Thursday, 9 April 2020

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Robert Peston: BBC scrapped indyref report to avoid ‘‘ire of Alex Salmond’’

Robert Peston, Political Editor of ITV News, delivers the Hugh Cudlipp lecture at the City University, Central London.

Robert Peston, Political Editor of ITV News, delivers the Hugh Cudlipp lecture at the City University, Central London. (Image: David Dyson)

Peston claims his report on Scottish independence’s dire economic repercussions was dropped just before broadcast

Robert Peston has revealed the BBC buried his news report on the financial cost of Scottish independence in 2014 to avoid offending then-First Minister Alex Salmond. 

The BBC’s former economic editor accused the broadcaster of ‘‘being afraid to stick its neck out and give a view’’, while speaking at this year’s Hugh Cudlipp lecture at City, University of London last Friday.

Peston said: ‘‘A couple of days before the Scottish independence referendum, just 10 minutes before going to air on the 10 o’clock news, a piece I made on the economic implications of Scottish independence was pulled on the orders of the corporation’s most senior executives, who feared the ire of Alex Salmond.’’

The reporter mentioned that BBC bosses contacted him ‘‘to distance themselves from the decision just in case it leaked and became a cause célèbre’’. 

Peston at City, University of London giving the annual Hugh Cudlipp lecture. (Image: James Hacker)

The ITV political editor asserted that he wished the BBC was ‘‘a bit more confident in its news coverage’’, during his discussion on news impartiality. The broadcaster is under renewed scrutiny by government and media critics following its Brexit and general election coverage last year.  

He added: ‘‘The backlash against [the BBC] from politicians to the media, when it makes a mistake, is so disproportionately great that sheer terror grips over. 

‘‘Impartial journalism is a standard that none of us as individual journalists can ever attain. It is what we aspire to. It conditions what we research, how we weigh the evidence, what we say and how we say it.’’

XCity caught up with Robert Peston for an exclusive interview immediately after the Hugh Cudlipp lecture to discuss impartiality, the public’s lack of trust in broadcasters and the government’s relationship with the press.  

Watch it here: