Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Not in the News - Early May

Welcome to the fifth of our now bi-monthly series looking back at the stories which the main stream media in Scotland didn't offer much attention to, and comparing them to those that hit the front pages.

The 'no' campaign's well fertilized grass roots
The organisation 'vote no borders' was highlighted by the BBC as "A new grassroots pro-Union group. A report in the excellent Craig Murray blog describes in detail just how far the British State Broadcaster is willing to stoop to shore up a 'no' vote.
"The registered office of Vote No Borders, a private limited company, is at 24 Chiswell Street, London, EC2Y 4YX . Which is perhaps surprising for a “Scottish grassroots campaign”.  The directors are Malcolm Offord and Fiona Gilmore.

Now pay close attention: Fiona Gilmore is chief executive of Acanchi a PR Consultany which specializes in “Country Branding”.  Its clients include Israel, Dubai, Bahrain and “England”.  Yes, it actually specifies “England” on the company website.  Acanchi also works for DFID – in short, it gets UK taxpayers’ money, plus Israeli and Gulf Arab money.  Are you familiar with the word fungibility?

Malcolm Offord, it turns out, has donated over 120,000 pounds to the Conservative Party plus made personal donations to Michael Gove.  He is the author of the report “Bankrupt Britain” on the Conservative Home website.  In his paper Offord suggests that further cuts in UK public spending should continue to be made  even after the present debt crisis has been passed and urges government to:
“Reform the bloated benefits system of this country to reduce the burden on the state and, just as importantly, boost the growth rate of the country”
And the wee retired care home nurse Elizabeth Bashir?  Well, she’s not quite as “grassroots” as shown by the BBC either..." Craig Murray, 2nd of May 2014

Investigative work by Douglas Daniel of Wings over Scotland also highlighted the very un-grassroot origins of the entity itself.
"Vote No Borders registered as a permitted participant [by the Electoral Commission] on the 19th March 2014 – 43 days before the launch of their website. If that seems odd, No Borders only registered with Companies House on the 18th March 2014. It became a permitted participant the day after forming.

...within 44 days of forming, this “grassroots” campaign has already managed to amass funding totalling a whopping £150,000, despite having absolutely no public profile. Wow, even we’re a little jealous." Wings over Scotland, 'While we're investigating'
The BBC talked about the gathering momentum behind 'Vote No Borders' just one day after it's public launch (with a feature recorded on the day of its launch). It's almost as the BBC and the 'no' campaign were trying to give people a false impression.

Daily, but sadly not uniquely, Fail
"SALMOND HIT BY PUTIN ROW" boomed the Daily Mail on Friday the 2nd of May. "Support for the Union soars" was written at the very top of the front page. But, as with many articles the Daily Mail writes about regarding Scotland, it is gibberish.
The opinion poll by YouGov had been analysised by James Kelly on the excellent 'Scot Goes Pop' blog. The fieldwork for the poll was conducted between the 25th and the 28th of April, with the newspaper coverage of Alex Salmond's interview to GQ Magazine starting on the 28th itself, meaning that it is unlikely to have had any affect on the poll itself.
Secondly, and most embarrassingly for the Daily Mail, was that the figures produced are the lowest score for 'no' since the start of the campaign. Indeed, YouGov used to show a lead of 30% for 'no' which is now down to 14%.

So the 'Putin row' had no affect on the opinion poll (which was about Yes Scotland and not Alex Salmond) and the poll itself showed a decline in support for the union. Another fail from another Main Stream Media outlet. We are just surprised that their paper was printed with ink and not drawn in crayon.
Cleaning up Westminster
"Westminster MPs 'coercing assistants' into having sex, claims Labour MP" was the headline from Newsnet Scotland on Sunday, the 4th of May. The story was in regards to statements made by John Mann MP to a BBC radio 4 reporter:
Only Labour's John Mann would speak, and in a sensational statement he told the Cox that it was "impossible to say and to quantify the scale of the problem" but insisted, "without question, it is a significant problem ... it has ruined people's lives".

"This is people being coerced into sexual relationships by people using their power position," he added.  "There are people in here whose names would be rightfully held in shame and disgrace from their behaviour ... the shame is they have not been named and the public doesn't know them for what they are really like."

The Labour MP claimed other people in the party knew who the MPs were.  "This is not 'hand on the knee' stuff we are talking about" Mann told the programme, "I'm talking about something much bigger, much more insidious, much more life destroying than that."

Asked if it was about people being pressurised into having sex with their MP, Mann replied: "Yes it is". Newsnet Scotland, 4th of May 2014
Some of the details being revealed were disturbing:
One former researcher described how she was "jumped" by an unnamed party colleague who she managed to "fight off".  She said of Westminster: "This is a man's world, and to be at the top table or even near it, I've always felt I needed to roll with the punches."

The BBC reporter described having been told of young female researchers being fondled and groped by MPs.  The problem, according to Mr Cox, was not restricted to one party but existed in Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties.

Another victim told how he had been physically assaulted by three MPs and had experienced suggestive comments from around five others.

"This is very much a cross party consensus.  No one party has a monopoly on this.  I've experienced it from all three Westminster parties" he told the BBC reporter. Newsnet Scotland, 4th of May 2014
These are the types of issues that we never want to see in the Scottish Parliament. Stories such as this, this, this, this and this (all of which were found on the first page of a google search) aren't acceptable. It isn't right that we have "a parliamentary system that is set up to help MPs who have issues with staff members, but not the other way around".
To stop this wrongdoing, we need two things: an alert media which will not protect certain politicians and parties, and a police force that will act without fear or favour. I do fear that if we change nothing, nothing will change.
One rule for us, one rule for them
When is your Tory or Lib Dem MP going to receive their state pension?

"They [Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs] have announced that changes to the State Pension Age would be brought in much sooner than they promised - with less than two years’ notice in some cases. This leaves tens of thousands of women approaching retirement age without a pension they had planned for – sometimes for as long as 6 years.

Many men are also facing much longer waits for a state pension than they had budgeted for. Mind you – Lib Dem and Tory MPs aren’t daft. They’ve made sure MPs close to retirement got a ten-year exemption to changes to their own pensions." Pride's Purge, 3rd of May 2014
Westminster's moto
If I could turn back time...
The BBC, in it's usual impartial way (see: January, February, March, April and April Part 2 editions of 'Not in the News'), ran with the headline "Lord Trimble: Scottish independence vote 'threat to NI peace'" on Friday, the 2nd of May. The very next day, Lord Trimble spoke on the BBC's 'Good Morning Scotland' radio programme and stated his actual views.
"I want to correct what you [BBC] said...[BBC website] reported me as saying that [independence] would threaten the peace process. I did not say that, that is not my view.

Actually, a Yes vote in Scotland would reinforce the argument against violence, because it's a demonstration of how you can achieve major change through the political democratic process." David Trimble, 3rd of May 2014
This in and of itself would probably have been enough to be entered into this blog, however the story took two unusual twists. Firstly, the BBC did not change their website story until the 5th of May (two days after being told by the individual themselves on their own programme that they were wrong).
The second twist was how the story was changed. Quite often news agencies will post alterations to their existing online output. This is done to fix spelling errors, allow a right of reply or to make a story more readable. However the BBC used this system to change a major aspect of their story (it's title and main argument) instead of issuing a public correction. They then chose to suggest that the change took place on the 2nd of May (thus make future analysis and review more difficult).

"I wonder if we can also go back and stop Jeremy Clarkson learning any nursery rhymes?" BBC Executives [probably]
Unfortunately for the BBC these things can be tracked via websites such as 'NewsDiffs', and as long as we have sites including Wings over Scotland, Newsnet Scotland and Bella Caledonia (amongst others) they'll always be caught out. Perhaps BBC executives just don't care anymore.
Anothing thing about pensions that you don't need to know (according to the Main Stream Media)
Wings over Scotland came up with another fantastic article regarding media bias regarding pensions. It has been well known for quite some time that state pensions will be unaffected by Independence, yet the 'no' campaign has continued to use murmur and smear in its poster campaigns to suggest otherwise, but on Tuesday, the 6th of May, there was even more conclusive proof:
"That sounds pretty darned definitive, right? A named UK government pensions minister speaking on the record in Parliament making clear that pensions were NOT at risk. So we looked forward to the big news being all over the media this morning." Reverend Stuart Campbell, Wings over Scotland
We weren't surprised that this story was restricted to a mention in the inside pages of the Herald and the Press & Journal. The BBC website, STV website, Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Daily Record, Scottish Sun, The Times, The Telegraph, Scottish Daily Express and the Scottish Daily Mail all thought that the intervention by Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP wasn't worth your attention.

A lot of the Scottish Media is acting on a 'need-to-know' basis - if it helps the Yes campaign, then you don't need to know!

While you wait
Waiting time figures for Accident & Emergency patients were released this month. 93.5% of people were seen within 4 hours of arrival, which was below the Scottish Government's target of 95% (an earlier target was 98%). The BBC declared 'Three times as many A&E patients waiting over four hours'. But is that the full story...
Well no. The BBC, in their impartial wisdom, came up with their 'three times as many patients waiting' quote by comparing the latest sets of figures (December 2013) not with the previous year (which were 90.3% - showing a significant improvement) but with December 2009. Why a seemingly random date as December 2009? Because they were the best recorded figures that had ever been achieved in Scotland.
But the BBC has a history of selective figures in this regard. Last year Newsnet Scotland exposed the BBC's claim that the figures for A&E waiting times were the 'worst since monitoring began'. There have been plenty of years where the number of patients seen within four hours was lower than 90.3% - including in 2005:

We're pretty sure a 90.3% success rate is better than 88%
We're sure that Johann Lamont will be astonished!

We like Unicorns!
The Alderman Wotisname Memorial Playing Fields had another great blog, this time looking at the BBC's dismissive attitude towards Scotland. The story began with Professor Gavin McCrone suggesting that an independent Scotland would be better off having it's own currency which is linked to the pound Sterling rather than through a formal currency union. The BBC put its own interpretation on this:
"The title of the piece is “How many unicorns do you earn?”, and below that is a large fantasy fiction style picture of the mythical beast. After asking “How many unicorns would it take to do your weekly shopping?”, the piece begins: “This sounds like the start of a bad joke”." Trevor Chaplin, 7th of May 2014
Instead of offering serious consideration to what was one of the four options listed in the Scottish Government's White Paper on Independence, the BBC made a jokey headline mocking any potential new currency.
Member of 'Unicorns for Independence'
The first name used was the Unicorn, which was a gold coin that was used in Scotland in 1484 to 1525 and named after the heraldic symbol on one side. Second was Groat, which was a coin worth around 4 pence which used throughout the UK (it was never an Scottish currency). This was followed by the 'Penny' (see 'Groat' above) and Merk (which ironically is the name I'd like for a Scottish currency).

The purpose of this piece by the BBC was to associate Scottish money with things that are worthless or fantasy. It is dismissive in tone and substance and does the flagging BBC no favours.
"People pretend they think a Scots currency would be called the Groat to belittle and ridicule the idea, and make the notion of a Scottish economy seem antiquated and obsolete. It's just a cheap shot by people who want to suggest an independent Scotland would be backwards, and a Scottish currency crude and naive.

