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News in Scotland
News in Scotland
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brian-taylor.jpg
Brian Taylor was secretly filmed giving political education on Scotland to
what appears to be BBC staff South of the border

 

Scottish independence: BBC political education about Scotland revealed

A series of political presentations by BBC presenters – now circulating the internet – has exposed much of the reasoning behind BBC editorial direction on Scotland’s independence referendum.

The presentations appear to be for the purposes of internal political education for BBC reporting staff South of the border and were secretly filmed before being published on Youtube.

The most intriguing presentation was given by BBC Scotland’s political correspondent Brian Taylor which gives an insight into the editorial reasoning underpinning BBC Scotland’s output in relation to Scotland’s independence referendum due to be held in autumn 2014.

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Much of Mr Taylor’s analysis involves a dissection of First Minister Alex Salmond’s political tactics surrounding Scotland’s plebiscite:

 

 

 

On the matter of timing Mr Taylor said: “Why does he [Alex Salmond] not call a referendum tomorrow?…Answer, because he fears he might lose. So why doesn’t David Cameron step in and hold a referendum tomorrow? He fears he might lose.”

Mr Taylor asserts that Alex Salmond’s motivation behind holding the referendum late in 2014 is to “sew division” among Scotland’s Unionist parties. Mr Taylor goes on to explain that the Unionist parties are keen for an early referendum to avoid such a scenario.

The BBC correspondent adds that by late 2014, “it may appear that the Conservatives may be about to Govern the UK on their own.” and so Mr Salmond wants to frame the contest “not between independence and the Union but independence and the Tories.”

Mr Taylor then drew attention to Mr Salmond’s intended question on the ballot paper – ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?’ and indicates that this is controversial because psephologists argue that the word ‘agree’ is inviting as people “don’t like to disagree” and the question makes no mention of leaving the Union going on to note that this will be challenged “very vigorously”.

Addressing the matter of having a third question on ‘devo plus/max’ on the ballot paper Mr Taylor said of the SNP leader: “he wants a fall back…he wants a parachute should independence fail to win.”

Referring to the matter of having ‘devo max’ on the ballot paper Mr Taylor asks the pertinent question about who the question mandates. He points out that it neither mandates the Scottish Parliament nor Westminster.

This, he reasons, is because with devolution there must be consensus across Britain but Westminster does not back ‘devo max’ and he concludes that there is no obvious way of seeing how ‘devo max’ could be an option on the ballot paper.

Mr Taylor sums up by arguing that Scotland is stuck with “Unionist parties tiptoeing round some form of common ground, Mr Salmond still trying to play them off each other” and added that his “guess” is the referendum vote will be “October 2014 and it will be a single question”

Much of what Mr Taylor had to say is shared by analysts on both sides of the constitutional fence and so are nothing new but the Youtube video is useful as it does reveal something of how the BBC works and thinks.

The videos also include a presentation of the arch-Unionist BBC presenter Andrew Neil who gave his views at the presentation. Mr Neil said that the SNP had changed policy on the Euro in order not to “frighten the horses”.

Given that tensions surrounding the independence referendum many will find the publication of these Youtube videos helpful in understanding how analysts are viewing the issues surrounding the independence referendum but in particular the editorial views of BBC Scotland revealed by Mr Taylor’s presentation.

Analysis

If, as seems likely, the Youtube videos are for the BBC’s internal training purposes we can not be surprised.  This week’s Economist cover page story really did demonstrate a crying need in England’s media for political education in relation to Scotland, especially so when ignorance turns to crass stereotyping.

The publication of the videos also provide another service to Scotland which is that the views of Brian Taylor are largely shared by Scottish political analysts but seldom reported or widely disseminated.

That Alex Salmond has a strategy to try and divide his Unionist opposition is obvious. That he wants to portray the referendum as independence versus the Tories is also a no-brainer. Also, Mr Salmond would be a political fool not to be preparing a “parachute” in the event of a No vote and so Mr Taylor is telling his audience what many, with a political antenna, already know – Salmond is a smart politician.

Mr Neil’s contributions appear less judicious but he is not a correspondent and his views are his own.

Given the sensitivities surrounding the referendum the coverage of the BBC and the mainstream media will be under scrutiny like never before. Nationalists must think about the issues instead of believing themselves to be victims. Feelings of victimhood lower self-esteem and will make voters less likely to take risks with their vote.

The SNP realised that reacting viscerally to media bias, real or perceived, was counter-productive and they now win elections by instilling confidence in Scots and turning away from grudge politics.

Correction: The Youtube videos were not secretly filmed as the article states and are available at the BBC College of Journalism. Thanks to Mark MacLachlan for bringing this to our attention.

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