Writing Off Scotland

WRITING OFF SCOTLAND explores the research of Dr David Patrick into press bias during the independence campaign. A Phantom Power Production.

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  1. proves what a lot of us feel

  2. Very good come out now and tell it how it is! pah,useless and not worth giving you any credit for being fair.This sort of stuff should have been publicised well before the vote.

  3. Forbes says:

    The BBC seem to be people on the planet who can’t see the ridiculous level of bias they employed during the referendum.
    Please use this link to add your name to a petition that will force a Public Inquiry
    into their actions.
    Circa 85,000 people have already signed up to our target of 100,000 signatures.

  4. oldbattle says:

    From Mediawatch dog in the Gaurdian comments page

    Right everyone, here’s theGurdian’s daily balanced/impartial coverage about Scotland’s referendum? Papers can pick and chose news, print them for us to read and use it as source of information and there’s no harm to say what we think of them. Thank you very much for reading.
    Coverage for No side of campaign
    -The SNP have become Scotland’s Pollyannas
    -All eyes on Rupert Murdoch over the Sun’s Scottish independence stance
    -Banks say: we’ll leave Scotland if the independence vote is a yes
    -BP urges Scotland to vote against independence
    -Carney: massive shortfall in currency reserves for independent Scotland
    -Poll boost for Scottish no campaign as party leaders make plea to voters
    -Scottish independence would be disastrous for all UK, warns John Major
    -Scottish independence could create mortgage drought
    -Would Scottish independence unleash a British art identity crisis?
    -Scottish independence ‘Yes’ vote could affect bid to host Euro 2020 games
    -John Major is right on independence: there’s much to fear from a yes vote
    -How Salmond came top in Scotland’s competitive fear-mongering
    -Alex Salmond accused of hypocrisy by former Scottish Tory leader
    -Steve Bell’s If … on Alex Salmond and his old pal Rupert Murdoch
    -Rupert Murdoch hints at support for Scottish independence
    -Scottish independence: David Cameron in impassioned plea for Scotland to stay
    -Cameron: referendum is not just a chance to ‘give the effing Tories a kick’
    -David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg unite to urge Scots to vote no
    -Scottish independence: David Cameron would be ‘heartbroken if family of nations’ breaks up –
    -Scottish independence: ‘from the head, from the heart, from the soul – vote no’, says Miliband –
    -Orange Order plans ‘loud, proud’ pro-union parade in Edinburgh
    -Scottish independence: Party leaders take high road to Scotland to avert yes vote
    -Scottish referendum: UK parties fast-track new tax and welfare powers
    -Could an independent Scotland keep the BBC?
    No campaigners say an independent Scotland could lose BBC programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing
    -Salmond frames independence fight as ‘Team Scotland v Team Westminster’
    -Why class trumps nationality in the Scottish independence debate
    I have more in common with the normal people of England than I do with the wealthy people of Scotland – that’s why I’m voting no
    -Scottish Labour activists told ‘nothing as important as stopping UK breakup’
    -How independent should Scottish writing be?
    Not surprisingly, many authors have been writing about the referendum, but this political approach to their work has problematic implications

    Coverage for Yes campaign
    -Scottish independence: PM’s visit is ‘last gasp of desperation’, says Alex Salmond – video
    -Scottish independence: no campaign has fallen apart, says Alex Salmond – video
    -Scottish independence: no campaign has fallen apart, says Alex Salmond – video
    Impartial (if you call it)
    -Scottish referendum: Mumsnet hosts final showdown before vote
    -Scotland’s referendum is Britain’s reinvention
    Whatever happens, we all share these islands – the independence vote will force us to write a new story
    -How would an independent Scotland compare to other nations?
    -A week on the Scottish referendum campaign trail – in pictures
    -If Scotland votes for independence: the key questions answered
    -Scotland independence referendum: what’s the mood around Scotland?
    -Scottish independence: which businesses are in the yes or no camp?
    -The Scottish independence debate has given politicians what they say they
    want – engagement
    -A yes vote in Scotland will bring big change to UK civil service
    -Close adviser to Ed Miliband calls for creation of an English Labour party
    -Scotland v England friendly debate: football will overshadow politics
    -Steve Bell on the Scottish independence referendum – cartoon
    I think coverage speaks for itself. Highlighted section shows negativity attached to the campaign on both sides.
    Proportion: ————For No campaign: ———–Yes campaign:———- Impartial
    ———————————-30————— ——————- 3 ————————–12——–
    Remember, this referendum is also a test for our media and institutes impartiality and long term aftereffects on perceptions of people of Scotland and rUK….
    If the G was 30-3 what about the others???

