2007 - 2021

Media Democracy in the #indyref



Pete Wishart tweeted this morning: “It now looks likely that none of the daily Scottish press will support Yes, Welcome to press diversity in Scotland. We have been let down.” We haven’t. They have been exposed.

Late to the party but bang on the money, George Monbiot writes: “Journalists in their gilded circles are woefully out of touch with popular sentiment and shamefully slur any desire for change” before discussing “How the media shafted the people of Scotland”.

Whilst some clung to the hope that The Sun would come out, I wasn’t amongst them. The Sun remains a reactionary misogynist rag.
The Guardian dipped low in it’s assessment, pitching for a No vote by arguing: “a coded anti-English prejudice can lurk near the surface of Alex Salmond’s pitch.”

Legally, that word ‘coded’ was important.

But there’s a paradox that often the best commentary and analysis has come from London and beyond.

As the #AllYes campaign group we held media conferences daily for three weeks, virtually no journalists turned up.

Channel 4’s Paul Mason was an honourable exception as were freelance journalists from Ireland, Finland, Japan and Russia. John Harris, George Monbiot, Suzanne Moore, Bonnie Greer, have provided quality analysis, playing the role that Alex Thomson and Roy Greenslade did in recent footballing issues.

We launched a magazine dedicated to women and independence. We ran a design competition for an iconic image for Yes with a prize money of £1000 and a print run of 10,000 copies. Nobody turned up. Each time we contacted over 60 Scottish-based journalists inviting them in advance. None of them came.

There’s nothing new about any of this. And it goes deeper than media ownership, limited resources, in-built bias or vested interests.

In 1935 Neil Gunn wrote “any effort on the part of any section – such as Ireland or Wales or Scotland – of the Celtic fringe to form itself into a nation is not merely opposed but bitterly resented as if it were not something in the nature of a betrayal of human progress.”

A bond of trust between large sections of the people and the media is broken. It goes back before Nick Robinson, Leveson to Hillsborough and beyond as people have begun to realise the deeply reactionary implications of the slow tabloidisation of society.

This issue of trust is important when considering important matters. So who do we look to when we don’t trust editorials or politicians or bankers any more?

Who would you trust? Janice Galloway or George Galloway? AL Kennedy or Charles Kennedy? George Robertson or James Robertson? We need to turn a negative into a postive.

The issue isn’t to distrust the media but to have trust in ourselves,not to disown corrupt institutions but to build better ones.


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  1. macart763 says:

    I’m not disappointed in our media. No, disappointed doesn’t begin to cover it.

    Anger, disgust, probably utter contempt.

    Yeah, that’s about right.

    Their conduct, their willing capitulation in an establishment narrative of denigration, misrepresentaion and lies and of course placing their own business patronage before the needs of the electorate, for all of these things and so much more, they deserve nothing less than our contempt.

  2. jacksloan2013 says:

    Great piece Mike. It will be the new media that wins this. Please keep going. We need you.

  3. gordonp2012 says:

    And a very well done to Bella for the stuff you have carried, and YES the media have been exposed. Down here in London there is also much catching up to do by many ‘on the left ‘ too as they still insist on seeing SNP as to the right of Tories — Salmond has his contradictions indeed, but old lefts and some younger just have not seen the whole point of a social movement.
    There’s an awful lot of ‘education’ needed now, especially in the south of England, so I hope Bella can look ahead to that too

  4. gordonp2012 says:

    Well done to Bella for the coverage, and YES media well exposed. Folk see through it. But not yet down here in London. Still much to do as old, and some younger left, stuck in their aversion to tartanism and can’t see the social movement that has taken place. Hope Bella can help later in some ‘education for the south’.

  5. George Gunn says:

    The mainstream media – the printed press amongst them – is dead. Bella lives. On we go. We’re going to get our country back.

  6. JimW says:

    I feel bereft. Last week I finally decided that I could take no more of The Herald. Although it continued a balance of sorts through its letters page, and it’s feature articles from the likes of Bell and McWhirter, the journalism clearly framed a unionist editorial policy. I have been a Herald reader for more than 50 years and now I have nothing. I didn’t need nor expect a bias in favour of independence. I would have settled for true balance. I will continue to read The Sunday Herald but there is now no Scottish daily newspaper that I could support.

