Scots keep Sunday special as 'Sun' and 'Standard' defy the daily gloom

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The Independent Online

When in 2006 Andrew Neil sold The Scotsman titles to Johnston Press, he was astonished at the lack of interest in the deal. Why, he wondered, did commentators dedicate more column inches to the new editor of The Spectator, a tiny outfit compared to the three titles he had just flogged – The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh's Evening News? You can see his point, but in terms of sales, his titles had always been on a par with the political weekly rather than with the national press, shifting tens, not hundreds of thousands a week.

So the ABCs for March will make heartening reading for execs at Johnston. Scotland on Sunday enjoyed the greatest monthly sales increase of any Sunday, up 5.99 per cent to 71,622. Such a surge is impressive given the month-on-month decline of the Sunday press – the average fall is 0.55 per cent. The Observer, down 0.49 per cent, enjoyed a 1.62 per cent rise on this time last year, the only Sunday paper to do so.

Year-on-year sales are the ones proprietors watch, so staff at the London Evening Standard should take comfort from an impressive 6.55 per cent rise on last year's figures. Squaring up to the freesheets, the Standard went upmarket, had a light redesign, conducted some impressive campaigns – for small shops, against tap water – and capitalised on its position as the only serious London paper in the run-up to next month's mayoral elections. The only other paper to enjoy a year-on-year sales rise is The Sun, shifting 65,000 more copies than in March 2007, an increase of 2.12 per cent; it also won four prizes at the British Press Awards, more than any other title.

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