  5. CW says:

    ‘The respective leaders of Better Together and Yes Scotland were Alistair Darling and Nicola Sturgeon.’ I thought Darling’s equivalent in Yes Scotland was Dennis Canavan?

    1. alharron says:

      Yes, he was. That’s one of the many infuriating things about the campaign, both the lack of respect afforded to Dennis Canavan as chairman of Yes Scotland, and the inflation of Alistair Darling to the level of “equivalent to First Minister”

  6. Patrick Hogg says:

    Excellent stuff David. Truth is always what the establishment says it is. Simple. And their biggest lie is always the lie that they are objective. E H Carr in his definitive wee book What is History warned students of history to listen for the ‘buzzing’; the bias of every writer. You, openly and with transparency laid out your own innate biases at the start, subjected them to rigorous scrutiny and moved from a No voter to a Yes voter. With our money the British establishment has always churned out their objective truths about the world in such a typical grandiose style of pretending the BBC (Colonial news to me) were the world leaders: they always are if they have an HQ in the City of London – which we all know is the greatest city in the world with the greatest mayor in the world. This greatest of world cities took the greatest amount of NSO revenue to build the M25, upgrade the north and south circular road and build the channel tunnel and extend the greatest tube in the world, ALL AT THE EXPENSE OF SCOTLAND’s oil bonanza. Bloated, ultra-fat cats of disgraceful GREED who take from Scotland what ought rightly to be OURS and then patronise US as the subsidy junkies while they bleed Scotland dry like a gang of thieves and robbers, who, under the reign of Queen Maggy, socially engineered poverty and unemployment for one simple policy objective: drive down wages to help boost profits of companies on the Stock exchange. And to boot, the Ideologues of the New Right got to smash trade unions and the communities they lived in AND THE HUMAN PEOPLE of the COMMUNITIES, all to get revenge on Mr Teeth (Heath) being taken down (their view) by the Union of Mine Workers. The Tory establishment are people who smile and kiss a baby with one hand AND DROP BOMBS AND MURDER WITH THE OTHER HAND. A brainwashed idiot in one of the referendum debates said he would be voting No because Alex Salmond was not a gentleman, but David (Two Faces) Cameron was a real ‘gentleman’. Such gentlemen start wars and slaughter millions for their own ambition and represent greedy corporations. It is the 1% vrs the rest of us. The biggest danger to the British establishment today is not ISIS, but real participative democracy in the shape of the Yes Movement. Without Scotland’s NSO revenue pouring like liquid gold into the Treasury coffers, rUK would sink into economic decline. Our impoverishment is their fattened cow.

  7. Optimist Till I Die says:

    When John Mclellan, director of the Scottish Newspaper Society, in the Evening News on the 26th September, commented on Dr Patrick’s research he was pleased to conclude that Scottish newspapers presented a balance of opinion regarding the referendum, refuting the claims Yes campaigners that the mainstream media was collectively acting as an arm of the No campaign.

    McLellan cited the results of Dr. Patrick’s six months survey of eight Scottish daily newspapers between October 2013 and April 2014 in which Dr. Patrick concluded that the Mail, Express and Telegraph heavily favoured No but that, where editorials were concerned, The Scotsman was the most balanced, with eight pro-Union, six pro-independence and 39 showing no bias.

    Furthermore, regarding comment and analysis articles, McLellan noted that the Daily Record (33-19) and The Herald (65 to 46) produced more pro-independence than pro-Union pieces and thus concluded that the big Scottish dailies did not set out to deliberately skew the issues and a proper analysis of their content showed that attempts to be even-handed were more than just token.

    As director of the Scottish Newspaper Society, he would be expected to defend the press’s corner and this is evident in his statement that ‘my overall impression is that the indigenous Scottish press acquitted itself very well and made every effort to ensure as wide a range of views as possible were made available throughout. Now there is objective academic evidence which appears to back that up.’

