By G.A.Ponsonby
It began with an offer by Yes Scotland to the Herald newspaper of an article by a respected academic and ended with the entire online operation at Yes Scotland being closed down.
The controversy over a small fee paid to Dr Elliott Bulmer for an article published in the Herald has dominated the headlines since late Wednesday. 

The topsy-turvy world that is the media in Scotland has witnessed a bizarre obsession with a routine party political smear whilst the far bigger story - illegal hacking - has been marginalised.  The media in Scotland have appeared unable, or more likely unwilling, to distinguish real news from a politically motivated attack.

However the more one examines the facts of this story the more one wonders if there is something more sinister at work.

The claim that somehow paying a freelance writer & academic £100 for his time in writing an article for publication, was deception, is one of the most ludicrous claims I have ever heard.  If that is the case then freelance writers who hold political views might as well jack it in now.

Unionists dominate the media in Scotland, and pro-Union views pepper every radio chat show and TV broadcast.  Better Together doesn't have to worry about getting their viewpoint across as this week clearly demonstrates.

The calls for transparency are hilarious when one recalls that Newsnet Scotland asked BBC Scotland to provide a list of guests they had invited onto their political programmes since the start of the year and, where appropriate, their political and/or constitutional leanings.  The BBC refused.

The charge that the article by Elliot Bulmer misled readers by not being accompanied by a declaration of either his pro-independence leanings or the fact that it had been offered the Herald by Yes Scotland, is easy to rip to shreds.

For one, the decision whether to inform readers of the involvement of Yes Scotland lay with the Herald editor.  A byline gave information of Dr Bulmer’s background, it would have been very easy to have included a brief note that the article had been offered to the Herald by Yes Scotland.

Indeed, as Wings over Scotland pointed out.  The Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall authored an anti-independence piece which was recently published by the Guardian, but which made no mention of McDougall's links to Better Together.

But it's the actions of the Herald newspaper that causes me most puzzlement.

Yesterday the paper published an editorial which contained the following line:

"For our part The Herald undertakes to show clearly when an article has been offered by any political campaign group."

That seems clear enough.  But in the same editorial the paper's editor added:

"We were offered the article by the pro-independence Yes Scotland campaign ..."

So, the Herald appears in this case to have broken its own stated policy by not informing the reader that the article had come from Yes Scotland.

There's more though.  Newsnet Scotland revealed on Thursday that the Herald was notified prior to publication that Dr Bulmer had requested a fee for writing the article, but in keeping with their policy the newspaper declined to pay.  Why, if there are questions over transparency, didn't the newspaper express basic journalistic interest in whether the fee had been paid?

Some people have been enquiring as to the accuracy of our claim that the Herald had been made aware of Dr Bulmer's fee request, given Blair Jenkins failed to disclose it in TV and radio interviews.  The information, Newsnet Scotland can assure readers, is indeed accurate.

So, we have a situation where a major Scottish newspaper has been offered an article by Yes Scotland, a dialogue has taken place in which everything is transparent and the author's request for a fee is discussed.

The newspaper publishes the article in the knowledge that payment may have been made and that the campaign group Yes Scotland had commissioned the piece and offered it.

Yes Scotland had no power to compel the Herald to add a byline or similar to the article.  The newspaper took the decision not to inform its readers of the involvement of Yes Scotland.

Even the demand for a fee, the main thrust of critics attacks, was an element the Herald could have established easily by asking.  As I have already explained, the Herald knew Dr Bulmer had requested a modest fee.

Whether Yes Scotland should have paid Dr Bulmer is not the issue.  They did and they made no secret of having done so when asked.  That the journalist who eventually did ask had in his possession details of the payment made to Dr Bulmer is the real story here.

That information, Newsnet Scotland has been told, definitely came from the result of an email account having been illegally accessed.  Whether the email account was deliberately targeted for this reason is not known, but criminality led to the information falling into the hands of a journalist.

This aspect of the whole episode is the most uncomfortable.  Information, which is very clearly being manipulated for political ends, has been acquired illegally yet is being used as the basis to mount attacks on Yes Scotland and its chief Blair Jenkins.

Even a few supporters of independence are allowing themselves to get caught up in the Unionist maelstrom and get panicked into criticising a perfectly legitimate payment - a fee the Herald knew had been requested from the get-go.

The Better Together campaign and the Scottish Labour party appeared to have had, at the ready, statements accusing Blair Jenkins of deception within minutes of Yes Scotland confirming they had indeed paid Dr Bulmer.

