From Russia with Leask: Good Morning Scotland and Interference after 2014

Image BBC
David Leask: Why I am not quitting Twitter
Image: Herald

I wrote yesterday, to Donalda MacKinnon, outgoing but still in Director of BBC Scotland, to complain about the Good Morning Scotland [GMS] broadcasts of 25th and 26th July 2020:

Tuesday 27th July 2020

I write directly, to make three complaints of serious breaches of the BBC editorial guidelines, in two broadcasts.

The BBC online complaints system allows neither the capacity nor the speed of response required by these serious and extensive matters.

a) GMS 25th July

The programme on 25th July featured an interview with Ben Nimmo of ‘Graphica’ at approximately 9.40am presented as an authority on Russian “interference” in the Scottish referendum on the basis that he was mentioned as an “open source” in the Intelligence and Security Committee report.

No attempt was made to inform listeners of Mr Nimmo’s well documented and paid links to the Integrity Initiative and Institute of Statecraft. No attempt was made by the interviewer to challenge Mr Nimmo’s views or by the programme to interview someone with a different perspective.

No attempt was made to question, contrast and compare the supposed “interference” of Mr Nimmo’s claimed tweets AFTER the poll with the well documented pro-Union public interventions DURING the campaign of President Obama, Prime Minister Rahoy, Prime Minister Abbot, President Baroso (on BBC Marr Show) and President Putin himself (on BBC Marr Show) and the reports that these views were expressed after lobbying from the U.K. Government.

b) GMS 26th July

The paper review broadcast after 9am regular contributors Penny Taylor and David Leask which inter alia promoted Mr David Leask own article in the Sunday Herald newspaper on supposed Russian “interference” and then in the period to 10am the programme subsequently interviewed Luke Harding author of a recent book on Russia, then Mr Leask himself and then a Ms Mueller and then finally Ann Applebaum, all accepting the premise of Russian interference.

All of these contributors are from one side of a debate and little or no attempt was made by either interviewer over the period to obtain balance by questioning their views.

In particular Mr Leask is presumably a paid contributor to the programme in which he then promoted his own articles and views after being asked  for “expert” commentary.

The three complaints are as follows:

  1. The first complaint refers to the content and treatment of the issue of both GMS programmes of 25th and 26th July as in breach of point 1 of the BBC’s public purpose and editorial guidelines:

‘To provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”

  • In terms specifically of the programme of 26th July it is a breach of impartiality for a paid contributor to promote his own paid journalistic work and for the programme to air his views unchallenged as an expert on the same subject. In terms of editorial balance Mr Leask should be asked by the programme to choose between his role as a contributor and interviewee and if the latter his views require to be balanced with another journalist or commentator with a differing view.
  • In addition, the general guidelines, and even more so the stricter news and current affairs guidelines, make it clear that clear that there are particular responsibilities on objectivity for those with a presenting role. Mr Leask has been a (presumably paid) fixture on the Sunday GMS programme for the last four months. Meanwhile Mr Leask has been promoting (as he is entitled to do) his particular views as a paid freelance Russia phobic journalist. It is the interaction between the two in the programme of 26th July which is the clear breach of BBC guidelines on Conflict of Interest.

“News and current affairs output may deal with any issue, cause, organisation or individual and there must be no doubt over the integrity and objectivity of editorial/production teams and those who support them.  For this reason, there are specific constraints on those working in, or contributing to, news and current affairs output. 

Those with on-air roles in BBC news and current affairs must not undertake any external activities which could undermine the BBC’s reputation for impartiality.”

Professor John Robertson

University of the West of Scotland, Research Ethics Chair, until January 2016

27th July 2020

6 thoughts on “From Russia with Leask: Good Morning Scotland and Interference after 2014”

  1. This is an appropriate complaint. It was interesting how BBC Scotland dealt with this aspect of the Commons ‘Russia’ report compared to the other sections of the BBC.

    On the morning before the release, The Daily Telegraph, and only itof the mainstream media, led on’ Russian interference in the Scottish referendum’. When interviewed at around 8.30am, Mr David Porter, BBC Scotland Westminster editor, who was principally talking about the imminent release of the document, referred to the Telegraph article but somewhat dismissively and implied it had arisen from a briefing intended to divert. So, he was sceptical. However, by 9.00am when the headlines were read, interference in the Scottish Referendum had become a ‘fact’ and this became the unchallenged line by BBC Scotland for several days.

    When I checked the main BBC site, this was a minor point, with the main one being the failure of security services to act, either by direction or by other priorities, on Russian involvement in a range of things over a number of years.

    In the actual report, reference to 2014 referendum is in two lines and a footnote. Clearly, the MPs on the committee saw it as a small example and indicated that the involvement was AFTER the referendum, and via OPEN and not Covert means was directed towards the Russian internal audience.

    The big issue in the report was the involvement of Russian oligarchs with significant numbers of people in the Parliament – mainly Lords – and in legal and financial services. It indicated London(grad) was a ‘laundromat’ for huge amounts of cash.

    This is the real story and the one which other parts of the BBC, other broadcasters and some newspapers went with.

    As a “Scottish” broadcaster, BBC Scotland had a duty to look for a Scottish dimension, but NOT at the almost total exclusion of the wider picture. It reported on the demand by the Scottish Tories and Labour for an ‘enquiry’ into the 2014 referendum. It made no mention of the fact that Alex Salmond had said the day following the referendum that it had been conducted fairly.

    This was partisan politics by BBC Scotland and you are right to call them out.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Let’s just see how she responds, if at all. The BBC propaganda machine is not only that, but it’s corrupt as well. Luckily in Scotland, more and more people each day reject their lies and bias by not watching or listening to it at all. The BBC are soon to be propagandising into a vacuum just like the daily right wing rags, so many left on the shop shelves these days, I don’t know why they bother.

    Good as always however, to have these lying troughers called to account John.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well done John, not that an adequate response such as public apology and honest investigation into the true order of events will arise since ABC are complicit in the scam, a neat breakdown of events here –
    Neither David Porter nor Hannah Roger were under any illusion the story was a scam by Downing Street to divert attention from the London scandal, so everything Pacific Quay subsequently did was consciously take part in a blatant propaganda campaign on behalf of #10.
    That the bulk of the media didn’t challenge this bunkum showed the extent to which the UK’s media are on a tight leash, it’s not as if journalists cannot read.
    “I see no ships….”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Let’s not forget that the Annexe to the Report is being kept secret, so it’s likely to contain much highly sensitive information. I suggest one reason the published report only mentions the 2014 Referendum in passing is that it’s very plausible that the UK Intelligence agencies were more active than the Russians. Who had the greater interest in ensuring that YES failed – UK or Russia? Who had direct access to Voters Roll and other UK-internal information – UK or Russia?

    The UK Postal Voting system has long been recognised as open to manipulation – see

    Alternatively, just google UK postal voting weaknesses for lots of links.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great stuff john calling this partisan organization to account.
    post independence we’ll remember their journalists in the unlikely event they haven’t fled to Mother England


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