Monday, December 19, 2005

What Future For The Scotsman, The Notional National Newspaper Of A Notional Nation?

The sideboard has been ringing all afternoon with reports that The Scotsman - a small newspaper in Edinburgh - has been sold. Certainly, this was news to me. For some time, I have been reading The Scotsman in the public library, where it is possible - if one is quick-fingered - to photocopy the crossword by a) distracting the librarian by suggesting that the sticking plaster on the leg of her glasses has worked itself loose and b) jamming an Esso 1970 World Cup coin (preferably the one made in the image of Mr Peter Shilton) into the 2p slot and running before the machine overheats and makes a smell like a dentist burning bones.
Of course, it was not a single issue of the newspaper which had been sold - though that would be a cause for celebration - but the title itself.
I can offer no comment on the performance or personality of the previous or future owners. I have not met them, and nor am I ever likely to. I understand that they are not often in Peebles.
But I did start wondering about the purpose of a notional national newspaper in a notional nation. Should it focus its energies on the notion of the nation, or the nation itself, because a notional nation is, at the best of times, hard to define?
After thinking about this for several minutes, my head began to hurt. Through the pain of the moment, I remembered one of the rare occasions on which I ventured into the old Scotsman building on Edinburgh's North Bridge. I was taken to a small room on the first floor, and into the offices of the Weekly Scotsman which, true to its title, appeared every seven days, offering a summary of events.
The room had a fine view of the heating vents at the back of the tenements of Cockburn Street. It was a dark, confined space. On the far wall I noticed a map of Scotland with the words "THE WORLD" printed boldly above it.
I do not say that it was necessarily a grand ambition, but in those days, The Scotsman knew what it was about. It wasn't the notional national newspaper of of a notional nation: it was the newspaper of the national notion.


Learson said...

It isnt much of a compliment to state that The Scotsman is a better newspaper than the American-owned 'Glasgow' Herald which combines sanctimonious paeans to political correctness with sloppy unprofessional journalism. Add to this the collectivist convivium which dominates their yawn-inducing letters page and the Edinburgh paper starts to look worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

Ding dong, the witch is dead! Good luck to old Weetabix-noggin, we wish him all the very worst luck for the future.