    1. Morag says:

      I know how you feel. I made the break on my birthday in 2012, after around the same length of readership. I wrote to the editor to explain why I had done that. I never received an acknowledgement, never mind a reply.

  7. barakabe says:

    The corporate takeover of the UKplc has turned Britain into a rather nutty & narrow HQ for the reactionary bourgeois mind set- over 30 years of a Monetarist dictatorship has more or less crushed any democratic alternative, turned the electorate cynical & corrupted all our institutions with the unethical power of capital holding a gun to all our heads- this is our single greatest chance to hit back. British people have become political lazy & their democratic muscles have become flabby- with a new system we can begin to exercise the organs of citizenship by actively participating in the democratic processes that shape even a decent society. Lets not kid ourselves: the UK is severely damaged & highly resistant to democratic dynamism. Just look at the rabid reaction of the media & the myopic panic of the establishment, it’s all there to see. Anyone who doesn’t care that their fellow citizens are humiliatingly visiting food-banks to feed their children are nothing other than callous- I want people to get angry, to care, to passionately demonstrate disgust; I would find the opposite response sinister. And this is where we’re at in a UK when the Daily Mail/Telegraph dictate the tone of ‘debate’ & the abnormal becomes normalized; where passion & caring is offensive; where our cultural world is so sterilized & narrow that democracy has become dangerous. It’s no surprise that we should have reached this point in the UK when elitism & vested interest groups opinions are listened to more than the people ( even in a democratic process like the referendum) as Monetarism is fundamentally based on the elitism of who has capital & who hasn’t- if you don’t have it then you’re automatically excluded from the ideological system. It’s an extremist economic model ultimately from the mind of an elitist Austrian aristocrat, so its hardly a surprise its accelerated inequality on such a vast scale. Only one thing will begin to build an alternative to this inhumane system of prolific inequality generation- a YES vote.

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      The fact that there are food banks anywhere in this kingdom is possibly the biggest indictment (among many, it should be said) of the British system. I’ve seen photos of lines of people at soup kitchens in the US (and probably the UK too) during the Depression (brother, can you spare a dime?), and old black-and white photos showing people just barely existing in slums that are also just barely existing, but we don’t seem to have progressed socially, for all the scientific, technological and medical progress that has been made in recent decades. Yes, people should be extremely angry about these things. Yes, democracy has become dangerous. Let’s hope that the people of Scotland, tomorrow, show that democracy is exactly the opposite of dangerous.

  8. bjsalba says:

    Regardless of the result, I will not be looking at the Meeja for information in the near and possibly the long term future. I do not think I am alone.

    1. BM says:

      Corporate media sucks! Internet news sources are much better… recommend http://www.counterpunch.org/ and http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ and the links they offer

  9. Bella, you are the news, and thanks for the diversity, excellent work

  10. Brian Fleming says:


    I don’t know who the Finnish journalist was, but there’s been no sign of intelligent or informed comment in the Finnish press, Finnish-language or Swedish-language, just the occasional regurgitation of the UK press garbage, taken as fact.

  11. Fed up with the lies and propaganda of the London Media Industrial Complex says:

    Bird Brained Spectator ”journalist ” Isabel Hardman came out with a classic piece of double speak defending the entire media being pro Bwitish Unionist last night on Newsnight.

    ” The SNP likes to be the underdog so that they can play the victim.”

    Riiight !!! So if you follow that erroneous logic to it’s conclusion, I suppose the jews in Nazi Germany liked being vilified by Julius Streicher Der Sturmer newspaper then ?

    1. paulcarline says:

      There’s a much more recent example – Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinians deliberately put civilians, including their children, in the line of fire so that they can appear as the victims.

      Right now in Scotland it’s the Tories, Labour and LibDems who are the whingeing underdogs – because according to Cameron we are “going to break their hearts”. It’s not their hearts they are worried about – it’s their too cosy relationship with big finance and business and their collusion with the US goal of “full spectrum dominance”.

      Independent public media, closely monitored and bound to genuine impartiality – under pain of sanctions – must be a priority in the new Scotland. In Switzerland there is an unwritten rule that when there is a referendum the media must provide equal column inches for both sides of the issue.

      1. Dean Richardson says:

        It’s one thing for the media to provide equal amounts of coverage to the two sides of a referendum debate, but another to ensure that the coverage is honest, impartial and objective. Sadly, it’s beyond just about any media outlet in the Divided Kingdom to be any of those things.

