On 2nd November 2011 (i.e. less than three months ago), Citigroup announced that they felt having the referendum towards the end of the SNP's second term in government was creating huge uncertainty amongst potential investors in Scottish renewables. The BBC pounced on it in the same way I would pounce on the last block of cheese in the world, putting it as their top story in Reporting Scotland, and writing this article on their website. The key quote from the article is thus:
It argues the referendum process will "create huge uncertainty" at precisely the moment when big investment decisions in renewable projects will need to be taken.Now, this fitted in with the narrative that the UK Government were currently trying to promote, as this was exactly the same time that Gideon Osborne was trying to tell us that the "uncertainty about the referendum" was damaging Scotland's ability to attract investment from businesses. Needless to say, he never provided the name of even one business that had said as much to back up his claim, whereas Alex Salmond was able to rattle off a plethora of international companies that were more than happy to invest in Scotland. Citigroup's statement seemed to back up the unionist case, though, so BBC Scotland ran with it like it was the word of god.
Fast forward three months, and we're at the beginning of what will be a rather long debate about Scotland's constitutional future. This is a debate which requires fact to overcome fiction, because this isn't going to be a referendum about a pointless little change to the voting system - this is about Scotland's future. So we can't afford to have the public being misinformed by wild speculation that has absolutely no basis in truth, or spurious allegations about what Scotland can and can't afford. Most importantly, we need balance - the media could perhaps get away with bias against independence when it wasn't a main issue, but now that it has become the big story in Scotland, they need to show a bit of responsibility and report the facts.
So it was interesting, then, that at 15:59 on 20th January 2012, Citigroup released the following statement, which, while cautious, certainly seems to be more of a help to the case for independence than the case for the union:
We certainly do not rule out a break-up of the UK over time. ONS data suggest that an independent Scotland would have a slightly better fiscal position than the rest of the UK [assuming Scotland gets its geographic share of oil and gas receipts]. Scotland could have a viable future as an independent country, although there are a lot of questions that would have to be resolved before that happens.Now, let's be perfectly honest here, this is huge. Not only are one of the world's biggest financial institutions saying an independent Scotland is "viable", they're actually saying our fiscal position would be better than that of the rest of the UK. If you're looking for evidence that Scotland is on the road to ruin if we vote for independence, then you'd best steer very clear of this sort of statement.
And this is exactly what has happened. The only trace of this statement I can find in the media is this article in the Telegraph (scroll down to 15:59 in the timeline). I got home from work on Friday expecting to see this as the top story on Reporting Scotland, because if Citigroup's opinion on the referendum itself is top news, then surely their opinion on the possible outcome of that referendum is a far bigger story? But no, complete radio (well, TV) silence. Not a peep. If it wasn't for the SNP tweeters I have on my Twitter feed, I wouldn't even know about it. Try putting "BBC Scotland Citigroup" into Google and you will find no trace of any article referencing this new Citigroup statement. It's as if it doesn't even exist...
So, to those of you who doubt that BBC Scotland is inherently biased against independence, how do you explain this one?