IAN Blackford has called for a “radical shake up” at the BBC accusing the corporation of a “glaringly obvious” disregard for devolution and “systematically” omitting Scotland and the SNP from stories.

The MP said his party “often had to challenge” the broadcaster during the campaign for last month’s General Election.

The BBC yesterday insisted its coverage in the run up to the December 12 vote had been “fair and proportionate”.

Blackford’s comments came in the wake of a row sparked by an SNP official’s demand to broadcasters to “rigorously scrutinise” the “undemocratic and untenable assertion” by the Tories that the SNP did not have a mandate for a second referendum.

The National: Ian Blackford

John Toner, Scottish officer for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), hit out at the move, telling The Times: “Professional journalists do not need guidance from any political party on how to do their jobs.”

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He added: “How interviews are handled is a matter for the journalist and his/her editor. The claims of all political parties should be rigorously scrutinised, and it is not acceptable for one party to try to influence the degree to which other parties and scrutinised.”

But Blackford said the SNP were forced to make near daily challenges to the BBC during the election regulated period between November 6 and December 12.

He also criticised BBC promise to give the SNP and the LibDems “level pegging” when it comes to air time.

The party’s Westminster chief said the SNP had been the “third-largest party at Westminster since 2015, with substantially greater numbers of MPs than the LibDems in the previous three elections.”

He added: “In this latest Westminster election we won a mandate from the people of Scotland to hold a fresh referendum on Scotland becoming an independent country. The LibDems during the same period, in reality, remain a minority party who lack any real relevance.”

Despite that, Blackford says, media monitoring of BBC’s main news bulletins at 6pm and 10pm show “the LibDems appeared on more items and for considerably longer periods than the SNP did during the regulated period.”

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He added that for the public service broadcaster “to survive” it needs to “up its game and aim to match the complex and diverse needs of its audience. It needs a radical shake up.”

Ofcom’s rules for election coverage calls for political parties to be given “appropriate levels of coverage” on TV and radio.

That appropriate level, it says, should be decided by looking at past and current electoral support.

The National:

A BBC spokesperson said: “Our aim throughout the election was to be on the side of the audience who came to us in their millions and we delivered our most ambitious coverage whilst ensuring it was fair and proportionate over the course of the campaign.

“Among multiple appearances on BBC News, we were the only broadcaster to offer the SNP to take part in a Question Time style debate alongside the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

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Nicola Sturgeon was also interviewed by Andrew Neil, on BBC Breakfast and took questions from callers on BBC Radio 5 Live.”

The National:

The BBC were criticised for failing to secure an interview with Boris Johnson for Andrew Neil, despite every other major party leader in the UK being subject to a grilling from the corporation’s toughest interviewer.

Following the election, Labour also complained, saying the BBC was effectively “complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage”.

The host of the BBC’s election night coverage, Huw Edwards, hit out at the “toxic” criticism of journalists by the parties and their supporters.