So, to the elephant in the room, then. Certain elements of the Scottish press are busting a gut today in an attempt to fabricate a scandal around a man writing some honest opinions in a newspaper for money.
Judging by the tone of the coverage, it seems they have a case, in so far as that Scottish newspapers are plainly no place for honesty.
Let’s lay out the facts that are known and undisputed.
1. The police are involved in investigating serious allegations that Yes Scotland’s email system may have been hacked, so we’re not going to comment on that.
2. Dr W. Elliot Bulmer is research director of the Constitutional Commission and author of “A Model Constitution for Scotland: Making Democracy Work in an Independent State”. He’s personally an advocate of an independent Scotland (on which the CC takes no position) with a written constitution, and in addition to his book has written articles in the media on the same subject on numerous occasions, including this piece for the Guardian in March of this year.
3. Last month he submitted such a piece to The Herald, who elected to publish it. The article identified Dr Bulmer as director of the Constitutional Commission, but did NOT state or suggest that he was speaking on its behalf.
4. Dr Bulmer had been asked to write the piece by Yes Scotland, who also advocate Scottish independence. They paid him a very modest fee (around £100) for his work. The Herald paid nothing.
5. It is alleged that the information revealing the fact of the payment by Yes Scotland came via the unauthorised access to Yes Scotland email accounts.
6. Blair McDougall, director of the anti-independence “Better Together” campaign, is paid by it to advocate Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom. To this end he’s written several articles for online newspaper The Huffington Post, for which (to the best of our knowledge) he has not been paid by that publication.
7. He’s also written anti-independence articles for other publications, including this piece for the Guardian, in which he is not identified as having any connection to “Better Together”.
8. Neither of these situations breaks any laws. People can accept money from whoever they want to write articles. Newspapers can choose whether or not to publish submitted content. There is no requirement to disclose any financial arrangements on any side of the arrangement.
9. So we have a Yes advocate being paid by the Yes campaign to write pro-Yes articles for newspapers on one side, and a No advocate being paid by the No campaign to write pro-No articles for newspapers on the other side. In at least one case on each side, the writer of the article is not identified in the story as having a connection to the relevant campaign. Seems fair.
10. The media has however, for no readily apparent reason but coincidentally at the same time the hacking allegation has arisen, suddenly and bizarrely decided to present ONE of those things as a shocking skeleton in Yes Scotland’s closet, throwing around absurdly inappropriate words like “bung” and alleging all manner of sinister impropriety.
11. A number of Scottish journalists have called for the resignation of various people over the matter, including Yes Scotland head Blair Jenkins, despite no laws having been broken and no untrue or misleading statements having been given by anyone to anyone at any time.
12. Ironically, journalists doing so include some who occupied senior positions at the News Of The World during the phone-hacking scandal, for which numerous executives of the newspaper currently face serious criminal charges.
That’s it. If you’re confused and don’t understand why any of this constitutes a story, we empathise, because we don’t either. Insufferable, pompous arse-ache James Mackenzie of “Better Nation” has nevertheless summarised the situation rather well and succinctly here, which saves us some valuable time that we really need to spend on popping into town to get a spare key cut for our garage.
We won’t go into the reason why we need to do that, because it’s pretty crazy and involves us having done something quite embarrassingly stupid. But it still pales into comparison with the insanity that’s unfolding in Scotland’s media today.