THE BBC was last night accused of caving in to nationalists after it decided to axe a satirical cartoon of a Scottish Government minister.
Corporation chiefs had used an animated clip of Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Greens, to plug its radio comedy show Noising Up.
But they deleted the ‘Limo Lorna’ cartoon sketch from social media after a backlash online, fuelled by criticism from Green and SNP ministers and their supporters.
BBC Radio Scotland had also created similar caricatures of Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, First Minister Humza Yousaf and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to promote the programme.
But the BBC said the animations ‘were not working as intended’ after SNP equalities minister Emma Roddick described the clip of Ms Slater as ‘unnecessarily nasty’.
Limo Lorna was created to promote radio sketch show Noising Up
Last night Scottish Tory deputy culture spokesman Alexander Stewart said: ‘It’s disappointing that the BBC caved in to the SNP/Green politicians and supporters who kicked up a fuss, and pulled these sketches, which targeted a wide range of politicians.
‘It begs the question whether they would have taken a similar course of action had the complaints come from opposition politicians.
Having fun poked at you goes with the territory if you’re a politician.
‘The nationalists need to accept this, rather than trying to silence those who dare to criticise them.’
The satirical cartoon featuring a caricature of the Greens minister had poked fun at her use of taxpayer-funded limousines.
BBC Radio Scotland used the clip of Limo Lorna – a send-up of the Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity – in March to promote Noising Up.
In the clip, the character, speaking with a Canadian accent – Ms Slater was born, raised and educated in Canada – describes herself as being ‘Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy, Biodiversity, Short-Haul Flights and Maple Syrup’.
The character says: ‘Join me for my new streaming series, Lorna Slater’s Great Green Limousine Journeys, where I’ll be changing my climate from Holyrood to stretched limo on a 3,000-mile taxpayer-funded journey around Scotland.’
In addition to her high car use, Ms Slater was criticised after she chartered a private boat for an official visit to Rum earlier this year at a cost of £1,200.
The Greens minister also faced accusations of hypocrisy after ordering an empty limousine to be driven more than 100 miles to pick her up.
Ms Roddick responded to the BBC animation by saying: ‘This is unnecessarily nasty.’
Green MSP Mark Ruskell asked: ‘What’s funny about needing a car to do your job?’
Green minister Lorna Slater has been accused of hypocrisy
Christina McKelvie, the SNP culture minister, also described the clip as ‘dreadful’. This led to independence supporters joining the attack in an online pile-on, heaping pressure on the Corporation.
The BBC has since removed the clips from all of its social media accounts and said that it had launched a review of the use of satirical cartoons.
In a statement, the broadcaster said: ‘Noising Up is a satire-led programme on Radio Scotland, and radio sketch satire has been missing for over a decade in Scotland.
‘We believe satire has a role to play within public discourse and it is important that it has its place within Scotland’s political and cultural landscape.
‘Animations of four of Scotland’s party leaders were created to support the programme with the intent of helping it reach a new and wider audience.’
However, the statement added: ‘It became clear over the weekend that the animations were not working as intended and, having reflected on the reaction, we have made the decision to remove them from social media while we review their use and assess the programme’s social media presence.
‘The full sketches from which these animations were extracted can still be heard in the programmes from which they were taken, which remain available on BBC Sounds.
The series itself also continues to be broadcast on Radio Scotland.’
The Mail understands there were no formal complaints to the BBC from the SNP or the Greens, or from the SNP Government.
Last night a government spokesman said it had no comment on the BBC’s decision to pull the Limo Lorna cartoon.
Scots Tory leader Douglas Ross was also sent up by the cartoon
The BBC’s former lawyer Alistair Bonnington claimed last year that BBC Scotland was flouting its duty of impartiality because of pro-SNP bias. Mr Bonnington, who was formerly BBC Scotland’s in-house legal counsel for 16 years, said the broadcaster was ‘slavishly biased’ in favour of the SNP Government.
The intervention came after former Scottish Labour MP and ex-UK Government minister Tom Harris warned in the Mail last year that the BBC has ‘no understanding of the existential threat to Britain’ posed by the SNP.
Commenting last night on the Limo Lorna row, Mr Bonnington said: ‘This is very sad – there is a long history of politicians being sent up, including Prime Ministers, and they always put up with it, even if they didn’t particularly enjoy it.
‘This looks like another example of the BBC’s bias in favour of the SNP – they are kowtowing to nationalist politicians.’
The second series of Noising Up began on BBC Radio Scotland at the start of this month.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that BBC Radio Scotland, which reaches 867,000 listeners a week, had been overtaken by commercial rivals that account for nearly 60 per cent of listeners.