The Ferret is an award-winning investigative journalism platform for Scotland and beyond.
The Ferret is a registered co-operative with places reserved on the board for both journalists and subscribers.
This hybrid model makes us unique in Scotland and means that when you subscribe to The Ferret you become more than just a passive supporter – people become part-owners of the project and can influence how it will develop. People can also stand for election to our board.
The Ferret was the first publisher in Scotland to be regulated by Impress and we have pledged to uphold the principles of the voluntary code of practice for social enterprise in Scotland.
None of our directors are members of a political party and The Ferret is committed to taking a non-partisan approach to everything we do.
All stories are reviewed by experienced journalists before publication and checked by lawyers, when required. Our Reader Directors deal with any complaints.
We operate as transparently as possible and publish regular reports to provide our supporters with information on progress and how we use our resources.
We invite you to become a paying supporter.
The Ferret is also trying to build a community of like-minded people:
- those who want to run their own national or local investigations
- campaign groups with specific areas they’d like to investigate
- those who care about the future of Scotland, Britain and the wider world.
We do this by offering our supporters news, resources, training and events. As a community, we can learn from one another.
Diversity is important and we are seeking members and contributors who can bring different gender, race and class perspectives to The Ferret.
We aim to cover important issues that the mainstream media often misses so please subscribe – and The Ferret will keep nosing up the trousers of power.
How our board works
There are two types of members and each type can vote for the directors to the board who will represent them.
The journalist members – those who write for The Ferret and have become members – can elect the journalist directors.
The reader members – those who read The Ferret and have become members – can elect the reader directors.
This happens each year at the AGM.
The journalist and reader members can then appoint two further independent directors if they wish. They may do this to fill skills or knowledge gaps.
The operations of The Ferret are split so that only journalist members, and the people they appoint, can be on the editorial committee.
The editorial committee takes the day to day decisions about the stories we commission and write. This ensures our editorial independence.
The reader directors are the only directors that can take internal decisions on complaints received by The Ferret. Along with our independent regulators they are therefore able to hold the journalists on the board accountable to our editorial standards.
You can find out more about our core team below.
Alastair Brian – Fact-Check Lead
Alastair is a freelance journalist who has worked for STV News, ITV Border and BBC Scotland across features, news and politics.
He is the lead for fact-checking at the Ferret Fact Service and runs fact-checking workshops across the country.
He graduated in MA Multimedia Journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2013, and has a BA Politics and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen.
Billy Briggs – Co-Chair Editorial Committee
A former staff writer at The Herald and editor at the International Network of Street Papers, Billy focuses on human rights and has visited more than 20 countries including Iraq, Haiti, Pakistan and Syria. He’s reported for dozens of media including The Guardian, Politico, The Observer, New Statesman, The Sunday Times, The Age, New Zealand Herald, Al Jazeera and the BBC.
Billy has won awards from Amnesty International, the European Union and Scottish Press Awards. He’s never been a member of a political party. Billy is a co-founder of The Ferret.
Susan Coughtrie – Reader Director
Susan is a Project Director at the Foreign Policy Centre and also a freelance consultant on freedom of expression and media freedom.
Rob Edwards – Journalist Director
Rob Edwards is freelance journalist specialising in environmental issues with more than 30 years experience.
He worked as environment editor of the Sunday Herald and as a correspondent for The Guardian. He has co-authored three books about nuclear power, produced radio and television programmes, and won awards. He likes muckraking.
Rob is also a co-founder of The Ferret.
Bob Elliot – Reader Director
Bob is the Director/CEO for the Scottish Animal Welfare charity OneKind based in Edinburgh. Previous to leading OneKind he was a Head of Department for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), overseeing work and teams working on agricultural advice, business advice, reserves ecology, land agency, investigations, species protection and landscape scale ecology, working across the four countries Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and internationally (via Birdlife Partners).
Karin Goodwin – Journalist Director
Karin Goodwin is a freelance journalist, based in Glasgow and specialising in social issues, sometimes by stealth. A former staffer on the Sunday Herald, other bylines include the National, the Guardian, the Independent, inews, Vice, Open Democracy and others.
She also runs workshops for those whose voices are often excluded from the media, working with organisations including the Pavement magazine, which is for a homeless readership, and with refugee groups. She also provides media training, often for not-for-profit organisations.