As ever, the BBC crew based at pacific Quay have provided every available platform for the pro-Union lobby to promote their smears.  In contrast to the coverage afforded the half million pound donation to Better Together, it has dominated BBC Scotland news coverage.

Where Alistair Darling and Blair McDougall avoided having to answer difficult questions at the time of the Ian Taylor donation issue, Blair Jenkins has had to field every possible line of question from the usual suspects. 

Like a house owner whose house has been burgled and an expired library ticket brandished by the burglar, the victim has faced an inquisition over the library ticket whilst real criminality has been downplayed, and even in some BBC bulletins, ignored altogether.  How will the media react if and when the culprit is apprehended or identified and what of the journalist who found himself in posession of the 'stolen goods'.

BBC Scotland, in keeping with the narrative, has ensured that the Bulmer article eclipsed the hacking story.

There is no conclusive proof of a conspiracy in this unfortunate episode.  But one has to question the role of the Herald newspaper in all of this and why it did not enforce its own policy when publishing Dr Bulmer's opinion piece.

The newspaper published an article it knew had been offered by Yes Scotland, by an author who it knew had requested payment for writing the article, yet apparently did nothing.

The Herald has stated it was not told about the £100 paid by Yes Scotland.  If, as its political editor Magnus Gardham claimed on Brian Taylor's Big Debate, that there was an issue of transparency [note that listeners to the show were not told that Gardham or fellow panellist Hamish McDonnell are pro-Union, nor whether they were paid by the BBC.] - then why didn't Gardham's paper ask if the fee had been paid and tell its readers Yes Scotland had offered the story?

I smell a rat!


# Al Ghaf 2013-08-24 00:59
I like the rat comment. Pacific Quay on the Clyde was full of them even before the BBC rocked up.
# clootie 2013-08-24 05:40
They don't care. It's a closed circle that the unionist media control. They decide what is reported and will continue to do so.

One early victim of the independence debate is journalism in Scotland. I do not accept the argument of owner pressure. They could easily question the bias through their unions.
This is not about agreement or disagreement with independence it is about balanced reporting.

I'm afraid it's too late for me as I have lost all faith in our media which goes much further than the independence issue. If they can distort this story so badly why should I trust them to report world news in a balanced form.
# mearns46 2013-08-24 05:54
It has to be remembered that every facet of the UK State, and all of the Scottish Main Stream Media are aligned against independence. I am sure there are regular editor briefings with the latest Smear or Scare story, as Margaret Thatcher did during the miners strike. Planning, co-ordinating.

Remember, this is the bread and butter of the London Machine against opponents, so do not be surprised when you see it. However, they have one main problem, as has been shown by the derisions shown on the "Phone Charges" scare.

At one point it is overdone, and as soon as the public see it is overdone, the public then turn off to them.
# mealer 2013-08-24 06:23
It surprises me that there hasn't,so far,been much international journalistic interest in the media bias in this campaign.OK,I know that the whole referendum thing isn't of huge interest to people in other countries,but you'd think the sheer scale of the bias in the media,and the BBC in particular,woul d be.
# Macart 2013-08-24 06:35
This past few days has not seen the media's finest hour. A criminal act was perpetrated in order to undermine the democratic process of this campaign. The media and opposition chose to concentrate their efforts upon a contrived smear in the hopes of damaging the independence campaign in general and the professional reputation of Blair Jenkins and Mr Bulmer. That should tell the electorate all they need to know about issues of trust.

The lack of condemnation for the illegal hack by either the media, Westminster parties or Better Together never mind simple acknowledgement the act took place again leaves a bad taste.

