Standing Up For The Union

Who to believe? Usually the answer is the voice that fits your own case. We’re all human. So I expect the Herald to stay loyal to the Union and I expect its political editor to let his copy drift in that direction – after opening up enough perspective to give respect to the other side.


Today’s woeful Believe Better Together rant by Magnus Gardham is so absurdly one-eyed you wonder if he he’s just arrived in Scotland and missed the opening 39 months of campaign.

Because two – according to Magnus, impartial voices – have been raised this week, it proves that Yes, in responding to them is deliberately misleading the public. Read that again. Yes is misleading the public.

Thinking back over all you’ve heard from the No campaign from ‘Scotland does not exist’, ‘Scotland will not be able to defend itself’, ‘ Scottish independence will please the forces of darkness’, ‘Scotland will be invaded by jihadists’, ‘Scotland can’t look after the oil’, to ‘Scotland is subsidised by England money’, did the message from the Unionist campaign strike you as credible or has it been hysterical, alarmist, surreal, juvenile, insulting and even counter effective?

Whatever your doubts about Alex Salmond’s legal advice on Europe, do you still think Scotland won’t get in? Voice after voice now acknowledges what I and other were saying three years ago – that our membership will continue. The timing and conditions are open to negotiation. (Even Labour’s David Martin now says this).


When the facts are laid out, is it just bluster to say the UK will seek currency union? Many serious voices say that is so including a Cabinet minister known to the Guardian.

Will Scotland really be richer (Choose your amount) or will we each be up to £3000 a year poorer as Alistair Carmichael claims? Call it a score draw if you like.

Is it remotely accurate to write that only one side is misleading and that is Yes? Even by the standards of propaganda, I find that unbelievable. A journalist is paid to find the words to make a case which doesn’t leave him looking stupid or embarrass his paper. He fails that test today.

Ian Wood is not berated for contradicting his own government-sponsored report but treated as an impartial voice when he was actually coming out for NO. You’d have to be a naive rookie or a BT stooge swallowing a briefing not to see that. Magnus missed it.

Then the health professional Anna Gregor berated colleagues who worried about Scotland’s NHS being adversely affect or even privatised by changes in England. To Magnus she too is a highly respected figure. But not Phillipa Whitford? He suggests Gregor was forced reluctantly – like highly respected Sir Ian – to come forward to tell the truth amid the lies. Isn’t that exactly what Whitford did – came forward to speak out because she believes there IS a threat? Not according to one-eyed Magnus. He’s clear – only one side tells the truth and it ain’t Yes. It’s categoric. Magnus writes like a man squarely in the pocket of one side who doesn’t have the professional capacity to be nuanced about it. Bought. Lock. Stock. and Barrel.

There is a withering trope in Yes circles about Magnus, something about an English regional reporter over-promoted and out of his depth in a world not run by Labour any more. The counter objective in that scenario is to prove the doubters wrong and to be seen trying to do so. For me this partisan pile of piffle proves the doubters right. I would have more respect if the Herald told him to write from the heart and admit his – and the paper’s – preference. I suppose intellectual honesty and professional probity are too much to expect from today’s Herald.

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43 thoughts on “Standing Up For The Union

  1. Some eloquent words and a semblance of restraint as always.
    I’d have been much less polite.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. As for Sir Ian Wood being reluctant to speak out – fair takes the breath away. He’s never exactly been a shrinking violet.

  3. Duncan Mitchell

    I stopped buying the Herald a long time ago so I haven’t read this contribution. I prefer your balanced comments every time. Incidentally I’ve just received a fine for driving in Nelson Mandella Place which is now a bus gate apparently. This must have been in the MSM but not in your blog ( but it is now?) The council fined 10000 drivers in the first 16 days of this restriction…easy money.
    Keep up the good work Derek.

    • I have been subjecting myself to a six days a week dose of masochism by not cancelling my Herald subscription, even though I have been reading Magnus Gardham’s political reporting through gritted teeth for many months. If he was one of the Herald’s political commentators, his one-sided reporting would be acceptable, but he is Political Editor and therefore should be reporting fact, not opinion. Your article has finally helped me to decide to cancel my subscription.

      • Eileen Black

        Please consider carefully before cancelling. The Herald is one of an endangered species. Their print edition does less than 40th copies and most must surely be taken by institutional subscribers. The Herald and The Scotsman are in real danger of vanishing altogether. My last projection, when I could get figures, suggested five years from now these two may become extinct outside of the ether.

  4. Magnus writes like a man squarely in the pocket of one side who doesn’t have the professional capacity to be nuanced about it. Bought. Lock. Stock. and Barrel.

