On the 20th October, peer-reviewed research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health was clear:
[F]ewer people would have died, life expectancy would have been substantially higher and health inequalities narrower, had the tax and benefit ‘reforms’ introduced since 2010/2011 (and planned until 2021/2022) not been implemented. Reversing the UK tax and welfare reforms since 2010/2011 and ensuring that the population have the incomes they require to live healthy and fulfilling lives should now be a public policy priority for the UK as we build back better from COVID-19.
The authors estimate 2 054 additional deaths due to UK austerity cuts imposed in Scotland despite the efforts of the Scottish Government to mitigate against reforms such as the ‘Bedroom Tax’, the Council Tax Benefit and Social Fund.
The report seems to have been ignored wholesale by Scotland’s mainstream media, other than the Herald.
However, reporting three weeks after the publication of the research, the Herald modifies the language used in the original report to soften the findings and introduce doubt over the certainty of the UK Government’s responsibility.
In the headline and sub-heading, peer-reviewed research findings, facts, revealed by public health professionals, authenticated by other researchers, showing austerity cuts to have been ‘responsible’ for higher mortality rates, are reduced to the notion of being ‘linked to’ or of an unsubstantiated ‘blaming.’
Where the authors say life expectancy ‘would’ have been reduced by one-third, the Herald changes that to ‘may be responsible or ‘could explain.’
Where the authors state that fewer people ‘would have’ died and life expectancy ‘would have been’ substantially higher, the Herald changes those words to ‘may be responsible’ or ‘were linked’ to the additional deaths.
Whether these are calculated modifications to suit the agenda of a corporate newspaper or semi-conscious tendencies to chose that language, I cannot be sure but the effect is clear.
The tendency everywhere else to just not report the research at all, is revealing.