Last week, the SNP’s first broadcast for the European Elections was broadcast. It bore a remarkable similarity to the broadcasts that they have been putting out since the end of last year which were all aimed at persuading people to vote Yes in the independence referendum. It interspersed colourful footage of children talking about how wonderful and independent Scotland with black and white starkness portraying a vision of hellish Westminster rule.
George Lyon, Scotland’s Liberal Democrat MEP questioned why they would put out a broadcast which, in a 420 word script, mentioned independence 4 times and Europe, er, not even once. It wasn’t even hinted at. He said:
Alex Salmond is happy to talk about Scotland when he is in Europe but he does not seem to want to talk about Europe when he is in Scotland. I am sure that those who watched the broadcast for the EU elections will be puzzled about why the SNP can’t bring themselves to stop talking about independence and start talking about Europe.
Whether we are talking about the Scottish jobs our place in the EU supports, the environment or fighting cross-border crime it is clear we can achieve more when we work together. That is why Liberal Democrats are making the positive case for Scotland remaining in Britain and in Europe.
Party broadcasts are the traditional way for parties to set out their stall ahead of elections. With polling day at the European Elections less than one month away, the missing word from the SNP’s broadcast was ‘Europe’.
But I’m wondering if George hasn’t missed something here. Political broadcasts are strictly regulated here. The main parties get 3 each for the European elections and there will be a different allocation for the independence referendum later this year. By doing a referendum broadcast in the European elections, are they not giving themselves another bite at the cherry.
Let’s see what the Ofcom guidance on Party Political Broadcasts has to say. Well, section 18 is pretty unequivocal.
The purpose of a PEB must not be to promote any particular outcome of a referendum.
A direct quote from the broadcast:
When 18th September arrives, please vote yes for Scotland, for yourself and for your children’s future.
I’d say the evidence that this does not comply with Ofcom’s guidance is pretty clear. I wonder what the Electoral Commission would have to say about it.
Now, the SNP’s main focus is on independence. Of course it is. It’s who they are. I don’t have an issue with that. I do, however, have a problem with them not playing by the rules. They’ve effectively given themselves a extra bite at the referendum cherry. The imbalance needs to be redressed.