It might only be the 2nd of January, but it’s already pretty clear what we should expect from Scottish politics and the Scottish media in 2017.
Yesterday saw an absurdly petty response from Scottish Labour to the SNP’s “baby box” initiative, sourly carping at a dirt-cheap measure with a proven record of reducing infant mortality and providing vital help to the poor.
Today’s Herald, meanwhile, leads on a meaningless story about people being opposed to having a second independence referendum in 2017 – something nobody has proposed and which has no prospect of happening barring wildly unforseeable events.
This is a lie. There are in fact no “tax hikes” in the budget at all. The threshold for the higher rate of tax is increasing with inflation, ie in real terms it’s staying the same as it is now. Councils are being ALLOWED to raise Council Tax but not FORCED to.
But the Mail lying is a reflex action. What about the rest?
We often say here on Wings that our job is to teach people to instantly recognise the sneaky tricks used by the media to try to create false impressions without saying things that are technically untrue. (Because despite the tiny size they’re allowed to print corrections at, they’re still rather embarrassing.)
A key technique is to look at a headline or story and immediately ask what you’re NOT being told. So here’s an easy example from today’s Scottish Daily Mail.
For some reason the Unionist community has this week been turning the bullhorn up to maximum on the subject of pensions. Most likely provoked by the publication of Dr Craig Dalzell’s fascinating “Beyond GERS”, the usual suspects have returned to the scaremongering tactics deployed during the indyref, attempting to terrorise the elderly with blood-curdling threats of destitution once again.
Readers of this site will be well aware of the many failings and limitations of GERS, aka Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland – the document which serves as the informal accounts of a devolved Scotland but tells us next to nothing about the finances of an independent Scotland, as noted just a few weeks ago by the impartial multinational auditors Deloitte.
An article I produced this week for the Common Weal White Paper Project – Beyond GERS – has generated much critical response from Unionists, though some of it has at least been constructive.
Spurred on by the mention of the article by David Torrance in Monday’s Herald, in a column containing several serious inaccuracies, I’ve seen various misunderstandings and misconceptions about it which ought to be addressed.
As alert readers will know, one of the primary purposes of this website isn’t just to tell people when the Scottish and UK media is lying to them, but to teach readers how to spot that for themselves. And one of the keys to learning that is to ask yourself what a story in the press is leaving out as well as what it’s telling you.
So last week, when several newspapers went on an orgy of shock-horror reporting about SNP MPs’ expenses – focusing mostly on aeroplane flights and only quoting figures for a small handful of MPs who’d allegedly been claiming far more taxpayers’ money than their Unionist predecessors – alarm bells started ringing everywhere.
And just as we’ve taught them to, Wings readers leapt into action to do the hard work that Scotland’s professional journalists don’t want to do, in order to provide Scots with the facts that the media doesn’t want them to know.
Nobody could ever accuse the Scottish press of underpromoting its grievances – alert readers will still recall, for example, the long procession of articles with near-identical content in the Daily Mail last year about SNP MPs and their “second jobs”. For 2016, though, the media’s obsessive repeating of the exact same story every few weeks has manifested itself over Nat members’ expenses.
There’s been a running theme recently on Unionist social media.
It’s the claim that the No vote in 2014 was an anomaly – a rare victory of progressive, internationalist, inclusive politics over the anti-establishment, isolationist, separatist tone that won out in the EU referendum and now the election of Donald Trump.
We expect nothing but idiocy of Fraser. But Mr Torrance, who is a ubiquitous presence in the Scottish media, appears – by no means for the first time – not to have the facts at his fingertips. So let’s see if we can help him out.
Here’s Ruth Davidson at FMQs today, telling the chamber that “last week the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said the real problem facing investment and jobs in Scotland was [Nicola Sturgeon’s] threat of a second referendum”.
Would you like to know how many actual people that was, readers?