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Scottish Independence Referendum UK Media

Fleet Street and the Scottish independence referendum: Queen's comment dominates Monday's newspapers

By Chris Boffey |

September 15, 2014 | 3 min read

Chris Boffey, a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and Mirror, continues his daily review of how Fleet Street is covering the Scottish independence referendum.

Newspaper newsrooms on a Sunday are desolate places. Normally one person manning the newsdesk, a couple of reporters from the rota, the political staff working from home and the editing given over to the deputy or some assistant editor.

So when a big story breaks Saturday night there is a limited staff to work on anything else. The Fleet Street newspapers knew they had to deliver something sizeable on the Scottish independence vote as the debate moved into the last four days but, frankly, the beheading of a British aid worker by the Islamic State and the revelation of a second man facing death had higher priority.

It must have been a sense of relief for the news editors when their political reporters said both Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling were on the Andrew Marr show. At least there was some meat to put on the bone and then the Queen, god bless her, came out of Crathie church at Balmoral, her Scottish home, and told one of the local well wishers that the Scottish people should "think very carefully" before voting on Thursday. In newspaper terms this was shooting fish in a barrel. Job done before midday and everything else from Scotland to be swept up in the afternoon.

Virtually every paper from the Daily Star to the Guardian had the Queen's comments on the front page but only the Daily Telegraph thought that the Scots issue was worthy of the front lead and not the beheading.

The Independent, while leading with the Middle East, took another view on the Scottish question by going big on the demonstration outside the BBC offices in Glasgow for what yes campaigners perceived as bias towards the better together faction. The source of their anger was BBC political editor Nick Robinson who had given Alex Salmond a bit of a grilling.

The Daily Mirror, not content with what the Queen said quoted an unarmed royal expert (yeah) saying: "I am sure, privately, the Queen is horrified at the prospect of the union breaking up."

The Telegraph, in its heavy handed backing for the no campaign, had an article from Sir Malcolm Rifkind saying that Scotland would be less safe if it went its own way. The Daily Mail, very much in the no camp, quoted David Beckham, Steven Redgrave and Tanni Grey-Thompson as being against Scottish independence and added the views of the Centre for Policy studies who said the Scots cannot rely on oil revenues.

Unsurprisingly the FT also goes on the flight of money and jobs from Scotland.

It is well worth a look, if only to wince, at the cartoon in the Daily Express that attempts to bring Prince Harry's 30th birthday and the independence issue together. About as funny as a broken leg.

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