Posted on June 13, 2013

Scottish Greens have lodged an official complaint with the BBC about the lack of balance on Question Time, and have asked for an urgent meeting with corporation managers so they can explain how they will remedy the problem.

Tonight’s edition of the programme comes from Edinburgh, features an audience of 16 and 17 year olds and is billed on the BBC website as including discussion on independence.

The panel comprises a representative of the SNP, a non-party political journalist and four anti-independence politicians, two of whom do not represent Scottish constituencies nor do they have any party representation in Scotland. Yet there is no Scottish Green representation despite the party having 2 MSPs and 14 councillors. Scottish Greens have only appeared on Question Time once in the 14 years since the start of the Scottish Parliament – and that was over two years ago.

Scottish Greens Co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“Tonight’s Question Time line up is particularly bizarre, and following a telephone discussion with the editor it is clear to me that this programme has been contrived to deliver sensationalist confrontation, rather than serious debate. The lack of balance is staggering and I know from comments we’ve received it’s not just Green supporters who are alarmed.

“This situation is particularly unacceptable a week before the Scottish Parliamentary by-election in Aberdeen Donside, which should require particular attention to political balance. The BBC has shown serious misjudgement in allowing tonight’s programme to go ahead and we look forward to meeting senior managers to discuss how they intend to rectify a situation that will have harmed the broadcaster’s reputation for fairness.”


The complaint from the Scottish Green Party to the BBC’s Executive Editor Hayley valentine and Phil Abrams of the Editorial Policy Unit is as follows:

Dear Ms Valentine,

We wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the choice of panellists for BBC Question Time tonight (13 June). This follows our consistent raising of concern over a number of years about the Scottish Greens’ lack of representation on the programme; in 14 years of continuous Parliamentary representation, we have been invited to participate on 1 single occasion. That occasion was nearly two and a half years ago.

Tonight’s programme will be coming from Edinburgh, with an audience of 16 & 17 year olds, debating independence – this is specifically billed on the BBC website. The panel chosen is extremely skewed on the independence question; with only one panellist explicitly committed to independence as a preferred constitutional option, the programme is showing no balance whatsoever on this crucial question.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie is a member of the Yes Scotland advisory board and could have provided the required balance; he is also a member of Referendum Bill Committee in Parliament, which has been handling the legislation to reduce the voting age to 16. Given that this decision is being made by the Scottish Parliament, we can see no basis for the decision to include only one MSP on the panel, and specifically one who is opposed to the reduction in the voting age.

George Galloway is an MP for an English constituency representing a political party, Respect, which literally does not exist in Scotland, and contests no elections. On the one occasion when they did, Mr Galloway stood for election in Glasgow and even in a PR election was only able to secure 3.3% of the vote.

Nigel Farage has also been added to the panel at the last minute. UKIP has no elected representation in Scotland at any level, as against SGP’s 2 MSPs and 14 local councillors. In the last Scottish Parliament election they secured 0.91% of regional votes across Scotland.

This panel is taking place during the Aberdeen Donside by-election, and the BBC has a duty to demonstrate balance at such a time. Donside is part of the North East Scotland region, where UKIP achieved 0.9% of the vote in the 2011 election.

The rationale for this selection may include UKIP’s recent success in the English local elections. UKIP now have approximately the same number of local councillors as GPEW, despite blanket media coverage. But this is NOT an English local election, it’s a debate with a Scottish independence focus, taking place during a Scottish Parliamentary by-election.

This failure even to attempt balance in party political terms, or in terms of the referendum debate is surely a breach of the BBC’s duty to impartiality. Patrick Harvie discussed these various points with Nicolai Gentchev this morning, and our head of media Jason Rose raised them with Phil Abrams of the BBC policy unit. Mr Gentchev defended the decision to include Mr Farage on the programme citing his recent encounter with protesters in Edinburgh; we are deeply disturbed if the BBC’s flagship political debate programme gives greater attention to political stunts than to fair balance.

We seek an urgent meeting to discuss how you intend to redress this situation, not only in the short term but in the run-up to the referendum in 2014.

Yours sincerely,

Martha Wardrop and Patrick Harvie, Co-conveners of the Scottish Green Party


  1. [...] It’s time for real action against this propaganda. See the Green Party’s complaint to the editor here: [...]

    Pingback by TV Nation | Bella Caledonia — June 13, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

  2. I can add little to the Scottish Green Party’s justified complaint. The BBC continues to demonstrate a worrying lack of impartiality on the issue of Scottish Independence, indeed they are unapologetic about their biased coverage of the debate. The granting of even more airtime to Nigel Farage and George Galloway in the hope of some sensationalist headlines is beneath my contempt.
    I will pay close attention to Mr Dimbleby’s chairing of the debate, and look forward to the BBC’s response to the SGP’s complaint.