  12. Iain says:

    I had no hope that a newspaper would declare its support in the final stages. The right time would have been a few months ago, like the Sunday Herald, when it could profit by making the case (as the SH did – sales plus 1%, compared to the rival SOS’s -19%). But of course its stablemate, the Herald, supports the Union, so the SH’s stance might well be viewed as marketing ploy.

    One of the significant consequences of this campaign is that not only has the London Government irretrieveably lost half of the population of Scotland, but the Scottish media has as well. STV may be due a caveat – I’m not sure of as I watch it less often, but there doesn’t seem to be the same level of complaint about it as BBC Scotland. The loss of our media may not matter for the provision of information amongst the politically active on the side of independence, as we have the internet, but as a presence in the daily life in Scotland and an influence on the more gullible, the Scottish media, in general, is now a malignant and perverse enemy of the truth.

    1. Fed up with the lies and propaganda of the London Media Industrial Complex says:

      ”the Scottish media, in general, is now a malignant and perverse enemy of the truth.”

      So not a fan of the Daily Retard then ? Love their poverty of aspirations, dumb down the masses with bread and circuses, football and celebrity gossip.

  13. habibbarri says:

    Is there a possibility of a publicly owned newspaper in the future? I don’t mean state owned, but community owned with board members voted on, say, at the same time as council elections? That way we could ensure balance and truth.

    1. Antoine Bisset says:

      There was an independentish paper in Scotland some years ago, the weekly Scottish Standard but it did not publicise itself enough, had problems with distribution and had no Page 3.

  14. tartanfever says:

    Atifete Jahjaga, the fourth (and first female) president of Kosovo said:

    ‘Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions.

    When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.’

  15. Sure Scot says:

    To all yes voters-
    How many job loses do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    How many home repossessions do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    Both will definitely happen to ordinary working class scots as a direct result of independence! 
    My answer to both questions is No.
    What is yours? 
    Think about it………VOTE NO!

    1. L Trotsky says:

      No is not a valid answer to either of your questions, you lunatic.

      1. Kim Stewart says:

        [email protected] L Trotsky! I was just thinking the same……

  16. Sure Scot says:

    No is the progressive vote that will bring more devolution.
    Independence and seperation is a huge unnecessary gamble with our future our children and our grandchildren’s futures!
    VOTE NO!

  17. Sure Scot says:

    To all yes voters-
    How many job loses do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    How many home repossessions do you think is acceptable to achieve your dream of independence? 
    Both will definitely happen to ordinary working class scots as a direct result of independence! 
    My answer to both questions is None!
    What is yours? 
    Think about it………VOTE NO!

  18. Ken MacColl says:

    I watched Bonnie Greer on SKY’s Press Review a few nights ago when she let fly on an extremely complacent and arrogant LBC spokesman James Mack? and an appallingly ignorant presenter, Mark Longhurst? on a discussion about Scottish independence. Both her male companions were discussing the possibility of a YES result with that amused but supposedly tolerant attitude that made it clear that neither thought there was anything remotely inappropriate with the supposition that the status quo was the only possible default position for SKY and other metropolitan media. Ms Greer pointed out, forcefully , that the metropolitan media, printed and broadcast, had wholly and consistently misread the situation in Scotland and appeared genuinely shocked at the massive climb in support for the YES cause. That, in itself, she argued proved without doubt how out of touch Westminster was with Scotland.
    Thank goodness that the views of Bonnie Greer have much more relevance to our Scottish situation than the trite and predictable tweetings of US president Obama. And to think that we once hoped that his was a vision for the future!

  19. Over the course of this campaign I’ve begun to realise a “free press” is really an 18th century conceit. The legal privileges afforded our Fourth Estate are predicated on their providing a voice to speak truth to power, and to bring journalistic rigour to democratic debate. The mainstream media of Scotland and the UK has failed this test so utterly, so profoundly it beggars belief. They are owned and operated by the very Power they exist to scrutinise.

    They are dead men walking; our age is techological and a genuinely free interactive social media will bury them. Bella and her friends are the future.

    Talk to me via Scottish PEN and let’s get some 21st century thinking into a free media in the New Scotland. Seriously, Mike, either way we need it.

    The Fourth Estate is dead. Long live the Fifth.

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