The predictable news

Did you know that news is predictable?  It’s not as incredible as it sounds.

The budget will make the news – predictably.  This week’s local election results will also make the news – predictably.

Both are scheduled events of great significance and, thus, are predictably newsworthy.  But what if you knew, or suspected, something was going to make the news that wasn’t scheduled?

Last week Ruth Davidson was facing the prospect of her general election campaign being derailed before it even got off the ground.  The controversial Rape Clause was establishing itself as an election issue.  It was becoming embedded.

The Scottish Conservative leader needed a diversion.  She needed the media narrative to change.  She needed Nicola Sturgeon to be placed onto the back-foot.

Prediction

The obvious ploy would be to attack the SNP on a constitutional issue.  This is the ground on which Ruth Davidson has pitched her campaign tanks.  Move the narrative away from toxic Tory policies in the hope that the Rape Clause stench begins to recede.

Eight days ago I posted the tweet you see below.

It didn’t take long for my prediction to become reality.  Two days after I posted my tweet Ruth Davidson brought up the issue of the EU and the SNP’s long standing stance on the Common Fisheries Policy.  Below is a short clip of the Scottish Tory leader at First Minister’s Questions.

Davidson’s argument appeared to be that the SNP stance was somehow confused because two MPs [Mike Weir and Eilidh Whiteford] had signed a pledge opposing the CFP.  Her other line of attack was that the SNP case for EU membership had been weakened because the Common Fisheries Policy was a mandatory component of EU membership.

The Pledge

There seems to be a bit of confusion over what was actually signed.  Both the Press and Journal and The Courier reported that it was in fact a pledge card the MPs signed and not the full pledge.  According to the newspapers the card contained the following text.

“We must avoid any policy, practice, regulation or treaty which could return us to the Common Fisheries Policy and the enforced giveaway of almost two-thirds of our fish stocks.”

That said, it seems unlikely that the duo would not have been aware of the full pledge text which does indeed describe Brexit as a ‘sea of opportunity’.

Even had they signed a pledge agreeing Brexit was an opportunity to take back a degree of control over fishing, they’d merely be acknowledging a reality.  As things stand, the UK is leaving the EU.  Unless Scotland opts for independence then that fact won’t change.  Brexit, in terms of the CFP, is indeed an opportunity.  That is unless the UK Government is once again prepared to use Scottish fishing as a bargaining chip – hence the campaign by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

But what of Ruth Davidson’s other claim that the SNP stance on Europe was now undermined because two MPs do not want to join the CFP?

SNP CFP

Well opposition to the CFP has long been SNP policy.  In 2004, the then SNP fisheries spokesman Richard Lochhead described a 150,000 strong petition calling for fishing grounds to be handed back to the UK,  as “a historic moment” for Holyrood.

He said: “This is a message to the Scottish Parliament that the fishing industry community is crying out for its support, not only to save their livelihoods, but their traditions,”

“It also sends a strong message to Brussels that enough is enough and Scotland is sick of being at the mercy of a policy that has been unworkable.”

Alex Salmond, also speaking in 2004, said the CFP was unsustainable and should be abandoned: “The CFP has been a disaster for Scotland’s fisheries and failed our fishing communities.

“Last year’s CFP negotiations were a disaster for the industry with ministers agreeing a deal and then having to hot foot it back to Brussels after admitting to ‘unintended consequences’ that were bad for the industry and fisheries management.

“The CFP is deeply flawed and unsustainable. It is the real threat to an environmentally sound management policy and an economically sustainable future. It is time for us to abandon this disastrous policy.”

The SNP stance on the CFP has never been in doubt, nor has the party’s commitment to the European Union.  Had this criticism of the CFP been a barrier to EU membership then it would have been highlighted by Ruth Davidson and her Unionist allies throughout the first indyref.

We can safely say that the real story, indeed the only story, is/was the naivety of two MPs in signing a pledge opposing the CFP but that also included text that described Brexit as an opportunity.  It was an embarrassing election-campaign blunder by Mike Weir and Eilidh Whiteford, but no more than that.

BBC Scotland

It was also Ruth Davidson’s get out of ‘Rape Clause’ jail card.  BBC Scotland, you see, has treated this minor story as though a significant general election issue.  The corporation has thus far covered the story on Thursday’s Newsdrive, Thursday’s Reporting Scotland, Friday’s Good Morning Scotland, Sunday’s Politics Show, Sunday’s Reporting Scotland and Monday’s Good Morning Scotland.

Below are a few clips that demonstrate the resource and priority afforded Ruth Davidson’s attacks on the SNP by BBC Scotland.

Thursday – Newsdrive

 

Thursday/Sunday – Reporting Scotland

 

Friday – Good Morning Scotland

 

Monday – Good Morning Scotland

 

 

The coverage afforded the issue is way out of proportion to its significance.  Two MPs who don’t want to join the CFP is no more a threat to an independent Scotland’s EU membership than former minister Alex Neil’s pro-Brexit stance is.

