What price regulation?

Scottish party leaders were yesterday in talks to find an “appropriate way forward” in implementing press regulation plans.

At the forefront of their minds should have been the principle of protecting free speech from the implications of the cobbled together Royal Charter rushed through Westminster last month.

The damaging charter was drawn up in the small hours in the presence of pressure groups and lobbyists; the MPs who waved it through had not even had a chance to read it before saying “aye”; and whatever the supposed intention, it is an absurd and anti-libertarian attack on the freedom of the press and freedom of speech itself.

This newspaper hopes – rather than expects – that having had time to digest the content those Holyrood party leaders, who had the sense to not adopt the recommendations of the parliament’s own inquiry led by Lord McCluskey, choose to reject the royal charter.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop has been in talks with Westminster over how the charter could be implemented in Scotland. That would require some “relatively small technical amendments”, she says.

Hogwash. The charter, and its moves towards press censorship, crippling cost arrangements and encouragement of complaints from third parties, needs tearing up.

That is, of course, unless the Scottish Parliament is happy to see a situation develop that neuters press freedom and proscribes what “relevant publishers” can say on the internet.

Ms Hyslop has been busy trying to sell the prospect to newspapers. In her effort to do so she wrote to the Scottish Newspaper Society in the aftermath of what she said was a constructive meeting. Then she turned to Public Information Notices – that is the kind of notice which authorities place in newspapers to inform readers about road closures, planning developments and proposed changes to services. The kind of things which have a direct impact on day-to-day life.

You may ask what that has to do with press regulation. What indeed? Well according to Ms Hyslop: “The future of PINs, in continuing to support newspapers, was in the context of membership of a self-regulated body of the press and would be a useful decision.”

In other words do what we ask, or lose out financially. That is nothing short of crude financial blackmail, which combined with censorship by the back door amounts to an attack on the press and a attack on free speech. The Shetland Times will continue to object to that.


Add Your Comment
  • Ali Inkster

    • April 26th, 2013 20:26

    I have always had the feeling since this whole debacle started that it had more to do with the love’ys in the media not wishing the “gutter press” outing them for their various perversions. A feeling that has grown stronger with each new arrest for indecent assault, child abuse etc.
    We had a public inquiry based on the public’s outrage over the hacking of Millie Dowlers phone and the deletion of messages which turned out to be false, But not before countless of said love’ys were parading before the inquiry voicing their outrage while making sure to get their best side to the cameras.
    For myself I could not care one jot what consenting adults get up to or where they stick their bits and pieces but obviously the public does or the papers would not sell.
    But the press needs to be free to investigate, probe, delve wherever their noses take them to uncover wrong doing by those in the public eye whether it is politicians, movie stars or Joe public.
    The public needs to be less inclined to get their titillation from the sex lives of the rich and famous and the rich and famous need to have the wit to change the pin on their phones if they don’t want others listening to their messages.

  • JohnTulloch

    • April 26th, 2013 21:33

    “But we have “cross-party support” on this one”!

    “Oh….well,..er,..that’s alright then, if the politicians are all agreeing it must be the right thing to do?”

    No, quite the reverse. When politicians of all flavours agree, apart from hell being about to freeze over, we can be sure that what is on offer has not been properly debated and is likely to be in politicians’ interests as opposed to the public’s interest.

    Elements of the press behaved despicably – “and grievously hath Murdoch answered it” – however politicians must never be allowed to get their hands on the press or the internet.

    This must not become “payback time” for the parliamentary expense claims scandals.

  • Ian Brown

    • April 26th, 2013 22:47

    It must be very frustrating for the Editor of The Shetland Times to find herself being treated with the same contempt as that of the average UK newspaper editor.
    A contempt justifiably earned by the wider printed press, and the London based ones in particular, where moral standards and ethnics have been somewhat lacking.
    These same folk are still sayimng that they can ‘regulate themselves’. Yea, right !
    This has been going on for decades and the public have now said they have had enough. The press has demonstrated time and again that they can’t regulate themselves, and therfore they WILL be regulated by statute.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • April 28th, 2013 8:35

    Another reason for voting NO next year is Salmond’s plans to silence the Scottish national and local press.
    Salmond and the SNP are plotting a draconian law that will have a chilling impact on freedom of speech and cost thousands of jobs throughout Scotland.

    They want to appoint a regulator with powers to sanction “ANYONE” who produces news, comment or celebrity gossip – in print or digital.
    Salmond hired an expert group headed by Lord John McCluskey to work out how Lord Leveson’s plan to regulate the press could be adopted in Scotland.

    But their report said the powers of the regulator in Scotland should be greater to cover the web and ¬publications other than newspapers.
    They also recommended legislation to cover Twitter and Facebook (this could create a full time job for someone).
    Sadly, Ian Tinkler and Sandy McMillan would be forever in front of the regulator before being hauled off to the gulag.

    Even Shetland life magazine could fall foul of what has been described as “the most draconian press controls in the western world”.
    The Bill would make it compulsory for every newspaper to fund the new system.
    There are claims it would cost £1.5million a year – mainly in fees to lawyers.
    It could signal the death of scores of local newspapers including this web site and cost thousands of jobs.


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