Anger at media refusal to correct Gordon Brown ‘transplant & transfusion’ misinformation


  By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish media’s refusal to correct false claims from Gordon Brown relating to blood transfusions and organ transplants in an independent Scotland, has caused anger amongst Yes supporters.
On Monday several news outlets carried claims from the former Prime Minister after he said a Yes vote would put cross border cooperation on health at risk.

According to the former Labour leader, independence for Scotland could see people denied life-saving blood transfusions and missing out on rare organ transplants.

Mr Brown said a Yes vote would see Scotland, “break all constitutional links with the rest of the UK”.

The MP for Kirkcaldy said: “Nowhere are these connections more deep-seated than in our willingness to support each other’s health and give to each other, when in need, blood and even organs such as hearts, lungs and livers and not primarily as a commercial transaction but as a gift, and often creating a lifelong bond.

“Simply to chart those links and see the willingness to help each other in times of trouble should leave all of us bursting with pride at what we have achieved by co-operation and working together. None of this must be put at risk.”

The claims resulted in headlines across most of the Scottish media, with STV, the Scotsman and the Courier all headlining the claims from the former PM.

However, as revealed by Newsnet Scotland back in March, the claims had already been dismissed by the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) service, which deals with the transport of vital organs across the country.

As we revealed, the body had already stated that it expects cross-border healthcare systems to stay in place after a Yes vote in September.

The contents of the year old letter were subsequently re-affirmed when online site Wings Over Scotland received further confirmation that Mr Brown’s claims were entirely false.

In a communication, an NHSBT official said:

Thank you for your recent telephone call to the NHSBT Donor Line.

I can confirm that Scottish independence will not affect organ donation and the system will continue as it does currently.

I hope this answers your query, please let me know if you require any further information and I will be happy to help.

Despite two separate communications from NHSBT, each confirming current arrangements would remain in place, not one of the news outlets which headlined Mr Brown’s claims has issued a correction.

Writing on his blog, Wings Over Scotland administrator Stuart Campbell said: “You’d imagine that the publications concerned would have wanted to put their readers’ minds at rest by publishing that categorical reassurance today, wouldn’t you?”

In a reference to what many see is the media’s willingness to headline claims from the anti-independence campaign, regardless of veracity, Campbell added: “You know how the rest goes by now, readers.”

In a long list of online comments, many were critical of the media’s refusal to issue corrections or pursue the Labour MP.  Some accused Brown of deliberately setting out to cause alarm.

One poster wrote: “Brown just needs to snap his fingers and they come running to report what he says. It’s been going on like this for months.”

Another said: “Why would anyone retract propaganda? They know it was lies when they publish it. It is published to spread a carefully chosen piece of misinformation, and to have a specific effect on a particular group of people.”

The poster added: “It’s a vile and disgusting strategy, day after day. No matter how the vote goes, those involved in this behaviour are going to be condemned and detested for a very long time by a lot of people.”

The failure to apply basic journalistic checks to claims from a senior pro-Union politician follows on from a similar episode last week when several media outlets published claims from anti-independence campaign Better Together (BT) relating to the EU membership of a newly independent Scotland.

According to senior BT members, a speech from new EC President Jean-Claude Juncker was proof that a newly independent Scotland would be forced to leave the EU for at least five years.

However it later emerged that Mr Juncker had not been talking about Scotland and the speech was a reference to so-called ‘candidate countries’ that, unlike Scotland, are not already part of the EU.