Politicians and members of the public have reacted with fury after a BBC Radio 4 broadcast heard commentators describe Scots as living off of benefits provided by the English and describe the Scottish parliament as a “charade of a building” inhabited by MSPs who “crawl out of the darkness”.
The comments were made on the radio programme ‘Any Questions’ by Baroness Ruth Deech who is a former Governor of the BBC and Douglas Murray who is the Director of The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC). The comments have resulted in a stream of complaints to the BBC.
The show, broadcast on Friday 20th August, heard Baroness Deech claim that Scots lived off of benefits paid for by English subsidies and that the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi had embarrassed the rest of the UK.
“Alright, they're devolved, but I think they did this [Megrahi release] just to show the rest of us oh, that we are independent, we make our own decisions,”
“it's been very embarrassing for the rest of us.”
Deech suggested that Scottish politicians should be taken back by Scotland and that Scots relied on English subsidised benefits saying:
“We're all subsidising them I think, by way of benefits and all sorts of reasons, and if they want to show how independent they are, ok, thank you and goodbye.”
Deech was followed by Douglas Murray who went further by insulting the integrity of the Scottish NHS doctors who examined Al Megrahi, referring to them as “alleged doctors”. Murray also made insulting remarks about Scottish MSPs and the Scottish parliament.
“I think, the most galling thing about this whole thing, is this pretend horrible charade building in Edinburgh called the Scottish Parliament and the horrible charade politicians who inhabit it, and who occasionally crawl out of the darkness.
“Kenny MacAskill and Alex Salmond, these horrible grand standing mickey mouse politicians, have been parading around talking about the unique compassion of the Scottish people.
“...no good can come from this institution, the Scottish Parliament.”
The comments, from both guests, were met with enthusiastic loud applause and howls of laughter from the audience in Harvest Fields Centre in Sutton Coldfield.
The CSC, of which Murray is a director, was founded in 2007 to promote human rights, tolerance and greater cohesion among the UK’s ethnic and religious communities and within wider British society.
Here is an edited recording of Ruth Deech and Douglas Murray's comments:
Speaking after hearing the extracts from the programme, Glasgow’s Leader of the Opposition, SNP Councillor James Dornan, said: “I'm shocked, but unfortunately not surprised, by the blatantly anti-Scottish comments made by the panellists on last week’s Any Questions. If they had been made about any other nationality the BBC would have been facing a charge under the Race Relations Act.
“Unfortunately, we in Scotland have become used to such diatribes from programmes broadcast on the BBC. The BBC is supposed to be the national broadcaster for all parts of Britain - the clue is in their title, and that currently includes Scotland.
“The only thing I could agree with was when Ruth Deech said maybe it’s time for Scotland to go independent. If she wants to help in this process she should encourage every Scot to listen to her and her colleagues' ignorant anti-Scottish vitriol.
“I do not pay my taxes to hear such ill-informed and borderline-racist comments. It is time the BBC put its house in order”.
Other leading Scottish politicians have expressed similar views with senior Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem figures describing the broadcast as “intemperate and ill informed”, “deeply troubling” and “offensive”.
Newsnet Scotland also understands that Sir Robert Smith MP has written to Director General of the BBC Mark Thompson regarding the broadcast.
On Thursday evening Newsnet Scotland contacted the BBC Press Office with the following email:
Last Friday, 20th August, BBC Radio broadcast an episode of 'Any Questions'.
In response to a question about the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, comments were made that many listeners considered to be xenophobic and deeply offensive. They were made by two guests on the panel - namely: Ruth Deech and Douglas Murray and have resulted in a number of complaints being made to the BBC as well as to MPs and MSPs.
Many of these complainants have contacted Newsnet Scotland with the responses received from the BBC; they are not at all pleased. Some have contacted their local MPs and MSPs who have acknowledged the intemperate and offensive nature of the broadcast comments.
There is now widespread condemnation from many senior Scottish politicians and Sir Robert Smith MP has deemed it serious enough to write to the Director General of the BBC Mark Thompson.
Given this, we feel it would be reasonable for us to ask the BBC to confirm exactly how many complaints it has received in relation to this matter and for someone to explain just why it is that exactly the same worded message is being sent out in response, regardless of the specific nature of each complaint.
We are also troubled by an email sent out by one David Larner who is the Complaints Co-ordinator at BBC Audience Services. Mr Larner has written to a complainant informing them that their complaint will not now go through the BBC's complaints process.
The reason given by Mr Larner is that the individual had the temerity to complain to Ofcom and to write to the local MP and MSP.
Mr Larner says:
"You have informed us that as well as raising the matter with your MP and MSP, you have contacted Ofcom and are awaiting their comments.
"As you’ve advised that you have raised your complaint with Ofcom, the BBC Complaints process is now unable to accommodate your complaint therefore the Corporation is unable to investigate or respond."
Can you confirm that this is official BBC policy and, if so, at what point in the complaints process does the BBC deem it acceptable to contact a third party such as Ofcom or ones democratically elected representative?
We thank you for your help in this matter.
Thus far, and not surprisingly, the BBC has failed to respond to our queries.
If you find the broadcast offensive and wish to make a complaint then go to this website: https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/
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