THIS morning, the Scottish Parliament is debating the future of Scottish local newspapers, amid concerns that a Government proposal allowing local authorities to switch their public notices from newspapers to the internet (and which requires the backing of MSPs before it can go ahead) could be the financial ruin of some titles.
While the proposal would save local authorities much-needed cash, there are also concerns that some people would be denied access to important information simply because they don’t have a computer and an internet connection.
Coincidentally, the Parliament’s education and culture committee is taking evidence on the future for local newspapers and, on Tuesday, allmediascotland published a podcast with two of the committee’s ‘leading lights': chair, Karen Whitefield, and Kenneth Gibson.
And today, Jim Raeburn, director of the Scottish Newspaper Society, argues against the Scottish Government propsal in the latest allmediascotland In My Opinion.
Watch the debate – which is scheuled to run between 9.15am and 11.40am – here.
The debate in the main chamber has been called by Labour’s Pauline McNeill. Yesterday, at a meeting attended by Peter Murray, president of the National Union of Journalists, and Herald editor-in-chief, Donald Martin, in his capacity as president of the UK Society of Editors – McNeill said: “I hope MSPs from all parties will listen to the evidence and vote for Labour’s motion, which calls on the Scottish Government to drop its plan to allow councils to put public notices online instead of in newspapers.
“The SNP’s plan is deeply undemocratic because large numbers of people don’t have access to the internet and there is a real danger that it will lead to important decisions being taken without proper scrutiny.
“If the Finance Secretary John Swinney doesn’t change his mind he will also take vital revenue away from local newspapers, which are already facing significant challenges because of the recession.
“Local councils have a duty to ensure that communities are properly informed about important decisions and we need to protect good local journalism.”