2007 - 2022

The Next Tipping Point is a Public Broadcasting Travesty

The BBC has made a serious mistake. Whilst criticisms of BBC Scotland date back to 1998 (and way before 2014) they have become more entrenched and more widely felt throughout Scottish society. The problem is not just confined to those of us who perceive it to be ridiculously politically biased, but for a wider group who regret: the infantilism of its news output; its imperviousness to new talent; its super-serving of certain demographic groups;  its west-coast bias; its lack of serious investment; its inability to innovate and super-conservative commissioning process; its lack of diversity; the role of Mentorn (and on and on and on like a Call Kaye phone-in).

But the decision yesterday to cancel – then row-back and pretend they hadn’t cancelled – the First Ministers daily corona briefings are a new level of shambles. In the face of a tsunami of criticism the BBC was forced to make a rare public appearance and try and front up their ridiculous decision:


The decision we were told was based on “editorial guidelines”, though what these were or who controlled them was less clear.

Incredibly Ian Small (“Head of Public Policy”) made the following claims: 1) that things were getting back to normal in terms of the coronavirus (not sure what world he’s living in) 2) that they had to review how to get information across to people (the daily briefings have had huge viewing figures, this is a nonsense) 3) that they are not really stopping the briefings – just doing them when they are deemed important (and yet the thing that is actually working about them is that they are regular and daily updates). In a fast moving situation with localised outbreaks, regional lockdowns, and new guidelines being announced, having a central single voice of authority with expert advice has seemed invaluable.

But Small’s most dubious claim is that these changes have not come about from political interference. This despite the fact that we can see this happening in real time with Jackie Baillie and George Foulkes tweeting their own glee:


Essentially Nicola Sturgeon is being punished for competence. It looks very much like the state broadcaster has caved-in to political pressure because the ‘threat of a good example’ was unacceptable for a political establishment already on the ropes.

The irony of all of this is that Nicola Sturgeon had been fastidious in NOT being political and avoiding making political capital from the crisis. The medical and public health strategies have been marked by their pragmatism and diverging only from UK or English policy when it was deemed necessary. It is precisely this lack of politics that has gained her respect in the wider Scottish public (and beyond). It is this that’s intolerable. It is not being political that is being punished it is being respected. It is not about being partisan it is about being stateswoman-like.

We are now in the farcical situation where – as Blair Jenkins (the former head of BBC Scotland News) – has laid out, SKY News currently carry the daily briefings and are likely to carry on. Are we really to be in the situation where a commercial tv station deems the First Ministers public health announcement but the public broadcaster doesn’t? On a further technical point Jenkins points out that leaving the sat vans and kit in place but not using them is a serious misuse of investment. That’s expensive equipment not to use.

This is an appalling decision which has already backfired massively and will continue to do so. The BBC is already seen as a partial player in Scottish politics and will now be seen as an active actor by a far wider section of society. This has terrible consequences for the reputation of public broadcasting and the people within the organisation who are good journalists, producers, technicians and editors. There has never been a time when we need good solid clear communication and to build non-party political trust.

This will rightly be seen as a highly-partisan decision aimed at silencing the First Minister.

New Tipping Points

AS we witness the polls continue momentum it’s becoming clearer we have reached a new tipping point. Survation yesterday announced the latest polling.

Holyrood voting intention from Survation shows the Greens up to 10% (+1) and the SNP up to 42% (+3) on the Regional List …



The new @Survation Poll – Scottish Independence Referendum “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Yes 53% (+3) No 47% (-3) 1,018 respondents, residents of Scotland, aged 16+, fieldwork 2-7 Sept 2020. Changes w/ Jan 2020.

While some maps were described as showing Orkney and Shetland as a penal colony for the Lib Dems.


More and more I’m seeing the case for independence made by people who would never have made it before.

A friend of mine who has been a life-long member of the Labour Party, Mary Lockhart, and not just a member but a worker and a candidate and a representative has described how she has shifted on the constitutional question:

“I am finding it very difficult to be entirely rational in the face of the election of Boris Johnson, and the fact that a proven serial liar, responsibility dodger, racist, sexist, anti-democratic sociopath and his ragbag of the wealthy corrupt not only won an election, but months later, his Party is still polling on a par with the no longer minimally socialist Labour party. This makes an objective assessment of where I am on Scottish Independence difficult. I think a third option now would fall, and that people are polarised to the extent that all it would do is lessen the majority for whichever of Yes or No won, and leave us still in a very divided Scotland, with hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, feeling betrayed and angry. I no longer believe that I will see socialism in my lifetime, whether in an independent Scotland or in a terminally sick and divided UK, because I think the dying days of rampant unregulable transnational capitalism will last for a very long time, and end in a horror which has only just begun. But I do think the UK is already profoundly undemocratic, and that there would at least be some positive challenge towards real change, some bounce of optimism, alongside the initial hardships of an independent Scotland … and perhaps a climate in which fresh ideas would be seen as risks worth taking in a society worth building…So, for reasons which have little to do with nationality or economics, I favour independence.”

