Great Britain

BBC accused of 'blatant bias' against Scottish independence after Radio 4 report

A YOUNG independence supporter has accused the BBC of exhibiting “blatant bias” against the Yes movement after being interviewed for Radio 4.

Kelly Given, a 24-year-old NHS worker and SNP activist, featured in a report on the Today programme by journalist James Naughtie about younger voters in Scotland. But after it was aired, she condemned the BBC for suggesting SNP voters have been “brainwashed”.

Naughtie, who spoke to several people on “both sides of the divide”, began his report by pointing out young Scots are far more likely to back independence than older ones. Introducing Given, he claimed she offered an “evangelical pitch” for Yes – despite the activist expressly rejecting that description in the interview.

The Northern Echo:

Detailing her support for the SNP, she told the BBC journalist: “I was totally disengaged from politics – I was actually going to vote No. Then my mum took me to an event where Nicola Sturgeon was speaking … and something shifted in my brain that night.”

The Northern Echo: BBC News special correspondent James NaughtieBBC News special correspondent James Naughtie

“It sounds like almost a religious conversion,” Naughtie replied.

The suggestion was laughed off and rejected by Given, who said: “Absolutely not.”

The BBC Radio 4 reporter also emphasised the words “belief” and “mission” as he framed support for the SNP as an almost religious pursuit.

Picking up on Given’s use of the word “mission”, Naughtie commented: “This is why the SNP’s opponents were so frustrated in this election campaign when debates about schools, roads or drugs were all wrapped up in ‘the mission’.”

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 report on young Scottish voters here

Given, who had travelled from Edinburgh to Glasgow for the interview in George Square, was appalled by the report when she heard it broadcast.

She posted on social media: “Disappointed that every critical, thoughtful point I made was cut out and edited so you could inaccurately describe me as ‘evangelical’.

“Attempting to portray young people as brainwashed and incapable of independent thought is patronizing and tbh poor reporting.”

She added: “This kind of unapologetic and blatant bias in reporting helps nobody.”

As of 3pm James Naughtie had not replied to the complaint. 

Speaking to The National, the NHS worker – who is involved with the nation’s highly successful vaccine rollout – said her treatment was symptomatic of wider failings at the BBC.

“It was awful,” she said, explaining that a 25-minute discussion about the nuances of independence was cut down to a few soundbites.

“We had 25 minutes of quite thoughtful discussion about policy in an independent Scotland, about why young people are so progressive and politically engaged, about our reasons for supporting independence.” But Given added: “They’ve made it out as if I’ve just said ‘this one time I was brainwashed by Nicola Sturgeon’. But the question was actually what was your first political event.”

“I knew at the time the questions were very hostile. We know it was going to be bad but [the broadcast report] was just awful.”

The SNP activist summed up her impression of the BBC. “Their overall attitude towards independence is very hostile and we all know that,” she said. “The general reporting on indyref is tainted with bias.”

Given continued: “This is a much wider issue in terms of young people because even throughout the interview, the questions they were asking were very much insinuating that we had been indoctrinated, that we had been influenced by older people to be part of the SNP instead of being human beings with independent thought.”

The BBC has been approached for comment.

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