    Comment by John McKay — June 13, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

  3. Good luck, but don’t hold your breath. The BBC has become as corrupt as the government for which it has become the official mouthpiece. Whether out of fear of Murdoch, or fear of funding cuts I know not, but such blatant and all-pervading political bias must surely be top-down, and put the BBC in breach of its charter.

    Comment by Ron Graves — June 13, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

  4. I have also written a formal complaint to the BBC regarding this issue. To include four stanch no campaigners against 1 yes campaigner, particularly with 16-17 year olds debating the referendum stinks of subversion and coercion. The BBC MUST apologise for this flagrant abuse of broadcasting standards. We expect to see impartiality at our state funded broadcaster, and for this to occur reeks of bias.

    Comment by Max Solanis — June 13, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

  5. We agree wholeheartedly with your complaint. We are a nationalist and a Green Party supporter and cannot understand why these two people have been brought in to contribute to the debate. They have no say in this country’s politics. This is a Punch and Judy show the BBC have offered us. Thank goodness there are at least two others who can contribute sensibly but I cannot see how we will have a properly informed debate. The audience of young people have been short changed because this is not a balanced forum.

    Comment by Ken and Izabella Taylor — June 13, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

  6. Absolutely scandalous. Once again BBC Question time shows it has no interest in unbiased reporting in Scotland. The choice of FARAGE is a slap in the face for Scottish democracy and one wonders if there is an attempt to subvert our democratic election in Donside. The Greens have representation here. FARAGE and also Galloway have none.

    Comment by Anne Toms — June 13, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

  7. Good Luck to the Scottish Greens complaint – UKIP & Respect on the panel !! -another indication that the broadcast is by the EBC (English Broadcasting Corporation) -it speaks on behalf of Westminster .

    Comment by Harry Butler MBE — June 13, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

  8. An utter disgrace what are the BBC playing at. There is not even an attempt to hide their bias. They are now openly supporting the No Campaign with unelected eejits!

    Comment by Tony Devlin — June 13, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

  9. I entirely agree with your complaint. The BBC has, and is continuing to behave like a Pravda outlet with regard to The Independence issue. An absolute disgrace!

    Comment by ronald alexander mcdonald — June 13, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with the above commentators. The BBC are totally wrong in their choice of panellists, they might as well invite Prince Charles and Dennis the Menace.

    Comment by george kelly — June 13, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

  11. [...] Scottish Green party have also lodged a complaint, noting that in 14 years of Scottish Green MSPs in Holyrood, the BBC have only once asked one of [...]

    Pingback by BBC Question Time: why you should complain | Edinburgh Eye — June 13, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

  12. Last time I looked, the BBC represented Britain and the Green Party has a miniscule presence in British Politics. Yet again, we have more whining from the minority of the electorate who don’t want to be British, but do want special privileges…

    Comment by Bill Mason — June 13, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

  13. I honestly think that to win the independence election all the YES campaigners have to do is say “in an independant scotland their will be no tv licence”. thats over £100 a year for the rest of your life if you vote yes.

    Comment by Adam — June 13, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

  14. Whilst I agree with the idea that neither Farage or Galloway should be included in the panel, I do find it somewhat incredulous that the Green party only seem to have one person who is capable of taking part in this type of debate? From an outsiders view it seems as though it is a one man party, which obviously it isn’t if you have councillors etc.

    My other point would be to the commentator who implies that 16 and 17 year olds will not be able to recognise the imbalance in the panel, they are a bit younger but not stupid! Has anyone asked why the panel was made up in this manner?

    The complaint would receive a lot more attention and agreement if it did not sound like Mr Harvie was throwing the toys out the pram because he never got an invite. It should for me have stopped after the second paragraph, or at least have taken out reference to Mr Harvie and concentrated on the bias argument.

    I am a Labour Party member and not a Nationalist but I hold no grudge or malice towards those who want to have a reasoned debate and discuss it like adults instead of the trolls who regularly appear on my Twitter feed.

    Comment by Rayleen Kelly — June 13, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

  15. No Lib Dems either but you don’t see them greetin’

    Comment by Will — June 13, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

  16. And why exactly do us Scots pay for a tv licence when the BBC constantly degrades us?!

    I’ll be sure to stop paying…

    Comment by jo — June 13, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

  17. I’ve also lodged a complaint with the BBC – I notice that their mission statement contains the following: “Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.”

    When it comes to covering the independence debate, this has obviously gone straight out the window, hasn’t it?

    Comment by Ben Murray — June 13, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

  18. I have also complained to the BBC through their website this afternoon and asked that the show be cancelled due to its blatant bias.

    Comment by Kenneth Bruce — June 13, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

  19. It is a real shame & not fair to the teens who will be attending the show.
    It turns an excellent opportunity to get some real information & balanced debate on a regional issue, into a pure diversion & a platform for extreme politicians from both ends of the spectrum.
    Although they agree on preservation of the Union, they also have no say on this issue. Are they trying to turn the teens off politics altogether?