Karin is co-chair of the Editorial Committee.
Jamie Mann – Journalist Director
Jamie is a freelance journalist focussed on a range of issues including dark money, the environment and animal welfare.
His work has appeared in the Daily Record, Sunday National, Bella Caledonia, Glasgow Live and others. He also contributed to Ian Fraser’s acclaimed book ‘Shredded: Inside RBS, the Bank that Broke Britain’.
Audra Martin Merrick – Independent Director and Chair.
Audra Martin Merrick is an independent consultant and non-executive director. She has spent her career helping media companies, including The Economist and the New York Times, manage the intersection of audience, editorial, and digital. As a consultant and speaker, she helps organisations identify opportunities to grow their audience, enhance their customer relationships, and align their current business to their goals.
Audra is an advocate for investigative journalism, open source software, and creating a more sustainable future. Audra currently serves as the chair of the Drupal Association supporting the global Drupal open source project, and is a non-executive director for Repair Cafe Glasgow and The Pram Project. After bouncing around Austin, New York and London, Audra is now based in Glasgow.
Margaret Taylor – Journalist Director
Margaret Taylor is a freelance journalist whose experience spans local, trade and national newspapers. A former columnist and business correspondent at The Herald, she now regularly contributes to titles published by the International Bar Association and her work can also be found in publications including Scottish Legal News, The Times and WIRED.
Her writing has covered subjects including pensions, housing, equal pay, music education, the arts, and politics. Having previously spent nine years at industry magazine The Lawyer – five as news editor – she has a particular interest in anything with a legal angle. She is good with numbers and particularly enjoys poring over company accounts.
Alastair Tibbitt – Independent Director
Ally Tibbitt is a journalist and digital marketing professional, specialising in audience engagement.
He currently works part-time for openDemocracy and freelance for The Ferret. He also works on digital marketing projects for private sector clients including multi-national blue chip firms and small businesses.
He has a work history that spans the voluntary, public and private sectors, and has raised money for various non-profits during his career, including youth, digital inclusion, environment and homelessness projects.
He has won awards for hyperlocal journalism and his work on environmental projects. More recently, he worked for Scottish Broadcaster STV for eight years as a Digital Journalist and Audience Development Manager.
Ally is Secretary and co-founder of The Ferret. He also maintains The Ferret’s website.
Nik Williams – Reader Director
Nik is a media freedom advocate based in Glasgow. At the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), he coordinated the inaugural year of the European Commission-funded Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which monitors and responds to violations of media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.
Previously, Nik led Scottish PEN’s campaigning and advocacy, focusing on defamation reform, anti-SLAPP, free expression, digital rights and surveillance policy.
He has written for Index on Censorship, openDemocracy, The Times, The Herald (Scotland) and The National (Scotland) among other titles. He holds an MSc in International Public Policy from University College London (UCL).
Talat Yaqoob – Independent Director
Talat has been working across equalities issues for over 12 years, she is a campaigner and consultant who has worked on policy change and influencing as well as public participation in decision making. Her work focuses on women, particularly women of colour and marginalised communities and on intersecting inequalities.
She was previously the director of a national organisation focused on women’s equality in the workplace. She has a background in social research, campaigning and training and development. She has previously worked across further and higher education, mental health and wellbeing and men’s violence against women.
In 2014, she co-founded the campaign group Women 50:50, advocating for fair representation of women in councils and in the Scottish Parliament and in 2019 she founded Pass the Mic, a national directory of women of colour experts in Scotland, pushing for their voices and expertise to be fairly amplified across media and policy-making.
What they’re saying about The Ferret
Chris Packham, Broadcaster and naturalist: “I turn to The Ferret far more than what you might call the mainstream news to find out what’s really going on.”
Irvine Welsh, Author – “Democracy thrives in the light, and part of the reason it has become so sick in the west, is that the mainstream media with its wealthy proprietors now act solely as mouthpieces for the interests of an international elite. Such people are seen as beyond reproach or investigation, while, paradoxically, the activities of ordinary citizens become more and more proscribed.
“A fledgling, emergent democracy like Scotland needs to develop the highest standards of investigative journalism to protect and nurture itself.”
Karine Polwart, singer and songwriter – “Collectively we can’t take responsibility for governing ourselves in a just and sustainable manner if we’re unaware of the stories, the science, the values and vested interests that underpin what’s happening in the world we inhabit.
