Alert readers will have noticed that the mainstream press has been rummaging through its Greatest Nat-Bashing Hits again over recent days, trying to flog one last turn around the track out of the year-old “EU advice” story. The Herald, Telegraph, Express and others have all dredged it up again to excoriate the Scottish Government for “wasting” just over £19,000 (or in newspaper arithmetic, “£20,000”) trying to uphold the principle of law officers being able to give advice in confidentiality.
But wait a minute – when this story first did the rounds, wasn’t it a lot more?
(Though for perspective, incidentally, £20,000 represents 0.00007% of the Scottish Government’s block grant for 2013. It’s the equivalent of having £15,000 and losing 1p.)
Here was the Herald’s view at the time:
“For months the Nationalists have attempted to close down debate on the issue by insisting it was done and dusted. Unexpectedly yesterday, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed no specific legal advice had been sought.
If this is the case, taxpayers are entitled to know why the Government has spent £100,000 of public funds going to the Court of Session in an attempt to prevent the publication of whether or not such advice had been sought.”
And here was the Huffington Post:
“Mr Salmond – a man who hails the virtues of transparency and government that reflects the interests of the Scottish electorate – has essentially responded by sticking two fingers up at that electorate while handing them the bill (which will be upwards of £100,000)“
And this was Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart in the House Of Commons:
Of course, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had to inflate it still further:
The Herald’s page has since been quietly edited to now say “£12,000”, with no acknowledgement that it ever said anything else. The Huffington Post piece still has the original claim, and Mike Crockart has never retracted his assertion. (Poor old Ruth Davidson, meanwhile, continues to merrily pluck ludicrously exaggerated numbers out of the air at random to this day.)
Careful what you believe, readers.