    That is because he is, and Gardham is not the only one. See Alan Cochrane, Severin Carroll, Torquil Crichton, Tom Peterkin, Andrew Marr, James Naughtie, Nick Robinson, and others. These characters make no pretence at any political balance and objectivity.

  5. The Scots Prayer

    Our Media,
    Which art in Fleet Street,
    Hollow be thy names.
    Thy spindom come.
    Thy will be done on BBC
    As it is in Westminster.
    Give Scots this day their daily dread,
    And forgive us their threats
    As we forgive the afraid.
    But lead us into two nations,
    And deliver us from Eton.
    For ours is a kingdom
    To flower, without Tories
    Scotland, Forever.
    Ah ken.

  6. The Herald is now a depressingly poor excuse for a National newspaper, so biased that the articles are not worth reading. Hope they’re paying the price in circulation terms. New media have left these guys in their wake. Keep up the good fight, Derek.

  7. William Stirling

    Over a period of time I have noticed I have left comments which are pro independence on Gardham’s column …..these were of course not published. So much for democracy. Not sure how he can look himself in the mirror.

  8. dennis mclaughlin

    these characters should be strung up in George Square for crimes against the TRUTH

    That is because he is, and Gardham is not the only one. See Alan Cochrane, Severin Carroll, Torquil Crichton, Tom Peterkin, Andrew Marr, James Naughtie, Nick Robinson, and others. These characters make no pretence at any political balance and objectivity.

  9. We appear to be of one mind on this. Here is my comment – which The Herald has not published.


    When historians write their accounts of Scotland’s referendum campaign, Magnus Gardham will surely loom large in the section dealing with the role played by the mainstream media. If these histories are honest and accurate, he will not be flattered by what he reads.

    This piece encapsulates the fatally blinkered prejudice of the British nationalist propagandist trying to pass themselves off as an informed and impartial commentator. For a start, there is the obsession with Alex Salmond. It has suited the anti-independence campaign to cast the referendum as being all about Alex Salmond for the simple reason that it is easier to attack even a relatively popular politician than it is to attack a worthy aspiration such as independence.

    That was the knowing part of it. But for some British nationalists – particularly those of the British Labour in Scotland variety – it really is all about Alex Salmond and the SNP. Because, for them, it is all about the status of their party. They are driven, not by any constitutional or economic considerations, but by a bitter, tribal, intellect-crippling resentment at having been demoted by the electorate and by a lustful craving to turn the clock of Scottish politics back to a time when they enjoyed the hegemony that they regard as theirs by right.

    Perhaps even more than an obsession with Alex Salmond, however, the British nationalist ideologue is marked by an apparent inability to question the anti-independence campaign. An inability which is even more marked among journalists whose professional responsibility it is to question absolutely everything. What we see from Magnus Gardham and his ilk is anybody who speaks out against independence being treated as if their credentials are impeccable and their impartiality beyond question, while voices favouring a Yes vote – however distinguished and well-qualified – are rubbished or ignored.

    Here, for example, we find Sir Ian Wood portrayed as an eminently trustworthy and dispassionate academic. It doesn’t even occur to Magnus Gardham to question the fact that Sir Ian is explicitly siding with the No camp, and contradicting his own earlier figures on oil reserves in the process.

    And while Dr Anna Gregor is lauded as a “respected professional without political affiliations” there is no critical examination of her arguments and not so much as a mention of other highly respected professionals, such as Dr Phillipa Whitford, whose voice warning about the threat to Scotland’s NHS is at least as authoritative as those openly opposing independence.

    Throughout the referendum campaign it has only ever been the Yes case which has been scrutinised by the mainstream media. There has been no matching scrutiny of the No campaign. The default position taken by the likes of Magnus Gardham is that anything the anti-independence campaign says is factual and valid, while everything the pro-independence campaign says is questionable. All analysis of the case for independence has been based on the assumptions of the No campaigned. And there has been almost no critical analysis of those assumptions.

    It is undeniable that this bias has distorted the referendum campaign. If the press has a duty to inform, then it has been abominably derelict in this duty. If it doesn’t, then what the hell use is it?

    • Brilliant retort to the Gardham article Peter. No surprise that it wasn’t published and for me that is the most despicable aspect of the medias role in the Independence campaign.

    • Peter, great retort to the Gardham article, as is Derek’s.

      I seem to remember a comment broadcast this week on BBC Scotland? (radio/TV can’t remember), along the lines that: the media does not have to question the status quo. Only the proposer of change to the status quo should come under scrutiny. Or words to that effect.

      Do you think this is a defence they will use in any post mortem after indy?

      • The argument that is is only those who propose change who must make a case is pretty weak at the best of times. Where there are two choices, as in a referendum, then the electorate are entitled to be as fully informed as possible about both options.

