Resolution Statement – 27845-20 Garrity v The Scotsman
Summary of Complaint
1. John Garrity complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the Scotsman breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Scottish independence: Poll shows record support, but it's not in the bag – Ian Swanson”, published on 25 August 2020.
2. The online article, an opinion piece, reported upon a poll undertaken by Panelbase and commissioned by Business for Scotland. It reported that this poll revealed a reversal of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum result “so the 55-45 split [was] now in favour of independence rather than against it.” It went on to report that the survey confirmed the “pro-independence majority found in a string of recent polls” and put “support for an independent Scotland at an all-time high.”
3. The complainant said that this article had distorted the findings of the survey, in breach of Clause 1. Whilst the complainant acknowledged that the poll had clearly found higher support for Scottish independence than against it, he said that it did not find a “55-45 split” as reported. In fact, the poll found that 51 per cent were for Scottish independence, 42 per cent were against it and 7 per cent said that they did not know their position. The complainant said that in order to claim that the poll had found a “55/45” split on the issue of Scottish independence, the article had excluded the respondents who had answered “don’t know”. He said that the newspaper’s failure to make clear that the respondents who had been undecided were excluded from the analysis rendered the article a misleading report of the poll’s findings.
4. The publication did not accept that the article had distorted the poll or contained any significant inaccuracies. It said it was a “well-established convention” to exclude “don’t knows” from political opinion polls and provided several examples of where other publications had reported polls in this way. It added that the article was a comment piece and based upon an agency’s summary and interpretation of the poll, which stated it had found “record high” support for Scottish independence at 55 per cent.
Relevant Code Provisions
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.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
6. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to publish the following clarification as a footnote to this article and a similar version that appeared in a sister publication:
*We are happy to clarify that the Panelbase poll referenced above did not reflect the 7% of respondents who were undecided. With the 'don't know' respondents included in the results, 51% favoured independence and 42% opposed it."
7. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
8. 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: 04/09/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/11/2020Back to ruling listing