Nicola Sturgeon didn't change flag policy, Daily Mail corrects - iMediaEthics

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The Scottish Daily Mail claimed Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon changed government policy to drastically limit how many days the UK flag can be flown over Scottish government buildings. The Mail‘s story said Sturgeon’s new policy would prevent the UK flag from being flown on the Queen’s birthday, only letting it fly one day a year. But, in fact, the policy was changed years earlier, under Sturgeon’s predecessor, Alex Salmond.

“It was actually Alex Salmond who changed the flag policy in 2010, but published guidance has only just been updated,” the BBC explained.

The Mail‘s front-page headline read, “Sturgeon bans union flag for Queen’s birthday.” In response, Sturgeon tweeted, “This is simply untrue” and, in a Jan. 24 series of tweets, added that “I have issued no instructions, orders, authorisations – or even expressed an opinion – about changing flag policy. The update of the guidance was an administrative step – albeit a sensible one – and not done at my request.” Sturgeon wrote that all that has happened is that the “civil service recently decided to update the published guidance, but simply to ensure that it accurately reflected the long standing practice – the underlying policy has not changed.”

The error spiraled from there with the Telegraph, the Express and others reporting the Mail‘s claim as fact. The Telegraph‘s report wrongly claimed, “The Union flag will be ‘eradicated’ from Scottish government buildings after Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP administration ordered that it be flown only once a year.” The Express‘s story, “Sturgeon SNUBS Queen: Union flag stripped from Scottish Government buildings,” claimed the flag move was “prompting claims of a ‘stealth’ campaign for independence.” Neither the Telegraph nor Express has a correction or clarification on its story; iMediaEthics has written to both publications to ask if they will post corrections and if they contacted Sturgeon’s office for fact checking.

A spokesperson for Sturgeon pointed iMediaEthics to Stugeon’s tweets on the matter.

The Mail published a print correction Jan. 26 that reads:

“We are happy to clarify that the decision to change the policy on flag flying was taken and implemented by former first minister Alex Salmond in 2010. The protocol and honours team updated operational guidance in December 2017.

“We accept that the policy did not change under Nicola Sturgeon and that she had no involvement in the protocol and honours team updating the operational guidance on flag flying for 2018.

“We apologise to Ms Sturgeon for the contrary impression given.”

LBC radio host Iain Dale apologized to Sturgeon, with Sturgeon tweeting “apology accepted.”  In a Jan. 26 blogpost, Dale apologized to Sturgeon and said he was deleting his inaccurate tweet.

Sturgeon also shared stories about the Mail‘s apology and tweeted, “Rigorous scrutiny of politicians by a free media is fundamental to our democracy. But when newspapers publish blatant untruths they do a disservice, not just to those they defame, but to the integrity of their trade. That’s why it’s important to challenge falsehoods.”

UPDATED: 2/1/2018 6:34 PM EST

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Nicola Sturgeon didn’t change flag policy, Daily Mail corrects

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