BBC hits back at bias accusations, but new twist has Labour MP demanding his own apology

BBC Scotland has hit back at claims that its flagship TV current affairs programme, Newsnight Scotland, is biased towards the SNP.

It follows Labour MP, Ian Davidson, calling the programme, ‘News-Nat’ Scotland throughout an interview with presenter, Isabel Fraser, on Tuesday night.

Yesterday, Scotsman columnist, Michael Kelly, a former Labour Provost of Glasgow, challenged the BBC to take an ‘objectivity test’.

Today, in a letter published in The Scotsman, Ian Small, head of public policy and corporate affairs at BBC Scotland, writes: “Michael Kelly is entitled to his opinions about BBC ­journalists (Perspective, ­9 August), however ill-informed and unfair those opinions may be, but we completely ­reject suggestions of bias on the part of our journalists working on Newsnight Scotland or, indeed, on any other of our programmes.

“When Mr Kelly says Isabel Fraser ‘has form’ it is as one of the BBC’s most highly respected and valued journalists.

“Ms Fraser did what BBC journalists do week in, week out when she robustly, but fairly, challenged the views of Ian Davidson MP on Tuesday evening’s show.

“It may be uncomfortable for some when we ask the questions that our audiences want asked – but that is what we will continue to do and will do so as professionally as Isabel Fraser did on Tuesday.

“To suggest that by asking these questions she holds or promotes a particular opinion is, quite fundamentally, to misunderstand political interviewing.

“Audiences expect fair and impartial journalism from the BBC and they expect those who hold power to have their arguments robustly challenged.

“That is what we will continue to do on their behalf.”

However, in a new development, The Herald’s political editor, Magnus Gardham, today claims the row has escalated “after it emerged an apparently neutral constitutional lawyer interviewed by the programme was an SNP blogger”.

Writes Gardham: “Andrew Tickell was introduced simply as an Oxford University lawyer without mention of his role as a high-profile Nationalist blogger, who writes online under the pseudonym, ‘Lallands Peat Worrier’.”

The Herald reports Davidson is now calling for an apology from BBC Scotland, and quotes him, as saying: “It’s outrageous the BBC should act in this way, presenting an SNP activist and blogger as an impartial academic.

“The issue for me is whether Isabel Fraser knew his background. If not, she was incompetent. If so, this was a conspiracy.

“I was clearly being set up by someone for an ambush. Either way I deserve an apology for the way this programme was conducted.”