Decision of the Complaints Committee 01492-14 Various Complainants v Daily Record
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1.The Independent Press Standards Organisation received 21 complaints that the Daily Record had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Three leaders sign promise to Scotland”, published on 16 September 2014.
2. The article had reported that David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg had signed a promise which would guarantee more devolved powers to Scotland, and protect the NHS, if Scotland voted against Scottish Independence. It was presented as a document signed by the three party leaders, and featured each of their photographs.
3. Complainants were concerned that “The Vow” had been presented as a formal document which had been signed by the three party leaders. They said that the fact the article had been written in the first person and contained the signatures of the party leaders contributed to this misleading impression. Complainants said that there was no such document, and noted that an email from Mr Miliband’s office explained that no document of the kind depicted on the front page of the Daily Record existed. The email referred to “The Vow” as being “mocked up” by the newspaper. Complainants were concerned that the inaccuracy was significant owing to its effects on the referendum campaign.
4. One complainant was concerned that the article referred to a “historical joint promise which, in their own words, will guarantee more devolved powers to Scotland”. The complainant said that the vow did not have this effect, as further devolution would require a vote in Parliament. Another complainant said that the commitment did not “rubbish claims” that the Barnett formula could be changed; rather the commitment only said that the formula would continue to operate.
5. The newspaper said that the deal between the party leaders had been brokered by Gordon Brown. The party leaders had all agreed to sign up to the promises set out, and they had provided electronic copies of their signatures to the newspaper for publication. The newspaper said that the document is the Daily Record itself; it would not have been reasonable for readers to believe that there had been a separate document.
6. The newspaper provided responses on behalf of all three party leaders, confirming that that they contributed to, and agreed, the wording of “The Vow” prior to its publication. They also all confirmed that the electronic signatures had been provided to the newspaper.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
8. The newspaper had provided confirmation from the offices of the three party leaders that they had lent their signatures to the agreement, and had contributed to the wording of “The Vow”. As the party leaders had confirmed that the content of the “The Vow” had accurately reflected their agreement, the Committee was satisfied that the presentation of the article had not been significantly misleading. The concern that there was not a formal document beyond what had featured in the newspaper, and that the party leaders had not physically signed the agreement, did not raise a breach of the Code.
9. The concern that the “joint promise” did not guarantee more devolved powers to Scotland, as further devolution would require a vote in Parliament, was not significantly misleading. The coverage set out the commitments of the parties to deliver new powers to the Scottish Parliament. In this context, it had not been significantly misleading to describe this as a “guarantee”, particularly given that the party leaders had themselves described the commitment in such terms.
10. A complainant said that the agreement did not “rubbish claims” that the Barnett formula could be changed to leave Scotland less money for public services; rather, the commitment said only that the formula would continue to operate. As the parties had made clear their commitment to “the continuation of the Barnett allocation of resources”, the Committee was satisfied that the newspaper’s interpretation had not been significantly misleading on this point.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 27/10/2014
Date decision issued: 09/02/2015Back to ruling listing