        But, weak as this argument is, it falls apart completely when the supposed defenders of the status quo state that there is no status quo. The anti-independence campaign, having started off saying that a No vote was a vote for no change, changed their minds and decided that they would present a No vote as a vote for some kind of change. But they then refused to provide any information about the change that they are proposing.

        What makes this situation totally ludicrous, however, is the almost complete failure of the mainstream media to demand information about what a No vote really means. The unionists have been let off the hook. Even now, on matters such as the future of Scotland’s NHS, the No camp aren’t being asked to explain the implications of a No vote. Instead, as we see in the Magnus Gardham article, the media are simply echoing the unionists’ increasingly shrill denials of what the consequences will be.

        • Agreed Peter.

          With a fairer media all aspects of the indyref would be scrutinised until it’s pips squeaked. Instead it’s “yes” that is undermined with the Gardham article and quotes from Ed Balls.

          It is poor and pathetic lazy reporting. As you and Derek say, they are really cutting and pasting from BT/NT press releases. Thank goodness for the digital/citizen journals.

  10. A really good piece. And Gardham deserves all the opprobrium. You write…”You’d have to be a naive rookie or a BT stooge swallowing a briefing not to see that.” Gardham is definitely a BT stooge, and although not a rookie he is still massively naive.

  11. William Stirling. You should not expect a tool of Westminster to print, publish or report anything that may upset the countenance of their masters.
    It is just not cricket.

  12. ‘Churnalist’ I think is the phrase the kids are using these days…

    An irrelevance, and soon to be even more so after the 19th. Have the Herald even thought about what happens after the Yes vote ?

    In one single day their digital presence will disappear because none of us will even visit their website to argue with their rubbish. For we will be looking forward, building a new country, talking about a new constitution. In one glorious 24 hour time frame, the Herald will have made itself a complete irrelevance.

    We will continue our online journey, with Derek, with Newsnet, with Bella, with the Rev Stu. We will still admire Women for Indy, which will become Women in a new Scotland (or hopefully something far more catchy), the RIC will be even more relevant as will Business for Scotland.

    I often think we underestimate what we have done to the media. We have changed the landscape. The old order will be out, and the new will remain. No matter your age, we are the internet generation. There is no good reason for us to return to some hackneyed old format of mass media, we have a new vibrant landscape of independent journalists that ask true questions of leaders and politicians. I want to keep that.

    So before I even think about a news Scottish Broadcast Service, the question I think we should be discussing is how do we help all our guys, like Derek, to continue a public presence. I’d give money to our guys before giving it to anyone else as a licence fee.

  13. The media in general is beyond trust or help. Their coverage of the entire campaign to date has been entirely one sided. So much for the fourth estate in a western democracy. In the beginning I fully expected the YES campaign and the Scottish government to come under heavy scrutiny as is right and proper. I also fully expected, somewhat naively and stupidly, that the same rigorous scrutiny would be applied to the other campaign. After three years of relentless, one sided, bombardment there can be no other logical conclusion than that the media is completely and hopelessly biased in favour of the status quo.

    Its not an accident, its not oversight and its not rocket science. You could name each title’s Westminster patronage and loyalty by party affiliation. Self interest is the name of the game, influence and market share. They’re quite happy with the way things are and sod the public interest. They are quite comfortable directing and influencing both the public and those in the corridors of power. People suffering gross poverty and starving in their own streets? Who cares so long as they get to write tomorrow’s news today? They make names and they break names, a change in management might just take all that away. Worse, the management might just be the punter in the street and God knows where that would lead? They might demand ethics and standards, codes of conduct with teeth and we can’t have that.

    No, our meeja is perfectly happy with the status quo and they’ll happily roll over for any line fed them by the establishment to keep it that way. I trust your average daily commentator about as far as I could chuck a JCB where this campaign is concerned and Mr Gardham less than that.

  14. Thank you Derek for stating so effectively the concerns and the contempt that so many of us now feel about what used to be regarded as the last bastion of honest reporting in the Scottish daily press.
    It is many years since The Scotsman reverted to the North Briton and descended to the levels of our tabloids but we always held out some hope for The Herald. Sure it was ever a rigid supporter of the Establishment and susceptible to pressure from our George Square equivalent of Tammany Hall but it used at one time to report news in a relatively balanced fashion and to confine its rigid unionist views to its separate editorials. Sadly no longer is this the case and, apart from the occasional off message contributions from Ian MacWhirter and Ian Bell the paper is driven by a relentless UKOK agenda led by Magnus Gardham.
    As a reader locked into an ill-judged Digital contract I scan this mince without enthusiasm and await the day -closing fast -when I will no longer read a newspaper.