“The kind of in depth independent investigative journalism that The Ferret promises has never been more essential. And it’s ours to own and support together.”
Iain Macwhirter, political columnist for The Herald – “The Ferret is just what Scottish journalism needs: independent, investigative, intelligent – and up the trouser leg of the establishment.”
Paul Wood , Managing Director, West Highland Publishing Company Limited – “We need more independent media asking the questions the powerful don’t want to answer. We need that media to be independent and we need it to thrive. All at the West Highland Free Press wish The Ferret every success; it’s vital they succeed.”
Nicole Kleeman, Executive Producer, Firecrest Films – “Scotland is crying out for a dedicated outlet investigating what is really going on, without political slant or pressure to hit sales targets and viewing figures.”
Dave Boyle, Writer and Consultant – “You can’t have a fearlessly independent media to serve the public interest which relies on something other than the public’s support to pay the people doing the journalism. If it’s for the people, then it also needs to be paid for by the people, too.”
Ferret Fact Service
In Spring 2017 we launched Scotland’s first fact-checking service, Ferret Fact Service.
Ferret Fact Service checks claims from politicians, public figures and organisations about issues affecting Scotland. Viral claims, hoaxes and memes are also fact-checked.
The project was made possible by funding from the Google Digital News Initiative (DNI), which supports technology and innovation in journalism.
Ferret Fact Service is led by our fact-checker Alastair Brian. Three Ferret directors oversee the project and form the FFS panel. They are Rob Edwards, Peter Geoghegan and Ally Tibbitt.
Each fact-check uses publicly available primary sources to allow readers to conduct their own verification and research into the topics covered, and statements are rated on a special scale to give an indication of accuracy.
Our methodology is available to read here, and queries, corrections and suggestions for fact checks can be made via firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ferret was founded in 2015 by Billy Briggs, Fiona Davidson, Rob Edwards, Peter Geoghegan, Rachel Hamada and Alastair Tibbitt.
Good, investigative journalism is suffering in Scotland. The advertising revenues that traditionally funded journalists to uncover scandals are being swept away in the whirlwind of the electronic information revolution – and nobody is quite sure what to do about it.
We believe that something has to be done. In a democracy like ours few things are more important than a free, fair and independent media holding the powerful to account by discovering their secrets. Without serious, fact-based journalism in pursuit of the public interest and beholden to no-one, Scotland would be a smaller place.
That is why we are now proposing The Ferret: a new platform for investigative journalism unlike any that have gone before. It will not be owned by some distant corporation: it will be owned by its members and run as a not-for-profit operation in Scotland. It will not be aligned with any political party or any vested interest. It will be utterly transparent and totally accountable in all it does.
But The Ferret will not be dour. It will be challenging, irreverent, cheeky even. It will tap into the rich vein of Scottish journalism to produce good writing, exclusive, and must-read stories. And it will listen to its readers, who will all have a say in what it does.
There is still much detail to work out. We are open to suggestions on the best combination of grants, donations, subscriptions, crowdfunding, sales and other sources of income to help transform an important idea into a working reality. We welcome all thoughts on how we should be organised, and how members should be involved.
But this is the starting point. Scotland needs good, investigative journalism and the Ferret is our way of helping to ensure that. Let us know what you think and watch this space.
The Ferret has a number of sources of income. These are member subscriptions, grant funding, event and training fees, and story sales to other media organisations.
The Ferret relies upon the support of more than a thousand individuals to keep going. We are extremely grateful to all the people who have attended our events, subscribed or donated to the project so far.
We’re also pleased to acknowledge financial support from these organisations.
Other media organisations have also paid us for stories or material. We have also worked in partnership with other media organisations on investigations without money changing hands, co-publishing the results instead.
Media organisations we have worked with include: Daily Record, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Irish Times, ITN, BBC, The National, Sunday National, The Herald, Sunday Herald, The i, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Commonspace, Firecrest Films, The Bristol Cable and The Spurtle.
We have collaborated with a number of organisations who have provided non-financial support to the project. These include Poynter, Tapewrite, Duke Reporter’s Lab, Centre for Investigative Journalism, the Centre for Community Journalism.
Our editorial independence is vital. Any collaborations are strictly on the basis we maintain our editorial independence.