They had to do something to divert attention from the shameful behaviour of the opposition parties, especially Labour, over Wednesday’s minimum price for alcohol vote.

The vote that saw Labour join with the Tories and Lib Dems to block plans that would have saved lives, improved health and saved £millions was always going to be a difficult one for the media to contain, so something was needed – anything really.

The story that duly popped up to dominate much of Saturday’s Scottish news is indicative of the level of desperation being felt.

Flat screen TV’s, we are told, are to be bought in order to provide prisoners, or cons depending on what article you read, with home comforts.  According to headlines, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) are to spend some £250,000 of taxpayer’s cash ensuring criminals can continue to watch their favourite TV shows.

It’s apparently a national scandal, so great is the anger that the BBC have decided that it should take top spot in their online Scottish news section, as I write at 23:00 hrs it is still the top story.  Pacific Quay has also provided regular bulletins to ensure that the populace are kept ‘informed’.

The Daily Record has it as its main story and The Scotsman and Herald are also covering the sensational revelation.  The Record’s Magnus Gardham tells us that: “Taxpayers to fork out £250,000 each year so cons can get 1600 flat-screen TVs ...”.  Labour's shadow justice secretary Richard Baker claims that the move will "shock" the taxpayer.

Given the presentation from the media in Scotland, Mr Baker may well be correct.

But is the story all it appears, is this a national scandal generating ‘anger’ all over the country or is the story yet another example of the influence the Labour party exerts over the media in Scotland?

The story has three main points:

  • 1600 TV sets are being bought for use in prisons at a cost of around £250,000
  • These new sets will replace old ones.
  • 7800 Prisoners have to pay £1 a week each to watch TV.

But is this the hitherto unheard of practice the ‘Scottish’ news media are implying?

Well the figure of 1600, according to the SPS, is the number of sets that they have had to replace annually since 1999, when in-cell TVs were first introduced – not quite the unique sensation readers would have inferred from the headlines.  In fact the tender put out this time by SPS doesn’t even guarantee that they will order 1600 sets.

The other thing of course, given that the party who were in government in 1999 was Labour, is that this is a practice Labour will have known about for 11 years.  So, it seems that for the eight years they were in office the Labour party were only too happy for public cash to be spent on replacing TV sets.  It’s also clear that there would have been an initial outlay in order to purchase the original TV sets.  Did the BBC, The Record, The Herald and The Scotsman inform the public then of this ‘shocking’ practice?

The argument against the replacements this year is apparently due to the cuts to the Scottish budget.  Fair enough, a saving of £250,000 would be welcome.  However the SPS has made it clear that prisoners have to pay £1 per week in order to watch the TVs and almost 8000 prisoners means that there is the potential to raise over £400,000 every year.  Far from costing the taxpayer money, the policy actually pays for itself, indeed it may actually make money.

An SPS spokesman said: "Prisoners are charged £1 per week for televisions and we have around 7,800 prisoners at the moment. There is, therefore, no cost to the taxpayer.”

A Scottish government spokeswoman said:"Prisoners have to pay a weekly fee for this use and any purchase of equipment is paid for by prisoners themselves."

Mr Baker simply ignores the official confirmation that the service costs the taxpayer nothing and says: "Given the fact that we're about to have a budget where there will be swingeing cuts announced, no doubt to important areas of the justice department budget, including the prison service, I cannot accept that this is appropriate use of public money."

So given Mr Baker’s sudden distaste for a practice introduced 11 years ago when his own party were in power, and one that they seemed pretty happy to continue with then one has to ask why the sudden about turn and just what is Labour proposing to do about it?

Well according to The Daily Record, Mr Baker has promised that prisoners will have to “work for perks” if Labour win the next Holyrood election.  What perks is it that Mr Baker is referring to - TVs or something else?  – the articles do not say.    And if prisoners are still to be allowed access to TVs, but this time in return for ‘work’, then will they no longer have to pay the £1 weekly charge?

The truth of course is that the media aren’t really interested in Labour hypocrisy or even questioning Mr Baker in order to gain some clarification for his claims and promises.  In fact the whole story originated from Mr Baker himself after he received a reply from the Scottish government following a parliamentary question he asked on the matter.

The sad thing is that we, the Scottish public, can do nothing to prevent what looks like a blatant attempt at presenting a Labour party press release as major headline news.  We can though try our best to draw attention to the practice if and when we find evidence suggesting it is happening.

Everyone will, by now, be familiar with the term that is rolled out whenever an SNP policy comes under attack.  The term ‘Flagship Policy’ has been used to describe just about every SNP policy or manifesto pledge since they came to power in 2007.

