Monday, 9 June 2014

Not in the News - Early June edition

Welcome to the sixth of our 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. Our last edition covering late May can be found here.

When Westminster isn't well or fair
"The Staggering Cost Of One Man's Delusions: £25 Billion Squandered On Bungled Welfare Reforms" was the headline on 'The Void' on the 25th of May. It was quoting a report from the Major Projects Authority which looked at the expense of setting up the Universal Credit and other projects.
"Community Work Placements, the latest mass workfare scheme, will cost almost a third of a billion.  The costs of other Jobcentre schemes, such as Mandatory Work Activity, are not included in the above figures.  At the very least the budgeted costs of welfare reform exceed £25 billion pounds.  The true figure is likely to be much higher as reforms such as the Bedroom Tax unravel and start to cost the tax payer even more money." Johnny Void, 25th of May
"Leave the thinking to him!" Better Together statement (probably)
It wasn't all bad news for Iain Duncan Smith. Because his Work Programme has resulted in fewer people finding a job than expected, the subsidy paid to employers is lower than budgeted. Congratulations. We knew there had to be some reason why 'no' campaigners want to keep responsibility for social security payments with him!
BBC and UKIP (better together?)
The European Elections in May saw good results for the two standing pro-independence parties (the SNP won the popular vote and the Scottish Green Party saw their best ever results, albeit just shy of recording their first seat), however the most striking result was for the UK Independence Party.

But what helped UKIP, which has no MPs, MSPs, Councillors, electoral success or large numbers of grassroots members in Scotland, narrowly achieve this outcome? Well the revelation that in the month leading up to the vote, BBC Scotland had offered "...four times the coverage for UKIP as for Scotland's party of government [SNP]," may have something to do with it. The BBC has, as yet, offered no explanation for this editorial choice in Scotland.
There are legitimate reasons for not wanting Scotland to be part of the EU (indeed we wrote about them in our blog: EU or not EU, we'll gain either way with a Yes and the Scottish Democratic Alliance have stated that they want to offer people in an independent Scotland a referendum on the issue) but UKIP's far right messages and attitude towards women in the workplace, the NHS and the Scottish Parliament are hard to justify. And yet, if we don't vote Yes to independence on the 18th of September, they will be the party setting the agenda where power over Scotland lies (more people voted UKIP in the European election than the entire size of the Scottish electorate combined). And the BBC is going to ensure that you and everyone else receives their message.
The difference between a country and a region
Brian Taylor, the BBC's political editor in Scotland, described the EU results as follows:
"They (the SNP) had set out to win three seats and, concomitantly, to deprive UKIP of an electoral stake in Scotland. They did neither...supporters of the Union would - on balance, just, all things considered - prefer UKIP to take a seat if the alternative is a discernible SNP advance." BBC website, 26th of May 2014
But how would the results have looked if Scotland wasn't a region, but a nation? Let's start by looking at how these two things are different within the European parliament.
As a region, Scotland is limited to just 6 representatives. Every country with a population over 5 million has 13 (Finland, Slovakia and Denmark, who have populations nearly identical to ours, are each entitled to 13 seats). So how would the seats have broken down:

This was worked out by applying the D'Hondt method (which is how European election seats are currently allocated) to the actual election results. It shows that there would be more representation for the SNP, Labour, the Conservatives, the Scottish Green Party and the Liberal Democrats (something supporters of each of these parties should be welcoming). Even though it only took us 5 minutes to work out (it took longer to apply different colours to each bar) we haven't seen a graphic like this on the BBC or STV...we can only guess as to why this information isn't in the news.

