That’s Svetlana the masseuse away…I’m in my white towelling robe now advertising my sponsor – Arran Aromatics…mmmmm
Just to change tack before it’s pick-up-the-kids time, I have to say I am very doubtful about one of the causes celebres of “Beeb political bias” and that is the Raymond Buchanan report on his interview with Lucinda Creighton in Dublin.
If you look again at the film and read the transcript after wiping your mind free of previous thoughts, you will hear Lucinda give what sounds to me like a clear indication that she imagines Scotland starting afresh with an application to the EU and it taking some time, a point she reinforces in the second answer with a comparison with Iceland which is currently outside and which had to start from scratch. She equates the two countries using one as a model for the other. She did not say Scotland would be inside while applying which seemed strange since that was really the key point of the SNP’s position.
When I heard it, I wasn’t left in much doubt that she imagined Scotland starting off outside although, as I say, that was not stated explicitly.
On the basis of this interpretation, Raymond was entitled to suggest this chimed with Moore saying Scotland would be outside asking to get in. Think of it in reverse. If you heard Lucinda say Scots would have to apply and it would take time, (without adding that Scotland was unique and would remain inside during this process), and then Moore saying Scotland would be outside, would you really conclude that were quite different statements?
I thought at the time and think now, that Lucinda’s revised statement, after a call from Nicola, was a retrospective attempt to change her line to fit in with the SNP position. If she really was saying Scotland would remain inside the EU and negotiate – which I am convinced is what will happen – why didn’t she say so? She herself points out that Scotland’s position is unique as it is already “In” so given that, why didn’t she make clear the application would come while remaining a kind of member in limbo? It is the one feature of Scotland’s case that makes it unique. So what is a reporter to do? Put yourself in his shoes and ask what way you would read her statement. You might say in your script that she “appeared” to chime with Moore but that only softens it a bit.
I think she was caught out in the moment. Raymond caught her before she got her story straight. I don’t mean to say she doesn’t believe the SNP position is correct but at the moment of interview that’s not what was in her head. That’s not Raymond’s fault. He was entitled to draw the conclusion he did. (Maybe it was looking up into his dreamy Hebridean eyes that confused her).
But here’s where I think this item went a bit wrong.
I’m hoping it’s safe to say this now that Raymond is off to be Mr Corporate at Weirs…except he just lives round the corner and is much bigger than me.
As one who has followed this European issue perhaps too minutely for too long, the follow-up question that begged to be asked – I think – was the killer every time this comes up.
It is: “If Scotland is outside applying for membership, can you explain the process by which it was expelled?”
There is only one correct answer to this and it is: “No. I haven’t a clue” And neither does anyone else. So if you ask that one follow-up you immediately cast doubt on the first answer and the viewer gets the point that the interviewee is making an assertion…busking it.
There is no legal process in the EU that allows a member state or part of a member state to be expelled. They only got round to working out a process for allowing a member who wants out, to do so, in the Lisbon treaty. The only route would be a treaty amendment relating only to Scotland, which would require unanimity and referendums in different states and take years. It won’t happen.
Barroso was making an unfounded assertion at the behest of worried member states when he claimed Scotland would be outwith EU law after a Yes vote. It is designed to put you off independence because it complicates life in Brussels when it’s their job to complicate life for us.
So I think maybe a trick was missed in what was a stand-up interview, that is, grab the minister and fire off a couple of quickies rather than a sit-down considered discussion where nuance is appropriate. It isn’t making excuses to say that reporting with a camera this way, grabbing what you can while mentally working out the structure and script and dealing with a camera crew you’ve never met before, almost certainly with the clock against you, can be nerve-shredding experience. Honestly, I’ve done it.
On the other hand, you could always add a line into script to say something like: “The minister didn’t explain how Scotland would be expelled.”
What it shows isn’t a deliberate bias but how easy it is let something slip by you and how you have to be constantly up to speed on relevant topics. In my view all reporters should be regularly briefed on this type of area to minimise the chances of either error or interpretation open to doubt in this crucial period for Scotland. Because the management of the news department is so poor, this doesn’t happen. There is effectively no leadership. Journalists either know their stuff or they don’t so it’s a matter of chance who asks the questions.
But what I cannot accept is the BBC’s refusal to cover the revised statement from the same minister. That is dereliction of duty in my view since they were happy to have her say what she did the first time and yet her next statement isn’t news? There was a clear responsibility on the BBC to cover the clarification and I expect the Trust to agree. And the upshot? More bad publicity for the BBC, standing accused of bias and looking like it’s running scared of the guys at Newsnet. I suspect the management just don’t care about that. They sail above it all oblivious to the harm done. It’s a pity the Trust has no sanctions to impose.