THE BBC has defended not using images of the crowd from The National’s massive #indyref2020 independence rally in Glasgow in a network TV news package covering Nicola Sturgeon’s speech at the event.

A four-minute package was shown on Saturday’s main evening news, with correspondent Alexandra Mackenzie in Glasgow speaking live to Shaun Ley in the London studio as, behind her, George Square was emptying.

In her piece, Mackenzie said: “Yes, the square has started to empty but that’s only happened within the last 10-15 minutes.

"Before that we understand that there were thousands of people here in the square – organisers have said 20,000, we understand the police are saying 10,000.

“And it was a pro-independence rally, their message was that they want an independence referendum. They want Scotland to have a choice about its future, and the main speaker this afternoon as you said was the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon.”

The package cut to footage of Sturgeon giving the crowd her vision of an independent Scotland. “An independent country that is open, that is welcoming, that is diverse, that can build a better future, not just for us here today and this generation of Scots, but a better future for all the generations to come after us,” she said. “That, my friends, is the prize, and that prize is within our touching distance. But we must seize that prize.”

The angle from which the film was shot did not show any of the crowd, although Mackenzie did manage to mention the Unionist “rally” at the edge of the square, when asked by Ley if there was any indication that public opinion had shifted towards independence.

“It’s difficult to tell that from being here today,” she said. “Obviously everyone who was on the square today ... were definitely pro-independence, but we also saw a smaller rally, a small demonstration taking place outside the square, of Unionists, and they wanted to put across the message that Nicola Sturgeon does not talk for the whole of Scotland.”

Keith Brown MSP, Depute Leader of the SNP said: “We don’t understand why the BBC network weekend news bulletins didn’t show pictures of the huge crowd in Glasgow on Saturday. The BBC tell us that there is another package on Monday which will feature more footage from the #Indyref2020 rally – we’ll be watching with interest.”

A BBC spokesperson in London said: “This was a replay of an earlier live report from the protest and our reporter made it clear that thousands of people had attended the pro-independence rally, with organisers estimating around 20,000 people there and the police putting the figure closer to 10,000 people. We made it very clear in the report and in the live introduction that crowds had started to disperse following Nicola Sturgeon’s speech.”