Fleet Street and the referendum – Wednesday papers: UK Sun opts for cabbie with 26 kids over independence splash

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

In the self-obsessed media world, present company excepted, a major topic has been whether the Scottish Sun would come out and support independence. In the real world of newspapers the hard-headed news desk and back bench of the Fleet Street Sun are getting on with the day job.

OK, they have nodded their head to the Scots debate with two pars on the front about Alex Salmond's plans for the army being shot down, but the lead story is a classic. "Bus driver with 26 kids with nine women" is the splash headline as the Sun realises that its readers south of the border are more interested in real life. It may not win a Pulitzer but it sells papers.

The Daily Express has finally woken up to the debate with a front page story but typically with its own xenophobic treatment. Its splash tells of the English MPs' fury at Scotland being given bribes to stay in the UK.

The Mirror resorts to type, dragging out a version of a former general election headline, "One day to save the NHS", with "One day to save Britain", but its main story is one that figures in every paper and points to factors not often seen in British elections, violence, intimidation and bullying.

This recurring theme is given legs by the treatment meted out to Ed Miliband in Edinburgh when he attempted to make a speech. The Mirror rounds on the yes vote "bully boys" while the Mail goes to town on the SNP, which it dubs the "Seriously Nasty Party", reporting on farmers who are in favour of staying together being warned that their livestock will be slaughtered in the fields.

The Mail has an article from Tom Bradby, the political editor of ITN who cut his teeth in Northern Ireland, saying the intimidation of journalists has been far worse than anything he experienced in Ulster. Bradby confesses to not particularly enjoying the campaign even though it is a major political story.

The Daily Telegraph takes a different slant on bullying, saying that Alex Salmond has been accused of coming the heavy with the principal of St Andrews university who begged to differ with him.

The Independent back bench goes for the old tried and trusted "a nation divided" (no shit Sherlock) and the Guardian dons the surgical gloves and tells of the warning of an NHS meltdown in Scotland if it goes its own way.

The Times also refers to violence but it is warning of conflict on the night of the poll fuelled by pubs being allowed independence vote extensions. It says there is a real fear that drunken Scots will be fighting on the streets and may even take the intimidation to polling stations. The police dampen the Times' vision of mass brawling with a quote saying that they will take proportionate action when necessary. Basically, calm down dear.

For fun the Mail shows pictures from a new book that shows humorous photographs of signs. They pick up on Scottish signs that reinforce the the drunken, obese stereotype. Cartoon of the day is in the Times where it shows a family having a Scottish breakfast with "toast and jam tomorrow".

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