The Scottish Press has taken the unprecedented step of issuing a joint statement to readers following the sacking of the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore.
It says: “ The proprietors and editors of Scotland’s daily newspapers wish to draw readers’ attention to recent changes in the Westminster ministerial team. Over the last two years readers may have been given the impression from reading our titles that Michael Moore was a giant of Scottish politics and a champion in fighting for the Union. Looking back we have uncovered interviews and commentary by respected journalists describing him variously as 007, unflappable point man and skilfull advocate. We even agreed with the Lib Dem press office to start calling him Mike to make him seem more approachable. We now realise that nothing could be further from the truth and wish to apologise unreservedly to readers and advertisers.
It was never our intention to mislead readers, rather we simply took for granted what Downing Street told us, that Mr Moore was an integral part of the decision-making team on the referendum in Number 10 and that he was doing a very good job. Our columnists rightly extrapolated from that and wrote about him in glowing, uncritical terms as a quietly-spoken statesman with the rock-like demeanour of a man able to take on and confront the bully Mr Salmond. We have never opted to challenge anything Downing Street or the Scotland Office tells us so we just assumed he was quietly effective. And very tall.
It now seems that we were completely wrong in that assessment and that far from being a powerful advocate for Union, he was in fact completely useless and lucky to keep his job as long as he did. Henceforth all editorials will disparage and deride Mr Moore as a slow-witted chartered accountant and a disastrous appointment and use him as a scapegoat if the referendum goes wrong.
Meanwhile we warmly welcome the man who should have had the job all along, as Downing Street informs us, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, whose name we are currently checking but whom our unbiased contacts describe as more combative. Therefore, following in the tradition of calling Mr Moore 007, he will be known in the Scottish Press as Conan the Barbarian.
Mr Moore will return to his normal job of being a Lib Dem MP nobody has heard of. Thank you.”