For the (Daily) Record
Soon after his arrest outside the takeaway in west London where he worked, the police released the name of the 'Parsons Green bombing suspect,' Yahya Faroukh, 21, effectively giving the media permission to declare open season on the Syrian refugee. The BBC issued an appeal: 'Did you witness the arrest in Hounslow? Share your pictures, video and experiences,' providing an email address for informants. Footage 'emerged' of the moment Mr Faroukh was pinned to the wall by police pretending to be waiting for a bus, of how he was 'cuffed and wrapped in plastic to preserve evidence.' The Sun claimed he had 'bragged' about his westernised lifestyle, while the Daily Mail reported that he 'enjoyed smoking weed and drinking vodka.' He was still being questioned by the police without charge when the Daily Record's front page splashed photographs of the suspect on board a CalMac ferry from Wemyss Bay ('in Renfrewshire') to Rothesay ('on Bute') in January 2016, an event so notable that, according to an anonymous witness quoted by reporters Sally Hind and Sarah Vesty, 'most people' on the island were aware of it. Without pausing to explore what this said about the inhabitants of Bute, Hind and Vesty observed that in one of the photographs the suspect had 'his hand in his pocket,' leaving the reader to speculate that if foreign looking customers on CalMac ferries adopt a casual manner, we have an obligation to be vigilant. The investigative duo went on to report that Mr Faroukh was visiting 'fellow Syrian refugees' on Bute and that his cousin lived in 'a council-owned property in Greenock.' A tagline in the paper's online version finally disposed of any lingering presumption of innocence: 'London tube attacker has links to Scotland and was pictured on Bute ferry.' After this avalanche of publicity, the media had next to nothing to say when the police freed Mr Faroukh after five days in custody and made it clear that he was no longer a suspect: in other words that they had arrested an innocent person, publicly identified him, and watched his character being hung out to dry. By a strange, unexplained inconsistency, a person the police did go on to charge, 18-year-old Ahmed Hassan, was not named before his appearance in court. Meanwhile, Mr Faroukh’s mother, distressed by her son's arrest, has suffered a heart attack and is said to be in a critical condition, his employers in London have been abused and threatened, Mr Faroukh is all over the internet as a terrorist suspect, and the Daily Record – the paper of such distinguished columnists as Scotland's first minister – has made no attempt to remove a tagline asserting his guilt.
Columnist of the week Tennis mum Judy Murray, whose grandiose leisure and housing development will destroy precious greenbelt between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane, has joined the payroll of the Sunday Post. Keen watchers of Ma Murray await with interest her first column on the unspoiled beauty of the Scottish landscape.
Diplomat of the week Ilie Nastase, who in August was banned from tennis for four years for foul-mouthed outbursts during a Fed Cup match, is embarking on a new career as a diplomat. The man who made an offensive comment about Serena Williams's unborn baby, verbally abused one British player and asked another for her hotel room number, has been honoured by the Czech Republic as its new consul in Romania. Who needs fiction when there are such facts around?
Bodyguard of the week The one hired to protect the political editor of the BBC, Laura Kuenssberg, for her expedition to that notorious war zone, the Labour Party conference: further proof of journalism’s new truism that the reporter is now inescapably part of the story.
