2007 - 2022

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised


Based on confidential interviews with BBC journalists Adrian Searle on how disaffection with editorial, staff and budgetary decisions being made in London almost led to a strike on Referendum Night that could have left us with a media blackout.

On the 11th November the Saltire Society Literary Awards were announced at a ceremony at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. As Publisher at Freight Books my personal interest included a title in the running for First Book of the Year, Anneliese Mackintosh’s Any Other Mouth, as well as a shortlisting as Scottish Publisher of the Year. The Saltire Society was founded in 1936 to “improve the quality of life in Scotland and restore the country to its proper place as a creative force in Europe”, part of an increased Scottish consciousness and political awareness in the 1930s and 1940s, rising out of the Celtic Renaissance that flourished before the First World War and undoubtedly in reaction to the privations of Great Depression after.

In the late 1940s co-founder of the Scottish National Party, John MacCormick, a moderate gradualist, was frustrated by fellow nationalists’ refusal to countenance anything other than full independence. He left the SNP to create the Scottish Covenant Association, a cross-party pressure group calling for devolution, which he believed would be more palatable to the electorate.

In her teens, my mother was one of the 2 million signatories of MacCormick’s Covenant. As a thirteen year old she would hide behind the curtains in her grandfather’s house in Dalhousie Place, Arbroath, while the leader of the plot to steal the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey, Ian Hamilton, debated his next move with a group of co-conspirators. The charismatic Hamilton was a chain smoker and my mother would collect his cigarette butts and keep them in a tin. Her uncle, Frank Thornton, a draper, town councillor and part of the group, was the man who received the Stone of Destiny at Arbroath Abbey in 1951, before it was given up to the authorities, famously in two pieces rather than one. Hamilton and his friends were also members of the Scottish Covenant Association. Despite the huge groundswell of support demanding devolution in the early 1950s, this was not delivered for another 44 years.

That my mother had been a Scottish Covenanter came as a surprise, revealed as we debated across the dinner table in the weeks before the independence referendum. Now in her mid-seventies, she had become an avowed No voter. Concerned for her pension, unsettled by threats of Scotland’s exclusion from the European Union, worried by uncertainty over currency and the blanket warnings of Gotterdamerung should the country vote Yes, she was exactly the kind of voter targeted by the self-proclaimed ‘Project Fear’.

The battle for hearts and minds was fought in two main arenas. The No vote held sway in broadcast and print media, while the grass-roots Yes campaign, taking its lead from Obama’s first tilt at becoming US President, dominated social media. On September 18th 2014 Scotland voted No. Many regard the three main Westminster party leaders’ ‘Vow’ in the Daily Record a few days before the Referendum, promising to deliver new powers to Scotland in the event of a No vote, as the knock-out blow in the campaign. Lord Smith of Kelvin is now chairing the cross-party working group tasked with agreeing exactly what powers will be devolved within the timetable originally set out by Gordon Brown. That the role of the BBC in the Referendum campaign was so contentious, enraging Yes supporters with its alleged bias, suggests that greater devolution of the national broadcaster should be at the top of the Scottish Government’s shopping list.

In 2008 the Corporation’s own King Report declared the BBC institutionally biased in its news and current affairs reporting of the Regions. Amongst its findings were that the words UK, Britain and England were used interchangeably, often inaccurately. Presenters would refer to England specifically as ‘we’ or ‘us’, very few legislators in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland were interviewed, regional political developments received little national broadcast coverage, BBC News was excessively London-centric, regional reporting focused exclusively on crime, sport or human interest and when a number of stories were being considered from around the UK, those closest to London geographically had the best chance of being run. Anyone listening to the Ten O’clock News or BBC Radio 4’s Today programme these days will confirm that while stories will invariably begin with ‘In England and Wales…’ there is almost no coverage of issues or legislative changes in health and education from Scotland or Northern Ireland on national networks, one of the key weaknesses highlighted by Professor King.

In February 2014 Dr John Robertson, a research academic at the University of the West of Scotland, published his initial findings after monitoring broadcast coverage of the campaign from 17th September 2012 for twelve months, around 640 hours of news programming on BBC and STV. According to his stringent methodology BBC national news and Reporting Scotland ran 211 stories that might be deemed pro-independence and 317 pieces that were judged anti-independence.

During the final month of the Referendum campaign complaints of bias from Yes supporters on social media included the BBC’s reporting of statements made by large companies, such as retailers and banks, on the potential impact of independence. Company representatives often gave carefully worded statements, attempting to avoid being drawn into the debate on one side or another, that were subsequently ‘interpreted’ by presenters as being unequivocal in expecting job losses or price rises. The lack of airtime given to leaders of the Yes parties resulted in veteran campaigner Jim Sillars making dire threats of nationalisation against pro-No companies, only to retract on Radio 4’s Today programme claiming that saying something outrageous was the only way he could “get on your prestigious programme”.

