The BBC article on Scottish trade is pure propaganda
I don’t often talk about media bias as I feel it is counter productive and those who do it perpetually tend to come across as lunatics.
However, I can’t help get annoyed at the way the BBC and every other media outlet have reported the release of the Scottish trade figures today. While it may be unintentional, the way the figures have been reported is irresponsible and works as propaganda for the unionist side of the independence debate.
We have talked about trade before so I won’t go into too much detail. We once talked about how a prominent economist was annoyed that Scottish/UK trade figures were being used as a political football because those figures are not accurate. We also went into more detail about the trade report and the politics surrounding UK/EU trade. If you read those blogs you will get an idea of how complex the political arguments are around this issue.
Here is a snapshot of the front page of today’s BBC Scotland website.
This headline, the subheading and the first few paragraphs ignore the main thrust of the report in order to convey a simplistic political message about a very complicated subject.
The trade report isn’t about how much trade Scotland does with the EU compared to how much Scotland does with the UK. The report is about Scotland’s overall trade and the main story in the report is that Scotland’s overall trade has risen. A non partisan version of this article should be a feelgood story about total exports being up by over 3 billion pounds. However, the BBC spends the first half of the article essentially pedalling a unionist trope that Scotland is more reliant on the UK than the EU.
Don’t get me wrong, the BBC should tackle the Scotland/UK trade issue but this is not the format to do it.
If it is going to do so it should do so while taking into account some of the nuances we discussed in our previous trade articles. It shouldn’t put Scotland/UK trade front and centre, without any caveats, on an article that should be about the growth of overall Scottish trade.
There is a big discussion to be had about this important issue, but the conversation needs to be a detailed one.
It needs to admit we don’t have accurate figures on Scottish/UK trade. It needs to talk about how any future tariffs between the UK and Scotland would also be damaging to the UK, not least because it would mean the UK had failed to get a good post brexit trade agreement with the EU. It would need to ask why Ireland is being told not to worry about tariffs and border controls but Scotland is told to panic? It would need to acknowledge that Scotland is the only part of the UK that has a trade surplus. It would need to ask the question, why is a Scotland within the UK not trading as much with the EU as it should be?
This is a very serious issue that will have an impact on how people choose to vote in any future referendum.
The BBC have chosen to make the issue the main thrust of the top article on their Scottish homepage. They have done so without any caveats detailing what a complex issue this is. They have done so despite the fact that the trade report is only partially about Scotland/UK trade and those figures are the most unreliable part of the report. Is it any wonder that BBC trust ratings in Scotland are so low?
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Is there a statistic that shows the rest of the UK’s exports to Scotland. Cannot find these figures anywhere
Hi Douglas. For some reason your comment went into Spam but I fished it back out. That is good question. I saw a clip this week from Daily Politics where the host says Scotland is the UK’s second largest export destination. I can’t find that clip now.
I haven’t seen any great bringing together of that info but there is raw data. This twitter feed has a reasonable discussion on it with links to the raw data if you are interested. https://twitter.com/mrsanderzisin/status/822842204028882944
How are Scotland suppose to do business with the outside world when this is they was they handle business. SO, Maggie Maggie May, they have taken her away, and she won’t be in the EU any more, or so the old skiffle song seems to say. Well, her concept of us being better off in the world markets and taking a more global approach to our trade relations, I found, is a vision for England only, and Scots Welsh and others don’t get a bite at the cherry. Let me explain. When I worked for the gold, diamond, and copper… Read more »
Good Comment Iain. I think it makes sense to take control over these things from a Scottish point of view. Interestingly, Weirs came out strongly for a No vote. I wonder what they make of your comment.
As an accountant and economist in Ireland I am astonished that people like you or others do not explode the ‘UK is the biggest market for Scotland’ myth As far as I can see this is statistically impossible unless you count oil and whiskey and other exports as exports to England rather than to the world. The port that Scottish goods are exported internationally from should not be regarded as where they were made. Since you know the size of these industries and their turnover – it should be a small job to show that the figures are profoundly wrong… Read more »
To my knowledge nobody has done comprehensive work on this. I would but i’m not qualified.
Take your point about pointing out bias. I’m not saying there isn’t good reasons to do it more often. Although, I do think it is perceived badly by those we need to persuade to vote Yes next time.
I recently saw, but cannot recall where, that 25per cent of exports from the port of Dover originate in Scotland. Since Dover specialises in roll on roll off traffic this suggests these are mainly manufactured goods or food products.