THE BBC has blamed trouble at an Irish unity march for not covering a Scottish independence demonstration and accused National columnist Lesley Riddoch of “misleading” readers.

Today, The National exclusively revealed that the BBC had defended its decision not to cover the All Under One Banner (AUOB) march and rally in Perth at the weekend which organisers estimate around 12,000 people turned out for.

The broadcaster has since doubled down on its defence, saying that coverage of certain events is dependent on other stories breaking across the country and that it had a “duty” to cover the two sectarian marches in Glasgow which occured on the same day.

Riddoch told The National that she had lived near Perth for 25 years and could not remember a bigger gathering on the city’s streets than Saturday’s AUOB march.

READ MORE: BBC defends decision to ignore AUOB independence march in Perth

“Despite the near certainty that more than 100,000 folk will turn out for the final scheduled march in Edinburgh next month, and even though it’s a perfectly timed gift for news producers seeking visual ways to represent the Brexit-induced shift in Scottish public opinion – the same news blackout will probably occur,” she said.

Riddoch also wrote a column for The Scotsman on the lack of coverage, published yesterday, which she began with: “No coverage – again.”

Later in the piece, she wrote: “Yet a small Glasgow march did get front page treatment this weekend - likewise a smaller Brexit demonstration in London. Mind you, they both had something the AUOB march did not - violence, confrontation and arrests.”

The National:

This prompted a furious response from Howard Simpson, news editor and editor of newsgathering at BBC Scotland.

In his letter to The Scotsman he wrote: "While I’m always happy to debate a range of matters with Ms Riddoch, her accusation that there has been a ‘persistent absence’ of reporting the marches is completely without foundation. She begins with this assertion – no coverage again.

"It seems that she has missed the BBC Scotland News coverage across TV, radio and online of many All Under One Banner marches including those in Aberdeen, Galashiels, Oban, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverness, and Dumfries over the last 18 months.”

Later in the letter, he adds: “It will not be possible for the BBC to cover every march every time – there are, after all, dozens of marches about a range of issues taking place across Scotland every weekend – but it is utterly misleading to suggest pro-independence rallies are the subject of a news blackout.

"Ultimately, the level of coverage in any given weekend will depend on a range of factors, including what other stories are on the news agenda that day. This past weekend saw a number of arrests and a police officer injured as two Republican marches were held in Glasgow.

"There can surely be no doubt that as Scotland’s biggest city was disrupted due to sectarian tensions, with police bussed in from around the country, the BBC had a duty to cover what was a developing news event.”

The Scotsman published Howard’s letter in full on their website.