Yes campaigners also complained of a focus on exclusively anti-Yes lead stories in broadcast bulletins in the final week of the campaign. This included the BBC’s Eleanor Bradford posting a story two days before the vote about an anonymous ‘whistleblower’ identifying a £400m NHS funding black hole in Scotland via leaked papers. While the SNP administration categorically denied that this was anything more than a discussion document, it was lead story on bulletins for the final two days before the vote.

Lack of coverage of major Yes rallies on network news also caused much consternation. Social media was used to compare BBC images of pro-Yes events, showing a handful of supporters, while attendees’ photographs showed tens of thousands gathered in Glasgow’s city centre. Alleged intimidation by Yes voters during the campaign was a regular discussion topic on radio and TV, while the fact that a key unionist rally in Edinburgh attracting a claimed 15,000 was organised and led by the sectarian Orange Order went unreported. Subsequently, coverage of Unionist supporters, dressed in Rangers football tops and Union Jacks, using violence and intimidation to ‘clear’ George Square in Glasgow of disconsolate Yes supporters on the day after the vote (not to mention the arson attack on the offices of the pro-Yes Sunday Herald) was accused of being, at best, low-key and at worst, collusive.

Talking confidentially to journalists from BBC Scotland highlights that perceived bias was also recognised within Pacific Quay, its headquarters in Glasgow. ‘We spent two years preparing for the Referendum campaign, establishing protocols and non-pejorative language,’ says one highly experienced news journalist based in the city. ‘Many of the problems arose from London journalists being asked to report on the campaign in the final month or two with little or no knowledge of the Scottish political landscape.

‘Initially there were strict guidelines about not using loaded phrases. Words like “separation” were banned. However, the closer the vote got, the more these phrases were used wholesale by London-based colleagues. The SNP were frequently, almost ubiquitously, referred to as “nationalists”, something we had agreed not to do. The endemic inconsistency was highlighted when pro-independence parties were referred to as the “Yes campaign” while it was made very clear by London editors that under no circumstances were we allowed to call Better Together the “No campaign”.

‘While many of my colleagues in London would pride themselves in understanding the subtleties of Middle East politics, say, or those in Africa, there’s a kind of snow-blindness when it comes to Scotland. They can’t or won’t engage with the detail. Familiarity breeds contempt.’

However, swingeing cuts are also blamed for some of the failures in reporting. Another BBC Scotland journalist identifies the reason for lack of coverage of protests outside BBC Headquarters in Glasgow on Sunday 14th September, 4 days before the Referendum vote.

‘The banners outside Pacific Quay during the anti-bias protest said “BBC: Where are your cameras?”. What many people don’t realise is that with the cuts, Pacific Quay now only has one news camera at weekends. That was being used elsewhere to cover an ISIS hostage story. The irony that we had to use BSkyB footage in bulletins to report on a protest outside our own offices was not lost on staff.’

Such is the disaffection with editorial, staff and budgetary decisions being made in London that there was very nearly a strike by journalists on Referendum Night. Paul Holleran, Scottish Organiser of the National Union of Journalists confirmed to me a blackout of coverage nearly took place. ‘The BBC has a malfunctioning management in London. As the Referendum campaign was in full swing, at a negotiation meeting about cuts, James Harding, Director, News and Current Affairs, announced that rather than following due process he was going to hand-pick journalists to be shown the door. We were all shocked. There was also a great deal of unhappiness about London-based staff being shipped up to Glasgow en masse. All Regions voted to strike and although we were non-specific, the 18th and 19th of September, the day of the Referendum vote and the day after, were target dates.’

There was further anger over the plan to cancel veteran anchor Gary Robertson’s contract whilst recruiting other senior journalists from London. ‘Jim Naughtie and Sarah Smith and both respected professionals,’ said a BBC Scotland colleague. ‘But it was wrong that one of our own was out on his ear because London journalists, with little knowledge of post-Devolution Scotland, had been recruited on big salaries, wholly counter-intuitive when budgets are being slashed.’ Naughtie is reputed to be on £162,000 for a 12 month stint in Scotland. ‘Of course, Jim has done a great job and, to his credit, was appalled at the lack of resource up here.’

Only a personal intervention by BBC Director General Tony Hall prevented a strike. In an email to staff he conceded that “it was wrong [of the BBC] to front-load cuts prior to the Referendum”. Paul Holleran said, ‘Tony Hall has instigated a review and I believe is trying to introduce a more civilised culture into the BBC.’ Robertson’s contract termination is also on hold.

Another accusation by staff is that BBC editors specifically blocked airtime for the First Minister on a regular basis. A BBC journalist working in factual programming told me that one example was a request to include a 90 second personal tribute from Alex Salmond in a programme about the late Margo MacDonald MSP, who died in April, which was denied with no explanation by editors.

The BBC’s annual report states that in the year 2013-14 £102m was spent on Scotland-only opt-out programming across television, Radio Scotland, Radio Nan Gaidheal and online content. An additional £5.2m was spent on BBC Alba. Another £90m is invested in recording network-wide programming in Scotland. In comparison, in 2012 the BBC spent £180m on a three year deal to televise English Premier League football highlights.

