Because this is how a state broadcaster does balanced, impartial reporting.
Now some revision notes to help you.
“A new campaign for Scottish independence appears to be gathering momentum.”
A campaign AGAINST Scottish independence, but let’s not split hairs. Nobody had heard of Vote No Borders until its website went live yesterday. Less than 24 hours later the BBC had managed to arrange and deliver a substantial news package on it. Allowing for planning and organising, the broadcaster must have decided that VNB’s “momentum” was “gathering” within literally minutes of the site’s appearance.
“…with the No campaign being criticised by supporters for a lacklustre performance compared to the fiery campaigning of Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond”
Whoah there. “Fiery”? Nice bit of sneaky editorialising, neutral news presenter. And “campaigning of Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond”? Not, alert readers will note, the wider Yes campaign, not Yes Scotland, not even the SNP, but specifically the First Minister himself alone. It’s almost as if the BBC had a meticulously-documented agenda to personalise the entire independence movement into just one man.
The presenter does half-heartedly cover herself by muttering “and his supporters”, but by then the impression is made: the Yes campaign isn’t a million-strong movement comprising people of all shades of politics and none, but simply Team Alex Salmond, blindly following the leader’s orders. Yes campaigners, we’re led to believe, aren’t rational, thinking advocates of independence, but supporters of Alex Salmond.
We’re now transported to a recording studio in leafy countryside “on the outskirts of Edinburgh” to watch a group of musicians. We assume it’s “Flowers Of The Union”, but they’re not actually named. The voiceover pauses to let us hear two photogenic young women lamenting “Why build another [wall]?” as Gavin Esler – BBC royalty – solemnly explains that their website “goes live today on the anniversary of the Union”.
(Which suggests the piece was actually filmed yesterday, giving the broadcaster even less time to have assessed that Vote No Borders was “gathering momentum”. Oddly, Esler goes on to tell us that the campaign “launches” in two weeks’ time. We’re not sure in what sense it hasn’t “launched” now.)
We’re then taken to VNB’s Malcolm Offord, who tells us:
“The Union is the most successful merger of sovereign nations in the world.”
We’re not told what the criteria are for that judgement, nor which other unions are competing for the title. It’s a phrase often used by the No campaign, and whenever we hear it we always wonder which other “unions of sovereign nations” actually exist.
Then we’re back to Esler, almost swooning in George Square:
“Here in the very heart of Glasgow, in fact almost anywhere you go anywhere in Scotland, you’re never far away from some monument or memorial to our 300 years of shared British history.”
Hang on a minute, what? What does that actually mean? Offhand we can’t think of a single monument to the Union specifically anywhere in Britain, never mind Scotland. There are monuments to history, of course, and many of them naturally commemorate things which happened to take place while Scotland was in the Union, just like others mark Scotland as an independent nation.
But specifically monuments TO the Union? We’re drawing a blank. There may be one or two here and there that we can’t bring to mind, but “you’re never far away from one anywhere you go in Scotland” seems something of a stretch to say the least.
We get another interjection from Malcolm Offord about being proudly Scottish and British, a shot of a fluttering Saltire, then it’s Esler again.
“The idea is that of a grassroots campaign to rival the pro-independence Yes campaign, based on testimonials from those who wish to remain in the UK.”
There’s no mention of the fact that this “grassroots campaign” is being funded and run by a millionaire Tory donor based in London, suggesting that the BBC doesn’t actually understand what “grassroots” means. You might as well say that Manchester City, owned and bankrolled by a billionaire oil tycoon from the United Arab Emirates, are a “grassroots football team” because they play on grass, which has roots.
Curiously, we can’t recall the BBC giving three-and-a-half minute primetime news packages to any ACTUAL grassroots campaigns. There wasn’t so much as a passing mention on the news channel when this site raised £111,000 (£70,000 of it in a single day) in a staggeringly successful pro-independence appeal, while also funding several other grassroots Yes campaigns. Viewers weren’t treated to an in-depth hyping of National Collective’s “Yestival” when it was launched a few days ago.
Why were neither of those things news but a rich Tory putting up a website with a few YouTube videos on it gets a full location report with a big-name correspondent? We’re sure it would be overly cynical to suggest the reason for that might be that all of those real grassroots campaigns have been on the Yes side of the debate.
We’re then taken to one of Vote No Borders’ testimonials, from a retired woman who says “I’m Glaswegian, Scottish and British” – three things which will remain the case whether Scotland votes Yes or No. We’re sure she IS part of the VNB campaign, but it’s not strictly possible to discern that fact from her onscreen words alone.
Finally we get the token balance segment, with Gordon Macintyre-Kemp of Business For Scotland given a few seconds to show off his natty tweed outfit again and point out that campaigns like VNB have come into existence because “Better Together” has been so abysmally rank, and then we’re back to the photogenic young singers in the Edinburgh countryside again for a close-up of their song’s lyrics.
Back in the studio, anchorman Chris Eakin casts his eyes downwards to his desk as he tells us “You’re watching BBC News”. By then, we suspect very few viewers would have been in any doubt about that.