Can't count won't count?
On the 26th of May the UK Government produced a report which claimed that the cost of setting up all the governmental bodies of an Independent Scotland would be £2,700,000,000! That's a lot of money! And we know that this is not a scare story because they are quoting analysis made by the London School of Economics! There's just one little problem:
"UK Treasury press release on #Scotland costs of government badly misrepresents LSE research. Appears to take minimum Whitehall reorganization costs of £15m and multiply by 180 agencies to get £2.7bn. Overstates x12 times?" Patrick Dunleavy, London School of Economics, 27th of May
Of course, the UK Treasury report is utterly ridiculous because it insists that an independent Scotland requires 180 government departments, when the UK itself has just 24. Why does a country with 5.3 million people require 7.5 times as many departments as a country with 63 million? Whilst serious broadsheets will mention this inconsistency, most of the media in Scotland didn't. And don't expect the BBC to ask...
The real initial cost is estimated to be £225 million. This is because many of the departments required are already operating in Scotland. But this raises another issue: these departments and jobs that need to be created are currently located outside our borders (the vast majority at Whitehall) yet are still being paid for by the people of Scotland (the cost is added to the figures when calculating Scotland's share of UK expenditure).
The simple act of returning these jobs and departments to Scotland will, after the very manageable and one off investment, result in two long-term benefits: local communities will have an influx of well paid, permanent workers without any additional tax (because we are paying for their jobs at the moment) and there will be more opportunities for our brightest children within Scotland, which will encourage more of them to stay. Yet another good reason to vote Yes!

No borders = No limits?
Controversial 'no' campaign group 'vote no borders' found itself in the centre of another mis-information claim. This time, they received a rebuttal from Great Ormand Street Hospital for children regarding the wording of a cinema advert they produced. You can see the response below: 
The Wings over Scotland article on this topic also has links to when the Joseph Rowntree Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council and the London School of Economics was mis-represented by the 'no' campaign. Still, you're not going to see the BBC make a freedom of information request to find out about something that might hurt the 'no' campaign. Perhaps that is why their political viewing figures are plummeting.
Who what when where and why, CBI?
The Confederation of  British Industry, of which the BBC is a member and pays substantial amounts of money to every year, got themselves into another muddle at the tail end of May at is was revealed that further inconsistencies with regards to their application to officially campaign for a no vote were revealed.

Whether or not they received legal advice first, how senior the figures who signed the application where, when individuals knew about the application and even why they gave certain responses during interviews with media outlets are now subject of debate. Perhaps the CBI will one day find some people who know how to run an organisation.
'Cause I'm the Pax-man!
Jeremy Paxman, a long standing presenter of various programmes at the British State Broadcaster, made a number of statements during an interview on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, the 31st of May:
"It's interesting, isn't it, that in this union of supposed equals only one side gets to vote on whether the union should continue or not." Jeremy Paxman, BBC Presenter, 31st of May 2014
The argument regarding allowing people resident outside of Scotland to vote in the Scottish independence referendum has very little logical basis. Firstly, England could host a referendum on ending the union. People living in Scotland would have no right to interfere. The example of a husband and wife having an equal say on whether they should get a divorce was used by Scot goes Pop.

I must say, I am looking forward to Mr Paxman arguing that voters in France, Romania and Italy should be allowed to take part in the EU referendum that is due to take place in the UK in 2017!
"...since there's such a head of steam building in ... Scotland for hating the English, I find myself describing myself as English when in fact I'm a quarter Scottish."
This argument from Mr Paxman echoes that used by Andrew Marr last year. In both instances, neither provides evidence or sources, and, as far as I am aware, neither has received even a reprimand from their employer. Indeed, official figures have been produced which show that the low amount of anti-English racism in Scotland has decreased since the referendum was announced. Mr Paxman and Mr Marr are not the only ones to use this argument (which suggests that anyone wanting Scotland to have the governments it's people vote for is fundamentally racist), but how can they pretend to be impartial and professional when they publicly state these views?
You could understand if these were isolated incidents, however they are not (see here for Mr Paxman and here for Mr Marr) and they do lend weight to the theory that the culture at the BBC does not support the diversity we have in Scotland.
To be fair to Mr Paxman, towards the end of the interview, after being prompted by the programme's host, he added:
"Hate is too overstated and I expect I overstated it, and I do apologise. But it is to do with a detestation of being ruled from London."
The story was covered in the Sunday Herald, which looked at the most controversial claims regarding a 'head of steam in Scotland for hating English'. The headline in the Daily Mail was 'Jeremy Paxman risks the wrath of Scottish nationalists - by claiming the kilt was invented by ENGLISH'. I always thought the kilt originated from France, or perhaps even China...
Russia Today
There was a protest outside Pacific Quay, the headquarters of the BBC in Scotland. There wasn't much coverage offered by the British State Broadcaster even though it attracted international attention. You can watch the footage from Russia Today here as well as a video from the event itself. We've also added a few photos from the event:

It's almost as if the BBC don't want you to know...

