Scottish Independence

How the referendum was reported: Newspapers rely on the web as declaration misses first editions

By Francis Ingham

September 19, 2014 | 3 min read

PRCA director general Francis Ingham examines how news outlets north and south of the border told the story of the Scottish independence referendum outcome.

In the days when newspapers relied on trees rather than computer screens to do their job, their coverage of last night's result would have been necessarily limited and vague –unless they'd gone down the Dewey-Truman route of course. And we all know how that worked out for the Chicago Tribune…

The front pages today are dominated by the predictable message 'Scotland speaks'; 'Scotland decides'. Without of course saying what that decision has been. And also by the remarkable turnout figures, so much in contrast to the failed devolution referendum of 1979.

But the newspapers no longer rely on print of course, so they can offer their take on the result online. On one thing they all agree. That this is a decisive result. A 10 point gap on such a massive turnout gives this vote power and credibility, and many papers say that it has killed independence for a political lifetime.

The Telegraph is triumphalist and emotional – the UK, it says, is 'safe'. Like most of the papers, it now turns the spotlight onto Cameron, and his pledge to 'solve the West Lothian question'.

The Independent follows the same agenda – Cameron will now 'devolve powers to England' under this 'Reunited Kingdom'. Make no mistake, Mr Salmond’s dream might be over, but this broader issue is nowhere near that point.

The Scottish papers inevitably take a slightly different angle, with a heavy focus on Alex Salmond personally. The Herald notes that his own constituency rejected independence decisively. It describes him as 'shattered'.

The Daily Record is simple: 'Scotland says no'. 'No campaign seals triumph at 6.08am'. And again with a sad Salmond pictured.

The Scottish Sun has the same line as The Independent – 'Reunited Kingdom', noting that 'Yes campaign gets kicking in landslide vote'.

And finally, one other paper of note. The New York Times’ 'Scots reject independence from Britain in historic vote'. Historic indeed – on that all the papers agree.

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