18 Sep 2014
September 18, 2014

Why the Scottish papers said No

1 Comment

With the referendum polls apparently neck-and-neck why is it that the Scottish titles have, all but one, stayed away from endorsing ‘Yes’?

It’s simply because there isn’t an economically viable indigenous Scottish media at all. With the exception of the quirky DC Thomson output, the Scottish titles are outposts of huge UK and international groups. The Scotsman and Herald sell under 30k each and serve as loss-making, vanity publications of UK local newspaper groups (Johnson and Newsquest respectively); the Record has seen its circulation drop to a point (a red top selling 200k and falling?) where its owners (Mirror Group) must surely be wondering why it bothers putting it out alongside the Scottish edition of the Mirror. Otherwise, there are the professionally-produced, editorialised versions of the ‘London’ papers. And that’s yer lot.

Yet there’s no doubt Scotland continues to produce, retain and export more than its fair share of decent journalists and writers. Scottish papers are a good read. At least one present editor in Scotland seems likely to follow a well-worn path and move on to the upper reaches of the industry, and Scots are famously all over the place in London and elsewhere.

My theory is that through being subsidised vanity productions on the one hand, and backed up by the mass of huge UK/international groups (and therefore able to make decent ‘offers’ via the paper and website, and so on) on the other, Scottish journalism is a private sector subsidy junkie. Apart from the huge taxpayer subsidy through unnecessary public service advertising (what jobseeker can’t use the internet?) in the Johnson Press and elsewhere, that is. So there are more paid writers, for now, but those jobs are wholly dependent upon the English pound (and US dollar).

Editors toyed with readers before the referendum. That’s all good fun and perfectly fair. But in the end, they know that how it is for their own industry so it is for most of the others.

So it’s a ‘Nah, yer alright’, from them.