Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Not in the News - Late June edition

Welcome to the seventh 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 early June can be found here.

Westminster's £140,000 questions (that we aren't supposed to know the answers to)
It turns out that Westminster has spent £140,000 of taxpayers money on examining Scottish attitudes to independence.

Whilst they are entitled to this, they would not be entitled to share this information with one side of the debate and not formally declare this spending with the Electoral Commission as it offers a distinct and unearned advantage. This was point of a recent freedom of information request made by Reverend Stuart Campbell at Wings over Scotland.

Westminster's £720,000 no campaign leaflets (that the Electoral Commission isn't counting)
The BBC's Tim Reid highlighted a story in June that the UK Government was planning on spending £720,000 of taxpayers money on posting anti-independence leaflets to almost every house in Scotland. This will not be counted against the official no campaign expenditure limit.

This isn't particularly surprising. Voters in Quebec will be familiar of state government interventions in referendums and how important they can be. Just see this story from CBC News from 2007. What is surprising is that voters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are willing to have their taxes spent in this manner (unless this becomes classified under 'Scottish Expenditure').
A desperate smear and a regular smear
With 100 days to go the no campaign held a rally. This was how it was described by the Times newspaper:
“[Alistair Darling] was the only politician to speak at the Better Together rally in Glasgow. All the others were ordinary men and women who had volunteered to talk about why they were campaigning to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.
They were led by Claire Lally, a mother from Clydebank, with a child with serious health problems.” Times newspaper, 10th of June 2014
It was later revealed that this wasn't necessarily accurate, as Ms Lally is in fact a member of Labour's shadow cabinet in Scotland and has been for some time. You can see this screenshot from Jackie Baillie MSP's website welcoming her. And STV highlighted Ms Lally introducing and launching Johann Lamont’s Scottish Labour leadership bid in November 2011.

There is nothing wrong with Ms Lally declaring her support for a no vote, however it is mis-leading to suggest that she is not involved in politics. This prompted an advisor to the First Minister, Campbell Gunn, to contact a newspaper to highlight this point.
The issue came when Mr Gunn (wrongly) said that she was also the daughter-in-law of former Lord Provost of Glasgow Pat Lally (who shares the same name). This was incorrect and the advisor issued a public apology.
This created the following headlines: "Claire Lally row: First Minister under pressure to fire special adviser" (The Courier), "The dark side has lured Gunn across the line" (Telegraph) and "Make no mistake, Alex Salmond approves of abusive tactics" (Express).

"Only Yes supporters make abusive comments," MSM (probably)
The independence campaign has been bitter at times. Last year, on "Scottish Labour for Scotland" Facebook page, a person named 'Daniel Kelly' made this remark following the announcement that Alex Salmond's aunt had passed away:
"Don't you wish his dear old dad did the same."
When faced with criticism that many senior members of the Labour Party were both members of the group and friends with Daniel Kelly, the official Labour Party response at the time was:
"This desperate smear campaign falls at the first hurdle because this Facebook page is not owned, managed, or operated by Scottish Labour, and it will not detract from the rantings and ravings of SNP candidates - sacked or otherwise - online."
Despite the ill-tempered language, the independence movement in Scotland has been one of the most peaceful in history. It is an inspiration around the world and should be praised. To ensure this remains the case we would prefer if the media stopped presenting the campaign as one side attacking the other (especially when many of the alleged perpretrators have been the victims of death threats).

How much hurt Ms Lally experienced from the mistaken identity of her father will never be known (although we suspect it was less than that suffered by David Ferguson in 2010). Hopefully the media will recognise that using terms such as 'attack' and 'vile' are not accurate or helpful, and that blame should be placed upon the few morons who do commit actual abuse, instead of against everyone with a computer who supports independence.
Oh dear, Scotsman "newspaper"...
The referendum campaign has been terrible for the Scotsman newspaper. A massive fall in sales, coupled with the disastrous 'Klan Alba' headline which had suggested that anyone considering voting Yes could be Klu Klux Klan and Nazi sympathisers, the tabloid has struggled badly, and in June they took another step towards oblivion with the posting of an untrue statement against Reverend Stu of Wings over Scotland.

The Scotsman edition from Friday the 13th of June claimed that he had 'used the site [Wings over Scotland] to call on nationalist campaigners to photograph their opponents so that they can be publically identified." This wasn't true as the response from Revened Stu explains. The newspaper pulled the article from their website, but no correction or apology was issued until the 19th.
We don't believe that the Scotsman has much of a future whether Scotland votes Yes or no. The paper appears to have lost any sense of professionalism and will only be remembered as an example of the controlled media at its very worst.
Lights, camera, action!
The much ridicled 'no' campaign cinema adverts were recorded at Pacific Quay, the headquarters for the BBC in Scotland. Impartiality from the British State Broadcaster...not a chance!

