The SNP has attacked the BBC over its coverage of the debate surrounding an independent Scotland’s admission to the European Union amid claims that presenter Andrew Marr gave a personal view on the issue during an interview yesterday with Alex Salmond.
The First Minister was asked about claims by European Commission president José Manuel Barroso that Scotland may find it “difficult, if not impossible” to join the EU on the The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1.
Mr Marr told Mr Salmond: “I think it would be quite hard to get back in, I have to say.”
Mr Salmond challenged Mr Marr on whether the broadcaster was giving “the Andrew Marr analysis” following his remarks.
Mr Marr replied: “I’ve got no views on this. Nor does the BBC. I was simply reflecting on what Mr Barroso told us.”
The First Minister then said: “Well you just said what your opinion was.”
Mr Marr replied: “I said I think it will be quite difficult having talked to Mr Barroso.”
Nationalists suggested the broadcaster’s remarks were contrary to BBC editorial guidelines on impartial coverage.
A spokeswoman for the First Minister described the presenter’s comment as “surprising” and said the Scottish Government was still concerned about the tone of some of the BBC’s referendum coverage, but said the First Minister would not be making a formal complaint.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s culture committee, said: “Any assessment of the balance of evidence would show an independent Scotland continuing in the EU.
“There are questions for the BBC to answer over their coverage of this issue. The comments from Andrew Marr appear to be outside the BBC’s editorial guidelines, and no amount of backtracking can change that.”
The BBC denied last night that Mr Marr had expressed any personal views during the interview. A spokeswoman said: “Andrew himself made it clear on air that he had not been intending to express a personal opinion or that of the BBC, but was simply putting forward an argument from President Barroso who, as European Commission President, has an integral insight within the debate.
“The BBC’s coverage of the Scottish Referendum debate has been fair and balanced and we will continue to report on the story without fear or favour.”
In 2012, the First Minister handed BBC Trust Chairman Chris Patten a dossier of alleged bias in the broadcaster’s referendum coverage, following a row about Mr Salmond being blocked from appearing on a pundit show ahead of a Calcutta Cup rugby match at Murrayfield.
Mr Salmond accused Ric Bailey, the corporation’s chief political adviser in London, of behaving like a “Gauleiter” – a Nazi official – by refusing to let him appear.
He was barred from the programme following concerns that his appearance on a non-political programme would breach the corporation’s guidelines on neutrality.