Behind the Byline: Snowden, Roosh V and the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act


CommonSpace reporters give an update on the some of the key stories they’ve been working on this week and give an insight into the process of journalism


Investigating reports of a secret flight to capture whistleblower Edward Snowden

I love spy stories. Films, documentaries, TV dramas – if it’s an entertaining insight into the world of the secret services, I’ll watch it.

So when I found reports, from journalist Duncan Campbell and new documents in the Danish press, linking Scottish airspace to a plot to capture Edward Snowden, I investigated further.

Previous reports concluded that the plot took place over several weeks in mid-June 2013, when Snowden was vulnerable and without state support in Hong Kong and Moscow.

As a journalist, you first have to analyse the evidence and decide how strong the story is. It was confirmed that month that the US wanted to arrest Snowden under the Espionage Act, with further evidence linking that attempt to the specific flight through UK airspace.

After contacting Alex Salmond MP and Patrick Harvie MSP, both called for further transparency on the case.

Of particular significance, is the wider issue of international rendition flights – where terror suspects have then been tortured.

The Scottish Government, in response to enquiries, directed CommonSpace to the ongoing inquiry by the Lord Advocate into the possibility that rendition flights took place in Scottish airspace or at Scottish airports. The UK Government, which controls aviation issues, declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

CommonSpace: The secret Scottish flight and the plot to capture whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The story also ran on pages 1-3 of The National newspaper.


Monday 1 February: I spoke to the Home Office switchboard and Ben Stacks at the Home Office and the following day was passed on to the Glasgow officer.

On the initial story of protests against Roosh V gatherings, I contacted both Glasgow and Edinburgh city councils and both police forces. Of these, only Glasgow City Council got back to me, providing a statement which was published on CommonSpace .

I also contacted activists organising against the ‘pickup’ meetings, including Cat Boyd (Rise), Kirsty Haigh (Ed Uni Feminist Assn) and others – they all replied quickly.

In the evening I contacted two employees of ‘nicheworks – a PR company as press contact for Grassmarket BID – as advised by Edinburgh council. One replied saying they couldn’t comment.

Tuesday 2 February: I spoke to the Glasgow Home Office press officer with specific questions about dawn raids. I was told they would not give comment unless I told them what I intended to write about.

Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 February: I spent a lot of time speaking to the NUJ about the threats made against journalists covering the ‘Roosh V’ story . I also run CommonSpace’s social media channels, so much of my time is taken up with that and live tweeting events like Prime Minister’s Questions and First Minister’s Questions.


Friday 29 January: At around 1pm I made a series of enquiries to Scottish political parties regarding youth membership.

I also contacted Luath Press shortly after for information on a book publication.

Monday 1 February: On monday afternoon I made a media request to Police Scotland and the Freedom of Information Commissioner regarding an ongoing inquiry.

I also contacted the Glasgow Film Festival to request accreditation.

Tuesday 2 February: Late on Tuesday afternoon and early evening I contacted a range of young trade unionists and academics regarding the state of the relationship between young people and trade unions.

Wednesday 3 February: At around 1pm I spoke with an anti-Offensive Behaviour at Football Act activist regarding a story concerning the Act and MSPS. I submitted emails to MSPs later in the afternoon.

From about 2pm I followed the Scottish Budget debate in the Scottish Parliament.

At around 4pm I spoke to a representative of the Tie campaign regarding ongoing developments.

Later, I continued interviewing trade unionists and academics.

Thursday 4 February: I called the department of legal affairs and community safety regarding the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act story at around 11am. One of the MSPs I contacted, Michael McMahon, got back to my request for a comment very promptly.

Shortly after, I contacted an organiser of the forthcoming Radical Independence Campaign conference regarding details of the event and for a short quote.

From around 12.30pm onwards until around 2.30pm I made repeated calls to get a comment from Paul Wheelhouse MSP and the department for community safety and legal affairs.

In this time I also contacted the STUC, the Class think tank, The TUC, and a Scottish industrial relations expert looking for scarce statistical information on young trade unionists in Scotland.

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Picture: CommonSpace