Those working inside the BBC complain that for opt-out programming screened in Scotland alone they are working with second class budgets and second class resources, while key editorial decisions are all made in London. One of the journalists I spoke to said, ‘Of the £350m raised by the license fee in Scotland, almost half goes south never to return and at least three quarters of what remains is controlled editorially from London. 100% of the licence fee raised in England stays in England.’ A quick perusal of departments providing nationwide services within the BBC shows that all are headquartered in England.

As a publisher from Scotland, with a list of around 35 titles planned for 2015, my interest is not in making money alone. If it was Freight Books would only be publishing celebrity memoirs and mummy porn. Like many of my fellow publishers in Scotland, although international in outlook, I am passionately committed to promoting Scottish voices and Scottish culture to a worldwide audience. After all, this is my country and it fascinates me. I believe the vast majority of those working at Pacific Quay, The Tun in Edinburgh, and the BBC’s other offices around Scotland, share that passion. There is no lack of talent or creativity.

But as someone who loves radio above all other broadcast media, it is a national embarrassment that Scotland only has one principal English language radio channel to call its own. Norway, a country to whom Scotland was compared throughout the Referendum campaign, boasts three television channels, five broadcast radio channels and a further six digital radio channels. Its annual spend in 2012 was approximately £450m (raised via a license fee similar to that in the UK) – a budget well over double that of BBC Scotland and quadruple if compared with Scotland-only content. When it comes to the BBC, and particularly in times of austerity, it is entirely predictable that those making the decisions will want the lion’s share of the money, only providing BBC Scotland with as little as they think they can get away with.

According to the BBC’s Annual Report, out of a total budget of £4.7bn in 2013-14, the annual spend on content is £2.4bn. Scotland’s £107m is roughly 4% of that total. However, more interestingly, what is termed in the accounts as ‘infrastructure, distribution and business support’, which one presumes means all back-office and technical spend, accounts for £568m of the national budget. Out of this £6m is spent in Scotland, a mere 1% of overall investment. Either Scotland is very efficient at making television and radio or we are being sold appallingly short.

Gordon Wilson, former leader of the SNP, ahead of the publication of his book, Scotland: Battle for Independence, said in a national newspaper that to achieve self-determination during the Referendum campaign ‘it was essential to raise the profile of Scottish identity and dissipate British identity.’ An arch hardliner and elder statesman of the party, Wilson was damning in his criticism of Alex Salmond’s gradualist tactics, which were ‘too coy’ about asserting Scottish nationhood.

To be fair, Salmond consistently reiterated his ‘Team Scotland’ mantra in the face of Gordon Brown’s ‘Best of British’. But with the entire UK printed press, aside from one notable exception, set against independence, or at best ambivalent, the only platform for promoting Scottish national identity was television and radio. But the dominant media channel, the British Broadcasting Corporation, lived up to its name by steadfastly supporting the status quo, surprising and angering many Yes campaigners in what they regarded as blatant promotion of No messages.

Post-Referendum, with Scottish Labour languishing at 23% in the polls and SNP membership at 83,000 – an all-time high and dwarfing all rivals – parallels can be drawn with the rise in Scottish national consciousness before the Second World War and the high-water mark of support for the Scottish Covenant Association in the early 1950s. That the SNP may achieve significant majorities not only in Holyrood but also in Westminster after next year’s General Election could reignite the independence debate sooner than commentators and politicians imagined.

Clearly, in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Scottish people, he who controls the national broadcaster has great influence over the self-image of the nation.

Why else did Westminster seek to dictate the narrative so obviously through the BBC’s coverage of the Referendum campaign? For that reason alone, the Scottish Government would surely prize greater devolution for BBC Scotland. That no fixed budget formula or spending guarantee exists for Scotland’s national broadcaster could be deemed legislative negligence. However, as Lord Smith of Kelvin takes submissions on what new powers Scotland deserves, I for one remain sceptical that the BBC, and by association the British establishment, has the willingness to relinquish any control over such a valuable political and cultural asset.

Comments (81)

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  1. Colin McKerron says:

    Enjoyed your most comprehensive report. I would like to make an observation, that in general your reports are too long winded and are in danger of being lost in the busy chatterworld we live in. Having spent most of my life in whisky distilling, I would recommend a bit of distilling and a cut off point when you have extracted the best bits without reaching the ‘feinting’ level!

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks Colin. It’s something we’re aware of and our articles are on average much shorter than they used to be. Believe me we REALLY used to bore the arse of people.

      But sometimes longer pieces are necessary. We’re different.

      1. Didn’t find the article too long, too short, or too anything.

        Just instructive, on the mark journalism…

      2. Yes Kenny Yes says:

        I also found the length to be reasonable.
        My observation? I like happy-endings in books, movies, stories; please provide a happy ending to Scottish Independence, or provide hope.

