The Ferret is an award-winning investigative journalism platform for Scotland and beyond.
The Ferret is a registered co-operative, with places reserved for both journalists and subscribers on the board.
This hybrid model makes us unique in Scotland – and it means that when you subscribe to The Ferret you become more than just a passive supporter. You become a part owner of the project, and you can influence how the project will develop by voting at our regular member events. You can even stand for election to the board.
The Ferret was the first publisher in Scotland to be regulated by Impress, and is also pledged to uphold the principles of the voluntary code of practice for social enterprise in Scotland.
None of our Directors or the people we work with regularly are members of a political party, and we are committed to taking a non-partisan approach to everything we do.
All our stories are reviewed by experienced journalists before they are published, and it is our Reader Directors who review any formal complaints we receive.
We aim to operate as transparently as possible and to this end, we publish regular public transparency reports to provide our supporters with clear information about our progress and how we use our resources.
We invite you all to become paying supporters.
We also want 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 aim to do this through offering our supporters news, resources, training and events. As a community, we could learn from one another.
Diversity is important and we are seeking members and contributors who can bring different gender, race, class and other perspectives to The Ferret.
With everyone’s help and experience, and independent financial backing, we can cover important issues the mainstream media often misses.
Whatever happens, The Ferret will be nosing up the trousers of power.
Who’s behind this?
Brian Allaway was a firefighter for forty one years, twenty five in Northern Ireland and a further sixteen in Scotland based in Edinburgh. He holds a BA from the Open University, an MSSc from Queens University of Belfast and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh.
Believing that mature democracies require robust investigative journalism to keep them honest, he was an early supporter of the Ferret.
In recent years he has completed two books, one on the organisational culture of the fire and rescue service (published by the Institution of Fire Engineers) and one on the history of the fire service in Belfast during the ‘troubles’ (for which he is currently in discussions with a publisher).
Brian is a Reader Director.
Alastair is a freelance journalist who has worked for STV News, ITV Border and BBC Scotland across features, news and politics. He is the fact-checker for Ferret Fact Service and runs our 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 is a freelance journalist and former editor at the International Network of Street Papers. He focuses on human rights and has reported from Gaza, Haiti, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria, among other places. His reports have been published by media including The Guardian, The Times, New Statesman, Sunday Mail, The Age, New Zealand Herald, the BBC and Al Jazeera.
His journalism has won awards from Amnesty International, European Union, Scottish Press Awards and the National Union of Journalists.
Fiona has many years experience as a freelance journalist and is a qualified lawyer. She is currently working with the National Union of Journalists and was previously assistant organiser. She edited the latest media guidelines on Responsible Reporting on Mental Health, Mental Illness & Death by Suicide and conducted research into Cyberbullying the Media for the NUJ with the University of Strathclyde.
Fiona is also a media law/journalism tutor at the University of Strathclyde. She is a Reader Director of The Ferret responsible for press standards compliance and whistleblowing policies.
Rob Edwards is freelance journalist specialising in environmental issues with more than 30 years experience.
He is currently environment editor of the Sunday Herald and 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 a Journalist Director, and the Chair of The Ferret.
Peter Geoghegan is an Irish political writer, journalist and broadcaster based in Glasgow. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Christian Science Monitor, The Irish Times, Foreign Policy and numerous other publications.
He has written books on the Scottish independence referendum and Northern Irish politics. He has never been a member of a political party.
Peter is a Journalist Director and Treasurer of The Ferret.
Rachel is a freelance journalist based in Edinburgh specialising in social justice and human rights, with a particular interest in Africa and neocolonialism. She has won awards in the UK and Tanzania for human rights reporting and digital work.
She has worked for Holyrood magazine as assistant editor and for the Economist Group and Scotsman Publications, as well as This is Africa. She currently works part-time on media and communications for a Scottish human rights organisation.
Rachel is a Journalist Director of The Ferret.
Lisa Mackenzie has been Policy and Public Affairs Adviser to the Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland since April 2012.
Prior to this appointment, Lisa worked primarily as a government communications specialist in the UK Government, serving in a number of different roles within the Department for Social Security, the Home Office and the Commission for Racial Equality.
She has also worked in the Scottish Parliament’s Media Relations Office and as a researcher for the Parliament’s internal think-tank, Scotland’s Futures Forum.
Lisa is on the complaints panel of The Ferret.
Layla-Roxanne is a writer and independent researcher with a focus on digital engagement/exclusion and the Black Scottish experience. Her work looks at alternative communications as narrative changing tools for marginalised communities to create their own (hi)stories.
She is a founding member of Yon Afro, a collective which exists to centre the voices of women of colour in Scotland.
In addition, Layla-Roxanne holds various positions within the National Union of Journalists and sits on the STUC Black Workers’ Committee.
Layla is an Independent Director of The Ferret
Ally Tibbitt is a journalist and social media analyst with particular interests in community engagement, environment, planning, privacy, and open data. He has an MSc in Energy and Environmental Management.
He has a work history that spans the voluntary, public and private sectors, and has raised more than half a million pounds for various projects during his career, including a mobile youth centre in Edinburgh, the Big Issue in Scotland, Greener Leith, and latterly The Ferret.
He has won awards for hyperlocal journalism with Greener Leith, and his work on environmental projects in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Ally is a Journalist Director, founding member and Secretary of The Ferret. He also built and maintains The Ferret website.
What they’re saying about The Ferret
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 and the Sunday 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.”
The story so far…
We’ve put together this timeline to illustrate the key moments in the development of The Ferret.
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 also 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
Good, investigative journalism is suffering in Scotland. The advertising revenues that have 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 relies upon the support of hundreds of individuals to keep going. We are extremely grateful to all the people that have attended one of our events, subscribed or donated in any way to the project so far.
We’re also pleased to acknowledge financial support from these organisations too:
- Co-operative UK, who provided us with start-up funding and legal advice.
- Google Digital News Initiative, who provide us with funding to establish the Ferret Fact Service.
- 38 Degrees, who provided funding for two stories on Fracking in Pennsylvania.
- The Centre for Investigative Journalism, who have funded us to deliver a training programme.
Other media organisations have also paid us for stories or material. We may also work in partnership with other media organisations on investigations without money changing hands, co-publishing the results instead.
Media organisations we have worked with include: The Daily Record, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Irish Times, ITN, The BBC, The National, The Herald, The Sunday Herald, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Commonspace, Firecrest Films, The Bristol Cable and The Spurtle.
We also have collaborated with a number of other 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 to us. The Ferret will only work with third party organisations with a guarantee that we are able to maintain this editorial independence.