Nick Robinson’s second question to Alex Salmond in the video clips I embedded yesterday was (in full) “…on a more general point, John Lewis’s boss says prices could go up, Standard Life’s boss says money will move out of Scotland, BP’s boss says oil will run out; why should a Scottish voter believe you, a politician, against men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profit?”
Some people, including Nick Robinson, are claiming that he answered the first question (about RBS), but not the question I’ve transcribed above. Here’s the clip again, followed by my breakdown of the answer with regards to Nick’s second question:
Alex starts addressing the second question, at 1:50, making it clear that that’s what he’s doing by saying he’s moving on “to the generality” – the same sort of language Nick used when describing it as “a more general point”. He doesn't say why we should trust him more than the businessmen, which was the literal question (would anyone believe it if he did?), but he sets out a couple of reasons why the businessmen's announcements might be seen in the same light as claims from a politician:
- He suggests they were coordinated by David Cameron's business advisor.
- He states that the "new" announcements from two of Nick Robinson's three examples (BP, Standard Life) were repeating things they'd already said months ago. (He doesn’t mention John Lewis.)
He then goes on to make a detailed comparison with RBS (not one of Nick's examples in the second question, although it’s relevant to the first) where the reporting was substantially more alarmist than the Chief Executive of RBS's portrayal to his staff, leading in to his criticism of the Treasury's (and the BBC's) role in the reporting.
In fact, he spends nearly four minutes working on reducing the relative credibility of the announcements from business and their leaking and reporting before he first tries to move on to the next question, which is pretty much (if not literally) what Nick asked him to do.
Finally, at 7:00 he mentions two witnesses from the business world (Martin Gilbert and Sir Angus Grossart) who've made statements more favourable to the case for independence, thereby introducing a positive argument as well as the preceding negative ones.
It wasn't a soundbite answer to the soundbite question, but (IMHO, obviously) it was as reasonable an answer as any politician in that situation could give.
The BBC’s has published a response to complaints.