Resolution Statement – 04181-21 Thompson v dailyrecord.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Jim Thompson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailyrecord.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Anger as £650m contract for SNP donor approved after Nicola Sturgeon meeting she failed to declare”, published on 4 April 2021.
2. The article reported that a named construction firm had “received permission to construct the 3000-home Durieshill village in Stirlingshire after it was rubber-stamped by Stirling Council.” The firm, “an SNP donor”, had this application approved “after a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon [which] she failed to declare”. The article reported the reaction of “Labour MSP Neil Findlay [who] said: “There are serious questions to be asked with reference to the ministerial code”.
3. The complainant said that the article was misleading as it linked the Durieshill case with the undeclared meetings, and gave the impression that the Scottish Government had interfered in the approval of the application for the Durieshill village. In fact, the application was considered and approved by the independent planning committee of Stirling Council. He also said it was inaccurate to claim that the application was “rubber-stamped” as the council had considered it thoroughly over a period of several years and had not simply granted permission without proper consideration. Finally, the complainant queried whether anyone really was “angry” at the approval of Durieshill village as the headline implied.
4. The publication said it had used the word “rubber-stamped” to simply convey the fact that the council had approved the application. It said that there was “anger” directed at the undeclared meeting by the Labour MSP Neil Findley, and the headline was reflecting this fact. Finally, it did not consider that the article implied that the Scottish Government interfered in the Durieshill decision: it simply reported that the planning permission had been granted “after” the undeclared, and thus controversial, meetings.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. During IPSO’s investigation the newspaper offered to amend the reference to the application being rubber-stamped and offered to add the following correction as a footnote to the online article:
A previous version of this article reported that the application for the 3000-home Durieshill village in Stirlingshire was 'rubber-stamped' by Stirling Council. In fact, the application process was considered for over 3 years and reached the conclusion in December 2019. We are happy to clarify this.
8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 20/4/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/6/2021