Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie has criticised the Scottish Executive after it was revealed that 90 per cent of its newspaper advertising spend on health, antiracism and bullying measures last year was placed with the Scottish Daily Record.
The Trinity Mirror-owned tabloid picked up £906,551 from the Scottish Executive between 1 April last year and 31 March this year.
The advertising spend for the rest of the national dailies combined was £194,000. The Scottish Sun, which is in a fierce circulation battle with the Scottish Daily Record, carried a news story pointing out that it had only been awarded contracts worth £40,000.
According to The Herald: "The newspaper advertising spend of the Executive was weighted overwhelmingly in favour of the Daily Record, which carried ministerial messages in the form of campaigns on the newspaper's editorial pages, with ministers having the final say on what appeared."
The Scottish Sun quoted MSP Brian Monteith, who chairs the Scottish Parliament's audit committee, as saying: "No agency could justify this spend when the Daily Record's sales are falling and sales of The Scottish Sun are up."
In the ABC figures for April, the Daily Record's average net circulation in Scotland was 413,737 copies — compared with The Scottish Sun's 389,503.
The advertising spend figures were revealed in a Scottish parliamentary written answer to Goldie, who said: "Over the 20 months covered by this answer, the Labour-Lib Dem executive has spent a staggering £3.7 million on newspaper advertising alone.
"This, of course, is only a fraction of its total PR spend, which runs at over £10 million per year.
"It is one thing to advertise for job vacancies — even if they only add to the Executive's ever-growing army of civil servants. Some spending on public information might also be justified.
"But there is a growing suspicion that much of it is little short of propaganda for Labour and the Lib Dems. There is a curiously uneven spend between different outlets, even allowing for different readerships of the newspapers."
A Scottish Executive spokesman told The Herald: "The largest proportion of the spend in the Daily Record was on weekly double-page public information campaigns on issues like organ donation, anti-racism and bullying."
He said deals were also in place with other newspapers and groups, adding: "Accusations of propoganda are simply not true. This was a cost-effective way of getting very important messages across to the largest target audience."
Daily Record managing director Mark Hollinshead said: "The Scottish Executive employs Scotland's top media planners and buyers to advise them on their advertising spend in order to achieve both the best response and best value for their advertising pound.
"These figures clearly demonstrate that the Daily Record is disproportionately more effective than any other newspaper when it comes to evaluation of these two criteria."