    • I too gave up the Herald some time ago, especially because of the “writing” of Gardham. I will not even click on links to their site now. Do what Wings does, archive any significant article and provide a link to it. Don’t give them the traffic, even for another few weeks. 🙂

  15. Don’t forget Crawford and Boyle’s Westminster – initiated legal opinion that Scotland was ” extinguished ” in 1707. Given the source I’m sure it would get Magnus’ mojo working.

  16. Those of us who used to buy daily newspapers no longer do so. Why would we, when the standard of journalism is so dire? The Record and Sun readers will continue to chomp over the Sports pages, or whatever else they find to “read” in there, but good luck to them with that.
    So sad, when you consider the very high quality of the Scottish press and broadcasting which used to have an international reputation for quality of opinion and reportage throughout the world.

  17. I stopped buying the herald due to gardhams drivel. It is utter pish.

  18. Bugger (the Panda)

    The Herald is a goner, thanks to Gardham and pals.

  19. Bugger (the Panda)

    I posted earlier using my smartphone and the two posts have disappeared.

  20. Bugger (the Panda)

    After the Snp won their majority Government the opposition was so woefully bad that elements od the MSM decided, or were askedto, become the actual opposition. This was a position they enjoyed and here we have state of the MSM today.

    Gardham and his ilk are just scribbling whores on a job rate. The love it. Power withour responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.

  21. What more can be said about the MSM? We need a new model. I gave up newspapers and TV years ago and gave up Radio this year (with one or two honourable exceptions which I won’t mention)
    Could a new digital media be developed with an alternative subscription to the licence fee? Whatever the result of the referendum, the old media is dead.

  22. I still buy the Herald, I chose which parts I read. Ian bell and sometimes Macwhirter plus the letters page are still worth a read. So I don’t read Gardham’s column, or his articles , I monitor/ keep an eye on what he get’s up to. Which is no different from whatever Better Together’s itenary for the day is. .

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

  23. smiling vulture

    MSM paper headlines for morning of Sept 18th are probably already written,walofs

    hope were laughing louder Sept 19th

  24. I pay for an on-line subscription to the Herald. This article is no-where to be seen on it’s front page and using the link above there are quite a lot of ‘qui bono?’ type questions being asked in the btl comments.

    People have pointed out that the Wood Group has taken a share in a fracking company. Given that Westminster has taken back powers over that subject and the Scottish Government has said that they are unhappy about that it is not difficult to question Sir Ian Woods’ credibility. This may be unfair, perhaps he is only interested in what is best for Scotland but that may be coloured, shall we say, by what is best for Sir Ian Wood. A deregulated fracking industry with licenses granted on grounds of national energy securiy might well appeal to someone who part-owns a fracking company.

    • The fact that Westminster have taken back powers deserves far greater publicity and scrutiny. We should be SCREAMING this. We are missing a trick here.

      Isn’t that unconstitutional? Doesn’t it contravene the Scotland Act?

      The fact that Westminster can unilaterally alter our powers should be shouted out loud and clear.

      • “The fact that Westminster can unilaterally alter our powers should be shouted out loud and clear.”

        Do you still expect the Scottish Parliament to reconvene after a NO vote?

  25. The media is hopelessly captured by the no campaign, creating a sense of collusion that makes a mockery of both it and party politics in the UK. Their only achievement of note is to make the Union a hostile place for Scotland, be it a yes or no vote. Either way Scotland loses, either way the Union dies.

    They’ve made “British” synonymous with mendacity. Self inflicted journalistic and political suicide. They are locked in to making the same mistakes that the Tories did back in 78. Only its the “Unionist” parties that will own this debacle…not just the conservatives. Because post no, come the day of the general election, this happy truce will end and they have so much ammunition on each other, they will tear themselves to pieces.

    Anyone who thinks things will just go back to the way it was before “business as usual” – seriously need to extract their heads out of their backsides, and yes I am looking at you Scottish Labour.

  26. After Culloden the Highlands were laid waste by Government troops. Jacobites were killed and caught without trial or mercy. Houses were looted and burned. No difference to the Governement soldiers what side you might have supported, if you were in the wrong place, you were at risk. Thereafter the lairds cleared their lands of people.
    Wind on a few years to Scotland after September 2014 having returned a NO vote. The punishment will begin. There will be fiscal realignment. That is, the Barnett Formula will be thrown out of the window.
    We will face real cuts in every area of public life. Westminster will flex its muscles and we will become even more disposable, a throwaway bargaining counter at the EU table, a few cards in the hand of Westminster negotiators in Brussels. Boy,will the Unionist have some fun!

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