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The Scotsman editor demands Scotland have a strong voice on the new press body

The editor of The Scotsman, John McLellan, is demanding that any new press body which could replace the current Press Complaints Commission must have a strong Scottish voice.

McLellan, who is one of two current Scottish representatives on the PCC, will be giving evidence, along with Jonathan Russell, editor of The Herald, to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards tomorrow (Wednesday).

In an article in his own newspaper yesterday, McLellan, pointed out: ”...current editors serving as commissioners [of the PCC] are now an endangered species and the chances are the likes of myself, Peter Wright of the Mail on Sunday, Tina Weaver of the Sunday Mirror and Ian McGregor of the Sunday Telegraph will have no role in the day-to-day running of the system, as at present.

“While most members of the public will probably agree with this, the difficulty for Scotland is that the only way there is a guaranteed Scottish presence on the commission is through the place reserved through the Scottish Newspaper Society, and without that it is possible there could be no scrutiny of decisions affecting Scottish publishers by anyone with knowledge of our distinctive legal and political landscape.

“Currently, there are two Scots on the commission, myself and the redoubtable Esther Roberton, the former chair of NHS Fife, who is a lay commissioner. If she stands down, it is by no means certain she will be replaced by someone from north of the Border.

“Some might think this is the right time to establish a separate Scottish Press Standards Authority, but that would mean the vast majority of organisations publishing in Scotland having to operate under two systems, given that all but the smallest firms publish on both sides of the Border.

“There is certainly no evidence that Scottish readers have not been well served by the current system and the misgivings about the PCC being aired now apply to all titles. Certainly, no-one should presume that the new system after Lord [Justice] Leveson has reported will be anything but tough.

“And if the principle of self-regulation is to be maintained – that is, self-funded – there is little chance of companies agreeing to fund two organisations.

“The best way forward must surely be for the new organisation, whatever it is called, to have guarantees built in to ensure the nations and regions retain their input, and in the case of Scotland this could be done by maintaining the SNS right to a place.

“Whatever happens, Lords Hunt and [Justice] Leveson have got to get the system of press reform right, and the signs are that they will.

“The industry has already accepted a range of principles unprecedented in their breadth, and the sooner we can get on with it the better.”

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Hamish Mackay

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