By Blair Grant
As covered in my last blog, I only moved down to London a few months ago and it’s been nothing if not eventful. The move instilled a new vigour in me, a health-kickp, if you will, and I joined a football team. Within forty-five minutes of my first game I was off injured, within an hour, I was in an A&E unit, and within four hours, I was told I had broken three bones in my wrist. The follow-up outpatient appointments saw me fill in overseas visitors’ forms while my passport and driving licence were photocopied (repeatedly), as questions over my employment history and ethnicity from a sceptical receptionist rained down.
As I read the disparaging remarks aimed at the Scottish independence campaign in a three-day old Sunday broadsheet, it got me thinking about being a Scot out of Scotland and the differences in Scottish reporting to that of English.
A lot has happened since as I sit here, the speed of my typing still hampered by the accident. A momentous agreement was reached between First Minister Alex Salmond and the Prime Minister David Cameron that confirmed the Scottish Parliament’s power to hold a referendum vote would be granted, one in which a Scottish Government press release, stated: “. . .will be respected fully by both governments.’
I was off work for a fortnight due to the injury and as I sat on my bed, devouring strong painkillers and contemplating how I was going to tie my shoelaces, I managed to catch up on my reading of the debate and political fallout. As I sat down to my water and co-dydramol a particular headline struck me: ‘Hopelessly flawed and never quite what they seem – but leaders cling to referendums for comfort’. It was a feature in the Independent, arguing that the process will drag on and go nowhere, a piece which nationalists would claim to be typically ‘Londoncentric’.
It was an article all too familiar in those weeks, but the UK national press has had a varied stance on the northern hinterland far beyond the Watford gap and its efforts to ‘escape’ from the union. Most opinion pieces brought the argument back to Europe in general, with the local elections in Belgium and the continued furor surrounding Catalonian independence a welcome point of comparison.
Another focus was the widespread assumption that the SNP – perhaps justifiably – had been out-fought by the Prime Minister in agreeing to a single question on independence, excluding the option for devo-max or the much maligned second question. In the main, publications in Scotland have accepted that Alex Salmond had no choice, while the grin of some of the journalists of their sister publications in England is almost detectable in their articles. The differences in reporting either side of Hadrian’s Wall has been staggering.
The debate will run and run, one on which I’ll certainly take more than a passing interest in. I look forward to seeing the tone from publications on both sides of the border as we get closer the 2014 referendum. Let’s hope the pieces are more balanced in tone than the precarious political topic they focus on.