P.S. A second protest will be taking place on Sunday, the 29th of June between 2pm and 3:30pm. You can find out more information about this protest on this Facebook page.
Interesting Figures Selected
The Institute of Fiscal Studies produced a set of figures in early June which suggested that independence would cost Scotland £1,400 every year. They claimed this was based on the Scottish Government's White Paper, but how did they come up with this number? Wings over Scotland reviewed the assumptions made:
  1. £800 million of annual defence savings should only be recorded as £400 million.
  2. All current Office of Budget Responsibility estimates form the basis of the analysis (the three members of the Budget Responsibility Committee who lead the OBR are appointed by Chancellor George Osborne).
  3. An Independent Scotland will inherit a population share of UK debt (which isn't necessarily unfair however this would be subject to negotiation due to the Billions of Pounds of extra contributions we have made).
  4. The lowest predicted oil value figure is used, which is just 70.77% of the value the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change predicts.
  5. Predicting the size of the population of Scotland in 20 years time.
  6. Predicting the effects of a Triple Lock pension system (which relies on correctly guessing the rate of inflation and average wages) for the next 50 years.
  7. Predicting, to 1 tenth of a percent, how many people in Scotland will be aged 66 in 2030.
  8. Predicting that there will be no new oil fields, and no windfall from renewable energy.

Amazingly (or maybe not) each of these assumptions are the worst conceivable for Scotland. But what is the OBR's track record on predictions since they came into existence in December 2009? Check for yourself! (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). Perhaps the IFS should look at other sources if they want to make a real analysis.

Oil oil everywhere (but the data is curiously lost)
Another Russian media outlet, RIA Novosti, reported the story of oil exploration on the West Coast of Scotland being halted by the UK Ministry of Defence. The accusation came from David Lambie, a former Labour Member of Parliament for Ayrshire between 1970 and 1992.
“The exploration of oil would have created jobs on the West coast of Scotland at a time when we really needed them. As soon as the MoD heard about it and realized I was getting my information from a Tory MP and a member of the Government then the whole thing stopped.” David Lambie
BP, who carried out a siesmic and geological exploration survey, said they no longer held the data.

“The oil is in the area to the south of Arran. It was a place where the navy people from Faslane (the UK’s nuclear submarine base) trained. The oil is still there, it must be there. Nobody is using it. The Tory MP who contacted me got hell for leaking the information to me. The Tory MP described the oil identified as a ‘major find’.” David Lambie
Yes You Can (but my mate Dave would prefer if you didn't!)
US President Barack Obama made a comment in June that the United States would recognise Scottish Independence and his personal view was that, "from the outside", he would prefer decisions regarding Scottish welfare, defence and economy were made at Westminster. However, the story is a little more interesting than that.
The White House was approached by the UK foreign office (which has been pleading with other nations and world leaders) to make a statement against Scottish Independence. After some compromise, President Obama agreed to make a comment in a personal capacity if he was asked by a journalist. It is at this point that Downing Street spoke to the BBC and told them to ask the question.

