I suspect Sarah Smith's outrageous allegation on live BBC news bulletins last night that Nicola Sturgeon is "enjoying" the "opportunity" of the pandemic is destined to become as notorious as Nick Robinson's "he didn't answer" lie in 2014. Let's be honest - no leader, no leader at all, is enjoying this crisis. Ms Sturgeon isn't enjoying it because of the intolerable stress of having to make life and death decisions, and because (like the rest of us) she's unable to spend time with her family and friends. Boris Johnson isn't enjoying it because of the obvious fact that he almost died. Donald Trump isn't enjoying it because he's a known germaphobe and because it may have screwed up his chances of being re-elected in November.
So what could possibly have given Sarah Smith the impression that the First Minister is somehow having lots of fun? The specific claim was that, although Ms Sturgeon insists her decisions have been driven by scientific advice and not politics, she is in fact relishing the chance to diverge from London policy. No evidence was provided to support this suggestion - which is hardly surprising, because no such evidence exists. Ms Smith was given total licence by the BBC to speculate and editorialise from a partisan anti-SNP perspective in front of millions of viewers, and without any right of reply.
What's so stupid about this incident is that it's blindingly obvious to anyone who has paid attention since March that the truth is the polar opposite of Ms Smith's claim - the First Minister was in reality determined to remain in lockstep with London, and did so for several weeks, even though that meant disregarding all of the key recommendations of the World Health Organization. It took a catastrophe of near-biblical proportions for her to finally accept that London didn't know best on this occasion - and even then she diverged from Boris Johnson's decisions with the greatest of regret and reluctance. She would infinitely have preferred Johnson to have compromised in order to maintain a UK-wide approach.
It's bad enough for a BBC correspondent to drop all pretence of impartiality and shove their own political opinions down viewers' throats - but when they're just plain factually wrong at the same time, that really is unforgivable.
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To return briefly to the subject of the previous post, my eye was caught by this claim from Kevin McKenna in the Herald -
"A wide-ranging poll conducted this week for Wings Over Scotland by Panelbase has already produced one astounding conclusion: that the number of SNP voters who’d be willing to sacrifice power for the sacred goal of independence has dropped from 82% to 59%. It bears out my worst fears for the future of the independence movement: that the party which alone is defined by this has now become so dazzled by the trinkets of high office that it’s fast losing the stomach for the fight."
That's highly misleading on one count, and inaccurate on another. The poll quite simply didn't ask whether voters would "sacrifice power for independence". It didn't ask them whether they would prefer power or independence. It didn't ask any other variant of that question either. It instead asked whether people would vote Yes or No to independence under wildly implausible hypothetical circumstances, and didn't give them any opportunity to explain their reasoning. By far the most likely explanation for people getting cold feet about independence in the specified scenario is that they were concerned that Scotland might not be competently governed if the SNP suddenly ceased to exist. They therefore concluded it would be a risk too far. I doubt if it even occurred to them that they were "sacrificing power", and quite right too - ordinary voters don't have much power to sacrifice, and they generally don't have any control at all over the political party they vote for.
The direct inaccuracy is that the figure has "dropped from 82% to 59%". That suggests the result is being compared to a previous poll that asked a similar question - but it isn't. No such previous poll exists.