THE editor of The Scottish Sun says he fears that statutory underpinning of an independent Press regulator would represent a ‘slippery slope’ towards increased interference by the State.
Andy Harries was speaking on Newsnight Scotland last night, as First Minister, Alex Salmond, met with the leaders of the other main parties in the Scottish Parliament, to set up an expert group to consider how last week’s report on Press standards by Lord Justice Leveson might apply in Scotland.
Said Harries: “The minute [a regulator] is on the statute books, it’s a slippery slope. I think it is very easy to sit here and say: We need to have this because the Press has already been in the ‘last chance saloon’. [But] if we move to this situation whereby we have a law, it is very easy for a Parliament to go back [to the issue of regulation] – if they weren’t happy with the body that was constituted, they felt it wasn’t reacting properly to various scenarios, they weren’t getting the Press they wanted – we could end up in a situation where Parliament, in two years’ time, says: Actually, we don’t like what they are doing, let’s have another look, let’s make this stronger, let’s make the fines bigger, let’s get more representation from lay [people], or however. I fear that, once you have that, in statute, it’s a slippery slope.”
He added a further fear of a ‘two-speed system’ in the UK: a self-regulatory body in Scotland whose existence is underpinned by statute and another south of the border that is not.
And his paper today reports the Tories have still to decide whether to endorse the setting up of an expert group, which – were it to go ahead – would be led by a current or former judge.