    Comment by Lorelle McGurran — June 13, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

  20. BBC Question Time for some time has been showing a complete lack of balance. The panel tonight shows how out of touch the programme makers are with Scottish opinion.
    Question Time can now no longer be considered a serious political programme with balanced debate it has turned into TV tabloid journalism.
    I say this with deep regret as Question Time more than any other programme got me interested in politics and led going on to study politics at university.

    Comment by peter foy — June 13, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

  21. The imbalance on the panel is ludicrous, and laughable to have UKIP and Respect. Wishing you all the best with your complaint. Let’s hope tonight is an embarrassment for the bitter together panellists.

    Comment by Iain Rodger — June 13, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

  22. Truly scandalous the myriad of ways in which the BBC now flaunt their charter. There is no trace of any attempt at balance in the precursor to an important by election. Galloway whilst eloquent has no business being on a programme broadcast from Edinburgh.

    Comment by Stewart MacGregor — June 13, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

  23. Good luck with your complaint which is well justified. The Scottish Greens get a real raw deal from the BBC most of the time. I think maybe it is time for all of us in support of Independence to unite against the bias at the BBC.

    Comment by Theresa Forsyth — June 13, 2013 @ 7:11 pm


    Comment by niall hamilton — June 13, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

  25. I am not a natural Green supporter, though I am not too far away. However I wish to add my support to this complaint.

    Comment by Iain Henderson — June 13, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

  26. BBC = BRITISH Broadcasting Cooperation = Controlled by Westminster not Hollyrood (much the pity)

    Comment by Iain — June 13, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

  27. BBC have surpassed my worst fears: the pro and anti independence side should have equal representation. BBC has picked a bunch of bullies to mug Scottish independence with Dimbleby the corrupt MC.

    Comment by Andrew Wilson — June 13, 2013 @ 9:10 pm

  28. I can remember a time when the BBC had a reputation worldwide for impartiality and fairness. Shame on a one time great institution, both for your bias on this occasion and on your lip service to championing green issues.

    Comment by Ian McGillivray — June 13, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

  29. Waste of time complaining about bias on Question Time. They havve no intention of changing anything, and you’ll just get a stock reply that says “We’ve had a look at it, and we dont think it was unbalanced.”

    Its a load of rubbish, and the BBC wants dismantling and turning into a commercial subscriber only body.

    Comment by Richard Lionheart — June 13, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

  30. If Ross Greer’s appearence on Newsnight Scotland is anything to go by. I’m not surprised the State Broadcaster has run a mile from inviting representatives of his calibre onto QT.

    Comment by Alan Kidd — June 13, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

  31. I watched the first half of BBBC Question Time last night, and was mighty impressed by the quality and the reasoning of the points raised by the young audience. GIves us hope for the future of Scotland, and another reason to think positively about voting for independence.

    Of course the Greens should have had a slot on the show last night. Farage was irrelevant.

    Comment by Noel Chidwick — June 14, 2013 @ 6:50 am

  32. This is another example of the disgraceful way in which the BBC is manipulating the debate on Scottish Independence!

    Comment by Robin Shaw — June 14, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  33. Totally appalled at complete lack of balance by BBC QT. I’m not a SGP supporter nor SLD or SSP, but that doesn’t matter. This is the UK’s state broadcaster making their usual token foray into Scotland, showing no respect (except Mr Galloway’s free party political broadcast!). The kids in the audience were let down by the resulting circus round Mr Galloway and Mr Farage.As one of the key flagships of BBC current affairs, this I feel breached the BBC charter: failing in representing “the UK, its nations, regions and communities”. Further, their guidelines state: “Over an appropriate timeframe we must aim to give due weight and prominence to all the main strands of argument and to all the main parties”. No equal weight last night for the ‘Yes’ arguement. I have sent a complaint in. I wait with baited breath.

    Comment by Iain Forbes — June 14, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

  34. So how did the program go? Nigel Farage seemed to be unaware Scotland and the rest of the UK are already part of the EU. Meaning we are governed by Westminster and Brussels already. George Galloway spent his time shouting down a journalist who pinned her colour to the YES camp mast.

    Other than a weak attempt at distorting the SNP guys words. Ruth Davidson didn’t say anything of value or merit. We could be forgiven for forgetting Mr Sarwar was even there.

    Oh and it had to be explained to George Galloway he’s not getting a vote because he doesn’t live in Scotland.

    Just how was this “topical political debate program” of any use to anybody never mind potentially confused teenagers.

    Comment by Kevin Lynch — June 14, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  35. Westminster and the BBC working well together. Time to rid Scotland of both. YES in 2014 will solve the problem.

    Comment by Jan Cowan — June 18, 2013 @ 5:56 pm