BBC Scotland hiding the nature of extremist violence because it’s Unionist

BBC Scotland

By stewartb

I’ve looked on with interest at how BBC news outlets have covered the extreme far right activities in London and Glasgow over the past week. I have been disappointed at the seeming equivalences being drawn by BBC Scotland’s output between ‘protests’ by right wing extremists and those protesting legally in support of the rights of refugees (‘No Evictions Glasgow’). I have been disappointed at the lack of contextualised assessment of the two groups in Glasgow.

See also:

One other notable feature in the difference in coverage of what happened in London and Glasgow is in the choice of the photographs of each used by BBC News online. 

On the BBC News ‘Scotland’ section there is a short video clip which shows a scuffle involving s small number of ‘protestors’ and the police before it cuts to a scene showing the ‘No Evictions Glasgow’ march. But then there are five still photos used in the article: three show nothing but ranks of policemen and two have shots of those protesting in support of refugees. Anything missing?

The same online article makes reference to what can only be described as a peaceful, positive, inclusive ‘chant’ (‘refugees are welcome here’) from those on the ‘No Evictions Glasgow’ march. There was no mention by the BBC of any ‘chants’ from the others!  Perhaps they were conducting a silent vigil?


The coverage of the extreme right wing activities in London published on the BBC News website on 14 June clearly had a picture editor with a very different view on what and how much it was important to show of the extreme right wing activity. Why the wholly different editorial approach?


On the role of the media

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (18 June) was notable. In introducing a piece on extremism in the UK, Nick Robinson drew an equivalence between the right wing protests in London (whose behaviour the PM had termed “Racist thuggery ….”) and those in Glasgow (that the FM called “racist thugs”).  Robinson went on to interview Sara Khan who was appointed by Home Secretary Teresa May in 2018 to lead the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE). In the interview Khan emphasised the rising profile and threat from the far right.

I’d never heard of Ms Khan and her ‘official’ position but whilst searching around I came across a speech she made in 2019 on the role of the media in challenging extremism. Given the interest within the TuSC in the media, the content of the speech is highly relevant. It also seems relevant in the context of concerns over how the BBC specifically in Scotland covers (or fails to cover) extremism on the far right and amongst fringe British Nationalist/‘Loyalist’ groups. This goes back at least as far as the BBC’s appalling coverage of the events of 19 September 2014 in George Square.

Below are my ‘take aways’ from Ms Kahn’s speech – there is a lot to ponder!


“A free and fearless press, determined to shine a light on extremism and the divisive tactics of extremists, is crucial.”

“A free, independent and vigilant media, acting as truthbearer in our society, is a vital defence against extremism.”

“I am of the firm view that there is an important role for the media in exposing the activities of extremists and their ideological beliefs, whether that is their hatred for Western democracy, human rights, equality principles or the rule of law.”

“… journalists have to unpick dubious claims such as championing freedom of speech, campaigning for human rights or in declaring they represent a particular community. … There are troubling consequences when this isn’t done.”

“And where you are describing an eco-system of individuals, groups and campaigns, it’s important to use pinpoint accuracy when it comes to describing and explaining the actors in the story. .. But above all, there are real risks of using sweeping statements when you’re zooming out to provide the bigger picture.”

Words are a journalist’s precision tools. They should be used with precision, directed at the individual, or organisation in question, never a whole community.”

“When deciding to report on extremism, it comes back to the principles of quality journalism. Do what you do best. Investigate, challenge and refuse to take a message on face value.

“I know something of the constraints in which you work – tight deadlines, a desire to give balance, a need to show you are not taking sides. But you need to ask: have I done my research into this person, or that organisation’s background? Have I challenged them robustly?

“You must have thought carefully: do we understand who and what this person represents? What is their agenda? Is the way they are presenting themselves consistent with how they have acted in the past? Could any third parties be presenting a distorted version of who they are? Have I contextualised these views?

“As tempting as it is, it must not be those who shout the loudest or who answer their phones first who are given platforms.

“.. this is complex territory, so every word matters. As I say, words are your precision tools.”

“But when reporting on extremism, the principles of quality journalism matter hugely, rigorous in its analysis, scrupulous in its regard for facts.

A final thought

If you have managed to reach the end – even read Ms Kahn’s full speech – perhaps you have formed a view.  How well does BBC Scotland measure up?

9 thoughts on “BBC Scotland hiding the nature of extremist violence because it’s Unionist”

  1. Great piece! This from Common Weal today is also worth a read –

    They have a letter which was written to “News Editors” from David Hamilton, Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which I found extremely disturbing.

    Common Weal say, amongst other things –
    “It’s an extraordinary statement which seeks to divert the public gaze from the police forces own operational failure, over days, of failing to prevent these people entering the square, failing to arrest or control them and then allowing them to continue to intimidate and threaten ordinary people and peaceful protestors. This failure in itself was seen as a political act. Now to compound matters the police representative issues a statements that reeks of Trumpian false equivalence.”

    Obviously the press are now onto this, and Aamer Anwar is rightly on the case. It seems plain to me that David Hamilton of the SPF should be “sacked”. I’m not clear how that works for his role as a Union boss but, from what Common Weal say, he’s a serving police officer.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well, you know what I’m going to say. From Sara Khan’s comments:

    “You must have thought carefully: do we understand who and what this person represents? What is their agenda? Is the way they are presenting themselves consistent with how they have acted in the past? Could any third parties be presenting a distorted version of who they are? Have I contextualised these views?”

    Has the BBC in Scotland explained why they presented Alison Payne (former Conservative candidate and adviser to one of the Tory leaders in Holyrood – was it Annabelle Goldie?) as a concerned parent without telling the viewers exactly who she was and what her background was?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So why has BBC Scotland let the thugs off the hook again.?

    Why did the BBC not identify them and report on their actions!


  4. Excellent points, but your question over BBC Scotland is patently unnecessary, their particular agenda is blatant and obvious.
    Given how London on occasion takes a completely different stance on some stories (subtlety?), Pacific Quay’s distinct bias is not unrecognised within the Beeb organisation.
    That it is not being stamped out is only because it is condoned, good cop, bad cop….


  5. The only difference between the red necks who support the present administration in the US of A and the red necks who support the present administration in the UK of E is that our lot don’t have guns (yet).
    I am sure that there will be those who will be trying to remedy that situation!
    A thug’s a thug for aw that.


  6. I would hope there would be an extensive enquiry into the behaviour of Scotlands broadcasters pre independence and I’d personally put it very high on the list of things to do. I still can’t believe they think they can get away with their behaviour. Wonder how many of them are receiving bonus payments for services against Scotland.




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