Media Notes Part 1: When Saturday Came

Make your mind up time


This is the first of three articles by Kevin Williamson looking at the increasingly fractious relationship between the Scottish media and an increasingly diverse Independence movement.

As the dust settles on the first of three annual marches for Scottish Independence it is worth pausing for a moment to taking stock of the significance of Saturday’s march and where the Indy movement is currently at. Saturday also provided us with an opportunity to deconstruct where Scotland’s national media are positioning themselves pre-2014.

An event like Saturday’s wasn’t about mobilising the full weight of the Independence movement and organising it to descend on Edinburgh.  There will be a time and place for that as the 2014 referendum draws closer. Nor can it be simply filed away as yet another protest march for yet anther cause. For one thing nobody was there to protest about anything!  This was an embracing of possibilities, preparation for a new beginning.  In terms of campaigning Saturday’s march was one of a number of opening gambits put in place to lay strong foundations for the Yes campaign to build on.

In what was a finely measured speech, with plenty of fire in its belly, Alex Salmond announced on Saturday that 100,000 people have signed the Yes Declaration that was launched at Cineworld in May.  Tens of thousands have now signed up to become active Yes campaigners in their local communities.  The goal of having a million signatories by 2014 has a solid base to build upon.  Not bad for a referendum still two years away.

Saturday brought many Independistas together for the first time, forging new connections, making useful contacts, as well as boosting confidence and morale.  Yet the significance of the march completely bypassed the mainstream media.  Some journalists clumsily tried to compare it with past protests, or the recent 1.5m strong protest against Spanish rule in Catalonia. Scottish journalists to a man (few women get full-time jobs in political journalism here) sought to play down the numbers in case it made the Yes campaign look bold, strong, confident and organised.  Which it is.

What none of the mainstream media bothered to do was compare like for like. As someone who helped organise the last two marches for Independence under the banner of Independence First a comparison is useful. Neither of the IF marches in 2006 and 2007 got more than 600 people on them.  If we go back to Oct 2004 little over 1000 people gathered on Calton Hill to attend a rally for a Scottish republic.  For a comparable march for constitutional change you’d have to go back to 1992 when around 10-15,000 people gathered for a Scotland United demo.  This included home rulers, devolutionists and nationalists.

It would be fair and accurate to say that Saturday’s march was the biggest march for Independence in a generation. It was at least ten time bigger than any similar event held in the last 20 years.  The organisers claims of 9,500 are born out by photographs.  Counters positioned at Forrest Road clicked a total of 11,900 marchers.  10-12,000 is a reasonable ballpark figure.

Lothian and Borders Police gave an estimate of 5,000.  They always do this to marches: half the number and then subtract a few more. It may not always be politically motivated disinformation though, since, after discussions with the organisers, L&B only provided enough officers to cover a demonstration of around 5,000. Their official (wildly inaccurate) estimate covers their backs, so to speak.

The same excuse cannot be said for our friends in the mainstream media.  The BBC, for instance, understand that anything it publishes on its website will be taken as verbatim and reproduced without question on news reports internationally.  So as far as the rest of the world is concerned only 5,000 people marched for Independence. The BBC know fine well they are publishing politically-loaded disinformation but sadly this is the path BBC news reporting has travelled for many years now.

The Sunday Herald tries to position itself as the least politically-loaded “heavyweight” newspaper in Scotland.  This isn’t difficult, it has to be said, given the competition, but its a claim that rings hollow on days like Saturday.  The two reporters assigned to cover the Indy march were Tom Gordon assisted by Paul Hutcheon.  The report that appeared in the Sunday Herald the next day, written by Gordon was sub-tabloid stuff and all the more embarrassing for it:  THOUSANDS MARCH FOR YES VOTE IN REFERENDUM

The sheer size and exuberance of the march must have rattled Tom Gordon.  He could hardly contain his displeasure and his report combined tangential drivel with palpable dishonesty.  Gordon prattled on about a lower than expected turnout (it was much higher), unconnected marches of the past, violent scuffles (2 or 3 racist EDL provocateurs appeared at one point), and splits in the Yes campaign.  And that was just the first few paragraphs!  But to be fair to him he did include disparaging remarks from other Unionist worthies as well as his own.  Gordon’s curmudgeonly inaccurate Tweets (above) do make you wonder about the quality of the other candidates when he got the job of Political Editor.

