26 May 2017
May 26, 2017
Stuart Campbell, who curates and writes for the website ‘Wings over Scotland’, is by a long, long way Scotland’s most read columnist/commentator. ‘Wings’ readership is on a par with that of the largest Scottish outlets. And because the figures for on-line newspapers include hits on every part of the paper, a small number of columns might come fairly close to Wings (they know, but papers keep it a secret…), but many have readerships so small they might do better to simply open the kitchen door and shout to their neighbours.
Like most Scottish columns and commentaries, Wings has a political perspective. Newspaper journalists, writing from an avowedly political perspective of their own/their paper’s themselves, often use this to deflect from the obvious quality of Campbell’s and Wings’ articles. Yet at Wings, nonsense uttered by politicians and the media is deconstructed and exposed. Facts are marshalled. Pungent opinions are put. Make your mind up for yourself by picking a few articles and comparing them to the quality of the output of Scotland’s print journalists.
The harsh reality for many in conventional journalism in Scotland is that most are tightly circumscribed by the political and economic imperatives of their international owners, the fact that it’s hard to make a living in journalism in Scotland now, and the small but highly relevant detail that quite a lot of Scotland’s journos are old-school plodders, invariably men, keeping better young folk out of a job.
This makes them resentful in all the ways. Social media is something being thrust upon them, but they can’t adapt. So while the red-faced, self-congratulatory men running Scotland’s newspapers will excuse their plummeting sales by pointing to their social media effort, they and their plodders are in awe and fear of a genuinely successful new media publishing effort. This is why they collude with unionist politicians and cheerleaders to present the output of Wings as unworthy. Meanwhile, they pat each other on the back and, hilariously, literally give each other prizes for the their own bile.
This all goes way beyond Wings, of course, and informs the standard unionist critique of independence supporters as SNP ‘cybernats’. Here, unwary Scottish Labour politicians collude with The Daily Mail et al to conflate the SNP and the independence movement. This is especially dangerous for what remains of Scottish Labour. The Daily Mail hates them and is overtly a Tory vehicle; and up to half of their supporters (i.e. the ones who haven’t already gone over to their unionst bigger-brothers and sisters in the Scottish Tories) support Scottish independence.
And when the odd billionaire joins in the nat-calling, denying that the folk who have gone from from No to Yes since the Brexit referendum even exist, they confirm to any reasonable onlooker that the unionist camp is simply the combined vested interests of Scotland’s rich and powerful determined to ‘other’ anyone who doesn’t share their dogmatic desire for Scotland to be run by Conservatives in London. And outside the EU into the bargain.
It’s indisputable that Scotland contains some first rate columnists and some very competent editors, along with the dross. But the irony is that the economics of the latter is driving the former out. The broadsheets are essentially vanity publications owned by international concerns, and the tabloids operate to strict economic plans which dictate their political bias. In the end, though, they’re all subsidised from other operations by their owners and whoever pays the piper gets to dictate which tune gets played.
For readers outside Scotland who haven’t read Wings, here’s a pertinent detail. Wings Over Scotland raised in a few days a six figure sum greater than the Scottish Labour Party managed over a whole year. So, ironies abound. First, the same economic laws which are putting the change-averse unionist Scottish print media in a parlous state are assuring the success of a new media publication which supports Scottish independence. Second, although the great bulk of Wings’ revenue comes from Scotland, it is actually run from Bath and Stuart Campbell isn’t an SNP member. Even the subsidy junky old-boys really can’t present Wings as that of a few gnarled old, English-hating, SNP folk.
So Scotland’s media has a future, all right. But with good fortune it’ll look less like a bunch of tired and cynical old-media guys toeing the London line and more like Wings and what might follow.