        Vote SNP on May 7th – this provides hope.

      3. Susan Le May says:

        Interesting to see the figures to back up what we all suspected. Not sure about your use of the term “mummy porn” though – could you please explain what this is? Thanks

      4. nicoljcraig says:

        Yes, I thought the length was good and the research seemed credible. Interesting to hear insiders views at BBC Scotland, much of what I had suspected. Also very interesting to read on financial affairs at the BBC. Seems like the thing to campaign on now would be % put in by Scottish license fee payers (though perhaps a good deal less now!) should be % of overall budget given to BBC Scotland.

        If only…

      5. Brian says:

        Absolutely. Perfect length do the subject justice.

      6. EJ Munro says:

        Fascinating piece. Term “mummy porn” is objectionable though.

  2. yesvote2014 says:

    One of the most interesting articles yet. The BBC is key to everything. They won’t give it up easily. How do we change things?

    One thing I notice again and again is that when I’m in someone’s house and they’re watching the BBC and I point out that what the’re watching is just South East England local TV, they tend to deny the facts before their eyes. They watch English television as if it is their own, as if England is them. We have very little to compare it with. Our own television and radio seem “regional”. People have become English to the extent that they will protect their access to English television and they will see anything else as “foreign”.

    1. Phil says:

      BBC is Key? It actually is No 2. The NHS must stay at No 1. BBC Scotland should be a proud Beacon; here we glimpse of why it falls short.

      1. Frank M says:

        You have mis-interpreted the word ‘key’ here. Yesvote2014 is using it in the sense of key to succeeding in getting the message out – NOT key policy.

    2. JANE wilson says:

      I live in England and I feel the same way. The bbc is a propaganda stream,whose point of view in all matters is laughably predictable. What amazes me is how the people who work in the bbc can justify themselves to themselves. They must be aware of the biases they project, the nuances they hide, the uncomfortable facts they omit to mention. what do they talk about among themselves….do they feel ashamed?jane wilson

      1. msm says:

        ITV is no better, it goes the same for ALL mainstream media, TOTAL control.

    3. terry says:

      This is a great article – and yesvote2014 – you have just hit the nail on the head. – “They watch English television as if it is their own, as if England is them. We have very little to compare it with. Our own television and radio seem “regional”. People have become English to the extent that they will protect their access to English television and they will see anything else as “foreign”.”

      1. So the work of David Attenborough, Professor Brian Cox and Steven Moffat is “English” television, is it?

    4. Craig P says:

      This is where the referendum was lost, in the corners of people’s living rooms. Only Scottish control of the state broadcaster can guarantee independence. In the meantime, all we can do is keep pointing out the disconnect between BBC reality and reality on the ground in Scotland.

  3. Ian Patterson says:

    Well, I no longer watch BBC TV News; but that’s not just since the referendum – I’ve been disappointed in it for a long while. Indeed, It’s not just BBC TV News I don’t like – it’s all TV News. It seems to me it’s not actually ‘The News’; but rather a sort of entertainment programme, with a time slot that has to be filled with whatever bilge they can rustle up.

    1. Jan Cowan says:

      Ian, I agree totally. I too have given up watching TV news.

      1. Jo Smith says:

        I’ve discovered the Channel 4 news, since switching off bbc news. Much better 🙂

  4. IAB says:

    I read online newspapers from Norway, Iceland etc. I watch Nordic programmes and I read Nordic Noir. They are refreshing in that I read about beliefs, traditions and events that would never be reported in the insular English/American hotpotch of news presented by the MSM and by Google. I have often hoped for an alternative news provider to replace Google which would use different algorithms to locate news, a lively radio station which looked at Scotland and the world (all of it and not just UK and the West) and provided a mix of programming, a free newspaper focussing on Scotland and an interesting Scottish flavoured TV channel. All these are coming but we have to be very clear that we have a national identity as Scottish with various regional variations. Being nationalist (meaning having pride in your country) should cease to be seen as an insult and taken as a compliment and this should inform all our news media.

    1. I’d settle for a news provider that wasn’t 50% football and football news.

  5. Dan Huil says:

    Don’t pay the licence fee.

  6. David McCann says:

    Brilliant expose of what we all suspected was going on at the BBC. What chance they will report this article, or what chance for that matter that any of our MSM will pick up on it!

  7. Enjoyed this article immensely.

  8. Juteman says:


  9. alharron says:

    Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

    If the blackout went ahead, that would have been a powerful indictment against the establishment they were so clearly dissatisfied with. But it didn’t, and so stood by while Scotland’s independence was stolen on the basis of the lies they were complicit in perpetuating. Their jobs were in jeopardy one way or the other, and they made the decision not to strike, just to grit their teeth and sell their country out. No better than McLeish’s pitiful “I voted No, but I was REALLY SUPER SAD ABOUT IT YOU GUYS.”

    1. Frank M says:

      I agree with you alharron. They could have made a real fist of it.

