Swinney reportedly proposing switch of public notices away from newspapers

A SWITCH of public notices from newspapers to the internet – in a move that would save councils/deprive newspapers of millions of pounds a year – is reportedly being proposed by the Scottish Government finance secretary, John Swinney.

Says today’s Scotsman newspaper, the move would include details of planning applications and road closures migrating to the web. Already, many council jobs are being advertised solely on the internet.

In a statement issued by Swinney, he says: “Public bodies must provide the best value for money. Councils have collectively identified a need to cut spending on public notices which they are legally required to advertise and pay for, costing around £6 million a year.

“The changes we are consulting on will mean councils can use a new public information notice portal instead of advertising in local papers. The new portal will provide more cost-effective public information and a means to improve communication and dialogue with the public.”

The newspaper quotes its own managing director, Michael Johnston, and editor, John McLellan, condemning the proposal.

Says Johnston: “It is unnecessary and not in the public interest, given the lack of public trust in state-funded information sites, Scotland’s poor broadband penetration and, equally importantly, the poor take-up of broadband by the most vulnerable and excluded sections of Scottish society.”

Adds McLellan: “SNP politicians wring their hands about the future of the Scottish press and then they do their best to damage Scotland’s entire local newspaper industry. And they call themselves democrats who believe in accountability. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.”

The story is also picked up in the Press and Journal newspaper.

PS Monday December 21: The Guardian reports that the UK government is to insist local authorities (presumably just in England and Wales) place their public notices in newspapers.