A few months before the start of the 2014 Scottish referendum campaign the BBC decided to clear out a number of Scottish based presenters replacing them with reliable Unionists.
Broadcaster Sarah Smith, the daughter of the late Labour leader, John Smith who fitted the profile perfectly, was recruited at great expense from Channel 4 to anchor BBC2’s Referendum programme.
Sarah was ecstatic since she and her husband enjoy a close family relationship with her mother Baroness Smith with whom she lives, in Edinburgh and her Scottish based sister who is married to Lord John Robertson’s son.
She was married, on the island of Iona, by the Rev Douglas Alexander, father of Labour Party stalwarts Douglas and Wendy.
A picture of Labour Party links so strong it should have ensured she would be the last person on earth to be contracted by the BBC to present unbiased commentary in a referendum which could possibly bring an end to the party of her beloved father and all of her close-knit family and friends.
The BBC – A Labour Party Fiefdom and the 2014 referendum
Including Smith, the impartial BBC blatantly foisted a number of other high profile Unionists supporting television and radio presenters onto the Scottish public.
Two of the most prominent are Kirsty Wark, a close personal friend of the Labour Party ex-first minister McConnell and James Naughtie, right-wing unionist and chief executive of the British American Project.
Unfairly, the 2014 “Better Together” campaign was led by a group of Anglos all with a Unionist persuasion, who had long ago deserted Scotland for greener pastures.
People whose concept of Scotland and Scots mirrored the village of Brigadoon.
Not for them the re-birth of Scotland, as a democratic state taking its place in the world once more.
The Internet Social media hits back
A post on the “exposing anti-independence bias on the BBC” Facebook page asserted:
“The appointment of Sarah Smith to “assist” the coming referendum debate alongside Jim Naughtie is another instance of London based “talent” being shipped in to make the case for the Union.”
Sexual Harassment and the BBC
Smith spoke of her distaste at the level of the sexist culture she had witnessed almost daily during her previous employment at the BBC.
Her claim that female staff were regularly pressured into having sex with senior journalists was disappointing since she had done nothing to stop it.
Saville Inquiry – Sarah Gets Wise long after the event
The BBC was ordered to launch an inquiry into its cultural practices in previous decades and recently.
Business Correspondent Sarah Smith reflected on her own experience with the Corporation in the 1990s:
“I joined the BBC in Glasgow as a 20-year-old trainee in 1989. I never saw any underage sex or rapes. But in those days sexist jokes and inappropriate touching were considered normal. That same year the BBC Scotland TV newsroom Christmas party had the theme of “Grape and Vine”. Someone thought it was funny and went around Broadcasting House and deleted the “G” on every poster, changing the theme to “Rape and Vine”. A fellow, female, trainee lodged a formal complaint with management, saying she did not wish to work in a newsroom displaying the posters and asked for them to be removed. She was immediately shunned by just about all of the male journalists in the newsroom. In the follow-up, she was systematically ridiculed for being unable to take a joke and treated unfairly when assignments were being handed out. The posters stayed in place leaving our only avenue of protesting a boycott of the party.
Scotland’s Society Wedding of the Year
September 23 2007: It was the most poignant of walks down the aisle for Sarah the eldest daughter of late Labour leader John Smith yesterday as she was married yards from her father’s grave.
Family and friends who travelled to Iona for the wedding included:
Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine. (Mentor of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson and architect of New Labour)
Lord Gordon, former chairman of Scottish Radio Holdings.
Lord Robertson, former Secretary-General of NATO.
Lord Robertson’s son, Malcolm, married Sarah’s younger sister, Jane, three years before, at Port Charlotte, on Islay.
Jane, 35, was Sarah’s matron of honour while her other sister, Catherine, was a bridesmaid.
Other guests included Sarah’s Channel 4 colleague Krishnan Guru-Murthy, and main presenter Jon Snow.
The traditional service was led by family friend Rev Douglas Alexander, the father of International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander and new Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander.
back at BBC Scotland, Things were not going well
In the months before the 2014 referendum, BBC journalists and staff were at loggerheads with senior management over the role, identity and broadcasting profile of the BBC Scotland News and Current Affairs team.
Management and Staff consultation procedures had broken down on a number of occasions following accusations that management ruled by diktat and pronouncement which rendered fruitful discussion impossible.
Many organisational and programme presentation changes had been dropped on staff without discussion or warning.
An example is the surprise announcement that BBC Scotland “News-night “Scotland’ would be shut down soon. No discussion. No date of Closure. No staff briefing about their future. The staff were made to sit on death row for months without knowing their fate.
Other worrying behaviour patterns developed. Scottish based journalists and staff employed for many years by the organisation were increasingly sidelined. Their views and opinions were given very little purchase.
Staff became increasing aware that management had turned its face away from Scots who had made a great success of devolution. Preferring to promote retention of the union. The BBC had gone back 10 years.
The placement in the team, in leadership roles, of Unionist supporting presenters Sarah Smith and James Naughtie on very expensive contracts was paid for by the withdrawal of employment from some staff. This caused much consternation and unhappiness. Management and Staff union discussions failed to resolve matters and the unhappiness was manifest for some time.
Smith and Naughtie have qualities but they also have deep-seated Labour Party and Unionist roots and backgrounds and have not been engaged in the Scottish debate, having spent long periods living elsewhere but Scotland. Their express dismissal of anything positive about the SNP was prevalent in their persona and this has never been challenged by management despite staff unease.