There was an interesting interview with Scottish journalist Iain MacWhirter published today in the Basque newspaper Deia. In the interview, Iain talks about the decision taken by the Sunday Herald to support independence, and explains that if there is a No vote, a distinctive Scottish media has no future. The Scottish press is overwhelmingly owned by commercial interests outside Scotland, and if there is a no vote, Iain fears that Scotland’s media lose any claim to being a national media and will continue its descent into becoming a tartan branch of the English regional press.

Talking about the role of the Scottish media in the referendum campaign, Iain described it as groupthink. Scottish journalists and Scottish Unionist politicians inhabit the same small world, all have the same world-view which they characterise as reality. This leads to heavily biased coverage of the referendum, coverage which the Scottish media is convinced is neutral and even-handed. Severin Carrell of the Guardian’s quaint and charming belief that he’s a neutral player in the referendum is a case in point.

There was a perfect example of such groupthink displayed on the BBC’s Scottish Politics Show today, when journalist Kirsty Scott made the jaw-dropping assertion that it was unreasonable for Alicsammin’s press officer to point out to the press that ordinary mum and carer Clare Lally was in fact a member of the Labour shadow cabinet.

If I had only known that being a full time carer exempts you from all and any scrutiny or criticism, I’d currently be resting louchely on a chaise longue, dressed in an embroidered smoking jacket, waving a cigarette holder and dispensing bon mots, while Torcuil Crichton did all the housework wearing nothing but a gold spangled thong and Alan Cochrane in arseless leather chaps fetched my slippers. Bend over Alan, you’ve been a very naughty boy.

And Kirsty Scott could do something useful with herself, like taking an evening class in plumbing and waste management. She clearly doesn’t believe that her job involves investigating the claims made by political parties or the private companies involved in health and care provision, so she’s obviously underemployed. At least if she learns plumbing she’ll be able to do something constructive to help flush out the sewer of Scottish journalism in which she works.

Kirsty has previous involvement in journalism about carers’ issues, in 2011 she wrote a puff piece for the Guardian bigging up a subsidiary of a private equity company, Care UK, which has a number of local authority contracts to provide care services. Care UK has benefited immensely from the creeping privatisation of health and social care services introduced by Labour and enthusiastically promoted by the Tories.

But all is not as rosy in the private equity care garden as Kirsty would have us believe. In 2010 Care UK were subject of controversy after it came to light that they had been making sizeable donations to the private office of Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley – who then went on to introduce more back door privatisation in the English NHS.

The previous year, 2009, Care UK was also in the news after losing a number of contracts with local authorities in England following a series of complaints about inadequacies in the company’s service provision. Not that Kirsty thought to mention any of this in her hagiographic Guardian article a year later. Her Guardian puff piece piece was rightly met with outrage in carers’ blogs and forums.

So it seems that Iain MacWhirter’s fears that Scottish mainstream journalism risks descending into an amateurish occupation filled with folk writing puff pieces for private companies have already come to pass. Since her Guardian piece was published, Care UK have gone on to attract yet more government money, courtesy of the Tories’ creeping privatisation, and have come under fire for their tax-avoidance strategies.

PatLallyInlawGate has attracted considerable interest amongst Scotland’s carers. You can’t talk about a “Caring Community” though, because none of us can get out of the hoose long enough to commune with one another over tea, scones, and sympathy. But I have managed to talk to some other carers and care assistants about the events of the past week. While, as fellow carers, more than anyone else we understand, appreciate, and respect what Clare does as a carer, no one I’ve spoken to has been impressed by her response to the online abuse she received. The attempts to blame Alicsammin’s press guy for nasty online comments made by random punters are unconvincing and clearly politically motivated, as was Clare’s refusal to accept the man’s apology. Refusing to accept the apology was undignified, and that was the point at which Clare lost the moral high ground in the eyes of many of Scotland’s carers. But it’s also obvious that had she accepted the apology, the story would have died – and that’s not in the interests of the Labour party or the Scottish media groupthink.

