The world's most-read Scottish politics website

Wings Over Scotland

The partial truth

Posted on November 29, 2012 by

The Scottish media is winding itself up for another sustained assault on the Scottish Government. Kerry Gill of the Scottish Daily Express has been pushing the story hard since last night along with some journalists from other English papers, and the BBC’s Scotland correspondent James Cook set the scene in a tweet this morning:

Sure enough, the Scotsman carried it as a front-page lead below only the Leveson Inquiry report – while inflating the figure by over £31,000 for effect – and the Herald also carries a prominent piece, although at least only rounding the amount up by £1,420.

The reports reveal that 36 people spent around a week in the US, taking part in various business events in addition to attending the golf tournament, which the Scottish Government was contractually obliged to send a delegation to as part of the agreement to host it at Gleneagles in 2014, and which is predicted to be worth £100 million to the Scottish economy. But as the papers line up to hand the Holyrood opposition a club to hit the First Minister with over the spending, there’s a very significant part of the equation missing from the coverage.

Ordinary folk, such as ourselves, have no idea how much it costs to send government delegations abroad. Therefore, it’s impossible to tell whether the sum spent on the Ryder Cup was excessive or normal. To determine that, we’d need to be told who went on the trip, what their function was, whether they were really necessary to fulfil the delegation’s numerous commitments and how much money they spent in the hotel minibar. Ideally, we’d also be given some comparable figures for other administrations on similar trips, so that we could see whether this one was unusually expensive.

(Fun trivia fact: £560,000 in 2006 is equivalent to £655,200 in 2012.)

Yet none of these things are present in any of this morning’s stories, all written by full-time professional journalists who you’d imagine were being paid to dig out exactly that sort of information. Instead, both papers lazily present the fact in isolation, get a few rent-a-quotes to attack the Scottish Government’s supposed profligacy and hand it in to the news editor’s desk with a Post-It Note saying “Will this do?” stuck on top.

(In fairness to the Scotsman, it does make a half-arsed attempt at some sort of comparison, quoting cost figures for the Welsh Assembly relating to when Cardiff hosted the tournament in 2008, but they’re so vague as to be worthless. Their spending statistics claim to cover three Ryder Cups without telling us which three they were – you’d imagine the Welsh Assembly sending a delegation from Cardiff to another part of Cardiff wouldn’t cost much – and they don’t tell us who went to the US, how long for or what they did when they were there. Given that the Assembly has considerably fewer powers than the Scottish Parliament, it’s entirely possible that they weren’t nearly as involved in business events outside of the golf.)

This week we learned that sending David Miliband and just a single member of staff to Hong Kong for two days to give a lecture cost the company who hired him £14,975 in expenses alone, over and above his £20,000 fee for delivering a speech. By that measure, sending 36 Scottish Government ministers and staff to the US for five days should in fact have cost £673,875 – meaning that the actual cost of the trip would have represented an impressive saving of over £200,000.

Media bias rarely takes the form of anything so crude as outright lies. More often it deploys subtler forms like this – trumpeting outrageous-sounding figures completely bereft of context so that readers will be infuriated. Or at least, we HOPE it’s bias. Because the alternative explanation is that Scotland’s journalists are useless, workshy incompetents who simply can’t be bothered to do their jobs properly.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

29 to “The partial truth”

  1. James Doleman (@jamesdoleman)

    “David Miliband and just a single member of staff to Hong Kong for two days to give a lecture cost the company who hired him £14,975 in expenses alone”

    You do know air fares to Hong Kong are a lot higher than to USA?

    Would however be interesting to know if anyone on party flew first class don’t you think?


  2. DougtheDug

    “…we HOPE it’s bias. Because the alternative explanation is that Scotland’s journalists are useless, workshy incompetents who simply can’t be bothered to do their jobs properly.”
    Then again it could quite easily be both.

  3. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “Would however be interesting to know if anyone on party flew first class don’t you think?”

    I would be extremely disappointed if my country’s leader DIDN’T fly first class. Other countries’ leaders have their own private aircraft.

  4. Jim Campbell

    No context !
    No confirmation from any other source !
    No verifiable or factual back up !
    Financial figures used are incorrect !



  5. Macart

    Wonder how much it cost the ‘Pres’ to visit Asia a couple of weeks back? Airforce one, security, press on board, mobile Whitehouse basically. All that for a goodwill meet and greet. Our team goes out there to bring back a not insubstantial sum of business and instantly the UK and in particular our own press get stuck in. I’m sick to death of them, this will be the same press begging the NUJ to bite the SGs ear to save their sorry asses and their pensions. 

