THE BBC is in a “really bad way” thanks to its “pathetically soft” coverage of the UK Government, according to a former senior Scottish Government figure.

Michael Russell, the SNP president and former constitution secretary, took aim at the corporation after The National’s research revealed the BBC News at Six and Reporting Scotland continue to give Holyrood a tougher ride than Westminster.

The findings reveal negative stories about the UK Government made up 20% of the UK-wide News at Six’s political output last week, while a third of Reporting Scotland stories had a negative framing towards Holyrood.

It is the fourth month in a row in which The National has carried out this research – with each report finding the BBC’s coverage of Holyrood is more negative than its reporting on Westminster.

The research was carried out between October 18-22 and saw political stories on both Reporting Scotland and the News at Six categorised based on whether they had a positive, negative or neutral framing of each government.

Of the 15 political stories on the News at Six, five had a neutral framing of the UK Government, while three were positive and three were negative. There were no political stories about the Scottish Government.

Meanwhile of the 12 political stories on Reporting Scotland, one was neutral towards the UK Government, one was negative and two were positive. When it came to the coverage of the Scottish Government, three stories were neutral, four were negative and zero were positive.

Russell hit out at the findings, which come days after UK Government Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries heavily criticised the broadcaster. The Conservative minister had expressed anger over political correspondent Nick Robinson telling Boris Johnson to “stop talking” during a Radio 4 interview.

“[The BBC] is either unwilling or unable to stand up to the Tories publicly bullying them, meanwhile audiences are served news that fails to meet the spirit of its own guidelines on impartiality,” he told The National.

“Relentlessly negative news about Scotland sits alongside network news that is a pathetically soft touch on this disastrous and damaging UK Tory Government.

“Public service broadcasting journalism should be thriving for the health of our democracy. But that’s not happening at the BBC right now, despite many fine journalists plying their trade there.”

Russell pointed out that during a recent Digital Committee meeting at Westminster, director-general Tim Davie had said one of the big questions currently facing the BBC is whether it represents Scotland.

“He would do well to elaborate on this – as the BBC is falling short, that much is obvious,” Russell went on.

“It is increasingly clear that broadcasting powers need to be devolved if the broadcaster is to have a bright future north of the Border.”

The negative UK Government stories covered by the News at Six last week included concerns over the Covid-19 booster jag roll-out, a staff shortage warning from England’s care watchdog and increased pressure on ministers over helping schools to recover from the pandemic. Meanwhile the broadcaster ran positive stories on the Government and Ford investing in Merseyside, the UK’s “ambitious” climate targets and a new subsidy for homeowners to buy heat pumps in England and Wales. There were no political stories about the Scottish Government, and Baroness Davidson was the only Scots politician to feature all week.

Meanwhile Reporting Scotland’s negative Scottish Government stories focused on concerns over whether the NHS had met a sustainability target, long waits at A&E departments, opposition parties accusing ministers of failings on the booster jag effort and challenges facing care homes.

A BBC spokesperson said:  “The BBC is always happy to debate whether it is getting things right, but cherry picking a handful of news items from a short period of time is neither objective nor a robust analysis.”