Ask anyone who knows about such things and they’ll tell you that not only is the headline the most important aspect of an article, but often it’s the only part of it that people read at all. It’s a fact worth bearing in mind when you scan the media coverage of the main Scottish politics story of today.
The reality, of course, is somewhat less clear-cut. Dig down into any of the pieces and you’ll find that what Cameron actually said was that Barnett was safe until 2015. As he made very explicit in a letter to the First Minister (tweeted by Nicola Sturgeon yesterday), his promises – even should one choose to believe them – are only good until the next UK general election.
As we’ve noted recently, every statement made by a UK politician on the subject contains the same disclaimer. Barnett, and the billions of pounds in spending it brings to Scotland (albeit funding we pay for and then some), won’t be going anywhere while there’s still a referendum to be won. After that, all bets are off and Scotland’s bargaining chips will be in the bin.
Scottish Labour, of course, are deeply concerned and taking the danger of a massive reduction in the Scottish block grant, and the attendant huge cuts in services, with the grave seriousness it merits.
Perhaps we should be generous. Maybe these distortions of the facts aren’t the result of a Unionist agenda, but simply a journalistic one – everyone already knows that the UK government isn’t going to be stupid enough to abolish Barnett before the referendum, so there’s no actual story here, but pages have to be filled with something so they need to puff it up into “news”.
Readers can make their own judgement about that particular context. But they’d probably be wise not to read anything else into the contents.