    2. Totally agree, but it shouldn’t have been on the last day, they should have struck a week or so before. Even the blinkered people who believed the BBC were not biased would have had to sit up in their armchairs and taken note. The ‘I was only following orders’ argument is bollox.

  10. Drew Campbell says:

    Fascinating insight. Really thought provoking.

  11. Juteman says:

    Try again.

    Cuts didn’t lead to Jackie Bird saying ‘let’s call it devo-max’.
    The BBC is a Unionist/Loyalist institution, and if any employees are now pleading ‘we were only following orders’, fuck them.

  12. Highland girl says:

    All Scottish voters should get the chance to read this article. It proves we aren’t just paranoid -they are out to get us !

  13. You complain about peope not understandng Scotand, and yet you use an English criminal term , arson, to describe the attack on the offices of the Sunday Herald, which I assume are still situated in Renfield Street Glasgow.

  14. MBC says:

    Agree. For some time now the BBC has

  15. Alex Wright says:

    Is there a structure or procedure available to instigate an inquiry into their woefully biased coverage? Surely, having broken the guidelines and terms of the BBC Charter, someone must be accountable.

    Newsnet Scotland and other sites have evidence showing mis-information as being a deliberate and orchestrated policy, should this not be investigated? As the complaints process is wholly inadequate for an issue this huge, is there another way to circumvent this?

    I’m asking these questions in the hope that someone with more knowledge than me would be in a position to provide a strategy of bringing this disgraceful organisation down.

    They, more than any other body of people, are the reason that the Scottish people were given false information, which subsequently led to a No vote. This cannot be allowed to rest.

  16. MBC says:

    Sorry… posted too soon.

    I’m appalled that £350 million is raised in licence fee and only half of that is spent in Scotland. By rights, pro rata, per population share, only 10% should find its way to London.

    I am old enough to remember when news programmes did occasionally feature regional news as part of UK news. Also programming. Perversely, the domination of the SE as UK news has only served to make me feel less British, not more British, and I think it is contributing to the break up of the UK. I’ve always felt Scottish, but any Britishness I might have been capable of feeling was eroded by the absence of any truly British-wide news coverage or programming. I’m interested in what happens in Shropshire, Norfolk, Devon, Cumbria. Just as I am in Shetland or Kelso. Or indeed in Provence or Catalonia. I believe it was John Birt who wanted regional news removed from UK national news. Bad move.

    I visit Norway often and though a huge amount of drama TV programming seems to be American, British, Swedish, and occasionally German bought shows, there are news or lifestyle features every night from different parts of Norway, and of course the radio programming is made in Norway. It certainly gives an impression of a whole country, in all its diversity, and not just Oslo.

    1. There’s more to the BBC than just its news output; I’m quite happy to see most of my licence fee head south if it helps pays for world-class documentaries, drama and comedy.

  17. Several years ago there was a horrible accident in Dundee, four young men were crushed to death by an overturning lorry at a bend in the dual carriageway. I heard it on Radio Scotland before leaving for my studio. In my studio I listened to BBC Radio Four. Throughout the day the news bulletins covered another horrible traffic accident in England, in which three people had been killed. The news coverage included a live report from the scene of the crash on the M1.

    At no stage did BBC Radio Four even mention the four deaths in Dundee!!

    My letter of complaint did not receive the courtesy of a reply.

    Any analysis of the referendum shows the BBC to be the enemy. It cannot be allowed to function, as it is, in Scotland. It’s that simple.

  18. Clydebuilt says:

    Striking on Referendum Night……Big Deal…..The dead was done, They had carried out their dirty work!!!! During a two year period.
    They were so up set with their masters, that they ventured to strike, but only when polling was over, when all the damage their employment could inflict had been achieved.

  19. arthur thomson says:

    The BBC is indeed the enemy, along with the MSM. We won’t be able to fight these enemies head on in the foreseeable future. What we have in our favour, however, is that we can BE the news. The more active we are the more it will irritate those who want us just to go away. Of course they will present us in a negative way but what they will be unable to do is ignore us. Thus we will get publicity. We have to be patient and allow those who are not part of us but who have a social conscience to be offended by the lies and distortion spread by our enemies. It is going to be a slow and painful process but we have to acknowledge that we are engaged in a war of attrition. Simultaneously we have to use the process with ingenuity to become the best educated generation of Scots in the history of our nation. With practice we can learn how best to counter propaganda. We have lots to learn, let’s learn it together and succeed.

  20. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Great article. How fortunate that the Scots have this site for spreading proper researched and fair analysis. As an expat living in Oz it keeps me sane for there is nothing remotely near it here. Keep up the good work.

  21. Clicky Steve says:

    Reblogged this on clickysteve and commented:

    “Talking confidentially to journalists from BBC Scotland highlights that perceived bias was also recognised within Pacific Quay, its headquarters in Glasgow. ‘We spent two years preparing for the Referendum campaign, establishing protocols and non-pejorative language,’ says one highly experienced news journalist based in the city. ‘Many of the problems arose from London journalists being asked to report on the campaign in the final month or two with little or no knowledge of the Scottish political landscape.

