Media in the Press

Post-graduate Journalism student, Alessandro Brunelli, casts his eyes over the media stories making the press today.

The Scottish Government is reported standing accused of breaching freedom of information (FOI) law, The Herald claims on its front page in an article billed 'exclusive', by Paul Hutcheon.

The Herald claims that figures revealing the amount of money awarded to government staff under early retirement and severance schemes were only revealed on Wednesday, nine months after the FOI request the newspaper made, in June last year.

Kevin Dunnon, the Scottish Information Commissioner, is quoted, stating: “Public bodies have a legal obligation to respond to every FOI request they receive within 20 working days, and any failure to do so is a breach of the law.

“Taking several months to respond is therefore clearly unacceptable.”

The figures are said to show that more than £19 million was paid to 302 departing staff over the past three years, with two civil servants each receiving £450,000, while the average payment was £63,284.

Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, is also quoted, saying: “These figures are absolutely eye-watering and will leave thousands of Scots facing redundancy speechless.

“The fact that Alex Salmond waited until after Parliament had risen to avoid answering questions about this speaks volumes.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson is also quoted, saying “We recognise the financial challenges we will face, which is why we are making the organisation permanently smaller. As staff depart the organisation – on terms determined by the UK Cabinet Office – permanent savings will be quickly achieved.

“With regard to the delayed response, we aim to answer FOI requests as quickly as possible and this reply was issued as soon as the information was ready.”

On to The Scotsman (page 24), with senior Scotland Yard police officer, John Yates, reported denying accusations of protecting News of the World journalists from phone hacking allegations, as he appeared before the culture, media and sport select committee yesterday at Westminster.

Labour MP, Tom Watson, is reported asking if he had suppressed wrongdoings by News of the World journalists, and Yates is quoted, replying “absolutely not”.

Meanwhile, moving on to the Scottish Daily Express (page 2), where Royal Correspondent, Richard Palmer, reports that the BBC's editorial policy director, David Jordan, and director of news, Helen Boaden, are said to have both agreed to change the Corporation's approach to the portrayal of the Royal Family.

The decision comes after claims the BBC could be in breach of guidelines with their “fawning” coverage of the Royal Family.

Campaigns manager for a group called Republic, Graham Smith, is quoted, stating: “The BBC has a legal duty of impartiality when it comes to controversial subjects like the monarchy but all too often it comes across as part of the royal PR machine.

“It is treating the royal wedding as a celebration of the Royal Family instead of reporting it impartially.

“We felt that David and Helen took our concerns seriously and we were assured that in certain areas, such as the royal finances, there would be greater scrutiny of Palace claims.”

But a James Edgecombe of the British Monarchist League is also quoted, saying: “We're quite outraged by that.

“The BBC should reflect the majority view of the population.

“A YouGov poll earlier this week found that only 13 per cent of the public now want to get rid of the monarchy.”

Other media stories:

* The Herald (page 11) reports the BBC said the special edition of TV programme, EastEnders, for Comic Relief, was “accurate and sensitive”. The statement follows complaints the programme was inappropriate for a family audience.

* The Scotsman (page 68) reports that two Scottish Premier League matches, St Johnston v Celtic and St Johnston v Rangers, will kick off at 6pm to avoid a clash with Champions League fixtures. UEFA regulations prevent domestic televised games from being broadcast at the same time as European matches.