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Claims of politicking

BBC switches off Sturgeon’s live daily briefings

Nicola Sturgeon

On message: Nicola Sturgeon is accused of politicking

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today declared her daily briefings to be “more important than ever” as the BBC announced it would restrict the number of live broadcasts.

At today’s briefing she said the decision by the BBC is a “matter for the BBC”, but made the point that as a public service broadcaster it reaches people in the community who may not be familiar with the internet, or may suffer from a disability.

“They have been important in allowing me to communicate information and advice directly, and giving us the opportunity to explain the reasoning and rationale behind the decisions we are taking and the things we are asking people to do.

“I’ve always thought the more people can understand why they are being asked to restrict their lives in certain ways, the more likely it is they are going to comply. I think that principle has generally served Scotland well in the last few months.”

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She continued: “We are clearly at a point where the virus is accelerating again as we go into winter. So it becomes more important, not less important to continue that very direct communication.”

She insisted she has tried not to use them to push political points, but admitted she is not infallible.

The BBC said it will continue to stream them online but will only show them live on television for key updates.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the decision was “a matter for regret”.

He said TV may be preferred by people with limited internet access.

He added that encouraging take-up of the new coronavirus contact tracing app was a good example of the way television could assist in getting across a public health message.

“It’s been a crucial part of the communication and I would like to see it continue to be broadcast on BBC Scotland channels because of the importance of getting that message directly to members of the public.”

John Swinney

John Swinney: matter of regret

The briefings which have featured other ministers or health officials have been broadcast on BBC One Scotland and the BBC Scotland channel, as well as being streamed on the BBC News website and featuring on BBC Radio Scotland.

The BBC said in a statement: “We will continue to provide extensive coverage of the government press conferences across our news services, including streaming online.

“We will of course consider showing press conferences live when any major developments or updates are anticipated.”

The Scottish Conservatives are among those who have claimed the First Minister has used the daily briefings as political platform to criticise the UK government.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly insisted that dealing with the coronavirus crisis is above party politics, and adamantly denies using her briefings for political gain.

However, critics have pointed out that her briefings offer an opportunity to issue daily updates on SNP policy and that there have been a number of occasions when she has been critical of the UK government.

At a briefing in July she passed comment on Boris Johnson’s visit to Shetland, saying that if she was in his shoes she would not be out ‘campaigning’.

She told the same briefing that Mr Johnson’s claims about the might of the UK Treasury were really “just a feature of where power lies”.

See also

“The Daily Sturgeon could be seen as an hour-long party political broadcast, overtly political in spite of claims to the contrary, and saving the SNP a fortune in paid messaging, with no opportunity for the opposition parties to take part or respond.” Daily Business Comment 14 July

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