On Friday/Saturday the ‘Scottish’ media surpassed themselves with their use of the term.  For in a 24 hour period the term, normally used to refer to a single unique item of importance, was used to describe no less than four separate SNP policies.  Incredibly BBC Radio Scotland gave the SNP two flagship policies in the space of half an hour.

For the record the four were:

The Scotsman - Inquiry demanded into new curriculum - Fri 12 Nov
“The professor's comments came after Mr Russell praised the impact of the SNP's flagship curriculum on Scotland's schools during a Holyrood debate on the issue yesterday.”

The Herald - Power chief warns of risk in relying on ‘green energy god’ - Sat 13 Nov
“Alex Salmond has been warned that his flagship policy backing renewable energy risks the “lights going out”.”

Good Morning Scotland – Scottish water - Friday 12 Nov
Nick Rougvie: “It was supposed to be one of the flagship bills of the SNP’s first term in office...”

Good Morning Scotland - Minimum price per unit alcohol - Friday 12 Nov
Gary Robertson: “It’s been a tough week for the SNP government, their flagship proposal for tackling Scotland’s booze culture, minimum pricing....”


# Gill 2010-11-14 00:29
I don't watch TV. My partner and I listen to radio. some Rd4 and shoutcast
# grizzly 2010-11-14 00:47
Is any one surprised?
Pick any political subject from the MSM and you will find only negative/opposition
responses/interpretations .
We seem to have a media culture of acute and very selective amnesia.
# enneffess 2010-11-14 01:03
I rarely watch tv, and then only for documentaries, BAFTAs or the odd programme. I prefer to watch movies and DVD documentaries. Most tv these days is total mince. Political programmes have become noticeably weaker over the years. Andrew Marr was the final straw for me.

On prison tv's, I know someone who was fitting alarm and fire systems in several prisons across Scotland. In one establishment, he heard of a prisoner smashing up his tv because his football team lost. The staff told my friend that they just replaced it as "they didn't want any hassle".

So much for "priviledges".

And this happened under LABOUR.
# Edzell Blue 2010-11-14 01:23
I saw the TV story on the BBC website and heard it on the radio. It was also in the Courier. I was sure this was reported a couple of weeks ago and when I checked the Courier it was reported on 4th November. I wondered why it had resurfaced but I do not think it is to cover up the failure of the labour party to back minimum pricing because that has passed now. There must be some other labour story/scandal that they are trying to hide.
# oldnat 2010-11-14 01:43
While we're talking about diversion -

The Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2010 will change the rules for the List voting paper so that registered party names will appear first on the regional ballot paper followed by the party description, with the option to use the preface "Scottish"

Since the Brit parties will add this oddly allowable word, so can the others - so we could have

Scottish Scottish National Party
Scottish Scottish Green Party
Scottish Scottish Socialist Party.
# Dougthedug 2010-11-14 11:42
In the European elections in 2009 the parties in Scotland each had to use their true registered name because ironically the other parties had kicked up such a fuss about the SNP using a party description, "Alex Salmond for First Minister", on the ballot paper in the previous 2007 Scottish elections that the use of party descriptions got banned from the European election ballot paper.

What the other parties failed to remember was that the, "Scottish Labour Party", "Scottish Conservative Party", and, "Scottish Liberal-Democrats", are also just party descriptions used by Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems to pretend that there are Scottish versions of these parties. So when all party descriptions got banned from the European election ballot paper and they had to use the true registered name of the party the fictional, "Scottish", Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dems parties disappeared from view.

The permission to use the preface, "Scottish", in front of the registered party name is to try and re-establish in the minds of the electorate that these fictional Scottish parties exist. It is obviously important to the unionist parties in Scotland that the electorate continue to believe that there are separate Scottish versions of Labour, the Tories and the Lib-Dems on offer in Scotland.

What Westminster have done with this order is to bring back the deception that there are, "Scottish", unionist parties in a quite deliberate attempt to deceive the Scottish electorate.
# Robert Louis 2010-11-14 01:50
The simple fact is that most Scottish media is NOT providing facts. Instead they are merely regurgitating Labour party press releases.

The TV sets will be paid for, not by tax payers, but by the prisoners themselves, via their weekly charge.

Is that so freaking difficult for journalists to comprehend?

As for BBC Pravda, they have shown for several years now the way in which they wish to lie to the people of Scotland. They are a state funded broadcaster, peddling lies and mis information fed directly to them by ONE political party, LABOUR.

