'A disgrace': BBC condemned by Alex Salmond for referendum coverage

Former first minister claims Nick Robinson ‘should be both embarrassed and ashamed’ for his reporting during campaign

Alex Salmond has described the BBC’s coverage of the Scottish independence referendum as a disgrace, as he hit back at outgoing political editor Nick Robinson’s attack on “Putin-like” protests against the corporation.

Salmond said Robinson, who was the broadcaster’s political editor during last year’s referendum campaign, should be “embarrassed and ashamed” of his work.

It came after Robinson compared a protest at the BBC’s Scottish headquarters by pro-independence activists to “Putin’s Russia” and accused them of the “intimidation and bullying” of journalists.

During an appearance at the Edinburgh international book festival, Robinson said he regretted his part in a row with Salmond over allegations that the BBC’s coverage of the referendum campaign had been biased towards the no camp. But that did not excuse the protesters, who, he said, forced “young men and women who are new to journalism [to] have, like they do in Putin’s Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs”.

Speaking to the Courier, Salmond said he had avoided attacking Robinson because he had been ill. The BBC’s then political editor, who will shortly become a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, was diagnosed with cancer several months after the referendum.

“I am glad that the BBC’s Nick Robinson has been restored to health. For some months, I have said nothing at all about auld Nick because it is unfair to criticise someone who is not able to answer back.

“Now he is back. The BBC’s coverage of the Scottish referendum was a disgrace. It can be shown to be so, as was Nick’s own reporting of which he should be both embarrassed and ashamed.”

“To compare, as Nick did last week, 4,000 Scots peacefully protesting outside BBC Scotland as something akin to Putin’s Russia is as ludicrous as it is insulting. It is also heavily ironic, given that the most commonly used comparison with the BBC London treatment of the Scottish referendum story was with Pravda, the propaganda news agency in the old Soviet Union.”

However, according to Robinson, Salmond’s aides expressed the opinion that he was a “fair and professional journalist” during the referendum campaign. The Herald reported that he read aloud text messages to his reporter, which he said were from Salmond’s office.

One read: “It was a good couple of questions, you got a good answer. You’re an old hand at this and know the score.”

The other said: “We were upset about the package. Alex and my team regard you as a fair and professional journalist.”


Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

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