That same day, leaflets with 'NOPE' written on them were being produced by the no campaign, with one featuring on flagship BBC in Scotland news programme 'Reporting Scotland'. In the words of Newsnet Scotland correspondent G.A Ponsonby:
"There was a wonderful moment on Reporting Scotland when the political editor Brian Taylor flourished a Better Together campaign leaflet in front of the camera.  It depicted Barack Obama with the word 'NOPE' emblazoned beneath – a corruption of Obama's famous campaign slogan 'HOPE'.  The metaphor, lost on Taylor and the Better Together campaign, was that a No vote kills hope.
With so few foot-soldiers able to deliver its leaflets, Taylor's leaflet stunt was probably worth a million quid in free promotion to the Better Together campaign." Newsnet Scotland, 5th of June 2014
Check out more 'daffy' BBC in Scotland moments here!
But the statement from President Obama is very different from that of his predecessors:
"National aspirations must be respected: people may now be dominated and governed only by their own consent. Self determination is not a mere phrase; it is an imperative principle of action..." President Woodrow Wilson, 8th of January 1918
Still, it was a good distraction from our next story...
Another thing Alistair Darling is wrong about
This story featured heavily in various online news sources:
"In Inaudible Mumble" in Bella Caledonia
"What Alistair Darling Said" in Wings over Scotland
"Inaudible mumble amplified" in Wings over Scotland

But the best came from Arc of Prosperity:
"Like many other people I feel offended by the infamous Alistair Darling interview...My national identity is complex. I guess you could try to define me as Scottish-Danish-German-Esperantist-European with a few sprinkles of Georgian and Basque, but it's really a bit complicated. It's not how I define myself, and it's not the reason I'm voting Yes.

Alistair Darling should feel ashamed of himself. There are plenty of neo-fascist movements appearing all over Europe at the moment that he could spend his time fighting. Ethnic nationalism is a horrible ideology, and applying that term to an anti-xenophobic party that welcomes foreigners like me with open arms is insulting, demeaning, harmful and evil. We are not amused." Thomas, Arc of Prosperity, 5th of June 2014
We want Scotland to be independent for a host of different reasons, mostly concerned about solving the problems that our country faces and creating a more accountable and democratic system of governance, but never based on ethnicity. Alistair Darling should feel ashamed of himself for suggesting such a thing.
100 days to go!
A couple of positive stories appeared on Monday, the 9th of June (which was also the date that marked 100 days to go till the referendum). There was the first all-women Scottish cabinet meeting, chaired by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. You can read the opening speech here. Since earlier this year 40% of the Scottish Government's cabinet is female and the Scottish Government intends to make this a minimum threshold for both public and private organisations. At Westminster, the number of women in the cabinet is less than 15% with just 3 being full-time members.

There was also the announcement that Yes Scotland had achieved nearly 800,000 signatures of support from people entitled to vote in the referendum. This is equivalent to just under 40% of the people who voted in the 2011 Scottish election (and there are many more who will be voting Yes who haven't signed the declaration yet). If you intend to vote Yes and haven't signed the Yes Declaration (or if you don't know what it is) then you can do so here.
Still, there were more important 'breaking news stories' to cover...(Sky, believe in less).

Anyone for tennis?
I think this image sums it up best:

This is why we have our 'not in the news' blogs.
I wouldn't bet on the Record getting it right
The story of a man who had £200,000 to gamble away for a return of just £36,000 was in the Daily Record on the 9th of June. They described it this way:
"The revelation [of the large bet] came with 100 days to go before the referendum." Daily Record, 9th of June 2014
The only problem...the story had already been reported on the 24th of June 2013 (when there was significantly more than 100 days to go). Still, at least the Record was only 350 days late, which presumably means they will report the result of the referendum on 4th of September 2015.

Of course, this is nothing new. During the 2008 US Presidential election, betting odds were used in an attempt to influence the result. This had the duel benefit of aiding the side you want to win, without it having to be declared as campaign funding or expenditure. And, to an extent, it worked, as it made the US Presidential election race appear much closer than it actually was.
This tactic works because the more people believe a side will win, the more likely it is that they will vote for that choice. Just remember that during this campaign the same bookmaker that accepted the £200,000 'no' vote bet simultaneously refused to accept bets over £250 on a Yes victory, which has a direct affect on the odds they will offer.
Join us again near the end of June for our next look at what's 'not in the news'!
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