As politics wakes up from the holidays, any readers still bothering to gaze at the pages of the Scottish media could be forgiven for a crushing sense of deja vu.
In more senses than one.
The Daily Mail kicks off with a “story” about SNP MP Lisa Cameron owning some houses (or, in the standard SNP BAD terminology, a “property empire”), and renting them out, despite being opposed to the sell-off of social housing.
The only problem with it is that Cameron didn’t buy them from social landlords. The description of “ex-council” homes is used to deliberately mislead readers into thinking the properties had been taken out of the social housing stock, when in fact they were already privately-owned, which the Mail eventually grudgingly notes by saying she bought them “after previous owners could not keep up their mortgage payments”.
(One was in fact left to her by her grandmother.)
There’s absolutely no suggestion of any kind of illegality in any of the deals. Cameron has bought some houses from private owners and rented them out for income, just like millions of other people have done. And it’s not even news – the Herald reported all of Cameron’s property interests more than three months ago.
The Herald itself is also apparently working through the list of SNP MPs alphabetically looking for dirt, because it whips up a front-page splash out of the barely-news that the Parliamentary standards office is going to look into allegations about disclosure of Coatbridge member’s Phil Boswell business interests, prompted by a complaint from a defeated Lib Dem candidate.
The story is linked by the paper to revelations a month ago that Boswell had gained advantage from a legal tax avoidance scheme in his previous employment before being elected. In order to make it a front-page lead the Herald is forced to assume the worst possible findings from the standards office and then the worst possible outcome of what could follow such findings:
“The commissioner’s inquiry could have one of three outcomes: there is no case to answer, which would result in the matter being dismissed; there has been a minor breach of the Commons rules, which would include ‘rectification’ by the MP and an apology; or there has been a serious breach, which would result in the matter being referred for action to the Commons standards committee.
That assumption-on-top-of-assumption-on-top-of-assumption is somewhat weakened by the fact that the SNP has – unlike in the cases of Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry – unequivocally stated that Boswell has done nothing wrong.
The blaring headline – “MP faces suspension from the SNP” – quickly disintegrates in the article text to the weasel-worded “Given the commissioner has now begun a full investigation into Mr Boswell’s registration of interests, political pressure for him to withdraw from the SNP whip could begin to grow.”
Readers might be forgiven for thinking “Could it, aye?”
The Scotsman’s front page, meanwhile, goes with the claim that if Scottish Labour win the Holyrood election in May – stop sniggering at the back, for Heaven’s sake – it will give first-time buyers a handout of £3000 to help them get on the housing ladder.
That’s not especially interesting, given that all of the major parties are apparently now committed to inflating runaway house prices even further by giving away public money to help people buy properties that they can’t really afford, and of course also given that the headline may as well read “KEZIA DUGDALE WANTS A MAGIC PONY” for all the chance Labour have of being in power to enact the policy.
The fun bit is where the money’s supposedly going to come from.
Incredibly, despite a series of car-crash humiliations for Dugdale herself, Jackie Baillie and Claire Baker the last time they tried to spend the non-existent proceeds of keeping Air Passenger Duty the same as it is now, Labour are having another bash at telling people they can magic extra cash out of thin air by not changing anything, now that they don’t need the imaginary money to mitigate tax-credit cuts.
We might just try reprinting all last year’s Wings articles with new datestamps and hope nobody notices. It seems to be what the rest of the Scottish media is planning.