Scottish Government announces that poverty gap is closing. BBC Scotland ignores it


On the Scottish Government site today:

‘The gap between pupils from the most and least deprived areas who go on to university, college or a job after school has closed by over a fifth in one year, new figures show. The proportion of 2016/17 school leavers from the most deprived areas in a positive destination nine months after leaving school increased to 87.6% – reducing the gap with school leavers from the least deprived areas by 22%.’

Particularly encouraging, in a long list, are these massive improvements for one of the most disadvantaged groups:

  • The percentage of looked after children achieving at least SCQF Level 5 (National 5 or equivalent) has increased from 15% in 2009/10 to 44% in 2016/17
  • The gap in attainment between children looked after for the full year and all school leavers has narrowed from 62 percentage points in 2009/10 to 42 percentage points in 2016/17

This an important announcement on an issue of particular interest to most viewers. However, Reporting Scotland ignored the announcement on the 19th, when it was announced, and ignored it all day on the 20th.  Yet, they seem recognise its importance at other times and have commonly reported on perceived problems in the new curriculum. Here are only a few from the last year:

New curriculum could be ‘disastrous’, says education expert – BBC News

Teaching union condemns Scottish schools shake-up – BBC News

Teaching in Scotland ‘an undoable job’ – BBC

Scottish Conservatives call for ‘reset’ of Curriculum for … –

School curriculum expert’s momentum warning over delay – BBC News

That perceived problems in the new curriculum are commonly reported but evidence of its success is ignored suggests clearly, bias against the Scottish government.

Footnote: I’ll put a complaint in.


World’s first renewables-powered hydrogen ferry to be built in Port Glasgow


From World Maritime News yesterday:

‘Ferguson Marine and its European partners won a bid for EU funding support that would enable the building and launch of the world’s first sea-going car and passenger ferry fuelled by hydrogen. The supported development is expected to cost around EUR 12.6 million (around USD 14.6) of which EUR 9.3 million has been awarded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund.’ The vessel’s fuel will be produced from renewable electricity marking a paradigm shift towards entirely emissions-free marine transport, the companies said in a joint statement. Employing Ballard technology, the initial objective is to construct and prove the vessel’s modular drive train onshore, testing for stress and durability under conditions employing real-world data from existing vessels. The successful test will allow a vessel to be constructed. The vessel is planned to operate in and around Orkney – which is already producing hydrogen in volume from constrained – and hence otherwise wasted – renewable energy.’

Scotland has a number of innovations relating to the use of hydrogen power already underway. See these:

Aberdeen 20: Dundee 12? The competition for Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses

Scotland’s cities ally to exploit hydrogen-based technologies. Scotland’s Unionist media ally to ignore it

Europe’s biggest hydrogen-powered bus fleet and now the UK’s biggest hydrogen cell installation are both in Scotland

MAJOR NEWS: World’s first tidal-powered hydrogen generated in Scotland after £3 million funding from SNP Government

It’s a gas, gas, gas?


NHS Scotland first to be 100% Baby Friendly



See this from the Scottish government site, yesterday:

‘Scotland has become the first country in the UK to achieve full UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation in all of its maternity and community health visiting services, following NHS Lothian receiving the honour. The accreditation demonstrates that health boards across the country are providing new mums and babies with the best possible support and care.’

The above news adds to an already existing trend in Scotland, with regard to care of the child.

Stillbirths at almost Scandinavian levels

In the Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland – the rate of stillbirths and deaths of babies within 28 days is 4.3 per 1 000 live births. This is the lowest in the world. In the USA, it’s about 10. The Scottish figure has now fallen to just 4.72 with the rate for the UK at 5.61.

However, there’s something a bit contradictory here isn’t there. Aren’t we the sick man of Europe with shorter life expectancies due to smoking and poor diets? Shouldn’t our childbirth figures be higher than the rest of the UK? Yet, they’re not. Why? Well, I’ve already reported on what are probably the two main reasons – lower child poverty and a better NHS. Here’s a reminder of the evidence for these claims and their sources. On child poverty, see this again:

Scotland has smallest number of children living in poverty

‘Scotland, for example, has the smallest number of children living in poverty among the constituent nations of the UK, the lowest prevalence of low pay and far more young people from deprived areas going on to higher education.’ (iv)

So, who gets the credit for this? Have years of progressive social policies implemented by the SNP helped in anyway do you think? Are the UK figures lagging due to Tory austerity measures?


Is Scottish Government’s strategy to preventing fracking ‘a skilful act of governance’?


In the tweet above, today, M J Keatings is much impressed by the Scottish government’s avoidance of the risks inherent in any direct attempt to ban fracking. He wittily described it as Schrödinger’s moratorium where, ‘in the box’, it is both a living and a defunct ban, at the same time. With no actual ban implemented, Ineos had no case to make.