Tabloid journalism is hardly worth discussing.  It is what it is.  It is more useful shining a light on the jounralistic practices of the mainstream liberal media such as BBC, Herald/Sunday Herald and Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday.  These organisation try to position themselves as intellectual heavyweights, opinion-formers and fair-minded souls. The beauty of social media is that it exposes the sneering, deep-rooted prejudices and downright snidyness of certain journalists.

As can be seen from the Tweets above, the Sunday Herald’s “Investigations” supremo Paul Hutcheon excelled his senior colleague when it came to a handbag-swinging bitchfest.  The problem with Hutcheon’s sheer unashamed dishonesty – regarding the numbers present – is that when a reporter goes down the road of disinformation, then stubbornly refuses to correct it when contrary evidence is overwhelming, it raises a question mark over the validity, truth and integrity of their other reports and investigations.  It is ABC journalism that a reporter is there to report facts not distort them to suit a political agenda.  Maybe the Sunday Herald’s political team should go back to journalist school for a refresher course.

Scotland on Sunday despatched the Unionist dream team of Eddie Barnes and Tom Peterkin to cover the march.  Then took fright at the size of the event and relegated it to two inches near the bottom of page 1.  This was supposedly to make way for what Deputy Editor Kenny Farquharson described as “the best scoop of the year.”  He was referring to one of those nauseating “news” articles where a grieving parent is persuaded to spill their guts for the infotainment of readers.  Vile stuff.  Even more so when they seek to justify the crass exploitation of private grief in terms of a “respectful approach”.

The Scotland on Sunday almost made complete fools of themselves.  The previous week SoS reporter Tom Peterkin ran a story about a flag-burning incident involving the SRSM.  A few hours after the march the same reporter phoned me.  He had been assigned to place another flag-burning story alongside coverage of the Indy march.  The incident occurred at Glencoe in 2006.  Peterkin’s angle was that since I had spoken at the SRSM event and photographed the flag-burning for a blog therefore myself and by association the Scottish Independence Convention (his words) were harbouring “extremists” in favour of burning Union Jacks.

The SRSM I know well.  Like myself they were members of the SSP from 1999-2006.  Colin Fox, Rosie Kane, Tommy Sheridan, myself and many other prominent SSP members spoke at commemorative events organised by the SRSM during that period.  After Sheridan’s destructive 2006 court case battle against the News of the World we all went our separate ways. Most of us have embraced democracy as the only way forward for progressive politics.  Others may still cling to Marxist dreams of a workers revolution.  Each to their own.

During the Iraq War, when the Union Jack was seen as a toxic symbol of illegal war, murder, torture and oil theft, it is certainly true that a few “Butcher’s Aprons” were set alight in protest at UK involvement in the Middle East.  After 2007, and the election of an SNP government, such symbolic protests were quite rightly dumped in favour of building a democratic majority for Independence. This is a very different time we live in.  A time for thinking and discussing, for utilising the democratic opportunity that presents itself in 2014, not a time for tokenism or self-indulgent displays of aggressive patriotism.

As someone who has never burnt a flag in my life, nor ever intend to, I felt this sneaky attempt at a decontextualised tabloid-style smear was a bit of a low blow. So, in retaliation, through social media, I made it known what the SoS were up to and published Peterkin’s work phone number online.  A bit drastic perhaps but maybe some folk wanted to let the media know directly what they thought of Saturday’s event. The SoS must have realised their snidy attempt to detract from the success of the march was going too far and either spiked the story or held it back for another day.

When the original SRSM flag-burning story appeared I dismissed it as just a piece of nonsense to try and undermine the march, wrongly equating the Independence movement with extremism. Upon further reflection, I’m not so sure. The SoS smear story against the SRSM, and the paper’s latest attempt to run with this angle, may have let the cat out of the bag about a new propaganda tactic that Scotsman publications (clearly briefed by Labour Party HQ) intend to use over the next two years against the Independence movement.  It’s a tactic that is worth taking a closer look at.


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  1. David McCann says:

    Excellent commentary Kevin. Thank goodness I was well away from the union flag on Saturday, as I would have been sorely tempted to put a match to it!

  2. william wallace says:

    The march is for independence of the heart / not that
    of political independence from ENGLAND / such a act
    of political independence of ENGLAND from EUROPE
    is but “ALICE in WONDERLAND” ” The LAND OF OZ”.

