I had originally planned to write this blog article yesterday, but events got in the way in the shape of the news that the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had once and for all definitively killed off the much touted British nationalist myth that Spain would veto an EU membership application by an independent Scotland. This news was not broadcast in Scotland, not even with a tiny fraction of the prominence that our overwhelmingly anti-independence media had previously given to pronouncements from marginal and minor Spanish politicians which hinted that Spain might not look favourably on EU membership for an independent Scotland, despite the fact that Josep Borrell is the man in charge of Spanish foreign policy. Surprise, surprise. It was another illustration of the double standards which run through the very soul of Scotland’s media.
However I had planned instead to write about another example of British nationalist double standards in Scotland. There has been considerably harrumphage in Scottish media circles about the distinct lack of sympathy that independence supporters had displayed online to the news that Johnson Press, the publishers of the Scotsman, were going into administration and there was a possibility that the Scotsman newspaper would be no more.
It should be stated clearly and unequivocally right away that I am glad that a deal has been struck which preserves jobs and which keeps the publications of the Johnson Press alive. I want a diverse media in Scotland. My criticism of the Scottish media is now and has always been that it is not diverse enough. Scotland’s media reflects the interests of middle aged middle class white men who support the British state and who love the fitba. The rest of us, not so much.
The Scotsman was one of those anti-independence newspapers which had done most to propagate the myth that Spain might veto Scotland’s membership of the EU. It had even gone to the lengths of giving front page coverage to remarks by an extreme right wing Spanish politician who was and remains a marginal and ridiculed figure in Spain, even within the Partido Popular of which he was then a member.
Yesterday, the paper didn’t see fit to mention the comments made by the Spanish Foreign Minister. There was no cover of that story at all, despite the Scotman’s previous history in publishing anything and everything Spanish related which was negative for Scottish independence. Instead it chose to give a front page splash to a poll from Zoomers in Union, which had asked a non-standard question about independence and unsurprisingly got a non-standard result which is out of line with all other recent polling on the issue. The paper misleadingly gave the impression that there has been a substantial fall in support for independence.
This is the same paper which infamously published a photo of independence supporters raising a Saltire which the paper had photoshopped into a swastika. Many in the independence movement have never forgiven the Scotsman for that slur. Certainly the paper’s editorial staff have never seen fit to apologise for attempting to conflate the entirely peaceful and law-abiding Scottish independence movement – a movement which goes to great lengths to stress that Scotland should be a welcoming place for migrants and which celebrates Scottish diversity – with a bunch of genocidal racist maniacs who slaughtered millions in the Holocaust. Why, thank you Scotsman for that measured and balanced contribution to Scottish political discourse.
The Scotsman has proven by its actions and its selective and often misleading reporting that it is no friend of the independence movement, and does not see its job as being to inform the people of Scotland in a fair and unbiased manner. Expecting independence supporters to mourn its possible passing is like asking a Gay Pride parade to be upset that so-called conversion therapy from religious fundamentalists can’t be offered on the NHS.
Many of the Scotman’s problems are problems it has brought on itself. Its digital edition is almost unusable. Its online comments section is a spittle flecked zoo of British nationalist zoomery and bile. Scottish journalists are very quick to condemn pro-independence digital publications on the quality of the below the line comments they attract. That was a frequent attack made upon Newsnet Scotland by mainstream anti-independence journalists. If we were to judge the Scotsman by the same standard, it would qualify as a hate-sheet.
The little self-regarding world of mainstream Scottish anti-independence journalism doesn’t apply the same standards to itself or to anti-independence supporters which it applies to the independence movement. Yes, of course it is wrong, petty, and unpleasant that some independence supporters reacted with glee to the news that the Scotsman was in trouble. But those same anti-independence supporters who decried indy supporters for their Schadenfreude about the Scotsman have themselves displayed the exact same distastefulness about Scotland’s only pro-independence newspaper.
You don’t have to look far on social media to see Zoomer in Union types gleefully predicting the demise of The National, taking immense joy when there was a fall in its sales figures following the General Election in 2017, insulting the paper and its staff – often in unnecessarily personal terms. I’ve yet to see any of those who affected outrage at the response of certain indy supporters to the news of the Scotman’s difficulties condemn, or even mildly tut at, those on their own side who express similar sentiments about The National.
However it’s not merely that it’s the same people who expect the independence movement to condemn those amongst its ranks who took pleasure in the Scotsman’s possible closure while turning a blind eye to the same behaviour on its own side. That all by itself is enough hypocrisy to fill several columns of Scotman editorials. But what’s even worse is that they refuse to acknowledge, never mind condemn, that there are those on their own side who are guilty of far worse behaviour – taking deliberate actions with the express intention of getting a Scottish newspaper closed down.
Some months ago, Callum Baird, the editor of The National, mentioned on social media that copies of the paper are being hidden in some shops so that they are not visible to potential buyers. He was called a conspiracy theorist by certain Scottish journalists, who openly mocked the claim. Yet Callum’s claim was well founded. During Roadshow events when he meets with readers of the paper, people have told him that they have actually caught individuals in the act of hiding the newspaper. A reader of this blog emailed me to say that he works for a national supermarket chain, and his store had banned a member of the public who had been caught coming into the premises in order to hide copies of The National. Callum’s claim was well founded, based on the evidence of witnesses – basic journalism in other words. Yet anti-independence journalists preferred to mock and to pretend it wasn’t happening rather than engage with real evidence and proof. That doesn’t say much for their journalistic standards.
Recently, after The National on Sunday was launched, some shops sold out every copy that they had stocked. Despite this they contacted the distributers to say that they didn’t want to stock any copies in future. No reasons were given, but it’s not hard to believe it’s because they were shops owned by opponents of independence who were refusing to stock pro-indy publications. But the overwhelmingly anti-independence media in Scotland only gets worked up when it’s its own freedom which is threatened.
Of course it’s wrong to be gleeful that a newspaper chain is under threat and thousands of jobs could be at risk. Not everyone who works for Johnson Press is a rabid British nationalist. But it’s pretty rich of anti-independence supporters and media to demand that indy supporters who expressed such glee be condemned by the independence movement when they themselves turn a blind eye to far worse behaviour from those on their own side. They don’t want diversity of opinion to be reflected in the Scottish media. They don’t want the Scottish media to hold up a true and accurate mirror to Scottish society. They want Scotland’s media to be in their own North British image. They resent the one pro-independence publication that does exist and would be delighted to see it fail. Hypocrisy, thy name is North Briton.
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