    I would emphasise the word ‘appears’ in the previous line as McLellan is being somewhat selective in the elements of Dr. Patrick’s analysis that he chose to comment on, particularly when he focuses only on the indigenous press. For example, he ignored the analysis of newspaper headlines. Of these, 61.8% showed no obvious bias towards either side. Those which did display some form of bias showed that for every headline which framed Scottish independence positively, there were more than four articles which were against independence. When the main body of the text was analysed in depth, around half were neutral in their coverage, with the remaining half showing evidence of clear bias weighted 3-to-1 in favour of a pro-Union position.

    Although there were major differences between titles in the framing of front page articles only 6% of headlines could be interpreted as pro-Independence, in comparison with 47.1% which framed the debate in favour of a pro-Union position. Whilst an almost identical proportion (46.8%) of headlines showed no obvious bias towards either side, it remains the case that an individual walking past a newsstand in the period analysed would have been presented with a pro-Union headline almost half the time.
    Dr. Patrick’s own conclusion was in fact markedly different from that of John McLellan i.e. ‘whilst a fair degree of press focus showed no sign of ideological (constitutional) bias, those articles which did frame the debate in terms favourable to either position showed a clear proportional weighting to the pro-Union side. With the exception of The Sun, this was more apparent in those titles whose main readership is in the rest of the UK, with some showing a level of bias (particularly in editorial and comment pieces) that arguably amounted to a campaign.’

    I would expect Dr. Patrick’s case to be even stronger once he analyses the final six months period prior to the referendum. His full analysis for the first six month period can be found using the following two links:



    As a one time researcher and social psychology lecturer (now retired) I would concur with everything David stated, though my own experience of the Scottish media was limited to a number of newspapers during the final month of the referendum campaign and irregular viewing of the on-line editions of some papers. The on-line version of The Scotsman was, however, viewed daily and it was notable that news items or videos that were pro-independence or relevant to a sound understanding of key issues e.g. pensions, disappeared quickly from view but pro-union or anti-independence items often remained for days whilst old ‘pro union news’ occasionally came to the fore in ‘picks of the day’. My ideal example was a composite article bringing together a host of well know individuals who had articulated a preference for the UK to remain united over an extended period of time.

    Additionally, I noted that the link from the main on-line edition to material culled from other sources of relevance to the referendum seemed to me to be designed to subtly influence undecided viewers. It was the type of image that would fall within the layperson’s rather ‘sloppy’ definition of subliminal advertising i.e. it conveyed information that was not noticed consciously.

    The link intrigued me as it comprised images of two Scottie dogs – one black, one white, with the images superimposed on greyed out versions of the Saltire and Union flag respectively. The white dog seemed more attractive and less aggressive than the black dog, with the white dog associated with the pro-union side of the link and the black dog the independence side. I therefore decided to carry out a small, but not particularly well controlled study. I asked 28 people who had never seen the link (and did not read The Scotsman) to judge the link image by asking them to rate the dogs on their likeableness, aggressiveness, curiousity, attractiveness, and which dog they preferred overall.

    I expected the white/union dog to be liked the most (as did an experienced member of staff at a local canine charity shop who stated that people seeking to adopt a dog often ignore black dogs). This, in fact, was the case by a ratio of 2:1 with ‘pro union preferences’ stated to all the questions except curiousity – where there was no noticeable difference acknowledged (as might be expected – how can one judge curiousity in a dog simply from its image?).

    The size of the link for most of the period it was in use was not much larger than a large postage stamp but for the final few days before the 18th it increased markedly in size to approximately half the size of my laptop screen. For much of this latter period it was accompanied by a pop up link relating to the Edinburgh Festival (or Festival Fringe?) that, rather serendipitously, had the wording No Thanks as the spot to click if one wished to remove the link. This may have been no more than an unhappy coincidence but given the bias I believe existed in the construction of headlines and presentation of articles seems to me intentional. I am therefore looking forward to publication of Dr. Patrick’s analysis of the Scottish newspapers for the final six months preceding September 18th.

  8. Barbara McKenzie says:

    Has anyone else read this article in Hold The Front Page ?

    Will the press influence Scottish referendum outcome?
    by Nick Hudson Published 18 Sep 2014.

    According to Nick Hudson:

    ‘When headlines were analysed for evidence of pro-union or pro-independence framing, the study [by Dr David Patrick of the University of the Free State in South Africa] showed that while nearly two-thirds showed no obvious bias towards either side. [sic]

    However, those headlines which did display some form of bias put Scottish independence in a positive light.’

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