By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Its referendum day in Scotland and the media has issued a frenzy of pleas urging you to vote one way or the other. One of the biggest votes on a single issue in the past century and the power lies in the hands of an increasingly conglomerated media.
Rupert Murdoch’s Scottish Sun said it will be sitting on the fence on the independence referendum, telling readers it has faith in the people “to make the right choice”. Sounds like responsible journalism, everyone should be happy, right? Well, no. One person that was left particularly displeased by The Sun’s so-called impartiality was the Page 3 model who was shunted back to page 13 in place of a double-page advert backing the Yes campaign. That, along with anti-independence ads on pages 20 and 30, with a further Yes ad on page 24, wielded a pretty stark two fingers in the direction of the “downbeat No campaign” and the “Westminster elite”.
The No campaign has also enjoyed its fair share of media backing. Today The Mirror, Daily Express and City AM led with a clear editorial endorsements of the Better Together campaign. What’s more the bastion of libertarianism, the BBC, has been accused of impartiality with more than 1,000 people gathering outside BBC Scotland’s Glasgow HQ to protest about coverage of the referendum. Whatever the allegiance, the media has been naughty in this campaign.
I can remember how aggrieved I was when the London Evening Standard backed Boris Johnson in the last mayoral elections, how angry I felt that the city’s free paper was allowed to shamelessly showcase an allegiance. At The London Economic we have championed impartiality by letting people speak. We don’t let articles lie dormant because they don’t please our political sway. We have upheld our mission statement, ‘Opinion without an agenda’, and I believe our coverage of the Scottish Referendum has showcased this.
In February, when the referendum trial started heating up, we published Yes and No articles that lay the groundwork before the campaigns gained major political and celebrity support with numbers being thrown around in either direction. John Close urged Scots to think of the big picture in this article, saying that it is hard to know how an independent Scotland will fare until after negotiations on independence have been made, so don’t subscribe to ‘grass is greener’ arguments. Pete Ramand and James Foley, authors of Yes: The Radical Case for Scottish Independence, argued a compelling case on the other side, prophesying a Nordic-style future for Scotland, shedding the weight of Cameron’s Britain.
Our most recent article, written by our economics correspondent Valentina Magri, laid out the economic consequences of independence as best we can foresee them. Her thorough analysis ended, quite rightly, with the truism “Our only certainty is uncertainty”, which I wholeheartedly endorse. Throughout the independence campaign figures and possible consequences have been thrown around left right and centre, but how can you be sure? With so many variables yet to be ironed out either way, I for one wouldn’t be casting my vote on the back of sketchy prophesies.
However today’s vote pans out, what is beyond doubt is the lasting impact it will have on UK politics. Stephen Angus Peter Junor’s account of how the political landscape will be altered is well worth a read. People are clearly disillusioned with the political establishment which is translating into disillusion with the main parties. This isn’t just a Scottish issue, big areas of England and Wales are also becoming frustrated with the political order. Westminster has become like an earthquake; the further you move away, the less you feel its impact. If the Scottish Referendum has taught us anything, it’s that we need a political shake-up.
Fleet Street on Referendum Day
Here’s a collection of our Scottish Independence photomontage.