In the Holyrood magazine today, we see the same understanding:

‘Oil and gas giant Ineos has lost its legal challenge of the Scottish Government fracking ban. Ineos and Aberdeen firm Reach CSG were seeking a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s ban on unconventional oil and gas extraction – which includes fracking and coalbed methane extraction – which the companies claimed was “unlawful”. A moratorium on fracking has been in place since 2015 and in October this was extended “indefinitely”, with Minister for Business, Energy and Innovation Paul Wheelhouse pledging to use planning laws to “effectively ban” the process in Scotland. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh today, Lord Pentland found that the Scottish Government’s “preferred policy position” of no support for fracking does not amount to a legally enforceable prohibition and therefore INEOS had no case.’

So, is this use of planning legislation to ‘effectively ban’ fracking, a secure guarantee against any future change, leading to permission being given for fracking? Well, unless we see a Conservative government at Holyrood, it seems to be so. No other party supports fracking. Labour and the Greens have previously called on the Scottish government to actually implement a ban, but it seems likely that to do so would only invite court action which might result in the overthrow of the ban. So, on balance, it looks a smart move and one deserving of recognition. Pat Kane clearly thinks there should be a hue and crue about it:




Retired Professor fails BBC Reporting Scotland Editor on Organised Crime research


To: BBC Executive Complaints Unit:

BBC Complaints – CAS-4952019-6JPNYG

Complaint Summary: Reporting of research on Organised Crime

I write to continue my complaint after my second complaint was met with this on 18.6.28:

‘Thank you for taking the time to contact us again about Reporting Scotland on 4 June at 6.30pm. We are sorry to learn that you were not satisfied with our earlier response. We have discussed your comments with the Editor of Reporting Scotland but she has nothing further to add. For this reason, I’m afraid we cannot correspond with you further at this first stage of the complaints process.  If however you are still dissatisfied, you can contact the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU). The ECU is stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process.

To keep within your 1000-word limit, I have had to shorten both my complaints and the one response I did get.

Initial complaint 4th June 2018

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.

Reporting Scotland editor’s response: 14th June 2018

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’.

Second complaint 15.6.18 CAS-4964526-MV7QNQ (case number changed by BBC)

Full Complaint: 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?


Please deal with this complaint seriously. In reporting on research which may have a significant effect on both policy development and levels of public anxiety, it is essential that any limitations on the conclusions made by the researchers themselves are clearly stated in the report. They were not, nor was the research put into context in terms of the number of gangs in Scotland as opposed to the level across rUK. What then remains is a scare-story of the kind we might expect in a tabloid, but which should not appear in a state-funded organisation, guided by a charter. Please insist on a correction broadcast at the same time of day.




Second BBC Complaint re Scottish Fire and Rescue report


Initial complaint 31.5.18 – CAS-4946918-F6LDN5

Full Complaint: We heard, six times between 6 and 9am: ‘Scottish Fire and Rescue has a backlog of almost £400 million in vehicle and property maintenance.’ According to the BBC report, Audit Scotland have described the funding gap as ‘insurmountable’. The above information was extracted from the 5th statement in the summary on page 5 of the report. Missing from the BBC broadcast was any reference to statements 1 to 4 or the opening to statement 5, which include these key points: 1. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) continues to deliver emergency and prevention services while progressing a complex and ambitious programme of reform. 2. The board continues to work well, with real strengths in the quality of discussion and scrutiny and challenge of management. The board and management display mutual respect, a constructive tone and genuine shared ownership of the issues facing the SFRS. 3. The SFRS has an ambitious vision that involves significant changes to make it a more flexible, modern service. Progress with developing and implementing the plans for transformation has been steady but slow, due to a range of contributing factors. 4. The SFRS has continued to make progress with integrating different ways of working but has not yet achieved full integration. Harmonised pay and conditions for firefighters were agreed in April 2018, placing the SFRS in a good position to complete integration of the service. 5. The SFRS has strong financial management and has developed a good approach to long-term financial planning. It is now in a position to progress with transformation. This is a classic scare story, based on bias by omission, which was likely to be all the more scary given the time of broadcast and the repetition of one negative aspect, from a more complex and balanced document.


BBC Reply 18.6.18

The story to which you refer lasted for twenty-six seconds. The early team took the view – one that I share – that the most important and interesting point for our viewers was that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service had a backlog in maintenance of vehicles and property approaching four hundred million pounds, an insurmountable position without further transformation and investment. The other points, including information such as “the board continues to work well” and “the board and management display mutual respect, a constructive tone and genuine shared ownership of the issues”, were not considered as being of comparable interest in a news story of limited duration. This was therefore not “a classic scare story, based on bias by omission”. You do not explain why the time of broadcast has anything to do with it. You talk of the “repetition of one negative aspect”: what we reported was the story and it can bear any number of repeats as long as it is accurate and fair – which it was.


