Alasdair Galloway, the thinking man’s Galloway (Is that getting old?) had this letter published in the Herald, except for the last paragraph. Intriguing? Read and be less than amazed:
By Alasdair Galloway
The recent debate about drug deaths in Scotland has more resembled a concerted attempt at political assassination. Your own recent “Herald View” was a calumny of misleading and biased argument, including claiming that Drug Laws being reserved to Westminster was irrelevant. Really? How can this be?
Since Health is devolved to Scotland, treatment of drug abusers is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, and statistics suggest that, contrary to much comment in recent days, it actually does rather well. NHS Scotland’s drug treatment service beats its target for treating 90% of patients within 3 weeks or less, year after year, hitting 95.6% in the year to March 2021.
So, what is the problem? Well, while the Scottish Government is responsible for treatment, Westminster retains control over the policies which determine what can legally be done to save the lives of illegal drug abusers. Thus ‘safe’ or ‘supervised’ injection rooms can be introduced only if Westminster allows it.
Should these be introduced? A review of 349 research studies into their efficacy, carried out by the Centre for Criminology at the University in South Wales in 2017, found that ‘safe’ or ‘supervised’ injection rooms significantly reduced drug-related harms, dramatically cut mortality and offered a range of benefits for the wider population, in terms of reduced crime, nuisance in public spaces, violence and trafficking.
What is Westminster’s view? In 2019 a spokesperson for Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said “There is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms and there are no plans to introduce them.” Try thinking about that in relation to the findings above!
Yet should we be surprised? In 1992, there were 18 (eighteen) persons in Scotland known to be drug dependent. That rose year on year to 1997 when it reached 142. The response of that Conservative Government was not to treat or support, but to further criminalise users.
The increase continued to 280 in 2002 and 457 in 2007 when the SNP came to power. It is that whirlwind that we are now reaping, but to condemn a government whose treatment programme to address drug dependence, 30 or more years in developing, meets its targets, but which lacks the capacity to introduce a proven approach used throughout the world, or indeed to amend drug laws, is no better than one-eyed political propaganda.
Recently the Herald has claimed “Scotland deserves better” and so it does. For one thing, it deserves better from its media.
Why was the letter trimmed?
Alasdair’s thoughts with a too-kind-metaphor comparing me, I think, to Helen of Troy.
I have ‘done’ Paris.
I sent this letter to John first of all to thank him for much of the content. You know it is a constant source of wonderment to me why John’s work doesn’t launch a great many more indy supporting ships (think of the metaphor), but also because the Herald in its great wisdom chose not to print my final paragraph. I have little doubt if I had said that Scotland deserved a better government it would have been printed without anyone’s eyelid being batted.
Thing is I have experience of this before. I was active on the Herald Readers’ Forum during 2013 to about 15 or 16 when it became too much like the equivalent of the Scotsman’s forum (ie a bear pit). During this time, I got to know the late Calum McDonald who was at the time Digital Editor of the Herald and Times (also ex-husband of Christine Jardine MP). Calum ran a pretty tight ship – no bad language (which was pretty hard with OBE, if you remember him, running amuck) – certainly it was a better-quality forum than the poor thing that they run now. Calum and I had a few run-ins, but we were able to disagree with mutual respect – it was his forum so he usually won, but I could see his logic (most of the time). One day I had a real disagreement with OBE and we really went for it – a couple of hours later it had been deleted and I asked Calum why. He said “the two of you were just squabbling” and he was right.
At one point he decided there was a need for a new set of rules for the forum and for some reason I was one of those he ran them past before going public (I am sure there were others with their own input). He was willing to accept my points, but there was one issue on which we could not agree – criticism of the msm. The current formulation is below – I don’t think this was it – Calum was a bit more formal, but the outline was identical – don’t criticise the media.
“The MSM and us
Hint: if you believe we’re just a part of the mainstream media (MSM), and you want to launch a virulent, unqualified attack on said MSM, please don’t be surprised if your criticism doesn’t appear on our (MSM?) site.”
My logic, at the time, was that there were occasions when the media WAS the story – the Nick Robinson furore was yet to break out but would have been a perfect example of what I meant. Calum’s view was that the publishers had a duty of care toward their journalists. My reply was that I was not arguing for a post saying something like “I am going to come down and cut Tom Gordon’s head off”, but for justified criticism of a journalistic argument. Interestingly Calum wasn’t against this – he saw my point and appreciated that commentators could be disagreed with. The issue is “virulent and unqualified attacks”. I know of one person who the Herald just will not publish because of his stance toward the media – he is looking for “honest” journalism, so if you are currently a journalist you must be …..That sort of thing is just not on.
In short this is not at all a black and white (if I can still say that?) issue. We could argue that journalists hold a privileged position – for instance you try getting a letter published on the Herald that runs to something like five to six hundred words. Yet McWhirter and Gordon do this all the time. However, having set the two of them to rights personally I do have to admit they are open to correction (even if they then republish the same guff a few a weeks later). But two issues remain
Does a letter on the Letters page carry the same weight as something for which there is a trailer on the front page and will be at least twice the length of most of the published letters (big names get a bit more leeway)? Clearly not – but that is your right of reply!
How far can you go? When for instance does your criticism become “virulent” and/or “unqualified” (if you read the Herald Forum you will find quite a lot of “unqualified” criticism – “rubbish” is actually quite erudite for some). But who decides this? Well it’s the journos isn’t it? So, what we can say about journalists is determined by ….other journalists. What is that about not being a judge in your own cause?
The consequences of this is the online media – people like John, who people look to for at least another view of things, if not just for the truth.
The problem is, of course, that I would bet a very high percentage of John’s traffic is made up of indy supporters – ie we are talking to ourselves. This isn’t a bad thing – I quite like my own company! More seriously, its necessary – talking to our own supporters is important – to give them new reasons to support the cause and take it out to their friends, acquaintances etc. Or just to renew their commitment.
But I cannot help but think that there is another, different, productive use of time by getting out there to convert the wavering No voter. To give them reasons to make the switch, or even just not to vote No.
This is something the Unionist side have realised since before 2014 – Wings exposed what he called (not without cause) the Green Ink Gang (you can find it here https://wingsoverscotland.com/the-green-ink-gang/). The names are familiar to us all – Redfern, Sutherland, Scott Arthur, Pamela Nash, Graeme Pearson, Jill Stephenson, Denis Forbes Grattan – they’re all there. And publish they do – many of them are very productive – Stephenson does a nice line in sending the same letter to more than one paper (and getting it published in them all – I shopped her once to Drew Allan, and she did disappear from the Herald for a bit but as we all know she is back now).
I am sorry to say this, but the only way to counter it is “if you can’t beat them ….”. John provides plenty of information and argument, but if we are going to make maximum use of it, it needs to be got out there. I don’t know how many reading this have had a letter published anywhere (I tend to focus on the Herald, which suits my style – I would never get anything in the Record – I would go on too long), but for me it all started with the Readers’ Forum and my realisation one day that something I had written in reply was actually pretty good, so I sent it in to the Letters page and it got published. There was no holding me back after that. You wont get everything published – I certainly don’t. But as the old saying goes, if you don’t buy a ticket you wont win the Lottery.
Come on folks. Your country needs you!