BBC Scotland has been accused of skewing a bar chart depicting an increase in alcohol-related deaths to further an “anti-independence” agenda.

Michael Russell, the president of the SNP, said a graphic shown on Reporting Scotland on Tuesday night during a piece on the latest alcohol-related death statistics was misleading.

The chart was highlighted by the anti-BBC Twitter account MSM Monitor, which frequently accuses the corporation of having an anti-independence agenda.

During the segment a graph was shown highlighting the increase in alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, which were revealed by official statisticians on Tuesday to have reached their highest levels since 2008.

READ MORE: Brian Cox calls on Scots to speed up push for independence

There had been an increase of 31 deaths in 2022 compared with the previous year, with the most recent alcohol-related death toll standing at 1276. This was the highest on record since 2008, when deaths reached 1316.  

The graph depicted this increase but critics said its presentation was manipulated to make the increase seem more substantial than the numbers reflected.

Speaking to The National, Russell accused the BBC of negating its “legal duty of impartiality” in presenting the figures in this way and said independent experts must be brought in to examine the decision.

The former cabinet secretary said: “BBC Scotland's reputation for graphic accuracy is now as threadbare as that of the LibDems.

"The organisation seems determined to abuse its position and its authority to present skewed information for purely political, anti-independence reasons.

"The result is a complete negation of the BBC’s legal duty of impartiality.

"This now requires urgent external examination."

The National: SNP MSP and Drugs Policy Minister Elena Whitham Image: PA

On publication of the new statistics, Drugs and Alcohol Minister Elena Whitham (above) said: “Every life lost is a tragedy and my sympathy goes to all those affected by the loss of a loved one through alcohol.

"While we will need to better understand the reasons for this increase in deaths, I will do all I can to reduce alcohol-related harm.”

The BBC was approached for comment.