Well what do you know, we’ve barely had time to recover from the air-raid bombardment that was Project Fear Mk1 when along comes its equally terrifying sibling. Project Fear, you may recall, was what the anti-independence Better Together campaign informally christened its strategy of instilling fear into Scottish voters during the referendum.
Project Fear Mk2 was launched last week and the target of this attack was not independence but its little cousin, Full Fiscal Autonomy.
Full Fiscal Autonomy is also known as Devo Max. It is also sometimes technically referred to as Federalism or Home Rule. For those who may not recall, Devo Max/FFA/Federalism/Home Rule was what Scots were promised if they voted No in the independence referendum, as the clip below shows.
You’ll note that the clip above shows senior BBC presenters telling Scots what was on offer in the event of a No vote. It was garbage. None of the three London based parties had any intention of handing over Devo Max or anything like it. But it was presented as though pledged as such by the BBC.
Thus, the SNP entered May’s General Election pledging to hold these three parties to account. Nicola Sturgeon very specifically spelt out what the SNP would pursue on behalf of the Scottish people. In the short term SNP MPs would seek to have the spirit of the Smith Commission honoured. With more austerity looming the SNP would seek to obtain powers initially in the draft report from Smith, but that were subsequently removed after pressure from Labour.
The First Minister also made it clear that the SNP would seek a mandate to pursue what Scots were promised prior to the referendum. The SNP group at Westminster would seek Full Fiscal Autonomy.
During the election campaign, there was much debate surrounding this pledge. Unionists appeared across the media warning Scottish voters that a vote for the SNP would mean a loss of £7.6 billion to Scotland. The message from Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems was hammered home in phone-ins, debates, interviews and news bulletins.
Scotland responded by all but wiping out its Unionist representation at Westminster. Scottish voters either didn’t believe the black hole scares or they ignored them. Of the fifty nine seats available to Scotland, the SNP won fifty six. The three London based parties now have one MP each in Scotland. They have, in terms of Westminster representation, become minor parties north of the border.
Last week the SNP announced its intention to seek amendments to the Scotland Bill in order to ensure it kept its pre-election manifesto pledge to the Scottish electorate. It sought to have Full Fiscal Autonomy included in the Bill.
This is where the BBC comes in. The issue of Full Fiscal Autonomy, as I have highlighted above, has already been debated and the Unionists lost hands down. But this isn’t how the BBC is presenting it.
Instead of correctly reporting it as a clash of mandates between the Conservatives and the SNP, the broadcaster is re-running the election campaign again.
In a mini-rerun of its referendum coverage, BBC Scotland last week managed to headline Oil-Scare statements from the OBR.
The OBR, created by George Osborne, issued its statement on the very day the SNP amendment was announced. How very convenient.
The SNP were of course then portrayed on the defensive by BBC Scotland.
In the BBC Scotland ‘Kaye Adams’ radio phone-in, a figure whose impartiality was questioned throughout the referendum was given a high-profile slot in order to attack FFA.
John McLaren’s input was as expected, with the former Labour party researcher painting a picture of doom and gloom should FFA be granted.
McLaren used to be part of the now defunct CPPR which regularly issued reports which challenged the Scottish Government figures relating to independence. During the referendum campaign the CPPR sought funding for its referendum work from the UK Treasury and the Scotland Office. I know this to be true because I have the response to the Freedom of Information request made to Glasgow University, which used to house the CPPR. A section of the email communication is reproduced below.
There was worse though when Ultra-Unionist Professor Adam Tomkins appeared on the Sunday Politics Show in order to provide his views on the SNP’s proposals. Tomkins’ Unionism is of the hard-line variety. The views he expressed on BBC Scotland were not surprising.
But why was he there at all? Tomkins is an advisor to David Mundell, the sole Tory MP in Scotland. Mundell is also the Secretary of State for Scotland. Mundell has a mandate to represent his local constituents and nothing more. Tomkins doesn’t even have that. Yet here he was making pronouncements on how the UK Government would be responding to the SNP mandate.
