ROSS Greer says some of the The National’s front pages have been “cringe-inducing”. But the overwhelming impression I get from his extended whine is that he brought the cringe with him. His complaint appears to be that The National is not like other papers. That it’s not what he’s accustomed to thinking of as a “serious” newspaper. In this, he transgresses perhaps the only good advice ever offered by Mike Small, of Bella Caledonia, when he urged that we should get away from accepting the British state as the standard by which all things are judged. Which, presumably, extends to the media arm of the British establishment.

Ross seems to suppose that, because The National doesn’t look like The Herald or (heaven forfend!) The Scotsman, then it is unlikely to be regarded as a “real” newspaper. And he has a point. People have expectations. Challenge those expectations too hard or too fast, and your target audience is likely to instinctively reject — or, at least, doubt — the authenticity of what is being presented to them. This is something which I have long insisted that the “new” media of the Yes movement be mindful of.

It’s not just in terms of circulation and reach that the mainstream media must be matched — and, hopefully, surpassed — but also in terms of authority. To a considerable degree, that authority depends on conforming to a certain style. The style which has, over time, come to be associated in people’s minds with the authority that alternative media is seeking to acquire.

But this is not a hard and fast rule, which is where Ross Greer goes wrong. Expectations can be challenged. In fact, they must be challenged if stagnation is to be avoided. The degree to which people are wedded to their own ideas of what a newspaper should look like varies immensely. Ross seems to be tending towards the rigid end of that spectrum.

This is unfortunate. But not significant. Ross Greer is but one individual. He is, as we are constantly and pointlessly reminded, entitled to his opinion. Those who think as he does will find affirmation in his niggling and nit-picking. But there is an alternative perspective which may give the open-minded some pause for thought.

Much is made of Scotland’s distinctive political culture — both by those who are happy to acknowledge it and those who are anxious to deny it. Dismissing the latter as blinkered bigots, I will insist on the reality of this distinctive political culture. I will do so without presenting any argument here. I have done so at what some would doubtless denounce as tedious length elsewhere.

Given that Scotland has this distinctive political culture, it follows that we need media which reflect that distinctiveness. If Scotland’s newspapers are to be Scottish newspapers then they must defy expectations derived from a British political culture that is increasingly alien. They must test our ability to set aside those expectations. They must challenge us to reject the notion that “British” is normal.

Ross Greer is evidently having some issues with this adjustment. Let’s put it no more strongly than that. My opinion is that The National is doing a rather good job of being the new media that Scotland needs. Some say it’s not “bold” enough. Others maintain that it goes too far and thereby forfeits some measure of authority. They’re probably all correct to at least some extent.

To all, including Ross Greer, I would say only that we should be grateful somebody is making the effort. We should be glad of the fact that we have, six days a week, evidence that a different perspective is possible.

That Callum Baird and his team may occasionally get it wrong is vastly less important than the fact that The National exists.
Peter A Bell


National is unique and we should give it our support

IT seems that some within the broader Yes movement are suffering from having too much time on their hands since the flurry of elections. Instead of going out to promote the Yes movement as positively as possible, they seem intent on looking inwards and picking fights when we are all meant to be campaigning for the same outcome — Scotland’s independence.

The comments from Ross Greer regarding the role of The National, including its front pages (Ross Greer: The National’s front pages hurt its credibility as a serious newspaper, The National, August 2), could have been constructive if he had spoken to the editor or staff and raised his concerns privately rather than raise the subject on Twitter.

He seems to imply that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is a “zoomer”. Not exactly the most constructive way of getting his point across. I am sure there are many readers of The National who favour certain columnists (eg Mhairi Black, George Kerevan) over others, but without as wide a range of voices as possible The National would appeal to far fewer readers.

We have to remember The National is the ONLY newspaper supporting an independent Scotland, and it needs our support. Some columnists or articles might annoy individual readers from time to time but it wouldn’t be much of a newspaper if that didn’t happen.

The National stands out on the news stands because of its front page. As the editor said, it was a deliberate decision to make them as eye-catching as possible to draw more potential readers to the paper. In a world of dreary, mainly right-wing, celebrity-obsessed mainstream media, The National stands heads and shoulders above its competitors.

Councillor Kenny MacLaren Paisley I NOTED with interest the article by Ross Greer and the response from The National’s editor. I must say I was very disappointed with the article from Ross — I would have expected better.

The National has done very well to have survived at a time when most newspapers are consistently losing readers. I have bought The National since it was first published, and while I do not agree with many articles and letters I have seen in it, I consider it far better than the alternatives available.

Your “Enemies of the Scottish People” front page, which Ross describes as “cheap, nasty and sensationalist”, was, in my view, an excellent use of satire in taking the appalling Daily Mail headline to task. I thought it was excellent, but it may have been too sophisticated for Ross.

In any event there appears to be no evidence that this front page did The National any harm. We desperately need at least one independence-supporting paper putting our side of the debate. If Ross believes a better one can be produced which will help us win the referendum then he should work to get it established. I would buy it, but I doubt if I would agree with everything in it.

In the meantime we must ensure The National survives. I have decided to order three Nationals each day instead of my usual one and deliver the other two to people who I know do not buy a newspaper but who will benefit from having the opportunity to read some of the articles in The National.
Andy Anderson

I DON’T recognise Ross Greer’s whines about The National. He has done himself no favours and comes across as if he believes himself to be intellectually “superior” to its output. I think The National is doing a great job and find the content and front pages exactly what the indy movement needs. No other paper covers Scottish affairs as well as The National — fact.

Recently, I asked a number of people whether they had heard of Brian Quail and none had. They were shocked that his imprisonment had not been given any publicity, so I showed them the coverage in The National.

I often try to suggest to give The National a try and often find many have not heard of it. I have also fought/argued with the manager of my local Scotmid shop to get The National a prominent spot on the news stand and I find that my persistence is paying off.
Ian Innes

I AM sorry that my first letter to your excellent newspaper may have a negative ring to it, but I fully agree with Ross Greer that sometimes the front page of The National does no favours to the cause it rightly champions. Please, dispense with the lurid, cartoon-style front pages resembling comics of yesteryear. They discourage readers who want to buy a serious newspaper, and don’t reflect the otherwise extremely high standard of content.  
Ruth Marr

CAN I just say we should support The National — full stop! It has been a godsend for our movement. What we had three years ago was grim and I now want to buy a newspaper again. I have never written to a paper before but now is the time (sorry to steal the slogan, May).

I would also praise Ross Greer for his opinion but more so Kevin McKenna on his article stating “the SNP need to remind themselves they are still the ones who ought to be calling the shots”. I am a totally frustrated indy supporter but we must keep the faith.
Irene Wilson
Dalgety Bay