by Rab Bruce’s Spider

The BBC comes in for a lot of criticism from a great many people on the Yes side of the Indy argument. This is not because it is the only culprit, but because of its claims to be impartial and balanced. Anyone looking closely at the BBC’s output in Scotland will soon see that this impartiality is a myth.

In recent weeks, we have seen several examples of how this manifests itself, with BBC journalists joining in the condemnation of Alex Salmond for hosting his show on RT, the Russian State broadcaster. The reason for the criticism was that, by appearing on RT, Salmond was somehow supporting Vladimir Putin. Wings over Scotland did an excellent demolition of this argument which you can read here.

The worst thing about this rather silly argument was the total lack of self-awareness of the BBC in condemning RT for its bias while appearing to be oblivious to its own inherent biases.

Then we saw the typical anti-SNP angle coming out when the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Government’s plans for Minimum Pricing on alcohol can go ahead. This has been a long-running saga, and it is definitely a triumph for the Scottish Government. Whether this policy will succeed in improving the nation’s health remains to be seen, and the results will not be known for several years at least, but the Scottish Government are to be commended for at least trying to do something. misuse of alcohol, as with tobacco and drugs, is a symptom of poverty. Minimum Pricing will not cure that, but it is one tool in the armoury to combat binge drinking on low-priced, strong alcoholic drinks. Without all the economic levers of a normal nation at their disposal, the Scottish Government must use what powers it has to try to improve both the health and social wellbeing of its citizens. The fact that this move is supported by most health professionals shows that it is a well intentioned move.

Naturally, as with any Government legislation, there are those who disapprove. It must be said that few of these people have any positive suggestions to make as to how the problem of low cost alcoholic drinks should be tackled, and the main objection seems to be that this policy is doomed to failure. Now, it may well be that it will not work, but surely it is better to try. After all, there were similar outcries when the Scottish Government banned smoking in public places and when they introduced the 5p charge for carrier bags. Both policies, and particularly the carrier bag charge, were derided, but both have produced very positive results in health and the environment. Perhaps we should give Minimum Pricing a chance.

Naturally, the BBC has led the criticism of the policy, pushing the line that we will see binge convoys of vehicles travelling across the border to buy cheap booze and bring it back to Scotland. It is worth remembering that the BBC highlighted similar claims when the Scottish Government introduced the lower drink driving limits, but that story seems to have died a death. What the latest headlines ignore is that Minimum Pricing is targeted at the super-strength, low price drinks which are commonly purchased by teenagers. Whether any of them would wish to spend money on petrol to save a bit on their beverage of choice seems highly doubtful. No doubt a handful of people will think it worthwhile if they can fill a transit van full of slightly cheaper booze, but it seems extremely hypocritical of the BBC to suggest this will be a major problem when they ignore the fact that many people who live in the south of England do precisely the same thing on cross-Channel trips to France.

Amidst all the hysteria, it also seems to have been forgotten that most drinks purchased by the majority of people will not be affected since the drinks already cost more than the initially proposed minimum. Not that you would know this from listening to the BBC.

And then we have another example of bias, this time bias by omission in order to protect the UK Government from criticism. The BBC, remember, is the UK State broadcaster, with a mission to protect and promote the UK, hence its antipathy towards the SNP who are, after all, a threat to the integrity of the UK – if integrity is a word we can use to describe anything to do with the Westminster Government. This, according to its critics, is why the BBC has failed to report on a study which suggested that cuts to social services have resulted in 120,000 additional deaths since 2010 in England alone. The reason the BBC did not report this is because, according to them, the research was not up to scratch. You can read more about this in an article by The Canary.

This excuse is quite laughable. Not only was the research carried out by several Universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, but it was published in the British Medical Journal. However, the BBC is so desperate not to criticise the UK Government over such dreadful confirmation of its murderous social policies that it used criticism of the report from another scientific group as justification for not reporting the news.

Now, you might argue that this is an editorial decision for which there is some justification. It would be a weak argument, but it could perhaps be made. However, what that line of justification ignores is that the BBC in Scotland is only too ready to report any claims from so-called independent Think Tanks when the news is in any way critical of the Scottish Government or can be used to criticise the SNP. Many of these so-called independent sources turn out to be funded by groups who are active opponents of the SNP in particular or Scottish independence in general, yet that does not prevent the BBC showcasing their “findings". Perhaps the BBC has turned over a new leaf and will now introduce an extremely rigorous vetting procedure before reporting the findings of any scientific or economic study, but you probably shouldn’t count on it. This is, after all, a broadcaster which will go to any lengths to equate the SNP with anything bad. Even a short radio report on the military coup in Zimbabwe mentioned that Robert Mugabe had been in power for 37 years which was “even longer than the SNP have been in power".

What? Seriously? What on earth has Robert Mugabe got to do with the SNP except if one has a desire to equate them to a dictator? Is that sort of comment impartial and balanced?

But balance rarely enters into it where the BBC are concerned. The recent highlighting of cases of harassment and abuse in public circles has spread to Scotland, and the BBC has been quick to doorstep SNP MSP Mark McDonald in light of allegations made against him and his own admission that his behaviour had not been acceptable. If he has been guilty of inappropriate behaviour, then it is right that this is newsworthy in light of his public position. However, the BBC has notably declined to adopt the same door-stepping technique in relation to Labour’s Alex Rowley whose alleged unacceptable behaviour has involved a Police investigation. Similarly, the BBC have been at pains to play down the scandal of Tory Councillors who engaged in homophobic and racist abuse on social media. Again, the BBC might well argue that they need to take editorial decisions on which stories to cover, but surely it must be more than coincidence that SNP politicians are subjected to far more rigorous scrutiny than their Unionist counterparts?

Some might say that we should ignore this sort of thing. Simply not watching the BBC should be enough of an antidote. However, the real problem here is that their bias is so relentless and there are so many people who still trust the BBC that any campaign for independence faces a massive uphill struggle. IndyRef2 may not be happening soon, but we need to keep calling out the BBC on this sort of thing, and we need to keep telling people about their constant misrepresentation of Scotland. Question Time should happen every day, and it is we who must do the questioning.