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Wings Over Scotland

Once more with less feeling

Posted on January 24, 2013 by

Earlier today we had a wee pop at the Herald for the headline of this story:

The reason for our complaint was what we felt to be the misrepresentation of a poll asking a multiple-choice question about the Scottish constitution:

“What clearly WOULDN’T be fair, though, would be to present those statistics as a drop in the “Yes vote”, because the SSAS’s multiple-optioned findings on an obsolete 14-year-old form of a “constitutional preference” poll bear no relation whatsoever to any “Yes/No” question that’ll be asked in 2014.”

So it was a nice surprise to later, by sheer chance while browsing around for nothing in particular, happen across the same story with a slightly different tone. Evidently the paper had listened to reasonable, fair criticism and taken admirably prompt action.

Our joy didn’t last long, though. Because on closer inspection, the story we’d found second was actually the original version – dated Wednesday 23rd, and not reachable from anywhere on the Herald site – whereas the one we’d seen first was a rewrite, featured as today’s front-page lead and dated Thursday 24th. And while the text is almost all the same, more was different than just the headline.

“The total is the same as the previous low recorded in 2010 and is nine points down on 2011, when 32% backed independence. However, the figures also revealed a stronger appetite for more powers at Holyrood.”

“The total is the same as the previous low recorded in 2010 and is nine points down on 2011, when 32% backed independence.”

Well, that’s odd. What happened to the bit about a stronger appetite for more powers?

“Asked about “devo max” – which would give Holyrood full economic powers but leave Westminster responsible for defence and foreign policy – Scots appeared less worried than they were by the prospect of independence. Fewer than a third (32%) said they would be worried by devo max, compared with the 59% anxious about independence.”

[passage not present]

Hmm. Apparently Magnus had second thoughts about the “devo max” findings again.

“The Scottish Parliament will become responsible for setting a portion of income tax from 2016 but the IPPR think tank, which is close to Labour, recently called for Holyrood to be given much greater control. It said income tax should be fully devolved as part of reforms which would put MSPs in charge of 60% of the money they spend.”

[passage not present]

And once more, favourable references to further powers are seemingly verboten, in favour of concentrating solely on the fall in support for independence. It’s almost as if Magnus doesn’t want us to be focusing on the survey’s nuanced, in-depth findings revealing that people are unhappy with the status quo, and rehashed the piece overnight into something more effective for bashing the independence campaign with, complete with a picture handily conflating Yes with the SNP in the reader’s mind.

Or are we just being too cynical again? We hate when we do that.

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21 to “Once more with less feeling”

  1. mogabee says:

     Who exactly is guiding Magnus Gardham’s finger?
     Or does it have a life of it’s own?

  2. kininvie says:

    Not sure you can blame Magnus. Looks to me as if the subs got at it. ‘What’s the story – drop in support for Indy? Right, cut all the crappy figures and all those ifs, buts and maybes & focus on that.’ Subs, after all, like nice clear stories and hate nuanced stuff. Editor maybe took a hand too.

  3. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Not sure you can blame Magnus”

    Well, clearly we have no idea who actually did it. But it’s not the most important thing, plus based on his history it’s not exactly out of character.

  4. Seasick Dave says:

    I suppose that you could run an article headed:

    Support for Glasgow Herald at post-devolution low. 


  5. Robin Ross says:

    I’m wondering if we are reading too much into the negative approach to independence that suffuses the pages of the press, or indeed the responses of polls.   Most journalism now appears to be the product of jobsworth hacks churning out stuff for which they are paid but in which they have little intellectual stake or commitment. The exceptions,like Ian Bell, whose writing reveals a keen intellect, clearly stand by what they write. When Rev Stu highlights major inconsistencies in articles, the failure to make any serious moves to tidy up the sloppy journalism indicates just how little sense of journalistic integrity the average hack has. The recent series of “scandals” about waiting times in the NHS are still floating about, but Alex Neil’s challenge to Haley what’s her name, to show some integrity is ignored.

    There is little pressure on the media to change.  At present the Unionists benefit from the same unwillingness to change that benefits banks, utility companies and the like.  We don’t like change – if things work we put up with it – even though we don’t like the way we are treated.  Our insurance policy goes up each year, and we know we should shop around but the hassle is enormous and the process is designed to make it as difficult as possible.