The Unicorn was introduced to the story not by McCrone, but by BBC reporter Jamie Ross. The imagery is clear enough: the idea of having our own currency is a fantasy, and – as the opening remark tells us – “a bad joke”. This is all very familiar to those who have read Frantz Fanon; Jamie Ross is telling us that once left to our own devices by our Westminster saviours, Scotland “would at once fall back into barbarism, degradation and bestiality” (p169, Fanon, 1967, "The Wretched of the Earth"). Is he doing it on purpose? Possibly, but more likely he just knew what sort of thing would go down well: a jokey, fatuous, and patronising piece. The sort of thing no BBC reporter would ever turn in on Sterling." Trevor Chaplin, 7th of May 2014
The Borrowers
"Ireland's borrowing costs fall below those of UK" was the headline for the Financial Times on the 9th of May. As Reverend Stuart Campbell on Wings over Scotland noted:
"Ireland, of course, was in a far deeper financial hole than resource-rich, wealthy Scotland could ever conceivably find itself in. Yet after just six short years it’s already seen as a safer credit risk than the UK." Rev Stuart Campbell, Wings over Scotland
There's nothing to fear but project fear itself.

Young Tories (and why there are so few)
The Scottish wing of the Conversative Party had to cancel their annual youth conference. The reason, only 12 people had bought tickets.

But why is support for the Conservative Party so low amongst young people in Scotland? Perhaps it could be something to do with UK Government policy towards the disabled. Scots Politics wrote an article concerning Disabled Students Allowance in England and Wales being changed:
"There are cuts to laptops, software, accommodation adjustments, non-medical help and the general allowance that can be used for all sorts of necessities for disabled students to access education. These cuts mean students will no longer be entitled to any of the above except in as yet unspecified exceptional circumstances and complex cases." Rihanna Humphrey, Scots Politics 
"How many students currently studying will be unable to afford to stay? How many will have to make difficult choices about which aspect of their assistance is the least essential? How many will find that they cannot continue studying as a result of these changes? These changes take education away from disabled people. They take education from working class disabled people. They take education away from people just like me because we learn a little differently." Rihanna Humphrey, Scots Politics
It doesn't have to be this way. We wrote last year why those who believe in conservative principles should support independence, and every time the puppet masters in London introduce policies like these, it makes it more difficult for 'no' voters to justify keeping power at Westminster.
All ring-roads lead to London
A new 22-mile, £30 billion orbital tunnel is being planned for London. The ring-road will have subterranean duel carriageways and there will be two new crossings beneath the river Thames. This is yet another infrasture project which we will be contributing towards that will have no benefit to Scotland.
Planning has already begun on the next London infrastructure subsidy
Finally, we would like to point people towards a fantastic article on Newsnet Scotland 'post referendum reconciliation will not be possible unless we address the poison now'. It provides a great summary of the referendum coverage offered by the BBC, STV and the main stream media in general.
Join us again for our next 'not in the paper' review at the end of May!

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Every Little Helps!
Sunday the 4th of May was a fantastic day for Yes supporters with the announcement that the Sunday Herald would be backing independence for Scotland. Their well reasoned and impassioned editorial reflected the views of a great number of people and we're certain that any paper backing a 'no' vote will struggle to match its quality and perception. We'd especially like to thank the owners of the Sunday Herald for allowing their editors to make up their own minds on the referendum.
"The Herald & Times Group, publisher of the Sunday Herald, The Herald and the Evening Times, is giving the titles' editors freedom to take their own editorial position on the constitution. The company is non-political and neutral." Sunday Herald, 4th of May 2014

The stylish front page, designed by Alastair Gray, was admired from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway, but unfortunately not by customers of Tesco in Oban, who were instead greeted with this:

We received messages saying that deliveries to various stores in Oban were disrupted, not just Tesco, although that doesn't explain the sign above. 'Sold out due to excess demand' or 'sorry, no deliveries today' would have made more sense. And despite Tesco being members of the anti-independence organisation the CBI we do believe this is simply a distribution problem, which you can overcome by visiting the Sunday Herald back copies page.

But the overwhelming message from that day is that the Sunday Herald is backing a Yes vote, and every little helps!


  1. Hello, what a fantastic site.

    Thank you.

  2. Iain Taylor (not that one!)14 May 2014 at 12:10

    Absolutely brilliant coverage!