By a Newsnet reporter
Supporters of an online website have reacted in fury after an advert for the site was pulled by Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT) after an apparent complaint.
The ad had been placed with SPT by pro-independence website Wings Over Scotland and had been accepted by the transport body and placed on trains on Glasgow Underground.
The unobtrusive advert contained the site logo alongside information relating to the newspaper industry in Scotland and its collective lack of support for independence. The advert asked readers, “Wouldn’t you at least like to hear both sides of the story”.
However, writing earlier today site editor Stuart Campbell informed readers that a complaint had been received by SPT about the adverts.
Confident the advert would be allowed, Mr Campbell wrote: “We don’t believe the banners break the rules. They don’t state any political position, merely offer people a source of information, just like an ad for a newspaper would.
“That information may itself have a certain slant, but then it does in the Daily Record or the Scotsman too, so we don’t feel we’re any different and we have every confidence that SPT will take a fair and reasonable view.”
However within a matter of hours, Mr Campbell broke the news that SPT had decided to pull the ad.
In an update at 17:20, he wrote: “We’ve just been informed that SPT have indeed demanded that the ads be pulled, and that they’ll probably be gone by tomorrow, so get out tonight if you want to see.”
The decision has angered many on the site and across social media in general.
One comment on the website said: “I have to say however, that this decision to remove these ads, is a bit like what might be expected in North Korea – does nobody in the Labour party value free speech anymore?? Are we really at this stage?”
Mention of the Labour party is believed to be a reference to the make-up of the board at SPT which sports no fewer than eleven Labour councillors, the largest of all political parties represented. The board also includes three Conservatives and five SNP councillors.
However the move to ban the advert appeared to have the support of at least one journalist. The Guardian’s Scottish correspondent Severin Carrell claimed the ads amounted to an attack on the press. He tweeted: “@WingsScotland buys ads in every Glasgow subway car attacking Scottish press on #indyref; says SPT to pull every one “
Newsnet Scotland attempted to contact the SPT media spokespeople this evening, but despite the phone ringing for several minutes there was no reply. We have sent emails to all of their communications team asking why the advert was pulled and who made the decision. We have also asked whether the complaint came from an organisation or a member of the public.
Newsnet Scotland has also contacted an official from the Better Together campaign to ask if they have any knowledge of the complaint.
The transport group hit the headlines in 2010 when it emerged SPT’s former management, many of whom were Labour councillors, claimed £100,000 in “excessive” expenses.
An inquiry found that Labour councillors and officials had used public cash to pay for lavish trips to New York and India. Another trip to Manchester took place on the same day as the UEFA cup final, in which Rangers were competing.
The 2010 report also revealed that investigations found that receipts had been shredded and that £32,000 remained unaccounted for.