By Anne-Marie O'Donnell

An MP who took part in a live radio debate broadcast by the BBC has spoken of being targeted online by pupils from the fee paying school that acted as host.
Perth MP Pete Wishart has revealed that students at the boarding school posted abusive messages on Twitter after the MP appeared as a guest on Brian Taylor’s Big Debate on BBC Radio Scotland this week.

The debate was recorded in Strathallan school, a private boarding school previously attended by golfer Colin Montgomerie, and in the aftermath Mr Wishart said he was subjected to abuse on social media from pupils of the school.

Some of the tweets, which can still be seen online despite having been deleted by the posters, refer to Mr Wishart as a "gimp" and a "yeswanker".

The offensive messages are believed to have resulted from Mr Wishart’s observation, made during the broadcast, that the audience makeup appeared to have been overwhelmingly anti-SNP and anti-independence.

Three quarters of the way through the debate, Mr Wishart, having apparently noticed an imbalance in the audience, directly queried how many of the 200-strong audience members would vote in favour of independence at the upcoming referendum.  To his astonishment, only three people raised their hands. 

The SNP MP told the listening audience: "Just for the benefit for people on the radio there is about two hundred people here, and I have one person who supports Yes at Strathallan school."

A show of hands for Yes supporters at the request of BBC presenter Brian Taylor revealed another two people, including a teacher.  A similar request for No supporters resulted in a huge number of the audience raising their hands.

Mr Wishart was met with loud jeers and boos when he remarked that it wasn't a surprise to find such an imbalance at a fee paying school.

The MP tweeted on later: "Well, that was an interesting BBC Brian's Big Debate. The audience of 200 were all No supporters, bar 3, at Strathallan private school."

Alongside the SNP MP on the panel were journalist Ruth Wishart, chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament Kyle Thornton, Labour MEP David Martin and Conservative MSP Liz Smith.  Later that day, Mr Wishart tweeted that he had been targeted with abuse after taking part in the debate.

"The Nos go in [sic] about cybernats but you will not believe what I’ve been called by private school kids from Strathallan private school,” he wrote, adding: “Maybe the reason the privately educated #Strathallan kids were so abusive is they’ve been taking their lead from the negativity from the Nos."

Mr Wishart later posted that tweets were being deleted following him bringing attention to the abuse, but pointed out that a Twitter capture service had recorded some of them.

Some tweets appeared to boast of the affluence of the families of pupils at the private school and referred to Mr Wishart as a "c**t" and a "pr**k".

The incident is not the first to see the school become embroiled in controversy.  In 2005, Strathallan was named as one of 50 private schools in the UK to have been part of a price-fixing cartel aimed at driving up fees.

In 1998, a female teacher who alleged she had been sacked because she was unable to coach rugby at the mostly-male school tried to sue over discrimination.

The school has around 550 pupils in total and accepts both boarding students and day pupils.  The school's motto reads: "At Strathallan we aim to provide an outstanding education, academic, social and extra curricular, which give opportunities for all pupils to excel, thus developing their ability to benefit themselves and others."

The decision by BBC Scotland to allow an almost exclusively pro-Union audience to participate in such a live debate which was heavily dominated by issues related to independence, has cause outrage on social media, with pro-independence supporters demanding to know who sanctioned such a decision.

The criticism comes at a bad time for BBC Scotland with news that Holyrood's Culture Committee is to examine a recent study by a University academic that indicated a pro-Union bias in news coverage of the independence referendum.

Dr John Robertson revealed that his study had found early evening news broadcasts on BBC Scotland and STV favoured the No campaign by a ratio of three to two.  The BBC has questioned the methodology and the validity of the study, claiming that many of its conclusions are inaccurate and lack validity.

The study was published just one week after the BBC Trust revealed it had found BBC Scotland guilty of having broken editorial guidelines on accuracy.  The Trust ruled that a Reporting Scotland item on the EU membership of an independent Scotland had misled viewers by suggesting a foreign official had said a Yes vote would result in Scotland being forced to leave the EU.


# MacSenex 2014-02-02 00:08
I attended Brian Taylor's Big Debate in Lomond School in Helensburgh a few weeks ago.

The audience was fairly well balanced.

Sounds as if Strathallan was a stitch up

I know of a large number of teachers in private schools who are YES supporters
# ButeHouse 2014-02-02 00:58
It wasn't just the audience that was heavily in favour of NO. The panel was a typical BBC majority unionist 3-2 or 4-1 depending on whether or not the Chair of the Youth Parliament was a YES supporter or not.

