'Prestwick Airport in Glasgow has unveiled its first tartan in an attempt to improve its image,' reports the i newspaper. The bylined journalist adds that the design will 'feature in staff uniforms'.

Here in neighbouring Liberator House, a centre of commerce that has long been a byword for patriotism, we await the inevitable request from the management block – also known as the management bloke – that tenants should show solidarity with the new brand by appearing for work in the house tartan of 'sky blue, slate and sand'.

In eager anticipation, editor Roy intends to sport a bunnet of that description, while deputy McLeod will enhance her familiar daily wardrobe with a dashing cravat of the prescribed design.

It is not, however, the general ludicrousness – if not outright ludicrosity – of this latest marketing wheeze that drew our jaundiced eye to the 'story' but the paper's shaky grasp of Scottish geography. For although it continues to be promoted misleadingly as 'Glasgow Prestwick Airport', the money pit in question is not 'in Glasgow', but 34 miles down the coast in the Ayrshire town of Prestwick.

If journalists are still capable of confusing a renowned golfing resort for a mere city 50 minutes away by rail, there can be little hope that bankers planning the latest savage round of branch closures have a clue where they are sticking their noxious pin in the map of Scotland.

A councillor in the district of Carrick is reported to be 'furious' – it is no longer enough to be angry; these days you have to be 'furious' – that the closure of the Girvan branch is being justified on the grounds that Girvan is a 'village' when, as the councillor points out, it boasts a population of 9,000.

The councillor is right, but in a wrong sort of way. He is right that Girvan is not a village. It became a municipal burgh, incorporated by charter, as long ago as 1668; and so for 349 years it has been entitled to be known as a town. It is that fact, and not its population, which determines that it is a town and not a village. There are many towns in Scotland with populations smaller than Girvan’s; just as there are many villages with populations larger, including the editor's native Bonnybridge.

Here endeth the Midgie’s geography lesson, a small contribution to that vainglorious enterprise known as the 'Curriculum for Excellence'.


Rupert Cornwell, the foreign correspondent, has died at the age of 71. A simple enough fact, which you might have expected his own newspaper, the online Independent, to record straight. Instead, the story had him 'passing away'. This may be the first example of a serious newspaper resorting to the queasy euphemism in reporting the death of one of its own journalists, an elegant stylist who would never have resorted to using it himself.

A correspondent in the Huffington Post, William Bradshaw, recently set out to discover when 'passing away' (or its horrific variation 'passed') replaced death. He went through funeral notices, obituaries, and news stories about members of his own family and discovered that the change began in the early 1970s. A decade later, wrote Bradshaw, only newspapers were still claiming that people had 'died' (though now, as we see, even they are succumbing).

In fact, the usage 'passing away' could be found in Scottish obituaries almost a century ago. Islay McLeod, for her weekly feature, has recalled the death of poor William Campbell ('a youth of 19 years’), who lost his balance on a ladder, fell 25 feet to the pavement, and sustained 'very severe injuries to the head and body'. Two hours later, reported the St Andrews Citizen of 8 March 1930, he 'passed away'. Even then journalists were breaking one of the cardinal rules of their profession: never use two words when one word will do.

Talking of passing away, it may be worth recording that last week's rumours concerning the passing away of the Radio 2 disc jockey Brian Matthew were greatly exaggerated. Though not for long. He was still alive when his former employer, the BBC, confidently reported otherwise. Matthew then did the decent thing and passed away – for a second time in 24 hours.

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