THE BBC has come under fire for handing a platform to an anti-abortion “hate group” on a Scotland news show.

A “constructive” summit on whether protest-free buffer zones should be implemented around abortion clinics, how this could be achieved, and how it could stand up to any legal challenge was held by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday.

Representatives from Police Scotland, local government, third sector organisations, campaigners and the NHS were in attendance in addition to MSPs from across different parties.

On the back of this, BBC Scotland's The Nine featured a segment on the issue of buffer zones which saw Lois McLatchie of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) UK interviewed about why she disagreed with them.

The interview has sparked a backlash given the ADF - which is headquartered in the US - is described as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit legal advocacy organisation specialising in civil rights. 

The BBC, however, claims the interview was “fair and balanced”.

Back Off Scotland – a campaign group fighting to get buffer zones implemented nationally in Scotland – was one of the groups in attendance at the summit.

Co-founder Lucy Grieve said she found it concerning the BBC did not detail any background on ADF, leaving viewers without sound knowledge of who it was they were listening to.

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She said: “These groups don’t not want buffer zones because they care about women, they want to end abortion, they want it to be stopped in the UK.

“I have no issue with difference of opinion but the SPLC describe ADF as a hate group and it’s far-right to say the least.

The National: Lucy Grieve of Back Off ScotlandLucy Grieve of Back Off Scotland

“It’s concerning we do not know who we’re hearing from and I think there needs to be more due diligence on platforming these groups. The BBC needs to make sure people know who they are listening to.”

There have also been concerns raised around an apparent lack of balance in the interview. Despite being one of the main campaign groups at the summit and members being pictured smiling with Sturgeon shortly after the event, Grieve said Back Off Scotland was not approached by the BBC at all to represent those wanting buffer zones.

Despite the show featuring an interview with MSP Gillian Mackay – whose private members bill would enable the zones to be established if it became law – prior to the ADF one, no one was defending buffer zones against the ADF, giving the group an uncontested platform.

Grieve added it was not the first time she had been snubbed by The Nine. In February last year, she and two other campaigners – Lily Roberts and Alice Murray – were interviewed alongside a representative from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

Although Roberts and Murray were given airtime, Grieve said the interview mostly focused on their personal experiences of going for an abortion and coming across protesters rather than the campaign itself, and Grieve’s interview was cut altogether.

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Grieve sent an official complaint to the show to say she was “disappointed” she had not been given the time and space to discuss the campaign goals.

Meanwhile, she said SPUC were given “a lot” of airtime and Back Off Scotland insisted it was “blindsided” by the interview with the SPUC as the group had not been given prior notice of it.

Grieve said she felt it “bizarre” the BBC had not approached them to make Monday’s interview on The Nine more balanced.

She added: “The BBC never contacted us for an interview after the summit. We were in a photo with the First Minister, it was a real move of solidarity, and we came out with a plan to work collaboratively on this issue, but no one from The Nine contacted us.

“I find that very bizarre and we have had prior issues with The Nine.

“Last year they gave a lot of airtime to SPUC and they cut my interview. I would go as far as to say we have had numerous problems with that show. We felt there was a lack of information on our campaign as a result of them cutting my interview.”

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “The item was fair and balanced, featuring views from both those in favour of and against the proposed buffer zones. It included interviews with Lois McLatchie of ADF UK, which opposes the proposal, and with Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay, whose private member’s bill would enable the zones to be established if it became law.”

A statement from ADF said: "ADF UK is a registered UK charity that seeks to promote the fundamental freedoms and protect the human dignity of all people. We have defended the religious freedom of Scots at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, successfully intervened at the UK Supreme Court, and consistently seek justice for individuals at the local level who have been denied their right to believe or speak freely.

"ADF International advocates for these freedoms in courtrooms around the world to secure legal victories that benefit everyone."