So, my patience with the BBC has now worn out. Let us name them for what they are; political propagandists.

Another apt description would be LIARS.
# oldnat 2010-11-14 01:57
I presume you are using the acronym for

Largely Ineffectual And Ridiculous Source?
# oldnat 2010-11-14 01:58

Let's Ignore And Ridicule Scotland?
# enneffess 2010-11-14 10:47

Little Insignificant ARS.......
# Robert Louis 2010-11-14 02:16
I quite agree, oldnat.

The BBC are at it with their deception and lies as we speak, with their current Scottish 'news' headline online.

They are plugging the fact that Michael Moore of the London Government is promoting his plans to forcibly implement the Calman mess on Scotland, against the will of the democratically elected Scottish Government.

In any other country around the world, a national broadcaster would be asking the obvious question;

By what right is the parliament in London dictating what the Scottish parliament can or cannot do.

Do no Scottish journalists ever question the fact that we have a Tory London Government in England dictating when and if it will allow Scotland to generate revenue?

Calman is a mess, and most business people in Scotland want full fiscal autonomy. Business leaders in Scotland do not want Calman - it is a fiscal mess, that will destroy the Scottish economy.

Good old BBC pravda liars - printing the London propaganda to the people of Scotland.
# Roll_On_2011 2010-11-14 06:55
Appears that the Tories started a charity, don’t get too excited, as ever with the Tories - Charity begins at home!

Liam Fox’s tax-dodging dining club.

A sham charity set up by Liam Fox wined and dined US conservatives in the House of Commons – and dodged its tax bill in the process. “Atlantic Bridge” was set up with the ‘simple aim of “Strengthening the Special Relationship” exemplified by the Reagan-Thatcher partnership of the 1980s’ but was effectively shut down by the Charity Commission in July for breaking regulation on party political activity.

It is hard not to conclude that the Charity Commission has bent over backwards to protect the Atlantic Bridge - whose advisory board includes William Hague, George Osborne, Michael Gove and several other Tory MPs - from scandal. And this claim is not as bizarre as it may seem.

The commission has a statutory obligation to protect the reputations of charities and Michelle Russell, who heads up the commission’s compliance division, has explained that formal inquiries are to be avoided. The commission has gone as far as burying its own inquiry reports to reduce any damage to the reputations of the charities investigated.

It also appears the Charity Commission have buried their report on this caper…. well I never….. quell surprise!

Perhaps Alex can raise it with Aunt Bella the next time she gets into her jester suit at FMQ’s.
# Roll_On_2011 2010-11-14 07:06
Came across this article by Jeff Breslin (ex SNP Tactical Voting, now co-blogger on ‘betternation’) .

7 reasons why Scotland’s Labour party may lose like Sweden’s Labour party:
# Robert Louis 2010-11-14 08:25
Quoting Roll_On_2011:
Came across this article by Jeff Breslin (ex SNP Tactical Voting, now co-blogger on ‘betternation’) .

7 reasons why Scotland’s Labour party may lose like Sweden’s Labour party:

This is a very interesting article. There do indeed appear to be many similarities, but there is one major difference - The Swedish Media.

Does anybody know if the Swedish media behave as in Scotland, slavishly promoting one political party?
# wee folding bike 2010-11-14 08:37
The Herald includes this in their piece:

"With supermarkets selling such TVs for around £130, the total bill could be around £200,000."

Could it be that this £200K bill is merely a guess, much like the ever increasing alcohol profits?

That didn't make any sense either. There isn't a limitless supply of cash for alcohol and the policy was expected to reduce consumption because of the budgetary limits of purchasers.
# Roll_On_2011 2010-11-14 08:47
Quoting Robert Louis:
This is a very interesting article. There do indeed appear to be many similarities, but there is one major difference - The Swedish Media.

Does anybody know if the Swedish media behave as in Scotland, slavishly promoting one political party?

Very interesting point Robert, but it does appear that one commenter has raised that very same point.

We can only hope Jeff replies to the comment raised.
# Marian 2010-11-14 08:48
Labour and their unionist cronies are clearly very very worried about the threat from the SNP and the movement for independence when they have to resort to routinely distorting and manipulating the political news in Scotland via their MSM and their state broadcaster.
# pinkrose 2010-11-14 10:10
Television works on many levels for diverting people's attention. It is a very passive activity and stops people thinking too much about what is going on around them. Good for subduing prisoners, and the population at large! :)
# ScotlandUnspun 2010-11-14 10:17
Couple of points:

1) What is the problem?
2) What can be done about it?

