Reporting Scotland editor responds tetchily to not understanding my complaint regarding their coverage of organised crime


(stock image, NOT the RS ed)


MY COMPLAINT: Case number CAS-4952019-6JPNYG: 4th June 2018

Complaint Summary: Reporting of research on Organised Crime

Full Complaint: Extended, headlined, report, with 24 long, compound, sentences on organised crime. Despite, the length, RS failed to mention the researchers’ own repeated warning against generalising the findings beyond their small sample to the national situation in Scotland. This is a key responsibility in reporting research. As early as page 3 in the report, ‘Community Experiences of Serious Organised Crime in Scotland’, we see this: ‘188 individuals participated in the study, which mostly involved semi-structured qualitative interviews, but also a small number of focus groups, unstructured interviews and observational research.’ So, this is a small-scale piece of qualitative research. Such research can be very useful in explaining the complexity of social situations and, in particular, helping professionals, such the police, to develop effective strategies. However, such research, cannot be used to tell us how common something is or how widespread it is. For that, you’d need a much bigger sample, randomly selected and spread across the country. The researchers are not to blame for Reporting Scotland’s misuse of their findings. On page 3 and again on page 25, in the methods section, they say: ‘While the case study areas had traits that were similar to other communities in Scotland, however, it should be noted that these findings should not be read as a generalised picture of SOC-community relations in Scotland.’ Given their prominence in the report, it’s difficult to explain the failure to mention the declared limitations on interpreting these results, as other than deliberate and then we’re left to wonder why.


I am afraid I am not clear about what your complaint actually is, because you produce not a single example of what you are complaining about. The closest I can get to understanding your point is your statement: “Such research cannot be used to tell us how common something is or how widespread it is”. As we did neither, your complaint – if that it be – is without foundation.

The reporter Reevel Alderson spoke to three people with something to say about serious crime in Scotland – Chris Kerr of Family Action in Rogerfield and Easterhouse, who amongst other things are organising activities to keep young children away from crime groups; one of the leaders of the study, Dr Alistair Fraser of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, who outlined how a map of organised crime in Scotland correlated closely to a map of economic disadvantage and who emphasised how ripe such communities were for exploitation; and the Scottish Government Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, who agreed with the finding that more needed to be done to win over communities with high levels of mistrust in the police, with all-round cooperation by interested parties being “an important element” of a wider package of measures.

The research findings paper 67/2018 published on the Scottish Government website concluded “Serious organised crime has deep roots in Scotland and extends the corrosive reach into a wide range of communities, businesses and institutions.” That sobering assessment is reason enough to report an issue of concern to most Scots and that was what we did using three important players in this story.

In view of what I have written above I hope that you will understand why I find wholly without foundation your statement ‘it’s difficult to explain the failure to mention the declared limitations on interpreting these results, as other than deliberate and then we’re left to wonder why’.


Yours is quite a tetchy wee response. I know it can be upsetting when you don’t or are not allowed to understand something but that’s no excuse. Luckily, it’s simple. My complaint is that by giving headline attention at some length to research about organised crime without mentioning the researchers’ own clear and repeated warning about the extent to which their small number of cases can be generalised to the wider Scottish context, you suggest to your viewers that it may well be widespread. I know that you did not explicitly state that it was widespread (duh) but it was your responsibility (in your charter) to make sure viewers were aware that you were not saying that, by referring to the researchers’ warning. There is a serious danger than many viewers, trusting your coverage, will now think that this is a more common phenomenon than it is – see your own website which reveals that there are only 164 gangs in Scotland yet according to a BBC Salford broadcast on May 14th, there are 4 500 in the UK as a whole. Thus, Scotland has, per capita, far fewer gangs than the rest of the UK. Indeed, Scotland has 8% of the population yet only 3.5% of the gangs. Try again?


9 thoughts on “Reporting Scotland editor responds tetchily to not understanding my complaint regarding their coverage of organised crime

  1. George Gardiner June 15, 2018 / 9:29 am

    Keep at them John. I salute your indefatigability …


  2. Toni Young June 15, 2018 / 10:28 am

    Willful misunderstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gavin June 15, 2018 / 4:21 pm

    Its the Gordon Brewer syndrome which affects the BBC in Scotland.
    “I don’t quite understand”. This about anything brought up by an SNP person on his show—when he’s not talking over the top of them, that is.
    “Isnt this the most boring constitutional crisis, ever”?—This about the Withdrawal Bill debacle to fellow Brit, David Torrance.


