NUJ offers BBC deal on Holyrood tapes

The NUJ has come up with a compromise deal that could end the deadlock between BBC Scotland and the Lord Fraser Inquiry over the long-running Holyrood tapes affair.

The inquiry team insists that 400 hours of unseen footage recorded for a documentary series by the BBC could shed vital light on why the new Scottish parliament building is three years behind schedule and why costs soared from £40m to the current £431m.

However, the BBC has maintained its editorial policy that unseen footage is not released to third parties.

The latest initiative, forged between the NUJ and the inquiry team, in consultation with the BBC Scotland NUJ chapel, would allow John Campbell, QC, legal counsel to the inquiry, to view the footage. It includes interviews with former First Minister Donald Dewar and architect Eric Miralles – both of whom are now dead.

Under the deal, Campbell would have access to the tapes. However, the contents would remain confidential and at no time would excerpts be placed in the public domain.

NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said that under the deal, the BBC could no longer argue that access to the tapes would compromise the integrity of its journalists and its duty to protect confidential sources.

He explained: “There are no issues of sources or confidentiality going. We are in a position to broker a meeting with BBC management and the inquiry team to reach an agreement to give Mr Campbell access to the footage.

“If there is no agreement here, no compromise, then in future these inquiries will be judicial and they will use their powers to grab journalists’ materials. This inquiry is about the credibility of Scotland. If it can be achieved without using judicial powers, it is a triumph for democracy.”

A BBC spokesman said on Tuesday it had not yet received the formal submission outlining the compromise being offered by the NUJ.

By Hamish Mackay

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