'A disgrace': BBC condemned by Alex Salmond for referendum coverage

Alex Salmond has described the BBC’s coverage of the Scottish independence referendum as a disgrace, as he hit back at outgoing political editor Nick Robinson’s attack on “Putin-like” protests against the corporation.

Salmond said that Robinson, who was the broadcaster’s political editor during Scottish independence referendum campaign last year, should be “embarrassed and ashamed” about his work.

That came after Robinson compared a protest at the BBC’s Scottish headquarters by pro-independence activists to “Putin’s Russia” and accused them of “intimidation and bullying” of journalists.

During an appearance at the Edinburgh international book festival, Robinson said he regretted his part in a row with Salmond over allegations that the broadcaster’s coverage of the referendum campaign had been biased towards the no camp. But that did not excuse the protesters, who, he said, had forced “young men and women who are new to journalism [to] have, like they do in Putin’s Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs”.

Speaking to the Courier, Salmond said he had avoided attacking Robinson because he had been ill. The BBC’s then political editor, who will shortly become a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Today, was diagnosed with cancer several months after the referendum.

“I am glad that the BBC’s Nick Robinson has been restored to health. For some months, I have said nothing at all about auld Nick because it is unfair to criticise someone who is not able to answer back.

“Now he is back. The BBC’s coverage of the Scottish referendum was a disgrace. It can be shown to be so, as was Nick’s own reporting of which he should be both embarrassed and ashamed.”

“To compare, as Nick did last week, 4,000 Scots peacefully protesting outside BBC Scotland as something akin to Putin’s Russia is as ludicrous as it is insulting. It is also heavily ironic, given that the most commonly used comparison with the BBC London treatment of the Scottish referendum story was with Pravda, the propaganda news agency in the old Soviet Union.”

However, according to Robinson, Salmond’s aides expressed the opinion that he was a “fair and professional journalist” during the referendum campaign. The Herald reported that he read aloud text messages to his reporter, which he said were from Salmond’s office.

One read: “It was a good couple of questions, you got a good answer. You’re an old hand at this and know the score.”

The other said: “We were upset about the package. Alex and my team regard you as a fair and professional journalist.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Kevin Rawlinson, for The Guardian on Monday 24th August 2015 00.19 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010