In My Opinion: David Hutchison: The #indyref – international media perspectives

THERE has been much academic analysis of the result of the 2014 independence referendum and its consequences, and the role and performance of the media have been much discussed.

Attention has focused not only on the media in Scotland but also on the media based south of the border, most of which have a significant Scottish presence and are important in any wider view of how this debate was represented and constructed.

It is also the case that international perspectives on the debate were heard not only in their home territories but also in Scotland, and with increasing frequency as September 18th approached, and the result seemed much less predictable than had previously been anticipated.

So, Neil Blain of Stirling University, and I, with the help of Gerry Hassan – the researcher and commentator – decided to enlist the help of colleagues from a range of different countries and asked them to consider how their media reported and commented on the referendum. And its result.

The resulting book begins at home, and, after an overview of the campaign, there are chapters which consider the performances of the press and broadcasting in Scotland, alongside that of social media.

Other chapters consider sport and gender and the role of the Scottish commentariat.

Essays from academics based in England look at press and broadcasting coverage there, while the Welsh perspective and Irish standpoints – from both sides of the border – are also covered.

Inevitably, any discussion of Scottish independence has clear political resonance beyond our borders and that is very much reflected in what our contributors have to say – not just about the media performance in their parts of the world but also about how their politicians reacted to the prospect of an independent Scotland.

When deciding from which other countries useful perspectives might be derived, first of all we went for the obvious choices: parts of the world where there are continuing struggles and disputes over the relationship between political structures and articulations of national identity.

So, two of our contributors hail from Spain and Catalonia, one from Quebec and one from ‘the rest of Canada’.

The possibility of a referendum on Catalan independence remains a very divisive issue in Spain, while in Quebec the prospect of a third referendum on independence may have receded for the moment but the constitutional debate is far from being finally settled.

Germany is a well-established federal state, so we decided that an analysis from that country should be included.

France, on the other hand, is often thought of as a highly-centralised state yet it too has a regionalised aspect, and we invited a French colleague to contribute a chapter from the perspective of the other partner in ‘the auld alliance’.

Finally, we asked a Scottish academic currently based in Australia to examine how the referendum was presented in the media of a country with a large Scottish diaspora.

As it became clear that the SNP was heading for a General Election triumph in 2015, despite losing the referendum, we asked all of our contributors to reflect on the political consequences and the presentation in their media of that fact.

So we have been able to take the analysis beyond September 2014.

It is our hope that the book we now have will offer a distinctive contribution to what is bound to be an ongoing discussion, the ultimate consequences of which are far from clear.

Scotland’s Referendum and the Media: National and International Perspectives will be published by Edinburgh University Press in March 2016.

David Hutchison is Honorary Professor of Media Policy at Glasgow Caledonian University.