April 2, 2013 by Nash Riggins
Rupert Murdoch’s bro-mance with Alex Salmond apparently came to an end yesterday, when inside-sources at Murdoch’s News International let it slip that The Scottish Sun will not be supporting Salmond’s Yes Campaign in the run up to Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum. Many will report the snub as a blow to the Scottish independence movement; however, it’s worth noting that blessings come in many disguises.
On the one hand, media mogul Murdoch’s apparent withdrawal of support does come as somewhat of a shock. The Sun, which boasts the highest circulation of any newspaper in Britain, famously (and shamelessly) backed up-and-coming Alex Salmond in Scotland’s 2011 general election, and has since served as the Scottish First Minister’s veritable spin machine. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch tweeted last year that “Alex Salmond [is] clearly [the] most brilliant politician in the UK”, and even stopped by Salmond’s official residence for dinner. In the past several years, the pair have held 5 private meetings together. Yet apparently even the greatest love stories end in tragedy.
Yesterday, a senior boardroom source at News International in London told inquiring minds at The Independent that: “The Scottish Sun will not be backing the SNP on independence. We will have a neutral stance.”
All that’s worth taking out of this statement is that The Sun isn’t backing independence – because as much as we’d all like to believe that something owned by News International has a neutral stance on anything whatsoever, history tells us otherwise.
Since 1992, UK politics has lived in the shadow of one particularly smarmy headline: “It’s the Sun Wot won it”. The headline, which referred to The Sun’s unclear contribution to the unexpected Conservative victory in Britain’s 1992 general election, seems to reappear when any form of political debate stirs in the UK – and unfortunately, it appears Rupert Murdoch’s paper has become quite good at picking the ‘winning side’. After all, let’s not forget the 2010 general election, in which The Sun published a headline condemning Prime Minister Gordon Brown that read: “If Brown wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”. Mr Brown’s spotlight in career politics was extinguished then and there.
Fast-forward 4 years, and everyone will be asking what this lack of support will mean for Alex Salmond and independence. His backing from Murdoch may or may not have been integral in the Scottish National Party’s rise to power, and it shouldn’t be ignored that The Sun sells around 300,000 papers a day in Scotland. Pair that with historical context, and it might be safe to assume that Murdoch’s withdrawal of support is not only equivalent to his disapproval – but may very well have signed the death warrant of Scotland’s independence movement. That said, the SNP may be able to obtain a whole new range of endorsements by capitalising upon The Sun’s abandonment.
For years, women across Britain have been working tirelessly to encourage companies to boycott The Sun because of the way it exploits female nudity in order to sell copies. In fact, one group – called No More Page 3 – has gathered over 64,000 signatures on their petition for The Sun to stop publishing topless photos of women in its pages on a daily basis.
Not even Rupert Murdoch has been able to ignore the movement – and although many of the activists campaigning against The Sun are admittedly based south of the border, the Yes Campaign could definitely boost its support amongst women by celebrating its break-up with Rupert Murdoch, rather than mourning it. After all, Ipsos-MORI’s most recent survey on Scottish independence found that at least 61% of eligible female voters continue to reject Alex Salmond’s case for independence.
So, Rupert Murdoch jumping ship is undeniably bad for the SNP where independence is concerned. Yet many should view his departure as a breath of fresh air for the Scottish independence movement. The SNP may not be able to use the media mogul’s newspapers as their spin machines anymore, but now the party can instigate a whole new dialogue regarding the sort of ethical behaviour it wants to see in the press – without any input from the man who brought the world Fox News. Here’s hoping, anyway.