    Until more of our citizens realise that change is possible and will make a significant difference, the Unionists can rumble on being negative, and the media will complacently echo that.

  6. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “I suppose that you could run an article headed:
    Support for Glasgow Herald at post-devolution low.”

    That’s a genius idea. I might have to do something with that.

  7. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    This poll is well out of date. There has been over the past two months a verysignificant sea changge in this debate which id not superficial but willtake some time to work through.

    As well as having no relationship with the actual question that is going to be asked this poll asks two questions which stripped down mean the same thing yet comes up with different answers to them

  8. muttley79 says:

    It does not really cover Lamont’s ‘Something for nothing’ speech, at least the impact of it, the first independence march (not that important compared to the others),  the welfare cuts, and the EU speech by Cameron.

  9. Castle Rock says:

    By and large people will not look into the detail of the findings that is why the ‘mainstream’ media are so good at manipulating the headlines to favour their own (unionist) political views.

    Apart from blogsnews outlets such as this we are still facing an upward struggle to get a fair and balanced message across.  I’ll leave the detailed analysis to you and others but even to me as a relative notice can see that some of the findings do not have a direct relevance to the YesNo referendum – it did provide a good negative headline though.

    DevoMax (or whatever you want to call it) has no real relevance to the referendum as such so the findings, while interesting, do not have a direct bearing on where the strength of the Yes and No vote lie.

    Some people who want to see more devolution may vote Yes while others will vote No hoping that the unionists will give them a wee bit more jam tomorrow.  We can only gauge the true strength of the Yes and No vote when surveys start to ask the question that will be on the referendum ballot paper and only then will we find out which way the ‘devolutionists’ vote will go.

    The unionists didn’t want a Devomax type question on the referendum ballot paper as its always been clear that they would use the prospect of further devolution as a bribe to vote No (Salmond called their bluff on this early on and this should be used against them).

    We are still in the very early days of the campaign but more pretendy devolution versus independence is where the battle will lie.  Once we get a proper survey of the question that will be on the ballot paper then, and only then, will we be able to gauge where the true strength of the Yes and No vote lie.

  10. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Why do they organise a poll with various questions, when THEY KNOW there will only be one? Why do they use the word “separate” when THEY KNOW it won’t be used?

    The former is to undermine the real support for Indepence and overestimate support for the status quo. Also an attempt to deceive voters into believing that a NO vote will result in further devolved tax powers.

    The latter is to scaremonger.        

  11. Geoff Huijer says:

    Robin Ross says:
    “There is little pressure on the media to change.”
    With Leveson left to hang like the Sword of Damocles over the media & newspaper readership/circulation figures dwindling towards obscurity one would have thought that there is enormous pressure for them to change i.e. report news, try balanced journalism but, alas, no; they seem to be on a kamakaze-style journey, biting the hand that feeds.
    I received an email warning (with legal threat not to share said warning) by the Herald for commenting that one of their articles was part of their ‘daily scaremongering’ policy and I was told  that amounted to ‘criticism of our organisation’s journalistic standards‘. That, I believe, they have no journalistic standards seemed lost on them.
    The press is free (to print what it likes), we are not free, however, to comment on their articles with the same freedom. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Rev’s site and others like it are attracting so much traffic.

  12. ayemachrihanish says:

    Amazing coincidence the SSA survey arrived just in time to help bury the UK’s suicide referendum moment. However, always the obliging Mr Curtis! Survey finding were collected between July and  Nov 2012. That would be 99.5 % between Friday 27th July – the Olympic opening ceremony &  Sunday August 12. the closing ceremony. To ensure academic rigour Mr Curtis made sure the other 0.5% of data was collected on the 30th November.

  13. pmcrek says:

    To expand Seasick Dave‘s anaology…

    Support for Glasgow Herald at post-devolution low.

    Support for the Glasgow Herald amongst Scottish electorate falls back to just 1.15% a recent List of Sales Figures reports.

