HeraldScotland:

When former First Minister Alex Salmond takes lumps out of his successor and former friend Nicola Sturgeon at a Holyrood inquiry, that is News with a Capital N, as big as the N in the middle of SNP.

When his accusations are about conduct in public life, which if proven could lead to the resignation of the current First Minister, that is a matter of significant public interest.

So I have no complaint with any media organisation that covers the story from every angle. Nor do I speak as an SNP supporter, though I value and respect their fight against Brexit, and recognise the skills that have made Salmond and Sturgeon two of the best known politicians not just in Scotland but the whole of the UK.

That is the other thing I recognise about this saga. Its news value and public interest go well beyond the Scottish border.

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Where I do have complaint is in the double standards and hypocrisy of a national media that seems less well disposed to covering in quite such detail, and with quite such force, scandals involving the UK government in London.

After Trump supporters sought to help the outgoing US President subvert the election result, Barack Obama spoke of the role the ‘political media ecosystem’ played in getting them to the state of riot in the Capitol. Interesting phrase. We have a political media ecosystem too, and it is very political, very right wing, and ferocious in pursuit of its own political, commercial or cultural goals.

I do not minimise any of the issues raised by the investigating committee. But the scale and tone of the coverage is much more about upcoming elections, and the potential role the outcome could have in bringing about a fresh independence referendum. Salmond’s scalp is already spoken for. Sturgeon’s is the one to get now, and with it the systems of devolution.

So far as I could work out, the question of a breach of ministerial standards relates to whether she misled people about the date on which she first heard of allegations of sexual harassment against Salmond; and the broader issues relate to the role of law officers and whether they are too close to political rather than legal issues. Banana Republic, says Andrew Neil, in between promoting his next TV venture, GB News, as being ‘anti-woke,’ whatever that means.

Yet what was the scale and tone of the coverage related to the government threatening to break international law on Brexit? Did it only become a scandal when someone in Brussels stupidly, and briefly, made the same threat? Or when UK government Attorney General Suella Braverman expressed her view, during a live (albeit half-hearted) police investigation of Dominic Cummings’ lockdown-busting Barnard Castle trip, that he had no case to answer? So scant was the outrage that Braverman could walk down any road in England without most people having a clue who she is.

HeraldScotland: Former first minister Alex Salmond is sworn in before giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament Harassment committee, at Holyrood in Edinburgh, examining the handling of harassment allegations him. Picture date: Friday February 26, 2021. PA Photo. See PA s

If we are talking about lying, and Salmond is clearly accusing Sturgeon of having done so, then it would be interesting to test the lie in question against some of those told by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. From his made up stories and quotes as a journalist, to his lies In his private life, to his big fat lie on the big red Brexit bus, to his lying to the Queen about proroguing Parliament, or his ‘no border in the Irish sea’ lies about his Brexit deal, or his ‘no tariffs, no checks’ promise to Kent, or his claim to have protected care homes from Covid, I could go on and on … yet when was the last time you saw a major TV broadcaster or front page even call him out on any let alone all of the above?

Now take the double standards from the present to the past. I can barely begin to imagine the media hysteria if a Labour Health Secretary had been found to have broken the law in relation to pandemic contracts; if a Labour Health Secretary was the horse-racing pal of a woman put in charge of a £13bn test, track and trace project that failed; if a Labour Health Secretary had presided over the award of a major PPE contract to his mate who ran a pub but knew nothing about PPE. Again, I could go on and on. They get away with it, because - for now - the political media ecosystem decides they can. Lying and corruption are being normalised. At least they are in London.

Journalists have lined up to opine that if it is found Sturgeon broke the ministerial code, she would be expected to resign. And so say all of us … unless it’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, who WAS found to have been in breach of the ministerial code, but Johnson decided to ignore it, and the only person who resigned was the investigator Sir Alex Allan, a man with more integrity in his pinkie finger than the Johnson Cabinet can muster round the entire table.

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It’s worth remembering too that the only major resignation from the Johnson circle – Cummings– had nothing to do with lying, corruption, or Barnard Castle; no, he sent insulting messages about Johnson’s current partner, Carrie Symonds … who is now calling the shots on Number 10 personnel and strategy … my God, can you imagine the media meltdown if it was Cherie Blair? We used to get front page splashes if she bought a bed or an oven!

Our media is in the main owned and controlled by a small number of very wealthy, very right-wing, very tax-avoiding men, mainly overseas, whose papers are part of their commercial and political operations. My complaint with the BBC and other broadcasters is not that they are inherently biased, but that they are overly influenced by the agenda set by these politically motivated organisations posing as voices of the people.

If the London media applied the same judgements and standards to Johnson and his team, as they did to Labour in power, or are doing to the SNP in Scotland now, I suspect he would have been so shredded he’d have gone back to writing columns for the Telegraph and Spectator by now. But they don’t. Because he is one of theirs. A hack. A Tory. And also, as former French ambassador Sylvie Bermann said last week, ‘an inveterate liar,’ a claim so beyond dispute that Johnson’s allies barely bothered to rebut it.

Worth bearing in mind as you settle down to watch the latest instalment, and watch the thunderous commentary of journalists like Quentin Letts, whose main contribution to Scottish political debate thus far was the coining of ‘Gorbals Mick’ for former Speaker Michael Martin, and who last week wrote a love letter posing as a sketch to Salmond because, right now, he is the good guy, she’s the baddie, and they all know what they have to do … Go get her! Who knows, there could be a knighthood, a peerage, or an OFCOM chairmanship in it for someone … now THAT, Mr Neil, is a Banana Republic.