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Senior Reporter at The Drum

Drum Comment: Has the fight gone out of the press in Scotland?

The most recent issue of The Drum carries four pages of what, at first glance, might appear arcane and technical detail of a dispute between the journal and the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s most senior law officer.

However, we make no apologies for devoting considerable amount of space to the subject, for in the background is a Down’s Syndrome girl, Hollie Greig, who allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of a paedophile ring.

The fact that nobody has ever been prosecuted in connection with the case has motivated the family to launch a campaign which is critical of the Lord Advocate, who became regional prosecutor of the relevant region of Scotland around the time the case was active.

A report by The Drum’s sister title (The Firm) prompted the Lord Advocate to take action against that publication, for libel – a case which was eventually dropped after a considerable amount of dialogue with her solicitor Peter Watson, of Levy McRae.

The Drum launched a Freedom of Information request to find out who paid for her action. When this request was denied by the Crown Office our subsequent online report promoted Levy & McRae to complain about our coverage to the Press Complaints Commission.

They have now ruled in our favour and you can read our analysis here.

But the real concern about the Hollie Greig case is why – with a few exceptions – it has gone relatively unreported by the Scottish media.

Similar concerns about the Scottish media were also aired at the time of Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell’s resignation, a major story that did not get the coverage one would normally expect.

That Levy & McRae is a consistent thread running through much of the fabric of the Scottish media – as well as Lord Advocate Angiolini, the firm also represented Steven Purcell, and provides legal cover for several of Scotland’s major media owners – may be a factor, say some.

But so too is the fact that many media owners (there are exceptions, of course) seem to have lost their appetite for taking on those in positions of power.

One can’t help thinking if they got back to challenging those in authority more effectively it might not only be good for democracy, but for their circulations too.

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