'There can be little doubt that Scotland is moving into a second oil boom,' prophesied the then first minister, Alex Salmond, in the run-up to the 2014 referendum. We will never know how many were so convinced by this statement that they voted for independence. Even when his breezy assurance came unstuck, Eck would have been entitled to claim that the calamitous fall in oil prices could not have been foreseen. But it is now clear, which for some reason it wasn't at the time, that there was a more basic flaw in the second oil boom theory. A mere three years later, only 11% of the North Sea reserve remains to be extracted, according to a scholarly article in the new edition of the Edinburgh Geological Society's journal, which estimates that within a decade the last drop will have been taken. Such press as this disclosure has received has focused on the pre-referendum fantasy in which the Scots indulged. Most of the article, however, is concerned with identifying possible alternative sources of energy after the oil runs out. Do we, for example, put our faith in fracking? A recent report to the Scottish government proposes the creation of 20 'pads' (each of about eight acres) in central Scotland, which it is claimed would generate investment of £6.5bn and create 1,400 jobs. This approach would have the merit of concentrating the industrial activity associated with the extraction of shale gas. But in the expert opinion of Roy Thompson, author of the Edinburgh Geological Society's analysis, 20 pads would not be nearly enough to produce the looked-for benefits. More worryingly, they would carry a number of potential risks in addition to the familiar anxieties about greenhouse gas emissions and leaks. He points out that the geological structure of the central belt is far from straightforward and can be subject to 'remarkably abrupt and extensive change' and that 'faults are encountered every half mile or so.' All in all, he concludes, Scottish shale 'may well have a success factor of zero.' Something to bear in mind, perhaps, as the SNP government prepares to announce its 'informed decision' on fracking before the end of this year.
Verbal tic of the week/decade Academic linguists report that the word 'like' to start a sentence – the preferred usage of the modern student – was employed in 625 million sentences last year. Like, how do they know? Like, were they counting? Like, just how annoying can this American importation get?
Slang expression of the week It emerged during a trial at the Old Bailey that 'Ramsay' (after the agreeable Scottish-born celebrity chef) is now the street word for knife, as in 'Like, get me a Ramsay.'
Insults of the week Kathleen Leslie, formerly of Woodmill High Street, Dunfermline, was struck off the Scottish teaching register for disobliging references to the first minister during the 2014 referendum campaign in which she referred to Ms Sturgeon as 'a drooling hag' and 'a fish wife.' Ms Leslie did not contest the case, saying she no longer wanted to be a teacher anyway. But why did it take so long to come to tribunal?
Nights without end
There are few experiences in life more stressful than a night at the theatre. There is the exorbitant cost of the ticket. There is the execrable overpriced wine, served short measure in a paper cup. There is the rip-off programme, setting the hapless patron back a further fiver, in which the actors' biogs consist of a dispiriting list of their appearances on Emmerdale and River Shitty. There are the unspeakable lavatories. There is the long wait before the doors to the auditorium are finally opened, revealing the high density of the seating arrangements. Then there is the audience: the man mountain obscuring the view and laughing uncontrollably; the inevitable coughing woman in the adjoining seat; the couple in the front row who arrive ostentatiously late. Finally there is the play itself: a TV script with bigger words. Until recently, the only consolation of a night at the theatre was the prospect of half-time and a quick nip to the boozer next door; or that life-enhancing choice to 'walk out at the interval.' But the producers seem determined to keep audiences captive by employing the sadistic expedient of long, no-interval productions. This presents an obvious problem, especially for older playgoers: that of bladder control. 'To pee or not to pee, that is the question,' as the Guardian's Michael Billington so delicately put it. Yet, when the co-presenter of the BBC's 'Front Row', Nikki Bedi, made a case for the mid-evening respite, stating frankly that she resented 'going to the theatre and not having an interval for two hours and 45 minutes,' the luvvies rounded on her for her 'outrageous comments.' Vicky Featherstone (ex-National Theatre of Scotland) demanded that the BBC should hire 'less entitled and more open-minded presenters,' while a playwright by the name Dan Rebellato said that Bedi's remark was the equivalent of critics complaining that novels were too long. Novels are too long. But with a novel you can put it down, chuck it across the room, or hand it in to your nearest Oxfam during an interval of your own choosing. Meanwhile, NIkki Bedi deserves our gratitude – if not a standing ovation.
Farewell of the week Ta-Ra Chuck (Sun); Ta-Ra Chuck (Express); Ta-Ra Chuck (Mail); Ta-Ra Vera (Record); End of a Vera (Star). It is safe to assume that they were not referring to the death of Hugh Hefner.