On the other hand Pete Wishart was hardly the correct choice to represent YES at Strathallan. We needed someone younger, smoother and intellectually superior to most of the audience - Pat Kane for example or Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp.

We can't throw these chances away. But we do regularly e.g. amateurs up against Sarwar, an accomplished liar and bully, both of which he does so well.

Horses for courses. The BBC needs a YES rep so if YES says no to x appearing as a rep the BBC just has to accept a YES replacement.

# Breeks 2014-02-02 03:10
£9,000+ per term in a country which champions free education.

I take it you don't go to a private school like Strathallan to learn arithmetic.
# gerrydotp 2014-02-02 15:43
Aye, and an 80% reduction in their council tax liability because they have charitable status too. NO such luck for state schools.
# cjmasta 2014-02-02 04:42
I can`t wait to tell this to folk at work who are becoming more engaged in the referendum now and are asking me questions all the time cos they know i`m a Yes and are realizing I actually am not some crazy Braveheart Nat but someone who can answer every Question they have in a clear and informative manner.
I`ve brought up the whole British media, BBC connection as to why Scot`s have been misinformed about the wealth of their country for a long time. It`s as much an eye opener for them now as it was for me about 8 years ago.
As long as we keep chipping away we will reach the tipping point where most of the DK`s will come to us instead of settling for the status quo.
God help us if we don`t get our fingers out and fight what is already clear is not a debate but a campaign of information and hope v`s misinformation and fear.
# sblack505 2014-02-02 08:19
Crawford's tweet:

"your a gimp"

Nice to see Strathallan raising the grammatical standards of our more privileged children.
# Leswil 2014-02-02 08:52
Another one for Dr Johnstone's notebook.
You just wonder what actually goes through minds at the BBC. You could hardly have organised such a bias event.
Yes supporters have an obvious case of the BBC not caring a hoot about democracy, yet insist we pay them to behave this way. It just shows how corrupt they and their Westminster overlords really are.
# Ready to Start 2014-02-02 09:30
Strathallan School is advertising in Sunday Herald for a History Teacher perhaps his/her remit should include modern Scottish politics.
# Breeks 2014-02-02 09:52
I've never been all that comfortable with people who want a Scottish education defined by GCSEs. It has always struck me as complicit acceptance that English qualifications are more worthy than Scottish ones. Back in the days when I was applying for Universities, to study something basic like Geography at an English University required Highers equal to studying medicine here in Scotland. I don't know whether that has changed, but clearly not at Strathallan.

But to put the Strathallan kids into context, they clearly do come from privileged backgrounds, and when redistribution of wealth and power is on the cards, it is their wealth and power most likely to be redistributed. These are people at an impressionable age, feeling threatened by developments in Scotland. What do you expect them to say?

Problem is, 97% vs 3% looks less like a stimulating education and suspiciously closer to sterile indoctrination.
# Flower of Scotland 2014-02-02 10:27
I was just listening to Ken McDonald on Radio Scotland and they mentioned Newsnet , Bella , Massey Blog , not sure about Wings as I was listening after the programme started .
However they did mentioned the debacle of The Big debate and how Pete Wishart received vile tweets from the pupils of Strathallan School after the show .
They also mentioned johann Lamont's Wee Things speech but agreed it was a slip of the tongue !
# proudscot 2014-02-02 10:42
I imagine the attitudes and political opinions of these pupils are more likely to have been picked up at home, rather than from the school itself. That said, it would also appear that BBC Scotland's vetting prcedure for audience balance is seriously flawed.
# Claverhouse 2014-02-02 11:31
These kids are in for a rude awakening..

The No kids think they are privileged, educated and informed when in fact the latter two, the opposite is true
Then again to hold such views at their age... it does not bold well for when they are older
# Clydebuilt 2014-02-02 11:59
The week before the Strathallan debate, the venue was in the borders (Dumfries I think). At the end of the debate Brian Taylor asked for a show of hands, YES first then the NO's. Brian's only comments on the result was "OH MY!". I interpreted this as a large majority for YES.
Will we ever hear the result if it is in favour of YES.
# HistoryPHD 2014-02-02 14:31
There has to something going seriously wrong at Strathallan with these children's educations to produce such an inordinate bias in favour of independence. Either that or there is some serious peer pressure in action there by some key students who are NO supporters and the rest wouldn't dare demur. These schools pride themselves on providing a more enlightened education and engaging their students in critical thinking. There doesn't seem to be too much of that happening given such a result. I doubt any other current political/moral issue would produce a result where only 1% of the audience favoured a particular result.

