THE UK media took a somewhat muted approach to their coverage of the Supreme Court referendum hearing, with barely any of the Scottish Parliamentary lobby taking the trip to London.
Despite the historic court case, many London editions of the UK’s biggest newspapers dedicated less than 400 words to the indyref showdown that took place over two days in the UK’s highest court.
It was the first time that the Lord Advocate in Scotland had ever made a reference of this kind, but most of the focus and headlines coming from the media pertained to the UK Government’s case after James Eadie KC spent the majority of his time arguing that the court should throw the reference out.
But with the entire case being live streamed on the court’s website most of Scotland’s political lobby didn’t take the journey down, instead watching it from their homes and offices.
The pro-Union Express newspaper ran a piece of over 1000 words in their Scottish edition, but the English version only had around 300 words.
Despite one of our reporters discovering that those in London were interested in Scotland’s right to decide while the court case was being heard, UK newspaper editors didn’t seem to pick up on it or act as if it was a big deal at all.
The first day of the hearing was a flurry of broadcasters, UK and international media were crowded outside of the court doing pieces to camera and interviewing members of the Radical Independence campaign who had journeyed down on the overnight Megabus.
There were the usual suspects – BBC and Sky – as well as publicly-owned Basque broadcasters EITB crammed outside of the court entrance, and even GB News.
Inside, The National and the BBC were the only two news outlets that had reporters in the main courtroom. The other journalists, of whom there were quite a few including The Express, pitched up in the overflow courtroom where they could use their laptops.
Yet despite this, there was very little coverage south of the border. The Mirror only ran a small 140-word article on the case on the first day, headlined: “Sturgeon: Referendum date is ‘set’ as crunch case starts.”
The Mail Online appears to have only run two stories on the entire case. The first day before proceedings kicked off with a typically sensational headline decrying that the FM was voting to “crack-on” with indyref2 even if the courts rule the “referendum is ILLEGAL”, but its contents mostly focussed on Sturgeon’s keynote speech to the SNP conference on Monday.
The second, a one minute and thirty-second long clip of former FM and Alba party leader Alex Salmond from outside of the House of Commons where he said he believed the Scottish Government had made a wrong move taking the reference to the Supreme Court so early.
The Guardian ran an explanatory piece on the hearing and, like many of the other newspapers, headlined their round-up on Eadie urging the judges to throw out the case. On the second day their online headline read: “Only UK parliament can approve a Scottish independence poll, court told.”
The Times coverage appears to have come exclusively from their Scottish political editor Kieran Andrews, and a 369-word analysis piece from Sunday National columnist and senior law lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University Andrew Tickell.
The Telegraph also only ran one story from each day of the hearing, both written by their political editor Simon Johnson. Both stories again led on Eadie’s submissions that the case should be thrown out and that only Westminster has the power to hold a referendum.
The second day was a quieter affair in the UK’s highest court with just a couple of BBC journalists, GB News and The National in the main courtroom, with the number of broadcasters outside notably reduced.
At lunchtime, our reporter spotted the BBC’s James Cook, Philip Sim and Sky’s James Matthews having a catch-up outside of the court doors, but there were none of the big-name English broadcasters.
It appears that some of the UK media either didn’t or didn’t want to grasp the historical and serious nature of this case, deciding instead to run lines coming from the UK Government’s lawyer that the Lord Advocate, in her rebuttal at the close of the case, described as “belittling” and “unfair”.