On May 21st I tuned into the Sunday edition of Good Morning Scotland.
The programme carried the usual discussion from that week’s chosen pundits.
It was unremarkable until I heard mention of a ‘wobble’ apparently by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.
I hadn’t a clue what wobble was being referred to. The ‘wobble’ even featured on the Sunday Politics Show where Angus Robertson was asked about Nicola Sturgeon’s “two different positions” on a second independence referendum. Robertson, as you can hear in the clip below, dismissed Gordon Brewer’s comments as a mischaracterisation of the First Minister’s words.
It transpired that Nicola Sturgeon had given an interview six days previous on Good Morning Scotland. You can hear the so-called ‘wobble’ in the clip below.
The ‘wobble’ was in fact a hurried answer by Nicola Sturgeon who had been facing typical hectoring from Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson. Gary Robertson, for reasons known only to himself, was pushing the discredited claim that an independent Scotland would be forced to use the Euro if it wanted to re-gain its EU membership.
The if/when statement was apparently different to a when/if answer the SNP leader had given in a subsequent interview on the ITV Leaders’ Debate days later.
The ‘wobble’ story soon disappeared, mainly because it was manufactured drivel. So why am I mentioning it, you may ask? Well the point of this brief introductory tale is to demonstrate the forensic scrutiny Nicola Sturgeon was placed under in order to try to manufacture a story.
An interview given by the SNP leader six days earlier was probed for any contradiction or change in stance. A short statement given in the midst of a heated exchange was then used to present Nicola Sturgeon as having altered her stance on a second independence referendum. The tenuous claim featured on two flagship programmes with the SNP’s Deputy Leader being confronted on live TV.
Given that BBC Scotland is clearly prepared to pore over interviews given by the First Minister, it begs the question; why is a blind-eye being turned to Ruth Davidson?
Ruth Davidson has avoided any genuine scrutiny in this general election campaign. On those rare moments she has been questioned, the Scottish Conservative leader has been allowed to say what she wants, without fear of being pursued or held to account.
On several key issues of this campaign Ruth Davidson has decided to tell an untruth. What’s more, she has uttered her false claims on television and radio. She has though faced no damaging headlines despite uttering a series of demonstrable falsehoods.
Why Davidson has not been pursued by the media is a question only those within that sector can answer. What isn’t in doubt is that there has been a rather worrying lack of interest in holding Ruth Davidson to account.
Let’s start with a rather benign example. On her recent appearance on BBC Scotland’s ‘Ask the Leader’, Ruth was pressed on Theresa May’s refusal to appear in a televised debate alongside other party leaders.
Ruth responded by claiming that May’s non-appearance was actually the norm. She told host Glenn Campbell that, in 2015, former PM David Cameron had himself declined to appear on any televised leaders’ debate during that campaign.
The claim was false as the image below shows. David Cameron did indeed appear in a seven way televised debate during the 2015 general election.
Let’s move on to a more serious issue, that of the Rape Clause. This controversial policy has caused Ruth Davidson obvious discomfort throughout the campaign. It’s not difficult to see why. Women who have given birth as a result of rape and who already have two children, have to provide details of the rape via a benefits application form in order to receive welfare.
Davidson backs the idea. Her strategy in dealing with uncomfortable questions has been to try to minimise the amount of actual input from the rape victim. Asked about the Rape Clause on STV some weeks ago, Davidson claimed victims needed only “write their name and tick a box”.
Pressed on the issue by a member of the audience during last week’s ‘Ask the Leader’, Davidson insisted victims didn’t need to fill in the form, didn’t have to speak about their ordeal and didn’t have to provide any corroborating evidence that they had indeed been raped.
Davidson’s claims were challenged on social media with MSPs and MPs joining in. Images showing the form victims have to fill in were provided.
The Rape Clause form is eight pages long. The victim must provide her name and the name of the child. A third party must judge whether or not the claim appears valid. Contrary to Ruth Davidson’s claim, the victim has to enter into a detailed and traumatic dialogue with a complete stranger.
Anyone wishing to understand the effects of the Rape Clause on rape victims would do well to watch this excellent documentary.
