In the world of journalism, being second to a story carries certain advantages. The Sunday Herald scored a high-profile exclusive with its list of “Better Together” donators yesterday, but only told half the tale. Keen-eyed cyber-sleuths immediately started digging, and came up with some troubling information about by far the biggest contributor to the No camp’s fighting fund, excellently and concisely detailed here by Michael Gray of National Collective.
You’d imagine, then, that the likes of the Scotsman – with the advantage of an extra 24 hours to do some investigating and with all the leads already conveniently found and collected together for them – would have come up with some pretty interesting in-depth analysis on the subject, especially given how keen it usually is to look into anyone who financially backs the nationalist side.
(Not to mention the golden opportunity to get one over on its rival’s big exclusive by pointing out what they missed in their haste to be first.)
Despite the full day’s extra reporting time, the article (cache link) contains not a single mention of the numerous controversies surrounding Ian Taylor. Instead it somehow manages to spin the story as “pressure” on the Yes campaign – under a headline which implies that it, rather than the Unionist side, is the one which has received some ethically-questionable donations.
(You need to get quite a way into the piece before you find out that the “£1.1m” figure is in fact the sum received so far by “Better Together”, half of it from Mr Taylor.)
There’s not a word about Taylor’s extensive connections with criminal activity and tax avoidance – just lots of glowing quotes about how much he loves Alistair Darling – and the article also makes a none-too-subtle attempt to sow division in the Yes camp by speculating about whether the SNP has handed over the £2m it received in two big donations in 2011 to Yes Scotland – despite the fact that both were made to the party rather than to the independence campaign specifically.
(There’s no similar questioning of whether any large contributions made to the Conservative or Labour parties in recent years have been channelled into the “Better Together” coffers. Indeed, in the case of the No camp, the lack of political contributions is portrayed as a positive, with campaign director Blair McDougall effusing “We have not received a penny from political parties. Every penny we have raised, we have raised ourselves, from supporters of our cause.”)
Only in the world of the Scottish mainstream media can the No campaign receiving a huge donation from a man linked to Serbian war criminals, Saddam Hussein and massive tax avoidance be translated into “pressure” on the Yes campaign. The Scotsman is abandoning all pretence of impartial and balanced coverage almost as fast as its readers are abandoning it.
We can’t help but ponder whether the two might be connected.