View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Scrutiny of the press

Which depths will the British press be found to have plumbed now? It is becoming more a question of which paper has not hacked anyone's phone, and is there anyone in the public eye whose phone has not been hacked. Why is it that our esteemed politicians trembled at the sight of Rupert Murdoch? He it was who determined the outcome of the general elections in this country - because The Sun declared it was backing either of the two main parties. But it wasn't just the Murdochs that were pulling strings that were not theirs to pull. Other newspapers and proprietors are alleged to have indulged in similar practices. Invasion of privacy is another, all this under the pretext of "public interest". Chasing the story, is more likely, because everybody likes a juicy tale to read over their morning cornflakes. In one instant, now nearly 14 years ago, one such chase ended the life of the subject of the story - Princess Di. The hacks claim that we, as British public, wanted to know all about Lady Di and her alleged lover, Dodi al-Fayed. They both died, because their driver tried to speed away from pursuing journalists - or felt they were being pursued. Last week, Lord Justice Leveson started a long process, to conduct an inquiry into phonehacking and the press. It will last years. At the end of that process, possibly by 2015, I hope we will see a redefining of the role of the press in this country.

Even locally, I have seen 'the press' in action in a negative way. Two years ago, our ferry began sailings on Sundays. A group of Free Church adherents stood outside the Stornoway ferry terminal, singing psalm 46. I found it cringeworthy. The journalists were running around with ecstatic expressions on their faces as they scrambled to train their cameras on the group. They had their scoop.

Wednesday 3 August

Today started overcast, but the cloud soon broke and by mid afternoon we were bathing in broad sunshine. The mercury rose to 18C / 64F once more, but out of the breeze it felt quite warm. In the afternoon, I took the bus to Carloway, 16 miles west of Stornoway near the Atlantic coast, to attend the centenary of the annual agricultural show there. This held the usual mix of farm or home produce, lifestock and the heavy events, such as tossing the caber. I have not yet uploaded the pictures (of which I took nearly 70), but will make a separate post with a selection tomorrow morning.

A note on busfares: using the main road, Carloway is 25 miles from Stornoway, and I got a return fare of £4.75. The route takes you past all the main tourist sites, such as the Callanish Stones, Carloway Broch and Arnol Blackhouse (sometimes also the Garenin Blackhouse Village), and for a few quid extra, you can hop off and on as much as you want. On the mainland, a single ticket from Ullapool to Inverness (55 miles, just over double the distance) costs more than £12.