Friday 15 January 2010


There was an interesting item in yesterday's Daily Telegraph (Scottish Edition) by Alan Cochrane concerning the proposal by the Scottish Government to allow local councils to cease to advertise Public Information Notices (PINs) in their local newspapers and to use the internet instead.

I was amazed at Mr Cochrane’s vehement condemnation of John Swinney for daring to suggest that savings of £6 million per annum, could and should be made by not advertising things like planning applications and road closures in the appropriate local paper. Never mind that research indicates that only about 2% of the population actually read these notices. Mr C was incensed that in this time of straightened circumstances for local titles with falling circulations and declining readerships this vital source of revenue might be under threat. In other words council tax payers across Scotland should be paying to support a tranche of local newspapers that almost nobody reads by placing a whole host of adverts that hardly anybody, of the few who read the paper, will read. Great stuff Mr Cochrane of the Daily Telegraph and how right you are.

Might I also point out that a whole host of English Newspaper muscling in on the Scottish action by adding a few Scottish stories and calling it a Scottish Edition will also be significantly reducing those poor old local titles circulations. A good example, I note Mr Cochrane, is your own newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. I looked through the entire paper copy yesterday and found that in the Scottish Edition the majority of the stories were English in origin and many were only of English interest.

One has to ask oneself why these local papers are failing and ask why they are not doing something about it other than expecting to be bailed out with a subsidy by hard pressed council tax payers.



  1. A thought provoking posting Munguin.

    But while not wanting to appear too much like a Telegraph defender, surely Cochrane is right to be conserned at the demise of traditional presses. It is a vital industry, one which must be protected, and the more local the better. I say this as a localist, and local papers tend to be of greater relevance to communities than the bigger papers.

    You are correct to point out the fiscal burden on the Scottish government, but if we do not subsidise them through the state this vital [and locally focused] medium of communication would perish.

    I definately do not want to see that happen.


  2. I can see where you're coming from. Putting ads in papers that have low circulations, and especially when the ads are not read seems to be a waste of public money. Money that could be spent on something else.

    On the other hand the assumption today that everyone has access to the internet is plain nonsense. Additionally with the slowest broadband speed in Europe, and in many places so grindingly slow that loading a page takes minutes not seconds, Scotland is ill placed in the internet world.

    I agree with Dean that the papers are a part of the community. They must try to find ways of increasing their circulation, and therefore their advertising revenue without being subsidised by the taxpayer.

    You're completely right about the Telegraph’s so called Scottish edition, Munguin. It's full of English stories with (sometimes) a different front page lead and a couple of changed pages inside.

  3. Dean I agree it would be lovely to keep everything just as it was in the err good old days. But if selling papers is not sufficient to keep a title afloat, why should the Council Tax payers of that local keep it afloat?

  4. Tris I just don't think Mr Cochrane sees the irony of trupeting the cause of local papers in Scotland from the pages of the Scottish Edition of probably the most English one available.

    Clearly the editorial on the Scottish Edition is fairly lax or someone somewhere must have found that item a bit incongruous.

  5. Munguin... it's probably only him and the office cat.

  6. In that case Tris perhaps he ought to let the cat have a go.

  7. Munguin the question of should local government and the taxpayer step in and support is a matter of world view. Can I put it like this, should the taxpayer support- say - museums and the arts if they are not commercially viable?

    I would say yes, just the measure of importance cannot be commercially based alone. In the name of aiding a sense of citizenship, and as a staunch defender of such notions I must argue that there must be a more broad criteria when assessing how tapayer money should be spent.

    Local papers, and the newspaper industry more broadly is a vital aspect of maintaining an active and educated citizenry- vital in an informed and educated democratic society. Money and commercial considerations alone can prove insufficient for such important industries- which play such a leading role in our [my?] asperation to see a strong sense of active citizenry and a healthy public service democracy.

  8. Dean I firmly agree that certain industries are vital and must be protected from the vagaries of the market. It is only a shame that John Major did not agree and privatised the railways. Its only a shame that Mrs Thatcher did not agree and did away with heavy industries in Scotland that would have been viable, even profitable now.

    I don't think comparing Museums and the arts to what are commercial concerns is valid. Libraries for example are a valid use of tax payers money because they are free and available to all and most important people want to go there and read. Newspapers expect to be payed and clearly nobody wants to go there and read them. How useless and unwanted does something have to get before people don't employ the rose tinted spectacles arguments for keeping it.

  9. I don't see why taxpayers should pay to keep a private industry afloat. The majority of papers in Scotland provide no function apart from propogating the new Labour agenda. Crocodile tears from Hootsman, Herald etc.
    The Metro and The london Evening Standard are now given away free.
    Local papers like The Courier etc should always remain popular as they provide news that can't be found elswhere.
    Notices placed in libraries and outside public buildings would be sufficient to inform the public about road closures and pharmacies that are open out of hours etc.

