An insider reveals what BBC journalists really thought about Scottish independence supporters

Allan Little and BBC logo

Former BBC special correspondent Allan Little has revealed what some BBC journalists really thought during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.


As the National reported, speaking in a new documentary, Little said that some of his colleagues believed:

that our responsibility was to produce a series of pieces to demonstrate how foolish it would be to vote Yes

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.

Yes/No: Inside The Indyref – Down to the Wire is “the last in a three-part series shown on BBC Scotland”. Within the series, Little also recalled the lack of understanding among some colleagues:

They asked ‘What’s this all about this support for independence?’  And I said let’s go around the table and see if we can work out where the roots of this phenomenon are. And basically by the end of a very short discussion I said ‘OK you’ve identified between you two causes – one, the Scots are chippy, and two, Alex Salmond’s wily.’  I said if that’s what you think it is, if you think it’s as shallow and insignificant as that, you haven’t understood what’s been going on in Scotland for the last 30 or 40 years.

“Semi-conscious unionism”

The revelations chime with concerns that many people have about BBC unionist bias. Professor John Robertson, who has retired as media professor at the University of the West of Scotland, has said:

What I think you have is an almost semi-conscious unionism, a preference for stories which damage the independence movement which isn’t based on a conspiracy at all, it’s a casual, almost unconscious tendency.

Multiple academic reports have also found that the BBC has been biased against Scottish independence. Robertson carried out the first, which analysed a year’s worth of BBC coverage on the topic between September 2012 and 2013. Robertson has laid out what his findings demonstrate:

The study found that, overall, there was a greater total number of ‘No statements’ compared to Yes; a tendency for expert advice against independence to be more common; a tendency for reports to begin and end with statements favouring the No campaign; and a very strong pattern of associating the Yes campaign arguments and evidence with the personal wishes of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. Taken together, the coverage was considered to be more favourable for the No campaign.

The latest revelations from Little seem to confirm what many pro-independence supporters have been documenting for a while. Namely, that the BBC has long been biased against Scottish independence, especially in the run-up to and during the 2014 referendum.

In fact, a number of BBC journalists thought that campaigning for independence was outright foolish. We need a radical overhaul of the BBC to turn it from an establishment mouthpiece to a genuine servant of the people.

Featured image via Flickr – Andy Roberts / YouTube – The Update

Get involved

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support
  • Show Comments
    1. The BBC isn’t going to change – it has always been a mouthpiece for the Establishment, and always will be. It’s an integral part of the Old Boy’s Club – the first step has to be to abolish Eton, and all the rest of the ‘public school’ system, and radically de-segregate Oxford and Cambridge.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.