This view is increasingly prevalent amongst Labour members alienated from their own party and positive about independence. The reality was spelt out by the former leader Kezia Dugdale this week:



If the actions taken by BBC Scotland were intended to prevent the exposure of the First Minister to the wider public and put the Scottish Government in a bad light it has spectacularly backfired. It is a travesty to threaten public health for political interest.

Comments (36)

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  1. Welsh Sion says:

    Maybe it’s not news to some of you – but in the same sweep as cancelling YOUR FM’s briefings on the BBC, they have also decided to limit OUR FM’s briefings to the nation, unless “significant announcements are made”.

    Now, I’m no supporter of ‘Welsh’ Labour, but I do think Mark Drakeford has presented a fairly reassuring presence at the podium during the pandemic and there’s a small amount of quiet respect for his approach – not least that he communicates directly with the people of Wales clearly and effectively. He is, by nature, not one given to fnaugh fnaughing and he also respects science, scientists and health officials.

    This is to let you know, Scotland, that you are not alone in this, and annoyed at the State propaganda machine ramping up the English/British agenda – when we’ve already learnt that Johnson can’t be arsed to give his own presentations. Bloody angry doesn’t quite cover it.


    Yours as always.

    1. Mary says:

      Why do your part still mostly hang o to the wm coat tails why not stick together with Scotland as both our countries have been used and abused for centuries as voting fodder for labour.

      1. Welsh Sion says:

        Call it Stockholm Syndrome, the Welsh Cringe, the longer history of being dominated by an eastern neighbour, the lack of any sort of ‘Treaty’ of Union (but a full-blooded annexation), the lack of institutions, native law, a ruling class and a whole host of other things besides.

        Scotland, at least had (and has) a few of the positives – like ‘Treaties’ of Union and institutions and legal systems – even if they have all be attascked and undermined by those ‘parcels of rogues sold for English gold.’

        I recommend you read more about our situation and historical background here:


        – Proud Member of SNP and Plaid Cymru

        1. malcolm says:

          Hi Sion – good to hear from you. Malcolm London Branch……..

          1. Welsh Sion says:

            Keep in touch – and anyone else from Branch who knows me! 🙂

    2. John B Dick says:

      Thanks for that useful briefing.

  2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    This is the problem when editorial decisions are made in accordance with what bureaucrats deem ‘appropriate’, ‘right’, or ‘in the public interest’ rather than democratically in response to market forces (people voting with their remote controls).

    Mike’s right: Sky News would never assume such an editorial policy; it will continue to broadcast Nicola’s daily briefings indiscriminately for as long as they remain the popular spectacle that they are.

    1. Charles Gallagher says:

      What about us who either don’t like Sky or simply can’t afford it? And I’ll answer my own question, that is the supposed function of a ‘Public Service Provider’ instead we have the equivalent of Dr. Goebbel’s ‘Propaganda Department’ in fact the EBC (English Broadcasting Corp) have gone further!!

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        Aye, but the whole idea of neutral ‘public service’ platform is no longer tenable. To avoid bias, you need to take your content from as many different competing sources as you can, set each against the other, read between the lines of conflict, and make your own judgements. We’ve lang syne discovered that there’s nae sic a thing as truth-withoot-tears for silly fowk.

        Complaining about the BBC’s lack of neutrality is a bit like greitin owre the news that Santa daesna exist.

  3. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    “… the infantilism of its news output; its imperviousness to new talent; its super-serving of certain demographic groups; its west-coast bias; its lack of serious investment; its inability to innovate and super-conservative commissioning process; its lack of diversity; the role of Mentorn (and on and on and on like a Call Kaye phone-in).” But apart from that what has BBC Scotland NOT done for the people of Scotland!

    An excellent piece, Mr Small.

    1. Donald Campbell says:

      Absolutely, nailed it.

  4. Axel P Kulit says:

    Mary Lockhart is both right and wrong. The capitalism we know will probably die but like a wounded beast lash out and damage as much as it can. Capitalism will adapt and may become Social democracy (so many socialist regimes have become dictatorships that this may be the best option).

  5. Wul says:

    The BBC in Scotland: “… its imperviousness to new talent…”

    Absolutely! Spot on!

