A TEAM of journalists dedicated to carrying out investigations in Scotland has begun work on major projects after a crowdfunding appeal to fund its research exceeded its target in less than six weeks.

The Ferret, a website set up to uncover and highlight issues of public concern, launched in June and set up an appeal for donors in early July.

It was the brainchild of Scots-based journalists Rob Edwards, Peter Geoghegan, Billy Briggs and Rachel Hamada and, like The National, responded to the need for an alternative type of media to reach thousands of freshly engaged and energised readers following last September’s independence referendum.

The team had hoped to reach a target of £3,800 to investigate the fracking industry, but after 235 people dug into their pockets more than £9,000 was raised, allowing the journalists to go ahead with their original ideas but also examine the plight of asylum-seekers.

Edwards, one of The Ferret’s co-founders, told The National he was delighted with the response to the funding appeal, which would allow the team to commission members of the team and other journalists to carry out the rigorous and time-consuming work.

“Investigative journalism, like all journalism and publishing is suffering because of the fall of advertising, the decline in circulation of conventionally produced newspapers,” he said.

“Traditionally investigative journalism was funded by advertisers supporting newspapers but as that model is collapsing journalists aren’t able to spend a week or so on a story and may have to write two, three or four stories a day.

“That is something everyone in the profession is acutely aware of. We think it’s very important that fact-based, independent journalism that is not beholden to any corporate, political or establishment interest is properly funded.”

He added: “Like The National, we are part of the post-referendum surge of interest in news. We are not saying there is no investigative journalism taking place in Scotland. There is some extremely good work being carried out.

“We are just saying the particular form of journalism we want to do, which may involve going through a lot of data and aiming to break new stories needs time and resources. We hope we have the model right and to some degree we are feeling our way.”

Crime writer Val McDermid, land reform campaigner Andy Wightman as well as broadcaster and journalists Derek Bateman, Iain Macwhirter and Alex Massie were among those who donated to the appeal.

The Ferret’s investigation on fracking and wider unconventional gas issues is currently at the initial stages and is being planned for the end of September, with the work on asylum-seekers following later in the year. “We are looking for stories that will help shape the debate as journalists do,” Edwards added.

“We are looking at everything and at the moment we are not sure where we will end up. The fracking investigation may run over days or weeks. It will certainly include multi-media components, sound and video, photos as well as text. All background documents obtained in the investigation will also be published. Anything that is key to the story we will also publish. We aim to be fully transparent.”