The Scottish National Party have written to the BBC concerning “editorial judgements and basic errors” made in their coverage of an Independence rally, which took place in Glasgow on Saturday 2 November.
The letter, delivered to BBC senior management by the SNP, describes the BBC’s coverage of the rally as “jarring and minimising”. The report, which was aired after the evening news, showed crowds dispersing from George Square but failed to show the estimated 20,000 people who attended the rally.
The letter asks: “There was no equivalent event of this scale held by any other party in the UK on Saturday, so a major news event in itself was wiped from the main coverage for what editorial reason?”
The letter also highlights that in a Sunday evening news bulletin, BBC presenter Clive Myrie referred to the SNP as “The Scottish Nationalist Party” – rather than the Scottish National Party:
“All assurances you can give me that the BBC will accurately and fairly build in the complexities of a devolved UK would be welcome. And if you can guarantee me that the BBC will at least get the SNP’s name correct from now on, all the better.”
Stephen Sherry, an independence supporter from Glasgow, said it should also be noted that:
“…while the BBC failed to show footage of the thousands of independence supporters who gathered in George Square, they managed to show footage of Unionist protesters at the back of the Square. This is a deliberate effort to minimise support for Independence in Glasgow.”
The letter comes amid criticisms levelled at various broadcasters and political commentators over their errors in fairly and adequately reporting on Scottish politics.
Earlier this month, Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s Senior Political Editor, incorrectly reported on Twitter that the pro-independence rally was organised by the SNP, when it was actually organised by The National, a prominent Scottish newspaper.
The SNP have also criticised Sky News, who have invited Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, and Jo Swinson to a live television debate ahead of the General Election, but failed to invite SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, despite the SNP being the third largest party in the United Kingdom.
Nicola Sturgeon tweeted:
“Simply outrageous and unacceptable to exclude @theSNP – the third largest party in UK. What are the other parties so scared of that they won’t agree to real debate? And why are broadcasters letting down voters, especially in Scotland?”
Ms Sturgeon later tweeted the results of a YouGov pol, which states that only 9% of people think televised debates should be limited to Tory, Labour, and Liberal Democrats, while 53% think The SNP should also be included.
Kirsten Oslwald, Business Convenor of the SNP, said:
“The disgraceful decision to exclude the SNP from the Sky News debate is deeply undemocratic and completely inexcusable. This is another example of the Westminster establishment closing in on itself and showing no regard for Scotland. This election will be one of the most important in Scotland’s history. The result could determine the UK’s relationship with the EU and the course of Scotland’s relationship with the UK – making it all the more crucial that the SNP are fully included in the debates.”
In March, SNP MP Ian Blackford and MSP Keith Brown raised two formal complaints against the BBC for “deliberate editorial decisions taken to cut off parliamentary coverage on News Specials from the moment Ian Blackford spoke in the House of Commons.” The two complaints are as follows:
“…that BBC news and current affairs programming falls below the standards expressed in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines.”
“…the BBC is in breach of its mission and responsibility to serve the interests of licence fee payers in all parts of the UK in equal measure.
The complaint also states that within a week, there were three separate instances where Ian Blackford spoke in the House of Commons, and all three were omitted from BBC One coverage. His speeches were instead aired on the BBC Parliament channel, which reaches an audience share of 0.06%, as opposed to BBC One coverage which has a reach of 22.25%.
The complaint goes on to state that, “This pattern of behaviour follows recent research and media reports which revealed that Newsnight did not feature a single SNP politician in the entirety of February,” and that in January, Politics Live had just two SNP guest slots out of a total of 79 guest slots.
The BBC responded to the SNP’s letter regarding their coverage of the independence rally in a statement provided to The National:
“This was a replay of an earlier live report from the protest and our reporter made it clear that thousands of people had attended the pro-independence rally, with organisers estimating around 20,000 people there and the police putting the figure closer to 10,000 people. We made it very clear in the report and in the live introduction that crowds had started to disperse following Nicola Sturgeon’s speech.”