So another smear bites the dust. Newspapers lined up to accuse Nicola Sturgeon of planning to cut Scotland’s share of funding that pays for the Royal Household. Her Majesty would be denied £2million from her Scottish subjects.
The story was ridiculously back-to-front of course. The Queen isn’t exactly short of a bob or two and a cut of a couple of million would at least have allowed her to ‘look her subjects in the face’, just as her mother did when Buckingham Palace caught a German bomb during World War II. But the story was carefully manipulated by our ever reliable pro-Union media and another smear was born.
We know now of course that the claim was baseless crud. It was made up. An attempt by the Palace to torpedo the devolution of the Crown Estate perhaps? Whatever the reality, the media saw another chance to try to undermine Nicola Sturgeon, and boy how the hyenas feasted.
Readers will recall that during the general election campaign the First Minister was the victim of a bogus memo which was released under the orders of former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael. Carmichael is now facing court action after initially denying any knowledge of the leak. The claims contained in the memo were already being headlined by newspapers and broadcast by the BBC despite being denied by the First Minister.
Palacegate was a carbon-copy of memogate, with journalists apparently running with the tripe without having asked Nicola Sturgeon to respond. One journalist, Channel 4’s Cathy Newman, refused to correct erroneous claims in an article despite being told directly by the First Minister that her account contained factual inaccuracies.
Newman’s piece was published by the Telegraph newspaper which of course is facing having to publish an apology over the memogate story.
It wasn’t just the Telegraph that devoured the latest smear; the Scottish Daily Mail also joined the fun with a headline which screamed: ‘STURGEON’S £2M CASH GRAB FROM THE QUEEN’. Not content with just the one smear, it also ran another equally preposterous anti-Sturgeon story ‘FIRST MINISTER’S LINKS WITH VILE CYBERNAT TROLLS’.
The Herald ran its own anti-Sturgeon smear story which tried to portray the salary of a Scottish Government poverty adviser as somehow inappropriate. But why were so many newspapers running attacks on Sturgeon? It looked suspiciously like a coordinated attempt aimed at undermining the popularity of the First Minister.
Of course there’s no show without Punch, and BBC Scotland wasn’t slow in picking up the greasy truncheon. Listen to the clips below from Good Morning Scotland on the day the Palacegate smear broke.
Did you notice the Scottish Daily Mail’s ‘Cybernat’ attack on Nicola Sturgeon? Here it is again in isolation.
The Scottish Daily Mail has almost single-handedly created the myth of the ‘vile cybernat’. But this right wing organ is merely playing to the fundamental Unionist gallery which buys the paper. It has no influence beyond those who want their own prejudices reinforced.
The problem for me is that most of the newspapers which carried, and in some cases exaggerated, the Buckingham Palace nonsense were promoted by the BBC. Both GMS presenters, Gary Robertson and Hayley Millar, were helping to spread the politicised misinformation.
The newspaper review is a regular item on Good Morning Scotland. It would be fine if Scotland wasn’t engaged in a constitutional battle with the UK Government over more powers. All of the newspapers published in Scotland are political entities; they are also almost all universally opposed to the SNP and to the goals of the party, be they Full Fiscal Autonomy or independence.
A symptom of the demise of the Labour party in Scotland means that smears have become an important weapon in the pro-Union media arsenal. Indeed it is fast becoming the only weapon. Thus, anti-SNP/Sturgeon smears appear at the drop of a hat.
No sooner has a smear hit the headlines than BBC Radio Scotland helps promote it by reviewing these same newspapers. Listen to this next short clip and marvel at the ease with which journalistic crap manages to make it onto the Good Morning Scotland show.
This is a practice that has to stop. Whether we are talking about the National, which is pro-independence or the rest which are uniformly anti-independence and regularly anti-SNP, we need to acknowledge the constitutional debate did not end with the referendum. Newspapers are still campaigning and the BBC is still promoting anti-SNP headlines as it did right up until the referendum itself as the clip below demonstrates.
By tea-time on the day it broke, the Palacegate story was lying in ruins with even Buckingham Palace officials admitting it was false. Yet on that evening’s late night edition of Reporting Scotland, Glenn Campbell merely informed viewers that the First Minister had “flatly denied” the claims. The story by then was not the First Minister's denial, that went without saying, the story had moved on and it was now that the allegations were garbage. The media had been headlining false claims.
Shortly after memogate disintegrated, I remarked that this was only the beginning and that more smear attempts would materialise. It won’t matter if there is no corroborating evidence to back whatever is alleged, newspapers will headline the next smear. They fear Nicola Sturgeon more than they feared Salmond.
Two attacks on the integrity of the First Minister, one instigated by the Scotland Office and the other by Buckingham Palace. These are powerful British Institutions, and the most powerful of all is the BBC.
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GA Ponsonby is the author of 'London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum'.
Available to purchase in paperback or Kindle HERE.