Resolution Statement – 11820-21 Thomson v

    • Date complaint received

      3rd March 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 11820-21 Thomson v

Summary of Complaint

1. Michelle Thomson MSP complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “MSPs holding second jobs using Holyrood for ‘hobby’ says Labour”, published on November 15th 2021.

2. The article reported that “Scottish Labour has accused MSPs who have second jobs of ‘serving the people as a part-time hobby’ after it was revealed that eight Holyrood politicians top up their salaries with extra employment”. The article stated that “seven Scottish Conservative MSPs and one SNP MSP had second jobs”. It listed the seven Conservative MSPs and then stated that “SNP MSP Michelle Thomson, who was elected to Holyrood in May, is a ‘sole trader of’… a property investment company, according to her register of interests”. It said she was “also a director of a property management company”. It then described the “second jobs” of the Conservative MSPs. The article quoted “Scottish Labour business manager Neil Bibby” who said that “[t]his is nothing other than the same Tory sleaze we have seen revealed at Westminster in recent weeks. ‘It is high time that Douglas Ross… clamped down on these MSPs who view serving the people as a part-time hobby.”

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Scottish Labour claims MSPs with second jobs as using Holyrood 'as a part-time hobby'”.

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because the article was unclear what was meant by the term “second job”. She said the definition of the word “job” was “a paid position of regular employment” and this could be applied to the term “second job”. Bearing this definition in mind, the complainant said that several SNP MSPs had second jobs. She said she did not have a second job but owned buy-to-let properties that were managed by a separate company.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said the complainant’s entry in the Register of Interests described her role with language that suggested an occupation, such as “role” of a “sole trader” and “director”. It said the article had quoted from her entry and, therefore, made clear the nature of this work. The publication said it had contacted the SNP’s Head of Communications to ask if he wished to provide a comment, and were told “We will not be adding anything to [the complainant’s] entry”.

6. The complainant provided a list of eight SNP MSPs with their entries from the “Remuneration and related undertaking” section of the Register of Interests. She stated that this showed there were other SNP MSPs aside from her who could be said to have a “second job”.

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.

Mediated Outcome

7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

8. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to print the following correction:

Michelle Thomson MSP

In an article published in The Herald on Monday November 15 headlined: MSPs holding second jobs using Holyrood for ‘hobby’ says Labour, we stated that ’seven Scottish Conservative MSPs and one SNP MSP had second jobs alongside their Holyrood job and salary”. That was incorrect as we failed to highlight that in compiling the list, drawn from MSPs’ entries in the register of interest, we had excluded 10 sitting SNP local councillors elected to Holyrood: Siobhian Brown MSP, Stephanie Callaghan MSP, Natalie Don MSP, Jackie Dunbar MSP, Jenny Gilruth MSP, Paul McLennan MSP, Marie McNair, Audrey Nicoll, Emma Roddick MSP, Collette Stevenson MSP, Evelyn Tweed MSP and Elena Whitham MSP. In addition we had not included Emma Harper SNP MSP who does voluntary work as a registered nurse and as a member of the NHS vaccination team. We should have either made that clear or included them all and we apologise to Mrs Thomson for wrongly singling her out as the only SNP MSP who had a second job alongside their Holyrood job and salary.

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

10. 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: 16/11/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 24/01/2022