IN 1964, when Aberdeen was struggling with a typhoid epidemic and, less importantly, when I started work, a new broadsheet newspaper hit the streets. It was lauded, quite rightly, by journalists and photographers as being an engaging, thoughtful, impartial messenger that used photographs as they should be used but with the eloquence of size.

Sadly the readership wasn’t ready for it and it was bought by a young, thrusting press baron from Australia who turned it into a tabloid. It was called The Sun.

He knew what the people wanted and it wasn’t an intellectually challenging paper. Circulation drives between newspapers were fierce with journalists following each other in taxis as they sped off to stories.

Then there were the Sundays, where rules were meant to be broken. One high-profile, highly paid reporter would turn up at the door of bereaved families dressed as a priest asking if there were any collects – a journalistic euphemism for photographs of the dear departed.

Even in those early days the phrase “never let the facts get in the way of a good story” was commonplace. The News of the World reporters went from one rape trial to the next. What that must have done to their hard-wired brain, we can only guess.

In the early days of Reporting Scotland, the Aberdeen newsroom took a potentially job-sacking risk. They hired an expensive Sikorsky, the only helicopter that could fly in a gale, to look for a missing train in a snowstorm in the Highlands. The train was found and vulnerable passengers were airlifted. Now that’s a news story and that’s risk-taking.

In the 60s, 70s and 80s it was inconceivable that any newspaper would attack Scottish institutions with the ferocity of today’s pseudo-Scottish press. Now it’s open season and nothing is sacred.

Education, the National Health Service, the emergency services, an unfinished bridge – they all have one thing in common: the targeting of the SNP Government.

So under the freedom of the press banner a propaganda war is being waged with the intent of manipulating malleable readers who don’t understand the rules or the game.

As the mainstream media hurtles towards a circulation precipice I doubt if they will realise in time that their opinionated news stories need to reflect the readership, not contradict it. Like it or not, the SNP Government was democratically elected by the people of Scotland. A sustained attack on it is an attack on the people who voted them in.

Now journalists are being held to account for the veracity and accuracy of their stories and they do not like it. A leader is for opinion. An editorial with a particular title’s views is welcomed and important. When a newspaper indulges in subversively penned “news stories” to reflect the proprietor or editor’s personal beliefs, the credibility gap widens.

In order to persuade one must claim the credible high ground. If that is lost, so is the battle and the war.

The sad thing is that journalism is regularly being mocked and ridiculed because of its committed politics. We need to be informed honestly. We need to know that what we are being told is to the best intentions of the teller, the truth. If not, the casualties will be the messengers and the message.

There is still time for the indigenous press to grasp the nettle of objectivity. Who knows, it might actually improve circulation. It is more relevant that a newspaper tells the truth than believing in independence. If newspapers had reported truthfully in the past, Scotland would already be an independent nation.

Mike Herd

IF people speed in cars we (as a society) punish the individuals concerned. Having recognised that there is a problem we have devised a means of identifying these individuals, often at great cost.

We set up speed cameras at blackspots, we send out mobile speed traps, use facial recognition software to identify who is actually driving the vehicle and, after all is done, we ban those people who are caught breaking the law. At no point would anyone suggest banning all drivers because some people speed.

Yet the banning of wild camping seems to be the default reaction to the problem of rural roadside litter.

There are problems across Scotland with roadside litter and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Yet Perth & Kinross Council are now being asked to consider a camping ban on Loch Tummel in response to problems in certain areas along the Lochside.

This begs the question: will people be deterred from dropping litter because camping is banned? The answer is no, for society is full of pig-ignorant people who will continue to drop litter until something forces them to change their habits.

Many people walk round towns and cities dropping goodness knows what and no-one challenges them. Local authorities have the power to fine individuals up to £80 for dropping litter but often fail to.

A prime example is a local school where the pupils walk to the chip shop at lunchtime and within thirty minutes have left a sea of detritus in their wake. On the spot fines would be the right solution and would teach these offenders that it is wrong, but the local authority clearly think it’s easier to do what they have always done and send someone out to clean up after them.

So do we really think that this mentality will somehow change when these people go out into the country? Of course it won’t!

The situation is bad in urban and semi-rural areas and can only be worse the further one goes from towns because local authorities will clean up the rubbish in towns. As far as they are concerned the countryside can go rot.

We only have to look to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park to see how a camping ban, which was to deal with litter in one small area, has turned into the privatisation of camping for profit and has been extended across the whole national park. If only the same effort had been put in to change attitudes when there was no profit involved, we could have had a clean national park which is accessible and respected by all.

Instead we have the horrendous sledgehammer solution which criminalises what is a right across the rest of Scotland. Instead of chasing rubbish across Scotland, moving hotspots from one place to another, we should be changing society’s attitude to dropping litter. This may require effort in the short term but the long term benefits for the country are more than worth that effort.

James Cassidy

The news is good from Shetland (Making waves: Shetland tidal power breakthrough is another world first for Scotland, The National, August 30) but I question why it’s taken so long? In the mid-1970s, I heard Dr (now Professor) Salter giving a talk on his “Nodding Duck” and wonder why the UK Government didn’t follow it up. Today’s solution could have been available sooner.

Ian Gilbert
Address supplied

Old Sam saw.......

One hundred and six years of age,

Read life`s book to its final page;

He would not leave, he hung on long,

To live the dream, sing the victory song.

Sunshine on Leith filled his heart and ears,

With thousands more he shed the tears;

At last ! at last ! Hibs did not fail,

Sam saw the raising of the Holy grail.

Farewell, farewell, dear faithful Sam,

You had the nature of the gentle lamb;

When memories come to the finest men,

We`ll remember you and Hibernian.

Sleep now, sleep now, death is not sharp,

Listen as the angel strums the harp;

We feel sorrow, yet feel no grief,

Sam saw the Grail arrive in Leith.

George Dolbear Robertson