With the Scottish independence referendum almost upon us, the Westminster government and its Better Together campaign continue to conjure up fearful stories of a grim future for an independent Scotland. After PM David Cameron met with supermarket bosses to spin stories of potential rising prices (with Walmart-owned Asda doing an about-face days later), the UK Treasury contacted journalists to tell them Royal Bank of Scotland was planning on moving if Scotland went independent.
But as has been the case in these last days of campaigning, the Better Together story began to unravel, as it turned out that the Treasury contacted journalists before the RBS board met, which is legally questionable (one Yes supporting board member has contacted the Police). Alex Salmond was asked about RBS during a press conference for international journalists by Nick Robinson of the BBC, who then spun Salmond’s comprehensive answer into a tiny, heavily edited segment on the News at Ten. Unfortunately for the BBC and Nick, there’s the internet, and people were able to compare the BBC version with what actually happened. (After receiving a large volume of complaints regarding the segment, the BBC dutifully investigated itself and declared “the overall report balanced and impartial.”)
This disconnect between the mainstream and reality has become a theme of late. A huge Yes rally in Glasgow was made virtually invisible by the Beeb. A well attended, lively protest of about 2000 people against BBC bias was spun as a “bullying mob“.
And the collapse in confidence continues. A recent BBC debate has created two popular Vines, as Better Together’s Ruth Davidson (head of the Scottish Tories) was caught out by the chair, journalist James Cook, when she attempted to spin the RBS story again. She claimed that journalists had asked for the information about RBS, but Cook stated that he received the email but “did not request it.” And Cook dropped another bombshell in answer to the question of whether the media had been fair, stating that “maybe…the BBC’s coverage hasn’t been that good.”
The reality of the Yes campaign has been one of a vibrant, positive and creative popular movement. It’s hard to find one example to sum up the grassroots spirit, but perhaps the image of what met 100 Labour MPs who were ordered up from Westminster will do for now.