Laura Kuenssberg made a start on scaremongering about Scottish Independence. It did not end well for her.

Kerry-anne Mendoza

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg received a sharp rebuke for attempting to pass off Westminster gossip as ‘news’ about the proposed second referendum on Scottish independence.

Laura Kuenssberg and gossip

On 13 March, Kuenssberg tweeted that ‘sources’  had confirmed Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would ask Scotland to ‘vote blind’ on independence. This means they would have to vote without knowing the terms of the UK’s Brexit deal. The tweet was shared over a thousand times, and became a popular story in the Westminster media. And it echoed the allegations of Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May.

It is also entirely false. Sturgeon has already confirmed the referendum would take place in 2018 or 2019, saying:

the vote must take place within a time frame to allow an informed choice to be made – when the terms of Brexit are clear but before the UK leaves the European Union, or shortly afterwards.

The SNP response

SNP MP Peter Grant challenged Kuenssberg, stating that the proposed dates of the referendum clearly refute this argument. This was her response:

And Grant makes an excellent point. Sharing every morsel of Westminster gossip that coincides with your editorial/personal view is not journalism.

It didn’t take long for others to share their views on the matter too.

This is not the first time people have accused Kuenssberg of bias. In 2016, the BBC Trust found its Political Editor guilty of breaching rules of impartiality and accuracy when covering Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Déjà vu for Scotland

This style of reporting will be achingly familiar for pro-independence voters in Scotland.

In 2014, Scotland voted narrowly to remain in the UK, with 45% voting ‘Yes’ (to leaving). But even The Telegraph admitted that ‘Project Fear’ [paywall] won the referendum. This refers to the strategy deployed by the media and political class opposed to independence. Namely, to blast voters with scaremongering stories until they voted ‘No’.

Two of the deciding factors in the referendum were Scotland’s place in the EU, and keeping the sterling currency. At the height of the campaign, then-Chancellor George Osborne told Scottish voters that they risked losing the pound if they left the union. Also, EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso claimed it would be “extremely difficult” for an independent Scotland to gain membership to the EU. These are both demonstrably false.

Following the Brexit vote, support for Scottish independence has reached its highest ever levels. This has triggered a second referendum, during which Project Fear will likely be deployed again. But memories may be fresh enough to weaken its impact this time round.

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