THE former SNP MP for Edinburgh West, Michelle Thomson, has been through the wringer this past year. After being interviewed by police in connection with an investigation into the dealings of her former solictor, the then MP was accused in the Scottish media of ripping off house sellers. It was guilt by association, and the Scottish media leapt at every opportunity to link Michelle with a fraud investigation even though there was no evidence against her, and the police at no point had charged her with anything. Still, it was the perfect opportunity to run an SNP-bad story, and the Scottish media went to town on it.

Last week, the police announced that the investigation had closed. No charges had been brought against the former MP. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing on her part. Despite the fact that there had never been any case brought against her, the headlines in the media were all along the lines of “case against former SNP MP dropped”. A more accurate headline would have been “no case to answer for former SNP MP and there never had been”, but that’s a lot harder to spin into an SNP-bad story.

After running for months with a nudge nudge, wink wink SNP-bad story about the supposed dealings of Michelle Thomson, the same Scottish media that had demonised her and the SNP managed to turn the story that there had never been a story into yet another opportunity to demonise the SNP. The media is now running with the line that Michelle Thomson was badly treated by the SNP and that Nicola Sturgeon needs to apologise. After the media spent a few weeks monstering Michelle, it now turns out that it was Nicola’s fault all along. Balance and order is restored to the Unionverse.

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What that media isn’t saying is that Michelle also demanded an apology from the media.

And what they’re certainly not saying is that if the SNP hadn’t immediately cut all ties with Michelle Thomson, the media would have continued to abuse and vilify the SNP for not cutting ties with someone whom the media had already convinced itself was guilty. Now they’re vilifying the SNP for not doing something they’d have vilified the party for if it had done it.

This isn’t an isolated instance of Scottish media hypocrisy. A few weeks ago a report into the Scottish NHS was published which mostly contained good news about the way our beleaguered health service is being run and managed. The report was titled Learning From Scotland’s NHS, which is a wee clue that the report was basically positive about the Scottish Government’s management of the health service. That doesn’t mean there are no issues or problems with NHS Scotland, however the report pointed out that in the poisonous media environment in Scotland, the Scottish Government can’t take unpopular decisions which will benefit the health service in the long run for fear of being demonised in the media. Yet in an irony too far, sections of the Scottish media managed to spin even this report into an SNP-bad story.

No-one is saying that the party of government in Scotland shouldn’t be subject to scrutiny and criticism, but it’s now reached the point where the knee-jerk reaction of an overwhelmingly Unionist media is to criticise the SNP first and to think later, if at all. The Scottish Government operates in a media environment which is strongly biased against it, and that is having a deleterious effect on our democracy because the immediate response of government is to try to forestall the inevitable criticism and attacks it’s going to receive in the media. That means that it’s effectively impossible for the SNP to take those difficult and tough decisions that are always being talked about, because they will immediately be howled down in outrage by a Unionist media whose sole goal is to prevent another independence referendum. Then that same media criticises the SNP for not taking those tough decisions.

It’s hardly surprising that the European Broadcasting Union’s Trust in the Media report found that people in the UK had the lowest trust in Western Europe in their print media. A poll by Ipsos Mori found that only 22 per cent of people in the UK trust the media, the lowest figure in Europe. That lack of trust isn’t the fault of the people. It’s the fault of the media.

In Scotland trust has broken down with whole sections of the population. Scotland’s media landscape is wildly unrepresentative of the opinions of the country as a whole. In a nation which is pretty much split down the middle on the question of independence there is a single daily newspaper and a single Sunday newspaper which support a constitutional position which is preferred by almost half the population. The rest of the media is ranged against, vehemently and angrily and seeking every opportunity to trash the case for independence and the main party that supports it. When a country looks into the media mirror and doesn’t see a reflection of itself, that country is incapable of having a proper democratic discussion about the issues it faces.

Uniquely amongst the self-governing nations and territories of Europe, the nations of the UK with their devolved parliaments do not have control of public service broadcasting in their own territories. Suggestions that Scotland should have its own public service broadcaster are airly dismissed as SNP TV. Scottish journalists routinely argue that there is no need for any more Scottish journalism.

Yet it’s not exceptional to demand that Scotland should have its own public service broadcaster. What’s exceptional is that Scotland doesn’t have one already. Catalonia has a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week dedicated news channel of its own. Scotland was reduced to beseeching the BBC management in London for an extra half hour of Jackie Bird, murrdurrs, fitba, and wee cute kittens.

When a nation which has a degree of self-government is denied a forum in which issues which affect it can be debated, discussed, and aired in an impartial and even-handed manner, democracy is seriously deformed. We see the consequences of that in the Scottish media every day. We see it in the Nuffield Trust report which warned that knee-jerk media hatred of the SNP was seriously damaging the ability of the Scottish Government to take necessary decisions about the future of the NHS in Scotland. We see the consequences in the treatment of Michelle Thomson.

The media in Scotland is an issue for the independence movement as a whole, but it also needs to become an issue for the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government should be taking a lead in pressing the case for the devolution of broadcasting, and highlighting the inquity that Scotland doesn’t already have its own national public service broadcaster. A dedicated public service broadcaster in Scotland which accurately reflects the range of opinions in the country would make it far harder for privately owned Unionist newspapers to bend and twist the agenda in a manner to their own liking.

And that’s precisely the reason why the Unionist parties and their followers are so opposed to fairness and equality in the Scottish media landscape. They’ve had their own way for decades, they want to make sure they keep it that way. In so doing, they’re doing a great disservice to Scotland.