The BBC has received more than 150 complaints after Jeremy Paxman compared Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, to Robert Mugabe in an interview on the BBC2 TV programme Newsnight.
However, a BBC spokesman has described Paxman’s remarks as having taken place in the context of a “good natured exchange“ and said the interview ended “amicably”.
Paxman was interviewing Salmond on his vision of making Scotland an independent nation and had jocularly introduced him initially as “Moses”.
Paxman cotninued to say: “You say that an independent Scotland would be a beacon of progressiveness – I think I recall Robert Mugabe saying something similar about Zimbabwe.”
“Salmond replied: ‘I don’t think, Jeremy, that you are doing yourself any great favours by comparing Scotland to Zimbabwe’.
“Mr Paxman interjected: ‘I’m comparing you to Mugabe. Implicit in that is the idea that this is a one-party state. Implicit in that assumption is that there is only one party that can rule Scotland’.
“Mr Salmond responded: ‘That is not the assumption. Scotland has a system of proportional representation which at least ensures that minority voices have a chance of being represented in our parliament’.”
A BBC spokesman is quoted by the Scottish Daily Mail as replying: “This was a good-natured exchange in a wide-ranging interview between two experienced political operators who often spar with one another.
“Jeremy’s reference to Zimbabwe was made within this context. While the comparison was not serious, he was attempting to tease out details of an independent Scotland and how politically progressive it could be.
“Mr Salmond was robust in his response and the interview ended amicably."
During the interview, Salmond was also questioned about the future of the licence fee being paid in Scotland, where he gave some insight into his plans for Scottish public service broadcasting.