    Howzabout this, give the SG a reason to save your ever dwindling jobs. A fare shake on the front pages for positive or even well researched articles would do. 

  6. Bill C

    “…we HOPE it’s bias. Because the alternative explanation is that Scotland’s journalists are useless, workshy incompetents who simply can’t be bothered to do their jobs properly.”

    I would suggest another explanation Rev. The undermining of Scottish demcocracy. There is little doubt that many of Scotland’s journalists are unionists and therefore biased in favour of the union. However to report on a story like this without giving the full facts, the benefits and the cost of comparative trips, is much more than bias, it is cyncical manipulation of the facts to undermine a democratically elected government.
    This is not lazy journalisn nor unionist spin, it is deliberate, well planned and carefully structured mind manipulation.  We are increasingly being subjected to Pravda like reporting. 1984 is here in Scotland in 2012!

    p.s. NewsnetScotland have a good detailed article on this. Cost comparisons etc.   

  7. scottish_skier

    “trumpeting outrageous-sounding figures completely bereft of context so that readers will be infuriated”

    Thing is, it doesn’t work like that. Although I don’t mind those concerned thinking it does as that’s really quite helpful in a roundabout sort of way. Certainly done wonders for the SNP electorally anyway.

  8. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy)

    £83,165 for display stand, 
    £80,263.71 accommodation,
    £8,125.25 logistics,
    £202,600.14 for programme delivery (Still not sure what that is???) 
    £20,056 for marketing 
    £20,178.36 admin
    £54,192.36 flights.

    36 in the delegation, showcasing Scotland to the USA and the world total cost £468,580.

    A BARGAIN when you look at how many thousands of visitors and golf enthusiasts were exposed to a positive message about Scotland.

    For once I would like to see a positive headline in the MSM…

    “SNP invests another £500k in supporting Scottish Tourism!”

    Whats the chances?

  9. muttley79

    Is this the old quoting of a Scottish Labour Party statement and passing it of as fact by the Scottish media?

  10. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    The trip allegedly secured the creation of 140 new Scottish jobs, meaning if you attribute the entire cost of the trip solely to that they cost £3,347 each.

    The UK government’s Work Programme destroyed one job for every £4,600 it spent.

  11. Danny

    I know a Scottish journalist who holds his head in despair when he talks about the standard of journalism in Scotland. In his paper they would readily accept press releases from the Labour party as if they were copy and he said he would regularly make his staff read them over.
    It got so bad that a certain list MSP for the NE referred to himself as the political correspondent for Aberdeen journals. 

  12. Adrian B

    The Scottish Government has done a great deal in the way of bringing foreign investment into Scotland over the last few years. It has been good to see Government being so proactive in promoting Scotland as a business destination for inward investment as well as exporting sectors such as food and drink, which this year has had a record year. It is also worth remembering that they are managing to achieve some great returns for a very small outlay.

    Investing time and money may not bring immediate results on every trip – but that is not the proposal that the Government is looking to achieve. Instead they are making and maintaining links across the world in many sectors of business and industry that promote the advantages of Scotland out into the worlds business community. Th plan by the Scottish Government is not one for the short term – they are looking long term. Scotland has for too long been overlooked by the rest of the world for it’s goods and services. We need good long term growth across as many sectors as possible to be a prosperous nation.   

  13. Arbroath1320

    It would be interesting to see how much McConnell’s trip to NY cost when he was photographed in that ridiculous kilt Oops sorry folks no one at Labour HQ was available for comment.
    we HOPE it’s bias. Because the alternative explanation is that Scotland’s journalists are useless, workshy incompetents who simply can’t be bothered to do their jobs properly.

    In my view it is journalists who are biased AND workshy incompetence. There are only a very few journalists who this does not apply to, Iain McWhirter for one. I may not always agree with his articles but at least he is FAIR in his approach unlike the cockroaches that crawl about under the pseudonym of being a journalist.

  14. Marian

    A familiar pattern has emerged from the unionists.

    Having decided for the moment that their best hope for survival is to “cut off the head of the snake” in the shape of Alex Salmond, we are witnessing their weekly deployment via Labour Party Press releases in time for FMQ, any smear, bare-faced lie, and scare story, that the unionist bosses in London can dream up.