We don't need no education (another Brown in the Westminster wall)
Amongst the promises of more powers (also see here) for the Scottish parliament, there was hints as to what powers the UK Government is looking to take from Scotland. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke of his desire for education (which has always been in Scottish hands) to be controlled by Westminster.

Gordon Brown's school days
This 'one nation' approach to education is likely to see £9,000 per year tuition fees, and more privatisation of education services. Control over education, health and our legal system can all be lost if we vote no. Only independence guarantees that the wishes of the people of Scotland always matter.

Of course, you could trust Westminster's promises (just don't trust their memory).

BBC Strangelove (or how I learned to stop thinking and love the bomb)
Oh the BBC. They are, by far, the most frequent contributor to our 'not in the news' series. Without them we wouldn't receive our near daily laugh at how ridiculous our media currently is or how, time after time, they consistently miss the point or completely ignore reality. On this occasion, they were discussing the results of the annual British Social Attitudes survey.
Here are the results of people's attitudes to the question: 'Are you in favour or against Britain having its own nuclear weapons?'

This question does not consider independence or our opportunity to remove Trident and other non-conventional weapons from Scotland, only the principle of whether Britain should host Atomic Bombs. As you can see, the attitude in Scotland is very different from that in England and Wales. So how will this be reported on the BBC in Scotland?

Oh BBC in Scotland. Shall we list the problems with this graphic? Thankfully, Scot Goes Pop has already done this:
  1. The overall survey shows that the Scottish Public are against Britain having nuclear weapons, so it is ridiculous to argue that people want Trident to stay in Scotland when they are against the weapons in principle.
  2. Most respondents are therefore looking at the practical situation based on the assumption that these weapons will remain (essentially because they have already been asked if they want Atomic bombs or not).
  3. This is a sub-sample poll, which means that the margin of error is larger than normal. The 9% lead for the UK scrapping Trident is much more robust than the 4% lead for these weapons staying on the Clyde on the basis that they will remain in the UK arsenal.
There is also a fourth issue: the question asked to people in Scotland was different to those in England and Wales. Despite the BBC reporting that the question was '"do you think that the United Kingdom should be required to remove its weapons in an independent Scotland," the real question asked was:
"How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? If Scotland becomes an independent country, Britain's nuclear weapons submarines should continue to be based in Scotland." Social Attitudes Survey Question
The Vanguard-class submarines are capable of using alternative munitions, meaning that this question doesn't address the central issue. Of course, the only reason someone would ask such an awkwardly worded question is if they wanted to show artificial support for nuclear weapons in Scotland.
The BBC, providing comedy instead of news for just £145.50 a year (perhaps we are being unfair - if they did start reporting news then the Westminster MPs who control their funding may act upon their threats. It's much safer to stay in their good books, isn't it?).
Everyone hates you
We've mentioned before that the most cynical aspect of the no campaign is its attempts to portray Scotland as having no value. The international version of this has came back in recent days, with David Cameron asking the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stating, unsurprisingly, that large centralised states should remain large centralised states.

But around the same time, China was making other anouncements, including one confirming support for Argentina's claim over the Falkland Islands (also known as 'Las Malvinas'). Westminster politicians seem happy to support attacks on Scottish sovereignty, but less enthusiastic regarding their control.
Cupcakes (a subject close to my heart)
The licence fee is expensive, isn't it? £145.50 for colour TVs. Imagine what you could buy with that money in your pocket. Enough for cupcakes for an entire production crew with change left over! We know this because one BBC executive did just that!

Shane Allen, comedy commissioning controller (which I am sure is an absolutely vital job), thought it would be a nice gesture to buy cupcakes for staff involved in the making of two programmes he was involved with. He then thought it would be even nicer if he passed on the £120.00 bill to us. Thank you Shane. I'm glad that I could contribute to the cupcake bill at the BBC!
But what other food and drink costs do the BBC pass on to licence fee payers? Well someone did make a freedom of information request but the British State Broadcaster is a little slow in responding...

Money, Money, Money
The BBC (yet again) got its facts wrong.

In the original report regarding the first days of the Republic of Ireland, the BBC wrongly claimed that the Pound ceased to be used and that the state created its own currency from day one. In the corrected version they finally acknowledged that this wasn't true. The Pound was used for 7 years without any issues. We have already explained why this would be the case in our blog 'so who else can't use the pound?'
Money, Money, Money (2)
The Sun newspaper was the latest to show that it doesn't understand how currencies work. In June, they produced the headline SCOTS CURRENCY 'BEING PLANNED', which unfortunately for the Sun, wasn't true.
"The lie that an independent Scotland couldn’t use the pound is the most brazen and indisputable falsehood of the entire referendum debate. Even though there’s no chance in any sane reality of Scotland being kicked out of the EU or NATO even temporarily, it’s nevertheless not possible to state as an absolute 100% certainty that neither thing would happen.

