How news works: a user's guide Our legal correspondent, Sheriff Muir, demanded to know why, day after day, the BBC's website was overwhelmed by background stuff on tax avoidance schemes. He added gruffly – as only he can gruff – that it was as if the third world war had broken out. Mary Culter (arts, media and gender issues) explained the consecutive character of news. The week before had been dominated by the parliamentary sex scandal, but this was in danger of fizzling out after the Sunday papers had struggled to produce incriminating new material. It was time for something else: a massive cut and paste job on millions of pages of leaked financial intelligence, passed off as another triumph of investigative journalism. Acccording to Ms Culter this 'set the agenda' for the week, just as Pestminster had done. It would have been out of the question for both scandals to co-exist; it was in the nature of news that one had to follow the other. Sheriff Muir asked why even the shooting of half the population of Sutherland Springs had failed to take precedence over the financial affairs of 'personalities' (as he called them with a hint of contempt). Ms Culter replied brusquely that, once an agenda had been set, a schedule of exposure agreed, mere passing events were an inconvenience.
Misunderstanding of the week Political correspondent Kitty Brewster relayed the sad news that the mood in Scotland’s corridors of fear was 'subdued', as the sex scandal belatedly hit wur ain wee parlyment. Mandy Rhodes, editor of Holyrood magazine, had been moved to complain in the Sunday Past that, in the prevailing atmosphere, none of her usual contacts would take an alcoholic refreshment with her. Ms Brewster herself caused consternation at the editorial conference when she was heard to suggest that 'there might even be a problem with coffee.' Happily It transpired that she was merely alluding to the nationalist member for Kilmarnock.
Who is the Coffey one? His first name is Willie. Kilmarnock traditionally prefers to have a Willie representing its interests. There was, notably, that figure of Presbyterian rectitude, Willie Ross, also known as 'Old Basso Profundo' and the 'Hammer of the Nats,' who hammered them so effectively that his native town has been SNP for yonks. Then, as Islay McLeod reminded us, there was Willie McKelvie. But of the latest Willie, who says he does not recognise the complaint levelled against him, and who denies any wrongdoing, little is known. Ms Brewster thought he might be bald.
Redaction of the week A letter was circulated at the editorial conference from a well-known doyen of Scottish journalism describing Mark McDonald MSP, late children's minister, in surprisingly unflattering terms, e.g. 'full of his own self-importance.' ('Aren't they all?,' interjected Sheriff Muir.) Kitty Brewster had no new intelligence to add to his abrupt resignation for the new crime of being amusing to women, beyond a curious titbit concerning the ex-minister's Twitter account. Evidently, before retreating into the political wilderness that is sometimes known as Inverurie, he found time to delete a tweet referencing Michael Gove's mildly tasteless mention of Harvey Winestain CBE on the 'Today' programme. McDonald had implored: 'Can we just stop and reset the bar on what passes for decency in human discourse, please? This is making me sick.' There were congratulations all round for Kitty Brewster's monitoring of the shamed one's Twitter feed, until she felt compelled to admit that it was not she, but that vigilant tribune Paul Hutcheon, who had spotted the last-minute redaction. Whether McDonald has since single-handedly reset the bar on what passes for decency in human discourse has yet to be established. Judging by the sexually explicit nature of the message or messages he is alleged to have sent to a female accuser, the portents do not look especially promising.
Phrase of the week 'Poundshop Weinstein.' Pithy summing-up, by his alleged victim, of a Tory MP named Mr Pincher, who is said to have changed into his bathrobes before behaving 'inappropriately' to a former Olympic rower. The rower 'made his excuses and left,' a phrase recalling the glory days of the News of the Screws, whose journalists nobly resisted all offers, even the good ones.
The Pickwick Papers Novel by Charles Dickens in which one of the minor characters was a Mr Pincher; or, if he wasn’t, he should have been.
The Paradise Papers Over-the-top modern version.
Holidaymakers of the week
(1) Laura Plummer from Hull, who likes to cosy up in front of 'Emmerdale’, is instead cosying up with 25 other women in a 15ft by 15ft Egyptian prison cell as a suspected drug trafficker. At the start of a holiday to see her boyfriend or husband (reports of his status vary), her suitcase was found to contain a large-ish quantity of a drug which is banned in Egypt. She has now missed a whole month of 'Emmerdale' and according to some reports may not see her favourite programme again for 25 years.
(2) Nazarin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian journalist, went on a family holiday to Iran and was arrested for allegedly attempting to overthrow the state. She is serving a five-year sentence, which looks likely to be substantially increased since the buffoon who calls himself foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, announced that she had been over there 'teaching people journalism, as I understand it.'
(3) Priti Patel, a London mum of one, went on a family holiday to Israel earlier in the year, but somehow ended up in the company of the Israeli prime minister and a number of other prominent dignitaries. Sheriff Muir wondered if perchance she had bumped into them on the beach. Having unaccountably failed to inform her superiors of these engagements, she was summoned back from darkest Africa and fired.
Moral of these holiday horror stories Go no further than Morecambe, where serious harm is less likely to befall you. Kitty Brewster recommends the art deco Midland Hotel.
Shanarri of the week Baroness Shanarri Chakrabarti, an incurably self-righteous member of Jezza's shadow cabinet, who likened her latest project to 'painting the Forth Bridge.' Kirk Oswald, reporting from a traffic jam on the Queen Nicola Crossing, emailed the editorial conference to confirm that the bridge in question was last painted six years ago and that, according to the experts he had just consulted, it wouldn't require to be done again for at least another 19.
Hero of the week The 'rogue’ Twitter employee, working a final shift at the social network, who managed to delete Trump's account.
Anti-climax of the week But only for 11 minutes.
