THOSE who still believe that the UK press exists to act as an honest scrutineer of big government probably also think that Boris Johnson possesses a sincerely-held opinion. Alongside this adorable fairytale sits another one: that there once existed a Xanadu rich in unicorns and moonbeams when the British press provided balance and perspective. In this time long ago, to paraphrase the great philosopher Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda, British newspapers harnessed the flow of the universe.

This must have been a long time ago indeed, for no records survive of our great national prints displaying rectitude and objective forbearance in its reporting of mighty events. With a few noble exceptions, the UK’s most powerful newspapers largely exist to reflect the prejudices of their owners and to influence national policies which might adversely or advantageously affect the fortunes of their class.

That the vast majority of UK titles are presently in the hands of a handful of very rich white men should give you an idea of where those interests lie. It’s why not a single London-based title nor any of its Scottish satellites supported the cause of Scottish independence during the 2014 referendum campaign.

Supporters of Scottish independence shouldn’t lose too much sleep over this: these titles had no moral duty to cover the referendum campaign fairly and evenly, and certainly not when a victory for Yes might have threatened the world in which their opinions held sway.

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Perhaps you might have expected The Guardian or The Daily Mirror and its Scottish sister paper the Daily Record to have attempted sustained objectivity. The Guardian’s Scottish political coverage during this time was largely and depressingly one-sided. Its sister paper, The Observer, on the other hand adopted a more grown-up approach to the referendum.

During this time I was the paper’s sole Scottish columnist and at no time did it seek to curtail my flowering support for Scottish independence. This was despite a degree of lobbying from nameless Scottish Labour shills (and at least one journalist) for The Observer to fall in line with its sister’s obeisance to the Unionist cause.

During this time, the Daily Record, which has been the paper of choice in my wider family for generations (and still is) effectively allowed itself to be used as Gordon Brown’s personal blog, culminating in the back-of-a-fag-packet Vow on the eve of the referendum. Inexplicably, this cartoon front page won a prize in the 2015 Scottish Press Awards and remains a source of much pride among its staff.

Instead of speaking truth to power, the paper on that day and throughout the referendum permitted the ultimate UK power to use it as a hired megaphone.

Yet several weeks ago one of its senior reporters, with no sense of irony emitted a “late-night” tweet attacking The National for failing to do more with a story critical of the SNP. Happily, the Record seems presently to be covering the constitutional debate in a more mature fashion. No-one would expect it to come out for Yes (although watch this space) but its coverage of Scottish politics doesn’t look as though it’s first been approved by a Scottish Labour committee.

The only media outlet in Scotland where the public are entitled to expect a measure of objectivity is the BBC. Yet, since the launch of the independence campaign, a combination of sheer incompetence and the all-pervading influence of London has undermined its coverage of constitutional affairs. At the moment, though, BBC Scotland’s news and current affairs offering is so amateurishly uninspiring that I’d simply be glad if they fixed that first.

INTO this terrain came The National in 2015, accompanied by much sanctimonious wailing and gnashing of teeth by some journalists and commentators who really ought to have known better. For daring to express its support for independence the paper faced a barrage of condescension and ill-considered criticism.

Much of this came from a group of journalists on social media known as the JK Rowling Glee Club. They all worked for titles whose idea of balance in reporting the independence issue was similar to that which existed in the state-approved media of the German Democratic Republic in the Erich Honecker era.

The National is not without its flaws but in the five years or so of its existence and with a fraction of the resources of Scotland’s other national titles it deserves now to take its place among them. This week it gained a UK-wide accolade in the Hold the Front Page awards for its McCrone Day front in February of last year.

The splash detailed how UK governments kept a report on the great value Scotland’s oil secret for decades for fear of triggering widespread support for independence. Even when this was finally exposed most Scottish newspapers failed to give it the coverage it deserved.

The National’s McCrone Day is now an annual fixture, and for good reason: in my experience, when uncertain Unionists discover the facts of the McCrone cover-up it rocks their universe a little. By marking this annually, The National also gives Yes supporters ammunition for any debates of their own on the issue.

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If I had a gripe with the paper it’s that there are still too many politicians writing for us (former and current), but this is something on which I appear to be out of step in every paper I’ve ever worked for.

There is good reason for newspapers to employ politicians as columnists: they can often be the source of decent news stories. But few of them can write and often get an aide to do it for them.

But apart from that (which maybe says more about me than the paper) The National is now the main vehicle for objective opinion and news on the widening independence base. And far from it being slavishly devoted to the SNP, some writers have begun to question the party’s control-freakery and the juvenile stitch-ups deployed by the old NEC to protect Nicola Sturgeon.

More importantly, it gives space to positive stories about Scottish independence which are deliberately overlooked by Scotland’s other press outlets.

You might be tempted to view this as evidence to justify the claims of pro-independence propaganda. But these would carry more weight if they didn’t come from journalists working on titles whose lips are never far from the fundaments of Boris Johnson and the Tory Cabinet.

And besides, every successful newspaper on the planet derives much of its favour from being in tune with its readership’s political and cultural choices. The National simply chooses to be honest about it.