THE BBC has been plunged into a major crisis over anti-independence bias after the man who led its indyref coverage admitted that some of its journalists thought it was their job to prove the Yes campaign was “foolish”.

The revelation by veteran broadcaster Allan Little that London-based journalists were working to the assumption that the Yes side was “wrong” has blown away the BBC’s attempts to defend its much-criticised coverage of the 2014 indyref as fair. The editor of the new news programme The Nine recently said she would defend the broadcaster’s coverage to her “dying day”.

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But Little told a new documentary that some of his colleagues thought “that our responsibility was to produce a series of pieces to demonstrate how foolish it would be to vote Yes”.

He made his remarks in Yes/No: Inside The Indyref – Down to the Wire, the last in a three-part series, to be shown on BBC Scotland tomorrow.

Little tells the programme how he was asked about what was happening in Scotland on a night out in London: “They asked ‘What’s this all about this support for independence?’ “And I said let’s go around the table and see if we can work out where the roots of this phenomenon are. And basically by the end of a very short discussion I said ‘OK you’ve identified between you two causes – one, the Scots are chippy, and two, Alex Salmond’s wily.’ “I said if that’s what you think it is, if you think it’s as shallow and insignificant as that, you haven’t understood what’s been going on in Scotland for the last 30 or 40 years.”

Little described the reaction to an extended piece he had written on the indyref for the BBC website: “To me it was full of stuff that I’d understood for a very long time, but to people in London, to my astonishment, they were hearing some of the arguments that I was making for the first time.”

He was then told by the BBC’s head of news to make the same arguments on television, a week before the poll.

The BBC faced allegations of bias in the run-up to the indyref, and days before the vote up to 1000 Yes supporters gathered outside BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow to protest over its coverage of the referendum, claiming it was biased against independence.

Little added: “I know how hard my colleagues in London work at trying to get it right.

“I’m not cynical about that but I was quite surprised by some of my colleagues failing to understand their own assumption that the Yes side was wrong.”

Ken MacQuarrie, the then-director of BBC Scotland, told the documentary: “Clearly people would come from their own perspective, possibly with their own thoughts but I felt that these were left behind, that people were doing a professional job as far as was possible, in every situation that they came across.”

The National: Keith Brown

The SNP’s depute leader, Keith Brown, welcomed the admission by Little, but said problems still persist.

“This is a welcome, important and courageous admission by a former senior BBC correspondent, with long experience of covering stories around the globe, that the Corporation made serious mistakes in the way it covered the 2014 referendum,” said Brown.

“These problems of failing to cover Scotland properly continue to persist; just this week our Westminster Leader Ian Blackford was three times cut from live on air coverage from Westminster.

“It is vital that the BBC addresses these persistent failings.

“It needs to be transparent as to how it plans to improve the coverage of the SNP at Westminster, gets to grip with devolution and handles Scottish politics in general, if it is to stand a chance of winning back the trust that they themselves admit they have lost.”

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The programme also looks at how a secret opinion poll for the government 11 days before the referendum shocked the No camp when it put the Yes side four points ahead.

It panicked then-PM David Cameron and other ministers who dashed to be seen in Scotland.

Nick Robinson, who at that point was the BBC’s political editor, said: “David Cameron raced out of Scotland just as he raced in. His message, very simple: this is not about me, this is not about those he called the effing Tories, it’s not about the next five years, it’s forever ... I’ve covered Scottish politics a lot but I felt I needed to do it a lot more.

“I didn’t listen to the warning that if I was sent at the last minute, that if I could be presented as the guy in a suit from Westminster, the English man from the British Broadcasting Corporation, that would be tricky.”

Robinson also spoke about the public spat with Alex Salmond, when he claimed the then-SNP leader had not answered his question at an international news conference about his report that RBS would move its headquarters to London in the event of Scotland voting for independence.

He told the documentary it had been a “subjective view”, and added: “It wasn’t a clever script line. And in truth, given the chance, I would have rewritten it.”