    ‘Initially there were strict guidelines about not using loaded phrases. Words like “separation” were banned. However, the closer the vote got, the more these phrases were used wholesale by London-based colleagues. The SNP were frequently, almost ubiquitously, referred to as “nationalists”, something we had agreed not to do. The endemic inconsistency was highlighted when pro-independence parties were referred to as the “Yes campaign” while it was made very clear by London editors that under no circumstances were we allowed to call Better Together the “No campaign”.

    ‘While many of my colleagues in London would pride themselves in understanding the subtleties of Middle East politics, say, or those in Africa, there’s a kind of snow-blindness when it comes to Scotland. They can’t or won’t engage with the detail. Familiarity breeds contempt.’”

    1. jopparocks says:

      What on earth is the point of this comment. I read the article already.

  22. Catherine Jack says:

    A very good article, as usual. A couple of observations regarding broadcasting: if you look closely at the beginning, particularly of news programmes, with the BBC you will see lots of cameras, but not one single camera operator! Another thing which has been adopted by news, documentaries, food programmes etc etc is the Brechtian Principle of Theatre. You tell the audience what will happen, then you tell them what is happening and finally, you tell them what has just happened! No wonder we can’t get decent programming! But it wastes time and is cheap.

  23. Doug Daniel says:

    The anonymous BBC journalist says: “Many of the problems arose from London journalists being asked to report on the campaign in the final month or two with little or no knowledge of the Scottish political landscape.”

    Typical. “A big boy done it and ran away”. How utterly spineless.

    The problems with BBC Scotland were deep-rooted, and many of the worst things BBC Scotland did were done well before the last two months, and not by “London journalists”. Are the likes of Jackie Bird and Eleanor Bradford “London journalists”?

    Scotland’s voice was silenced by the BBC, or at least one half of it was. It’s not good enough to simply try and pass the buck. If BBC journalists knew something was wrong, they should have done something about it. A strike on referendum day would have done nothing – being absent on the day of the “crime” would not have absolved them of the responsibility of all they did in the months and years leading up to it.

    At least Derek Bateman took a stand. These journalists could have made use of Derek’s authoritative but independent voice to get word out about all the problems in Pacific Quay, but they didn’t. They made a few noises behind the scenes, and ultimately went along with helping neuter Scotland.


  24. Mor says:

    An excellent article which confirms my long held belief that the BBC is nothing more than a propaganda mouthpiece of the British state that reports opinions not facts and whose purpose is to “guide” the thoughts of the British public towards passive acceptance of whatever the order of the day is from Westminster – something that on the whole it appears to be very successful in doing judging by the passivity of the British public.

    I stopped watching British TV news and American TV news outlets a number of years ago after realising what their game was and nowadays get what Scottish news I need from online websites and international news mainly from France24 and Euronews.

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      “They [the British Establishment] know they can trust us [the BBC] not to be really impartial.” Apparently that was once said by Lord Reith. It shows how long the BBC’s bias has been going on,

  25. Amazing, insightful piece, thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It is clear that those outside the social and political landscape of Scotland do not understand this country, and that seems to be the root of the problem. I agree with Gordon Wilson that Salmond was too nice, especially over the currency issue, in pushing the idea of Scottish nationhood and identity. (will be reading his book.) This is why it is confusing sometimes when they call us ‘Nationalists’. If one wants to see true nationalism, we should look to the Catalans. Now there’s a country with the odds stacked against them but who can win an unofficial referendum already negated by the central state and constitutional court as illegal, never mind a binding one like ours. Scotland needs (civic) nationalism.

  26. John Souter says:

    The BBC has always been the ‘voice’ of the establishment – it’s only now, with the introduction of the www and the internet that we are beginning to be aware of the power, omniscience and duplicity the corporate media has enjoyed in their employment of fodder for the herd.

    But, as long as the herd is satisfied by the gruel of soaps, vacuous ‘celebrity chatterers and idiotic games alongside regurgitated historical fantasies the establishment will see no reason for change and neither will those who rely on the monthly salary cheque.

    Perhaps in time change will happen, but in the meantime perhaps it’s best just to view or listen and know your not being told the truth; only what they want you to believe is the ‘truth’ to suit their purpose.

    All the media rely ultimately on an assumption of trust – the BBC in particular is run as a trust – the dichotomy is it’s a trust that many no longer trust.

    1. jdman says:

      I found myself nodding all the way through this comment! vacuous is exactly how I would describe the pish the BBC/ITV pour out!

  27. Bill Gardner says:

    I very much agreed with this sad state of affairs at Pacific Quay.