    The purpose of which is to allow the “leaders” to feign indignation on BBC TV FMQ’s programme which can grab headlines and be edited and misquoted to distort what actually happened when it is reported later on BBC Scottish News and newspapers.

    It also benefits unionists by deflecting attention away from what should be the real debate on Scotland’s future.

    This is classic stuff used by Westminster and their shadowy proxies any time the British state is under threat.

  15. Luigi

    I wonder how much, by comparison, does a typical Royal visit overseas cost, all justified by the establishment as “Good value for money” of course.

  16. Luigi

    Well, when you think of it, BBC reporters are also sent on jollies around the world at great expense, for dubious benefit. How much tax payers money has been spent by BBC Scotland sending their correspondence to cover recent events that were either covered by BBC UK or hardly relevant to Scottish issues, e.g. the U.S. presidential election?

  17. Luigi

    oops “their correspondents” typo!

  18. dadsarmy

    I didn’t read, just saw the headlines. But in fairness it’s journalists “duty” to hold government to account on our behalf.

    Of course the more full story is that this £470,000 investment in marketing, is expected to help a windfall of £100 million for the Ryder Cup. Incredibly good value for money.

    The fuller story is that perhaps if this helps raise £10 million in extra tax revenues one way or another, that’s even better value for money.

    The full story is that unfortunately Scotland is unlikely to see much if any of the tax revenue as that goes to Westminster. Businesses in Scotland will, hoever, benefit – and maybe be thrown a lifeline which will bring in Council Tax on rates, or help save losing them.

  19. Bill C

    @Marian – Spot on Marian. The tactics you describe are part of a  well orchestrated campaign of lies, smears and distortions designed to undermine the democratically elected Government of Scotland. If it was happenning anywhere else in the world, Cameron and Co. would be calling for sanctions, boycotts and the SAS to intervene! It would be farcical if it wasn’t so serious.

  20. Dal Riata

    The right-wing UK MSM working in collusion once again, eh.

    The ‘Scottish’ Daily Mail – suprise, surprise – is also all over this, with an intro on the front page, “Salmond’s £500, 000 golf trip” with the “full story” on page 12. ..And there we find Alan Roden “Scottish Political Editor”, whose job seems to consist of daily misinforming his readership and being ‘selective with the truth’ about Alex Salmond, the SNP, Scottish self-determination, etc., etc.

    Anyway, on page 12 is the main ‘article’, “£500, 000 for Salmond to be sitting pretty at the Ryder Cup”. (Of course the ridiculous headline is done deliberately to make it seem that the total expenditure was spent on one man, Alex Salmond) Following are some excerpts from the beginning of Roden’s ‘article’:
    “Alex Salmond and his entourage spent almost half-a-million pounds of taxpayer’s money …”
    “The First Minister was last night accused of having ‘no shame’ after racking up a huge bill …”
    “While in Chicago, the SNP leader stayed at the luxury Peninsula Hotel, which is popular with Hollywood stars …”
    “The true cost to taxpayers will be even higher, as Perth and Kinross  Council and Tayside Police also sent representatives to Chicago.”

    Then follows a list of the Union’s finest naysayers and their quotes:

    Robert Oxley – Tax Payers’ Alliance: “Alex Salmond has a history of wasting taxpayers’ money on lavish projects that deliver little or no value…largesse has no bounds..hard-pressed taxpayers picking up the tab..feeble excuses..jaw-dropping cost..jaunt..stark contrast to tough choices families are making back home.”

    Patricia Ferguson MSP – Labour: “…Alex Salmond..trip to watch golf..half-a-million pounds..eye-watering. On top of tens of thousands of pounds..trip Brave in California..Alex shame..time of severe cuts to public spending..thousands continue to lose their jobs..spending such sums..outrageous…”

    Jackson Carlaw – Scottish Conservative deputy leader: “…like most taxpayers..astonished..costs incurred bear more relation to a head of state with a travelling circus..It seems that Alex Salmond doesn’t do modest.”

    William Rennie – Scottish Lib Dems leader: “…money is tight ..spending half-a-million pounds..has to be can’t be right to spend this amount…”

    The ‘article’ then ends in the usual style, with all the rubbish previously stated being rebuked and contradicted by the SNP, in this case Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

    Yes, I know the Mail is at the top of the pile (of manure) when it comes to Unionist bile, propaganda, misinformation, FUD, smearing, etc, but this sort of tripe is becoming standard throughout the MSM.

