‘Biased’ BBC should be devolved to Scotland, says Salmond

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. (Reuters/Russell Cheyne)
Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has called for BBC Scotland to be run by Edinburgh following the broadcaster’s “biased” reporting in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum last year.

The former Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said the BBC’s Scottish division should be under the “democratic control” of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh.

Salmond was a vocal critic of the BBC during the SNP’s pro-independence campaign last year, accusing it of peddling a pro-Union line.

Thousands of independence supporters protested outside the BBC’s offices in Glasgow during the campaign over its perceived bias in reporting.

Speaking to a SNP conference in Glasgow, Salmond said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the BBC had allowed itself to be influenced by a “biased press” largely opposed to a “Yes” vote in favor of Scottish independence.

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Some of the experience of the referendum has scarred the BBC, and there has been some gain from it already from our perspective,” he said.

This week [SNP leader] Nicola Sturgeon will take her rightful place in the TV debates, which was something that the BBC resisted in court at the last general election.”

Salmond admitted this was “an advance” on previous attempts by the SNP to gain nationwide attention during general election campaigns.

He added: “But in reality I don’t think the broadcasting issue in terms of how it treats Scotland will be properly resolved until we have broadcasting under the remit of our democratic parliament in Scotland.”

The former SNP leader was met with applause from around 2,000 supporters when he attacked the BBC’s news coverage.

One delegate at the conference was greeted with cheers when he announced he had canceled his BBC TV license following the referendum.

Salmond’s comments were attacked by Scottish Liberal Democrat president Sir Malcolm Bruce.

Bruce told The Scotsman newspaper: “The BBC is respected across the globe for its reporting – except for Alex Salmond and his conspiracy theorists. It is time for Alex Salmond to stop hunting for excuses for losing the referendum and move on to building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: “Our coverage of the referendum was fair and balanced and our coverage of the general election is fair and balanced.”

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It emerged last week that Salmond had postponed the North American tour of his new book about the SNP’s independence campaign, “The Dream Shall Never Die,” until after the general election.

His headline-grabbing comments and pop star-like reception at the SNP conference over the weekend have prompted some to ask whether Salmond is actually still pulling the strings in the SNP behind the scenes. He stood down as First Minister following the 55-45 percent “No” vote last September.

The new first minister and SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has been forced to reassert her position as leader of the party.

Speaking at the SNP’s spring conference last week, Sturgeon said: “Alex is an asset for the SNP. I think he is an asset for Scotland. The more he’s out there complimenting what I’m doing as party leader, playing a role as part of the SNP team, then that’s good for the SNP.