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Small untruths matter too

November 15, 2016

This is a post about government news releases, an occcasional topic on this site.

Earlier today the Scottish Government put out a news release about some pilot childcare projects: here. It’s sensible, worthwhile government business.

The ministerial quote included the sentence “As highlighted in research from Heriot-Watt University published yesterday…”    .  The main text added further down:

Research produced by Heriot-Watt University for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (14 November) identified that “reinforcing and extending the improved provision for good quality, flexible, subsidised childcare across the working year” is one of the “most significant measures” at tackling poverty in the UK…

This was a reference to some research the BBC had covered the day before: here.

It caught my eye because yesterday someone I follow on Twitter had been trying – quite hard – to find this research, which wasn’t linked to the BBC report.  By some collective effort, this report from 18 August this year was tracked down, which includes the quote above.

The Scottish Government had clearly seen the full research, as the quote above is not included in the BBC report. They may even have stimulated the press interest in it, ahead of today’s news release, explaining why the BBC suddenly covered it yesterday. Nothing wrong with that: it is respectable relevant research, which appears to support what they are trying to do.

But what was with using the official voice of government to make out that it had only come out the day before, not three months ago, and doing so not once, but twice?

It’s hardly the largest crime ever committed against truth. But in a small way, it signals a casual attitude towards factual accuracy in Scottish government news releases, just when defending the line between what’s true and what is not seems as important as it has ever been.

And that’s why I’ve recorded it here. Just to notice. Because noticing the small things is always the first line of defence for the bigger ones.





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