I expect journalists to be objective, but not neutral. I expect news reporting to be factual, and not to spin the facts, but I do not expect balance, e.g. if there are ten facts that day for one side of an argument and five for another, I don’t expect the journalist to trawl for another five facts to achieve ‘balance’.
I expect a sharp distinction to be made between news reporting and commentary. I never expect neutrality, only objectivity. I expect individual journalists to have a viewpoint and an interpretation of events. I accept that entire newspapers and magazines have a viewpoint, a position, and editors that identify with that position, providing they observe good journalistic practice in relation to factual reporting and veracity.
I deeply distrust newspapers and periodicals where the viewpoint is that of the owners, rather than the journalist.
I am not, and never have been a journalist, and I have never worked for a newspaper or magazine in any capacity, nor in media. I believe strongly in a free press and media, especially in print journalism and public service broadcasting.
KENNY FARQUARSON’S MYTHS
In the context that Kenny uses the word myth, the definition is a widely held but false notion. Norman Mailer called mythical facts factoids - something everybody know is true except it ain’t.
Today he sets out to demolish what he see as six myths about the SNP and the referendum. To some degree, he has set up straw men to knock down by stating a myth that either never existed, or exists only in the minds of a few unionist commentators. Let’s deal with Kenny’s myths briefly -
1. Holyrood’s voting system was designed to stop the SNP getting a majority
Kenny says it wasn’t - it was designed to stop Labour getting a majority. He describes his myth as “a cornerstone of the SNP’s persecution complex”. The SNP don’t have a persecution complex, Kenny, but they could be forgiven if they had, given the history of the party, and the role of successive UK Governments and Scottish Secretaries, as revealed under the 30 year rule so cogently by Diomhair and other analyses, not to mention the hysterical campaign of abuse and flagrant misrepresentation directed at them since may 2007.
The d’Hondt system of proportional voting was set up to stop any party having an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, and in that objective, all Westminster parties were as one. As unionist parties, they last thing they wanted was any devolved administration having any real power over the levers of government in Scotland, including their own regional parties.
Since the Labour Party and Tony Blair were the key drivers of devolution, and since the only threat to London Labour’s dominance in Scotland was the SNP, there can be little doubt as to their prime motivation - the voting system was designed to keep the SNP out of power for ever.
The stunned shock of Labour when, in 2007 the Scottish people cautiously gave the SNP a chance to show what they could do, albeit in a minority government, was such that for some months Labour could not adjust to the fact that they were no longer in government - Jack McConnell was like a headless chicken for some time.
2. A devo-max option would put Alex Salmond “in a win-win situation” in the referendum.
3, Devo max requires a second question in the referendum
I’m not sure who Kenny is quoting here on win-win, but it must be either a unionist politician’s quote or an ill-informed metropolitan commentator - the SNP have never driven the so-called devo max option. They have recognised, since the previous consultation document and in the new one, that as far as polls are an indicator, there seems to be a substantial body of the Scottish electorate who do not want independence but want radically increased powers for Scotland within the UK.
We now have Civic Scotland and Henry McLeish saying that such an option must be on the ballot paper, and since the SNP is a democratic party and recognises a responsibility to the entire people of Scotland, not just those who elected them, they are prepared to respond to that wish.
Such democratic concepts are, I know, deeply alien to UK politicians, since they preside over a power structure that is only partly democratic, given the existence of the House of Lords and the visceral commitment - recently strengthened by a viciously fought referendum campaign that served only politicians - to a first-past-the-post system of government for Westminster.
The position of the SNP Government, of Alex Salmond, of his ministers, is that they want one question, they want independence, but will recognise the people’s apparent wish for another option. My own position is that I do not want devo max - I consider it a trap, and an option which, if selected by the electorate, would not be delivered by Westminster. Far from thinking it would offer Alex Salmond a win-win, I think it would represent a failure of the highest aspirations of those who want independence. Nonetheless, I think it must be offered if the people want it as an option. The other strand of opinion that I see in the SNP is of direct opposition to devo max being offered.
Kenny’s myth no. 3 solution - don’t have a second question, just let the Scotland Act and devolution evolution do the trick reflects the unionist trap. Not only will we not get more powers, we risk a clawback of exisitng powers caused by an English reaction against independence ambitions.
So, yes, it is a myth, Kenny - a unionist politicians’ myth, and a myth propounded by ill-informed media commentators, not by the SNP.
4. Debate on more powers for Holyrood should be left until after the independence referendum
Kenny sees this as a Labour and LibDem myth, and I agree with him on that perception. If they maintain it, they betray their own supporters in Scotland. In my more ignoble moment - and I have many - I secretly hope they do maintain it. But then the democrat in my psyche pops up again …
5. Alex Salmond is a godlike political figure with superhuman powers who can do no wrong.
If Kenny had presented this as a unionist and media myth solely, I might have agreed with him. The idea that - other than few starry-eyed, hero-worshipping groupies on the fringe - that anyone in the SNP believes in this myth is risible, as my private email correspondence demonstrates daily.
But what SNP supporters believe, what the vast majority of the Scottish electorate believe, what a rapidly increasing number of international commentators believe is that the Scottish people in this point in their history are fortunate to have a consummate politician and a visionary statesman who eclipses any other British or European political leader, yet a man who’s the goud for a’ that, and just one of Jock Tamson’s bairns - fallible, and above all a real Scot. Gaun yersel, Alex!
6. The SNP speaks for Scotland
This is no myth - it is a fact. It is also a fact that all the other parties, as well as the SNP, claim to speak for Scotland, and it’s their job to say that, otherwise, what the hell are they for?
But what is uniquely true is that the SNP speaks only for Scotland - all the other parties, by their own repeated proclamations, have at best a wider loyalty and at worst a deeply divided - and divisive - loyalty to the United Kingdom.
The Scottish Government speaks for Scotland, and they were elected by a massive majority to do just that.
Kenny’s last sentence is contemptible, not worthy of him, so I won’t repeat it here. It is regrettably typical of much unionist comment, and it’s why they’re losing the argument.