Newsnight's 'desperate' World Cup car experiment prompts police probe

Police are investigating a World Cuprelated item on BBC Two’s Newsnight, over claims that it incited racial hatred in Scotland.

The item, in which a group of youths in Glasgow were secretly filmed trashing a car bedecked with English flags, is already the subject of an early day motion from Scottish MPs condemning it in the House of Commons.

A Strathclyde Police spokesman said: “We are investigating a complaint from a member of the public in relation to the Newsnight programme, regarding possible incitement to racial hatred.”

The Newsnight feature on 30 June, which was apparently intended as a light-hearted exposé on anti-English feeling in Scotland during the World Cup, saw reporter Tim Samuels driving a Vauxhall Astra bearing a giant St George’s Cross and smaller flags through Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The car was left parked in the Gallowgate area of Glasgow’s crimeridden East End.

Within minutes, a gang of youths was filmed ripping off the flags, throwing bricks through the windows and kicking in the windscreen.

A BBC spokeswoman told Press Gazette: “Following incidents when England fans had been attacked for wearing England emblems in Scotland, Newsnight carried out an experiment to see how a car decorated in England colours would fare.

“For the most part, the banter was light-hearted and in good spirits, but when the car was left unattended, it was attacked and damaged.”

Although the BBC received 24 complaints about the item, the corporation says the programme had followed broadcasting guidelines.

A spokesman said: “We’ve not had any contact from the police, but if we do, we will respond to that.”

However, there has been an angry reaction to the item in Scotland.

Senior editorial executive on The Herald, Melanie Reid, wrote an article saying that in the context of professional ethics, the Newsnight piece showed a “breathtaking lack of honour on the part of the BBC”.

Reid said that when there was little response to the car being driven round Edinburgh and Glasgow, “the film crew deserted the car in Glasgow’s Gallowgate, and then filmed a group of hooded teenagers trashing it.

“Rarely have intelligent journalists stooped so low, and if Gavin Esler looked embarrassed presenting it, let’s hope it was because he was.”

MPs’ reaction THE MOTION

This House deplores the Newsnight report when the BBC, in a vain attempt to discover anti-English antagonism in Scotland, left a car bedecked in English flags in Glasgow’s Gallowgate, one of the most socially deprived areas of the UK, where it was vandalised; notes that this desperate measure to provoke a response followed a journey round Scotland where the car was met with either bemusement, banter or indifference; believes that the BBC was clearly aware that any vehicle parked in that area bedecked in an unusual manner, could be a target for vandals; further notes that this was clearly a setup to encourage anti-social behaviour and tarnish the reputation of Scottish fans.

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