    No such thing as political independence exists it but a
    illusion / and such illusion is what keeps ALEX and the
    other same minded in power saying SANTA is a reality
    SANTA is not a reality / it is a bit of merriment for kids
    as a reason in people gathering to praise the Almighty.

    Real FREEDOM is ones Spiritual Freedom. How is such
    to be attained ?. It to be attained in turning ones senses
    inward via meditation / in a unfolding of the spiritual self.

    Throughout history there be spiritual teachers / amongst
    all the “Teacher of Teachers” the “Teacher of Teachers”
    teaches one to turn via meditation their senses inward in
    the unfolding of the spiritual self / such a experience that
    granting one a clarity of understanding / where one goes
    beyond / ideas / beliefs to that of one knowing the creator.

    Presently “Teacher of Teachers” is Prem Rawat / on PC
    seach put (words of peace) or (words of peace global) on
    site a selection of videos / which Prem explains meditation
    as a open invitation to whom wish learning understanding
    more of spiritual development via practical experience xxx.

  3. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    The big lie about Saturday’s turnout following the big and infantile lie from IDS last week present us with a massive opportunity.
    If we establish to the people of Scotland that they are being routinely lied to and taken for fools their reaction will be very telling indeed.
    The two instances I have recorded are demonstrably dishonest and lies in every respect.
    We should use them widely

    1. william wallace says:

      Dave / everybody is being lied to as taken for fools
      such the way of the world. The union oF ENGLAND
      SCOTLAND as WALES / having but given the other
      the greater strength to survive / via the ages of time.

      The history of IRELAND but sad in many ways
      twas a threat to BRITAIN not from the people’s
      of IRELAND but from those whom would use it
      as a base to invade BRITAIN thus measures
      taken to prevent such happening // which be
      unfortunate bringing a great unwanted anger
      from people of IRELAND ( its understandable).

      More modern times it be once more IRELAND
      can in time be a independent nation (( much
      as a nation can be independent. )) Via times
      of change one must adapt to change or it be
      one be inflicted by great injustice destruction.

      Present times the USA goes into decline via
      its own self brought destruction / in massive
      political corruption / having abandoned both
      international as domestic law /then in having
      committed appalling international crimes / in
      leaving millions dead / with appalling crimes
      committed against many nations as people’s.

      The worlds political situation at present is
      dire in nature / a nuclear conflict but very
      possible / in such uncertain unbalanced
      times. People be capable of great wrong
      the USA attempted world military political
      domination /in the process it has brought
      the nation to bankruptcy as moral decline
      in the many wrongs / in having committed
      they could have looked at history seeing
      the result of other nations in the seeking
      of such worldwide power / understanding
      such a folly only brought their destruction
      (however) blinded by greed for power the
      greed of wealth ( fool’s go marching on).

      I did write in a earlier comment ( you’ll find
      above) toward finding real peace as joy in
      one’s life /in understanding livings ultimate
      goal being of knowing the true spiritual self.

  4. lauraannham says:

    The Scottish newspapers are quite embarrassing. Old fashioned, parochial, dull etc. I wish I’d been in Edinburgh so I could have seen the march and how many people were actually there. But, the press in Scotland are always sucking up to England, so sychophantic and like to look down on Scots, despite being Scottish themselves.

    1. william wallace says:

      lauraannham / there times in life one just best

      in remaining silent (countining to ten) at times
      one best remain silent (counting to a hundred)
      at times it best remain silent where one count
      in millions.)) One individual approached Jesus
      on such matter saying ” how many times must
      I forgive my brother” ?. The reply t’was “seven
      times seventy”. Such t’was the spiritual wisdom
      of Jesus. Yet being if he was aroused to anger
      which happened on occasion. Then it be there
      was no stone for one to hide under / nor cave
      to shelter in / throughout the universe from his
      his anger. Fortunatley such occasions be rare.

      1. lauraannham says:

        If everyone commented in poetic verse
        Then everyone would be less adverse
        To being a troll and checking their spelling
        But would it make it more interesting?
        Alas I don’t know but I wish
        People wouldn’t bring Jesus into this.

  5. Doug Daniel says:

    Great piece, Kev. I wrote something last night provoked by the same fools masquerading as journalists, but you’ve done a far more in-depth assessment of the problems.