  4. Ludo Thierry June 15, 2018 / 4:49 pm

    Hi John – Sorry++ for going completely off topic but I feel the collage below offers a bit of useful info. First off it shows up – again – the bizarre Westminster procedures that operate against sense and democracy. 2ndly it shows up the Christopher Chope type tories extreme hypocrisy in blocking progressive moves due to absence of a chance to ‘debate’ – yet cheering on the absence of ‘debate’ over the power grab in Scotland. 3rdly it demonstrates how the Scottish Parliament has already (back in 2010) moved forward in this particular area of public interest. 4thly it demonstrates how Lib Dems criticise using arcane Westminster procedures – but happily participate in these processes when it suits their purposes. (Edit of info from beeb and other sites):

    An attempt to make upskirting a specific criminal offence in England and Wales has been blocked by one Conservative MP.

    The government had given its support to introducing the new law earlier.

    The campaign for the law against upskirting – where photos are secretly taken under a skirt – was started by victim Gina Martin.

    But Sir Christopher Chope shouted “object” to the bill, leading to cries of “shame” from other MPs.

    Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobshouse, who brought the private member’s bill to Parliament, has criticised the “out-of-touch Tory” for “sabotaging” it.

    Ms Hobshouse’s bill would have made upskirting a criminal offence and meant offenders could face a maximum of two years in prison.

    It was expected to pass after justice minister Lucy Frazer confirmed the government would back it.
    But parliamentary rules mean it only requires one MP to shout “object” to block a bill’s progress.

    Ms Hobshouse added: “Upskirting is a depraved violation of privacy. It is outrageous that a single member of Parliament has today been able to derail a much needed and universally supported change in the law.

    “This change would have protected women and girls across England and Wales and given the police the tools to bring the perpetrators to justice. This is too important to allow people like Christopher Chope to obstruct progress on this vital issue.”

    Ms Martin’s lawyer, Ryan Wheeler, tweeted that Sir Christopher objected to the bill because it had “not been debated”.

    Upskirting has been an offence in Scotland since 2010 when it was listed under the broadened definition of voyeurism

    INTERESTING NOTE : Wera Hobhouse (Lib Dem MP for Bath) seems happy to employ her own arcane Westminster procedures when it suits her political purposes. For instance – earlier this week on the Westminster Devolution Power Grab ‘debate’ she voted twice – she voted both for and against the motion, which is allowed under parliamentary rules. In effect cancelling her own votes in some sort of ‘active abstention’. (Allowing herself to claim she voted one way or the other depending which audience she is speaking to – truly she was born to join the Lib Dems).

    This is the kind of rich keech that goes on day in and day out at the Palace of Westminster. We need to untie the knot and bring our democracy home to Scotland before we terminally stifle under the stench of Westminster entitlement and hypocrisy.


    • Contrary June 15, 2018 / 6:26 pm

      Thank you for this Ludo, someone in the work earlier had mentioned the bill hadn’t been passed (which he probably regretted mentioning because I just had to make clear that it is a criminal offence in Scotland because we have totally separate criminal judicial systems, in perpetuity – turns out I can spell that word fine but can’t pronounce it! So it would just be in England slipping back into the dark ages) – but it’s fascinating to hear about the ludicrous way in which it wasn’t passed! The stench of hypocrisy indeed.

      Results of having the opportunity to talk about Brexit Bill devolution section, and the ramifications, yesterday: one listener actually watched a clip of the walk-out event (I suggested he watch from the start of the question to the PM because there are key things in the sequence of events, though) and he was duly horrified by the speaker’s childishness and the braying from the Tory benches (yes it IS a farce, the whole Westminster system). Another listener, to whom I showed the uk government version of ‘consent’, sort of capitulated to my comment ‘they’re at it’ by responding ‘they are all at it’, and did not respond (which is a good sign in this case) when I gave example of the uncertainty caused by Westminster – this time due to the wider ramifications of changes in pension policy & taxation, a reserved matter, so imposed on us. because of the committee meeting I accidentally watched re the Auditor General reporting on the state of the (devolved) fire service, I suddenly had insight as to how lowering the lifetime earnings thing that Osborne started affects a lot of the senior management employees in the fire service and doctors etc – these people are retiring earlier and don’t want to do extra work afterwards, making retaining essential staff difficult, but also planning for the future to attract people into these roles is nearly impossible. Uncertainty=Westminster rule.

      Heh, with the World Cup on & my usual lack of interest in football being temporarily overturned by getting involved in one of the work pools things means I have to ask a lot of questions about how things work,,, so, most of it is incomprehensible, but that was a prime opportunity to ask all those football officienados how come they could understand all the complexities of that, but claim to find politics too complicated?? That’ll learn them. The most politically reticent group I know may just be becoming more aware. Maybe.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gary June 18, 2018 / 1:36 pm

    Maybe they ‘couldn’t understand your accent’?

    Liked by 1 person

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