SNP says BBC is excluding it from daily briefing
Nicola Sturgeon’s briefings are under scrutiny
The SNP has been ridiculed by an opposition MSP after the party complained to the BBC that it is being excluded from coverage of Nicola Sturgeon’s daily coronavirus briefings.
Keith Brown, the SNP deputy leader, said he was “deeply concerned” about the programme which now invites opposition parties to comment on the First Minister’s announcements on the retitled BBC Scotland News Special.
Mr Brown said inviting opposition politicians to discuss the latest updates under the changed format and more generic name was “deeply unfair”.
The BBC’s coverage now cuts away from media questions to allow Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green politicians to have their say.
The change follows claims by media commentators and politicians that the briefings are being used as daily party political broadcasts. The BBC had previously hinted, before climbing down, that it would stop broadcasting every briefing.
However, in a letter to the BBC, Mr Brown said the new section “is now overtly political with a stark bias against the largest party”.
He wrote: “Constituents of mine, who are also your audience, have contacted me and have rightly pointed out that the first minister’s only focus is on public health and pandemic-related matters – indeed, the first minister, as any regular viewer will know, goes out of her way to avoid making political points even when invited to by journalists.
“So why is the BBC enabling non-SNP politicians to have a ‘free hit’?
“I urge you to reconsider the format of and our exclusion from this programme as a matter of urgency.”
The Scottish Conservatives said that in an average week of the BBC briefings, the SNP received approximately 90 to 100 minutes of coverage.
This compares to roughly 10 minutes for the Conservatives, the party said.
Chief whip Miles Briggs MSP said: “Not content with leading a daily televised briefing, the SNP now want the right to reply to themselves.
“It’s madness and it would be laughable if the result of their pressure and lobbying of the BBC wasn’t so serious.
Miles Briggs: it’s madness (pic: Terry Murden)
“They are determined to turn Scotland into a one-party state where only SNP voices are heard. On the current evidence, they’re succeeding.
“We are happy to give Keith Brown the facts. The SNP receive about 10 times the coverage of the main opposition party in these briefings each week, just four months before an election
“Nicola Sturgeon has used the pandemic as a campaign platform and has disrespected and bypassed the Scottish Parliament on a number of occasions.
“It’s clear that the First Minister is happy to turn the briefings political whenever it suits the SNP’s agenda.
“The very act of holding the briefings becomes political when SNP leaders claim on BBC television that independence is an ‘essential priority’ for Scotland’s recovery from Covid, as the Deputy First Minister has done recently.”