But currency is different. It’s an unarguable fact that Scotland could keep using Sterling with or without an official currency union. Everybody knows it. If you put it directly to any No-camp politician (as almost no journalist ever does), they’ll harrumph and grump and say why it’s a bad idea and try to change the subject, but eventually they’ll admit that yes, it’s true – Scotland COULD keep the pound.

And then they’ll put out another leaflet maintaining the lie that it couldn’t." Wings over Scotland, 20th of June
Are you on the list?
During June, Mike Dailly from Govan Law Centre made an announcement on Twitter that he was "working on publishing a list for the national media of who supports @RevStu on social media". @RevStu is the personal twitter account for Wings over Scotland founder Reverend Stuart Campbell.
"Ironically for a self-professed socialist and trade union fan, Dailly appeared to be suggesting that he was engaged in creating some sort of a blacklist to be circulated to the media, in which anyone who followed me would be incriminated by association.
That this is perhaps a somewhat inconsistent policy for someone who follows the Holocaust-denying ex-UKIPper and present-day loony Alistair McConnachie (see here), and extremist Loyalist nutcases Andrew Skinner and “Stronger United”, among lesser trolls, seems to have gone over Mike’s head somewhat." Reverend Stuart Campbell, Wings over Scotland
And the outcome of this action from Mike Dailly? The number of followers for @RevStu increased by over a third within 24 hours.

You can also buy "I'm on the list" items at the Wings over Scotland store!
What you can't (but we can) say
Newsnet Scotland released an episode of Duggy Dug entitled 'the no nightmare' in June. The cartoon showed a possible future for Scotland based on statements and policy aims made by the UK Labour and Conservative Parties (the only parties who can form the government at Westminster).

Duggy Dug, the latest evil and dangerous Cybernat!
The video included a cartoon of Johann Lamont MSP dressed in a House of Lords robe with a badge entitled 'Vermin in Ermine'. This was to symbolise that her opposition to independence could be motivated by a potential reward from the British state. The phrase 'Vermin in Ermine' was heavily criticised by certain figures and the official no campaign:
"This is yet another absolutely disgraceful attack on a woman by a nationalist group. We hope that Newsnet do the decent thing, take down the film and apologise. Calling someone 'vermin' because you happen to disagree with them is just not on." Better Together (no) spokesperson.
However, the term 'Vermin in Ermine' was originally coined by former deputy Prime Minister Lord John Prescott. In a statement, a Newsnet Scotland spokesperson said:
"We used John Prescott's 'vermin in ermine' term in order to illustrate the hypocrisy that surrounds Labour politicians when it comes to the House of Lords'. Newsnet Scotland, 21st of June
Newsnet also highlighted that claims the video was against women were mis-guided as the animator behind the Duggy Dug cartoons is herself female. We're sure that the newspapers will highlight this double standard and that the no campaign will apologise for their mistake and see the funny side of this parody (or maybe not).
Protest? What protest?
The protest against austerity in London was recorded in much of the international press in June. An estimated 50,000 people were present making it a pretty significant story. But the BBC and other controlled media outlets barely offered a mention.
The BBC had time to cover a much smaller protest by some London Taxi drivers, and to track down a Scot who was cheering on Uruguay at the World Cup, but not this? It's almost as if they were simply there to protect and advance the interests of the British State.
Any time, just not then...
On Sunday, the 22nd of June, we met by the news that there would be a debate between First Minister Alex Salmond [Yes] and Alistair Darling MP [no] on STV. On Tuesday, 24th of June, we were told that this wasn't going to take place. The reason...the no campaign didn't like the proposed date.

Yes, the same no campaign which cried, "if he [First Minister Alex Salmond] wants a debate, Alistair ready to have one any time, any place, any where," pulled out of the debate because of its timing. Although this has caused much laughter amongst the online community (see here) it does prevent voters in Scotland from receiving both sides of the argument and thus hurts our democracy.
The decision by the no campaign to withdraw follows similar approaches taken by various no campaigners across Scotland. They have refused to have a debate between Alistair Darling and Dennis Canavan (the chair of the no and Yes campaigns respectively), refused to have a debate hosted by the Electoral Reform Society between Yes and no campaigners in Glasgow (or to help jointly arrange a meeting with Yes activits) and even told a unionist MSP not attend a debate by 'better together bosses'.

"I would debate, if only I had a little courage," Alistair Darling (probably)
Whilst there has and will be coverage of this attempt to scupper a debate, the controlled media will not highlight all the other instances where voters have been denied a chance to challenge both sides. Of course, there is a reason why those desperate for a no don't want you to see the arguments.

Does David Cameron know where the UK is?
The twitter account UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) issued a tweet on the 23rd of June stating "By staying united we have much more to share and much more to gain. #UNITEDKingdom" along with a picture of what Mr Cameron's staff must have thought was the UK. There was just one large problem.
The Isle of Man Government issued the following reply:

In the words of Pride's Purge: "[I]s it only me finds the levels of amateurishness emanating from Cameron’s office truly embarrassing? 
Join us again in the middle of July for our next look at what's 'not in the news'!
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