I suspect I'm not alone in finding Michael Settle's gossip-fuelled reporting for the Herald over the last 24 hours deeply unsatisfactory from a reader's point of view. The first of the two articles claims that Westminster is about to reverse its plans for a power-grab that would undermine the existing devolution settlement, seemingly on the basis of a single anonymous source who is "close to the process". Given that this source praises the UK government for supposedly doing everything that could possibly be wished of it, and criticises the Scottish government for daring to have a different interpretation of what is on offer, it can be reasonably inferred that the source is on the UK side of the fence. So why does Settle not tell us that? Why does he not explain his reasons for apparently believing this source can be regarded as authoritative despite not being an objective witness? When this biased source paints the Scottish government's stated frustration with the process as being somehow disingenuous, why are we being implicitly asked to accept that an anonymous and self-interested briefing from one side is more credible than an on-the-record briefing from the other side? And why are the Scottish government not given an opportunity to respond to the source's assertions?
When the source said that powers that should be returning automatically to Holyrood will now be "put...more directly into the hands of the devolved administrations", was he or she challenged on the obvious point that 'more directly' are weasel words implying that the powers will not 'entirely directly' be controlled by Holyrood? When the source chucked in the enormous caveat that the UK Government will be empowered "to put in appropriate safeguards to protect the internal market as and when they are required", was he or she challenged on the sinister implication that this will be an enforced principle, not one agreed on an equal and voluntary basis by Holyrood and Westminster? Was it put to him or her that all of the above may be a pretty straightforward explanation for why the Scottish goverment genuinely feel that any concessions so far are inadequate? And if the source was challenged, as he or she surely should have been, why were we not provided with the response?
Even more mysteriously, Settle's second article does a complete about-face on the "Scottish government rejecting the concessions unreasonably" stuff, and instead claims that Nicola Sturgeon is now totally cool with what's on offer and will shortly be declaring victory. For all I know that could be true, but where's the evidence? As far as I can see no source is cited at all this time, whether anonymous or on-the-record. Did the information come to Settle in a dream? Did he consult a psychic? Does he just feel it in his bones?
None of this strikes me as being remotely good enough. It's hard not to feel that there's a puppet-master behind the scenes who wants to frame this story in a particular way, and that Settle is happy enough being the puppet.