The pro-Scottish independence paper launched this week. Photo: Getty
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Scotland's new pro-independence newspaper deserves its place

Avowedly pro-independence, The National hit the streets on Monday and sold out in a matter of hours.

Something highly unusual happened this week in Scotland – a new daily newspaper was launched on an unsuspecting public.

Avowedly pro-independence, The National hit the streets on Monday and sold out in a matter of hours; soon prompting complaints that it was as tough to track down as the proverbial hens teeth.

A hard copy of the first edition (sold for 50p) can still be bought - but only if you're prepared to fork out at least a tenner for it on eBay. In an era where papers are cutting staff and resources like there’s literally no tomorrow this is pretty stunning stuff.

By any measure then the first few days of this fledgling publication have been an enormous success. There are, of course, good reasons why it has been shifting up to 60,000 copies per day.

Post-referendum things remain very much up in the air. Politically there's plenty of unfinished business, not least the thorny issue of further devolved powers to Holyrood and an ongoing Labour leadership election.

Then there's the media. For those who didn't manage to follow every cough of the independence campaign it’s worth reflecting on the deep grassroots unease – nay, outright anger – on the Yes side about what is seen as an overwhelmingly pro-Union press.

Just one newspaper – The National’s sister paper, the Sunday Herald – came out in favour of independence. Others such as The Scotsman and the traditionally Labour-supporting Daily Record, were never likely to dive headlong into the Yes camp.

That meant the most pronounced and resolutely pro-indy voices were to be found away from the mainstream media on websites such as Wings Over Scotland and Bella Caledonia.

The Sunday Herald certainly did rather well on the back of its independence declaration, increasing by more than a hundred per cent its year on year circulation.

Such numbers are gold dust in these thin times and it can hardly be denied that The National is as much an economic as a democratic venture. Its publishers – Newsquest – have made it clear this is no more than a five-day pilot. It's sink or swim right now, this week.

Wisely The National's editor, Richard Walker, has said he's no knowledge of sales targets and even if he did would not spell out what they are.

Frankly has no need to take any hostages to fortune for his success with the Sunday Herald is evidence enough that the new paper stands more than a fighting chance.

It has a clear raison d’etre and will be welcomed by a large number of the 1.6 million Scots who voted Yes, a fair number of potential readers.

Angela Haggerty is editor of CommonSpace – a digital news and social networking service funded by the pro-independence Common Weal think-tank. She views the advent of The National as a "welcome development” and "certainly a step towards changing a lack of balance in the newspaper industry.”

That may depend on where you stand however, with some pro-Union journalists already gleefully describing the new venture as "McPravda".

A cheap shot this may be, but still, the last thing any newspaper would wish to be is a free-sheet for the party of government.

Doubtless the SNP will be rubbing its hands at the emergence of The National. For its part, its journalists will need to be prepared to hold the Holyrood government and Parliament to account as much as it would do the Smith Commission over devolution.

Indeed there is already some evidence of wider horizons, with child poverty and social inequality featuring as front-page leads.

As Haggerty rightly points out "at the very least the Scottish media has some excitement in it again. It has been a long time coming."

So let's have no knocking of The National, a serious voice reflecting a large chunk of public opinion and the changing landscape of Scottish politics. It deserves to be taken seriously.

Douglas Beattie is a journalist, author of The Rivals Game, Happy Birthday Dear Celtic, and The Pocket Book of Celtic, and a Labour Councillor based in London. He grew up in Scotland

Photo: Getty
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The campaign to keep Britain in Europe must be based on hope, not fear

Together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of.

Today the Liberal Democrats launched our national campaign to keep Britain in Europe. With the polls showing the outcome of this referendum is on a knife-edge, our party is determined to play a decisive role in this once in a generation fight. This will not be an easy campaign. But it is one we will relish as the UK's most outward-looking and internationalist party. Together in Europe the UK has delivered peace, created the world’s largest free trade area and given the British people the opportunity to live, work and travel freely across the continent. Now is the time to build on these achievements, not throw them all away.

Already we are hearing fear-mongering from both sides in this heated debate. On the one hand, Ukip and the feuding Leave campaigns have shamelessly seized on the events in Cologne at New Year to claim that British women will be at risk if the UK stays in Europe. On the other, David Cameron claims that the refugees he derides as a "bunch of migrants" in Calais will all descend on the other side of the Channel the minute Britain leaves the EU. The British public deserve better than this. Rather than constant mud-slinging and politicising of the world's biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, we need a frank and honest debate about what is really at stake. Most importantly this should be a positive campaign, one that is fought on hope and not on fear. As we have a seen in Scotland, a referendum won through scare tactics alone risks winning the battle but losing the war.

The voice of business and civil society, from scientists and the police to environmental charities, have a crucial role to play in explaining how being in the EU benefits the British economy and enhances people's everyday lives. All those who believe in Britain's EU membership must not be afraid to speak out and make the positive case why being in Europe makes us more prosperous, stable and secure. Because at its heart this debate is not just about facts and figures, it is about what kind of country we want to be.

The Leave campaigns cannot agree what they believe in. Some want the UK to be an offshore, deregulated tax haven, others advocate a protectionist, mean-hearted country that shuts it doors to the world. As with so many populist movements, from Putin to Trump, they are defined not by what they are for but what they are against. Their failure to come up with a credible vision for our country's future is not patriotic, it is irresponsible.

This leaves the field open to put forward a united vision of Britain's place in Europe and the world. Liberal Democrats are clear what we believe in: an open, inclusive and tolerant nation that stands tall in the world and doesn't hide from it. We are not uncritical of the EU's institutions. Indeed as Liberals, we fiercely believe that power must be devolved to the lowest possible level, empowering communities and individuals wherever possible to make decisions for themselves. But we recognise that staying in Europe is the best way to find the solutions to the problems that don't stop at borders, rather than leaving them to our children and grandchildren. We believe Britain must put itself at the heart of our continent's future and shape a more effective and more accountable Europe, focused on responding to major global challenges we face.

Together in Europe we can build a strong and prosperous future, from pioneering research into life-saving new medicines to tackling climate change and fighting international crime. Together we can provide hope for the desperate and spread the peace we now take for granted to the rest of the world. And together we can show the world a generous, outward-facing Britain we can all be proud of. So if you agree then join the Liberal Democrat campaign today, to remain in together, and to stand up for the type of Britain you think we should be.