By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
The Scotsman is facing embarrassment after repeatedly editing an online article to apparently skew the angle on a poll showing a rise in support for a Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum.
An article authored by writer David Maddox had its headlined changed at least twice after publication, from a straight report about a rise in support for Yes to eventually claiming an expert had warned about the poll’s credibility – much to the surprise of the expert in question.

After a poll carried out by Panelbase on behalf of the Wings Over Scotland website revealed support for an independent Scotland had increased to its highest number so far at 41 per cent, the Scotsman’s first version of its report was headlined: “Scottish independence: Yes support rises in poll.”

However, several hours later the headline was altered to “Scottish independence: Doubts on poll for Yes vote” before being changed again a short time later to “Expert warns over poll showing highest Yes backing”.

The altered headlines significantly skewed the angle of the report on the basis of an expert’s view, but when asked about the story, Professor John Curtice was surprised to find his quotes were used as the basis for questioning the poll’s credibility.

In addition, the opening paragraph was also altered significantly without any indication that it had been changed from its original version.

The first version of the story began: “A new poll suggests support for independence has reached a campaign high.  The Panelbase poll commissioned by pro-independence website Wings Over Scotland puts the Yes vote on 41% and No on 46%.”

A new version of the article soon reported: “The credibility of a poll which has put the referendum campaign neck and neck had been questioned.”

But when Wings Over Scotland contacted the expert quoted in the article, the claims didn’t match up.

“We contacted Prof. Curtice, who told us he thought the headline and introduction were a reference to Alistair Darling’s comments at the end of the piece, which they clearly weren’t,” Wings reported.  “Those were preceded by a “meanwhile”, which unequivocally indicates something tangential to the headline.”

The Scotsman was then forced into a humiliating climbdown after Panelbase itself contacted the paper to demand an explanation.

By the time the body of the story reached its fourth and final version, the opening paragraph eventually settled on: “A leading polling expert has said that a poll giving the Yes campaign its highest rating ever should not be taken as evidence that polls are relentlessly moving towards a Yes vote.”

The incident isn’t the first time the Scotsman’s accuracy has been questioned over its reportage of matters related to the independence referendum.

In December 2012, Newsnet Scotland revealed that the paper had wrongly reported that the European Commission had sent a letter to the House of Lords declaring that an independent Scotland would have to re-apply for EU membership.

When questioned on the story, headlined ‘Brussels: separate Scotland must apply to join EU’ a spokesman for EC President José Manuel Barroso told Newsnet that the Commission had been “very clear” that it did not comment on specific situations and confirmed the Scotsman’s story was “incorrect”.

The newspaper also came in for criticism after attacking Alex Salmond over revelations that international firm Amazon paid no corporation tax in the UK, despite power over the tax being reserved to Westminster.


2014-04-07 23:30

It’s a bit like having to re do home or class work because the first, second, third attempts weren’t that good. For a journalist of a number years of experience that does not say a lot about their ability. It says more about their attitude to their job. In other words, they get paid to write this stuff!
2014-04-08 06:01

Typical behaviour for the “Scotsman”. Perhaps taking lessons from the BBC after their outrageous reporting of Tartan day in New York, where the repeated message was “nobody is interested in independence”. A pure opinion piece with no real substance, held to the end of the programme to allow the soundbite to be repeated several times.
2014-04-08 16:20

And Robertson’s ludicrous speech was not for US consumption but purely to generate scare headlines to be shouted at us all day as the lead story by The BBC and splashed all over the blats.

2014-04-08 06:31

It used to be the case that newspapers printed a statement, either on the Leader Page or at the foot of the Back Page, that they were ‘Registered At The GPO As A Newspaper’ .

It is a long time since I gave up on buying the Scotsman after 44 years of faithful readership and I don’t know if they still print an equivalent statement but the implication of such registration surely means that they had to comply with certain standards and conditions to qualify as being considered as newspapers.

Starting with the arrival of Brillo Pad followed by the sale to JP The Scotsman has gradually declined and has ceased to be a newspaper now being nothing better than a rather large political propaganda pamphlet.

Does anybody know what qualifications are now required for a publication to be able to call itself a newspaper.
2014-04-08 19:36

Registered at the GPO as a newspaper, was used to entitle a reduced postage rate similar to “Printed Matter”. It did not mean the newspaper was licensed to comply with regulations in quality of contents.

2014-04-08 06:42

Shame on the “Proud”Scotsman, hardly Scottish bar name, simply another Westminster pandering rag.

The days that they could get away with such things are over. The online sites like Wings, NewsnetScotland  , Bella and many more will ensure that they are held to account.
Keep up the good work.
2014-04-08 14:30

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that headlines in that union propaganda sheet have been skewed in order to mislead the less-aware reader.

These days the dark practices of The Scotsman are pretty much what sustain it. Blatantly overstated headlines usually containing the words “fears”, “accusations”, “worry”, “experts claim”, and so boringly on, are routinely used to attack independence support.
2014-04-08 16:49

Sorry for going off topic, but I find this quite concerning.

MSP David Torrance has been attacked during a debate, STV have reported it.

With the recent events concerning the videos posted on YouTube of the unionists confronting Yes stalls in a rather violent way I have find this deeply worrying.
2014-04-08 17:36

When does a TV News Bulletin become a political propaganda broadcast? When it is called Reporting Scotland.

The opening 5 minutes of tonight’s bulletin surpasses anything I have seen before.
2014-04-08 17:57

Well that’s tonight’s Misreporting Scotland finished – not a mention of Eck’s latest positive and constructive speech in The US – but then, of course, it’s The BBC.

They are at it again in the summary.

call me dave
2014-04-08 17:36

Mr Salmond on Wall St.
Right after a good commercial about..footie.…/
2014-04-08 18:02

I know this topic has been aired before and, in a hurry, I couldn’t find an alternative slot for this, so please excuse. The State Broadcaster’s subliminal messages reached a new height today:

BBC2 kicks off the day at 9.05am with Great British Garden Revival, continuing at 10.05 am with Great British Railway Journeys (a programme I’d really enjoy without the smug presence of Portillo); next offering is The Great British Bake Off at 4.15pm; Great British Menu at 7.30 and on its heels The Great British Sewing Bee at 8 for the next hour. The Battle for Britain’s Breakfast follows on at 9pm. And if we haven’t had enough shoved down our throat, a repeat of Part 2 of The Story of Britain: Britain’s Lost Middleland, produced and presented by Old Etonian and plastic BritScot, Rory Stewart MP.

Know your place, fellow Scotspeople. The BBC has spoken.

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