They seem perfectly at ease with the implications of this action. Why on earth would anyone vote for a system which appears comfortable with the concept of invasion of privacy as a means of destabilizing a democratic process?
# Breeks 2013-08-24 07:14
I don't find the intent, nor indeed the methods all that surprising. What I struggle to reconcile are the Scots who can read the McCrone Report and feel no rage at the injustice. How do they reconcile our oil bonanza and the Nordic lifestyle we should be enjoying with 1 in 5, and in parts 1 in 3 of our kids being raised in poverty? Do they enjoy seeing Scotland's industry and commerce crippled through underinvestment and corrupt nepotism? Don't they find it objectionable that the media is free to lie through its teeth to our people and subvert both justice and our collective democracy?
A parcel of rogues bought and sold for English gold still hits the nail on the head. The unpalateable truth is they are Scottish rogues prepared to cheat and lie to forfeit the interests of Scotland for yet another generation.
# Breeks 2013-08-24 08:19
Parcel of rogues? That wouldn't be rogues wrapped up in newspapers with strings attached?
# Macart 2013-08-24 10:49
Understand and agree Breeks. Westminster's suppression of facts which would prove uncomfortable is nothing new. The fact is we've all brought up McCrone in conversations at one time or another and almost without exception to date the first reaction I've encountered at such moments is WHO? I've only come across reference once in the media back in 09 by of all titles the Independent. Suppression, misdirection, obfuscation. The media and politicians work hand in glove rather well to keep the electorate in the dark.
# Johnston 2013-08-24 06:52
I still think a newspaper published by all interested groups is becoming a necessity. Funding coming from corporate sponsorship and public (indiegogo). Our message is strong on the internet but in other forms of media it is weak, for obvious reasons. To get the message across all forms of media are neaded.
# ochyes 2013-08-24 06:54
If you asked the average person out in the street they probably wouldn't have a scoobie what this is all about. They've switched off long ago and continuing to do so.
# clootie 2013-08-24 07:03

I'm afraid that's the NO campaigns banker. Let's spoil their day and keep talking to people about it.
# Diabloandco 2013-08-24 07:13
Why did we have an enquiry into press behaviour - at huge cost to the tax payer?
Was it only to belittle and bring down the Murdoch empire?
Nothing to do with integrity ?
Interfering with democracy?
Even a vague notion of honesty??

May the once mighty Herald rest in pieces.
# Muz 2013-08-24 07:52
"Like a house owner whose house has been burgled and an expired library ticket brandished by the burglar, the victim has faced an inquisition over the library ticket whilst real criminality has been downplayed ..."

Exactly! Enough said.
# xyz 2013-08-24 08:03
There must be more to the 'stolen' information revealed by the journalist as all that has been revealed is information which The Herald was already in possession of in the normal way of things. A small fee paid to an academic.
# Henderson 2013-08-24 08:22
By G.A.Ponsonby

Excellent article G.A. - I too spotted much of the trail in what you say and have said as much on other sites. the rat isindeed pretty smelly on this one!
Its the timing that is key here and how someone knew exactly what to go for in the emails / and exactly when!
# Breeks 2013-08-24 08:52
I partly disagree, (not about the good article). The £100 payment is NOTHING; its a complete non-story, chaff that'll blow away in the wind.

The 'tell' for an observent YES observer was seeing information that was not public. To have the intrusion / infiltration exposed and addressed so quickly (we hope anyway) means the whole scam being blown out the water for the very modest price of some baseless and disingenuous criticism. Had it not been discovered, this hack into the YES system could have been a pernicious leak of sensitive information with new initiatives being dangerously pre-empted for several months.
To repeat myself, YES has suffered injury, as does any victim of crime, but very limited damage.
I rather suspect there will be people damaged by this as more of the story emerges, but I don't think they'll be YES people.
# maisiedotts 2013-08-24 09:16
Quoting Henderson:
By G.A.Ponsonby

Excellent article G.A. - I too spotted much of the trail in what you say and have said as much on other sites. the rat isindeed pretty smelly on this one!
Its the timing that is key here and how someone knew exactly what to go for in the emails / and exactly when!

I asked a Labour activist straight out on the thread on Guardian which was shut down and he replied he had known for "about 10 days" that's important because it places the knowledge of the email within Labour to around the 12th August, they didn't inform the police or the campaign - why not?
# RTP 2013-08-24 09:07
Surprise,surpri se.
Labour leader Ed attacks SNP but the punch line is at the end of the article.
Johann Lamont joined the attack.
"Salmond peddles a vision of a mythical Scotland he knows is dishonest and ignores real concerns,"she said
Who is this woman I thought she had gone to a foregin land England
# Will C 2013-08-24 09:24
G.A. Ponsonby is right to smell a rat. However, the rat is not confined to this incident. It is now clear that the media in this country are conspiring with the NO Scotland campaign to undermine Scottish democracy: That is the reality facing those of us seeking self determination for our country. The question is: What can we do about it?
# snowthistle 2013-08-24 09:44
The major scandal is most definitely the hacking but I'm also a bit shocked that the Herald expects freelancers and academics with the expert knowledge that Eliot Bulmer has to give them articles free, gratis. This is even more shocking when you keep in mind the recent story on NNS about Gannet's recent profits.
# bringiton 2013-08-24 10:32
Why aren't the electoral commission getting involved in this ? In terms of spending the media in Scotland are acting as part of the No campaign.
They occasionally publish something supporting the independence position but that is only a fig leaf to cover their overwhelming opposition to it.
The value of all this free propaganda to the No campaign must be worth a lot to them.
# Aplinal 2013-08-24 13:15
This is not the answer you want to hear, but they don't actually have an official role until the final 16 week election period. At least that's my understanding. That is also the only period when the election funding has to be regulated.

