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

Allan Little and BBC logo
Support us and go ad-free

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

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.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

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

Support us and go ad-free

Get involved

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us