Skip to Content

Coffee House Steerpike

Spot the difference: BBC’s varying approaches to IndyRef2

13 April 2017

3:56 PM

13 April 2017

3:56 PM

Although Nick Robinson claims the BBC no longer has a duty to be balanced over Brexit now the referendum has been won, what about Scottish independence? With ‘IndyRef2’ on the horizon indefinitely, Mr S was curious to note the approach Andrew Marr took to interviewing the SNP’s Alex Salmond compared with unionist Ruth Davidson.

When Davidson — the leader of the Scottish Conservatives — appeared on the Andrew Marr show last month, the BBC presenter gave her a grilling on her objections to the SNP’s call for ‘IndyRef2’. As Davidson tried to argue that there was no appetite for a second referendum in Scotland, Marr interrupted her at several points:


Among his questions:

  1. Let me put it to you that the SNP is nonetheless the government of Scotland and they were elected on a manifesto which said with crystal clarity that if Scotland was taken out of the EU against her wishes that would be the material change which would signal another referendum, and therefore whatever you think of Nicola Sturgeon she is, unlike some other parties we could mention, sticking by her manifesto commitment.’
  2.  What’s your message to all of those people in Scotland who look at the prospect of leaving the EU and agree with what you used to say about it crashing the Scottish economy and being devastating for jobs and prosperity and the future of the Scottish economy and who want to stay inside the single market and want one last chance to say, ‘we don’t agree with this and we want to go in a different direction,’ and you and your leader in London are taking that possibility away from them?
  3. Which haven’t been included in the legislation that’s just gone through parliament of course, those things. Can you point me to a single actual change in policy or direction that Theresa May has conceded to the Scottish government. She said at the beginning she’d be listening to Scotland, nothing would happen without Scotland’s say and consent, and it seems since then there has been a deafening silence. She is leader of the SNP, so it’s not surprising.
  4. And another on Sturgeon:

RD: She’s doing it against the wishes of Scotland, and she also the First Minister of Scotland and has a responsibility…

AM: … She’s nonetheless… She’s the leader of the biggest party in Scotland, she is the First Minister of Scotland.

RD: She is, and she has a responsibility to all of Scotland, and this week she reneged on that –

AM: And to abide to her own manifesto.

So, when Alex Salmond appeared on the show last week to bat for the other side, surely he received a similar grilling? Well, perhaps not. In contrast to Davidson’s interview, Marr asked Salmond mainly open-ended questions which appeared to lack the same level of scrutiny as those to Davidson:

Among his questions:

  1. Does flexibility, so far as the SNP’s concerned, mean that you could accept a second referendum after Brexit is completed, as David Mundell says?
  2. This is quite a change in tone from the Spanish government in particular [referring to Spain’s claim that it would not veto an attempt by an independent Scotland to join the EU]. How important is that in the case for independence in Scotland? Is this a really crucial moment for you?
  3. What’s your view about holding an advisory referendum if Theresa May won’t give you a referendum before the end of the process, which could be several years away?
  4. Why do you say [that Theresa May’s line that ‘now is not line’] won’t last? Why do you think that’s the case?
  5. And, finally, a slightly tougher line: But in this context, according to the polls, at least half of Scots don’t want a second independence referendum for the time being and therefore Theresa May can say, alongside Ruth Davidson, this is not the time and as it were, get away with it for quite a long time to come.

Mr S just hopes it’s not a sign of things to come…

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments

Comments

The Spectator Comment Policy

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

Close