by Rab Bruce’s Spider

Mastodon: @RabBrucesSpider1@Mastodon.Scot

X / Twitter: @RabBrucesSpider

Following Nicola Sturgeon’s appearance at the Covid Enquiry, many articles have been written about her responses to the questioning. Her supporters have applauded her, and her opponents have vilified her, all of which is much to be expected. It is, however, the reaction of the mainstream media which I wish to comment on. For what seems like weeks now, they have been banging on about deleted Whatsapp messages, implying that the Scottish Government must have something to hide. Douglas Ross, an SFA Assistant Referee and sometime politician, has been given plenty of media time to rail against this apparently near-criminal act of deleting messages. Very few in the media seem to have spent much time reporting that Scottish Government practice was to delete messages which were not linked to important decisions, and to only delete messages relevant to decision-making once they had been formally recorded. Compare and contrast with the treatment given to the responses of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak who actually did use Whatsapp in the decision-making process and who came up with frankly unbelievable excuses for those messages vanishing.

I should say that I am not at all in favour of any messages being deleted. By all means use Whatsapp as a convenient and quick way to communicate, especially during a time of social distancing, but those messages should never be deleted. Yet the media have hounded Scottish Government Ministers for openly admitting that messages were deleted in accordance with their (admittedly misguided) rules. Yet when Tories make brazen claims about how their messages mysteriously disappeared, it all seems like a huge joke.

And yet, when you compare what the Governments might have been trying to conceal, it was not the Scottish Government who were setting up dodgy PPE procurement lanes to benefit their friends, nor was it the Scottish Government who ignored scientific advice with their Eat Out To Help Out scheme. What, precisely, do the media think the Scottish Government were trying to hide? I’ve yet to hear any journalist express any opinion on that. Their focus has been on potential secretive decisions, using deletion of messages to throw mud in the hope that some sticks. I do wish they would focus more on clearly bad decisions about moving elderly people out of hospitals into care homes. That was poorly handled at the time, although I think we ought to acknowledge the pressure on hospitals to find beds for the huge influx of people suffering from Covid. It was a No-win situation, but Even so, I’d like to think it could have been handled better because too many people died in extremely distressing circumstances. Still, Nicola Sturgeon deleted her Whatsapp messages, and that makes a better headline.

The latest media furore surrounds claims that the Scottish Government were still thinking about independence for Scotland during the Covid crisis. This seems to be regarded as some sort of heinous act, while the fact that Michael Gove prepared a document stressing the importance of maintaining the Union has been remarked upon but is not seen as political. I’m struggling to spot the difference.

To move away from the Covid Enquiry, Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour branch Office Manager, seems to have got away very lightly after doing a complete U-turn on his views of a cap on bankers’ bonuses. Having decried the Tory decision to scrap this cap, he now supports his London boss’s decision not to reintroduce such a cap. I can only imagine the media frenzy if a pro-Indy politician did the same thing.

As ever, the main thing we have learned this week is that the UK media in Scotland is not our friend. Some of the things they do and say are ridiculous, but they do and say these things because they know that most people are too busy to pay close attention and will respond emotionally to powerful headlines. Despite this, polls are showing support for becoming a normal, self-governing country remaining strong. Let’s hope that, when the Covid Enquiry does eventually make its report, it highlights the differences in approach of the Scottish and UK Governments, and does so in such a way that leaves no doubt as to which handled a disastrous pandemic better.