You might recall some time ago they requested the Westminster government to give more information and 'cooperate' with YES on this. But they can not force them to do anything. As Mao used to say, they are a "paper tiger".
# proudscot 2013-08-24 10:38
Lamont reasppears from her media silence to comment on this contrived story with a typical (for her) insulting assertion about Alex Salmond. Where has she been during the Falkirk Labour Party selection infighting, and why no comment from her on that?

Further, I notice she has not commented either on Labour councils threatening to evict tenants who are unable to pay the Tory Government imposed bedroom tax.
# samizdat 2013-08-24 11:09
Ijust hope that any other e-mails or information that could have been hacked into at YES campaign HQ however innocuous are being analysed and checked for any way they could be spun,distorted and enlarged upon by these vile people and their henchmen in the media,the last thing we want a month down the line is another "scoop" of another ludicrous story by these people.
If there is anything found that could be manipulated by these scum get it out into the public domain now.
As far as the hacking investigation goes, expect nothing, if any substantial leads were to develop(which there will not!)our media will do a snow job on it.
# ds12 2013-08-24 11:28
They don't have to hack e mails to come up with nonsense stories. The only reason the story during the week became a scoop was because it had been hacked.They were then able to make out that something underhand was going on.
What next Blair Jenkins is being paid to say things in favour of the YES campaign.And yes this mob could make story of that.
And please please please would those representing the YES campaign stop backing down so easily.
# hetty 2013-08-24 11:53
I think Breeks is absolutely correct.
It's really disturbing that many people in Scotland go along with the lies and propoganda without really thinking about what's being said. With only just over a year to go, it's set to get nastier, we need to be very wary and very prepared. Thing is the YES side don't operate in the same dirty tricks manner as the 'no' side do with their utter lies and propoganda. It's a matter of getting the truth out there, and it will filter through to the people, like it or not, 'no' camp!
# Roll_On_2011 2013-08-24 12:45
OT - Sorry to go off-piste but I believe this is important.

Edinburgh streets set for a mass sleep out in bedroom tax protest:

“ Thousands of people are due to take part in a "mass sleep out" tonight to protest against the "bedroom tax" and other welfare changes.

People will gather in towns and cities across the UK, including Edinburgh, London, Belfast, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds, and sleep on the streets to draw attention to the effects of the controversial measures. “
# cynicalHighlander 2013-08-24 13:17
The Scottish Government: Approach the OSCE and request an election monitoring mission.:

Many Scots are worried about the Mainstream Media (MSM) handling of coverage of the Scottish Independence Referendum and ask that The Scottish Government approach the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and request that the subordinate Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) deploy immediately an election monitoring mission to cover the Referendum including the debate across radio, television and print media.
# Macart 2013-08-24 13:20
Bottom line is that the mainstream media cannot be trusted to deliver information on this referendum to the general public. Two reasons:

Firstly their basic dishonesty on the subject of objectivity. They are as partisan as any party newsletter, blog or political site in existence, yet choose to portray themselves as arbiters of news and fact.

Secondly they are part of Britain's political institution. They have made and broken careers at will and by these acts have direct effect on the country's governance. In other words they have a cushy number they'd rather not lose.
# ButeHouse 2013-08-24 14:40

# cynicalHighland er 2013-08-24 14:17
The Scottish Government: Approach the OSCE and request an election monitoring mission.:



Vote Yes in 390 Days
# xyz 2013-08-24 15:46
Link to the above mentioned:

I wonder if the Scottish government needs prompting in this regard. Surely they are on top of this possibility. By trying to apply pressure on the Scottish government in this way are we helping?

Despite my reservations I have signed.
# macduff 2013-08-24 18:37
Quoting xyz:
Link to the above mentioned:

I wonder if the Scottish government needs prompting in this regard. Surely they are on top of this possibility. By trying to apply pressure on the Scottish government in this way are we helping?

Despite my reservations I have signed.

I have also signed and I have the same thoughts as XYZ, although I trust our government to lead us to independence next year. I feel that this indicates to the "other side" that we are not content to suffer their black arts quietly. Hopefully the government will be able to use the fact, that so many have signed, in a positive and constructive manner when dealing with such attacks in future.
# cynicalHighlander 2013-08-24 19:08
We are in fight and the establishment have control over the media which the SG knows but bringing this into Holyrood gets the message into the public domain.

