by Colin Campbell Saturday, April 18
THERE was anger yesterday over a slew of divisive headlines which appeared in the independence supporting National newspaper this week at a time of a UK-wide crisis when thousands of people are dying from the coronavirus.
Readers contacted Inverness news and views to express their disgust at the tone of the paper, where a spate of inflammatory headlines featuring the words “England” or “the English” appeared on page after page last Tuesday. The same edition of the paper included a claim that Scotland being part of the Union had been “directly responsible for the death of many Scots”.
Yesterday we reported on the National’s coverage, with the front page being devoted to a discredited story headlined: “UK Govt ‘told PPE firms to prioritise England’”.
Scotland’s health secretary Jeanne Freeman, along with First Minister Nicola, had expressed concern that care home workers north of the border could be losing out. Ms Freeman later said she accepted and was grateful for Government assurances that this was not the case.
But it set the tone of the paper – which panders to and is a platform for the most extreme nationalists.
The letters section was headlined: “Is there any doubt that being in the Union has led to Scottish deaths.”
Underneath also appeared claims that Scots who voted Conservative in the December general election “effectively voted for the death of their friends, relatives and neighbours”.
INV readers were appalled by these claims at a time of national emergency when arguments for and against independence have virtually been suspended across print, online and broadcasting media.
Except in the National.
Since the crisis began Inverness news and views has not once mentioned the issue – it has become for the time being irrelevant amid the battle to save lives. The same principle has been applied in the media across the board, as people of all political persuasions have come together at a time of national unity where concerns are totally focused on trying to halt the spread of a killer disease, unprecedented in living memory.
In recent weeks the paper has also toned down its rabidly pro-independence stance in its coverage of the crisis.
But last Tuesday it abandoned the more measured approach and reverted to its ugly and divisive form, as “England” and “the English” appeared in headlines throughout.
The editor of the National, Calum Baird, has been issuing daily appeals for support from readers because the economic impact of the coronavirus as a result of a collapse in sales, he says, brings “a deadly threat to our paper’s future”.
As Baird begs for backing his thinking may be that if the paper again starts fanning the flames of the independence issue, it will attract sales amid the more fanatical proponents of breaking up the UK.
If so, he may well have misjudged the mood of the moment.
Yesterday, we said the paper that “faces a deadly threat” could be on its deathbed.
As one angry correspondent who emailed us said: “If this is the kind of tone it takes at a time of national crisis, the best thing that could happen would be for it to die.”