    In a major blow to all newspapers in Scotland, a recent poll(1) has found that support for the Glasgow Herald amongst Scotlands registered voters(2) has slipped to just 47,226 people. This fall in support of around 10% since previous sales figures represents an all time low for the regional newspaper.
    The report indicated a further 5.5% of the electorate backed the Sunday Sport and 0.79% the Sunday Herald.
    The released sales figures revealed that the Glasgow Herald’s efforts to promote Scottish newspapers have failed to translate into support for the policy. Reaction to the survey was mixed.
    Internet troll pmcrek, said “We are making a strong and positive case for people in Scotland to ignore mainstream newspapers. “.
    The internets constitutional spokesman Seasick Dave said, “These figures reveal that the Glasgow Herald is financially unable to continue its seperatist agenda of opposition to union with the Sunday Post.”
    But the Glasgow Herald has said (3) a clear majority of our staff indicate that we should make most of the “important decisions” for the Glasgow Herald and not indeed the Sunday Post.


  14. Frances says:

    When the Leveson Enquiry was in full swing the Westminster polical parties published their who’s who of who had been at meetings with the press.  If you scroll down the link here you will see how busy Margaret Curran and  Jim Murphy were last year.
    I do sometimes wonder if Labour have paid each of these media outlets so that their ‘press releases’ take prominence.  It is strange that all of the Scottish press and broadcasting almost always run with the same story.  It is also the only reason I can think of as to why an ailing press are prepared to lose their readership – and profits – any other business would have changed course by now.

  15. Seasick Dave says:


    The internets constitutional spokesman Seasick Dave said…

    I have never felt SO important  🙂

    (See avatar for details). 

  16. Marcia says:

    Peter Murrell posted this on twitter about a newsletter his wife sent out:

    Peter Murrell?@PeterMurrell
    Cracking new digest of all things #indyref for @theSNP members, delivered direct from @NicolaSturgeon 

  17. Laura says:

    sorry again for o/t but this is a must for anyone who missed it last week

    Haven’t read the whole debate myself yet but the first part gives our ‘Scottish Secretary’ a bit of an ear bashing. 

  18. Kirriereoch says:

    O/T, sort of:

    Another “sore point” regarding the referendum campaign is firmly laid to rest.

    “MPs have voted in favour of a proposal to lower the voting age in all UK elections from 18 to 16.

    A backbench motion calling for the change was passed by the Commons by 119 to 46, a majority of 73.” 

  19. Christian Wright says:

    There would be less folks suffering indigestion if they simply accepted the reality that, with respect to indy and the SNP, the sole function of these media is to disseminate propaganda.

    Some may argue with that and cite articles or parts of articles that contradict such a sweeping critique.

    Yet, when we look at the output of the Herald or the Scotchman or the BBC Scotland News and weigh the aggregate, there can be little doubt but that it is heavily biased against indy and the SNP.  

    That they seem to manage unanimity most of the time in what the lead political story of the news cycle might be, would not be remarkable if the choices were generally plausible. However, when one sees all three of these  purveyors of truth choose a “study” of dubious relevance  and worth, over the story of the damage done to the NO campaign by Cameron’s speech, one wonders.

    Were this sort of occurrence rare, it could be considered an event evincing no coordination or conspiracy. But theses coincidences are not rare in Scottish media. Indeed, I’d go so far to say they are the norm.

    One of the most egregious examples of malfeasance was the invention of a Labour victory at the last local elections. This was a tour de force in the black art of fooling all of the people some of the time.

    It culminated in the infamous FMQ Great Labour Victory Dance, where the whole of their parliamentary contingent cheered and back-slapped for all they were worth as their leader rose to speak.

    The average low-information citizen ignoring most of all of this but inculcating some of it, got the impression that Labour had given the SNP one “helluva beating” when of course the opposite was true. In the end truth will out, the data are the data, and the reality finally prevailed. 

    But Labour and the press and broadcast media who serve them, had won the day, for the electorate did not get to hear the truth, because it was not loud enough nor sustained long enough for them to absorb it by osmosis. They were too busy living real life and attending to stuff that matters (a practice alien to most political anoraks).

    This propaganda victory for the “big lie” was only possible because the dark side in this struggle owns the megaphone. It’s the media, stupid.

  20. Derick says:

    pmcrek – have shamelessly stolen that for my fb timeline.  feel free to sue!

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