  10. Anon: I tend to agree. It is not essential that these local papers lose money. The Press and Journal for example does not; so what is it doing right?

    Clearly the Scotsman's pro Labour message is not appealing to its would be readers and that is why the papers circulation is only about 43,000 and falling. As far as I am concerned it is not a valued Scottish institution but an outdated has been that fails to appeal that is printed in England. So that will be English jobs subsidesed by Scottish tax payers??

  11. Munguin jobs are jobs and I for one will not vote to put a person out of work just because of a sense of "its oor money pal" sensibilities.

    Whether the printing press has jobs in England or not doesn't matter to me, as I want to fight the bane of unemployment across the UK. And as for Scots subsidising English jobs, the same can be said the other way round in many other industries- so lets just avoid such petty arguments.

  12. Dean that is a very commendable attitude. I wish I were able to share it, but I regret to say that as far as I am concerned Scotland comes first especially when it comes to Scottish tax payers money going to support a lame duck news organisation that has done nothing for Scotland despite purporting to print that nations newspaper. To then move the printing of that apparently vital Scottish institution to another country just adds insult to injury and is a fairly classic example of how Scotland and its institutions are treated by the English and the powers that be.

  13. Aye, deanthetory and Alan Cochrane demanding state subsidies for failing industries. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

    Before people get too excited about the whole affair it would be useful to find out what proportion of the local newspapers profits is generated from the advertising and how significant the withdrawal is.

    Scottish local government has no remit to subsidise failing industries directly so I can't see why they should start now.

  14. Doug: I agree and anyway as Mr C makes plain in his item, even if the measure is passed it will still be a matter for the relevant local authority to continue to advertise in that way or not as the case may be. So if the local authority and I assume the people who elect it want to continue to support otherwise failing titles they can.

    I acknowledge that these things are useful and do have a part to play in a community, but so did coal mining and shipbuilding but that argument alone did not save them.

  15. I see that ex DC Thomson journalist and Tory list MSP Ted Brocklebank has weighed into this argument on the side of surprise, surprise the newspapers. He claims that it is essential that papers continue to get this subsidy. He makes clear that the Tories would continue to advocate this, although not by going as far as advertising council jobs in the same titles. I wonder why that is?

    Mr B’s lukewarm support is all the more surprising when we remember how gleefully they reported his last dalliance with controversy, when he used a legal loophole to escape charges of driving his Range Rover while using a mobile phone. Apparently although he did have the instrument in his left hand while driving through Guardbridge there was no evidence that it was actually in use at the time. The JP at Cupar District court agreed with Mr Bs ludicrous assertions here and I am left wondering if he would have agreed so readily if a lesser person had attempted a similar defence.

  16. The term "local" news paper is misleading certainly here in East Kilbride where the Trinity Mirror group from Canary Warf London own this "local" paper the East Kilbride News.

    Trinity Mirror is one of the UK's largest newspaper publishers with an award winning portfolio including five national newspapers, over 120 regional newspapers and more than 400 digital products.

    The Group employs over 7,000 people in more than 85 locations across the UK, including nine print sites. The Group has two trading divisions: Regionals and Nationals.

    for the "local" list.

    At the moment the MSM in Scotland is mostly owned outwith the Scottish border, and as such is exclusively Britnat biased.

    With huge multi nationals owning the MSM it is very easy to target and create influence amongst it's titles by politicians and their agents. Do we believe they would do such a thing?

    There is no depth that politicians are prepared to plumb in their pursuit of power, and their fear of Scottish nationalism. They will use any and every means open to them. It is so blatant in Scotland that it is quite nauseating. I suspect that this is just one way that the SNP hope to cure that nausea. The Scotsman deserves no less.

  17. I'm with Munguin on this one. It's take Cochrane a while to waken up to this hasn't it. I think John Swinney proposed it before Christmas.

  18. Keyboardwarrior:

    Hi there. Nice to see you. You make a good point about the papers only being local in terms of their circulation. And of course, I've seen what I consider national papers (The Scotsman and the Herald) described as local because there are only widely distributed in Scotandshire.

    Owned in, and with all profits going to, London, these things are not really local at all. That said I think that they are another part of local life, information service etc that it would be a pity to lose.

    Private industry is always telling us how they hate it when government interferes with how they run their businesses, so maybe they would like to try to generate more sales for their papers by the good old fashioned means of marketing. This in turn would mean that they could charge more for their advertisements. That is what private enterprise is about.

    Perhaps, at least in some cases, a less slavish following of the Labour Party line, especially when it is full of lies, would be a start in that direction.

    Traditionally (and we are talking tradition here) people buy newspapers for news, not propaganda.

  19. Subrosa: I suspect that it must have been a slow news day....