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It has been a momentous week for Scotland this week. The announcement of huge job losses due to the closure of the Motorola mobile phone plant was the main news story but there has also been a proposed merger for The Bank Of Scotland with the Halifax plc. Add to this continuing controversy over the development of tourism for Scotland and Foot and Mouth news and there is a lot to report. In sport Celtic have been presented with the SPL championship trophy whilst only 3 members of the Scotland Rugby Union team was selected for the British Lions tour.
I have been in Scotland this week and whilst there read The Scotsman newspaper. The Scotsman is principally published in Edinburgh though it also has offices in Glasgow and London. The coverage of the Motorola story was as thorough and comprehensive as one would expect. Its tone however was not overly emotional but gave the facts of the announcement and the background to the establishment of the factory and the reasons for its closure. Whilst it was not excessively emotional it did recognise this to be a human tragedy and gave a balanced view of the situation.
There was a political as well as the business perspective on the closure. I do think The Scotsman in common with all the Scottish newspapers has some difficulty with how to react to Scottish devolution.
The newspaper knows it cannot nod blindly to whatever occurs in the Scottish parliament but also must not criticise the effectiveness of its ministers too greatly for fear of undermining the whole process. The paper therefore treads a careful path and its words and messages are carefully chosen. The coverage of the potential merger of the Bank Of Scotland and the Halifax was carefully handled too. This issue has implications for the standing of a leading Scottish establishment company in merger with an English one. In all these issues The Scotsman portrays a wise mature view in these matters. It values the importance of the Scottish angle in these matters but not at the expense of developing an isolationist stance.
The coverage of other issues like Foot and Mouth and the recent sacking of the Chief executive of the tourist authority after 6 days in office are sensibly handled. There was no nonsensical sentimental ‘Phoenix the calf’ trivialisation of the issue of F and M and the tourist story was developed in a way which showed the potential harm to the industry. The Scotsman is not a newspaper merely content to be a ‘difficulty stater’ but one which offers balanced coverage and editorials which have as many solutions as they have problems.
The second part of the newspaper is called S2 and this covers the arts and entertainment. It remains predominantly centred on the arts of Glasgow and Edinburgh and Scottish artistes are featured strongly. The reviews though are as robust and as critical as any for the national papers and the Scotsman critics do not see their duty by any means as serving to fill Scottish theatres with flattering reviews. There is the usual TV page with a healthy series of reviews on programmes.
The Bank of Scotland story resonates strongly in Scotland as the banking and insurance sectors are important parts of the Scottish economy. Companies like Scottish Widows, Standard Life, Scottish Life are key companies within the country and many are losing their independence to mergers and acquisitions. As befits this importance The Scotsman has a comprehensive business section. It is even printed in pink just like the Financial Times. This section is not as impenetrable as the FT and features stories not just about Scotland but further afield including internationally. There are a large number of market reports, articles and trading prices
The Wednesday edition also includes features on Scottish education. On Thursdays there is a Property supplement giving a guide to houses and flats for sale in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas in Lothian and Fife.
The Scotsman is essential reading for those living and working in Scotland. It is a very serious broadsheet and has excellent standards of journalism. It articles are clear and well constructed and it does not have the ‘give-me-400-words-on-this’ feel that the English national broadsheets often have. It translates less well and is less relevant to an English audience. It is not rabidly for Scottish independence but is loyal without being jingoistic.
Silver-screen sports stories rarely revolve around the big and brawny, but the small and ... more
scrappy, like Sean Astin in Rudy or Toby Maguire in Seabiscuit. For Scottish cycling sensation Graeme Obree (Trainspotting's Jonny Lee Miller), the biggest obstacle isn't physical, but financial--and psychological. From 1993 to 1995, when most of The Flying Scotsman takes place, he's a bike-shop owner and courier who dreams of turning pro (Laura Fraser plays his supportive spouse). After Rev. Baxter (Brian Cox returning to his native Scotland) sets him up with supplies, and fellow courier Malky (The Lord of the Rings' Billy Boyd) agrees to manage him, Obree sets out to break the one-hour world record. He starts by building a bicycle from spare parts, a move that recalls Anthony Hopkins' eccentric racer in The World's Fastest Indian. Obree's money woes are further complicated by a battle with manic depression, which is handled sensitively, if superficially, i.e. it isn't made clear whether he ever receives treatment. Though he'll break several records before the film is over, the World Cycling Federation (represented by former James Bond villain Steven Berkoff) makes him jump through several demeaning hoops to get there. As for Miller, he's convincing as a cyclist (Obree serves as one of his stand-ins), though Boyd provides the bulk of the charisma. Nonetheless, the real-life champ deserves recognition for his achievements, and Mackinnon's movie is as a sympathetic testament to a true talent. --Kathleen C. Fennessy