    The ‘stories’ are becoming so similar in timing, content and style that it is becoming harder to dismiss the opinion that collusion is happening in a mass propaganda exercise against Scottish independence. It is becoming more difficult by the day to be able to distinguish between individual ‘members’ of the print press on this issue.

    If one is to read an article ‘blind’, that is, without the name of the newspaper or its online equivalent being known, or the name of the author of the piece, then it’s becoming nigh on impossible to differentiate between, say, the Guardian, the Independent or the Daily Mail so similar is their collective pro-Union anti- Scottish independence agenda!

    ‘Dear Mr. Leveson, can you now turn your attention to the propaganda that passes for news in the print and broadcast media in Scotland as well as in England? An enquiry would be appreciated. We await your report. Thanks!’

  21. McHaggis

    and as I tweeted to MacMahon this morning when he bleated that if the roles had been reversed the SNP would shout about the expense,

    its not about how much was spent, or which side spent it, but its the way the Scotsman reports it that is important.

    I got no reply from him.

    Front page news? Never in a million years, and even if it was, then surely any self-respecting Scot would have bigged it up for what it was – investment in Scotland, not money frittered away on duck ponds or non-existent shelving.

    The looked up the word ‘cringe’ in a dictionary and there were photos of MacMahon, Gardham, Barnes and the rest of the usual suspects. 

  22. Westie7

    Again: Spot on @Marian

    Every week FMQ format is reflective of the BBC Scotland news site from the Tue and Wed 

  23. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “If one is to read an article ‘blind’, that is, without the name of the newspaper or its online equivalent being known, or the name of the author of the piece, then it’s becoming nigh on impossible to differentiate”

    Very much so. I had to check carefully today to make sure the BBC, Herald and Scotsman pieces weren’t actually the same one, so similar were they.

  24. Training Day

    I’m worried by the amount of folk on here who seem to be suggesting that collusion takes place between the impartial and independent organs of the Scottish media.  Why, for that to happen, they’d all have to pick up a weekly Labour smear story prior to FMQs, secure in the knowledge that the BBC would echo the smear in the edit of FMQs that night, and secure in the knowledge that the story would be kept going into the weekend by seekers of truth like Tom Gordon and Paul Hutcheon.  Then the pattern would start over again the following week. 

    I, for one, refuse to countenance such a possibility.


  25. R Louis

    I am glad we have a First Minister for Scotland who uses our money to invest in one of our biggest industries, tourism.  To gain high profile positioning of Scottish tourism and Scottish expertise at such a prestigious event such as Ryder in the USA, is a quite magnificent achievement.  It would seem the entire Scottish print media are happy to rubbish their own country in order to defeat independence.  They seem to have NO grasp of just how much tourism money the Ryder will bring to Scotland.  Seriously wealthy people from the USA will come here, just because of that one golf tournament.  

    The ROI for the Scottish Government will be enormous, and it would be absolute folly if they did not promote it as much as they do.  The open is big but the Ryder cup is huge.  It’s just a pity the Scottish media cannot see the opportunity.

    This particular nonsense in the press today by the blatantly biased and wholly incompetent Scottish media, is nothing more than yet another part of what I now regard as a centrally co-ordinated, deliberate process to undermine the First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish Government.  It fits in exactly with the new BBC Scotland policy (since the rugby last year) of never allowing Alex Salmond to be seen in a ‘statesmanlike’ situation.  This is all about the British state undermining Scottish democracy.  It is quite, quite deliberate.

    o/t but related, the next time you hear some ignoramus from Labour saying the oil is worthless, you might want to quote them what  the English energy minister said today in Westminster;

    “It is in the UK’s interests that as much as possible of our demand for oil and gas is met from indigenous supply. This supports our energy security – UK oil and gas still provide around half of the UK’s primary energy needs and bring major economic benefits.  DECC therefore aims to maximise economic recovery of our indigenous hydrocarbon resources.

    The UK’s policies, including licensing, have ensured that exploitation of the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) has been a major success. Some 40 billion barrels of oil and gas have been produced so far – but as much as 20 billion more might still remain which could be produced. This year saw the announcement of the largest new gas development in the Southern Basin for a decade, proving that there is still plenty of potential.

    The oil and gas industry is the biggest sector of industrial investment in the UK.  It is estimated to support around 350,000 jobs directly and indirectly plus another 100,000 in exporting goods and services.  In 2011-12 direct tax receipts from oil and gas production were around £11 billion. Total investment committed or already in progress was £31 billion at the end of 2011.

