I finally decided to call it Comment Isn’t Free because of The Guardian, and their Comment is Free section.
This is a newspaper that likes to paint itself as liberal. Indeed, some of the articles that appear in there are on important subjects to those of us who consider ourselves on the left.
Yet it is also, like the other major newspapers, a repository for all manner of lies and smear stories, and the independence debate has revealed it at its running worst.
Today I’m going to focus on just one story, one that’s just appeared. It is entitled “Scottish Independence Could Create Mortgage Drought.”
It is one of the most blatant fear and smear stories I’ve read thus far. Its writers ought to be absolutely ashamed. But they won’t be. They have no damned shame at all.
Despite its reputation as one of the left’s newspapers of record, The Guardian is shamelessly, avowedly, unconditionally unionist and elitist. Its writers reflect Londoncentric biases as well as, if not better than, almost every other national paper. Put simply, but for a few writers who are capable of looking outside the bubble, that paper reflects, almost perfectly, the views of the Westminster village.
This piece is particularly extraordinary. It cites three authors, and reading it makes me wonder just what its writers actually did. If one held the pen and one held the paper, that still leaves one sitting around playing with his balls. All they’ve done here is publish a piece of rumour and conjecture, branding it as a major story although it quotes a single broker at a single firm who thinks independence might cause problems.
The article ends with something approaching balance as another broker, at a different firm, gives the opposite view. The reader has to get that far though.
The headline is speculative, as it contains the word “could”, but if you’ve seen it at all then it’s done its job. Create more fear. Create more doubt.
Take a deep breath, get past that and realise you are reading speculation.
Then get to the next line, which appears to suggest different.
“Borrowers in Scotland face a mortgage drought if next week’s referendum backs a split from the rest of the United Kingdom.”
That’s baldly presented as a fact. That line contains not one ounce, not one scintilla, of ambiguity at all. It’s presented as if it were scripture, as if Moses himself brought it down from the mountain.
And it is bollocks.
It is major league bollocks, based on hot air, as the next lines make clear.
“Major lenders are thought to be preparing to restrict lending following a yes vote …”
Thought to be preparing? So this isn’t set in stone at all, is it? They might be about to start maybe doing something …
The first line of this piece, which actually contradicts the headline, has thus been contradicted by the very next sentence. Clearly, the three writers have three different views as to what this article should say, and it’s spilling over into the writing. The first line has thus been demolished by the second. The second says exactly what the headline does.
This is going to be speculative, scare-me pish. And it is!
So what’s the issue here? Why would lenders be thinking this way …
“…. due to concerns that there are too many uncertainties about the currency that an independent Scotland would use and the future outlook for house prices.”
Where’s the uncertainty over the currency? Salmond has answered this question at least 100 times. We’ll use the pound. Will there be currency union? My guess would be yes, but even without it the Scottish Government position is pretty goddamned clear.
There’s not uncertainty unless you’re basically switching off your brain and putting your fingers in your ears and going “nananananana” every time Salmond or someone from Team Yes answers a question on this point.
Besides, what is this “concerns about uncertainty’s” nonsense anyway? Are all major financial institutions run by such pussies? That they spend a lot of time pondering on things they can’t answer and which no-one can know?
Giant meteorites strike the planet every couple hundred thousand years and we’re supposed to be in the time-zone for the next one. The Yellowstone Super Volcano hasn’t erupted during the age of man, so on average we’re “overdue” for the a big bang. Is this why mortgage rates continue to climb? Uncertainty over these things?
Uncertainty is such a cop-out. It’s the weakest argument the No side can make. Tell me one thing in this life that’s certain except that one day we’ll all be checking out? Every general election campaign produces uncertainty. Apart from Michelle Mone and a few other individuals bitching about what the people’s choice might be no-one gets in a flap.
I read the next section with a big smile on my face, as one of the most egregious examples of “if, buts, maybe, who knows” writing I’ve ever read, and I pondered, again that three highly paid journalists had to work on this to get it just so.
“Big lenders are known to be considering changes to the way they lend to would-be homeowners in Scotland. Borrowers could be subjected to tougher tests when being offered loans, and could be required to put down larger deposits or denied loans altogether.”
So this is something perhaps that could be considered if …
Does this really qualify as news? That a bunch of people might think about doing something if a group of other people actually do something? What else qualifies as news? What else requires three reporters to get together in a huddle and produce a headline piece of copy like this? That somewhere a team of economists has got together and said if Scotland votes for independence that they’ll close their accounts and use the money for a Panamanian holiday?
The next part is amusing too.
“One industry insider said there are signs that the market for homes worth more than £600,000 in Scotland was already drying up ahead of the outcome of the vote …”
I am moved to wonder exactly what percentage of Scottish home-owners would qualify for a half million pound mortgage.
Are those the people worried about a Yes vote? This is what I mean when I say this is The Guardian at its finest, reflecting London attitudes, and life in the bubble.
Should we really be worrying about increased mortgage costs for people who can afford to buy a house valued at 30 times the average median salary for a Scottish local authority worker? Those people are clearly doing alright. They’re making ends meet. And if they’re not, then I’m moved to ask whether or not they really need a house with a heated driveway and an indoor pool.
The £600,000 price tag, by the way, removes buyers from being able to participate in the Westminster government’s Right to Buy scheme. Which is one of the reasons I’m suspicious about where this report has really originated.
The broker who’s gone on the record in the story works for John Charcol. This is a company whose blog has been a constant critic of the Scottish Government, and has been opposed to the referendum almost since Day 1.
In fact, they’ve been cited by Better Together and others several times during the campaign. Indeed, the whole basis of the story is not new, and it has already been dealt with by Yes Scotland several times since the referendum began.
If this story had teeth – real teeth, in that they had quotes, on the record, from major players in the lending business who were stating, categorically, that Scottish mortgage rates would rise in the event of a Yes vote – that would be something. I would struggle to justify putting three journalists on it, not knowing what they are doing as the article contains not one statistical fact or something that would have required research, but I would have had a little more respect for those whose names appear in connection with it.
But its headline discredits it from the off, and all but for that first line, quickly contradicted, it contains not one word that might be mistaken for “fact.”
It is all speculation, all pie in the sky, but set up as a major story and given gravitas it doesn’t deserve.
If I were one of the three journalists “credited” with involvement in producing a PR piece for a financial institution designed to spread fear amongst voters in an enormously important referendum I would be ashamed of what had been produced under my name.
They aren’t. They, like everyone else who’s been shovelling bullshit for Better Together have no shame. No damned shame at all.
Make them eat it Scotland. Make them pay for publishing such nonsense.
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