Scottish election results treated as an afterthought by UK broadcasters


There is no dedicated TV show to focus on Scotland’s detailed election results they come out today. Scotland’s council voting is on the Single Transferable Vote which is more complicated to count. That is one reason why the decision was taken to do it in day-time rather than through the night. 

Watching votes being counted, seeing the results announced live, hearing them analysed by people who have insight into the process builds trust in democracy. It is a vital role for a national broadcaster. 

Yet, the BBC’s national results show on BBC Two finishes just when the Scottish results start coming out.

On Radio Four’s supposedly UK-wide news show Today, the new political editor Chris Mason was urged to get some sleep before Any Questions this evening – no mention was made of the importance of recording and discussing the results from the devolved nations as they emerge this afternoon. 

Some people took to social media to voice their disgust. Former Labour voter and SNP supporter William Irvine tweeted his disappointment with the BBC’s efforts: “On BBC One Scotland now they are showing the same crap programmes. On BBC Alba-  nothing. BBC Scotland – nothing. Three channels and not one has a Scottish council election special on them, everything going through BBC England.”

Channel Four,  Sky cover Scotland like a foreign country – STV shows load of old cobblers

Channel Four will be showing Countdown, as usual. Despite its claim to be less Londoncentric than other UK broadcasters, it spends 4% of its budget in Scotland, and has one news correspondent. It employs more staff in Vietnam than Scotland.

STV is showing an antiques show and two quizzes this afternoon. Sky has a rolling news channel and will no doubt scroll Scottish results across the bottom of the screen – but they have one Scottish correspondent and cover Scotland like a foreign country. Everything will be filtered through London – where many commentators are unfamiliar with the Scottish scene and do not appear to understand proportional representation. 

There may be some newspapers who offer a bit of coverage on YouTube – but, unlike the English, Scots won’t have the privilege of seeing their democratic results taken seriously, discussed and analysed by experienced commentators who can grasp underlying trends and put the results in historical context.  

Refugees voted – and canvassers joined in a successful protest to stop a deportation

There are unique features of the Scottish election – for instance, refugees were able to vote many for the first time. In an extraordinary protest in Edinburgh yesterday, many people involved in local elections stopped their canvassing to participate in an intervention where a crowd formed to prevent Home Office officials deporting someone from a local restaurant. 

Chief Exec of Scotland’s refugee council Sabir Zazai tweeted: “Tonight I am even prouder of a big decision I made 5 years ago today to move to #Scotland. Today #refugees voted in #LocalElections for the 1st time and a Home Office enforcement van was sent empty, thanks to #NicolsonSquare protest. Couldn’t have wished for a better anniversary.”

The London Bureau Chief of German TV station ARD Annette Dittert commented: “They did it again. Scotland is quite something,” with video footage of the crowd. The demonstration was not covered on the evening TV news in the UK.

Other unique features of the Scottish election are that 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote, as they are in Wales. 

Another feature of the STV system that Scotland uses in local elections is that it is more likely to lead to coalition councils, because it is a proportional representation system which tries to reflect the preferences of the electorate in a fairer way.

Boris Johnson will carry on regardless – Scotland doesn’t count

Scotland is likely to elect a large majority of independence supporting councillors. And when the results are assessed on a national basis, Boris Johnson’s party is likely to slide into third place north of the border. But these results will have no effect. Senior Conservatives have already proclaimed that Boris Johnson will survive as leader, after the party performed better than expected in England. 

The UK’s London-centric politicians and media groups have united to disparage Scottish independence supporters, proclaiming that the war in Ukraine makes a referendum impossible. They do not want to know about the growing anger in Scotland and so prefer to ignore it. Scotland’s results will be given an item on the evening news, and then dismissed. 

Scotland’s sense of engagement and interest in the results of its democratic election could be damped by the feeling that it is being relegated to an afterthought.  A strong democracy should be accessible, transparent and accountable to the public. The lack of coverage and analysis on mainstream TV on our democratic systems contributes to Scotland’s democratic deficit.

There are many Scots who distrust the robust voting system we have, but that trust could be renewed by being able to see more of the process. Mainstream TV coverage is a vital access point.

Another experience of having to accept this treatment from anglocentric broadcasting organisations that don’t understand Scotland’s needs will likely feed into a desire for independence. The sooner broadcasting is regulated by Scotland’s democratically elected Parliament the better. 

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