If journalism in Scotland isn’t doing its job, why should anyone respect journalism?

It has long been my view that journalism in Scotland is failing to do its job, and the last few days have been the perfect illustration of that. Two things happened that illustrate how things are done here. First, Lord Keen nullified the Scotland Act of 2016 in the Supreme Court hearing about Brexit, and second, Kezia Dugdale rolled out another round of federalism.

Since 2014 one very key planks of anti-independence rhetoric has been the idea that the Scottish Parliament is permanent and powerful. This takes many forms, from demands that the Scottish government use the ‘extensive powers’ it has to do things, to chest-beating about how Holyrood is the most powerful devolved legislature in the world.

Lord Keen’s argument in the Supreme Court was that this is not true, and that the Scotland Act of 2016 is nothing more than a voluntary restraining ordnance on the UK parliament. It does not have the force of law behind it, and is purely a political instrument that can be set aside at any time.

One would think that such an argument from a prominent legal officer in the UK government would be political dynamite here in Scotland, but there’s been nary a mention of it. There’s an article in The National, and there’s an aside about it in The Herald. But BBC Scotland? Nothing. The Scotsman? Nothing. Evening Times? Nothing.

What has animated the press is another round of talk about federalism. Kezia Dugdale has rolled out another attempt to discuss the merits of a UK federal model, even though the Labour party is in no position to forcefully argue for it, and even though it is more likely that two moons will rise next Tuesdays than for federalism to be implemented.

Instead of asking Dugdale to explain how this could come to pass, the reporting has been quite uncritical. “Holding power to account” does not mean asking tough questions of those who propose things that a cursory examination proves to be impossible. Yet, Dugdale’s suggestions have been everywhere. Lord Keen’s argument has been nowhere.

Journalism is not doing its job in Scotland. Whether that is because of economics, that there’s too few staff doing too much, I don’t know. I don’t really care. What I do care about is a recurring question I have: if Journalism isn’t doing its job properly, then why should the rest of us respect it and argue that journalism is a vital part of our democracy? Clearly, journalism isn’t, if it doesn’t do the job that puts it on the pedestal of respect.

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