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Reporting Scotland – A Weapon of Mass Destraction

repscotBy G.A.Ponsonby

I created this website as a means of posting the odd off-beat article.  I had spent six years on the Newsnet Scotland website and, after the referendum, was looking forward to taking things a whole lot easier. 

During the six years at Newsnet I spent a considerable amount of time analysing BBC Scotland's political output, from the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi to the independence referendum itself.  It opened my eyes to the institutional corruption that guides its political output.

After the SNP swept Labour aside in May's general election there was a brief period when I thought that things would change at BBC Scotland.  In my naivety I led myself to believe that the near wipe-out of Unionist parties would be the catalyst for a wholesale shake-up of things at Pacific Quay.

That dream has since been exploded.  The BBC has not changed.  It is back to its pre-referendum colonial worst.  These articles are my way of letting them know we won't forget and we won't give up.

Last week I published an article which analysed a news story that was scheduled to be the top item on that evening's Reporting Scotland.  A Glasgow based university had spent £5.6m establishing a campus in New York.  A delay in awarding the campus a licence to teach and award degree courses meant the expected revenue stream had not yet started to flow.

BBC Scotland reporter Glenn Campbell was the reporter handed the role of crafting a narrative in order to 'inform' the public.  Campbell excelled with help from a Labour MSP called Jackie Baillie.  You can read my take on Glenn's efforts by clicking here.

Weapon of Mass Destraction

So successful was their partnership that Glenn and Jackie reappeared a mere five days later.  The subject matter this time was a trifle more significant than a university campus.  The story centred on the nuclear weapon system situated on the Clyde.

Sunday November 1st witnessed delegates at the so-called Scottish Labour Party Conference vote against the renewal of Trident.  The decision left Labour in Scotland with a stance that was at odds with that of its parent party.  UK Labour backs the Trident nuclear weapon system and its renewal, which is estimated to cost at least £167bn.

Elements of the Scottish media, together with members of Scottish Labour, have tried to present the historic vote at the Perth conference as proof of the Scottish party's much heralded autonomy.  Since replacing Jim Murphy as leader, Kezia Dugdale has issued statement after statement insisting that the party in Scotland is now more autonomous than ever before.

Less than 24 hours after the vote, the claim was blown to bits by no less a person than Labour's Shadow Defence spokeswoman Maria Eagle.  As a member of the Westminster Shadow Cabinet, Eagle outranks Kezia Dugdale.  As the Labour party's spokeswoman on defence, the English Labour MP speaks with authority.

Quizzed by a BBC Radio 4 presenter on Scottish Labour's opposition to Trident, Maria Eagle replied:

"I welcome the input of Scottish Labour and its conference into our internal debate, they're one of many important voices that there are across the Labour movement about this issue. But let's be very clear about what this does and does not mean. This does not change our policy. Defence isn't a devolved matter, so Labour party policy has to be set at a national party level, at a UK level."

Oh dear.  The statement was a huge slap down for Kezia Dugdale and her Scottish colleagues including Labour's sole Scottish MP Ian Murray.  The strategy of presenting the Trident vote as proof that there was an autonomous Scottish Labour party, which could hold views on devolved and non-devolved issues alike, lay in ruins.

Pretty much every news outlet ran with the slap-down story.  Given the significance of Maria Eagle's words and the profile Scottish Labour's vote on Trident was already enjoying, they couldn't do anything else.

Even BBC Scotland - briefly - couldn't ignore the significance of the intervention of Labour's Shadow Defence spokesperson.  The story was the top item on BBC Scotland online.  Note, not merely the politics section, but BBC Scotland's main news page.

trident split

However BBC Scotland's approach to the story then began to alter.  On that evening's radio news programme Newsdrive, one of the first news bulletins featured a very short anodyne summary of Maria Eagle's statement.  The 4pm bulletin wasn't extensive, and it didn't include the damaging comments in the clip above, but it suggested the intervention was being treated seriously and would be expanded on as the programme continued.

But then something weird happened.  Thirty minutes after the short bulletin aired, the Trident story was inexplicably altered.  At 4:30pm the following bulletin was broadcast followed by a mengthy interview with a union official based at Faslane.

The intervention of Maria Eagle had vanished from BBC Scotland's broadcast news.  It had been replaced by a far less significant story about an unhappy union rep.  The Unite official may well have had a justifiable grievance with his union over the vote at the Scottish Labour conference, but was this really a more significant story than Maria Eagle's intervention?  

Moreover, the union rep's claim that jobs were now at risk because of the conference vote, was arrant nonsense since Maria Eagle had very publicly confirmed UK Labour still backed Trident renewal.

By 5pm Newsdrive had merged the two stories together and this time broadcast a very short clip of Maria Eagle.

