The cost of the referendum was news … two weeks ago

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Yesterday the Herald ran a story on the cost of the independence referendum.  The paper’s political editor Magnus Gardham spun the figure of £13.3 million, describing it as “the cost to the taxpayer”.

A bit ‘Daily Mailish’ perhaps but factually accurate nonetheless, the cost is indeed £13.3 million and the taxpayer will pay.  Previous estimates, wrote Mr Gardham, put the total referendum cost at £9m-£10m.

Hmm, this rang a bell but not the same note as was being heard by Mr Gardham.  The previous estimate you see was two weeks ago when the Scottish government put the cost of the referendum at … £13.3 million.

Either the Herald political editor has now deemed two week old announcements as news or he wasn’t aware of the Scottish government publication which can be seen here.

But the article by Mr Gardham contained this: “The new figures were confirmed in a business and regulatory impact assessment of the Referendum Bill going through Holyrood.”

So who knows whether Magnus knew two weeks ago or not, but the Herald piece did allow this gem from Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson MSP who said: “So we now know that the cost of the SNP’s constitutional obsession is around £13m.

“The price-tag is substantial and doesn’t include the costs to Scottish families of sorting childcare or taking time off work due to schools being closed for the vote.

“As our economy continues to stutter along, all the effort is going into winning the battle to break up Britain. The absolute focus of the Government should be on getting Scotland growing again. Alas, even that is neglected on the altar of separation.”

The Labour MSP’s statement is a slap in the face to the people who voted for and actually wanted a referendum – amongst those who were calling for a referendum were those ‘bring it on’ Labour MSPs, perhaps their referendum would have been free.

If Labour are so concerned about cost then just ask Better Together to decline the free mailshots the Scottish taxpayer will be paying for.

The real surprise, and it was a surprise, was that BBC Scotland picked up and ran with the Herald’s story.  Again, since when is a two week old story news – not just news, but the second most important political item in Scotland.

The BBC piece was pretty much a direct lift of the Herald item, but incredibly it actually links to the 21st March pdf document which contains the figures.  In other words, the BBC knows full well that these figures were published weeks ago yet it presented them as though they were recent news and a revelation.

There are probably two words to explain why the BBC are publishing just about anything it can just now – ‘Bedroom Tax’.  The welfare changes being imposed on Scotland by the coalition are a blow to the pro-Union campaign and anything that can turn the public against the thought of independence or away from the welfare reforms is getting an airing.

On Tuesday night, when STV were broadcasting a particularly good debate on the Bedroom Tax and other welfare cuts, Newsnight Scotland had a jaw-droppingly awful discussion on the NHS that was loosely based on a new hotline set up by the Scottish Government.

The “story that just won’t go away” said Gordon Brewer on Newsnight Scotland last night as the Scottish banks were wheeled out yet again … “Saved from collapse by a UK government bailout” said the unseen voice in the predictable scene setter.

The other item on Newsnight Scotland was a BBC survey on class – ironic really given that they are running away from the most blatant attack on the most vulnerable in our society since the days of Margaret Thatcher.

£145.50 for a TV licence so that I can read old news, lifted from a failing newspaper and dressed up as new isn’t what the BBC is for.