The days of me religiously following the Scotsman newspaper (at least via its website) have long since passed. But I did vaguely register that at some point last year, an incoming editor announced that the paper would no longer have a political affiliation - individual columnists would still be free to express their own partisan views, but there would no longer be an editorial line on independence, or in favour of any particular political party. As with the broadcast media, though, you really have to judge a newspaper by its words and deeds, and not by its nominal protestations of neutrality. There was, for example, a very puzzling headline in January about the annual Social Attitudes Survey: "Majority of Scots want to end freedom of movement post-Brexit". That seemed intended to give the false impression that public opinion on Brexit in Scotland is not all that different from public opinion south of the border. In fact, the survey showed that almost two-thirds of the Scottish public would accept freedom of movement as a price worth paying for free trade - a significantly higher figure than in the rest of the UK. It also showed clear majority backing for the Scottish government's insistence that EU powers over devolved matters should be repatriated to Edinburgh rather than London after Brexit. Although not technically inaccurate, the Scotsman's headline was exactly the one you would have expected a rabidly anti-independence publication to use when trying to put a positive gloss on survey figures that were, on the whole, extremely unhelpful to its case.
A one-off reversion to the bad habits of the past? I'm afraid not. A couple of days ago, the Scotsman reported the findings of a Survation poll which asked a rare multi-option question on the constitution. 17% of respondents backed Devo Max, 32% backed full independence, and 36% favoured the status quo. As ever with nuanced results of that type, you can spin them any way you want - you could put a pro-independence gloss on them by saying voters were decisively rejecting the status quo, and were demanding massive new powers for the Scottish Parliament by a margin of 49% to 36%. Or you could argue that voters were rejecting independence by a margin of 53% to 32% - that would be intellectually dishonest, because Devo Max is not on offer and many of its supporters would be likely to vote Yes to independence in a binary-choice referendum, but you wouldn't be directly lying if you said that. But incredibly, the Scotsman weren't even content with that - they went further still and stepped over the boundary into outright falsehood. This was their headline: "Status quo preferable to independence for most Scots". That could only have been true if the question asked by the poll had been something like "If faced with a straight choice, would you prefer independence or the current constitutional arrangements?", and if the majority had favoured the latter. Instead, a little over one-third of respondents preferred the status quo to two other options, and very nearly half of respondents did not. The headline is not only untrue, it's pretty damn close to being the complete opposite of the truth.
If this is what the Scotsman looks like when it practices studied neutrality on constitutional matters, the mind boggles as to what it would come up with if it actually nailed its colours to the mast.