Literacy project of the week The number of Twitter characters is to be increased from 140 to 280. (That sentence used up only 55. Imagine what Trump could do with 280 – assuming his vocabulary stretches that far.)
Kiss of death of the week The suggestion by a former functionary of Trump's, Sebastian Gorka by name, that Trump might back Scottish independence.
Magazines of the week (1) Tatler, which suggested that a young actress would be 'fun in bed,' its subsequent apology guaranteeing further useful publicity; (2) Vogue, whose new editor promised 'more diversity' within its covers, a thinly disguised plug duly advertised free of charge by the BBC.
Browns of the week
(1) Mrs Brown's Boys, characters in some undistinguished Irish sitcom, whose creators legally salted away two million quid in an offshore account, a practice which so exercised our public service broadcaster that it gave the shock-horror revelation the sort of prominence usually reserved for a terrorist atrocity, the death of major royalty, or the wardrobe of the new Dr Who.
(2) Gordon Brown, whose new book 'reveals' that the famous meeting between himself and Tony Blair in the Granita restaurant in Islington to settle the question of the Labour leadership did not settle it – if only because it had been settled already. This should not have come as news (although it is being reported as such) to readers of Kenneth Roy's 'The Broken Journey,' which relates the story of a meeting in Edinburgh a few days earlier, at the home of Nick Ryden, a friend of Blair's, where the deal was brokered. Ryden is quoted in Roy's book: 'Tony Blair was staying and Gordon Brown turned up. There was wine. There was whisky. And there was a takeaway number for the Indian restaurant. I went to the pub and left them to it.' At 1.30 in the morning Ryden was finally allowed back into his house and gave Brown, who was skint, £30 for a taxi home. Brown had extracted what he regarded as an unambiguous undertaking that, although Blair would lead the next Labour government, he would step down as prime minister at some stage and make way for Brown. As Roy adds: 'Brown should have got it in writing.'
News from Banffshire Maggie Knockater reports that almost 1,000 visitors made 'a big splash' at the Macduff Marine Aquarium on its 20th anniversary. Ms Knockater adds that they participated in 'fishy prize draws and live bug handling.' Although not a lot else seems to be happening in Banffshire at the moment, our correspondent remains fully conscious and alert.
Word of the week When the proprietor of the Somerset-based Nippy Bus Company, Sydney Hardy, decided he couldn't stand the workers any longer and abruptly shut down the company, he sent the staff a farewell message: 'The gates are now closed and will not open, so you can stay in your scratchers on Monday and have a lie-in.' Some
newspapers found it necessary to explain that Mr Hardy was advising his former employees to stay in their beds. Sheriff Muir doubted if there was anyone in the country who did not know the meaning of the word scratcher.
Scratcher of the week The Pope’s. His Holiness disclosed that he goes to his scratcher at 9pm and rises at 4am. While praying, he has a tendency to fall asleep, both in his scratcher and out of it.
Word of the year Collins Dictionary has decided that it is 'fake news,' which – as Mary Culter pointed out – is not a word, but a phrase. We went round the editorial table for alternative words or phrases of the year:
Kitty Brewster: 'Inappropriate.'
Mary Culter: 'Inappropriate.'
Kirk Oswald: still stuck on the approaches to the Queen Nicola Crossing; failed to respond to our request.
Maggie Knockater (by telephone from Macduff): 'Inappropriate.'
Sheriff Muir: 'Highly inappropriate.'
An open letter from the editor of the Scotsman to his readers Eck thinks he can run this great newspaper. Eck can think again. Like Eck I began my distinguished career by writing for the local rag and proud of it, honourable traditions of local journalism etc etc. Once heard him speak at the Tranent Burns Supper. Terrific performer. But running this great newspaper? Come on, Jimmie. As if. Independence of the press and all that. Apart from anything else, I’d be oot the door. Look, I could go on like this for another thousand words – and you know something, I probably will – but I hope you lot have got the message. Eck will never darken the door of this great newspaper while we’re still selling nearly 10,000 copies a day at the full price. (To be continued. Though maybe not.)
The weekly quiz Who is Graeme Smith? Is he: the Partick Thistle goalie?; a temporary sheriff in Airdrie?; someone who survived as editor of the Glasgow Herald for a whole year?; or the author of 'Sid and Shanarri,’ the Scottish government’s sinister new storybook for tiny tots? Answer at the foot of the page.
Foot of the page Graeme Smith has just bitten the dust as editor of the Glasgow Herald, a post that enjoys a longevity roughly akin to the managership of Crystal Palace.
Late news It has just been announced that Islay McLeod has never heard of the word scratcher.
Double Take is edited by The Midgie with the assistance of staff writers Kitty Brewster (politics), Sheriff Muir (legal and constitutional affairs), Mary Culter (arts, media and gender issues), Kirk Oswald (sexual indiscretions, weather events and fishing news) and Maggie Knockater (Banffshire correspondent).
Where was it? We seriously thought we would bamboozle SR readers with last week’s obscure 'Where is this?' photograph. We were wrong. Six readers correctly spotted that it was the Linda McCartney memorial garden in Campbeltown. Andrew Campbell of Ardchattan, Argyll, says the statue of Linda ('a well-regarded late resident of Kintyre') shows a remarkable likeness to its subject, while Cameron Munro informs us that it 'sits in the grounds of the library and museum based in Hall Street beside the oldest cinema in Britain – The Picture House.' Other correct answers arrived from Sally Forth (which she does regularly), Bill Harvey, Alister Armstrong and Steve Wood. For the winner out of the hat, Sally Forth (known to her nearest and dearest as Alison Campbell), a copy of Kenneth Roy's 'The Broken Journey' will arrive in good time for Christmas. Now this week's photo...