Why doesn’t BBC Scotland tell the truth about Brexit?

As evidence mounts that Brexit is playing a major part in the UK’s cost of living crisis, the national broadcaster appears to be avoiding reporting honestly on the subject. Why is this? One reason is that as Scotland moves towards an independence referendum, the issue of Brexit is particularly sensitive.

Scotland voted against Brexit - it was foisted upon us.  An independent Scotland would be able to rejoin the EU as an associate member immediately, and if the referendum is held in 2023, it could reasonably expect to be a full member by January 1, 2025. 

Every mention of Brexit damage is a boost for the Yes campaign - and presumably, this is one reason why the Unionist British Broadcasting Corporation goes to Orwellian lengths to avoid telling the truth about its contribution to UK inflation - in April they edited out the word “Brexit” in the middle of an interview with Scotland’s National Farming Union President Martin Kennedy. They then blamed tailbacks at Dover on holidaymakers not extra Brexit checks, and now inflation is being blamed on the Ukraine war not the post-Brexit slump in the British pound.

Bloomberg, the Financial Times and other international outlets report the Brexit effect

High-quality, independent news media outlets like Bloomberg and the FT report the UK has worse inflation than similar G7 countries. Since the Brexit vote the pound has slid against the dollar and that is leading to extra steep inflation. It is also weakening against the Euro and Bloomberg predicts a Euro will be worth 90p by the autumn. 

“Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and Standard Bank all see the UK as an outlier in the developed world because of the economic damage wrought by the decision to cut ties with the European Union. Even as price pressures start to fade elsewhere, they say UK inflation will be higher-than-normal because of immigration controls and supply chain disruption.”

Bloomberg, June 22.

The Financial Times BIg Read a day earlier explored the negative consequences of leaving the EU on the shrinking economy, the falling pound and the flatlining investment curve.  It was headlined  "

The BBC appears unwilling to acknowledge what international outlets do

But the BBC seems unwilling to report this in the same way as these respected international sources. In a long item on BBC Scotland’s flagship “Good Morning Scotland” on June 22, for example, reporters discussed the effect of higher prices on Scots. That pattern was repeated in a report by the BBC’s economics editor Faisal Islam on the BBC News at Ten on June 20. Neither show reported the Brexit effect on inflation. 

Good Morning Scotland and other news shows such as “the Bottom Line” discuss the impact of higher costs on agriculture and food prices. They do not explain to viewers why items like oil, gas, diesel, fertiliser cost more for UK buyers.  Lower trust in sterling, lower trust in the UK's direction of travel means a pound buys less on the international markets. 

Food imported from Europe costs more

Imported food - fresh fruit, salad, pork, tomatoes, jam etc - which predominantly came from the EU, have experienced a substantial Brexit effect. Brexit increased average food prices by about 6 percent last year - and that is likely to increase.

The UK has the lowest growth in the G20  bar Russia - OECD

The UK’s inflation rate hit another 40-year high in May, reaching 9.1 percent, its highest level since 1982. The Bank of England expects the inflation rate to exceed 11 percent in October.

The UK is lagging behind the rest of the G7 in terms of trade recovery - business investment, trails other industrialised countries, in spite of Treasury tax breaks to try to drive it up. Next year, according to the OECD think-tank, the UK will have the lowest growth in the G20, apart from sanctioned Russia. 

Brexit has shrunk the UK economy by £100bn a year

The Office for Budget Responsibility first predicted in March 2020, that Brexit would reduce productivity and UK gross domestic product by 4 percent compared with a world where the country remained inside the EU. It says that a little over half of that damage has yet to occur. 

That level of decline, worth about £100bn a year in lost output, means lost revenues for the Treasury of roughly £40bn a year. That money might have enabled them to inflation-proof the Scottish budget - the money “gifted” to Holyrood by Westminster which is being slashed in real terms by inflation, despite the Treasury pulling in extra billions through a windfall tax on Scotland's assets.

Sterling fell 10 percent after the Brexit referendum

Sterling fell almost 10 percent after the Brexit referendum in June 2016, against currencies that match the UK’s pattern of imports. It did not recover. This sharp depreciation was not followed by a boom in exports as UK goods and services became cheaper on global markets, but it did raise the price of imports and pushed up inflation. 

While the UK was still in the EU and during the Brexit “transition phase”, there were no significant effects on trade flows. But this has changed since stricter border controls were introduced at the start of 2021, imposing no tariffs, but significant checks and controls at the formerly frictionless border. 

Scotland makes a third of the UK”s food and drink exports so it takes the hardest hit

Scotland accounts for a third of the UK”s food and drink exports and many smaller Scottish businesses are struggling to absorb the extra costs of the non-tariff barriers. Many have stopped exporting to the EU completely. The Scottish economy is now trailing behind Northern Ireland which benefits from the protocol, which keeps a door open to the EU single market.

But BBC Scotland is failing to report the effect of Brexit on Scotland’s economy, which is worsening over time.  

The UK’s threat to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol means Scotland's universities have now been excluded from the world’s biggest science funding stream, Horizon, losing one billion Euros and the international prestige that would have brought. BBC Scotland has failed to cover this issue. 

The Scottish Highlands and Islands were particularly dependent on summer workers from EU countries. Summer visitors will notice the lack of facilities due to shortage of seasonal workers. That means those businesses will pay less in taxes. Farmers chose to plant less this year and that will lead to higher prices for food. But BBC Scotland has largely ignored the Brexit effect on agriculture. 

Is the BBC taking an anti-independence stance?

The BBC is a UK institution, at its core the BBC doesn't want change. It has now institutionally accepted Brexit and therefore despite Brexit being the foundation for mass inflation, disruption at ports and airports and loss of economic growth the BBC ignores it as "not news". The BBC is a very top-down organisation run from London - journalists who try to discuss the Brexit effect will soon be sidelined. People who want to get promoted try to please the bosses - and that means not using the B word. 

The issue is particularly sensitive in a Scottish context. Brexit was forced on Scotland without consent or even consultation. BBC Scotland now seems desperate to avoid acknowledging what international publications like Bloomberg and the Financial Times regularly admit - that Brexit is playing a major role in driving inflation. Is the BBC’s reluctance to report the truth about Brexit also motivated by concerns it will feed into support for independence?

By Jackie Kemp