The next bulletin featured just unite again

It was clear that BBC Scotland was desperately trying to play down the Maria Eagle intervention by promoting a rather meaningless gripe from a local union rep.  But where did the 'Unite split' story come from?

Well it had surfaced hours earlier on Good Morning Scotland when BBC Scotland's political reporter Glenn Campbell revealed it to listeners.

In the recording above, Campbell refers to email exchanges between Unite's Clyde rep Derek Torrie and the union's leader Len McCluskey.  These emails were the basis for the BBC's 'Unite split' story.  Not revealed in the clip above is how Campbell came to be aware of the emails.  The emails were released by none other than Labour MSP Jackie Baillie.

Keen listeners would have heard Baillie praised by Unite official Derek Torrie in one of the earlier clips from Newsdrive.  But why was Derek Torrie's annoyance with Unite leaders still headline news on Monday evening when the story had already been covered by BBC Scotland on Sunday?

Why did BBC Scotland reporter Glenn Campbell attempt to divert the Trident story away from the chaos within the Labour party and onto a relatively insignificant gripe from a local union official.  I tweeted my suspicions regarding Campbell's motives shortly after one of his broadcasts.

trident tweet

By 4pm when Newsdrive aired the union spat had been well and truly overtaken in terms of newsworthiness and significance by Maria Eagle's comments.  However for reasons unclear, the producer of BBC Scotland's evening radio programme chose to give the union story more prominence than Eagle's intervention.

Reporting Scotland

By 6pm when the flagship evening news programme Reporting Scotland was broadcast I was already convinced that Maria Eagle's damaging comments would not feature.  As you can see from the clip below, my fears were well founded.

No mention whatsoever of the very significant intervention by Maria Eagle on an issue that was dominating Scottish news.  The comments from the UK's Shadow Defence spokesperson were completely ignored.  Instead Reporting Scotland supplanted the Eagle story with the unite row which of course was promoted by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie.

Viewers whose main source of news is TV, would have been completely unaware that Scottish Labour had been slapped-down by the UK Labour party.

On Sunday I wrote that the Scottish media would move to protect Labour in Scotland from serious scrutiny over its catastrophic Trident stance and what I termed its Tax Credit Con.  By Monday my prediction was already coming to pass with the downplaying of Maria Eagle's comments.  By Wednesday BBC Scotland was reporting that the Scottish Government was coming "under pressure" over Labour's pledge to reverse Tory cuts to Tax Credits.

NHS Crisis

I'll leave you with yet another reminder of just how blatant BBC Scotland manipulation of political news is.  On Tuesday new figures showed that the Scottish NHS had hit its Accident & Emergency waiting time targets for the third month in a row.  The good news has followed months of failing to meet targets and numerous damaging headlines on BBC Scotland.

Below is how BBC Scotland reported this good news.

nhs bad news


Thank you for reading this article.  Please consider donating to the following appeal to make a documentary exposing the BBC's reporting during the referendum. CLICK HERE.


# Dan Huil 2015-11-04 18:43
I belive the bbc, especially in Scotland, has just given up on trying to carry on with a pretence of political neutrality. It doesn't care anymore that more and more people in Scotland are boycotting the unionist media.
# Ponsonby 2015-11-04 19:38
I tend to agree Dan. I am convinced they know people like us are onto them. They manipulate the political news for the masses who don't really follow politics. I also believe fewer and fewer are buying it.
# Paul snowdon 2015-11-04 20:39
You can fool some of the people all of the time....they're the ones Pacific Quay concentrate on.
# Cadogan Enright 2015-11-04 22:47
I am donating when I get paid later this week.

I already donated to the Referendum programme, but we really need you to to keep writing articles like this.

There will be no chance of real democracy anywhere in Britain or Ireland until the media understands it's role in a real democracy.

The BBC is at the centre of the failure of the 4th estate, and this is where the ficus must be.
# Ponsonby 2015-11-04 22:51
Thanks Cadogan

I hadn't planned to continue writing that much but the BBC is as bad as ever so decided to carry on for a bit.

Thanks for donating. I spoke with the producer last night and know that work has already begun on the project.
# Pam McMahon 2015-11-08 12:57
Thanks for your sterling work. Have "London Calling" on my Kindle - Absolutely superb.

Have already donated to the documentary, and will give more when I have stopped donating to the People v Carmichael case, which is dear to my heart, up here in the Far Beyond.

Still waiting to see which particular BBC drone the Weapon of Mass Destraction is sending our way before tomorrow's court case reconvenes. Eleanor Bradford dies on hospital trolley after waiting for 6 months for another SNPBAD story? Jackie Ballie leaves school unable to do simple arithmetic - failure of SNP education sytem.....err Cumbria County Council? "Same thing anyway" Gordon Brewer.

london calling