The BBC was in the dock last week. Director-general Mark Thompson gave evidence to the Holyrood culture committee with BBC Scotland boss Ken MacQuarrie. Committee members included SNP firebrand Joan McAlpine and veteran committee chair Stewart Maxwell – so sparks were expected to fly.
Certainly, there were tetchy moments over job cuts, the BBC’s surprising lack of post-independence “scenario planning” and the need for better UK reporting of Scottish politics. But BBC executives came prepared for a more systematic skelping. Why didn’t it happen? Is all in Aunty’s Scottish garden rosy?
Not in the view of Nationalists who staged a protest against BBC “bias” outside the “unionist pravdaesque mouthpiece” HQ in Glasgow and complained that independence debate audience members were allowed to make near-libellous allegations about Alex Salmond.
But the furore has obscured the fact that a little bit of TV history had been made. Two supporters of independence were pitted against two unionists in a major BBC Scotland debate. Hitherto, there’s been a speaker from each main party – thus three unionists against one Nationalist – or two unionists, a Nationalist and a devo-max “wild card”.