Lies, damned lies, and newspaper headlines

When you see a newspaper headline that baldly states, “Court rules fracking is not banned, despite SNP rhetoric,” what are you going to think? What are you going to think happened in court this week when you know that the chemical giant Ineos has been taking legal action to challenge the Scottish Government on fracking and has been seeking a legal judgement allowing it to go ahead with fracking in Scotland? It’s not looking good for a fracking free Scotland, is it.

Judging from that headline, which appeared in the Herald on Tuesday, you’re going to think that the court found for Ineos and the prohibition on fracking in Scotland has been overturned. Fracking isn’t banned, says the headline. SNP very very bad, says the headline. Ooooh get that Nicola Sturgeon telling us all a big fat lie, eh, eh. Let’s go down the pub and get all worked up about it. Never mind any of that Westminster contempt for the people of Scotland and their destruction of the devolution settlement. Nicola Sturgeon has been lying about fracking! It said so in a Scottish newspaper headline. It’s the pineapple that every gammon craves.

Based on that headline you’re going to think that the courts have given the green light to the fracking industry in Scotland. That was precisely my first thought when I saw it. You’re going to think that the Scottish Government has been deceiving you when it has said that there will be no fracking in Scotland, and you are most certainly being encouraged to get annoyed with the Scottish Government for claiming that there will be no fracking in Scotland only for it to turn out now that a judge with a wig and everything has said there’s no ban on fracking after all. And we all know how important pronouncements are when they’re made by men in wigs, at least those of us who’ve been watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. The shade of it all honey. That’s the only reasonable interpretation of that headline. Cue major harrumphage, SNPBaddery, and British nationalists posting their outrage on social media.

Only this is the through the mirror wonderland of British nationalist newspaper headlines in Scotland, that topsy turvy world where words are carefully chosen to give the opposite impression of what really happened without technically telling an out and out porkie. It’s the careful selection of some facts in order to create an impression that is counterfactual, which is achieved by omitting some rather more important facts. It’s the media equivalent of responding to an advert for Portugal versus Morocco world cup seats for £150 a pop, only instead of getting a ticket to the match the postie comes to your door with a parcel containing a broken old deck chair to which has been stapled an A4 sheet of paper saying “Portugal v Morocco World Cup” written in crayon – so exactly like a British nationalist newspaper headline in Scotland then. It’s not technically a lie, but you’re still going to feel that you were misled and deceived and cheated, because you have indeed been misled and deceived and cheated.

In fact, as opposed to the deliberately misleading selective factoids of the Herald headline, the court upheld the position of the Scottish government, and found against Ineos. The judge ruled that Ineos’s legal challenge was based upon a “series of fundamental misunderstandings of the Scottish Government’s position”.

As any fewl no, or at least anyone who has been paying attention to the division between devolved and retained powers ought to know, which really should include Scottish newspapers, energy policy is retained by Westminster. That means that the Scottish Government doesn’t have the legal power to directly ban fracking, instead the Scottish Government is using planning regulations, which it does control, to effectively ban fracking. No local authority in Scotland can grant permission for any planning application for fracking that comes before it. That was the situation last week, it’s the situation this week, and will remain the situation for the indefinite future. There will be no fracking in Scotland. There is no legal ban on fracking in Scotland, that much of the Herald’s headline is true, but there is an effective and practical ban on fracking in Scotland because the Scottish Government is blocking one of the key steps that must be taken in order for fracking to happen.

It’s a bit like if a maw tells her teenage son that he’s not going to a festival because he got rat arsed with his pals last week and she doesn’t trust him not to do it again, so she confiscates his car keys and demands the immediate repayment of the money he owes her for his car insurance. He’s not technically banned from going to the festival and getting rat arsed in a field, but without his car keys he’s not going to be able to get there and because he’s had to pay his car insurance he’s not got any money to get there or to buy a ticket or to get rat arsed if he does. There’s no legal ban on him going to the festival, but he’s still not going to get there. He’s effectively banned from going to the festival and getting rat arsed in a field. Which is a pity, because it’s a very pretty field now that we can be certain that it won’t be getting fracked. The Scottish media wants us to focus on a selectively literal interpretation, and not on the effective outcome.

