood’s Culture and Education Committee.

Ken MacQuarrie and John Boothman – head of BBC Scotland and its Head of News respectively, stonewalled for most of the proceedings, but a question right at the end of the exchanges was revealing.

For those who missed it, the BBC Scotland delegation were asked why they had not reported, in news output, a statement from ratings agency Standard & Poor’s in which the global firm had said that an independent Scotland would qualify for its “highest economic assessment” even without north sea oil.

In an official analysis released on 27th February, the company said: “Even excluding North Sea output and calculating per capita GDP only by looking at onshore income, Scotland would qualify for our highest economic assessment.”

The question threw the BBC Scotland delegation as each looked to the other to provide some kind of explanation.  It ended with one, John Mullin, at first claiming the statement had been reported then seemingly unsure, promising to check.

Mullin joined BBC Scotland on 9th September last year after a career in journalism.  Commenting at the time of the announcement of his appointment, Mullin said: “This is going to be a historic year for Scotland and I’m delighted to be taking up this new role at the BBC.

“I’m really looking forward to working with some of the best journalists in the business and I can’t wait to get cracking.”

One of the journalists Mr Mullin was referring to was BBC Scotland Business and Economy Editor Douglas Fraser.  In asking the question about BBC Scotland non-coverage of Standard & Poor’s, Mr Fraser’s name had been specifically mentioned by committee chair Stewart Maxwell who said the BBC reporter had “did a good job” in his coverage of the issue.

Mr Fraser had indeed covered the Standard & Poor’s analysis, but had the BBC Scotland reporter given any prominence to the key statement as quoted by Mr Maxwell?

Double Standards

A look at the video clip below and the audio clip which follows provides a flavour of both Mr Fraser’s, and indeed the whole of BBC Scotland’s, news coverage of the credit agency’s analysis of the fiscal credibility of an independent Scotland.

Days after the announcements from Standard & Poor’s and Standard Life, both were discussed on BBC Radio Scotland

As you can see there is no mention of the very specific paragraph that Mr Maxwell mentions.  Indeed Newsnet Scotland monitored that days news closely and there was one small part of the S&P report that Fraser focussed on and referred to again and again.

The phrase he repeated over and over was – “The challenges facing an independent Scotland would be significant but not unsurpassable”.  This appeared on his radio, TV and online analysis of the S&P report, but never referenced or quoted was the credit worthiness of a newly independent Scotland.

The BBC Scotland delegation was unable, not just to acknowledge the omission but to explain it.  The reason of course is that it cannot be explained without asking the reporter whose responsibility it surely was to report it, why he didn’t.

Few independence supporters trust the BBC these days.  It has destroyed a decades old reputation for excellence in its pursuit of an anti-independence agenda. 

That agenda reared its head again this weekend when Andrew Marr abused the privilege afforded him by the UK public by using the platform of the BBC in order to promote his own anti-independence views.

Marr’s ridiculous airing of his own personal view that a newly independent Scotland would be thrown out of the EU and would find it difficult to get back in was an insult to the intelligence of viewers of his Sunday politics show.  The Lampooning he has received on sites like BBC Scotlandshire is deserved.

It brings me to the reference to Zeppelins in the headline.

Did you know that these airships can stay airborne for days even if riddled with bullets?  These huge gas-filled behemoths will hang around despite being repeatedly holed.

It’s actually a wonderfully apt metaphor for the strategy being adopted by the BBC as it seeks to prevent the Yes campaign from succeeding in September’s referendum.  It is a very clear strategy if one looks at how the referendum issues are being presented.

The Standard Life story is a case in point.  The official statement from the company contained little by way of real news – it merely pointed out that some relatively inexpensive measures had been put in place just in case things didn’t work out in the event of a Yes vote.

The BBC though took the contingency plans and inflated them into a huge Zeppelin sized story that hung around for days.  As I have already noted, Douglas Fraser used almost every opportunity to repeat the BBC’s interpretation of the announcement.  Indeed in one example, he even went as far to exaggerate the plans by telling viewers that the whole company was planning to move from Scotland if it was felt necessary.

The Standard Life story, or to be more accurate the way the BBC is trying to present it and other similar announcements, are less about the hard reality of independence and more about creating perceptions.  The aim is to convince viewers that a Yes vote will result in thousands of job losses.

These though are the trimmings on the bigger cake of currency, which is what these news stories – based on very innocuous but well time statements from a handful of companies – are all about and the issue of currency is, with the EU membership, fast becoming the last defence in an increasingly desperate No campaign.

