Resolution Statement – 20196-23 Taylor v The National

    • Date complaint received

      30th November 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 20196-23 Taylor v The National

Summary of Complaint

1. Sam Taylor complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The National breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “As other nations benefit from our renewables we are losing out”, published on Monday 3 July 2023.

2. The article was a column which expressed the writer’s view that Scotland needed to establish a state energy company. He argued that the country was “energy rich” and should be able to supply its population with “cheap renewable energy”, yet its residents were “fuel poor” and this potential was not currently benefitting the country or its people. To support his argument, the columnist stated that Scotland “already provides almost 100% of its domestic energy from renewables”.

3. The complainant said the article was inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), to report that Scotland already “provides almost 100% of its domestic energy from renewables”. He said this was inaccurate as 24% of energy consumed in Scotland was from renewables in 2021 – and that, even if the claim was referring to electricity, rather than energy, it would still be incorrect.

4. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline, “As nations benefit from Scottish renewables we lose out”.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It did not consider that the columnist’s assertion that Scotland already “provides almost 100% of its domestic energy from renewables” represented a significant inaccuracy, given the context of article – a comment piece – and in circumstances where Scotland provided the equivalent of almost 100% of its domestic electricity from renewables, and where it did not materially affect the columnist’s central argument.

Relevant Clause 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

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties, with the publication not contacting the complainant during the referral period. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

7. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish the following clarification in its Corrections and Clarifications column as well as a footnote to the online article:

In his column on July 3, 2023, [the columnist] wrote: "Our land already provides almost 100% of its domestic energy from renewables." We would like to clarify that this should read: "Our land already provides the equivalent of almost 100% of its domestic electricity from renewables." As set out by Sir Robert Chote, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, in 2020, gross electricity consumption in Scotland (electricity generated less net transfers) was 32,518 GWh, or approximately equal to renewable generation. As a gross measure, this does not mean that all the electricity used in Scotland came from renewable sources.

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: 25/07/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/11/2023