Sarah Smith joins BBC News to take up key presenting role in Scotland’s independence referendum

Date: 05.02.2014     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.04
Category: News; Scotland
Sarah Smith, business correspondent and presenter for Channel 4 News, is among a raft of new appointments boosting the team producing BBC Scotland’s coverage of the referendum on Scottish independence.

The hugely-experienced journalist will return to Scotland in the spring to front a new studio-based weeknight programme, Scotland 2014, which aims to both reflect and set the referendum agenda.

Prior to her current role, where she has been covering stories ranging from banking reform to international tax avoidance, Sarah reported from all over the US as Washington correspondent and was also presenter of More4 News from its launch in 2005.

Over the last few years she has covered the election of President Obama and the Haiti earthquake and also spotlighted stories on American army drones, the ongoing threat of homegrown domestic terrorism, the campaign to legalise cannabis in California and the rise of the Tea Party movement.

She was previously Scotland Correspondent for Channel 4 News, based in Edinburgh, where she covered the first elections to the Scottish Parliament, the early Holyrood years and the Lockerbie trial, but initially began her career at BBC Scotland as a graduate production trainee learning the ropes on programmes like Good Morning Scotland, Head On and in Northern Ireland on Spotlight and Inside Ulster. She then worked as a researcher and producer for the BBC in London on Public Eye, Here & Now and Newsnight before moving in front of the camera when moving to 5News in 2006, becoming an on-screen reporter for the first time.

Sarah, who will also appear on Radio Scotland as part of her new role, is delighted to be rejoining BBC Scotland: “It is a great privilege to have spent the last 15 years working on Channel 4 News, one of the best news programmes on television. But it is impossible to resist the opportunity to return to Scotland at this crucial time. I'm very excited about ‘Scotland 2014’ and looking forward to coming back to BBC Scotland, where I began my broadcasting career.”

Scotland 2014’s new programme editor Marcus Ryder, who moves from his current role as Investigations Editor, is relishing the task of producing a high quality half-hour current affairs programme at a crucial point in Scotland’s history.

“Our aspiration is very much to provide the definitive account of stories that well informed Scots need to know about – and I’m delighted that we’ve got Sarah anchoring the programme,” said Ryder.

Transmitting on BBC Two Scotland from 10.30pm on Mondays to Thursdays from May-October, the new 30-minute current affairs programme will demonstrate how Scotland impacts on national and global events and how national and global events impact on Scotland. The programme will replace Newsnight Scotland and will lead into Newsnight coming on air in Scotland in its entirety from 11pm.

Also joining Sarah in the BBC’s referendum unit are a number of other experienced reporters and correspondents including Lucy Adams, formerly chief reporter of the Herald newspaper, as a political correspondent; Laura Bicker, who was a BBC network news correspondent based in Scotland, and will become a referendum correspondent, and Colleta Smith from BBC Northern Ireland’s Business Unit, who has been appointed economics correspondent of the unit.

Head of News for BBC Scotland, John Boothman, welcomed the additions: “These appointments will strengthen a team which is already producing a wealth of content to keep our audiences engaged and informed as we approach polling day in the referendum."

Boothman also paid tribute to the Newsnight Scotland team: “Since it came on air, Newsnight Scotland has consistently produced journalism of the highest quality and the talents of that team will continue to enhance other parts of our news output."

BBC Scotland last year approved a £5m investment for new content relating to the referendum, and has ramped up its programming across all platforms in recent weeks. In addition to new staff appointments, around 50 temporary roles are being created to assist in the production of the increased programming.