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Alex Salmond Press Regulation

News round-up: A response to Lord McCluskey’s press regulation recommendations


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

March 16, 2013 | 6 min read

The Drum has rounded up some of the key comments in response to the Press Standards (Scotland) Bill which was made public by the Scottish Government this week, in which Lord McCluskey proposed the implementation of a compulsory press regulatory body underpinned by law.

Alex Salmond

“It is for the Parliaments in London and in Scotland to establish a recognition process. It is for the press to bring forward a voluntary regulatory body compliant with Leveson principles. I hope that this is still possible.

“The Scottish Government indicated at the time of Leveson’s report that we wanted to implement his key proposals of a voluntary self-regulatory system set up by the press with statutory underpinning.

“Since Leveson reported, all parties in the Parliament have taken part in a cross-party effort that has seen the leaders hold talks with Hacked Off, the Media Standards Trust and representatives of the press with a commitment to meet with the UK Government after their position becomes clearer.

“These efforts will continue and the Scottish Government will report back to Parliament after Easter on the progress of these talks."

Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative Leader

"This is a shameless attempt by the First Minister to shackle a free Press at a time of the utmost political sensitivity.

“The expert group was instructed by Alex Salmond to find ways of implementing a law to control the press and that’s exactly what it has done.

“Its remit was so narrow it was inevitable a proposal for a new press law would be the outcome.”

Paull Holleran, NUJ Scotland

“We like the idea of an independent regulator and board which is similar to the Irish model."

Tim Blott, speaking on behalf of The Scottish Newspaper Society

"The Scottish Newspaper Society is in favour of UK-wide, non-statutory regulation and is opposed to a Scotland-only solution, which we believe will be a costly burden on many small publishers who are already facing economic hardship."

Allan Rennie, editor-in-chief, Media Scotland

“Stripped bare it’s proposing that a government appointed regulator will have the ultimate power to order an investigation if any individual expresses an opinion and the problem with this kind of bill is it’s just so far in its definition of what is news.

“A school boy or school girl doing a blog on their school dinners would be covered by it, a football fan that runs his own fanzine would be covered by it, someone who posts an online comment on an article would be covered by it, a Women’s Guild who produce a church magazine would be covered by it. So, it’s not just about the press it’s about anyone in Scotland who dares to express an opinion.”

Magnus Linklater, journalist, The Times

“In reaching its conclusions, it [McCluskey report] virtually bypasses the debate about press freedom that has raged across the nation ever since Leveson published his findings. It pays lip service to the importance of an independent media, but focuses most of its attention on how best to achieve the ends of curbing it.

“What beggars belief in all this, is how little the expert group seems to understand the enormity of the steps it is proposing. “The Leveson system is a comparatively light addition to the legal regulation already applying to the press,” it comments blithely; other bodies, like the independent judiciary, are subject to the law, so why not the press?

“But the judiciary is an arm of government, paid for by government; the press is neither funded by nor answerable to ministers. That is its strength, and that is the freedom it has cherished for so many centuries.”

Alan Cochrane Scottish editor, The Telegraph

"It is not just the meat of the McCluskey report that has surprised everyone, it is the practicalities of the thing. It demands total compliance from every section of the media – from national and weekly newspapers right down to the Tweets and blogs on the internet. How all of the latter will be policed is beyond this observer but of far more importance is does Scotland need, or want, a separate system of regulation from that in the rest of the UK?

"What all the politicians need to face up to is a simple question: If Mr Salmond implements separate McCluskey-style press watchdogs, who will pay for them? The newspaper industry, at which these curbs are directed, is in a dire financial state, especially in Scotland. Most publishers operate on both sides of the border and would be expected to cough up for whatever is established in London; they simply cannot afford to pay twice over to bankroll a separate Scottish regulator.

"Ruth Davidson says Mr Salmond is trying to “shackle” the press. Does she also want it bankrupted?"

Ruth Wishart, journalist and member of the expert group on the Leveson Report in Scotland

“Where the McCluskey group did depart from Leveson was that we concluded, from painful recent experience, that voluntary “membership” of the new body just wouldn’t work, no matter how many supposedly seductive carrots or notionally intimidating sticks were deployed.

“Instead, we plumped for universal jurisdiction – in much the same way as the press is already universally bound by a variety of laws, including the Contempt of Court Act. As we detail in the report, all our public institutions from the police and judiciary to churches, charities and trade unions are subject to binding rules, a fact of their lives which hasn’t impinged on their independence.

“So, we argue for no opting in or out; rather, all news-related publishers being bound by the codes drawn up by an industry-designed regulatory body. To suggest that is tantamount to “licensing” the press is just plain wrong.”

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