It doesn’t matter how many common sense ripostes are fired at these two Zeppelin stories (they are continually holed by facts).  The BBC will keep both airborne, right up until the referendum vote.  Real breaking stories like Standard & Poor’s will be marginalised and left to wither, if they are covered at all.

BBC presenters will repeat ad-nauseam the line being promoted by the No campaign.  That line will be framed by coverage of statements from companies like Standard Life or politicians like Jose Manuel Barroso.

Last November, when the Scottish Government published its White Paper on independence a well-known figure appeared on the BBC and, commenting on a proposed currency-union and UK debt, said

“Sterling is not an asset.  You can’t split it up.  It’s not something you get an eight point four per cent population share.”

The individual added: “If the first thing you do even before you get independence is to repudiate your debt because you are having a spat with your neighbour, the bond markets may take a very dim view of it.”

It’s straight out of the anti-independence campaign handbook and a line that is used by pretty much every pro-Union commentator when arguing against a currency-union.

It wasn’t said by David Cameron, George Osborne or Alistair Darling.  It wasn’t said by any member of Better Together.  See the video clip below to find out whose views on currency and debt are in line with those of the No campaign.

Of course the Scottish Government is not advocating sterling or the Bank of England be split up, just that Scotland’s status as a constituent part of the Union, and its contribution to creating all of its assets and institutions, be recognised and that post-independence, our stake in such institutions does not vanish.  It isn’t threatening to “repudiate” debt either, just asking that assets and liabilities – including the debt – be negotiated in an equitable fashion.

The ‘split up’ term used by Unionists fails to acknowledge that not all assets need be split up, but some, like Embassies and the Bank of England, can remain intact and continue to be used by the parties that jointly created them.

Marr’s attacks and Zeppelins … keep a good lookout for them.  They’ll be back.  It’s all they’ve got.

[This article can be freely reproduced but must not be edited.  There is no requirement to acknowledge Newsnet Scotland as the original source.]


2014-03-17 07:32


Marr’s Attacks

Very good. I can see that one going viral. Let’s spread it and ridicule him out of the debate.

Ack! Ack! Ack! We come in peace.

2014-03-17 09:42

What we need is a good cartoonist to put together a wee story along these lines.

[ When I was at Primary School, there was a craze for Mars Attacks Bubblegum. The wrappers had a cartoon on them – a piece of the whole story of Mars Attacks.
The ideas was to collect the whole series so you had the full story and kids did swaps etc.
It was pretty nasty stuff with lots of martians turning flamethrowers on humans as the battle for Earth raged on. ]

A bit like the next 6 months 🙂
I hope someone can put something together.

2014-03-17 07:47

The Zeppelin metaphore is all the more apt when viewed as a large aerial object floating above Scotland depriving it of objective analysis of the Referendum campaign.
Commencing each and every news bullettin with rampant negativity, the BBC work on the principle that mud sticks and it works very well as people take in the initial soundbite and then hear a bleating Yes/SNP retort saying that ‘well they would say that, wouldn’t they’.
This is blatant and outright propaganda, nothing less and unlikely to change for so long as we feed them with the lifeblood of License Tax for the priviledge of spitting in our face.
The BBC is a leviathian and answerable to no-one, not even our elected representatives  .
Why oh why we need this organisation in a multi channel, digital age, I have no idea. Why others in an independent Scotland favor the replication of a State Propagandist, I equally have no idea.
Abolish the License Tax now and watch the BBC sqirm.
2014-03-17 08:14

I didn’t realise John Mullin had joined the BBC. He and I follow each other on Twitter.
2014-03-17 09:03

Zeppelin, a prefect analogy for the BBC.

Marrs perfomance was really cringeworthy and I salute Alex Salmond for taking him to task on it. Marr thought he would get in his usual sneer and move on. Not this time Andy boy, you were caught like a wee rabbit in the headlights. Your personal opinions are now like comedy gold to the cybernats, you are a joke like the out of control institution you work for. The BBC is an arrogant and in my humble opinion, fascist organ of the imperialist arrogant and fascist UK state. I have for some years now refused to pay it’s licence, and will never ever pay it. I am prepared to go to jail if necessary.

Hammonds latest sneering about Scotland and Marrs sneering will have added considerable numbers to the Yes vote, well done lads.
2014-03-17 11:34

Yes Donald, the bbc is appearing certainly to belong to the right wing government now. You can’t as far as I know be locked up for debt in Scotland, just non payment of fines if for instance they took you to court re tv license. Our aerial broke years ago, and it was a huge blessing. With the internet to provide a wider more varied look at whats going on in the world, we don’t need the bbc. I am so glad that A Salmond challenged mr Marr, who should now be sacked end of.

