Economist cover story has Hannan tempted to turn to the law

FROM the several articles about the portrayal of Scotland by The Economist magazine last week – including Brian Wilson in The Scotsman yesterday and Iain Macwhirter at the weekend – one of the more openly angry was Martin Hannan’s on Tuesday.

The Edinburgh Evening News columnist was tempted to report the magazine to the Procurator Fiscal.

It follows the magazine’s assessment of the possible costs of Scots independence, which included a mocked-up map of Scotland on its front cover which converted place names such as Edinburgh into ‘Edinborrow’.

Writes Hannan: “I have a real problem with this cover. As a journalist, I passionately believe in freedom of speech, but I equally passionately detest the sort of casual racism displayed on the cover.

“While I understand what The Economist was trying to do, there is no doubt in my mind that the cover is racially offensive and is possibly a criminal act.

“The trouble for The Economist is that while it may have published its cover in a failed attempt at satire, as far as I can see the editor and publishers may be guilty of a criminal offence, to wit subsection 1 (b) of section 19 of Part 3 of the Public Order Act 1986.

“For the avoidance of doubt let me quote you the exact words from the Act: (1) A person who publishes or distributes written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting is guilty of an offence if (a) he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or (b) having regard to all the circumstances, racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.

“The Act helpfully explains what is meant by racial hatred: ‘in this Part “racial hatred” means hatred against a group of persons …defined by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.'”

He later says: “Why no one has yet raised the possibility of a criminal prosecution against The Economist under the Public Order Act is beyond me. Any Lord Advocate or Procurator Fiscal reading this is hereby invited to consider doing so.”

And he told he “seriously considered” doing it himself.