1) The issue is really about "economy stupid". Britain is in a total mess and Labour got it there. Austerity is going to cause untold damage and people blame Labour for the state of the economy.

How does Labour respond to this? Bombard us with garbage via their compliant outlets. It is not just about helping the Labour party by promoting its 'policies' - if it was about that and the relationship was so close then they would actually have something approaching a coherent policy on something.

The real problem is desperation. To protect the union they have to help by continually taking the focus off of the basket case economy. Why? Because Labour caused it and the people know it and Labour is the principle party of union..

This is all diversionary as oldnat said.

2) Pointing out the problem is not, alone, going to change anything. Detailed examination like this will only work alongside a strategic campaign with a mix of tactics.

If we can identify where the BBC are vulnerable we can decide what the best mix of strategies are.

For a start, don't connect with these stories in any way - that gives them potency. They are like online shills/trolls - you have to ignore them.

Secondly, keep banging on about how the British economy is shattered and how Labour caused it. That is what they want people to forget. They want that fact to go away so let's keep with it!

People are deliberately turned off politics because of the tactics mentioned above. We must reconnect with people. Newsnet Scotland is helping with that - a lot and may well soon do better if multimedia is used. In this respect, a dozen articles detailing the bias might well be summed up in a single or series of lampoons. A combination of articles alongside lampoon scripts could heap ridicule upon the BBC, when they go viral (with a Newsnet logo and link), and bring people aboard the Newsnet platform.

I think a community website which invites civic organisations to be affiliated to would help increase pressure. It would include a direct action mailing facility to alert people to when a protest was taking place and where so people could get along with their banners..

This website could also help with complaints and petitions: the BBC get round complaints very easily because it is difficult to write complaints without leaving loopholes open. If a lawyer wrote the complaint and that was copied and pasted by those who wish to complain to the BBC that may well increase the pressure.

There is also the issue of minority languages. There is a very legal and academic debate going on over language channels as well as 'regional' output. Perhaps co-ordinated efforts in these areas would help and could spin out to connect with how tv works with 'regions' around Europe and beyong. Perhaps we can learn from the experience of others and combine resources to effect maximum pressure.

Someone mentioned independent media monitoring services. If we can get a respected media monitoring organisation to study bias and report that would also apply pressure.

Perhaps this can all be done alongside a legal/parliamentary challenge..

I'm sure there any number of tactics that can be used in a campaign to hold the BBC accountable. The problem is that the opposition is not organised and so is being ignored - the agenda motors on regardless.

If anyone wishes to start refining such a campaign they can contact me and we can look at ways of making opposition more effective: alexporter69 @
# wee folding bike 2010-11-14 11:49
Be careful with pro forma letters.

My local council plan to rebuild some Victorian schools which will free up some valuable building land near the railway station.

I wrote my own letter saying why I wasn't happy with the plan. Many parents used a pro forma. Even though the letters against the proposal outweighed those in favour the council counted all the pro forma letters as one so the balance tipped in favour of the plan.
# Whatsinaname 2010-11-15 00:17
What about setting up a site like 38 degrees but focused on Scottish issues and invite all political parties, unions, environmental groups etc to join maybe affiliated to 38 degrees or taking back parliament.

Use this to pressurise the media to report on stories rather than just pass on the views of labour if they don’t is there a legal challenge that can be made regarding bias.
# mato21 2010-11-14 10:31
I remember clearly being in the local TV shop/repairers in 2006 world cup match on that night when an urgent call came in from a prison that there was a problem with the TV reception.An engineer had to drop what he was doing and other call-outs cancelled as the prison officers were afraid there would be a riot if the problem was not fixed on time These were their words to the proprietor Labour were in power
# enneffess 2010-11-14 10:51
Giving prisoners all their comforts does not help them rehabilitate. I'm not suggesting we brutalise the system - there is still plenty of that between prisoners - but look at how military prisons are run.

Military prisons basically breakdown the new inmate, then build them back up again. There are those who have no hope and are most likely facing discharge from the forces at the end of their sentence, but those who serve a short sentence and return to active service quite often are better for the experience.

How practical this would be in the general prison population is difficult to say, but prisoners should be rewarded for efforts, not given them to avoid trouble.
# GrassyKnollington 2010-11-14 11:55
The Scottish media, as fictional a beast as The Scottish Labour Party.
# Legerwood 2010-11-14 12:09
Another example of manipulation, if another is required, appears in today's Sunday Herald.

