Nicola Sturgeon addresses Fife vaccination issues
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Labour Peer George Foulkes has written to Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC warning if the Scottish First Minister continues her daily briefings during the Holyrood election campaign, it will go against impartiality rules. The SNP-led Scottish Government has been holding the daily question and answer sessions since March 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak moved swiftly through Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon is joined by cabinet members and clinical directors/scientists around three to four days a week at 12.15pm on the BBC.
However, Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh announced the Scottish Parliament would be dissolved on March 25, ahead of the elections on May 6.
This leaves a six-week pre-election period or purdah for campaigning when restrictions are placed on what civil servants can do.
The Labour peer added in a letter to Mr Davie: “This would be totally against both BBC and Ofcom rules on impartiality and I urge you to now intervene personally and immediately to make it clear this is not going to continue.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Tories said it was “clearly unsustainable” for the First Minister to appear on the TV regularly after purdah begins.
Miles Briggs MSP, Scottish Conservative chief whip, said: “No-one is arguing against legitimate public health messaging but far too often the First Minister abuses her BBC platform to score political points, treat journalists with contempt and even withhold key information from the public.
“She knows her unprecedented daily exposure gives Scots the false impression that she’s somehow handled the pandemic well, when the evidence proves otherwise.
“It is clearly unsustainable for her to think she can preserve this daily BBC show during the election period.”
It comes after Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the First Minister should be replaced by a medical or science expert in the Scottish Government daily briefings, which are broadcast several times a week.
Mr Jack also urged BBC Scotland to review the First Minister’s daily appearances and branded them as the “Nicola Sturgeon Show”.
Mr Briggs agreed and added: “If Sturgeon is sincere about the need for public health information, there is no reason why she would not agree.
“Even if she refuses, the BBC are fully aware that they cannot continue in the current format.
“Her claims about focusing on steering Scotland through the pandemic are also offensive nonsense as she and her senior SNP colleagues are actively planning another independence referendum as early as this year.”
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But the First Minister said the BBC broadcasts are a “matter for the BBC”.
Speaking at the Scottish Government Coronavirus briefing yesterday, the First Minister said: “At a time like this, I’m not going to stop doing my job because it is really important as we steer the country through this pandemic.”
She added: “I am not going to stop doing my job for as long as I’m in this job that I’m doing.
“How people report that and how people take account of the election campaign, I’m sure will become clearer as we go on. We’re not there yet.
“We’re in this pandemic, we’re undertaking a massive logistical exercise with the vaccination programme – that will continue to be what I focus on.”
In response, a BBC Scotland spokesman said: “We’re still in the process of formulating our election coverage and we’ll be announcing that in due course.”
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