Interviewed on STV by Bernard Ponsonby last week, Ruth Davidson was pressed on the apparent weaknesses of the UK economy. The Scottish Conservative leader responded by claiming the UK had “one of the highest growth rates in the G7”.
The UK in fact has the lowest growth rate in the G7. It is expected to grow by 1.8% in 2007, not the 2% claimed by Ruth Davidson. According to The Independent newspaper, the UK has the lowest performing advanced-economy in the world.
In an interview on Good Morning Scotland on May 21st, Ruth Davidson was asked about child poverty in the UK. The Scottish Conservative leader responded by saying child poverty had fallen since 2010 when her party came into power.
The claim was false. Child poverty has in fact increased since the Conservatives came to power in 2010. The Guardian newspaper reported child poverty was now at its highest.
In her interview on Good Morning Scotland, Davidson was asked about international students attending universities in the UK. The Scottish Conservative leader replied by claiming there was no limit on the number of foreign students allowed into the UK.
In fact foreign students are included in the net migration limit of people allowed into the UK. If that limit has been reached then no more students would be allowed to enter.
Claiming there is no limit on students is like claiming there is no limit on bricklayers or plumbers. So concerned was tycoon Sir James Dyson that he called on the UK government to remove international students from its targets.
Speaking in March this year Dyson said: “I wouldn’t want the Government to target that area. We should make maths, science and engineering students that come to stay in this country welcome here.
“I am very much against targeting them. I think they should be excluded from the immigration targets.”
On the same subject during her Good Morning Scotland interview Ruth Davidson claimed the proportion of immigrants into the UK that ultimately came to Scotland was “very, very low”. The Scottish Conservative leader gave, not for the first time, a figure of four per cent.
That figure is not correct. Davidson was in fact challenged on this by Nicola Sturgeon during the BBC Scotland Leaders’ debate. The First Minister cited official figures showing that the number was in fact almost double what Ruth Davidson claimed.
Articles published by the BBC and The Scotsman newspaper suggest Nicola Sturgeon’s figure is the accurate one. The figure for migration into the UK is 248,000. Four per cent of 248,000 is 9920. Excluding those who came from the rest of the UK, The Scotsman reports that migration to Scotland in 2016 was actually 22,900 people, which is over double what Ruth Davidson claims.
In her Good Morning Scotland interview, Ruth Davidson trotted out a line that has been a central theme of the Tory campaign in Scotland. The claim is that Scotland is the highest taxed part of the UK.
It’s gone unchallenged since the campaign began, despite being totally false. The following is an excerpt from a Wings Over Scotland article that examined the claim:
The problem is that even with all of the cowardly, disingenuous phrasing in place the claim is still complete rubbish. Income tax isn’t the only tax people pay, and in other areas Scots pay considerably less than their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.
Most significantly, for example, the average council tax in Scotland is hundreds of pounds a year lower than the average in England and Wales. (Northern Ireland has a different system and can’t be directly compared.)
And since council tax is paid by around seven times as many people as higher-rate income tax, there can be almost no credible doubt that overall Scots still pay LESS tax than people in the rest of the UK.
(And they also get more for their money – they don’t pay for prescriptions and they don’t get taxed to pay back university tuition fees, to name just two examples.)
BBC Scotland eventually made a half-arsed attempt at examining the claim that Scotland is the highest taxed part of the UK. See the clip below.
Despite showing the Scottish Conservative claim to be almost certainly cobblers, the Reporting Scotland item failed to present the obvious conclusion – that the Tory claim is false. The ‘highest placed part of the UK’ election claim was simply left hanging. Why?
Wings Over Scotland summed the situation up nicely.
The Scottish media’s coverage of taxation is – like most of what it does – a heady concoction of things which are actual straight-up lies, and things which are merely designed to give a totally false impression but without actually saying anything untrue enough to get sued for.
As we’ve been revealing for over half a decade now, the vast bulk of Scottish political journalism is the fakest of fake news, and we can only salute the chutzpah it takes for them to accuse anyone else of that crime and still keep a straight face.
And there you have it. Ruth Davidson can say what she likes with relative impunity – even if what she says is demonstrably untrue. God forbid though that the First Minister makes a casual slip of the tongue in an exchange with a presenter who is more interested in hectoring than listening.
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