    I ran the BBC TV’s Election Computing team in the 1980’s and apart from Ron Neil , much of the Current Affairs team then and probably now were dominated by OXbridge folk whose main interests lay in furthering their own careers, usually at ITN or Channel 4. Most of them would have sold their granny. The notable exceptions were David Dimbleby and a young post grad John Curtice, now a Politics Prof at Strathclyde , who plays with a very straight bat.

    We have recently seen a renaissance in Scottish publishing, writing, films, music, yet the BBC has failed again and again to let Scots make enough programmes for Scottish consumption with some notable exceptions , mainly due to starving the staff of money and putting placemen in when it suits management and others.
    The daft Vow by the three non- Amigos cannot be be delivered, but 35 SNP MP’ s can , so roll on next May for the next chapter of the long and winding road to full indepence and the scuttling of the Trident fleet , while we are at it

    1. jdman says:

      John Curtice plays with a straight bat?

  28. nigel says:

    Quite so Bella-although I greatly admire you continuing to watch/listen to the bbc, having to endure continuing unionist blatant propaganda, as it has been doing do(increasingly) over the last 50 years!

    And WILL continue to do so, now that we have , apparently, given the establishment carte blanche to feed us full of drivel till the cows come home!

    Anyway, I, along with at least 45% of true Scots, will get the REAL news from the internet, including blogs like yours, as always-which must be a bitter taste in the heart of the establishment, realising that there is sfa they can do about it!

  29. nigel says:

    Forgot to add, there is NO way on gods earth that the bbc north britain would EVER go on strike, despite what some “disaffected” journalists may say- ultimately, they will continue to put the value of their pensions above and beyond any “nationalistic” tendencies…………

  30. Al kerr says:

    A good piece …BUT…All very well after the fact…but the truth is those principled Scottish BBC so disgruntled did nothing and therefore a lot were tarnished with the same brush as their English counterparts..maybe if they had had the guts to stand up to their bosses we wouldn’t have been outside the BBC during the #indyref protesting at BBC bias…leaves a very BAD taste in my mouth and only a few Scottish BBC journalists come out of this debacle with any salvaged reputation at all…WE WILL NOT FORGET.

  31. Calum says:

    We kind of need to change to a new media model for any change to take place. Putting our faith in the existing structures such as the BBC is like voting Labour again and expecting it to change things somehow.


  32. nigel says:

    Could you name these journalists who salvaged their reputation, Al?

    Its simply cos I can’t think of any at the mo……….

  33. Mark Ryan Smith says:

    This is a superb piece. Everybody knows that the mainstream media speaks for establishment interests, but the referendum coverage made that more obvious than ever before. The current speculation about possible Westminster election debates makes the BBC look daft too. Giving a UKIP candidate a spot on a TV debate and excluding people from the Greens or the SNP is very obviously unfair. It does show, however, that the BBC sometimes isn’t that bothered about producing equal and objective coverage. Helping make extreme right wingers a normal part of political discourse while under-reporting and opposing a progressive self-determination movement are not things that make the BBC easy to appreciate.

  34. Brian Powell says:

    Edward Snowden risked a lifetime in prison to let people know what was happening in their country and around the world. Many others have done the same.

    it is weak, and frankly nauseating, for all those BBC journalists to have gone through the Referendum knowing what was at stake and what the BBC was doing, and not one blew the whistle.
    There were numerous respectable online outlets they could have gone to, but not a word.

    They are complicit, and deserve no sympathy or respect.

    1. liz says:

      Exactly, sounds like covering their arses. It wasn’t just in the last few weeks there was a problem as proven by Prof Robertson from UWS who covered an entire years worth of bias at Pacific quay.

      Andrew Marr interviewed Norman Chomsky and obviously learned nothing about how a journalist with integrity behaves.

      1. John Page says:

        Thank you for posting this brilliant Chomsky piece!

      2. Brian says:

        Chomsky the giant
        Marr the pygmy

  35. Gavin Mattocks says:

    One of the journalists I spoke to said, ‘Of the £350m raised by the license fee in Scotland, almost half goes south never to return and at least three quarters of what remains is controlled editorially from London. 100% of the licence fee raised in England stays in England.’ A quick perusal of departments providing nationwide services within the BBC shows that all are headquartered in England.

    The above statement jumps out at me. The irony of BBC Scotland complaining about some of the money raised in Scotland staying South of the Border whilst having their hands tied by London would be almost laughable were it not to hurt so much. This is the very situation that Scotland as a whole is in and they did all they could for it to remain so.

  36. AS far as I’m concerned these traitors from BBC should be remembered for the lying filthy scum that they are.
    ‘We’re all really regretting the total annihilation of the Yes Campaign on a daily basis for the last 2 years!
    Can’t we all forgive and work better together?’

    Do me a favour.
    No prisoners.

  37. Macnakamura says:

    Leaking a wee story to bet a big story out is a well worn tactic but not one BBC staff nor Trade Union official did so.
    Nuff said

  38. Buddie says:

    The BBC demonstrated their awesome power after Diana Spencer’s death in 1997, creating a gigantic grief-fest which almost backfired spectacularly on the Establishment.

