A senior journalist has sparked a row over alleged BBC bias during the independence referendum, after claiming that colleagues saw it as their responsibility to show how “foolish” it would be to vote Yes.

Allan Little, who led the BBC’s referendum coverage, told a documentary that some colleagues had an assumption that the Yes argument was “wrong”.

Keith Brown, the SNP’s depute leader, said: “This is a welcome, important and courageous admission by a former senior BBC correspondent, with long experience of covering stories around the globe, that the Corporation made serious mistakes in the way it covered the 2014 referendum.”

The final episode of the “inside the indyref” documentary, made by film-maker Paul Mitchell, will be broadcast this week on the BBC.

Featuring exclusive interviews with the key participants on both sides, the episode focuses on the last stretch of the campaign where Yes overtook the No campaign.

Parts of the episode also look at how the BBC covered the campaign and examine claims that the broadcaster was not impartial.

Complaints about the BBC led to Yes supporters staging protests outside the Corporation’s Glasgow headquarters during the referendum.

Alex Salmond was also critical of some of the BBC’s output, such as a news item on the Royal Bank of the Scotland, but the BBC staunchly defended itself.

Little, who covered the referendum for the BBC but who is no longer an employee, told the programme:

“I know how hard all my colleagues in London work at trying to get it right….I am not cynical about that at all.”

He added: “But I was quite surprised by some of my colleagues failing to understand their own assumption that the Yes side was wrong.

“And that some of my colleagues, by no means all, not even the majority, but some of my colleagues, who thought that our responsibility was to produce a series of pieces that would demonstrate how foolish it would be to vote Yes.”

Little, who was a consultant on the three-part series, also said he recalled a discussion with friends in London on the “roots” of the independence “phenomenon”.

He said: “By the end of a very short discussion, I said ‘you’ve identified between you two causes. One, the Scots are chippy, and two, Alex Salmond is wily’.

He continued: “I said ‘if that’s what you think it is, if you think it is as shallow and as insignificant as that, you havn’t understood what has been going on in Scotland for the last thirty or forty years’.”

The Herald:

Image: Allan Little

Little also described the reaction in London to an extended piece for the BBC website he had written on the referendum:

“But to people in London, to my astonishment, they were hearing some of the arguments that I was making for the first time.”

In another segment, Nick Robinson, who at that point was the BBC’s political editor, spoke about his RBS report.

After asking Salmond about the bank at a press conference, Robinson had claimed that the then SNP leader “didn’t answer” the question. The report angered Salmond.

In an interview for the documentary, Robinson said the form of words had been a “subjective view”, adding:

“It wasn’t a clever script line. And in truth, given the chance, I would have rewritten it.”

Ken MacQuarrie, who was the Controller of BBC Scotland during the referendum, defended the Corporation’s journalism to the programme:

“Clearly people would come from their own perspective, possibly with their own thoughts, but I felt that these were left behind, that people were doing a professional job as far as was possible, in every situation that they came across.”

Colin Fox, the co national spokesperson of the Scottish Socialist Party who sat on the Yes Scotland board, told this newspaper:

“Allan Little seems to be criticising the professional integrity of some of his colleagues based in London, and the role they played in the referendum campaign. The clear inference from his comments is that there was bias in the way some of his colleagues in the upper echelons of the BBC covered the referendum.”

‘Yes/No - Inside the Indyref’ will be shown on Tuesday, 19th March, on BBC Scotland at 10pm