Tom Peterkin: Bleating about the BBC does little

Yes supporters protested at alleged BBC pro-union bias before last year's referendum. Picture: John Devlin

Yes supporters protested at alleged BBC pro-union bias before last year's referendum. Picture: John Devlin

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IN TERMS of the sheer number of delegates, last weekend’s SNP conference at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow was a hugely impressive event. The thought of 3,000 attendees, many newly signed up and experiencing the SNP’s spring gathering for the first time, must have put the wind up the Nationalists’ opponents.

Judging by the faithful’s reaction, an undoubted highlight was Alex Salmond’s book signing session on Sunday. Greeted as a hero by the adoring masses, Salmond indulged in a question and answer session with his old mucker Michael Russell.

For dyed-in-the-wool Nationalists, this was stirring stuff as Salmond spouted forth his view on all things referendum-related.

But had a few die-hard No supporters found themselves in the gigantic conference hall, one suspects they would have found the former First Minister’s performance less than uplifting.

.Salmond used the occasion to launch a series of attacks against the BBC saying he had been “surprised and disappointed” during the referendum by the degree to which the BBC had allowed itself to be influenced by a “biased press”. He added that he felt “the broadcasting issue” in terms of how it treats Scotland would not be “properly resolved” until the BBC was controlled by Holyrood. When he spoke, Salmond must have overlooked interesting research published by Edinburgh University before the conference.

The research looked at why people voted the way they did. The Scottish Referendum Survey of more than 4,500 people found that 17 per cent of Yes voters believed that No voters had been motivated by press/BBC bias towards No.

That contrasted with the reasons that people actually gave for voting No. The BBC was hardly mentioned. In fact, 29.5 per cent of No supporters cited their feelings of Britishness, 27.8 per cent said there were too many unanswered questions and 26.3 per cent said they felt going it alone would make Scotland worse off.

Blaming the BBC may be handy for creating a betrayal narrative when preaching to the converted. But perhaps it is just a little patronising to your fellow Scots to suggest they have been duped by a biased media, just because they happen to disagree with you.

In a more gracious moment, Salmond said that he accepted responsibility for any mistakes the Yes campaign may have made. Perhaps then he would be better advised to look at building the economic case for independence rather than banging on about the Beeb.

Because, according to the evidence, it was the economics that resulted in many rejecting his proposition last September.

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