It is interesting to contrast this episode to a similar episode during the General Election campaign of 1992, the War of Jennifer’s Ear. In an election broadcast, Labour made a big play of the story of a young girl who had waited a year for a simple operation for an ear condition. But it turned out that Labour was misrepresenting the issues. In the brouhaha which resulted, the original question of health care was lost and the media focused on an investigation of Labour’s attempts to use a vulnerable person as a political tool to misrepresent and manipulate the narrative of an election campaign. Labour went on to lose the following election and we got another five years of Tory government.

In the War of Clare’s In-Laws, the media is not talking about carers and carers’ needs – they’re talking about an entirely mythical orchestrated campaign of online abuse from evil cybernats and its supposedly unique role in the Scottish referendum campaign. And we’re being told by Scottish journalists that it’s unreasonable to investigate Labour’s attempts to use a vulnerable person as a political tool to misrepresent and manipulate the narrative of the referendum campaign.

We live in a country where private companies take profits from the funding provided for care provision, then use some of that money to donate to politicians who promote greater private sector involvement. Meanwhile Scotland’s journalists write puff pieces about the companies and praise the creeping destruction of a comprehensive state system of care provision, while condemning attempts to investigate the claims made by politicians about carers’ issues. It’s the ordinary carers and cared-for who suffer the consequences. And no one speaks up for us, except the demonised cybernats. You want a reason for independence? There’s one right there.

Labour will go on to lose the Scottish referendum campaign. The Scottish media has already lost it.




37 comments on “Groupthink

  1. scotsgeoff says:


    Your fourth paragraph had me almost choking on my Pineappleade.

  2. Capella says:

    Thank heavens we seem to have at least one MSM journalist with integrity, Iain MacWhirter, although he is probably an endangered species. I would add Ken MacDonald but his excellent “Headlines ” has been sacrificed in the interests of allowing a serving Labour politician to air her views from now till September.
    No, all the kudos go to our online journalists who have far more expertise in this investigative journalism lark than the likes of Kirsty the PR copywriter. WGD and Wings Over Scotland, Newsnet and Derek Bateman are providing all the news that’s fit to print nowadays!

  3. Skip_NC says:

    Greetings from Raleigh, North Carolina. Your penultimate paragraph accurately describes the US health care system. That is a very scary thought. Whichever way Scotland votes, it will get the future it deserves. I hope that future is one in which we will be seen as civilized, by the way we treat the most vulnerable in society.

    • Capella says:

      Good point. The US model is the one that the Westminster parties aspire to. Labour’s previous Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, was previously head of research with Andersen Consulting (of Enron fame) rebranded Accenture, which specialises in outsourcing. She then went on to a lucrative post with Boots and companies specialising in private health care.
      This leads to the state of the NHS in England which Labour activists seem to admire.

  4. That’s scary Paul, even to me.
    We all know politicians are paid for favours but if journalists are spouting adverts for favours, we’ve got no chance….Unless……

    Me trying to simplify some more stuff…

  5. Jim Arnott says:

    All these vile smears of Lally and Rowling have been made by Unionists to disable the Yes campaign. Why should anyone believe what I have just written any more or any less than it was vile nationalists smearing Lally and Rowling because they are in favour of the Union? The MSM and Broadcasters have done nothing as far as I know to try and establish who perpetrated the smears. Is that because they have their own agenda?

    • Manda Kilt says:

      Yes, hysteria over nothing, desperation from Labour, they have no policies, ‘no change’ if they ever got in with the happy NO. So they stoop to this low common denominator – she didnt tell the press that lassie was in the Labour party, or her position therein, which one would have thought a person in her high position may have thought to be a matter of course. Perhaps the author of the article had been told and saw some mileage in ignoring it? Of this we haven’t been told.. My question is, why did she choose that lassie specifically? when there are thousands of others in the same position, like me caring for family. Perhaps because we’d have told her to ahem, ‘take a hike’.

