SUCH are the travails of the Labour Party in Scotland that I woke up bleary-eyed on Thursday to the news that Ian Murray had resigned.

My first cogent thought was the only Labour Member of Parliament from Scotland for Edinburgh South had fallen on his sword, until it slowly dawned on me that he was a Hearts fan, and unlikely to have been caught up in the debacle of Rangers fans celebrating in George Square.

Then it started to sink in, there was another Ian Murray, and I had seen him on the telly arguing with Victoria Derbyshire about racism in the media, and as they like to say these days he was not “reading the room”.

The Ian Murray who fell on his sword, was the executive director of the ­Society of Editors. With Murray’s say-so, the ­society had issued a huffily-worded ­statement following Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in which it said it was “not acceptable” for the ­couple to make claims of racism in the press ­“without supporting evidence”. The ­statement went on to argue that the UK press was not racist. It was a ­staggeringly tone-deaf defence of the newspaper ­industry, akin to arguing that Piers ­Morgan never seeks attention.

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On his way out the door, Murray said, “While I do not agree the society’s statement was in any way intended to defend racism, I accept it could have been much clearer in its condemnation of bigotry and has clearly caused upset”. He was right about that.

What was saddening about Ian ­Murray’s departure is that his ­organisation has much to be proud of. Like many modern organisations, they have run diversity ­programmes within the newspaper industry, and have published good practice guides on Reporting Diversity, Reporting Poverty, and Dealing with the stigma of drugs in society.

Ian Murray was not defending racism, but he brought unwanted attention to his profession at a sensitive time, by seeming to defend its worst practices. In the exchange with Victoria Derbyshire, he was undone by the very thing he would normally defend – good journalism.

One of Murray’s most glaring published comments seemed to deny there was even a problem. “The UK media is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account following the attack on the press by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” it said.

“Holding power to account” – now where have I heard that august phrase before?

Speaking truth to power is one of the defining pillars of journalism but increasingly it is being over exaggerated and, in many cases, used as a fig-leaf to defend the powerful.

One of the first principles of ­holding power to account is to dig deep into ­stories to try to establish where power resides or whether such a thing even exists.

This week, a US judge delayed jury ­selection in the case of Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the incident that sparked global denunciation of police powers by the Black Lives Matter movement. Does power reside in Chauvin’s skin colour, in the uniform he wore or in the police practices he so fatally enforced? It is a layered question and almost certainly invites a layered answer.

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So too is the horrific killing of Sarah Everard and the subsequent arrest of a serving Metropolitan Police officer after Scotland Yard confirmed human remains had been found in woodland in Kent.

To hold power to account, a journalist might reasonably target the individual officer, police culture or indeed Cressida Dick, the Met Police Commissioner who seems to be struggling to defend an organization riddled with malpractice, some of it operational, some of it racist and no doubt some of it misogynist too. Good journalism might also chip away at the hidden power structures that society has erected to benefit men.

Determining where power lies is at the heart of the independence debate in Scotland. Under the current devolution settlement, it is not always clear where power resides and how it might be brought to account. Nor does newspaper journalism always assist that ambition.

Much of the media in Scotland, focuses on the power that resides at Holyrood, and so the target for criticism is almost inevitably the SNP government. Some of that is fair and proportionate but much of it is not and some of the of the most jaundiced journalism in Scotland, seems to be shoring up power rather than holding it to account.

A report published last Wednesday by the Commons public accounts committee, argued that the NHS test and trace has made no appreciable difference in reducing transmission. The total budget for the UK’s failed Test & Trace system is £37billion, much of it spent or rather squandered through hired consultants and it is nothing short of scandalous. Ireland’s test and trace system by comparison cost only £733,000 and it worked.

READ MORE: £37 billion spent on Test and Trace could have gone to our NHS workers

Does the buck stop with the Prime Minister or with Matt Hancock, who increasingly looks like a character from the Carry On films or does it lie with Baroness Dido Harding who was brought in to lead the initiative despite lacking a background in public health?

More appropriately, how do we unpick the expensive means by which consultants are commandeered to assist governments, both in Scotland and Westminster.What is the value of their work when it is used as arms-length distancing to protect politicians?

The total budget for everything the Scottish Government funds in a typical year is around £30 billion. So, in a week when a new Scottish budget came to Holyrood, the chasms of difference between what we receive from the current system and what has been wasted by Westminster are stark and obvious.

So where might a journalist start. Is power in the hands of Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes and the limited decisions she can take or is it the distant paymasters in England who value the Scottish economy so tardily?

The National: Kate Forbes

Maybe a partial answer lies in the machination of the Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross who often gets a free pass into radio and television studios and who crops up routinely in newspapers to criticise the Scottish Government. Let us not forget that Ross is an elected representative in a Parliament that has been cavalier with public money and still exerts significant power over Scottish public affairs.

When is his power to be held to account?

Here is a politician who turns a blind eye to his own party’s performance and rarely if ever stands up for Scotland’s interests in the most powerful chamber in the UK. Worse still, it seems that the press sees Ross as the Conservatives in Scotland and not a Scottish voice, challenging affairs in Westminster.

So, he is invited to snipe at Kate Forbes over free school dinners, a subject that has taken a professional footballer from Manchester United to highlight in England, but he is never asked to account for the catastrophic failures of Track and Trace, and how a proportion of that money might have been better spent in Scotland.

Holding power to account is a lofty ideal and one that defines on of the core purposes of journalism, but we live in times when it is not always clear where power actually lies and whether senior journalists in Scotland are sufficiently interested in the answer.