THE BBC has been told to “get its act together” after a flagship politics show broadcast discussions about Scottish independence without any input from pro-Yes contributors for two consecutive days.
Politics Live aired a three-minute segment on the constitutional debate on Wednesday after a new poll recorded record levels of support for independence.
However, only hardline Unionist MPs had been invited on the panel. They dismissed the survey results and suggested the UK Government should block a second referendum, irrespective of next year’s Holyrood election results.
No pro-independence arguments were heard, with the only other contribution coming from political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
On Tuesday, the four panel members were Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, former Labour MP and Unionist Trevor Phillips and Politico UK political editor Jack Blanchard. Again, a debate on Scottish independence was held without any pro-Yes voices.
In response, the SNP have called for Westminster to hand over broadcasting powers to Holyrood.
Depute leader Keith Brown told The National: “The BBC needs to get its act together – this Westminster-centric coverage being beamed into our homes from London without a Scottish majority pro-independence voice just isn’t good enough.
“All Politics Live is doing here is highlights the need broadcasting powers to be devolved.”
On Wednesday’s show, host Jo Coburn pointed out that the UK Government’s failures during the coronavirus pandemic seem to have contributed to a surge in support for Scottish independence.
It came after a new Ipsos Mori poll found 58% of Scottish voters back a Yes vote. Almost two-thirds said Westminster should agree to contest another referendum within five years if the SNP win a majority of seats in the 2021 Holyrood ballot.
Coburn asked Tory Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi if the UK Government would “grant permission” for indyref2. He insisted the UK is “stronger when we are united” and claimed that the Internal Market Bill, which has been rejected by the Scottish Parliament, will “create that wealth in Scotland that [Nicola] Sturgeon and others want to see created”.
Asked for her thoughts, Labour MP Liz Kendall urged the Scottish Government to ditch plans for independence altogether to focus on “things that really matter to Scotland”.
On Tuesday’s programme, writer and former Labour politician Phillips claimed the Union “has provided a really fundamental value to this nation”. He likened pro-Yes politics to the identity politics which are “tearing apart” Donald Trump’s America.
At no point were the views challenged by a pro-independence voice.
A BBC spokesperson told The National: “Since Politics Live returned in early September the SNP has featured on over 20% of the show’s editions. Given the party holds 7% of the seats in the UK Parliament, that number demonstrates how seriously we treat the SNP and the broader
importance of Scotland and the future of the Union.
“This week we interviewed the new leader of the Scottish Conservatives on Tuesday’s show. There’s no obligation to include an SNP voice in any specific edition. On Wednesday, a poll was published while we were on air which we referred to briefly in the programme. We would not treat a single opinion poll as so important that we should book an extra guest in the course of a programme to talk about it. It wouldn’t be practical or proportionate.”
BBC bosses also came under fire from the SNP earlier this year when Politics Live was accused of “repeating the mistakes of 2014” after Kuenssberg “parroted Tory attack lines” during an analysis of the constitutional debate. She suggested that an independent Scottish economy would have struggled to cope without funds from the Treasury during the coronavirus pandemic.