THE latest in the Scottish Government's white papers on independence has been published, with the key finding being that Scotland should have a new public service broadcaster, one which is more representative of Scotland and which is accountable to the Scottish public which it serves.

Currently Scotland is very poorly served by its media, the broadcast media is controlled from London and pursues an avowedly British political and cultural agenda.

In the case of the BBC, this means the marginalisation and trivialisation of Scottish news, which has an almost total news blackout on developments which are positive for the independence case. However, news which is seen to damage the case for independence is trumpeted.

There is also an unwillingness to hold the British Government to account, even as the Scottish Government is intensely scrutinised.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence at the UK Covid Inquiry in Edinburgh on Wednesday

The most recent example of this has been the screaming hysteria with which the Scottish media has dealt with the UK Covid Inquiry's sessions in Edinburgh and its obsession with Nicola Sturgeon's WhatsApp messages.

Various figures have confirmed that – unlike the Conservative Government of Boris Johnson –the Scottish Government did not use WhatsApp for making policy decisions, but the deletion of WhatsApp messages dealing largely with ephemeral issues such as staff leave arrangements has been elevated by the Scottish media into a national scandal akin to an arson attack on the National Archives.

Meanwhile the pathetically transparent lies of Boris Johnson or Rishi Sunak, who claimed to have lost their phones, or the statement from Governor General Alister Jack that he deleted all his WhatsApp messages to save space on his phone, were met with the Scottish media with a collective: "Oh dear what a pity - that Nicola Sturgeon eh?"

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The term witch hunt is often overused, but it is all too apposite in this case. There have been no allegations of anything remotely as egregious in the Scottish Government as the corruption, incompetence and callous disregard for the lives of citizens which characterised the Conservatives' mishandling of the pandemic. And make no mistake, the Scottish media would have been all over it if there had been as much as the merest whiff of an equivalent scandal.

Instead all we get are pious pronouncements about the optics of deleting ephemeral WhatsApp messages from the media which creates the optics.

The print media, which is under no obligation to pretend to be unbiased, is even worse than BBC Scotland. Despite the fact that independence is espoused by a good half of the Scottish population, this newspaper is the only daily in Scotland to support independence, and for doing so comes under constant attack for being biased – while newspapers which propagate a reactionary variety of British nationalism are allowed to maintain the twin fictions. One: that they are “neutral”, and two: that the British nationalism they promote is not in fact a form of nationalism at all.

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Given that there are around 38 daily and weekly newspapers published in Scotland, this creates a media landscape which is wildly unrepresentative of the population it purports to serve. This is deeply unhealthy in a democracy.

To be clear, no one is advocating SNP TV, or an SNP dominance in the print media, however it is not at all unreasonable to expect that the people of Scotland should have a media which is broadly representative of the true range of political and social opinion in this country. Addressing Scotland's lack of a public service broadcaster of its own is a vital first step to achieving that.

The great pity is that we cannot do this now.

Originally it was envisaged that devolution would give the Scottish Parliament control of broadcasting, this is normal practice in self-governing nations and territories elsewhere in the world. However Scottish Labour MPs in the government of Tony Blair objected and control over broadcasting was moved to the list of powers which were reserved to Westminster. Another consequence of this was that an Act of the Westminster Parliament was required before Scotland could establish a Gaelic-language TV channel.

Talking of media bias in general and BBC bias in particular, BBC Question Time was broadcast from Glasgow on Thursday evening. I did not watch the show as it was broadcast live, because I've already suffered one stroke. I was unwilling to risk another by having my blood pressure raised through the roof by another instance of the BBC treating us all as fools.

In the interests of BBC balance, a representative panel in Glasgow was deemed to require two Conservatives – in a city that has not had a Tory MP since 1979.

The star performer however was the woman in the audience who was met with applause after contrasting the Scottish media's hounding of Nicola Sturgeon with the kid glove treatment given to the Tories, saying: "I find the hypocrisy quite breathtaking actually. You have a former prime minister who was heading up a culture of partying, law-breaking, corruption, cronyism in money, and has not submitted a single WhatsApp with the most ridiculous excuses.

"You've got a current Westminster Prime Minister [Rishi Sunak] who also hasn't submitted a single WhatsApp. He can't recall anything. I think it was 30 odd times during this.

“And I feel that Nicola Sturgeon has been, it's just a witch hunt. I actually think she has stood up for Scotland. I think she did what she could in the most trying situations, and this is absolutely political. I think it's a disgrace."

It is a disgrace. The Scottish media summed up in four words.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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