Blaming the BBC might be a bit harsh, though once they decide to hold the debate at the school they are to some extent beholden to opinion as it stands there. On the other hand they could have done a quick check that the audience was at least reasonably split and if it wasn't involved other local schools to reduce the bias.
# Corm 2014-02-02 14:48
To be kinda to the pupils of Strathallan they probably support Better Together as they are keenly aware of how separation can affect an individual.

I mean if my parents had left me in the care of folk they paid well but didnt really know to bring me up for 3/4's of my school and formative years whilst they were away making money id feel strongly about it too...
# Lucy97 2014-02-02 18:42
As a pupil at Strathallan School I can say I am extremely disappointed with the behavior displayed by some members of our community. It was inexcusable.

However, I cannot say totally unprovoked. The intention of inviting Brian Taylor's Big Debate to Strath was to inform all the pupils of both sides of the debate, if you have listened to it online or on the radio I'm positive that you will find Mr Wishart's attempts at providing a balanced argument for the YES campaign unsatisfactory. So many of the pupils were disappointed at this and have therefore remained NO voters as they have not been shown a feasible alternative

The backlash from this, which was seen on twitter, was also the consequence of feelings that Mr Wishart was rude and arrogant towards members of my school. Making generalisations about private school kids, when in actual fact. we are an Independant school, something entirely different.
# Breeks 2014-02-02 23:16
Lucy, can you articulate a positive case for the Union? I mean constructive and progressive, as in if the Union didn't exist then why would it need to be invented.
The YES campaign, and the SNP's white paper make the positive case for an iScotland, but Better Together won't engage with positive arguments, just interminable recycling of the same smears and fears.

Perhaps you can explain why we should not be angry and resentful when we see what Norway has done with the same opportunity we had in the UK. Norway builds for their future, but Scotland's wealth is squandered. The McCrone Report is the Scottish Fairy Tale without the happy ending, and Norway is living proof it didn't have to be that way.
That wealth belonged to all of us.
We have a second chance, to build a better society for everybody. If we leave it to Westminster, they will rob our kids of their future and deny our elderly security and contentment they deserve.
# snowthistle 2014-02-02 23:26
Listened to the debate again after I read your comment and I can't agree with you I'm afraid.

There was very little evidence in the contributions from the audience, of pupils from both sides.

It sounded as if there was a fairly large majority of No supporters. Perhaps they were just more vocal than the Yes side?

The BBC should have ensured balance and they did not so it was incumbent on Pete Wishart to point this out. This choice is too important for us to accept shoddy workmanship from the BBC.

We also have to remember that Pete was not the only Wishart on the panel. Ruth gave a very good account of herself but the audience did not seem receptive to the points she made.

Finally, as you point out, the behavior of some Strathallan pupils was inexcusable, so I'm puzzled as to why you would try to justify it
# McDuff 2014-02-02 19:18
Obviously they teach `yobbish` at Strathallan. If I was shelling out fees to send my kids to this school I would be livid at their behaviour.
Not a great advertisement
# bringiton 2014-02-03 00:59
These schools were designed by the British Empire to produce people who were versed in the ways of empire and could act as obedient servants.
Now,parents who still consider Britain to be a force in the world,continue to send their children to such institutions.
Scandinavians and others produce top class educated children without the need for private funding because they place great value on everyone in their society.
If we continue to live with a British state who only values those people who can pay then we deserve no better.
# Discodoob 2014-02-03 11:53
Kids at these schools are more likely to vote no because their parents are more likely to vote no and because they feel an obligation to vote like their parents since their parents have paid for their education.

The best approach is to start by asking 'what is working well with the Union?'
# mealer 2014-02-04 00:14
thanks for your comment .It was sensible of your school to invite the show along as a means of stimulating debate amongst pupils.We are faced with a big decision in September and its important we hear the arguments from both sides.Perhaps more so in a school such as Strathallan.I'm not so sure if it was wise of the BBC to accept the invitation when it must surely have been obvious that the audience would be of an overwhelmingly NO disposition.That said,perhaps there is merit in asking panellists to enter the lions den from time to time.I just can't see the BBC,given their obvious and documented bias,ever holding a debate in an environment as hostile to NO.Anyway,if you have a vote in September,I'd urge you to consider voting YES for a better Scotland.The alternative is to continue along the path of failure and decline.And that's in no ones best interests.Whatever their background.

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