Hacks Playing Politics Soil Journalism

On Sunday, a newspaper ran a story that Scotland was heavily subsidised by England. It concluded that, should the southern cash be taken away by independence, it would “cost Scots billions”.

Given that Scotland on Sunday ran this top of page one, the paper must think it is news. To make that judgement, SoS can’t have been reading the Scottish press for the last decade. Indeed, it can’t have been reading its own back issues.

The fact that Scotland is subsidised first hit the news agenda in 1995 with the publication of Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) document from the old Scottish Office. Since that time, the story has made regular appearances, not least on the front page of Scotland on Sunday the weekend before the 1999 election.

Political editor, Eddie Barnes’ tale added nothing new to the tale. So why was it run? Why waste the top spot of your newspaper on a tale as weary as ‘Scots are subsidy junkies’, a cry familiar from the days of Margaret Thatcher and John Major?

To be clear about this, the tale is very old. The Barnett Formula, which determines government cash distribution throughout the UK, was set in the 1970s. It explicitly awards a higher per capita budget to Scots than those south of the border. So the higher spend isn’t merely an old fact, it is truism of UK governance. As a story, it’s like splashing on “UK has Defence Budget” or