  6. bringiton says:

    I suppose you could be charitable and say that the English based press is only reflecting the political fact that there is only one political party in that country (the Thatcher party or Tina as it is sometimes known).
    What do you call a political system where only a single view is permitted?
    After our independence Labour in England will lurch even further to the right and it will clear to English voters that there really is no choice on offer.
    Bad cop or really bad cop.
    In contrast,because of our debate here in Scotland,our political culture will be vibrant and diverse,offering real choices to people.
    I would expect Scottish media to reflect this reality once we get rid of the London centric mind set.
    Excellent Paul…thanks.

  7. macart763 says:

    Oh Gawd! Crichton and Cochrane… I cannot unsee that para or block the images. 😀

    On the group think. Couldn’t agree more.

    How many times have you seen a post accusing independence support of not living in the real world or that we somehow lack a sense of how their reality works? They simply don’t see our POV as having any validity whatsoever. They simply don’t see that you can alter your reality with enough work and will. They and the establishment which feeds them are perfectly happy with their vision of the world. They accept it and thrive in it. Bit like mushrooms really and we’re all aware of optimum growth conditions for fungi. 🙂

    Of course challenging the group think is our ultimate sin, especially since our vision can lead to a better way and cheapens considerably the bill of goods we’ve been sold on their reality.

    How very dare we. 😉

  8. mary vasey says:

    Excellent article Paul. I feel we are letting no thanks sideline us with all the crap about cybernats Instead of focusing on the issues. So thanks for bringing it back on track.

  9. innerbearsdenurchin says:

    A propos the Ian Mcwhirter Groupthink and closed collective mindset, a Yes vote will arrive with such a clatter that they may forced to rethink what part they played in the Yes vote?

    I know Thatcher set the stage for a desire to unfetter Scotland from Westminster, the paucity of the unionist Scottish politicians opened the door for an SNP majority, enabled by cackhanded

    Westminster ostrich impersonation, and the mendacity of the UK Press and BBC was just the icing on the cake.

    The clatter of a Yes vote will resonate far beyond Westminster and will be sonic proportions.

    A No vote will be the end of Scotland nevermind a different Scottish Press and TV.

  10. JGedd says:

    Great article, WGD. But I am trying to expunge from memory unwelcome images you have conjured up of Torcuil Crichton and Cockers in leathers. Ugh. You are a very naught dug.

    However, in all the stramash last week about Clare Lally something which was missed and I thought might have occurred to other carers, was that she is closely involved with a party whose political aims are not in the interests of carers ie to stay in the Union with all the detrimental effects that would have eventually on the Scottish NHS. She was presented as an ordinary member of the public but was conveying to everyone, including other carers, her party’s policy which is against independence.

  11. […] There was an interesting interview with Scottish journalist Iain MacWhirter published today in the Basque newspaper Deia. In the interview, Iain talks about the decision taken by the Sunday Herald …  […]

  12. Sasha Distel says:

    ‘Labours attempts to use the most vulnerable person as a political tool to misrepresent and manipulate the narrative’ not just in the run up to the Referendum Paul.
    My Labour controlled Council introduced charges a couple of years ago for Mex alarms ( in the name of austerity cuts)despite sitting with millions in reserve.
    Probably the biggest users are the very elderly, living alone.
    I would love after Independence and before health/social work really amalgamate the voluntary sector call for reform with some kind of umbrella system , with 3 easy ways to access services.
    There’s quite a bit of groupthink involved in those institutions too !

  13. Brave Many says:

    Your writing is brilliant

  14. Teri says:

    Excellent article, Paul. It was Better Together who used Ms Lally as an ordinary mum when launching themselves as Better Together No Thanks or UKOK No Thanks, I think. What was initially said was that Better Together were presenting her as an ordinary mum when in fact she wasn’t. This was not an attack on Ms Lally but on the No Group that doesn’t know it’s name – neither do I.

    Whilst I admire Ms Lally in her caring role as I do all carers including myself, I do feel she let herself down by allowing the Unionist parties to use this in a political way against AlecSammin. I also think someone who has been described as wonderful and caring would have had the good grace to accept a sincere apology from Campbell Gunn. Yes, he made a mistake – hasn’t everyone – but he is a decent guy who would never go out of his way to knowingly upset or offend anyone.

    This truly has been a gift to the NO Hopers. It has diverted attention away from Gordon Brown’s interventions and the awakening of the calls for Cameron to debate with the first minister.