    I think this every time I see Jackie Bird front yet another Hogmanay Special (what the f**k is “special” about it? Same old pish as every other year). Surely to God they can find someone new to do this job. Don’t these dinosaurs ever feel the good grace to give some aspiring young broadcaster a wee chance? A national TV company should be a catalytic hive for breeding new talent and ideas and diversifying the voices we hear. Once these over-ripe puddings are the BBC potty nothing can get them off.

    1. Brotyboy says:

      If you’ve ever been on the amateur stage you’ll know that the old guard have to be dragged off kicking and screaming before they quit.

    2. Presenters seem to be in place till they die

  6. Wul says:

    Excellent piece.

    One leader’s approval increases the more we see of her. The other leader has to hide in order to slow his rate of disapproval. That tells us something profound about each one.

    1. Anna says:

      I think that’s is it in a nutshell. Nicola is gaining grace across these Isles but Boris is losing it everytime he opens his mouth. His fake bon homme is worn that thin its sharp enough to cut him. He can’t seem to string a coherent sentence together and when he does its nothing to do with the question. Each week he is dismantled by his own words by Keir Starmer with Ian Blackford taking him to task on what Keir is scared to raise.
      Then Nicola with the kryptonite the Tories fear most . Honestly and facts. She stands there daily and gives 100 +10% good bad or ugly an informative and essential review of the virus. The reporters questions answered over and over again as they never pick a new subject if the question has already been asked but still Nicola answers with knowledge and with medical backup for what she doesn’t know. She does roll her eyes which isn’t a bad thing but just “och I’ve answered this twice ” roll. Even when it put Scottish government in a bad light she admits owns and corrects. Now others are seeing her for the first time and drawing comparison with Boris. They are saying how great she is and how dreadful Boris is. When it was said live on air by Piers Morgan that she was a great stateswoman and how impressed he was with her and who stands up every day and takes everything that is thrown at her but still gives the essential information Scotland needs. During this second wave we need as much information as possible to make sensible decisions and cut the numbers back down quickly . When you hear they are coming down its great and you sigh with a relief as you know the hardships are working. To take Nicola off the air is political and nothing less but at the beginning with figures shooting up again we need these briefings. In more rural areas Internet isn’t reliable or not at all and the older generation get their info from TV not online. So it is irresponsible also to the health of our nation. . Now I’ve rambled long into the morning and still feel angry . Thank you if you made it this far.

  7. Richard Easson says:

    The FM is being censored for doing her day job, representing the Scottish Government’s approach to and handling of a fluid pandemic situation.
    I can’t go on without swearing and I don’t normally swear so that is all.

  8. w.b. robertson says:

    Famliarity breeds contempt. NS could get her daily message across in half (maybe even 10%) of her screen time. However, like all politicians, she seems to be in love with her own voice. And in the course of a future “normal” winter flu epidemic does she feel it will be necessary to continue her TV dates?

  9. Ewen A. Morrison says:

    It’s truly remarkable when the likes of “former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale” is noting that there’s been “a considerable shift from No to Yes”… the recently broadcast surges in support for Scotland regaining its independence seems more successful than one could hope for? The so-called ‘UK’ has had its time and the mainstream media must now find a new title for these islands!

  10. Graeme Purves says:

    The timing is interesting. Did the BBC get Donalda MacKinnon to sign this off because she would be oot the door before the sh*t hit the fan?

  11. Frances Findlay says:

    BBC are proving time and again that they are English Tories .

    We in Scotland are not so easily fooled that by removing OUR FIRST MINISTER from our screens we will change our allegiance Nicola Sturgeon is giving the Scottish public an update each day on a PANDEMIC as that is what is needed she is not using it as a political stage.

    BBC is not needed especially when we, the general public have to pay for a licence to view it . Well I for one and I hope may others will abandon BBC and their licence I can stream any program I want without giving the BBC a penny to have them flout their Tory propaganda

  12. Craig Fraser says:

    BBCScotland – the mouth piece of the English state broadcaster in Scotland. At evey opportunity BBC Scotland and BBC UK denigrate the democratically elected government of another country including it’s leader i.e. Scotland and oor Nicola. If the Scottish Government lead by Nicola Sturgeon developed a cure for all cancers, they would spin it Macmillan nurses face redundancy? Just because Nicola’s COVID-19 briefings are concise, factual and supported by relevent MSPs and clinicans with full question and answer sessions after each briefing, this shows up what an absolute shambles we have in Westminster and cannot be tolerated. That oppostion parliamentarians see these briefings as SNP political broadcasts shows how low they have fallan, the fact they did not have far to fall is irrelevant.

