Herald letter-writer is snipped! TuS Editor compared to Helen of Troy

Amazon.com: Helen of Troy: Bettany Hughes: Movies & TV

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!

Replies welcomed.

11 thoughts on “Herald letter-writer is snipped! TuS Editor compared to Helen of Troy

  1. Very interesting post but once again, the main point (about offering a rationale for the drug problem) has to be made by indy supporters as opposed to the FM and the Scottish government.

    It’s not just the drug issue. It happens with many other areas the MSM use to attack them. Are they incapable of presenting these rationales or indeed understanding them?

    Why on earth is it always we outsiders who have to clarify, explain and refute these attacks? The FM’s apologetic nature and meek acceptance of responsibility does not sit well with me. If there is a good reason for this happening then she should be using it.

    I am afraid they she is testing my patience to the extreme!


  2. Nice one , Alasdair !
    Like you I used to write frequently to , among others , The Herald , but unlike you I have run out of steam ( and patience ) with their descent into propaganda .

    The response from The Herald ( protection of their employees from undue criticism ) pales into insignificance when compared to some of the bias and poor standards of journalism evident in too many of their published articles . If journalism standards were as high as when I first read The Herald I venture to suggest that their sales figures would be far better than the embarrassing low numbers of today .

    I understand your point about putting leaving the Letters field open to the organised SIU brigade and will now reconsider my self-imposed abstinence from commenting .
    It would be interesting to know how much ( Dark ?) money is channelled into these soft propaganda outlets which give the outward appearance of being simply the spontaneous , unbiased views of ‘ordinary people ‘ who ALL . remarkably , share the same disdain for the elected Government of our country and its First Minister .

    More power to your writing arm , Alasdair !
    And a word of thanks to John for this wonderful site .

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I am neither as erudite or knowledgeable as Alasdair, but get the odd letter in the Herald published. I get a lot more not published, but as Alasdair says, if you don’t buy a ticket….
    I understand why some of them don’t make it, as I get a wee bit crabbit with the standard of both journalism and political discourse in our wee country–also the one-sided examination of independence— which is a reflection of the many Unionist contributors on the “opinion” pages.
    I bought the Scotsman for two decades and the Herald for three, so am dismayed by the utter decline in both, but if WE don’t place our point of view in a public forum, then we cannot complain when the debate is slewed to one side. We can complain if a polite and meaningful contribution is ignored.
    My views are my own; I belong to no political party or clique. I am left of centre on social issues, believe in a mixed economy, with a strong private sector and essential public utilities in State ownership/control.
    People who do not live in Scotland should be limited on land holding (as in Denmark), banned from financial contributions to political parties/campaigns, and should be prohibited from any type of media control.
    All government papers should be available for scrutiny as soon as that government changes (even/especially if its the same party).
    Organisations like the BBC should not be except from “right to know”.
    All political funding should be open to the public.
    Bridies and Ayrshire tatties should taste the way they used to.


      1. Yup.
        Beatties crisps. A penny caramel that would have filled two gobs. A walnut whirl as big as your hand. Thrupence for the pictures.
        Up the burn swimmin’, fermer’s tatties roasting in the ashes o’ a big fire. The big boys/lassies tell tall tales tae make ye feart. Tartan legs, clegs, thistles the size of trees. A piece at ony door.
        A wee bit older—a single cig at the shop. ” Ma mither sent me”!

        Not a care in the world. What happened?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Nobody said ageing was a bed of roses, it’s why “Grumpy Old Men” broke the Box Office and why you get pains where nothing should be……
          What we forget is today’s kids are every bit as daft as we were but it’s their youth not ours, and we didn’t exactly tell our own parents did we ?
          Welcome to old age…


    1. Gavin, that’s not the point. A lot of people probably see my name at the bottom of the letter and go “Oh God, no him” and pass on. Others will like it – or hate it so much they read it. A variety of approaches is needed. Mine is different from yours and ours is different from Ruth Marr’s. Point is none of them are perfect for every reader. The important thing is not to leave the field free to Jill, Martin et al.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I know exactly what you mean Bob. One night my wife had some of her pals round. I was passing through the front room where they were (probably to get to the kitchen for food) and I heard one of them say “Oh, my mother would have gone mad if she had known what [her husband] and I got up to before we were married”. I almost (nearly but not quite) stopped and said to her “Do you really think she didnt know, or at least suspect? What do you think she and your dad got up to before they got married?” At least the kids today are up front about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Do not read the Herald or contribute to MSM. Contribute to and maintain sites that are supported and pro the relevant important details. The Sun/Record most popular. 1/2million Lowest price. Still a small number approx 5.4million pop. Yesterday newspaper. Tomorrow chip paper. Irrelevant. Most people increasingly get their information from the Internet. Where it can be shared.

    30,000 Herald patrons. A relative small readership for 5.4million population.

    Set up am alternative dialogue on the internet. In the main most citizens have access to it, share information and dialogue.

    No matter what people say or do. The Indy movement is still winning and support increasing. The MSM is white noise in the background with low contribution, readers and listeners. In the main most people are not listening or bother, especially in Scotland. They just access more relevant sites and content. Spreading considered views. The message is obviously getting though. There is majority support and funding for Indy sites and events. Hardworking people take up the gauntlet and do as much as they can to contribute.


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