BBC had ‘institutional issue’ during referendum, Sturgeon claims

By Katrine Bussey and Laura Paterson, PA Scotland

There was an “institutional issue” with the BBC in its coverage of the 2014 independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Scotland’s First Minister said it “felt sometimes as if the BBC were on one side of the debate”.

But she said she did not believe the broadcaster was biased and hoped things had “moved on” since then.

BBC Scotland’s Glasgow headquarters (Julia Hoyle/PA)
BBC Scotland’s Glasgow headquarters (Julia Hoyle/PA)

The SNP leader was taking part in the BBC 5 Live Breakfast radio programme when she answered a question sent in by a listener via Twitter asking how “biased” the BBC is.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think there was there was an institutional issue with the BBC to some extent (during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum).

“I don’t think it was down to individuals or journalists. It felt sometimes as if the BBC were on one side of the debate but that’s then, I hope things have moved on from that.”

Just days before the referendum, independence supporters staged a demonstration outside BBC Scotland’s Glasgow HQ in protest at the corporation’s coverage of events.

But Ms Sturgeon said she believed BBC journalists “by and large” do a good job.

She said: “Journalists should never be partial, I don’t think it should be a case of them trying to do any favours to the independence cause.

“I think it should be a case of quality, impartial journalism and I’ve got great respect for BBC journalists because I think by and large they do a good job.”

The First Minister added: “I would exclude largely BBC Scotland from this but I remember doing interviews in the latter stages of the independence referendum when some of the network correspondents came up to cover it and it was almost as if they weren’t keeping up and you were having to go back to square one on issues that people in Scotland were very informed about.

“I think there was also, and as I say I don’t think this was in the minds of individual journalists, but as an institution perhaps there was the sense that the BBC, given its place and role and status in the British media, felt that its own future was somehow caught up in the independence referendum.”

Questioned on what would happen if independence supporters lost a referendum and how long it would take until a further vote could be held, she said: “I’m not planning to lose and I don’t think we will.”

Ms Sturgeon said the future of Scotland was “for people in Scotland to decide”.