The entirely confected and pointless Telegraph story about Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon somehow “hauling down” the Union Flag, or even “banning” its use, came to an abrupt end when it became clear that Ms Sturgeon had neither “hauled down”, nor “banned” anything. But one thing did become all too clear: the impetus for the story had come not from news gathering, but Tory propaganda.
The lion rampant - the Scots Royal Banner
Nicola Sturgeon - vindicated
That should not have come as a surprise, given the increasing desperation of the Tel, a paper that has traded on its brand for too long now. But it has perhaps come as a wake-up call to those in the Westminster bubble, that politics north of the border can be just as devious and unpleasant as that in London. This is especially true when it comes to attacks by The Blue Team on the SNP. And now one paper has said sorry.
The Mail has told readers “We accept that the [flags] policy did not change under Nicola Sturgeon and that she had no involvement in the Protocol and Honours Team updating the operational guidance on flag flying for 2018. We apologise to Ms Sturgeon for the contrary impression given”. The First Minister has added “The Daily Mail has admitted that its ridiculous story about me and flags was utterly false and issued a full apology”.
Ms Sturgeon went on to point out “Rigorous scrutiny of politicians by a free media is fundamental to our democracy. But when newspapers publish blatant untruths they do a disservice, not just to those they defame, but to the integrity of their trade. That’s why it’s important to challenge falsehoods”. But while the press is bracing itself for complaints for those who don’t follow the Mail and say sorry, the Tories have escaped attention.
Well, until now they have. Despite former First Minister Alex Salmond laying the matter to rest by confirming “What a load of complete piffle from The Mail, The Telegraph et al. The hoisting of Lion Rampant had nothing whatsoever to do with @NicolaSturgeon. I changed the policy on flag flying back in 2010 after an audience with Her Majesty the Queen at Balmoral the previous year”, the Scots Tories had given the game away.
Their Scottish director of strategy and comms Eddie Barnes advertised the attack line: “No change at all on flag flying, insist SNP. Here's the guidance from 2018 and the old one from 2017… Make up your own mind”. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Scots Tory leader Ruth Davidson was on hand with the soundbite: “The SNP government should be more concerned with raising standards, not lowering flags. Dismal stuff”.
Then came reinforcements in the shape of head of research Gordon Hector, to rebuff Ms Sturgeon’s first response with “This is a bold tweet when the documents that literally add 'union flag (Remembrance Day only)' between 2017 and 2018 versions are about 30 secs away via google”. And then, just in case anyone hadn’t noticed who had fed the propaganda to the Telegraph, came Scots Tory head of media Adam Morris.
“What a nonsense. You’re the First Minister of a government which published the changes in January. Take responsibility instead of pinning dog whistle tweets for the benefit of your fever pitch followers” he snarked. OH WHAT A GIVEAWAY!
The Telegraph took a Tory PR stunt as fact. That’s true desperation for you.