Scottish pro-independence newspaper The National has said it was “banned” from covering Theresa May’s visit to Scotland and has today published a blank space where its coverage would have been.
The paper’s editor, Callum Baird, claimed his title was “presumably” left out because she does not agree with its editorial line on Scottish independence – it supported the Yes campaign in the 2014 vote.
The Newsquest-owned daily said it was barred from the Prime Minister’s press event with other newspapers on her whistlestop visit to Scotland yesterday as she tours the UK to sell her Brexit deal to the public.
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The No 10 press office reportedly told The National “limited capacity” meant they could not attend May’s meeting in Bridge of Weir. A government spokesperson was unable to confirm this to Press Gazette today.
In response, The National today left its front page headlines and subheadings blank along with a double-page spread on pages six and seven as it pointedly refused to cover May’s visit.
The splash design included a silhouette of the Prime Minister with the words: “This is where we would have reported on Theresa May’s visit to Scotland. We were not allowed in to her press event with the other newspapers. We have refused to cover it.”
Inside the headline read: “Theresa May visits Scotland. We have refused to cover the PM’s trip”, alongside a blank story template including the byline “not by Andrew Learmonth”, its political reporter.
Baird told Press Gazette he had a “funny feeling” the newspaper would be invited the next time May visits Scotland.
He said: “It was outrageous when we heard that we weren’t going to be invited to the event. We work in the same newspaper office as the Herald so we knew that they were going and we knew other papers were going.
“They said it was a ‘limited capacity’ and yet this is a factory that employs thousands of people so clearly there must be lots of room on site… We just thought we’re not going to let her get away with this.”
Baird added that the title first wrote of their exclusion online and it “seemed to strike a chord with people”.
He referenced recent events in the US, namely the White House suspending the CNN correspondent Jim Acosta’s press pass after a tense exchange with President Trump.
Speaking about the reaction to the front page since it was first published online last night, Baird said: “We were seeing people from all over the world tweeting it and journalism teachers from everywhere tweeting it which is fantastic, it’s a great reaction.
“But I think it just proves how significant an issue this is that the prime minister of a country is excluding a paper, presumably because she doesn’t agree with its editorial line.”
The National’s story about the “ban” included quotes from Lib Dem MP and former journalist Christine Jardine, who compared the “incompetent” decision to both the Acosta incident and former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s decision to ban the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Express from his resignation conference in 2014.
NUJ Scotland organiser John Toner told the newspaper he supported its calls for an explanation “as to why they were excluded” and that in a democracy it is vital journalists are “given access to those in power”.
Media who were allowed access to May’s event included The Scotsman, The Herald, The Press and Journal, The Daily Record and STV.
The Daily Record said May spent “just ten minutes answering questions from the press after a hastily arranged tour of a leather manufacturer in Bridge of Weir”.
A No 10 spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
On the Sky News paper review last night, Daily Mirror associate editor Kevin Maguire and the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce both gave their support to the National.
Pierce said: “That’s a very clever front page and what a silly decision by her spin doctors not to allow The National in. What have we turned into, a police state?”
Maguire added: “It has as much right to go in as any other paper.”