    As for online abuse which is supposedly only carried out by cybernats, just take a look here and at the individual accounts of those tweeting

    This wont make the mainstream media anytime soon.

  15. Dunkie says:

    It is good to see the worth of Ian McWhirter being recognized here in WGD. His stablemate Ian Bell is also well worth looking out for. Here are the final paragraphs from Ian Bell’s excellent piece in the Herald yesterday entitled “The UK is not independent while the US calls the shots”

    “As Iraq tumbles into chaos, as the usual mouthpieces in the UK agitate for another round of bloody “liberal intervention” to retrieve the reputations they lost last time around, the farce of a special relationship needs to be exposed.

    You could put it otherwise. In September, Scotland has the chance to become independent of a state that has enjoyed no real independence of its own for a very long time. Mrs Clinton would still think all concerned special, I’m sure”.

    Did you notice this wee paragraph in today’s Sunday Herald

    “It also emerged yesterday that the English Democrats, a party which campaigns for a devolved English parliament akin to Holyrood, has registered with the Electoral Commission as an official Yes campaigner in the referendum.”

  16. DougtheDug says:

    ” Iain talks about the decision taken by the Sunday Herald to support independence, and explains that if there is a No vote, a distinctive Scottish media has no future.”

    There hasn’t been a distinctive Scottish media for a very long time so I’m afraid Ian is trying to bolt the stable door even though the horse ran off a long time ago. Independence might create a Scottish media but that is a different thing entirely.

    There has been and still is a British regional press in Scotland even though the Sunday Herald has come late to the game on the Yes side. The daily press in Scotland reports on the regional happenings in Scotland but it’s not from a Scottish perspective.

    In fact that’s why the press in Scotland is failing so badly. If you want news from a British perspective why buy a regional paper? You’re much better off buying one of the London dailies because they have the resources to do it much better. Their insight into Scottish politics and Scottish life is also just about the same. (And that’s not a compliment in case you’re wondering.)

    There never has been a Scottish Broadcast organisation. The BBC is the BBC and STV suffers from the same problem as BBC Scotland in that it is effectively just a regional opt out from the main ITV programming.

    I agree with you about the Groupthink. From the guff coming out from Labour, the media and Better Together (pretty much the same thing) it’s quite obvious that they believe they are campaigning against a racist, fascist organisation organised on Dr. Evil lines who have an army of cybernat drones who respond to command on any topic. I used to believe that it was just political point scoring but it became increasingly obvious that Don Quixote has nothing on the unionists in Scotland.

    Perhaps the greatest blank spot of all is the bogeyman of internet abuse.

    Just tell any interchangeable Labour/Better Together supporter or staffer that Mr. X or Ms. Y has been abused online and they will go off on a big one because it fits into their beliefs perfectly.

    The simple little phrase, “Show me some evidence”, is not thought of because abuse is what the kilted nutters/anti-English racists/fascist tartan tories in the Yes campaign do, isn’t it?

    To be honest I don’t think we should try and change their outlook at all. To go back to Don Quixote, as long as they’re tilting at windmills then they’re fighting the wrong war against the wrong enemy and that’s good for us.

  17. innerbearsdenurchin says:

    The Herald online is reporting that the three unionist parties (Scottish subsidiaries) have agreed to offer Scotland more powers. Nothing spelled out and nothing common. As soon as is possible.

    That is it SFA guaranteed and anything will be powers of taxation which will allow a reduction of the Barnett Formula or more likely its elimination.

    The unionist train is approaching the buffers.

  18. megmerilees says:

    @Dougthedug..”There hasn’t been a distinctive Scottish media for a very long time ..” aye we are Dodgin a fled horse.

  19. If you are ever able to get oot the hoose I would be happy, as a fellow carer, to have a chat over tea and scones.

    ClareLallygate always seemed to be a manufactured non-issue conjured up by Scottish Labour in desperation. The lady in question should have had the good grace to accept Campbell Gunn’s apology.