Iain McWhirter wrote a scathing column about the killing off of the Alcohol Bill by MSPs saying it would end up losing Labour votes. He also has some words of praise for the SNP and Ms Sturgeon in particular. (

However, if you look at the on-line version you will not see the article flagged anywhere - Ian Bell'sand numerous other op-ed pieces are shown with directlinks but not Mr Mc Whirter's article. You have to go to the list of columnists and click on his picture to get to the article. Thus unless you had bought the paper version you would ot have known, without some effort, that the article existed.

This 'hiding' of articles if they appear in any way to 'praise' the SNP or give a more balanced view is not new and happens in lots of papers. The Daily Telegraph for example, has a habit of not putting articles by Mr Cochrane on-line if they contain any words of comfort/praise for the SNP.

It is in fact a form of censorship.
# Stravaiger 2010-11-14 15:28
I agree that Iain MacWhirter's column about the opposition's rejection of the Alcohol Bill did not pull any punches. It remains to be seen whether they are punished by the electorate in May for their cynical opposition for opposition's sake.

In the case of Alan Cochrane's daft anti-SNP column in the Telegraph I would tend to disagree with your viewpoint. On two highly significant occasions, namely the Megrahi release and the Alcohol Bill opposition, he has made his own feelings absolutely clear and that has been to support the stance of the Scottish Government. Both articles have been available online and open to comment.
# westender 2010-11-14 12:29
Heard this story on Saturday's GMS.The 8am news included a statement from the Scottish Prison Service that the policy was introduced in 1999 by the Lib/Lab coalition.This part of the statement was omitted from subsequent bulletins,so the distortion by the EBC is even worst than author of the article has realised.
# GrassyKnollington 2010-11-14 12:53
Actually this single story could be used as a benchmark.

It's come at a difficult time for the North British media when they don't want any close examination of the party political blocking of the minimum pricing bill.

The facts are easily established as this was a rolling replacement of TV's instigated by the Lib Lab coalition and yet as illustrated by the article and follow up comments the distortion by omission by our news providers is both sinister and deliberate.

If the truth shall set us free, we're yoked to this toxic union as long as the Brits control the News agenda.
# m4rkyboy 2010-11-14 13:41
Threw ma TV out over a year ago and have stopped buying newspapers.Everything i want i get online.
# Gill 2010-11-14 17:18
# Legerwood 2010-11-14 15:00
There is a very good and very relevant article on Go Lassie Go today called "Old and new media - the battle for Scotland" ( )

Worth a read and newsnet gets a mention amongst others.
# Albamac 2010-11-14 16:02
I don't know if anyone will find this useful, but I've created my own version of the 'Brain Wash' box.

It's a 300dpi png file. So, it's print-ready. Anyone who wants it can download it here:
# ScotlandUnspun 2010-11-14 16:27
Hey Albamac, that's excellent. No chance of putting on the BBC with the Labour red rose symbol on there?

Has to be directed at BBC bias!
# cynicalHighlander 2010-11-14 18:11
# ScotlandUnspun 2010-11-14 18:13
or BBC

British Brain Cleansing
# cynicalHighlander 2010-11-14 18:09
Off topic but I can remember a Scottish company who won the bid to take waste from the London Olympics.

Toxic waste clean-up on Olympic site cost taxpayers £12.7m:
# Leal 2010-11-14 18:21
I don't know if anyone will find this useful, but I've created my own version of the 'Brain Wash' box.

It's a 300dpi png file. So, it's print-ready. Anyone who wants it can download it here:

Great Stuff, there are many ways to get the message out.
Check out 'Scottish Not British & 'End London Rule Blogs/facebooks etc.
Printable Ideas for Stickers and Posters can be gotten. Or Create your own.
You don't have to agree with others views , just the application of Ideas.

Remember That Proclaimers Song 'What do you do (when democracy Fails you)

From reading this article then that time is Now.
Democracy will fail us if we just sit on our Hands.
# cynicalHighlander 2010-11-14 18:31
Your link brings: Error 404 - Not Found
# bmc875 2010-11-14 18:58
# rgweir 2010-11-14 21:14
SIGN UP ON facebook.
# enneffess 2010-11-15 19:01
Quoting m4rkyboy:
Threw ma TV out over a year ago and have stopped buying newspapers.Everything i want i get online.

Check out the Student Room website. There is an advert by the TV Licencing Authority (or whatever they are called) pointing out that if you watch online tv on your laptop you should have a licence.

Wonder how they are going to track that one, especially with wireless conns.

That is scaring students into buying a tv licence.

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