Getting more and more accounts of No camp trying to intimidate/ban Yes Scotland stands at events:
# call me dave 2013-08-24 15:02
The work continues:
Nicola Sturgeon interview: 'I do believe Scotland can be better off'

# xyz 2013-08-24 16:24
Talking about conspiracies consider this:

The Confidential Memo at the Heart of the Global Financial Crisis:


There's also a great comment at the bottom regarding the associations that most people make with the word conspiracy.

# cynicalHighlander 2013-08-24 19:50
Listen Friday 6.30pm on R4 with Rory Brenner as the last 15 mins with Gillian Flett of the Financial Times and Max Keiser ripping the banking industry into shreds.
# RTP 2013-08-24 16:29
£100 for an article,how about this one Diane Abbott recieved £1700 for 50 minute speech at Birmingham University and the students are demanding she pay it back.
# Clydebuilt 2013-08-24 16:38
Quoting xyz:
Link to the above mentioned:

I wonder if the Scottish government needs prompting in this regard. Surely they are on top of this possibility. By trying to apply pressure on the Scottish government in this way are we helping?

I agree.
Nationalists shouldn't be pressurising the Scottish Government to apply to OSCE for referendum monitoring.

That puts out the message that there's panic in the ranks and will be used against a YES vote.

It's similar to Kate Higgins making out that the £100 paid to Prof. Bulmer has let down the YES vote.

I'm putting my trust in the team that got us to this position.
# G. P. Walrus 2013-08-24 19:24
I can't believe that anyone without a vested interest will be other than simply bemused by the fuss over the £100.
The story here is email hacking and that is what should be focussed on.
# cynicalHighlander 2013-08-24 20:06
[url=']Who controls the media?

Edit last week it was your 'quote' button that didn't work it now won't accept '[ / url ]' to show direct link!

ps I added spaces to get it to show.
# BRL 2013-08-25 00:29
James 2013-08-24 21:20

I find it hard to believe that what you are saying is true. If I am to understand that this has happened as you say it has, why has nothing been done about it by your organisation? Who have you reported this to and what feedback have you received?

This is not a knocking-down response, by any means, it is very serious and needs confrontation and although I suspect there is a probability, it does no good to make it an issue that cannot be backed up.

Such dirty dealings have to be exposed.
# James 2013-08-26 14:12
BRL, you have answered your own question. It all happened as I described it, and nobody is prepared to make an issue of it. The whole point of secret service work is that it is secret, so how do you go about proving it.

I don't have an organisation, since the Scotland-UN Committee was wound up after its successful campaign in the international organisations resulted in the devolution referendum. There's another one for you.

If you want proof, every recent comment of mine, including the one you mention, has been censored by Newsnet while it is complaining about the same practice by the No campaign. All this without a word of explanation - and I am a lifelong campaigner for independence as well as being one of the few people strategically placed to do something about it. Have a look at:

We cannot publish unsubstantiated allegations - NNS
# cuckooshoe 2013-08-26 17:59
James, I remember your article from last year. Have you seen this article?

"This article of law was adopted on May 23rd, 1969. It didn’t exist in 1707, but it does claim jurisprudence over almost all international treaty and law since its ratification. And it has very definite retroactive implications."

Then there is Kilbrandon -

Notice the similar time-lines?

The Kilbrandon Commission, begun on April 15th 1969, and ending with The Scotland Act 1978, repealed on July 26th 1979.

The Vienna Convention was adopted on May 23rd 1969 and implemented on January 27th 1980.

If that article is correct, it was the implementation of the Vienna Convention in 1980, that restored to Scotland it's parliament.
# James 2013-08-27 08:40
No treaty enters into force of its own accord. The United Kingdom that came into force on 1 May 1707 was not based on the 1706 (not 1707) Treaty of Union, but on its two ratifying and implementing Acts of Union.

The historical approach is shot through with holes. That was the reason the Scotland-UN Committee abandoned it and based the case for devolution on modern international law that was being created even as we negotiated. That hit home, and was viciously opposed by the UK authorities.

Theere was nothing "unsubstantiated " about the attempted murder of S-UN secretary John McGill, although police forensic examination of the bullet holes in his car provided no leads. And a few days later S-UN legal adviser Willie McRae was actually shot. The attempts to remove myself from my office (through the wall from where the various Vienna Treaties were negotiated) is another story, but for diplomatic reasons will have to wait before being told.

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