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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