The BBC’s Pickle Nick


It’s now been confirmed what those of us who were paying attention had known all along. During the independence referendum campaign of 2014, senior journalists within the BBC saw their job as being to discourage and belittle the independence campaign, and not as being to report fairly on the biggest constitutional question facing Scotland for three hundred years. During that campaign, the BBC, a supposedly public service broadcaster, wasn’t acting as a public service. It was acting as a state service acting in the interests of the British state.

First of all was the news that the BBC’s Inside the Indyref documentary was to feature the story that the BBC’s senior political reporter Nick Robinson had taken over a news item first presented by BBC Scotland correspondent James Cook. James had presented a fairly balanced and nuanced report on a speech from the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, on his view of the currency union then being proposed by the Scottish Government in the event of independence. The speech didn’t rule out a currency union, and just last year Mark Carney confirmed that that a currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK would have been entirely feasible. At the time, Alex Salmond believed that Mark Carney’s speech had been helpful to the yes campaign.

That was, more or less, what James Cook had presented in his report. In the report James talked about how the Bank of England believed that “careful consideration” would be needed before entering a currency union. But Nick Robinson wasn’t at all happy with this. He took over the story and suddenly it became a dire warning of the economic cataclysm that would befall us all should a currency union go ahead. It would, according to Nick, raise the spectre of turning Scotland into Greece. Only without the sunshine, the boozed up Ryanair flights from Prestwick, and the ouzo. Nick explained that a good reporter should explain a story to the public and in his opinion the governor of the Bank of England was clearly warning that the sky would fall in.

Although this incident was reported in the press last week, and trailed as forming a part of the BBC’s documentary series on the referendum, it was omitted from the broadcast programme. Because reasons.

Now Nick’s intervention wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if there were other incidents, even just one incident, of a senior BBC reporter looking on a colleague’s reporting of an event during the independence referendum campaign and saying, “Here, just hang on a minute. That’s really terrible. It needs to be firmed up so that it paints a far clearer picture.” And it just so happened that the clearer picture to be painted was one that was favourable to the yes movement.” That’s what a lack of bias looks like. That’s how any reasonable minded person would define fairness and balance.

Such interventions do exist, unfortunately they only exist in one of those parallel universes visited in the cartoons by Rick and Morty. That would be the one in which Nick Robinson was in fact a giant sentient pickle. Pickle Nick! Although to be fair there are plenty of people in the Scottish quarters of this universe who believe that the BBC is disproportionately managed by vegetables anyway. However in this universe, you will search in vain for an intervention from a senior BBC figure seeking to present a news report in a more favourable light for the yes campaign. That’s about as unlikely to happen as an episode of Question Time from Motherwell that doesn’t feature a flute band member having a rant about how much he hates the SNP to a predominantly Brexit supporting audience. Now I’m not saying that it’s never happened. It’s just that if it has then I’ve got a televised interview with a pickled gherkin.

That was last week. Or in the case of the flute band member, most weeks. This week’s episode of the Inside the Indyref documentary features a contribution from former BBC correspondent Allan Little. Allan presented a documentary during of the indyref campaign in which he travelled to Scandinavia and looked at other small independent nations and how applicable the Nordic model would be to the very different circumstances of Scotland. It was widely regarded as being a balanced and fair contribution to the independence debate by someone who was concerned to present the issues in an equal handed manner. Unfortunately Allan doesn’t think that all of his BBC colleagues had the same concern as he did.

According to Allan, certain employees of the BBC thought that their job was to demonstrate the “foolishness” of voting yes, and believed that the independence movement was motivated by “chippy Scots” and the “wilyness” of Alex Salmond. In other words, the indyref coverage of some BBC reporters was motivated by their racist and negative stereotypes of Scottish people. Their working assumption was that independence was wrong.

In saying as much, Allan was merely confirming what the former Channel 4 presenter Paul Mason had said in the aftermath of the indyref that the BBC was a “Unionist institution”, and said of the Corporation’s news coverage during the indyref, “Not since Iraq have I seen BBC News working at propaganda strength like this. So glad I’m out of there.”

This is just the latest in a long series of issues that the BBC has with reporting fairly on the Scottish constitutional debate. Allan’s revelations come just as the BBC is coming under justified criticism for its repeated and consistent failure to give political coverage to the SNP, the third largest party in the House of Commons. Like the Westminster Parliament and the British government, the BBC is another British institution which is systematically failing Scotland. Those failures are not going to be remedied or addressed by an underfunded ghetto channel. They go to the very top of the BBC, and flow from the DNA of an organisation which regards itself as a British institution.

The question is, how can an institution which sees itself as the cultural glue of the UK report fairly on a democratic movement which seeks to remove one of the constituent parts of the UK from British rule. It’s obvious from the BBC’s repeated failures that it can’t. It is philosophically and institutionally incapable of doing so. It’s long past time that the Scottish Government started to press for the devolution of broadcasting. The BBC has got itself in a pickle, and it’s not just because of Nick.

