I stand corrected. I had formed the firm impression on Friday that the only TV camera crew in attendance at the Hands Off Our Parliament rally was from a Chinese channel, but as you can see from a video posted on the Indyref 2 website, approximately fifteen seconds of footage was broadcast on Reporting Scotland, so non-Chinese cameras must have been there for at least a while.
The Indyref 2 article notes that the mini-item on Reporting Scotland about the rally lasted for just twenty-seven seconds in total, and was only eighth in the show's running order. Certainly no-one would question the sterling efforts of our broadcasters in keeping the power grab quiet, just in case anyone hears about it. But what's most striking in that particular video is not so much the lack of prominence given to the story, but rather the remarkably blatant partisan spin in the script given to Sally Magnusson to read out -
"Around 1500 people have gathered at Holyrood to protest against what organisers describe as a Westminster power grab after Brexit. The Hands Off Our Parliament group believes Westminster is attempting to undermine devolution. UK ministers have proposed changes which would see the vast majority of EU powers returning to the devolved administrations, but Westminster wants to retain some powers temporarily, including fishing and agriculture."
Where do you start with that little lot? Obviously it's entirely right to attribute the phrase "power grab" to the organisers of the rally - it's a perfectly accurate description of what's happening, but nevertheless it's pejorative language and there are more neutral ways of describing the proposed reduction in the Scottish Parliament's powers. But what's mystifying about Magnusson's script is that, having correctly distanced itself from the spin of one side of the argument, it then totally embraces the spin of the other side and presents it as established fact. You'd have expected care to be taken to make clear that the UK government are merely claiming that the vast majority of devolved EU powers are coming to Holyrood, and that the diversion of other powers to Westminster will be "temporary". But, nope, apparently the BBC and the UK government are as one on this - the truth of these assertions is totally beyond dispute. Which is odd, because the Scottish government have asked for a sunset clause to be added to the EU Withdrawal Bill to ensure that the power grab is indeed temporary, and have so far been rebuffed. A politically neutral broadcaster ought at least to be open-minded about whether politicians who refuse to grant legal guarantees of their promises can simply be taken at their word. As for the "vast majority" point, that may be technically accurate, but it's scarcely giving viewers the whole picture - they also need to know that the 'small minority' of powers being grabbed by Westminster just happen to be the most important ones. It's rather akin to saying that "the vast majority of Scotland was unaffected by the missile attack" - and neglecting to mention that the small part of Scotland that was destroyed was the central belt, where most people live.
And "Westminster wants to retain some powers"? How can it "retain" powers it does not currently possess? It can take them, it can grab them, but it cannot possibly "retain" them. This choice of word appears to be a subtle attempt to bolster the UK government's narrative that the power grab is really about which new powers should be generously "given" to Scotland, and which should not be.
Oh, and why is no source given for the 1500 attendance figure? It may or may not be accurate, but presumably the BBC didn't count people by hand, so aren't we entitled to know who made the estimate, and perhaps draw our own conclusions on that basis?
The overall impression any reasonable viewer would have gained from the script read out by Magnusson was that the organisers of the rally had made certain outlandish claims, but that those claims are not borne out by the reality of Westminster's plans - which are minor, technical and above all temporary. It was as much as to say: "These eccentric people think you should care about this, but we're telling you that you shouldn't." It is incredibly hard not to see that as an intentional partisan intervention by the BBC.
* * *
On the question of how we can push any future rally up the BBC running order, I have a couple of suggestions -
1) Make the rally a joint protest against both the Westminster power grab and ball-tampering in international cricket.
2) Actually put on a game of cricket in the middle of the rally, and tamper with the ball.