BBC’s James Naughtie attacked for ‘anti-SNP agenda’

The former BBC Scotland broadcaster Derek Bateman has launched an online attack on one of its best known current ­affairs presenters, suggesting he is pursuing an anti-SNP agenda.

James Naughtie. Picture: TSPL

The interviewing style of James Naughtie on Radio 4’s Today programme and the political stance of the BBC has been criticised by Mr Bateman in a “satirical” blog.

Mr Bateman, formerly the presenter of Good Morning Scotland (GMS), was irritated by the tone adopted by his fellow Scot Mr Naughtie when he interviewed a Tory MP and an SNP minister on the issue of defence in an independent Scotland.

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His criticism follows the announcement that Mr Naughtie, a stalwart of BBC Radio 4’s ­flagship current affairs programme, has been parachuted in by BBC Radio Scotland to strengthen its independence ­referendum coverage for two days a week in the run-up to next September’s vote.

This move is understood to have put a number of noses out of joint at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters.

In his blog post, based on an interview Mr Naughtie did with James Arbuthnot MP and the Scottish veterans minister Keith Brown last week, Mr Bateman adopted a tongue-in-check tone praising the veteran broadcaster’s style of questioning.

Claiming he had acquired a copy of the debrief written by the Today editor, Mr Bateman sarcastically applauded Mr Naughtie for showing deference to Mr Arbuthnot while interrupting Mr Brown.

In his spoof debrief, Mr Bateman also mentioned the deployment of the London-based Scot in the GMS team for two days a week in the run-up to next year’s independence referendum.

“Jim’s sequence with Arbuthnot, the Westminster defence MP, and the Nat guy worked a treat … you’re developing a style with these Scottish interviews, James. First you’re nice cop with the Unionist and then – blam – you slap the Nat across the chops,” Mr Bateman blogged.

“You were suitably deferential with plummy Arbuthnot (Eton and Cambridge), asking the easy open-door questions … nothing about the UK’s failure to meet Nato commitments, no mention of there being no naval defence presence or aerial surveillance off the Moray Firth which meant the Russian carrier fleet which turned up last December could have attacked and invaded before Britain knew what was happening and we had to send a destroyer up from Portsmouth.

“No Nimrods now, you see. No Kinloss air base. Happily you refrained from asking why we couldn’t defend the oil installations because of defence cuts.”

Mr Bateman, who was occasionally accused of pro-SNP bias by Labour figures before he retired from GMS some months ago, also satirised Mr Naughtie’s treatment of Mr Brown.

“But, wow, you barely let the Nat MSP – was it Brown, his name? – say a word without cutting in. Made it difficult for him to state his case which as far as I can see is that Scotland would have the same level of defence as other countries of a similar size,” Mr Bateman wrote.

“He rather got away with pointing out that the budget is inaccurate and unfair, though. Pity. He managed to get out that the amount spent in Scotland was £1.6bn while HMG claims it’s £4.5bn. Presumably that higher sum is in books as actually being spent in Scotland? Oops!”

Mr Bateman went on: “You were on much stronger ground with Trident. It’s important to emphasise that we don’t want the blasted thing down here. (Arbuthnot represents Hampshire!) When he said the nuclear sub base was close to Scotland’s biggest centre of population, you could imagine the Home Counties remembering that is Glasgow and saying: hey ho.

“Still, your constant jumping in didn’t allow anyone to get Brown’s point and left the impression of a Dad’s Army with pikestaffs up against calm, plummy UK. Job done.”

Last night Mr Bateman said: “It is a bit of fun. I just feel Jim Naughtie is very much part of the British establishment and that’s not quite what we expect in Scotland – or perhaps I’m wrong.”

Mr Naughtie was unavailable for comment.