DURING the recent protest outside of the BBC headquarters Ian Small, BBC Scotland policy director, invited organisers to speak to him about their concerns and they declined.

I thought that was a missed opportunity. Ian then wrote a piece for the Scotsman that seemed to say, “move along folks, nothing to see here, people trust the BBC” but he again offered an invitation to those in the independence movement who wanted to talk. Independence supporter Kenny McBride decided to take him up on his offer, and asked me to join him.

Ian was joined in the meeting by Alasdair MacLeod, the BBC’s head of editorial policy and compliance.

Here’s how the conversation went.

Kenny opened with the fact there has been a period of cuts to Scottish political output and lack of distinction between Scottish and UK issues on the main evening news.

Ian replied that for the first time in 20 years he felt there was actually investment in the news function – in contrast with other areas of the BBC thanks to the new Scottish channel due to launch next year.

I raised concerns about whether anyone would watch the new channel, with it being on some obscure channel number, but they seemed to consider it not a Scotland only channel but also part of the BBC network. They said the BBC’s reputation would be on the line if the venture failed.

It was this that led us back to subject of structural bias. The first step to fixing something is admitting there’s a problem.

I pointed out that Ian’s “nothing to see” article didn’t fit with previous articles showing there were significant failings in representation of Scotland on the BBC and had been since 1999.

He was happy to admit that they were issues and that they were “far from” solving them all, but did say that all the recommendations from the 2016 report had been fulfilled.

We felt there was certainly a willingness to discuss the issues, the meeting was amiable and open, but there was a clear air of defensiveness.

I mentioned the protecting of Ruth Davidson. Ian said: “I don’t think there’s any time we protect Ruth Davidson, I can guarantee you that”.

The Nick Robinson moment (when he said Alex Salmond “didn’t answer” a question that he clearly did) was described as a “bad edit”.

When we raised the Tory Dark Money scandal there was no recognition of the fact it was underreported. When I suggested that had it been the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon involved in such a scandal then it would be covered far more, they told us that was “speculation”.

We spoke about the little bits of bias, the fact Reporting Scotland talk about the “SNP government” and the “UK Government”; “an SNP MP accused” vs “an MP accused” when it’s another party; SNP representatives being interrupted far more often than those of other parties; lack of impartiality of some reporters. All of this was met with “there’s not much incidence of that” or “that rarely happens”.

The point of the meeting was to get a chance to tell the BBC that, whether conscious or not, there is bias in the organisation.

It was an hour and 45 minutes so there was a lot more talked about than I can go into here, but we at least put the points across.

There are those in the independence movement who criticised even holding such a meeting – they demand devolution of all broadcasting powers or nothing.

Many more though want to see the BBC get better. It is crucially important to fix the bias that sees half the country woefully underrepresented on our national broadcaster.

Ian and Alasdair promised to get back to us in a week or so, whether they take on board any of what we said and whether the “food for thought” is eaten and digested will ultimately determine whether the BBC really are listening and changing. Watch this space.