Ex-BBC Scotland editor recalls abuse as she tells of ‘relief’ at new job in US

Sarah Smith was appointed the corporation’s North America editor last year.
Sarah Smith recounted hostility she had faced while the BBC’s Scotland editor (PA)

Sarah Smith recounted hostility she had faced while the BBC’s Scotland editor (PA)

By Craig Paton, PA Scotland Deputy Political Editor

The former Scotland editor of the BBC has spoken of her relief at moving to America after suffering abuse covering Scottish politics.

Sarah Smith, who was appointed the corporation’s North America editor last year, said she was subjected to hostility “most of the time” when preparing to go live on TV.

Speaking to Rhys Evans – the head of corporate affairs at BBC Wales – for a paper for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, the broadcaster said she had attracted “criticism, bile and hatred” from some sections of the Scottish population which she feared would damage the reputation of the BBC.

In one incident, she recounted, someone rolled down their car window and asked her: “What f****** lies are you going to be telling on TV tonight, you f****** lying bitch?”

Smith also said she was the subject of “misogynistic” ideas that she would follow the political ideology of her father – former Labour leader John Smith.

We need your consent to load this Social Media content. We use a number of different Social Media outlets to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity.

She said: “He was a very well-known politician, he was a unionist, people like to therefore assume that my politics must be the same as my father’s despite me being, one, a different person, and him having been dead for 27 years.”

In response to Smith’s comments, SNP MSP James Dornan said on Twitter: “America would be the go to place to escape all her imaginary woes then.”

He later reviewed his comment, tweeting: “Imaginary was the wrong word to use, should have been ‘exaggerated’.

“Any abuse she suffered is too much but if Sarah Smith is saying that politics over here is more vicious than in the US she hasn’t been paying enough attention to what has been going on over there, nor rest of UK.”

The MSP then apologised, adding on Twitter: “Language is important in this so I apologise for my earlier comments that made it seem as though I believed the abuse Sarah Smith has suffered was imaginary.

“No matter differing opinions, the misogynistic abuse of women in the public eye is never acceptable.

“If we want to tackle the issue then we all need to recognise the problem is on all sides and all countries.”

In her interview, Smith said her move to the US was a cause for “relief”, adding: “Nobody will have any idea who my father is.

We need your consent to load this Social Media content. We use a number of different Social Media outlets to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity.

“The misogynistic idea that I can’t have any of my own thoughts anyway, or rise above my family connections to report impartially, will no longer be part of the discourse.”

The first Scotland editor at the BBC, Smith said she had been “demonised quite heavily… amongst certain parts of the population”.

The BBC was the subject of scrutiny in the months before the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, and Smith said she believes another vote – which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she hopes to hold next year – would see the corporation under “enormous scrutiny”.

As a result, the BBC would be “actual players”, she said, with news reports being “politicised and weaponised by both sides”.

She added that the broadcaster would receive “such an enormous amount of incoming criticism that it would be almost a full-time job to manage that, never mind trying to cover events”.


Today's Headlines

More Celebrity

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices