By a Newsnet reporter

Last Wednesday the news in Scotland was dominated by yet another baseless claim from a Unionist leaning commentator.

Iain Duncan Smith became the latest Unionist politician to claim that an independent Scotland would be unable to sustain the services those living in Scotland currently ‘enjoy’ through being part of the Union.

According to Duncan Smith, the day after independence, swingeing cuts would be needed in order to pay welfare benefits to Scots already in receipt of such payments.

The claim coincided with a meeting between the London government and the Edinburgh team on the process that will underpin the 2014 independence referendum.  It became the latest piece of rhetorical sludge that is fast smearing the independence debate canvas.

This latest piece of verbal graffiti was, as ever, seized on by the Scottish media, who are fast proving incapable of delivering the kind of debate the nation deserves.  As usual, BBC Scotland was in the thick of it with its radio, TV and online arms splashing with Duncan Smith’s words.

This nonsense is now swamping Scotland’s electorate; most of whom are already wallowing in a sea of media inspired ignorance.  That the Scottish Labour party leapt on this latest “too poor” insult from a Conservative Minister evidences the sheer desperation that is fast becoming the signature of the Tory led Better Together campaign.

Duncan Smith’s baseless nonsense followed a politically motivated move from Labour MEP Catherine Stihler whose malicious Freedom of Information request is an example of a move designed to destroy mature debate.  The story is being carefully contorted by every one of our media outlets as a fight to establish what legal advice the Scottish government has received.

It isn’t of course – what is being sought is a judgment on whether the Scottish government can refuse to confirm whether it has received advice – something quite different.  The intervention of Scotland’s Information Commissioner is unfortunate and sets a very dangerous precedent – it is also bordering on taking sides, given that the No campaign have seized on a decision the Scottish government were compelled to make.

Both stories have enjoyed headlines way beyond their merit and would have withered and died were it not for the ‘Scottish’ media – spearheaded by BBC Scotland, who reporting them religiously.  I watched Reporting Scotland dine out on both and sighed at the apparent willingness of these reporters to promote such obvious attempts at killing real debate.

There’s no desire to apply reason, logic or common sense.  The EU story has been running along for seemingly months ever since Unionists decided that Europe would expel, wouldn’t want or would force the Euro upon an independent Scotland.

Journalists seem incapable of applying even the most basic rigour to these scare stories.  Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and fully five years later the country’s Finance Minister has just announced that they will not be joining the Euro any time soon.

Simeon Djankov, made clear on the 4th of September that the risks were too high.  Similar announcements have been made by Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.  Last week it emerged that former colonies of France had inherited membership and treaty benefits after they voted for independence.  These statements are not widely reported, if at all, by our Scottish media.

Duncan Smith’s appallingly ignorant statements on the finances of an independent Scotland were destroyed before he opened his mouth.  Scotland already contributes more to the UK Treasury than she receives back and comparing the proportion of GDP spent on welfare – English based claimants receive 42% to 40% from Scottish claimants.

It begs the question as to what, if any, criterion is applied to ensure that these scares contain an element of credibility?  Are all claims, no matter how outlandish, to be circulated regardless?

Sadly the answer seems to be that Unionists have carte blanche and things are unlikely to change.

The debate won’t be allowed to take place unless Scots demand it takes place.  BBC Scotland has become the equivalent of a tabloid newspaper, embracing the editorial practices that goes with it.

There is clearly no barrier to Unionist scare stories making it as banner headlines in the press and broadcast media.  If the No campaign claims that gravity would end in an independent Scotland, one would expect it to be read out by Jackie Bird on that evening’s news.

The fake late night TV debates that follow these claims are just that – fake.  By the time the truth gets its boots on the scare has already made several radio, newspaper and TV laps of Scotland and the scare is firmly embedded in the minds of the electorate, most of whom have already gone to bed.

It also isn’t helped by BBC Scotland’s insistence on using its late night and early morning news programmes as promotional platforms for newspapers, every one of which is against independence and most of which will lead on the scare. 

The Scotsman, vehemently anti-independence, is routinely given free advertising on Newsnight Scotland.  Both the Herald and Scotsman, along with almost every other newspaper, are also given free promotion on Good Morning Scotland. 

The result of course is that where the lead story is political, then the pro-Union editorial line of the papers ensures that anti-Independence/SNP stories will receive considerably more coverage than pro-Indy/SNP stories.  Imbalance is virtually guaranteed.

Months ago, Newsnet Scotland asked BBC Scotland what criterion they employed when deciding which news vendors would enjoy such free promotion.  The question was formally acknowledged by the recipient but no answer was ever forthcoming.

Newspaper Review sample from Friday’s Good Morning Scotland

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Newsnight Scotland newspaper previews for four days up to Sept 20 2012

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A campaign will be required in order to draw attention to the worst aspects of this ‘debate debasing’.  At the same time it will need to focus on those areas where pressure can achieve change.

There are undoubtedly many areas where change is desired – however for any campaign to be successful it has to focus on those areas it can influence.  Over the coming months, Newsnet Scotland intends to launch just such a campaign.  It will call for a balanced, all inclusive and mature debate.

It will seek to ensure that:

  • all three sides (indy, devo-max, status quo) in the independence debate are treated equally at all times by broadcast media
  • that any and all referendum debates and discussions satisfy equality in terms of participation
  • that, where practicable, pundits and commentators acknowledge their own political and/or constitutional leanings
  • that studio audiences do not favour one side over any of the others both in terms of attendance and participation
  • that the BBC provides the same online commentary facilities to Scotland as it does for England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The campaign for balance and inclusion must not encroach into the debate itself and will seek only fairness for all three sides.

The campaign request for fair play should be so basic, so obvious and so fundamental to an honest debate that few, if any, will be able to argue against it.  Once established, then any broadcaster not complying with these simple conditions will very quickly come to the attention of the Scottish people and will, most probably, find itself with a credibility issue.

Domain names have already been acquired in order to make the campaign accessible to the public and consultation with respected polling organisations has taken place in order to establish whether they would agree to carry out a poll on behalf of Newsnet Scotland.  We can confirm that one of the UK’s most respected organisations has confirmed that they would be willing to carry out just such a survey.

The survey will allow us to gauge public support for these very basic measures.


2012-09-24 07:59

It is a face saving measure for the British/English establishment. There is no way they are going to allow balanced debate under any circumstances, fair or foul.
The BBC according to the ONS is a department of State and the License Fee is classified by them as a Tax. Therefore, as a department of State, the BBC are the official propaganda arm of the government. One way or the other again by fair means or foul. they control all the output of the MSM.
The Yes campaign have an up-hill struggle and any campaign to shake up the BBC will fail so long as they are what they are.
Laudable and well worth trying but after 6 months or so, realise as Mr. Salmond has, the Brits ain’t listening.
2012-09-24 09:08

Isn’t there some kind of legal injuction which might be sought to compell the BBC to abide by the terms of its Charter? It’s biased, distorting and manipulating the political landscape in Scotland, and advertising pro Unionist newspapers.
Even if it were taken off the air for an hour, there would a massive outcry as to the reasons why. I have faith that many of my English friends would be feel as betrayed and disgusted as we do, that the lifelong pride they’ve had for their beloved BBC has been misplaced, since the BBC has stooped to such ignominious and duplicitous malpractice.
2012-09-24 09:28

There is no way there is ever going to be a balanced reporting of the constitutional debate anywhere within the MSM. It is a sad reflection on our press that we have to search for anything remotely close to the facts and the witch hunt against anyone promoting independence is shameful. There are just too many vested interests in this, only one side is talking about what is good for the country while the other side, esp Labour, are only interested in what is good for them or in Lamonts case not saying anything at all. To be honest it is just depressing and one of the main reasons that one month ago I virtually stopped buying papers, from being a 2 a day man to being virtually a once every 2 weeks now man says it all about the state of our press. I really don’t know anymore what it will take for honesty to once again at least be part of the MSM code.
2012-09-24 09:33

Every little helps !
2012-09-24 09:35

Great to meet some of you at the newsnet stand at the rally, and I have the car stickers proudly displayed on the family cars and business door! This is a good move, as the Scottish press has become reliant on Reuters and rumours – anti independence rumours and scaremongering, of course.

I’m sure it’s something the team has considered but a full page advert in the Herald, Scotsman, Record and Sun would reach out to those who need to know there is another story out there. One that offers a positive and well constructed vision of Scotland’s future in the hands of Scotland’s people. 

Maybe something that could be crowdfunded, in advance of  the survey reporting, reaching yet another audience and furthering the debate that the undecided so desperately want and so urgently need.
2012-09-24 10:30

Well done NNS

It will be a long haul, but worth it. It is in the interest of the no camp to lower the level of debate. They have what they want and would like the independence debate to be reduced to insignificance – when ‘there are much more important things to do’ – greatly aided in this respect by Paxmanesque/ ten times your population disdain.

( Enjoy exposed PXM attitude here…/ )

I’ll help where I can. It had been my intention to write to the BBC suggesting ways that they could improve TV debates e.g. debates with no politicians and including people who are undecided as well as those committed to your three alternatives given above.

I will assume that it’s OK with you if I pinch some of your other suggestions.
2012-09-25 02:07

The SNP need to up their game big time, we need to start to see progress in the polls soon. I must admit to feeling a bit bemused as to why they do not say and repeat over and over that Scotland is not in any way subsidised by the UK and infact pays in more than it gets back.

The unionist tactic is we know to undermine Scots aspirations and it has been shown clearly that people do not want to be worse off though I think people are mostly scared to make such a huge change as they are just not certain either way as to whether they will be better off or worse.

I`d like to see the SNP at every oportunity and in every interview wherever possibly say quite clearly that whenever a unionist politition says or implies that we will be worse off they are lying and on day one of independence if it were today this is how much better off we would be.

On day one we will have more money to pay for benefits and pensions, the NHS, infrastructure etc.
We can choose not to pay for trident, wars, the houses of parliament refurb, the unelected lords, London sewer upgrade and much more by spending with all of our own money and prioritising where it is spent.

The media are not onside and wont be up until the day of the referendum unless we are showing a massive majority in favour which is a long way away, we do need to apply pressure on them especially the BBC who you can`t even watch without drowning in propaganda of some kind in favour of the current political union.

We choose not to buy newspapers and should encourage others not to too or at least be aware of what agenda they constantly peddle.
If we can get the news out there that the BBC is behaving in such a manner and the implications of such a circumstance then a mass non payment of the licence fee could be organised. Many have already chosen and i`ve been threatened recently which scares me but I feel it neccesary in the current circumstances.
There`s been no improvement in the BBC at all, just dumbing down and the usual tabloidesque approach which is deliberatly playing into the unionist hands.
2012-09-25 08:41

Who owns the Digital TV network and might it be possible to secure at least one station for Honest Scottish Media?

We surely have enough Scottish program makers, Scottish History makers, and broadcasting experience to do it. Shouldn’t our remarkable process towards bloodless and peaceful Independence be documented as an example to all?
Training Day
2012-09-25 11:34

BBC Scotland are now straightforward  ly and openly telling lies, as evidenced in the report on the independence march on Newsnight last night. No SNP spokesperson anywhere, anytime has said the party is ‘keen’ to have a devo-max option on the referendum ballot paper as an ‘insurance policy’, but that assertion was reported as fact on the piece last night, amidst a sea of other pro-union innuendo.

Whilst the focus must be on getting the message direct to the people and bypassing the BBC, it nevertheless grates intensely that this disgraceful organisation feels empowered to lie blatantly with impunity. Those people who call themselves ‘journalists’ at BBC Scotland should be ashamed of themselves.
2012-09-25 11:59

We should undertake to keep a documented record of this. Who said what, at what time, and on what program, and detail the context of the incident and reason it’s considered bias.
If this behaviour ever sees the light of day in a courtroom or enquiry forum, then an early requirement will be to document the history of the bia. At which point we could then produce chapter and verse.
People who are stalked have to do this, people with noisy or anti social neighbours have to do it, and it seems prudent that we start to do it too.

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