    (Needless to say, I’ll link to my blog anyway:

    You have to wonder if dolts like Gordon and Hutcheson realise we can read their every word on Twitter, and then put their articles in context as a result. Or perhaps they’re actually taunting us, saying “hahahaha, we know all you pro-indy politicos are reading our every negative word on Twitter, but the folk who just buy our papers don’t have a clue what we’re saying behind the scenes and think they’re reading balanced articles. Hahahaha!”

    Looking forward to reading part 2.

  6. Morag Eyrie says:

    Glad to see someone has pulled together the main issues around media coverage of the march and rally, in a cogent, well-written manner. I like to have good quality links to send to people, because when I try to explain it, I just go all spluttery and ragey. Apparently that’s not very convincing.

  7. Morag says:

    Police allowed the gated enclosure at the Ross bandstand to fill to at least double its legal capacity of 3,000 standing. Probably because they didn’t expect nearly so many people, and so weren’t monitoring the numbers going in. They certainly weren’t making any attempt to count at the time I entered. Only much later did they actively start directing newly-arrived marchers to the gardens above and to the side.

    Look at the photos. If the gated arena was holding its statutory 3,000, then there were only about 5,000 there altogether. Which we know to be nonsense because the people actually counting confirm there were nearly double that. Those who are familiar with the way the Ross arena is managed for known sell-out events confirm that there were at least twice the allowed number in there. And another 4,000 or so above and to the side.

    If the police had confirmed the real numbers, they would have been opening themselves to serious trouble for allowing that stuation to develop. In the week after the Hillsborough report. Dearie me.

    Caveat. I was in the gated area myself, and didn’t feel I was in any actual danger.

  8. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    All the evidence required is here
    If you have a spare 50 minutes you coulds count the whole procession

    1. Morag says:

      Not having a spare 50 minutes – has anyone actually counted it?

  9. That’s not the whole procession Dave. I spotted myself in the first minute and I started marching at least ten minutes after the main march headed off.

  10. Morag says:

    I confirm that. I’m there at 42 seconds, and I didn’t see the front reach the gardens. Several groups preceded me down the stairs to the gardens. Police were counting groups of 200 down the steps for safety reasons. Stewards who kept count of the number of these groups also confirm around 900 marchers in total.

    1. Morag says:

      Er, 9000, of course!

  11. The more they refuse to tell the truth the more rods for their own backs,they are being caught out and time will tell on them.Everybody in Scotland will see them for what they are as word of mouth is and
    always has been the best form of advertising.

  12. Les Wilson says:

    The march and the meet, were brilliant. Good atmosphere, all ages inc some kids in prams with Saltires attached. Al in all good stirring speeches, and I left feeling lifted by it all. Here is to the next BIGGER one, and the daddy in 2014!

  13. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    There were of course a considerable number of people in the ampitheatre who didn’t take part in the march so would put the crowd at l in excess of 11,000 and photographs would confirm that. I think we should go the whole way and expose the lie widely basically because it is very easy to establish firmly and it is very significant if we can convince the people they are routinely being lied to by the media and unionist politicians

    1. Morag says:

      If that’s the case, and I think it’s close at least, then a simple glance at the photo taken from the Castle Rock of the entire area shows the majority of that number fo be inside the Ross bandstand gated enclosure. Pictures taken at ground level there show quite a crush at the front. If the total number was north of 10,000, and about two thirds were inside the arena, safety regs weren’t so much breached as chopped up and thrown on the bonfire.

      I doubt if the police will revise their estimate of numbers, no matter how much evidence anyone shows them.

  14. Ken MacColl says:

    This is a good and fair account of the march on Saturday. AS an old hand in the marching business I cxan confrim that the police regularly and consistently play down the attendances at such events and the Scottish (sic) media can be absolutely relied upon to misreport and distort the proceedings.

    I have simply given up on buying “news”papers, along with most Scots and suggest that it will be no great loss when once illustrious titles as The Herald and The Scotsman go to the wall. I also find that trying to register complaints about the performance of the lamentable BBC Scotland to be a wholly pointless exercise where you are diverted to a terminally bored fellow somewhere in Northern Ireland who listens politely and then, presumably dumps the complaint as there is never any response.All that expense of license payers money at that brand new building on Clydeside and they have nobody to answer the phone. And they are in the communications business?

