In My Opinion: Bill Heaney: Opportunity knocks, following the General Election

OPPORTUNITY knocks for the Scottish media following the political earthquake that saw 56 SNP members of parliament elected to Westminster.

This is a very real chance for newspapers to consolidate the sales and website hits they are believed to have added during the independence referendum and the General Election – and to build on them.

And for the likes of the BBC’s Reporting Scotland, to give the public some cutting-edge news.

That’s not to say that Brian Taylor, Tim Reid and David Porter don’t do their bit for the Beeb or that STV’s Bernard Ponsonby is not the best political editor in the United Kingdom.

Torcuil Crichton at the Daily Record and Kate Devlin at The Herald do much more than just pull their weight at present.

As do Alan Cochrane at the Telegraph and did the late Angus Macleod at The Times and Lindsay McIntosh who has followed him into the politics chair.

But do their editors – and, importantly, their proprietors – give them enough time and space and support staff to push politics back to the top of the news schedules?

The shifting of the tectonic plates of politics in Scotland, as Nicola Sturgeon called it, is a huge opportunity for the media.

It’s something they could not have dreamed of – and certainly didn’t forecast – before the General Election.

Early indications are that the public thirst for politics has not been quenched by the massive election coverage of the past two months.

Instead, like Oliver, the punters – and not just the ‘anoraks’ – are asking for more.

But will the media cost-cutters give them what they want?

Or will the news desks run the political correspondents into the ground, chasing their tails and covering committees as well as reporting the multitude of stories that are about to break in the Palace of Westminster?

The prospect of 56 MPs, most of them new, is a nightmare for the SNP whips who will try to keep them ‘on message’.

It’s the task of the political corrs and editors to ensure that they around when these new arrivals go off message or step out of line – as they most assuredly will.

And, of course, to record the ordinary but important events that take place in parliament each day.

It will be interesting to see if all those new faces at Westminster include additional members of the Scottish press corps or if our media will pass up this opportunity – which is really too good to be missed.

Bill Heaney is an award-winning journalist who edited the Lennox Herald for many years and was a special adviser, on the regional press, at Holyrood and a media adviser at Westminster. He is now retired but continues to operate as a columnist with the Lennox Herald and a pro bono media consultant to a number of churches and charities.