  13. Robert Nugent says:


  14. tartanfever says:

    This is an excellent piece.

    It’s important to break down the ‘editorial line’ from the BBC and precisely what that entails.

    This means that every day, BBC Scotland will have to be given access to the figures before the rest of us hear them. They will then base a decision on whether or not to broadcast the briefing or not.

    Well it begs the questions, just how much notice do they require ?

    What time of day are the figures compiled ? – Will there have to be any changes to how/when data is collected for it to be possible for this information to be disclosed to the BBC in time for them to make a decision then to broadcast ?

    How will we know, the Scottish public, if a broadcast is going to happen or not ?

    What criteria will the BBC use to justify broadcast/non broadcast ?
    With that in mind, look out for –

    a drop in the number of cases = no broadcast
    a ride in the number of cases = broadcast + first question from BBC pundit during the Q&A.

    It would be easy to compare the daily numbers from Scotland against England and Wales and if there is a corresponding broadcast or not, and what question the BBC reporter then asked (ie, was it a question that compared England/Scotland and designed to show Scotland being worse off)

    Lastly, it’s not just leaving equipment in place, it’s the broadcast team too (unless there is a pool team that all broadcasters are using)

  15. Arboreal Agenda says:

    Given independence, and the seeming widespread dislike if not hatred of the BBC in Scotland (is that true though?), I assume the BBC would cease to exist in Scotland (is there an SNP policy statement on this?), so I am wondering would a new, Scottish publicly funded national broadcaster replace it? Or is that now an outdated model and commercial broadcasters would rule the day? It feels like quite an important question / issue because whatever one’s views on the corporation, what it does provide is quite significant (employment, infrastructure, funding for a host of schemes, support for minority interests / underrepresented material, investigative journalism etc etc) but hear next to nothing about what would come after the BBC, if anything.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      But the prevalent view on this thread is that the BBC doesn’t provide any of the goods you adumbrate. From a ‘Scottish’ perspective, it’s pure ‘English’

      1. Arboreal Agenda says:

        That wasn’t my point really – yes, not point in another ‘English BBC’ but the principle of a public service broadcaster is still there and the things I mention can all be part of that but this time, as a genuine Scottish service. Is that on the table? If the Beeb just stopped broadcasting to Scotland and closed all its premises, stopped the funding and other schemes, it would leave quite a hole to be filled, no, and filled miles better?

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          I appreciate your argument. But the prevalent view here is that the BBC is so bad, no one would notice any ‘hole’. Indeed, if the oppressive Beeb just stopped broadcasting to Scotland and closed all its premises, stopped the funding and other schemes, the prevalent view is that it would be a relief.

          The question you’re asking is not what would replace the BBC but what the prospective Scottish state’s plans are for the authentic public service broadcasting that we evidently lack at present.

          I dread to think…! Maybe it would be a service that revolved around a populist slot for our glorious leader.

          1. Arboreal Agenda says:

            So, in essence, the answer to my question is there are no concrete plans for a post-independence public broadcaster. Maybe the BBC Scotland could just become BC Scotland. And there always STV! I’d miss Still Game, and Fags, Mags and Bags.

          2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            I don’t know; maybe there is and I’ve just not heard about it. (Maybe the dastardly BBC is just refusing to report the plans in a pique of anti-Scottish bias… You know what thae English and their Unionist lackeys are like.)

            As I’ve said elsewhere, there’s a distinct lack of prospectus on not only on the future institutions of an independent Scotland but also (more worryingly) on the political process by which those institutions would be constituted.

            I know that the received wisdom is that all the detail will be decided after independence. But how and by whom?

            As part of the referenda of any future referendum on independence, there should at the very least be some legally binding prospectus for such decision-making that sets out just what its democratic processes will be. Otherwise, by voting ‘Yes’, we’d just be giving the Scottish government carte blanche to stitch up power as it sees fit.

            This is precisely why I spoilt my ballot paper in the 2014 ‘pseudorendum’: I’ll get pie in the sky when I die.

  16. Al Stuart says:

    Mi7 is alive and well!

  17. Alistair Taylor says:

    Daybreak in British Columbia, (though i sometimes call it Western Nova Scotia).
    Smoke fills the air from fires in USA.
    My UK passport runs out next week, and I’m not renewing it. Bollocks to that.

    Keep up the great writing Bella Caledonia, and onwards to an independent Scotland.

    1. Craig Fraser says:

      my wife and I have not renewed our passports for 2 years we want Scottish passports

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        I want no passports.

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