Second complaint 19.6.18

It is essential when reporting on an important document to give viewers a representative and balanced account. Your report picked out the one negative and ignored five positive statements. That this was an example of bias by omission is quite clear. Repetition of this, unbalanced with any positive statement, six times in the early morning is likely to have scared viewers into thinking their lives may be at risk. Your mention of the 26-second length of the broadcast suggests you think this excuses imbalance. If it cannot be done professionally in the time available, then you should not do it at all. While this is a specific complaint about one issue, it is important to note that such imbalance is not uncommon in your reports. Your selection of the one negative aspect, ignoring two important positives, in the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service press release on Hate Crime in Scotland, 2017/18, on 16.6.18, on access to Higher Education on 13.6.18 and on the Scottish economy on 12.6.18 are the basis for other complaints.


Retired Professor stumps BBC Scotland Acting Temporary Deputy Head of News, Current Affairs and Royal Babies on Obesity

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To BBC Executive Complaints Unit : Incorrect use of and omission of data on obesity

I write to continue my complaint after my second complaint was met with this on 18.6.28:

We have discussed your comments with the Deputy Head of News and Current Affairs, but he has nothing further to add. For this reason, I’m afraid we cannot correspond with you further at this first stage of the complaints process.  If, however you are still dissatisfied, you can contact the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU).

To keep within your 1000 word limit, I have had to shorten both my complaints and the one response I did get.

Initial complaint May 27 CAS-4941139-HMPVR9 Reporting Scotland:

‘New research suggests that more than 1 in 3 women in Scotland will be morbidly obese, that’s at least 100 pounds above their ideal weight, by 2035. The research presented today in Vienna at the European Congress on Obesity indicates that women who have been to university are likely to be more adversely affected than those who didn’t.’

From a report in Medical Express: ‘rates of morbid obesity in adults will reach 5% in Scotland (compared to 4% in 2015), 8% in England (2.9% in 2016), and 11% in Wales (3% in 2015) by 2035.’ So, 1 in 20 Scots are expected to be morbidly obese by 2035. Even if the percentage for Scottish women is higher than for men, 1 in 3 is highly improbable. There are three serious problems with this report. First, the error confusing obesity with morbid obesity thus failing to inform viewers in a manner promised in the BBC’s charter. Second, the failure to report on the key finding that morbid obesity, in Scotland, is expected to plateau at 5% while soaring past that figure elsewhere in the UK. Third, the failure to report on the explanation for the above trend. The researchers offered a clear, confident and simple explanation for the significantly slower growth in obesity in Scotland – Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation. For example: ‘The government put a massive push on developing a route map for how we can actually combat this. They put together resources from the NHS that were proving to be effective. They did put a lot of work into it.’ The effectiveness of the above initiatives can be seen in this: ‘almost no 15-to-24-year-old males in Scotland are expected to fall within this category, compared to 6% of the same group in England.’

CAS-4940361-J4C08P: Good Morning Scotland

In the report on obesity, at 09:00, we heard nine, long, compound sentences yet no reference was made to key role played by Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation as stated clearly by the university researchers. In the Independent newspaper report, for example, we were able to read that the researchers offered a clear, confident and simple explanation for the significantly slower growth in obesity in Scotland – Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation. For example: ‘The government put a massive push on developing a route map for how we can actually combat this. They put together resources from the NHS that were proving to be effective. They did put a lot of work into it.’ Why was this omitted?


BBC 1st response June 8th Reference CAS-4941139-HMPVR9

‘The radio item to which you refer lasted less than a minute, including the intro; and less than half a minute in the television report. In that timescale, only the principal points can be made. One of them was that by 2035 obesity levels in Scotland amongst women who had gone to university would have doubled and be higher (40.1%) than levels amongst women who had not gone to university (36.7%). On Radio Scotland, the report (which was longer than the TV report) also made the point that Scotland was likely to fare better than England and Wales over the next seventeen years.

However, as you rightly point out, the report on television also said that new research suggested that more than one in three women in Scotland would be morbidly obese by 2035. The reference should have been to general obesity. (Although you do not mention this in your radio complaint, the same reference was also made there.) I have investigated this and I believe that there was an honest mistake made under customary newsroom deadline conditions: the table for general obesity (which was mistaken for morbid obesity) was included in a research file marked “morbid obesity” in amongst information about morbid obesity. However, to explain is not to excuse and I have ensured that your detailed comments are being taken on board by my team in order to help prevent such an occurrence again.’

(Note: Final paragraph, not needed and removed to keep within word limit)


2nd complaint: June 11th RENUMBERED by BBC – CAS-4959059-HN2DLY

Your conflation of the two complaints is not really acceptable and, I suspect, contrary to the regulations for dealing with such as it seeks to confuse and to obscure them. 2. Regarding the factual error in your use of the term ‘morbid’, whether the mistake was honest is not the issue. This was a serious error which may have caused upset and anxiety and requires correcting publicly in Reporting Scotland. Please let me know when you will do this. 3. Your excuse of timescale does not justify a failure to inform accurately. Three principal points – that morbid obesity is expected to plateau at 5%, that the research authors have identified Scottish government policy initiatives as responsible for this in Scotland and that no Scottish 15-24-year-olds are expected to fall into this category compared to 6% in England – were central for Scottish viewers, you audience. Please let me know when you will make these corrections public on both Good Morning Scotland and Reporting Scotland.