Then the press wonders why people get annoyed about being lied to and are losing faith in the media. In response certain Scottish newspaper reporters take to Twatter to patronise the public and explain in exasperated tones that proper journalism means it’s the punters who are wrong for imagining that there’s anything misleading going on at all. Cos only professionally trained journalists are qualified to understand what words really mean and if you point out that a headline gives the exact opposite impression of what happened in yer actual fact then you’re exactly the same as Donald Trump and the only thing distinguishing you from the Child Snatching US Prez is your lack of an orange skin and the fact that you haven’t yet been to B&Q to buy the chicken wire to construct a cage to put your neighbour’s weans in. Cos the orange people in Scotland are all on the side of UK and think Ruth Davidson is just great, and she’s pregnant and you’re not allowed to criticise pregnant politicians.

So you’ve not been misled at all, you’re just either really stupid, or a vile cybernat with a badly fitting kilt and a foul agenda, or you’re possibly an agent of Vladimir Putin. Or all three simultaneously. And it’s pretty certain that criticising a Scottish newspaper headline for being misleading means that you’re just a bawhair short of building a chicken wire cage at Gretna to put English weans in. You racist. When you’re a professional journalist you know these things.

And when you’re a member of the public in Scotland, you know that our overwhelmingly British nationalist media isn’t fit for purpose. You also know that the job of the independence movement is to act as an alternative media, and to support the pro-indy media that we do have. It’s up to all of us to tell our friends, relatives, and acquaintances the truth that the Scottish media doesn’t want to tell us. Let’s get loud.

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42 comments on “Lies, damned lies, and newspaper headlines

  1. Bill Hume says:

    Are we now about to get an apology from all those people who were jumping up and down and demanding a ban on fracking…..’a moratorium isn’t enough’

    Probably not.

  2. Robert Graham says:

    This total control of the media in Scotland I believe ably assisted at the last minute by the Labour Party who objected to control by the Holyrood Parliament.
    It’s to late now but this really should have been resisted and fought for before Alex Salmond signed the Edinburgh agreement, a costly oversight .

    Slightly o/t anyone watching the debate on the EU withdrawal bill just now, will not be surprised when the SNPs Europe Spokesman Peter Grant stood up to give his views ,Tory & Labour MPS decided it was time for a drink or indeed a Piss , even during him speaking the background noise was louder than his comments, With no rebuke or comment from the English speaker of the English parliament, aye better together my arse they just take the Piss , That’s what a NO vote got those who were conned into giving away any and every bit of influence and power they had.

    • Cubby says:

      Robert I thought that The SNP should have had a red line during the smith/vow/devo max negotiations that all media is devolved and stood their ground. Look at all the areas that Labour kicked into touch. The vow was treachery by the Britnats at its worse.

      The Britnats do not care how they win as long as they win. In all three Scot dev/ independence referendums they have cheated and lied and introduced last minute changes. We must stop expecting them to play fair. They will not and never have. If we let them have any control over another referendum they will just pockle it.

      • Les Bremner says:

        What do you recommend is done to prevent the cheating?

      • Robert Graham says:

        Agreed Cubby – Now what are the chances of Labour and others who backed the withholding of consent for the power grab actually following it through , labour in Wales collapsed , so it follows labour in scotland led by a yorkshire man will do exactly the same , probably just now they are grubbing about for a choice of words to cover their arses .

        Aye Labour – Union First and to hell with the electorate , one of their MPs some time ago , that he prefered a scottish basket case to independence , so any help and assistance from that lot can never be relied on , it’s not what labour say its what labour does , like going into partnership with the torags in many councils , I wouldnt be surprised if they are behind calls for strike action beavering away in every council to try and give the SNP another wee headache.

        As of 2017 councils in Scotland sat on cash reserves of almost 2 billion Pounds , aye and yet scream constantly the SNP government are crippling them , conveniently forgetting that westminster are cutting all funding , but its still the SNPs fault ,

    • stewartb says:

      Robert, I too watched Peter Grant give his speech. Directly opposite were multiple, obvious and audible conversations going on between Tory MPs – no attempt at disguising their lack of attention, lack of interest, lack of respect. I was waiting – hoping – for Peter or someone else on the SNP benches to draw attention to this and call them out.

      We’ve always known we have no power at Westminster; it has been clear for a long time that we have no influence; but now it is evident to anyone who watches Westminster proceedings that Scotland’s majority party is quite simply treated with disdain.

      • Robert Graham says:

        Stewartb – How the SNP keep their cool is worthy of support , personally I would probably be expelled at every single sitting ,

        The childish behaviour of some of the Tory MPs surely provides enough evidence to have all the various bars in Westminster closed, what other workplace allows drunken behaviour during working hours, anyone else would be immediately sacked,

        This medieval relic whose working practices border on farcical melodrama , they must waste more time saying Mr Speaker followed by a rambling statement of total tripe when eventually a statement or a question emerges, that doesn’t include the voting system unchanged probably since the Middle Ages.

        The SNP MPs don’t want to be there, the English MPs don’t want them in their parliament , and some Scots believe they are well regarded and in a Union ,

  3. wm says:

    The British Nationalist media is a joke, every body that can count up to ten knowes this, unfortunately there is to many cannae count to ten and believe the headline.

  4. I joked during the Indyref 1 campaign that the media were so perversely anti Independence that they would write anything to damn Salmond, the SNP, and the alarmingly active Yes Movement.
    My example went something like:-

    ‘ Salmond denies Three In A Bed shocker’.

    I’d imagined a scenario where the then FM took part in a charity darts match, announcing that he would have trouble hitting the board, then fluked three darts into the treble twenty with his first set of arrows.

    Tom Gordon has form. It gets him on to BBC Scotland progs, and doubtless David Leask will have a go at you, Paul, for attacking his ‘will say’ Cut and Paste colleague.

    They are hacks presiding over the slow death of what used to be one of our fine broadsheets. The Glasgow Herald circulation is less than 20,000 now, and Rogers and Gerrard get more column inches than the life threatening Brexit folly.

    By attacking the Scottish Government falsely they are in fact part of the propaganda wing of the British nationalist State, and as culpable for tens of thousands of deaths by WM Government edict as Ruth Davidson.

    Of course Tom Gordon has no control of say over the Headline..Aye, right.
    I bet you’re glad that you got that off your chest, Paul.
    Who buys the Herald these days?

  5. We should get this post printed out and stealthily slip a sheet into every copy of The Herald on the news stands, along with a demand for a correction and an apology. Not a cat in hell’s chance of getting either but heigh-ho!

  6. Macart says:

    Well said on all counts.

    I take it you caught the result of the vote in parliament? 319-303…. a difference of sixteen votes gives the UK government the green light.

    Sixteen votes.

  7. astytaylor says:

    Whenever I’m back in the old country from Canada, I have a perusal of the newspaper headlines at Glasgow Airport. Pish, pish, and more pish, is the usual fare.
    And don’t get me started of Mis-Reporting Scotland…

    • astytaylor says:

      “on”, not “of”. Jeezus, not much of a writer ma’sel….
      Anyways, keep up the brilliant blog. Paul. You are the main source of Scottish media here in this corner of British Columbia. I trust you. (Which is more than I can say about the BBC…)

  8. Mark Russell says:

    It’s been repeated ad nauseum on BBC Lancashire and NWT. Thanks for this – I’m sure I know a few good folk outside Cuadrilla’s drilling platform just up the road that will welcome this immensely.

  9. hettyforindy says:

    Excellent, have shared.

    It’s obvious more and more people in Scotland believe diddly squat of what the so called media say or print. You can go to any store when thy are tying up the unsold daily rags, and you would find it hard to life the piles of them of an evening. Still finding The National hidden behind daily right wing rags, if it’s there at all. Quite frankly sick of it. Todays rag, can’t remember which one, telling us on their front page how there is a huge spike in homeless families in Scotland.

    Must be that Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP taking money and food off the poorest and lining the pockets of the rich instead. SNP austerity, yes it must be that, can’t think of any other reason like massive UK government cuts to the most vulnerable, including housing benefit, so that people cannot pay their rent. It couldn’t be the UKgov, who seem to be confused about what a cage actually is!

    Btw, any cuts from UKGov, to people in Scotland via bedroom tax, Universal ‘credit’ and disgusting sanctions, is money removed from Scotland’s economy and especially councils and local economies. Poorer people tend to spend more in their local area. Councils depend on people being able to pay their rent, council tax and water bills.

    It’s not just people out of work either, many in work are facing terrible poverty due to universal credit and UKgovernment ‘sanctions’. Imagine starving your own people? Imagine deliberately making them suffer, plunging them into destitution. The Tories and their Labour pals are really ruining peoples’ lives, it’s absolutely criminal.

    The fact that disgusting Trump ( is that really a real name?) is still to be welcomed to the UK is sickening to the very core. It tells us all we need to know about who is pulling UKgov strings.

    Oh and B&Q left Edinburgh at least a couple of years ago, remember they said they would leave if Scotland votef FOR independence. Is there a B&Q anywhere in Scotland now? My Tory no voting neighbours loved it because pensioners could get 10% off on a Wednesday! Oops!

  10. Andy Anderson says:

    Like you Paul I was livid when I became aware of the Herald lies and distortions. Bastards. How can an honourable journalist write this crap. They must have no self respect. Gave up the Herald more than ten years ago. In fact gave up all papers apart from the National.

  11. hettyforindy says:

    Meant lift, not life the piles of daily rags! :-/

  12. Illy says:

    It’s called “lying with the truth”, and newspapers and politicians have raised it to an art form.

  13. […] via Lies, damned lies, and newspaper headlines […]

  14. Contrary says:

    So, I’ve been thinking (usually a bad sign, but reading Paul’s blog and the comments have made it happen), about the media and referendums:

    Now, I don’t know how the rules for referendums work but can rules not be set out from the start for how they are to run? – so a rule of ‘no outside interference, no reporting from companies owned or run outside of scotland’ – I mean, really, any independence referendum is purely a decision for the Scottish people, and anyone outside of Scotland giving an opinion just confuses matters, so just remove that confusion.

    Obviously that reduces broadcasting and publicity for the referendum itself – but, really, I don’t think that’ll be a bad thing. I don’t think I can tolerate that cringeworthy, sickening blanket coverage of ‘we love you Scotland please stay’ bollox when it is patently a lie, again. So you can get ‘normal’ reports on general things, as long as it doesn’t mention the referendum,,, hmm, well, maybe it won’t make a difference. But if, say, no outside funding is allowed?

    Also, can we have a Scottish-only run ballot, maybe with an Algerian referee or something to check all is above board. All I’m meaning here, is; is there any way to hold a referendum without outside interference? And make it so there are severe penalties for anyone breaking the rules – e.g. extra virtual votes for the opposition to the rule breaker?!

    Can any of the sort be done? And would a consultation referendum mean that stricter rules could be set out (I.e. Only the Scottish Parliament would have a say on it)?

    It’s obvious the establishment & their media are not ever going to play fair, so I would really really like them to be absent for the main event.

    • Anne Martin says:

      If only.

    • Illy says:

      Like you said: They won’t play fair. So unless we have military force from outwith their control backup up the enforcement of the rules, they’ll just ignore them, except when we break them.

    • Contrary says:

      Ahh. Wishful thinking then? Ach well.

      Guess we’ll just have to think up a few underhand tricks ourselves!

  15. Basil Fotherington-Thomas says:

    Molesworth will be spinning in his grave. It’s “as any fule kno” as any fule kno.

  16. Marconatrix says:

    Here’s another e.g. of biased reporting, although I suppose these things should no longer surprise us …

  17. 3 minutes plus change squeezed in to 3 1/4 hours of a Fill English BBC Breakfast for televised news Where You Are, Scotland, that vibrant modern, exciting Northern European Country courtesy of Donalda McKinnon and her 700 strong team of intrepid journalist, broadcasters, researchers, camera crews and the tea lady.
    Headline? SNP Sex Pest story; Mark Mcdonald found GUILY by Standards Warchdog of Sexual Harrassment. Typical SNP Bad Man.
    East Dunbartonshire cooncil jannies on strike, schools closed…
    Oh, and Scotland’s biggest Agricultural Show kicks off somewhere in Edinburgh, and, hold the front page, there are fewer frogs and toads around this summer.
    The Frogs’ Feckin’ Chorus, and I don’t mean the French National Anthem.
    Scotland is being sucked into a Full English Brexit Black Hole, we are on the edge of financial political and social meltdown, and BBC Scotland pays lickspittles to churn out this Sunday Post garbage every day.

    This is your Scotland, your proud ancient nation, this is what’s happening of any note, through the stifling Brit Nat perverted lens of BBC Scotland’s Brit Nat Propaganda branch.
    They are a disgrace to their nation.

  18. Check out my typos, folks. I am raging at this insult to our nation.
    BBC Scotland, you insult our nation.

    • While I’m on a roll, BBC Radio Jordanhill will churn out a relentless three hours of phone in drivel from 9 ’til 12 hosted by a female presenter, her name escapes me, who sounds so disinterested, drones on as though she had been aroused unceremoniously from slumber to facilitate a range of Scotland shattering topics like, bin collections, kids eating too much sugar snacks, and noisy neighbours.
      My TV Tax is paying for all this.
      I have watched TV all across this planet. BBC Scotland is a cheap amateurish joke.

  19. Macart says:

    EVEL, the EU ref, parliament locked out of holding the government to account on Brexit. The devolved legislatures locked out of all of the above by legislation and democratic deficit (sheer numbers of representative MPs).

    Are we getting a clear picture yet folks? Are you feeling disenfranchised and helpless within your own country? Do you STILL believe the UK is an equal partnership?

    Are you yes yet?

    • It is about to implode, Sam.
      Any day now, as Brits head off to the Continent on Holiday, the other shoe will drop big time.
      When a Scottish Tory MP refers to his constituents, the people who put him in office, as ‘them’, and it is accepted that Scotland would continue as a member of the EU ‘ as fact’, no queues, no Euro, no fuss, just seamless membership, from the EU horse’s mouth, then the games up for Project Fear.

  20. Macart says:

    Yesterday’s vote and how it broke down

    Take a wild guess as to how Scotland’s tories voted.

    • All 32 LA areas, 62% of the people of Scotland, voted Remain.
      Who are the Fifth Columnists lurking in Scotland?

      • Macart says:

        Contrary to Ms Davidson’s pledge Jack? They don’t stand for Scotland’s interests and never did. They’ve just sold us, ALL OF US, out for party political advantage.

        It’s what Tories do. Betray people.

        Just sayin’.

        • I’m sure Davidson will have her bairn, and be back at the coal face in six weeks, just like the NZ premier…not.
          I am amzed that Frank Field is still listed as a Labour MP; the man who urged Blair and Brown to ‘think the unthinkable’ and introduce ‘Austerity’ 13 years before Clegg and Cameron did.
          We are on the verge of major upheaval that’s for sure.

  21. Jim Round says:

    Does the media really have that much influence on people?
    Whilst doing some contracting at a large workplace last week, this was an actual overheard conversation:
    Person A:
    ” I was on twitter the other day discussing Scotland’s deficit, I provided links to official government figures and asked for alternatives, I said I don’t want links to Wings Over Scotland or other nationalist websites, I want links to official figures, all I got was abuse”
    Person B:
    “Yes, they were going on about 10,000 attending a march the other day, well 10,000 isn’t over the million needed for independence”
    Person C:
    “Yes, I’m paying more tax in my wages because of that lot”
    We can discuss and comment about the anti SNP letters and comments in papers like The Scotsman, but these are the people who could affect the chance of Scotland becoming independent.
    If the next referendum is another no vote, then another vote becomes dead in the water and we will be under Westminster for another 50 years or more.

    • Curious post, ‘Jim Round’.
      Persons A B and C?
      Aye, right.

      • Jim Round says:

        Well, I didn’t know their names so that was the only thing I could call them.
        Its not the first time I’ve heard conversations in a similar vein in workplaces around Scotland.
        I think you misunderstand me by thinking I don’t want an independent Scotland, nothing could be further from the truth.
        But I hear a lot from “the other side” on my travels and it is one of the many reasons why we lost in 2014, and could possibly lose again if we are not careful.
        We must not succumb to infighting or raise doubts when indy supporters raise what are perceived to be uncomfortable points and/or questions. It is one of the first things Unionists jump on when given the chance.
        It is my opinion that independence will be won by showing a united front.

  22. Whitburnsfinest says:

    Am I weird for now wanting to see pics of Vladimir Putin in a kilt?!

    Also, forgive me for the shameless hijacking for the comment thread but I’m loving all these companies threpatening the UK over Brexit. Remember when they all did that to Scotland as Westminster smugly egged them on? Heh, how are they liking being on the, ya, business end of it now? There’s a lovely sort of poetic justice there.

    As for the newspaper headline….urgh, scummy gutter rag writes total garbage again. Quelle surprise. I have no ham let and I wanted a sandwich. I blame thatessempee.

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