BBC faces backlash after anti-nuclear SNP councillor paid to give technical advice for hit submarine drama Vigil

The BBC is facing a storm of protest after it was revealed a anti-nuclear campaigner and SNP councillor was paid to give technical advice on Royal Navy submarines for the autumn drama hit Vigil.

It is being claimed the input of SNP councillor Feargal Dalton may have contributed to a prejudiced and inaccurate picture of life below sea, a portrayal that has caused anger among veterans of the Senior Service.

Suranne Jones stars as Detective Chief Inspector Amy Silva, the police officer winched on board the fictional Vanguard-class nuclear submarine Vigil to investigate the mysterious death of crewman Craig Burke, played by Scots actor Martin Compston.

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Suranne Jones in Vigil. Picture: Mark Mainz-BBC/World ProductionsSuranne Jones in Vigil. Picture: Mark Mainz-BBC/World Productions
Suranne Jones in Vigil. Picture: Mark Mainz-BBC/World Productions
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The programme also explores the prospect of MI5 infiltration at a peace camp, modelled on the one at Faslane on the Firth of Clyde in Argyll and Bute, which has been a bastion of nuclear weapon opposition since the 1980s.

Councillor Feargal Dalton retired from the Royal Navy 11 years ago as a Lieutenant Commander, a weapons engineer with experience of firing a test nuclear missile off the coast of Florida in 2009.

However, at the same time he was serving in the Navy, Councillor Dalton was driving his wife, Carol Monaghan, to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament [CND] rallies.

Jackie Baillie, the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party, told The Sunday Telegraph: “Feargal Dalton has long campaigned against the Trident nuclear deterrent. The BBC should have employed an expert who, unlike Mr Dalton, is not so obviously biased against nuclear submarines and has a long-standing association with CND.”

A helicopter hovers above HMS Vigil in the hit BBC TV drama. Picture: BBC/World ProductionsA helicopter hovers above HMS Vigil in the hit BBC TV drama. Picture: BBC/World Productions
A helicopter hovers above HMS Vigil in the hit BBC TV drama. Picture: BBC/World Productions

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats and a member of the House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee, added: “I can understand why you might have someone opposed to Trident as an adviser for the peace camp scenes. But it would be strange if such an individual was giving advice about technical and on-board issues.

“The characterisation of the Navy and its ratings and officers in Vigil is a long way from the reality. The Royal Navy simply does not behave in the boorish way depicted.”

Royal Navy veterans have also expressed fury at the BBC’s decision to hire Councillor Dalton.

Writing on a Royal Navy personnel message board, one former serviceman who served on HMS Vernon said: “I’m sure the luvvies at the BBC are hand-in-glove with the CND-sympathising heads of the SNP on this piece of blatant anti-RN propaganda.”

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Another wrote: “The script just makes the RN look terrible. I can’t believe the BBC are actually allowing the armed forces to be portrayed like this.”

Councillor Dalton serves as Glasgow City Council’s representative on Nuclear Free Local Authorities Scotland and as a member of its national steering group.

His official register of interests held by the council shows he has declared income from World Productions, the independent programme makers, though not the amount he received.

Mr Dalton was approached for comment.

A BBC spokesman said: “The World Productions team consulted a range of advisers and experts to make Vigil, including Mr Dalton who had no editorial input but offered factual insight from his long career as a member of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service.”

The hit BBC One drama, which concludes next Sunday, has also triggered anger among protesters at the nuclear sub base at Faslane.



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