Alex Salmond hits back at 'auld Nick' comparing BBC Scottish referendum coverage to Pravda - Press Gazette

Alex Salmond hits back at 'auld Nick' comparing BBC Scottish referendum coverage to Pravda

Alex Salmond has described the BBC's coverage of the Scottish independence referendum as a "disgrace" as he hit back at outgoing political editor Nick Robinson's attack on "Putin-like" protests against the corporation.

The former first minister of Scotland said Robinson should be "embarrassed and ashamed" of his reporting of the campaign.

 Salmond also dismissed as "ludicrous" the comparison the broadcaster made between protests by pro-independence supporters outside the BBC's Glasgow headquarters and the treatment of journalists in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

The comments were made during an appearance by Robinson at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week to promote his latest book Election Diary.

In a column for the Dundee=based Courier newspaper, Salmond, now the MP for Gordon, said that he had held off commenting due to Robinson's recent illness.

He said: "I am glad that the BBC's Nick Robinson has been restored to health.

"For some months I have said nothing at all about auld Nick because it is unfair to criticise someone who is not able to answer back. Now he is back.

"The BBC's coverage of the Scottish referendum was a disgrace.

"It can be shown to be so, as was Nick's own reporting of which he should be both embarrassed and ashamed."

Robinson, who is joining Radio 4's Today programme, was accused of bias in the run up to the referendum after getting into a high-profile confrontation with Salmond over the BBC's coverage of a story about the possible relocation of RBS.

The spat at a press conference in Edinburgh and Robinson's subsequent report resulted in crowds of pro-independence supporters calling for his resignation outside the BBC's Glasgow HQ in the days before the vote.

In his book festival appearance,  Robinson admitted that the row with Mr Salmond was ''a source of regret''.

But he added: ''I don't think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC's headquarters, so that young men and women who are new to journalism have, like they do in Putin's Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs."

Salmond responded: "To compare, as Nick did last week, 4,000 Scots peacefully protesting outside BBC Scotland as something akin to Putin's Russia is as ludicrous as it is insulting.

"It is also heavily ironic given that the most commonly used comparison with the BBC London treatment of the Scottish referendum story was with Pravda, the propaganda news agency in the old Soviet Union."

A BBC spokesperson said: "As we said at the time, we believe our coverage of the referendum was rigorously impartial and in line with our guidelines on fairness and impartiality."

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "The BBC is an independent national broadcaster, not the plaything of politicians.

"Alex Salmond has been quick to criticise Nick Robinson now and in the past, but he has never once condemned the bullying and intimidation of BBC journalists during the referendum.

"The level of bullying was recognised across Scotland and even led to the NUJ calling for it to stop.

"It cannot be right that in modern-day Scotland independent journalists have to walk through protests just to get to work."