2014-03-17 09:19

Salmond was brilliant!

He allowed Marr to bluster on with excuses as to why he said what he said, then from nowhere Marr is sunk as an interviewer when the First Minister said

” I thought ‘you’ were asking questions”
2014-03-17 09:55

Excellent stuff NNS.

What is also conspicuous by it’s absence is any examination of the consequences of the Treasury’s decision to prevent a currency union in the context of the UK, and specifically how the UK would manage to service its £1.4 Trillion debt with a 10% smaller economy. Plus having rebuffed Scotland’s offer to take a share of the debt, I’d be interested in hearing how lenders might view this questionable rUK wisdom, bearing in mind the UK has lost its AAA rating, and the Treasury has already been required to act in response to market ‘jitters’. Apparently you need to be quite careful what signals you send to them.

Over to you Douglas… I’m no highly paid business editor at the BBC, but even I know the answer will be spelled out in interest rates which the UK already cannot afford. Over to our BBC Correspondent in Greece…
2014-03-17 11:25

And why has Darling not been asked this simple question.
“Should Scotland vote Yes in September, there will be elections to the first independent Scottish parliament in 2016.
We know what currency the SNP will adopt should they win, but should Labour win, what currency would you adopt”
Over to you Douglas

2014-03-17 10:09

The BBC are very much part of the No campaign. There can be no doubt about that now.

More worryingly for BBC Scotland is that it is now been proved that it did mislead BBC viewers and now the Scottish parliament over its coverage of the S&P; report.
2014-03-17 10:15

On another note I see that “UK belongs to us all” claims the Tory Ruth Davidson but not according to an article in today’s Guardian that details an Oxfam report that just five rich families in Britain own more wealth than 20% of Britain’s population do.

Thats’s the obscene reality of unequal Britain today – a nation state that is riven apart by an appalling record of inequality that none of the Westminster political parties have any plans to change.

Britain will never change because the rich and powerful control Westminster.

However there is an opportunity for Scotland to forge a new and truly equal society by voting YES to independence on 18 September.
2014-03-17 10:30

I can’t understand Derek Bateman’s reluctance to agree that this is a campaign stance by the BBC. It is not bumbling mismanagement as an agreed stance by the BBC establishment that the line against independence must be held. Both Douglas Fraser and Andrew Marr are quite obviously expressing personal views and abusing the privelege that the BBC gives them. Gordon Brewer is another one.
2014-03-17 11:12

Another first rate article with detailed analysis. I’m told that Hayley Miller was no shrinking violet in her interview with Jim Murphy on GMS this morning.

I wonder, with the exposures of BBC Scotland bias, whether some of the BBC reporters will feel less threatened of losing their employment if they adopt a less biased approach.

Another first rate article with detailed analysis. I’m told that Hayley Miller was no shrinking violet in her interview with Jim Murphy on GMS this morning.

I wonder, with the exposures of BBC Scotland bias, whether some of the BBC reporters will feel less threatened of losing their employment if they adopt a less biased approach.
Dundonian West
2014-03-17 11:16

OT.VIDEO.Tariq Ali returned to Scotland last Friday delivering lectures in Glasgow and Edinburgh at the invitation of RIC {Radical Independence Campaign].
The Glasgow link:-…/
The Edinburgh link:-…/
Tariq Ali discusses independence for Scotland and the opportunities of a Yes result in September.
2014-03-17 11:37

Whenever you mention a ratings agency like Standard & Poor’s, what is the most important function they perform? Yes, giving investment ratings to nations and companies.

So when they give an independent Scotland the highest economic assessment, you would expect that, and only that, as the main point of reportage.

UNBELIEVABLE bias from BBC Scotland!
2014-03-17 11:46

Venice votes in referendum on splitting from Rome
Worth a read.
2014-03-17 13:13

I wonder why the BBC didn’t inform the public about this…..or am I just being silly
2014-03-17 14:09

To be fair, they did albeit tucked away on their Europe pages: Venice votes in referendum on splitting from Rome:…/…

It even has links to the Catalan referendum. It may also have been on their World News or World Service but I haven’t spotted it on “domestic” BBC. Their website’s Europe pages –…/europe – are often worth a look. It currently has links to Serbian & Slovak elections which don’t make it to their Politics section.

2014-03-17 12:46

Excellent article as always, Mr P.
Derek Bateman also in good form today with Catching Up…/… including:
Quoting Derek Bateman:

Marr blew his Barroso interview and he now knows it. The lack if a follow up to find out what legal process would follow a Yes vote was inexcusable and laughable. Yesterday he was trying to cover that failing up but made a worse mess by giving us the Marr Declaration on the EU and was embarrassed by Salmond. It is the triumph of vanity over talent. And it is noticeable that the London Scots treat Salmnod with contempt, with a different tone from the one applied to Cameron.

2014-03-17 14:01

Zeppelins tend to come down with a bang!…as will the bbc in Scotland!
From The Suburbs
2014-03-17 14:10

Interesting article by Lesley Riddoch in Scotsman

I was called by a London (BBC) researcher last week, asking my views on problems and uncertainties associated with independence. When I asked if his flagship network programme will also examine problems associated with the union, he said there wouldn’t be time and the difficulties of independence are interesting to voters.

They are. But voters are also interested in the downsides of the union – London-centricity, economic stagnation, austerity and inequality as the measure of civilisation, failure to invest in Scotland’s green revolution, leaving Europe etc, etc.

If the BBC reduces the independence referendum to a confidence vote on the problems associated with only one of two voting options, that constitutes bias.
2014-03-17 14:51

I would not be at all surprised if the BBC were jotting down notes on the Russian Media’s coverage of the “referendum” in Crimea as we speak.
2014-03-17 19:33

BBC apologises over Panorama’s North Korea programme.
This was a serious failing, and the BBC is right to apologise to the complainants”
End Quote
Alison Hastings, chair of the BBC’s Editorial Standards Committee
This is all very well but why can’t BBC Scotland also apologise for their mistake over the EU story in Scotland.
2014-03-17 20:35

The question is are we going to let this minority of democratic vandals get away with it? Maybe they need to be shown that they will not get away with pushing their own political views whilst we pay their wages and expect a whole lot more from them regarding balance and fairness. They really are scum in my mind and will quite likely sink even lower in the next few months.
call me dave
2014-03-17 21:41

That’s the way to do it Haley!

The BBC GMS. Murphy seen off with his tail between his legs. Have a nice day Jim…

1hr 09mins in.…/b03xgrkw
2014-03-17 22:28

There is something really dysfunctional about Labour and their media ‘polish’. Murphy, Anas Sarwar, Johann Lamont, Margaret Curran, all of them really. It doesn’t matter what question they are asked, come what may, they will deliver the answer they’ve spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror rehearsing. They all come across as appallingly wooden, & groomed to stick to the approved formula like dull automatons who cannot be trusted to think for themselves.

To keep doing it implies they must think it is slick or engaging in some way which I really struggle to grasp.

All I hear is “Ice fishing!” but without the humour or laughs. (…/ ).

Or Bruno Kirby’s “Oh! ho! Ho! Frenchy!” in Good Morning Vietnam; a man who is utterly blind to how bad he comes across on the radio. It’s so bad it is brilliant.
I’d have Jim Murphy ice fishing on GMS every day of the week.

call me dave
2014-03-17 22:13

Are we scared yet? Here is a bit of cheek from a Prof suggesting that if its YES then our MP’s should be barred from Westminster in the next GE. Other alternatives are available. @;0)

Anyway you cut it it would be interesting.
Russell Ramsay
2014-03-17 22:13

I complained to BBC about their lack of coverage of the S&P; report.
Their response stated that several factors were taken into account in deciding the level of coverage a)whether it was a new story b) whether it was an unusual story and c)whether it was of national interest.
The response appreciated that I felt the lack of coverage displayed a bias against independence.
The response did not specifically deny bias which led me to believe that some BBC staff were embarrassed by the lack of coverage.

Today the Daily Record came to the defence of the BBC over the Andrew Marr saga, albeit in an attempt to deflect critical examination of Jim Murphy’s latest fantasies. It is little wonder that readers are turning away from newspapers to the internet for balanced coverage.
2014-03-17 22:25

O/T. Read over on Derek Bateman’s blog that the BBC are to end Ken MacDonald’s Sunday morning Headlines prog. BUT that Douglas Fraser’s Buisness slot is to continue. As usual oor Derek sees no bias in this decision. Just that the management are out of touch with what the public want.
Got to hand it to him, he can turn out an original line.
2014-03-17 22:39

I’ve just come across this. It looks as though the BBC has form elsewhere for using supposedly neutral think tanks that aren’t.

In this case the BBC is quoting from organisations funded by the tobacco industry without telling viewers and listeners of this fact.…/…

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