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30 comments on “The BBC’s Pickle Nick

  1. […] Wee Ginger Dug The BBC’s Pickle Nick It’s now been confirmed what those of us who were paying attention had known all […]

  2. Davy says:

    If you work for a company and you are caught deliberately lying, using that company as a platform to do so. You would at the minimum be disciplined by the company and at the max dismissed.

    No company I have worked for would allow such deceit by an employee or employees without taking action.

    What makes the BBC and the rest of UK media so different.

  3. astytaylor says:

    Who pulls the strings and calls the shots at the British Broadcasting Corporation?

    Anyway, Spring is coming and the daylight is stretching. Most folks would be happier and healthier switching off the darned television contraption and getting outside, before their brains turn to mush.
    There is only so much of Distorting and Misreporting Scotland a person can withstand.

    • Saor Alba says:

      Exactly what I did after the Indy referendum. Living without TV since then and life is fantastic and much more meaningful and enjoyable. No newspapers either.

  4. Colin Dawson says:

    The BBC; aka the Bettertogether Broadcasting Corporation.

  5. Tol says:

    SNP has no leverage in Westminster. Heck, lets be honest, SNP is are constantly the punching bag of all parties. If Scotland wishes to put pressure to bear, it must take actions designed too create leverage and force change.

    SNP actions in Westminster have been shown to be ineffective…Westminster is based on winner take all…eg, just compare SNP to the DUP. Sadly, the most powerful SNP actions to date are not about Westminster at all.
    – Walking out of Westminster
    – The Article 50 case.
    Everything else has been a pantomime giving Westminster legitimacy.

    YES has to find a way to bring real pressure…the only way I can see is to:

  6. The Gillies says:

    Are we really surprised.? Those of us who really believe in this conspiracy theory are not the people who have to be convinced – it’s more like how do we convince the public who aren’t believers.

  7. Andrew says:

    The BBC campaigned for a no vote in 2014. They’ve admitted it. And it’s been campaigning against Scottish independence ever since. It’s not going change next time either.

    So we must insist that it registers with the Electoral Commission as a campaigning organisation for No.

  8. Welsh Sion says:

    Re: Allan Little.

    I’ve mentioned this elsewhere as a point in fact regarding my own experience with said BBC journalist.

    During the SNP Annual Conference in 2014, a forthcoming General Election candidate politely suggested to Allan Little that he interview me for a BBC broadcast regarding the upcoming Indy Ref 1. It was thought a YES voice (outside the usual MSM portrayal of ‘only Alex Salmond’s gig’) might be useful and enlightening to others. Not so, according to Mr Little. The rest of the UK would have no interest in the views of a Welshy on the independence of Scotland. )Coz he was a YESSER? – I let you decide …)

    Suffice to say, during the same conference I was interviewed by inter alia Chinese TV, Swedish TV and a Danish newspaper. This last even had a feature on me along with a detailed explanation of the SNP standpoint on YES to independence in the newspaper.

  9. Robert Graham says:

    Tempted to type ” no shit Sherlock ” once you have woken up to their methods it becomes so obvious what is being done with their Licence money .

    Brewers wee dig at the SNP Sunday slot masquerading as a Scottish Political programme just reinforced my opinion of this propaganda corporation ,

    The short discussion on Sundays show re- the BBC was so biased it was embarrassing , this BBC were given a clean bill of health ,oh dear dear and folk fall for this tripe ,

    The inclusion of Blair Jenkins just confirmed my opinion that the “YES” movement were duped into believing he was working for them and he represented the face of reason to middle class voters ,

    A whole show with not one reference of Scotland voting to stay in the EU was baffling , the dubious Tory MP whos constituents voted remain not being questioned why he wasnt representing them followed by the Labour clown Murray speaking about English constituencies just confirmed how devious this Tory party are and how confused Labour are .

  10. Hugh Lou Nisbet says:

    I am constantly surprised at anyone being surprised by the £340 MILLION reasons A YEAR that the BBC has for denigrating Scottish independence. I think that if enough people explain this to enough people no sensible Scot will ignore this fact and then they will ignore the BBC’s views on indy.

    • Grafter says:

      Ignore the BBC completely. Why do people continue to whine and complain about the propaganda being spewed out by this organisation and most puzzling of all why do they give them their own money every year in the form of a “licence fee” to be marginalised and abused by their programmes ? Their lies and misinformation are legion where their endorsement of the establishment is obvious. They are part of a corrupt so called “democratic” system which we being a colony cannot escape from unless we become independent.

  11. Macart says:

    Broadcaster, yes. ‘Public service’, not so much. Has become something of a bad joke these days tbf. And so long as they exist? That’s the line they will continue to pursue.

    Big fibs only work so long as the source is trusted. I’m guessing most folk aren’t so trusting of aunty these days.

    • Jason Smoothpiece says:

      Sam, you are wrong, the BBC are very much an excellent public service.

      They are an excellent English regime public service and do their duty daily.

      Dont take my word for it ask the security services.

  12. Terence Callachan says:

    There is no British Broadcasting Corporation it is English and only uses the word British to confuse people into thinking that it represents the views of England Scotland Ireland and wales, it clearly does not and never has, it represents the views of England ,including those who support England being in control of Scotland wales and Ireland who live in Scotland wales and Ireland.
    I do wish people would stop saying British when what they are referring to is English .