    That was when they locked-in the licence fee forever.

    The propaganda value in the BBC is that the “message” is delivered subtlety “in between” the Blue Planet and Doctor Who, so the trust is already there.

  39. Lochside says:

    Long overdue article. Prof Robertson provided the ammo way before the REF was lost, but the ‘YES’ campaign failed to use it to pulverise the BBC. The Prof. was shamefully left to fight the lone battle while the disgusting BBC hierarchy tried to get him fired whilst also discrediting his professional ability.

    And Like @Doug Daniel the risible and frankly craven statement that ‘Many of the problems arose from London journalists being asked to report on the campaign in the final month or two with little or no knowledge of the Scottish political landscape’ ..made me grue.

    What about the anointed one:..Gary Robertson? or Glen Campbell the gallstone cowboy, who ripped up the SNP manifesto on a teatime broadcast? or how about Raymond Buchanan who not only misquoted Lucinda Creighton, the Irish gov minister, but was allowed to walk away unpunished and get a fat sinecure with the Weir group? Home grown quislings abound at ‘Auntie’.

    The BBC journalists at Pacific quay with the exception of Derek Bateman and Stuart Cosgrove were and continue to be cowardly lickspittles kissing the arse of the BBC purely and simply for the many pieces of silver they get for betraying and lying to their countrymen and women.

    Even more sinister was the cover up of the loyalist riot in George Square on the night of the 19th, with the firebombing and an attack on an SNP councillor. This was a conspiracy, that only belatedly are Police Scotland slowly dealing with. Meanwhile zero coverage by the BBC and msms continues. Maybe another reason for the unctuous reptile Murphy’s announcement to ‘review’ sectarian legislation when he is FM ?.

    The SNP is still displaying an unwillingness to take on the BBC, despite all the signs that the latter is continuing its unremitting attack on the SG and the 45% of us who want Independence. This will prove fatal in the GE next year. It was because they failed to actively work with the wide ‘YES’ movement during the REF campaign ,and instead of utilising information provided in spades by sites such as this, missed miserably to land a killer punch on the BBC.

    Its coverage of the ‘VOW’ alone was sufficient to have called the whole REF result into question. But at the risk of repeating myself…Alistair Campbell managed to push out Greg Dyke at the height of his powers from leadership of the BBC..pure and simply by using a political campaign of unrelenting pressure.

    Boothman and MacQuarrie may think they are invincible and unable to be budged. Well, its time to call their arrogant bluff and see just how secure they really are. But it needs the politicians i.e. the SNP SG to lead and the rest of civic Scotland i.e. us to join in. Defeat the BBC and we will win our freedom all the rest is a sideshow!

  40. Pam McMahon says:

    This organisation is dire, as are the other broadcast media and MSM currently inflicting their crap on the Scottish electorate. They deserve no sympathy or support from those of the Scottish viewers or newspaper-buyers who are still trapped in this hideous system.
    They left it too late -their sad arses are already on fire. .

  41. Angry Weegie says:

    The BBC journalists interviewed were simply lying when they blamed the problems on “London-based colleagues”. They may have some justification in complaints about big names being imported from London, but that doesn’t explain the bias. The vast majority of Scottish based journalists joined enthusiastically in BBC Scotland’s game of “Let’s Rubbish Scotland at Every Opportunity” which they’ve played ever since 2007 when the SNP first formed the Scottish Government. The run-up to the referendum merely saw an increase in the volume.

    If they “spent two years preparing for the Referendum campaign, establishing protocols and non-pejorative language”, then I can only say they wasted their time, because they made an absolute a**e of it. Every single thought of protocols and non-pejorative language went out of their heads the minute they appeared in front of the cameras.

  42. carjamtic says:

    In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance. Hubris is often associated with a lack of humility, though not always with the lack of knowledge. Those accused of hubris often come from higher social backgrounds, such as politicians or wealthy celebrities, than the accuser, who accuses them of having marginal experience with the realities of the topics they seek to address. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and nemesis in Greek mythology. The proverb “pride goeth (goes) before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (from the biblical Book of Proverbs, 16:18) is thought to sum up the modern use of hubris. It is also referred to as “pride that blinds”, as it often causes one accused of hubris to act in foolish ways that belie common sense.In other words, the modern definition may be thought of as, “that pride that goes just before the fall”. (BBC/Red Tories….Timberrrrrrr)

  43. dhilditch says:

    I wonder how many people stopped paying their tv license and I’d they can be forced to pay for this state propaganda mouth piece.

  44. MurderonZidaneFloor says:

    A compelling read.

    My own observation of the BBC’s indyref coverage was that at the Reporting Scotland, 6 and 10 News shows level the coverage was partial to ‘no’. However, much of the magazine coverage on Radio Scotland and Radio 4 was more even handed. I’ll go as far as saying some of the magazine coverage moved by DK towards ‘yes’.

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