But there’s another issue here.  Why is an issue that has nothing to do with the UK general election being presented as though it has?  The result of this election won’t alter the fact that Brexit is going to happen.  The SNP could win all fifty nine Westminster seats or it could win none.  Neither outcome make a shred of difference to the UK government’s Brexit plans.  Membership of the European Union is only relevant in the context of the debate over Scottish independence.

And there’s the rub.  Ruth Davidson needed the election narrative to move back onto the ground she’s carefully prepared – the constitution.  BBC Scotland has helped by investing considerable resource in the promotion of her fishing attack line.  Ruth’s FMQ’s attack was worthy of coverage on the day she launched it.  It could be argued it was also worthy of coverage the day after.  FMQ’s routinely feature on Good Morning Scotland the day after.

However the story had nothing additional to offer beyond FMQ’s rough and tumble.  It most certainly didn’t merit coverage on the Sunday Politics Show, Sunday’s Reporting Scotland or Monday’s Good Morning Scotland.  That it was hyped by BBC Scotland cannot be disputed.

Double standards

But there’s yet another issue. The issue is one of double-standards.

Two days before Ruth decided to attack the SNP over fishing, there was an extraordinary debate held at Holyrood.  Tuesday’s ‘Rape Clause’ debate witnessed the SNP, Labour, Greens and the Lib Dems unite in condemning the Tory policy.  So uncomfortable were Tory MSPs, that those scheduled to speak did so but refused to take interventions.  That act alone made the debate stand out.

Wednesday’s Good Morning Scotland should have covered the debate.  The remarkable sight of Scottish Labour and the SNP eschewing their constitutional rivalry in order to attack the Tories had a news value that required no embellishment.  But it was ignored.  Good Morning Scotland made not one mention of the proceedings.

I predicted Ruth Davidson would look to the indy related issues of currency or the EU in order to provide relief from her Rape Clause bind.  I was correct.  I didn’t predict it, but I also knew the BBC would assist the Scottish Conservative leader.  That’s its job.

 

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8 thoughts on “The predictable news

  1. Dan Huil

    I’m glad I don’t pay the bbc tax. Boycott all britnat media. If, from time to time, you need detailed confirmation of britnat bias by the bbc visit this site.

  2. Col

    Cmon SNP, call the BBC out on it. Start embarrassing them with little digs here and there. Make them the laughing stock they deserve to be and in doing so diminish their effectiveness.

  3. Bill McDermott

    I can’t stand the nodding donkey, Ross Thompson. Please, please if he is one of the proposed candidates for Westminster, I hope his putative constituents see through him as a no-mark politician.

  4. Robert Graham

    this direct unhindered access the tory party have to the BBC who appear to be bending over to assist every and any party , group , or any nut job think tank that happen to be passing , the prerequisite being can you inflict damage on the SNP ,
    I have lost count of the times i have went through the mind numbing exercise of the BBC complaints procedure designed to make you lose the will to live . and with the usual predictable result .. so much for the new head of management , the usual guff continues .

  5. Alasdair Macdonald

    And, today, May, 2 GMS gave a lot of time to the “Campaign for Real Education”, which claims to be non affiliated, but supports most f the Tory policies such as grammar schools. The representative was given a very easy time by Hayley Miller, who simply echoed his statements, as if she believed them herself. (Probably true!) the BBC website gives fairly strong coverage of various education issues going back to Mr Salmond’s interview on Sunday, by Andrew Neill, who, of course advocates the kind of educational policies of the Tories. He was a big wheel in the drive in the early 1990s to get Paisley Grammar School to opt out.

    Clearly, the BBC is increasingly the cheerleader for Ms May and Brexit. The bias was joked about on “Have I got News for You”, implying that it was quite true.

  6. Proud Cybernat

    In a FPTP election system such as GE17, the indy vote can really only go to one serious player–the SNP. The yoon vote, however, can potentially splinter three ways thereby undermining its effectiveness. This is why Davidson is trying to polarise GE17 being about Indy (a binary choice like a referendum) and positioning the blue Tories as the ‘defenders of the union’ in order to benefit the most in her totally fabricated ‘binary choice GE’.

    She must think we’re a’ as thick as she is.

  7. twathater

    They are ALL at it , in response to your post re STV include the greens in the leaders debate , I have received a response from STV full of the usual meaningless diatribe , indicating that they adhere to the Electoral commission’s guidelines on impartiality. Nicola we are well and truly fekced if we cannot FORCE some kind of impartial non partisan reporting on these TWATS . There must be some way the SG can refuse to Co operate with these tractors , such as removal of their broadcast license as they are being allowed to spout their pish and venom into our homes unapposed. If we cannot nobble these ars*holes then we will suffer greatly

    1. jdman

      Surprise surprise,
      Broadcasting licences are a “RESERVED MATTER”
      S/G cant revoke their licence

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