BBC’s Andrew Marr faces second set of bias complaints against Nicola Sturgeon in two months



THE BBC is dealing with a new round of complaints about perceived bias by Scots journalist and presenter Andrew Marr involving the First Minister.

It has already dismissed three other tranches of bias complaints in the past two months, including over 100 about his interview with Nicola Sturgeon on November 29.

Now he has been the subject of another set of complaints about his January 24 broadcast over bias not just against the First Minister, but also the health secretary Matt Hancock, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy and Israel.

The BBC has said they have received a total of 115 complaints about bias. It has not divulged how many of those complaints were about his interview with the First Minister, who was confronted over her possible resignation in the face of allegations she may have misled the Scottish Parliament about the Alex Salmond affair.

While the public broadcaster has not specified what the complaints were about, social media complaints about Mr Marr’s treatment of Ms Sturgeon referred to what some described as “insulting” behaviour which was contrasted to his treatment of Matt Hancock on the same show.

In the broadcast, Ms Sturgeon appeared angry after being questioned over her possible resignation in the face of the possibility that that she may have known about harassment allegations made against her predecessor Alex Salmond earlier than she had claimed.

 After Nicola Sturgeon complaints BBC dismisses third tranche of ‘bias’ complaints about Andrew Marr

She insisted she did not mislead parliament about when she learned of the allegations.

A committee of MSPs is investigating the government’s handling of two harassment claims against the former first minister, after he successfully challenged the complaints process in court.

Mr Marr asked: “If it is proved to be true that you misled Parliament, you would resign, wouldn’t you? You would have to.”

But Ms Sturgeon shot back: “I did not mislead Parliament so I’m not going to speculate on what might happen in the future.

“To be perfectly frank, Andrew, I think I’ve got a right to due process of inquiries as well before you start to take me beyond those inquiries to what might happen then.

“I’m clear that I did not mislead Parliament, and that’s what I will set out clearly when I get the opportunity, which I haven’t had in front of the committe of inquiry yet.”

Mr Marr, in explaining why the First Minister had come under fire said: “You said that you first found out [about the allegations]when he told you at a meeting at your house on April 2, 2018.

“But we now know there was a meeting four days earlier in your Parliamentary office where the issues were discussed.

“You then said you’d forgotten about this meeting. Can you now take the opportunity to explain to people quite clearly when you first knew about the allegations?”

Ms Sturgeon answered that Mr Salmond first told her about the allegations on April 2 in her house.

The First Minister said: “I am going to go into this more with the committee.

“With the greatest of respect, Andrew, I’m not going to get into the weeds of this with you in a short interview.

“I’ve set out some of this in my written evidence to the committee, and I’m going to set that out in oral evidence to the committee when I get the opportunity.”

Mr Salmond won a £500,000 expenses payout from the government after it admitted acting unlawfully through its botched investigation. In January 2019, Mr Salmond was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, including attempted rape.

Mr Salmond was cleared of all 13 charges – all alleged to have happened while he was first minister – after a trial last March.

In what one commentator described as a “car crash” interview she was also pressed on the ‘failures’ of her vaccine rollout strategy. Mr Marr grilled Ms Sturgeon on the why the vaccine rollout in Scotland has been “so much slower” when compared to England.

At that point, many people aged over 80 had yet to receive their first dose and the SNP administration faced criticism from opposition parties concerned that Scotland is “lagging behind” England.

Ms Sturgeon said : “We took a decision, in line with JCVI advice, to vaccinate older residents in care homes so that would have the most immediate impact on the death toll.”

The BBC said: “The supply of the vaccine so far has been patchy.

“There are concerns among GPs that there too many levels of management in Scotland compared to England.”

Ms Sturgeon disputed Mr Marr’s claims that the system in Scotland was “more bureaucratic”.

The SNP leader said that the Scottish administration was “on track to meet the targets we set”.

Mr Marr later interrupted Ms Sturgeon when she repeated the rate of vaccinations in Scottish care homes, which stands at 95 percent.

Mr Marr said: “You have said that already.”

Ms Sturgeon responded: “Don’t cut me off!”

The publicly-funded broadcaster previously dismissed complaints of bias by Mr Marr against the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in what was one of the most complained-about shows of the year which aired on November 29.

During that show, the Scots presenter suggested there was a “gap” between reality and her public claims about both the Alex Salmond scandal, her government’s coronavirus record and the state of education in Scotland.

#marr having a right crack at Sturgeon about Salmond, we didn’t see any of the vociferous interrogations with Johnson the lies & incompetence killing people glossed over in a user-friendly scripted chit chat. She says she entitled to ” due process ” b4 he cracks in like he is
— itiddly (@itiddly) January 24, 2021

#Marr asks Matt Hancock a question – Hancock answers a different one and is allowed to ramble on about whatever he wants.

Marr asks Nicola Sturgeon a question – when it becomes clear that she is answering it, he talks over her and desperately tries to move on to the next one.

— Nicola Dowsland (@NicolaDowsland) January 24, 2021

Mr Marr was then accused of presenting an attitude towards the First Minister which some compared to an “attack dog” who was aiming not for a political interview but a “character assassination”.

At the end of January, the BBC dismissed a tranche of some 2000 complaints over perceived bias against the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on The Andrew Marr Show on January 3.

Complaints stated that Mr Marr showed bias against the government, interrupted Mr Johnson too much through ‘intrusive interrogation’ or were unhappy the Scots journalist summarised his interview with the Prime Minister as “an Englishman talking to a Scot”.

Others complained that Mr Marr appeared to be stating an opinion in questions about the possibility of a Scottish independence referendum.

But the BBC stood by Mr Marr’s impartiality in response to the criticisms over the Boris Johnson interview.

The public broadcaster said: “The Andrew Marr Show is known for its rigorous and in depth interviews in which politicians and others in positions of power are held to account.

“Throughout the interview, Mr Marr gave the Prime Minister ample time to respond whilst also interjecting to ask follow up questions to keep the interview on track. We believe the tone of the interview was measured and respectful, and Boris Johnson was able to answer in full whilst also being sufficiently challenged.

“In the closing moments of the interview, the Prime Minister said that Mr Marr should ‘break out of your characteristic gloom’ and referred to ‘lots of reasons to be positive’ about the new year. Mr Marr has clarified that he wasn’t making a constitutional point by responding that it had been ‘an Englishman talking to a Scot’, but rather referring to what he has called his own ‘natural, wintry-Caledonian, comfortless, slate-grey, east-coast temperament’.

“We believe Mr Marr’s approach throughout the interview showed the scrutiny, detail and due impartiality the audience expects.

 After Nicola Sturgeon complaints BBC dismisses third tranche of ‘bias’ complaints about Andrew Marr

At the end of December the BBC dismissed a fresh set of complaints about December 13 edition of The Andrew Marr Show – raising concerns that the presenter appeared to be defending the government over Brexit while interrupting former Labour leader Ed Milliband too much.

At one point the Glasgow-born journalist and author described as “mealy mouthed” Mr Milliband’s comment that Labour would have to look at the detail of any trade deal with the EU before deciding to fully support it.


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