First Minister invites party leaders to join him to consider Leveson recommendations

THE First Minister, Alex Salmond, is inviting the leaders of the other main political parties to join with him to consider how, if at all, recommendations about Press regulation – about to be unveiled by Lord Justice Leveson – are implemented in Scotland.

Press regulation is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Leveson recommendations – expected to be released within the next hour – follows an inquiry into Press standards in the wake of phone hacking allegations against the News of the World newspaper, which was shut down last year.

At First Minister’s Questions, a few minutes ago, Salmond told MSPs:  “We should not pre-empt the recommendations of the Leveson report which we have all yet to see. However, we can assume the report will take a serious and considered view of future regulation of the Press and other related matters which are devolved to Scotland, such as criminal prosecution, defamation and police functions.

“I have made it clear that I personally do not favour state regulation of the Press but a strengthened voluntary Press council which will have the support of the print media industry and, most importantly, the confidence of the wider public who have been rightly angered at recent episodes concerning phone hacking, blagging and other potential illegal activity. Such a system needs to ensure redress for people with no great resources, and also needs to ensure that a link to statute is possible as in the Irish model. However, Lord Leveson may propose a more thoroughgoing statutory underpinning of regulation.

“Therefore it is important we have a proper process for considering how we take the Leveson report forward in a Scottish context. I would like to set out a proposed process that this Parliament may wish to follow: Firstly, as I have already indicated, Members of this Parliament will rightly have the opportunity to debate the Leveson Report in further detail next week.

“Secondly, I will invite leaders of all other political parties in this Parliament to meet with me to seek their views on the report. I believe it important to achieve cross-party agreement in Scotland on the best way forward.

“Finally, and if agreed to, I propose the establishment of an independent implementation group, chaired by a Court of Session Judge with five non-politicians. The purpose of this group would be to consider how best to implement Lord Leveson’s proposals in the context of Scots law and the devolved responsibilities of this Parliament. This will allow the process and any proposed changes to go through the normal parliamentary procedures.”