The BBC apologises to Scottish viewers live on air, and Twitter descends into a stooshie

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Brian Finlay

On 23 August, the BBC issued an apology live on air. BBC News at One had incorrectly covered findings from the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) report on 22 August, claiming that the Scottish government had “spent nearly 13 and a half billion pounds more than it raised”.

The apology

SNP strategist Ross Colquhoun took to Twitter to highlight the apology:

BBC News originally claimed the Scottish government had spent £13.5 billion more than it had raised in revenue. However, that figure includes [paywall] all public expenditure in Scotland. It takes in all reserved areas that the UK government is responsible for and spending from other public bodies.

The BBC‘s apology came after SNP MSP Paul Wheelhouse called out the inaccuracy on 22 August:

So, Wheelhouse tweeted his appreciation of the BBC‘s “classy approach” and thanked the team for writing to him privately:

The reaction

Scottish independence supporters were surprised by the apology being delivered in such a prominent way. The BBC‘s news coverage is often met with cynicism by SNP voters after a catalogue of accusations of pro-UK bias. In February 2017, the Herald conducted a poll which found [paywall] only one quarter of those asked felt the BBC was impartial on “issues surrounding [Scottish] independence.”

The reaction on Twitter echoed these findings:

One voter demanded to know who made “that mistake” in the first place:

And another expressed concerns about how BBC News allowed such an “error” to be broadcast:

Most noteworthy, one voter highlighted how BBC Scotland apologised for a similar error in 2016:

Elected members and voters have held BBC News to account. However, Scottish Conservative elected members and the tabloids have also made similar statements.

The Tories and tabloids

After BBC News admitted fault [paywall], some felt Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson should do the same.

Davidson had tweeted similar claims about the GERS report:

On 23 August, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie took to twitter to call out Davidson on the need for an apology:

Right-wing tabloids, including the Scottish Daily Express, had also joined in:

And the Scottish Sun said:

But interestingly, the Scottish Sun did manage to cover the BBC apology:

The Scottish Conservatives should be as bold as BBC News and admit they made a mistake. But as McKelvie said, many voters will not be holding their breath.

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