Revealed: BBC under attack for 'pro-SNP' coverage
SCOTTISH Labour chiefs have openly accused BBC journalists of pro-SNP bias in a bitter attack on the corporation's political coverage north of the border.
Labour specifically complains about BBC reporters using the phrase "London Government", claiming it is calculated to inflame anti-UK opinion.
Party chiefs have also called on the corporation to provide training on how to be impartial.
The claims, in an official letter from Scottish Labour to the Scottish Government's Broadcasting Commission, have been angrily denied by BBC journalists and were condemned as a "paranoid rant" by the SNP.
The letter was written by Labour's Scottish General Secretary, Colin Smyth. He complained: "Particularly in relation to journalists and senior editorial staff in BBC Scotland, there are legitimate concerns about the use of certain terminology in describing the political process.
"For example, references to the 'London government' are clearly designed to elicit a certain reaction and should be avoided by journalists."
He added: "Such editorial decisions place the broadcasters in the uncomfortable position of appearing to be a partial contributor to, rather than a neutral observer and interpreter of, political events.
"This is obviously unsatisfactory, and why the BBC should consider providing guidance to BBC Scotland editorial and journalistic staff to ensure both neutrality and consistency."
The letter said Labour was opposed to broadcasting becoming a devolved matter and that the party did not agree there should be a "Scottish Six" which would deliver a mixture of Scottish, UK and international news edited for Scottish audiences.
A Labour insider said: "BBC Scotland is pretty Scot Nat and anti-Labour. They give us a much harder time than they give the Nats.
"They have never forgiven us since Iraq and everyone knows it. They have been obsessed with Dungavel (detention centre] and made it their mission to get it shut down.
"They think they are the opposition and that they are the voice of civic Scotland. They are not; they are there to report the news and that is it."
Pete Murray, BBC Scotland's National Union of Journalists spokesman, said: "Journalists at BBC Scotland are strong enough and secure enough in their own professional ethics not to have to take lessons from the Labour party or any other party."
And a senior BBC Scotland news insider added: "This attack says a lot more about them than it does about us.
"I think that Labour can't get used to the fact that they are not in charge any more here and they can't tell people what to do.
"We are completely impartial and they know it. The BBC has rooms of people who make a living from devising forms of words which will be impartial and free of bias.
"We have looked at using phrases like 'the Parliament of the United Kingdom in Westminster' or 'the Government of the United Kingdom in Whitehall' and similar phrases, but they are pretty long-winded, and you want something shorter and snappier."
Pete Wishart, the Nationalists' Westminster broadcasting spokesman, said: "Labour seem happy for Scotland to be left with a second-class news service, and their rant is predictable and paranoid, as well as insulting to journalists.
"Arguing that Scotland should not have a Scottish Six, and that we should continue to have news and current affairs services that are irrelevant and at times misleading, is not a clever or considered contribution to the debate. "
A source close to First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The Labour submission is a disgrace – it is an extraordinary attack on the integrity and impartiality of BBC Scotland journalists.
"The Scottish Broadcasting Commission has been welcomed right across Scottish society as a key initiative in boosting the industry in Scotland, but for the Labour Party it has clearly struck a raw nerve."
A Scottish Tory spokesman said: "The Labour party can spend its time in the politics of grudge and grievance, or they can become like the Scottish Conservatives and look to the future of Scottish broadcasting, and back us in calling for a new Scottish digital channel which can be the best of Scotland and showcase the best of Scottish."
In a statement, a BBC Scotland spokeswoman said: "We recognise the importance of accurate and impartial language. We make every effort to ensure the appropriate terminology is used."
In the run-up to the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, Labour sent a delegation of top party officials to give BBC Scotland a "strong warning" against being too easy on the SNP in its political coverage.
Some Labour insiders believe that many mid-ranking BBC Scotland staff are SNP sympathisers, and used a pre-election meeting to express their unease about some BBC political coverage.
Senior Labour figures in London are believed to still harbour a grievance against the BBC over the David Kelly affair and the corporation's coverage of the UK Government's case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Some BBC executives still believe they were unfairly treated over the affair: Greg Dyke, the director general, was forced to resign in the wake of the Hutton Report into Dr Kelly's death.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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