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Backlash at report

BBC under attack over Smith’s Salmond error

Sarah Smith - BBC

Sarah Smith: errors

BBC bosses were facing mounting criticism on social media this weekend over its response to an inaccurate report by Scotland editor Sarah Smith on the Alex Salmond affair.

During an appearance on Friday at the Scottish Parliament inquiry into the government’s handling of complaints against him, Mr Salmond was asked if he thought his successor as First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, should resign if she was found to have misled parliament.

He said he believed she had broken the ministerial code but it was not for him to suggest what the consequences should be.

However, Ms Smith told viewers of the BBC’s Six O’Clock News that evening that he had said she should resign.

She said: “He believes Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the ministerial code which he thinks means she should resign.”

Following a backlash on social media, the BBC issued a statement which read: “On the Six O’Clock news headline tonight we said that Alex Salmond had claimed the First Minister had ‘broken the ministerial code and that he thinks she should resign’. We would like to clarify that Mr Salmond did not say that the First Minister should resign.”

It added: “He said “I’ve got no doubt that Nicola has broken the ministerial code but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequences should be.”

Ms Smith also apologised for the error, tweeting: “ On the 6 O’clock news headline tonight I said that Alex Salmond had claimed the First Minister had ‘broken the ministerial code and that he thinks she should resign’. I would like to clarify that Mr Salmond did not say that the First Minister should resign.”

Despite the apologies, social media was awash with calls for Ms Smith to go and for the BBC to apologise on its news bulletins, rather than just issue statements on twitter.

Complainants noted that it was not the first time Ms Smith had been forced to apologise for errors.

In July last year the BBC’s executive complaints unit (ECU) issued a ruling following a report on 18 May by Ms Smith which said the First Minister had “enjoyed the opportunity to make her own different lockdown rules” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The BBC said it received 4,500 complaints making it the most complained about item across its television and radio channels in the first half of the year. The BBC said it was an “inappropriate expression of opinion” showing bias against the First Minister.  Ms Smith later said she had meant to use the word “embraced”.

She previously apologised for mixing up annual and weekly accident and emergency figures.

See also:

Salmond: ‘Failures of leadership are many’ + how the scandal has hit SNP and independence support

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