    We are therefore continuing to work on maximising new investment and exploration. We launched a new offshore round this year in May, which received the highest number of applications (244) since licensing began in 1964, and have just announced a first tranche of awards of 167 new licences. The UKCS remains an attractive target for global investment.”

    [my bolding]

    Source :

    This was given as an oral statement in the hoc this morning.  Interestingly, Margaret Curran from Labour was sitting listening from the front opposition bench.  I assume she will from today,  stop telling Scots the oil is not worth anything, and Scotland can’t rely upon it.

    It becomes clearer every day, that Scotland would not just be ok with independence, but would probably do an awful lot better, free from undemocratic and corrupted London rule.

    p.s. when the energy minister in London, said ‘indigenous supply’, he meant Scotland. 

  26. Bill C

    @R Louis – I think oil is a game changer. I was talking to a young graduate the other night who was astonished to find out that there is more oil still under the sea than has been taken out. He was also horrified when I told him how much had went to London and how much would go there in the next 15 years if we don’t get independence. The young man works in the oil industry, but was completely ignorant of how much oil there is and how much it is worth. He has gone from being a ‘maybe’ to a definite YES voter.
    Time to resurrect the old hardy “It’s Scotland’s Oil”!

  27. Dal Riata

    @R Louis

    Still on the theme of today’s Daily mail: A big ‘scary’ ‘loose with the truth’ article entitled, “Warning over tax impact of falling North Sea income” by Michael Blackley is followed up in their Comment section with a comment entitled, “End of the oil boom”. The first paragraph is as follows:

    “An independent Scotland would be forced to implement huge cuts in public spending or raise taxes – as oil revenue is expected to shrink even more dramatically than originally forecast.”

    And the last paragraph:

    “Daily, the disturbing implications of independence are becoming  more numerous and more alarmingly evident.” 

    In between those breathtaking statements is the usual blah, blah, blah tripe.

    And finally. The rest of the smears and misinformation brought by the ‘Scottish’ Daily Mail on Thursday, November 30, 2012:

    “Ruling could put mentally ill killers back on the streets – SNP blamed for leaving loophole”

    “Salmond says no to full state controls on press” An example of the statements within: “Opponents say they would be ‘deeply uneasy’ about SNP ministers getting the power to appoint a figure that is expected to hold them to account.” 

    In an opinion piece, arch-conservative opinionist John MacLeod comes up with stuff like, “Mr Murphy [Jim Murphy, Labour] invoked the horrors of putative Scottish independence: ‘Why keep open two yards [shipbuilding] that could potentially be in a foreign country by 2016?”

    In an article entitled, “New housing helps to rebuild industry” possible good news for the SNP is countered by “But the Tory housing spokesman Alex Johnstone accused it [the SNP] of focusing on ‘completions’ figures in a bid to disguise how few new developments had been started. He said: ‘Why did it have to change the way it presented figures to disguise how few it had built?'” 

    And one more for the road: “SNP drink price hike ‘a danger’ to industry – European spirits firms warn of trade barrier backlash” 

    Quite something, huh! It’s amazing they find time to concoct stories about the NHS, immigrants, gays, wind turbines and all the rest of those on their list of hate figures.

    That’s the state of the print media in Scotland (and the rest of the-present-UK) in late 2012.

    Absolutely despicable. 

  28. Bill C

    @Dal Riata – Complete agreement.  As far as oil is concerned, I live in the North East and am witness to the massive building programme being undertaken by oil companies. Westhill (just outside Aberdeen) is like a klondyker gold camp, new offices springing up everwhere. There is no way that these multinationals would be spending millions on new offices if the oil was running dry. Oil is a game changer, the crap in the Mail is just that, sheer unadulterated lies!
    Whatever happens post Leveson, I really hope that something is done about the lies being spewed out on a daily basis by some media outlets in this country. The anti-independence propaganda is becoming a serious threat to our democracy.

  29. Macart

    @R Louis

    Well said RL. 

Comment - please read this page for comment rules. HTML tags like <i> and <b> are permitted. Use paragraph breaks in long comments. DO NOT SIGN YOUR COMMENTS, either with a name or a slogan. If your comment does not appear immediately, DO NOT REPOST IT. Ignore these rules and I WILL KILL YOU WITH HAMMERS.

↑ Top