  13. bringiton says:

    The position of many Scots during our last referendum was:
    “In the beginning there was a British state and will be for ever and ever…ahmen”.
    From this,many adopted their political decisions,based on the default.
    No thinking required and reinforced by Project Fear.
    No longer,Brexit has demolished the concept of a British state and replaced it with Little England.
    No amount of propaganda from HM press here in Scotland can now change that perception.

  14. Kirsty Wark, Andrew Neil, Gavin Esler, Andrew Marr, Gordon Brewer, Tom Gordon, Fraser Gordon, (a Gordon For Me?) Sally Magnusson, Jackie Bird, Glenn Campbell, Paul Hutcheon, David Clegg, David Torrance (I wonder what he did to get hidden in the bowels of the Westminster library?) Torcuil Chrichton ‘Sevvie’ Carrell, Toodle Oo The Noo Taylor, Nick Eardley, Lord Haw Haw, Tokyo Rose, Joseph Goebbels, Winston Smith, Lord Darling of Flipper, The Clunking Fist, Ruth the Mooth, Murphy the Egg man, Oor Wullie from Cyril Smith’s and Jeremy Thorpe’s Party, and every Dead Tree Scroll Brit and US owned rag.
    This time we call them out.
    Attack, attack.
    ‘Ding’ them all.
    They are a ‘dingin’ disgrace to Scotland.
    I am wary of offen-ding poor Annie by being a sweary cyberpunk.

    Ding the lot of them.

    As I often observe.
    Send a haggis to their studios when they ask for a Pro Independence Fall Guy to appear on or be interviewed by any of the above.

    If I offend, good.
    Not before time.

  15. JGedd says:

    A lot of comment on social media from English remainers shows that many thoughtful voters there are now aware of BBC bias and are complaining bitterly. Strangely enough, their comments read uncannily like the thinking often expressed by indy suporters here about media bias and its malign influence on the supposed democratic process.

    The penny appears to have dropped with a significant number of English remainers who now experience the same disquiet about what were trusted institutions that many here feel, as well as a sense of betrayal. There is a deep unease developing in the UK about the body politic which may or may not play well for our future in Scotland.

    There are always dangerous undercurrents in any time of drift and chaos and we can already see those forces at work who feel themselves empowered. The future for the UK is at the moment unknowable so we should be prepared to take our opportunity to leap for safety in Scotland.

    Any signs of awakening in former No voters are consciously being acted against by the media. We should do the opposite and encourage those who might be reconsidering to think again about independence when the UK is foundering in the wreckage of its own inconsistencies and inadequacy. Long concealed by a complicit MSM, people can now see the wizard behind the curtain revealed as a clown with no wonderful abilities, just a sly conjurer.

    Time then for a new campaign and there’s even talk of a new WBB….There might be sunshine on Leith after all, and everywhere else too. Hope.

  16. susan says:

    What surprises me is that ppl find BBC bias surprising. The BBC is, to it’s core, British nationalist. Always has been, always will be. Don’t pay the licence fee.

    • Jan Cowan says:

      Yes, yes, yes, Susan.

      As was pointed out to me years ago – the clue is in the name.

    • Welsh Sion says:

      Correct, Susan.

      In the History of Wales book by John Davies that I recommended to your compatriot Andy Anderson in a previous thread you will find this.

      “A national [BBC] service for Scotland was created in 1932, but no similar arrangements were made for Wales … Plaid Genedlaethol Cymru launched a campaign to withhold the licence fee and its president, Saunders Lewis, proved skilful in answering the arguments of the corporation … it was widely suggested that the BBC was intentionally anti-Welsh. John Reith [a Scot … *sigh*] was deeply offended. ‘Welsh nationalists,’ he stated in his autobiography, ‘were impervious to reason or fact where broadcasting was concerned.’


      The Welsh Region of the BBC began broadcasting on a separate wavelength on 4 |July 1937; although there was considerable criticism of the programmes, a vital battle had been won. It was a battle which would have to be fought again, a generation later, following the introduction of television.”

      [S4C – The Welsh Fourth Channel – started broadcasting on 1 November 1982 after a threat of a hunger strike to the death by the then Plaid Cymru President, Dr Gwynfor Evans caused Margaret Thatcher to perform the only U-turn of her career as Prime Minister.]

      Source: Davies, John. A History of Wales. Penguin Books, 2007: 572-573.

    • Phil says:

      Yes. Yes. Yes Susan. Please all, believe we non-payers. There is life, there is news (if you dig for it), there is a vital worldview without paying the BBC britnat tax.

  17. Derek McGaw says:

    We rarely watch the BBC, yesterday I inadvertently switched on the tail end of Distorting Scotland, my, how Sally McNair has aged.
    This led to a discussion with the Mrs as to whether having to constantly read out negative pish about Essnpee Bad is damaging the newsreaders health.
    Jackie Bird is looking more and more like a waxwork, clenching those jaws is taking it’s toll!

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