Standards of political journalism across the BBC could hardly be more different. The ‘big’ BBC’s coverage of Westminster falls short of the detailed, forensic and relentless analyses that are the notable ‘achievements’ of BBC Scotland when holding to account the Scottish Government!
We know well how the public service process operates in Scotland. When a report is published or a statement made by a third party regarding Scottish Government policy or action, BBC Scotland is sufficiently well resourced to examine the contents in detail. It’s highly skilled staff are expert at locating a negative phrase or performance figure that can be turned into a headline and form the basis of yet another ’scandal/chaos’ news story. Opposition politicians’ quotes are sourced. Journalistic time and effort are saved by not bothering with context or perspective. All in all, it seems to be a well-resourced, well-oiled operation.
Here is yet another example of news concerning procurement issues I couldn’t find mention of in BBC output. It’s from a recently published report (27 April, 2022) by an important House of Commons committee. JUST IMAGINE WHAT BBC SCOTLAND’S JOURNALISTS/HEADLINE WRITERS/EDITORS COULD DO WITH CONTENT LIKE THIS FROM A PARLIAMENTARY REPORT!
Source: House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts: (2022) Ministry of Defence Equipment Plan 2021–31.
Firstly for background: ‘Each year since 2013 the Ministry of Defence … has published its Equipment Plan …, setting out its intended investment in equipment for the following 10 years, and assessing whether this investment is affordable given its budget. THIS YEAR THE DEPARTMENT HAS ALLOCATED A BUDGET OF £238 BILLION TO ITS 2021–31 PLAN, WHICH REPRESENTS A 25 PER CENT (£48 BILLION) INCREASE ON LAST YEAR’S PLAN. This follows the Spending Review 2020’s announcement that the Department would receive £16.5 billion budget increase over four years to 2024–25 above its standard annual increase.’ (my emphasis)
So this is about a very big budget! Here are some extracts from what the Committee had to say.
‘The Department appears COMPLACENT ABOUT THE AFFORDABILITY OF ITS PLAN AND STILL DOES NOT YET HAVE ROBUST ARRANGEMENTS IN PLACE TO CONTROL THE COST OF ITS LARGEST PROGRAMMES.’
‘As the NAO (National Audit Office) notes, nuclear projects amount to about £60 billion in the Plan, which is more than a quarter of its value. WE WERE PARTICULARLY CONCERNED THAT THE DEPARTMENT SEES THE NUCLEAR PROJECTS AS A BLANK CHEQUE FROM HM TREASURY, ESPECIALLY THE DREADNOUGHT PROGRAMME WHICH HAS A £10 BILLION CONTINGENCY.’
‘We noted that, between 2018 and 2020, the NAO had identified OVER £1 BILLION OF UNNECESSARY COSTS ON NUCLEAR PROJECTS BECAUSE OF POOR MANAGEMENT DECISIONS. We also noted that the Department’s Cost Assurance and Analysis Service concluded that the Department has UNDER-FORECAST NUCLEAR PROJECT COSTS IN THE PLAN BY £4.8 BILLION.
‘The Department has MADE LITTLE IMPACT IN ITS EFFORTS TO CHANGE ITS LONGSTANDING CULTURAL RESISTANCE TO CHANGE OR CRITICISM, WHICH HAS FOR MANY YEARS HINDERED A CLEAR-EYED VIEW OF ITS EQUIPMENT PROCUREMENT PERFORMANCE.
‘Senior officials do not acknowledge the POOR STATE OF AFFAIRS OF CURRENT PROCUREMENT, as outlined in NAO reports and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s assessment of the Department’s performance. There is still intolerance of criticism within project teams, and 10% of MoD staff say that they have been subject to or witnessed bullying, harassment or discrimination.
‘The Department has only implemented approximately half of the NAO’s Equipment Plan report recommendations since 2015. The latest Departmental reform programme is ALREADY BEHIND TARGET AND FLAWS HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED IN ITS GOVERNANCE AND COHERENCE.’
To repeat, just imagine what journalists/headline writers/editors of the calibre available to BBC Scotland could do with content like this – day after day after day!