Behind the Byline: Joining Impress; getting back to parliament; bigots and the EU


The team at CommonSpace give an update of their work and highlights of the week

Angela Haggerty, editor @AngelaHaggerty

The big thing for me to report this week is that CommonSpace has applied to join press regulator Impress.

There are two press regulators in the UK: one is Impress, the other is Ipso. After the Leveson Inquiry – the big inquiry into media ethics after the phone-hacking scandal – the Press Complaints Commission was abolished, and there was a lot of disagreement between the government and the press industry about the way forward for regulation and how the press should be held to account.

It all gets very complicated after that, but basically the 'big' publishers like Rupert Murdoch's News UK, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and Trinity Mirror formed Ipso and have pretty much ignored the government's attempts to introduce a system for regulation.

Impress, on the other hand, is seeking to implement the recommendations of the Leveson report and become the UK's first recognised press regulator (Ipso isn't recognised because the big corporate publishers believe, despite the phone-hacking scandal and numerous other complaints about the behaviour of our media, that they can be left to do it themselves).

At CommonSpace, we believe that the values of Impress are more in line with our values, and so we've decided to apply to join up. Becoming a member of Impress would also give us some significant financial protection should any legal threats be made against us in the future, something that is a big issue for small publishers like us, and for Scotland's new media more widely. The rich and powerful often try to shut down stories with legal threats, and it's vital for us to protect ourselves to stop that happening.

We'll now go through a formal process with Impress, which will involve implementing a formal complaints process at CommonSpace, before we become a fully-stamped member.

I'll also be travelling to a conference in Cardiff later this month where I'll meet with other publishers going down the Impress route, and CommonSpace will be able to have direct input into the creation of a new editorial code of conduct. Once again, your donations and support are having a very real impact on journalism in the UK – in so many more ways than you would think. Your support stretches so far and wide.

Michael Gray, reporter@GrayInGlasgow

I spent Wednesday 8 June in the Scottish Parliament, mainly because you have to be there early in the morning to collect full press accreditation. 

The Scottish Parliament has a security system where you have to apply for accreditation to be able to report from all the press access points. This includes the 'media tower', press gallery in the chamber, and access to the parliament without being chaperoned about the place. 

Applications require providing a variety of personal forms and background on yourself and close family. Fortunately, myself and CommonSpace met the requirements for accreditation!

The previous day I had reported on comments by Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, when he described the National Union of Students as "bigots"

This escalated during the day into a stooshie, with MSPs condemning Fraser for attacking the campaign organisation.

Separately, in parliament, the campaign for welfare reform met to discuss the opportunities of greater devolution. I interviewed three campaigners about their experiences of disability, being a single parent and carer, and being a teen mum. 

The interviews will be on the site soon. Since the meeting I’ve been working on a super-secret spy investigation. Watch this space.

Jen Stout, reporter @jm_stout

Holyrood's fifth parliament is now in full swing, so it's back to tweeting #FMQs, checking the daily schedule for parliamentary debates, and watching the glitchy live feed of ParliamentTV. 

I'm hoping that Ken Macintosh is going to provide as much comedy gold as the last presiding officer, Tricia Marwick, but we'll have to wait and see. I can't really imagine him shouting 'Wheesht!', though he might have been sorely tempted during one of this week's big debates about the Named Person legislation, which is due to roll-out across Scotland in August. A convoluted series of amendments and quite a lot of shouting and lost tempers, but it did end in a form of compromise.

Importantly, this was also the week the parliament's committees were decided upon. These have a much stronger role in Holyrood than they do in Westminster, because the Scottish Parliament only has one chamber, so the work of scrutinising legislation and taking evidence is largely done by the committees. 

When the parliamentary term begins, parties put forward MSPs to be considered for each committee, and the parliamentary bureau decides who gets in. It's meant to reflect the make-up of the parliament in terms of party membership. But what about gender? 

Partly due to the big gains made by the Scottish Conservatives in May's election, the number of female MSPs remained at 45 – or 34.88 per cent. So when the committee lists were announced on Wednesday – reported by Michael Gray, who was in parliament that day – we thought we'd break down the numbers and see if gender representation at committee level met even the low level of parliament overall. It didn't. 

We're trying to pick apart the issues around the EU referendum, and this week I looked at environment. Fishing and farming are particularly interesting, as there's a lot of resentment towards the EU there, and as well as an explainer laying out all these issues, I wrote up detailed interviews with two Scottish farmers – one voting to Leave, the other to Remain. They're both very interesting – and opinionated – people, so the feature was fun to work on. 

David Jamieson, reporter @David_Jamieson7

A successful indicative strike ballot by secondary teachers this week was only one of numerous examples of the teaching profession becoming increasingly restive.

But unless you understand that there are growing tensions between the Scottish Government and the teaching professions in general this would appear as a confusing flurry of activity.

To coincide with the Annual General Meeting of the largest teachers union, I spoke to a few people in educational circles to gauge the mood and find out what the major pressure points were.

Meanwhile, an interesting development emerged from the Compass think tank in London, still on a charm offensive from the previous week’s open letter urging co operation between the SNP and others on the centre left.

The Labour-left group published its report advocating an introductory step towards a basic income.

Much of the SNP’s thinking talent landed in Westminster after the 2015 General Election, and they occasionally get to flex their cerebrums.

Former academic economist and SNP MP George Kerevan flagged up his enthusiasm for the policy on twitter, and getting in touch with him prompted his views on steps that could be taken to advance the policy in present day Scotland, even before the full powers of independence.

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