    1. william wallace says:

      Ken / the tv licence fee is a total fraud the BBC are
      a private company as being SKY TV or CABLE TV….
      The govt allow such fraud as in return govts of the
      day use the BBC as a platform in spinning out their
      political spin of the day / usually supporting a USA.

      The BBC tv licence is totally fraudulant / BBC use
      threats of fines or imprisonment thus use fear upon
      people in gaining their fraud / fraud that amounts to
      billions of pounds / yearly this dire fraud continuing.

      I gave up watching the BBC many moons ago / the
      political programmes as news programmes were to
      say the least ( appalling ) BBC staff interveiw BBC
      staff / or interview friends in the newspaper world…
      all spinning out the same nonsense / all being paid
      by the public to spin out utter nonsense. It gets to
      a stage you know the questions as answers before
      they even start to speak its simply a appalling farce.

      Other programmes by the BBC but look to the past
      Queen ELIZ the first a BBC favourite / they having
      wasted millions on such nonsense / ever looking to
      the past / never unto the future /with the BBC there
      being no future / just their endless lies deceit fraud.

      The original concept of a broadcasting licence was
      in paying the cost of receiving tv channels thus the
      maintenence as cost of equipment that allowed one
      receiving such tv channels that being broadcasted.

      T’was never the intent that people should fund the
      BBC as an private company / as be forced funding
      tv channels which they never watch or ever wanted.

      The BBC simply a appalling fraud. A tv licence fee
      which like their programmes / being but total fraud.

  15. If anything it does confirm that next years march needs to have an independent team of verified counters. The proof will be in how L&B respond next year in numbers of plod present.

    1. Soixante-neuf says:

      At the beginning of the rally, probably using a pre-prepared speech, the organiser spoke of plans to hold another rally next year, in the same venue, but anticipating a larger turnout. He then spoke of 2014, saying that the Ross wouldn’t be sufficient and a different venue would have to be used. I will be extremely surprised if we’re back in the Ross next year, given what happened. I don’t see where they could possibly put a significantly larger crowd than Saturday.

    2. william wallace says:

      dialmformurdo / people on such march are highly
      deluded unto which be that of the material reality.

      The union has brought great benefits to all thus
      lets not throw baby & respect out with bathwater.

      WIlliam Wallace as a person of scottish as British
      history fought against injustice not against people
      of ENGLAND / a united ENGLAND as SCOTLAND
      would have got his full support / Britain in being a
      small island / in it’s defence all needed be united.

      An independent SCOTLAND is laughable / with
      a independent SCOTLAND they would but turn
      on each other having lost a common opposition.

      I wrote a earlier comment (see above) as to the
      real need people have / that of one’s true need
      of spiritual development / and how one achieve
      such a need // which in reality be a simple task.

      By all means people can march for that which
      they believe in / yet one also must face reality.

      1. Dave McEwan Hill says:

        The reality being some people inhabit cloud cuckoo land and are detemined that the rest of us should join them in it.

      2. William, thank you for your comment. Would I be correct in presuming that English is not your first language?

  16. william wallace says:

    Dave / that t’was funny you’ve a good
    sense of humour. Some advice)( best
    not to seek that of punishment /rather
    give your attention focus on the cure.

  17. Clydebuilt says:

    Scotland On Sunday: page 15 Drumlanrig column the march is described as “sparsely attended”

  18. Clydebuilt says:

    Reporting Of March Part 2 Daily Express Mon 24th page 4 photo of forlorn / bored young girl entitled “Salmonds Great Flop” with caption “This child was one of the Scots who did not snub the rally”

    1. Ken MacColl says:

      They lie.
      Once that essential is recognised it becomes easy to treat them with the contempt that Andrew Mitchell reserves for others.

  19. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Exactly, Ken. We have the opportunity now to establish that they lie and we will have many from now on.

    If Jock Smith and Jessie in the street understand they are being treated as fools the vengeance they wreak upon the liars will be swift and savage

    1. bellacaledonia says:


  20. william wallace says:

    dialmformurdo / Please excuse the delay to your question.

    No I’m not English / though I did and having spent times in
    ENGLAND..In such times never hearing ANY disrespect to
    scottish people. Indeed I found english people in having a
    deep sense of understanding compassionate & respectful.

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