During his interview, Tomkins stated that the SNP had not accepted the referendum result. He wasn’t challenged by Gordon Brewer. The irony of his politically bigoted comment was lost on Mundell’s advisor. The SNP is seeking FFA precisely because they have accepted the referendum result. Tomkins and his ilk are in fact refusing to accept the General Election result which saw Scottish voters hand the SNP a whopping mandate.
In fact it isn’t just Tomkins who wants to ignore the General Election result, the BBC in Scotland seems intent on doing the same. The BBC destroyed its reputation during the referendum. It hasn’t changed in any way shape or form.
On Monday June 15th, Radio Scotland covered the issue of FFA. Quotes from Mundell claiming FFA would mean a £5000 bill for all Scottish people peppered news bulletins. But the Tory MP was nowhere to be seen. He apparently refused to be interviewed. There was no representative from the UK Government whatsoever throughout the broadcasts. However in another quite bizarre clip Tomkins was apparently presented as the voice of the UK Government.
The academic appeared again in another clip just before Deputy First Minister John Swinney was interviewed by Gary Robertson. Robertson adopted a now familiar tone and threw every Unionist argument he could find at Swinney.
Not one solitary representative of the UK Government faced any scrutiny at all. Whether Mundell’s deputy at the Scotland Office was asked to appear was never revealed. The coverage of FFA was an all-out attack on the SNP. When two journalists appeared in the studio to discuss the issue, we were essentially told that the SNP didn’t really want FFA, that it was all a ploy to create an atmosphere that might facilitate a second referendum.
Iain MacWhirter and Alex Massie are entitled to hold their views, but I am getting increasingly sick and tired of being told by a select elite what they think. Nobody voted for these two. What they think of FFA is irrelevant because Scotland voted for it.
Days after the SNP sought to amend the Scotland Bill, the amendments were debated in the House of Commons. What transpired was quite incredible. One amendment by the SNP sought to establish the permanence of the Scottish Parliament. This formed part of ‘The Vow’ signed by the leaders of the three London parties in the days prior to the referendum ballot.
The SNP amendment was defeated. It broke the Vow at a stroke. The Scottish Parliament can be dissolved if Westminster so chooses - without the agreement of our MSPs. The amendment for Full Fiscal Autonomy was also voted down. Arguably more newsworthy was Labour’s behaviour. It abstained in both votes. The Labour Party did not lift a finger to protect the Scottish Parliament.
There was more. Tory MP David Mundell, responding to SNP MPs who said the Vow had not been honoured, made an incredulous statement. He claimed it was a myth that Gordon Brown had pledged Federalism or Home Rule in the event of a No vote.
Brown, as you can see from the clip above, very clearly pledged the equivalent of Home Rule in the days leading up to the referendum vote.
The BBC, and it should be noted almost all of the traditional Scottish media, gave no coverage to Mundell’s bizarre claim. It gave scant coverage to Labour’s abstentions. Remember that Labour refused to vote against Full Fiscal Autonomy despite its only MP in Scotland arguing against it before the vote.
The BBC in Scotland is giving every indication that it will continue presenting Full Fiscal Autonomy as something that Scots have yet to decide on. It will rerun the election campaign scares because that is what it is set up to do. SNP politicians will be repeatedly pressed using arguments raised during and after the election campaign.
The BBC doesn’t care that Scots voted in favour of FFA. It dare not highlight that Westminster is effectively ignoring the democratic will of the Scottish people, for to do so would likely fuel a rise in support for independence. If a free media serves to hold those in power in check then Scotland is defenceless. We have reached colonial status.
A party which won the General election in only one part of the UK - England - is imposing policies on Scotland that we reject. It is refusing to implement policies we voted for. The Tories are acting with impunity because the Scottish media's intrinsic Unionism means it is unwilling to highlight what is going on for fear of stoking up resentment.
So my advice for anyone reading this article is simple. Buckle up and get ready for Project Fear Mk2. The scares and smears are coming back. The Unionists own the media. They still run the BBC in Scotland.
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GA Ponsonby is the author of 'London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum'.
Available to purchase in paperback or Kindle HERE.