How novice finance minister Kate’s love-in with the media didn’t last

by Colin Campbell

KATE Forbes got pretty sweet treatment from the media when she announced her engagement a few weeks ago.

Kate Forbes.

It may not have been full Harry and Meghan, but there were photos of her and her fiancé everywhere, and of her ring, and glowing reports about her happiness.

One local paper carried the kind of report which appeared in many.

“Local constituency MSP Kate Forbes and her fiancé Alasdair (Ali) Maclennan have said they have been bowled over by the response of thousands of well-wishers following news of their engagement last month.

“After posting the news along with a photograph of her ring on her social media channels, Ms Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, received hundreds of emails congratulating the couple on their good news.

“Mr Maclennan popped the question as a surprise after a recent local walk in the snow in the Highlands.

“Ms Forbes told us: ‘Ali and I are very grateful for the incredible response to news of our engagement. We did not expect the amazing outpouring of kind wishes and support from across the political spectrum.

‘It has been a challenging year, and good news is in short supply so it was a lovely surprise. We hope that any romance that can withstand lockdown will last the years.”

So they got full Mills and Boon coverage. It was a nice enough story. And an upbeat reminder that not all members of the SNP hierarchy are grievance-mongering malcontents, at least not 24 hours a day.

Now back at the day job as the novice SNP finance minister she’s gone and repaid them by scrapping business rates relief for the extremely hard-pressed newspaper industry.

So the media honeymoon didn’t last.

She’s now being urged to reverse that decision.

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “I’ve been very impressed at how our local journalists have kept going during the pandemic and kept their readership up-to-date with what is going on locally. They are doing a great job and deserve to be supported. They are hugely important as a source of news for locals. I find it extraordinary that Kate Forbes can seriously be contemplating a situation which would leave Scotland as the only country in Europe not providing Covid-related support to newspaper publishers.”

Whether or not the bride-to-be will agree on a rethink remains to be seen.

But after the engagement love-in, if she doesn’t she shouldn’t expect too much media confetti being scattered over her for the wedding.

Meanwhile, what have Inverness MP Drew Hendry and his sidekick, MSP Fergus Ewing got to say about this? Not Kate Forbes’ engagement, I’m sure they’re as utterly thrilled about that as everyone else, but the penalty on the newspaper industry.

Ex-councillor Hendry, who has reinvented himself as one of the SNP’s, and indeed one of the country’s, and perhaps one of the world’s leading financial experts, has a regular column in the Inverness Courier which gives him the chance to blather on about being dragged out of the EU against our will and so on and so forth, and he gets plenty coverage on local issues as well.

The same applies to Ewing, the SNP candidate in the May elections, who has lived and breathed the cause of independence for every waking second of his cosy and highly lucrative 20-year career at Holyrood, and who now wants to get back for another cosy and highly lucrative term at Holyrood to pursue his truly manic obsession with gaining independence.

This pair of plods may not have anything of much use to contribute. But as they’ve had more than their fair share of good media coverage they could at least have a word in the bride-to-be’s ear about penalising the ailing media industry and say, in a famous phrase used in a different context: “Now is not the time.”

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