Salmond and Murdoch up a tree

26 02 2012

So readers of tomorrow’s chip poke, the Scottish Sun on Sunday will have discovered this morning that the date of the Scottish Independence Referendum is to be Saturday 18th October 2014 (link to BBC not Murdoch jam-rag). Reputable Scottish blogger Burdzeyeview, posted on this, ‘All bets not quite off on date of indy referendum’ where she discusses the pros and cons of the date. I’m not going to replicate that discussion here as she does it far better than I ever could, Instead I have two points I want to rant about.

My first gripe with announcing the date in such a way. If the date is indeed the correct one, and as yet we have nothing to say it is or is not other than the Sun report, why was it not made in some kind of formal public announcement? Why was the date not presented to parliament first? And as Burdzeyeview highlighted, what is the point of a referendum consultation, if these kinds of decisions are made independent of it?

Of course, Salmond et al aren’t the only ones ignoring public consultations in favour of pushing their own agenda, but perhaps naively of me I hoped that the Scottish government may try to employ a best practice approach to their work, to differentiate them from their narcissistic neighbours. If Scotland is to become independent, I want it written into the constitution, that the public are key to decision-making. I want what already exists on paper, essentially an effective and involved consultation process, to be the norm and to be widely known about among the public. I want public involvement central to all aspects of the Scottish government and I want this education on consultation processes to start in schools.

But I digress, should the Scottish Sun on Sunday date be correct, it raises questions as to the appropriateness of the relationship between the SNP and the Murdoch empire.

During the hacking scandal most major parties were seen to visibly distance themselves from the cosy and profitable pockets of Murdoch’s papers. Obviously looks can be deceiving and despite the much publicised closure of News of the World, the new News International title, the Sun on Sunday published its first edition this morning. In no time, politicians will be grappling with each other to get the paper onside. Despite this ongoing furore down south, Salmond appears to have stayed firmly in the pocket of Murdoch and it seems to have paid off for him. In the past week Salmond and Scottish independence have been the topic of a number of Murdoch’s tweets, with positive overtones, which has led the media to suggest that his papers will be supporting the SNP in their quest for independence. There is no denying the power of Murdoch’s support at elections, however, there is the ethical issue of Salmond jumping into bed with him so readily given public opinion of his journalist’s methods is so low.

This leads me to consider two possibilities. Either Salmond is consumed by a quest for personal power and will do anything necessary regardless of ethics to get it or, he’s playing a very savvy but dangerous game of courting the media. Either method seems to me, rather tasteless.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest Salmond is in it for the personal prowess of being the Prime Minister of Scotland.  The Scotsman newspaper, quoting Jack Irvine once editor of Scottish Sun, said Rebekkah Wade (now Brooks) found Salmond very arrogant in a meeting they had. The paper also continues to discuss Salmond’s aggressive and deterministic courting of the Murdoch papers. He’s not daft is our Alex, he understands the power they have and knows massaging their over inflated ego’s can only help his. However he seems to be ignoring the public perception of News International after the hacking scandal, which on the whole is very negative. Indeed many are finding it hard to understand why he is putting such effort into courting such a shamed empire. It’s also important to consider what News International have to gain from backing independence. The Scotsman are trying to suggest that Murdoch backing Scottish Independence is an attempt to create trouble for the English after his treatment at the hackgate affair. It would seem unfair for Murdoch to use something as important as potential independence for a country of around 5 million people, to settle a petty score he has for his dodgy business deals. And there were the gifts to and courting of, the staff working for Murdoch’s papers, perhaps more so than staff of other media groups. Salmond’s campaign has been very targeted. It’s his motives that aren’t quite so clear.

It’s true public outrage didn’t appear to be as great north of the border as it was down south at the Hackgate Scandal. The degree of disconnectedness from events in the South East of London is huge, and despite Tommy’s family allegedly being targeted nobody up here really seems to care. I think perhaps the renowned Scottish cynicism for the likelihood of such behaviours replaced the Westminster outrage. It worries me that a large swathe of the population won’t be asking questions of the Salmond/Murdoch relationship, given what we know of Murdoch’s previous close political alliances. I tried to consider why Salmond would make use of a ‘friendship’ with such an outcast media mogul. The Scottish Sun has a circulation of around 300,000 and obviously that is not a figure of potential voters to be sniffed at. However, a study (that I can’t find the link to anymore – if anyone knows of it please let me know) suggested that those in lower-income bands, the target market for the Scottish Sun, are mostly in favour of independence, while higher earners, the middle and upper classes are not so keen. Without going too in-depth with media snobbery (although it should be noted journalists for the Sun and similar are asked to write their articles for a reading age of 9), the middle and upper classes are less likely to be reading a red top rag to inform themselves of political activity and opinion. It sounds to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, as if these are the people Salmond should be targeting with his Yes vote campaigning.

Scotland’s two candidates for broadsheet newspaper, The Herald and the Scotsman appear to have firmly taken sides already. The pseudo-socialist Glasgow based Herald newspaper appears to be in favour of independence, while the Edinburgh based Scotsman seems to be firmly opposed. Neither appears to have the same degree of interest from Salmond on this issue. The circulation for both newspapers is less than 50,000 each. Considerably less than their red top rivals. It is also interesting to note however that the Daily Record, who have taken on a pro-union stance also have a circulation of around 300,000 and they have not received the same attention from Salmond as the Sun.

300,000 votes out of a possible 5m votes doesn’t appear to be worth the effort for the party, yet Salmond is still notorious for his relationship with News International over all other media groups and it begs the question, why? What does he gain from it and what do we gain from it? Do we really want someone like Rupert Murdoch trying to play God with Scottish politics in the same way he did with UK politics? Is there any reason why we cannot have an open and honest and unbiased reporting of the situation, allowing the public to make an informed decision?

For many reasons, I like the idea of independence, but for many more I get put off by the behaviours and allegiances of the politicians and the media. If Scotland gains independence, it needs to be a completely new and transparent system not a replication of old school, traditional, ‘who you know’ methodologies. A politician should be courting his or her public, or finding favour and forming allegiances with the public, not treating us as if we are incapable of independent thought or some kind of personal, ego massaging cash cow.




2 responses

26 02 2012

You are not wrong to question the judgement of politicians seeking validation from questionable associations. It would be naïve to suggest however, that the issue should influence the outcome of a referendum on independence.

Politicians can be as flawed in their judgements as any of us and will undoubtedly remain so with or without independence and in both Edinburgh and Westminster. It really comes down to how the democratic process allows the people to demonstrate their approval or disapproval of such activity.

Surely we either vote for or against independence depending on how we value the way in which either status would shape the quality of life for ourselves, our children and grandchildren etc.

Either way the politicians will from time to time use cynical ploys and demonstrate questionable judgement in achieving their ends irrespective of which side of the border they operate.

We may just find it’s easier to get rid of them in an independent Scotland than it is in the UK where in addition to a divergence of views of what is or is not socially just, we will likely get the government that England votes for.

27 02 2012
Peter A Bell

My first gripe with announcing the date in such a way. If the date is indeed the correct one, and as yet we have nothing to say it is or is not other than the Sun report, why was it not made in some kind of formal public announcement?

See what you did there? You castigate Salmond for “announcing the date” in the pages of a newspaper whilst simultaneously pointing out that it is not an official announcement of the date. It is journalistic speculation, nothing more. And The Sun needs neither the assistance of or permission from alex Salmond before flying its own kite.

Anyone who has read the consultation could have narrowed the possibilities for the date of the referendum down to three or four. After that, it’s just a matter of guesswork. State whatever one you’ve gone for with enough confidence and it sound just like insider knowledge And you can be reasonably confident that the Scottish government will neither confirm nor deny.

If Salmond had wanted to give Murdoch the actual date, he could have done so. And dealt with the flak. But why would Murdoch need Salmond to tell him something he could easily work out for himself?

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