  20. Well attended public meeting on Wednesday. No questions about “lallygate”. Out all weekend with the Yessers. No questions about “lallygate”. Real people are only interested in real issues. The better together no thanks campaign have nothing to offer the Scottish people. Please don’t dwell on this “non-story”. The only reason that it has grown arms and legs is because of a compliant media. If we respond we only give them more ammunition with which to attack us. Keep stressing the positives of the Yes campaign and we will win.

  21. If the Labour Party had spent a fraction of the time on creating policies to improve the lives of those they used to represent as they do on media management and manipulation then Scotland would be a better place. But they didn’t, and we are where we are, working and hoping for something much better than Labour ever gave us, watching that Party sink ever deeper into a morass of spin and lies.

  22. smiling vulture says:


    bit of a mouthful

    JL @t FMQs was @t boiling point,I guaranttee she will keep it going,trying to latch evil cybernats

    what’s cheering me up is the scottish public see thru it,and Yes grows slowly but surely week by week.

  23. andygm1 says:

    I’m afraid that I’m the person responsible for this stramash. I picked up on the Times front page story within seconds of it being tweeted and copied Wings into my tweet. I merely observed that she was in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet (although the coincidence of the name did strike me).

    If Kirsty is right, then, as the parent of a (now sadly deceased) child, it would have been cruel and immoral to point out that David Cameron was the leader of the Tory Party.

  24. Helena Brown says:

    Thank you all, you Paul for the original article and may I say even more original article at that. Mr Cochrane and Mr Crichton should be honoured that you would even employ them, and they will be looking for work after the 19th September. I do not think the English will want them, they will have served the purpose and that will be that. I also want to thank all your commentators who keep me informed along with your good self.
    I stopped with the ahem newspapers a good long while ago and well television news, is like living in France and watching Spanish News, news from a foreign country. I will not glorify the news where we are, as news.
    I am sure Paul that the Scottish Government would rather be giving carer’s more assistance than having to ameliorate the effects of the Westminster aka Labour/Tory/Liberal bedroom tax. We all know that people get given houses with are larger than their needs, We did, we got a three bedroom maisionette compliments of Livingston Council where if we were still living their and on benefits we would certainly be paying. Many people need larger homes, the disabled and those who suffer from incontinence, the amount of product and the size of said product require space. Well we know Labour do not give a damn, they are exactly like preforming sea lions, the larger the fish the bigger the clap they give.

  25. Cag-does-thinking says:

    A little googling of the English Democrats reveals that an influx of members ex BNP has caused concern to the founder and one Garry Bushell that well known left wing democrat stood for them in the London mayoral elections. They don’t seem to have much money either even for campaigning for an English parliament. i have a feeling that these are friends we could do without. Why would a campaign which has become riddled with BNP members want anything to do with Scottish Independence?

    • Helena Brown says:

      Now why does that not surprise me? I wonder given that English Nationalism seems to be full of racism this is why the Scots variety gets tarred by the same brush.

  26. Vestas says:

    The English Democrats ARE the BNP. I live in Leicester & the English Democrats around here ARE the people who used to be in the BNP. Exactly the same people – you see their hate-filled faces in the local paper every time they stage “a march” & 5 years ago they’d be marching for the BNP.

    English Democrats grew after the entire membership of the BNP was leaked online. That was more than a little embarrassing for Leics Police, various local councils etc as the scale of membership of the BNP became apparent.

    English Democrats are the genuine article – racist far-right violent criminals.

  27. Cag-does-thinking says:

    This is my point. In Scotland their friends would normally be marching under a union jack in support of the union (as indeed it seems likely they will do just before the 18th September just as soon as they get the papal banner finished). Which brings me to point two. Either Alistair’s article in New Statesman has suddenly converted them to Yes fans or I smell the beginning of an official smear ahead. After all you only need to register with the Electoral Commision if you are intending to spend a significant amount of money in the campaign period, money that it can be established the ED don’t have. So is the plan to have a march ostensibly in support of Scottish Nationalism but in all likelyhood potentially as a cover for violent unrest? The leadership of the Yes campaign need to move on this and very fast as I suspect this is what the “dark arts” people have planned for us next.

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