Record feels heat of Scots Sun at its back

The day Rob Dalton turned up to meet me for lunch wearing an ill-fitting suit, black woolly gloves and a rolled-up copy of The Sun under his arm I knew he wasn't the really the man for the Kinning Park hot seat. I couldn't work out whether the paper was to help me identify him or whether he just hadn't got round to reading it.

The editorship of The Scottish Sun demands certain qualities, the chief among these being a severe psychotic disorder, closely followed by irrational mood swings and a burning desire never, ever, to be beaten to the punch by the loathed Daily Record. The editor will also use every dirty, low-down piece of cunning and subterfuge to achieve this goal. Some CV, huh?

It also helps if the editor can number among his contacts judges, chief constables, drug barons, politicians and an assortment of Scottish scumbags and lowlifes. Of course to meet these people one has to get out of the office and give up your weekends, and that must have been difficult for Rob, who chose to work in Glasgow, but live in Newcastle's Millionaires Row. (Don't blame me — it was his own paper that revealed that tantalising fact. Presumably Geordie millionaires keep their coal in the jacuzzi.)

By the time you read this, the new Scottish editor, David Dinsmore, will have had time to reacclimatise himself to the crisp Glasgow air and hopefully purge the picture library of the infamous shot of himself that appeared in the paper some years ago. Under the heading "Privates on Parade" young David stood stark naked with only a tin cup to cover his bollocks.

His mum, a lady of some refinement, was livid.

If that's all he has to worry about then he's a lucky man.

Within a short space of time of landing the job to launch The Scottish Sun in 1987, I was fined for contempt (twice), accused of working for MI6 in bringing down the President of the Scottish Conservative Party, harbouring a bank robber, setting off the fire alarms at The Star's Scottish launch, pinching top-secret material from the Lockerbie crash site, impersonating a surgeon and nicking an SAS hit list of IRA terrorists (mostly untrue-ish).

As editor of The Scottish Sun, if you do your job properly, you can expect to spend most of your life with excrement up to your neck and, my God, it is so very, very exhilarating and the best fun a man can have whilst fully clothed.

It is no accident that the new editor takes his seat as once again, just like 1987, The Sun and Daily Record are pitched against each other in a no-holds-barred battle.

The Sun's opening salvo was to cut the cover price to 10p in the densely populated West of Scotland. The Record, in its usual limp-wristed manner, responded with a cut to 15p, but only if the reader can be arsed to fill in a voucher and give it to his newsagent. Ken Donlan, The Sun's legendary managing editor, used to say that the first rule of competitions, giveaways and promotions was to KEEP IT SIMPLE.

By the time the Record readers have worked out what they're supposed to do, and if they can be bothered to do it, The Sun should have overtaken them for the first time ever.

I also hear mutterings from the wholesalers that the Record's response was ill-thought-out because a Record reader will save 20p on a copy and he may just lob 10p of that back over the counter and grab a bargain copy of The Sun. All the evidence we had in the '80s was that the news-hungry Jocks were double buying, so it's possible history is going to repeat itself. My wholesale friends are also predicting that The Sun will overtake the Record by May at the earliest and mid-summer at the latest.

One of the tragedies of this battle is the position of the Record's fine editor Bruce Waddell. A Sun man through and through, he was tempted away to the hot seat at the Record by the honeyed words of local MD Mark Hollinshead and the awful Sly Bailey.

What this deadly duo presumably failed to tell Waddell was that their promotions budget was risible. As Bailey squeezes the life force out of a once great newspaper group there can be no more damning illustration of her short-term stewardship than the fact that in the early '90s the Record had four to five times the promotions budget than the paltry £3m Waddell has today.

One struggles to comprehend Bailey's thought processes.

Perhaps she thinks that daily newspapers are just the same as weeklies and a 30 per cent profit margin can be achieved by paying staff starvation wages and spending 10 bob a week on promotion. If Ms Bailey had the slightest feel for national papers she would know that weeklies and dailies are as alike as apples and pears.

Sadly, Bailey isn't the one who will ultimately feel the pain. She will have slung her hook with a seven-figure bonus.

Meanwhile the bewildered Record staff will be asking themselves how they could watch their 1990s circulation of 750,000 dwindle away to sub 400,000.

My suspicion is that The Sun's dumping of the hapless Dalton and the simultaneous price cut wasn't inspired by Wapping, but came from several thousand miles away. If so, who would you back for ultimate victory — Bailey the shortsighted butcher or the most brilliant media strategist of the past 50 years?

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