Wishart and Sinclair named among ‘expert panel’ to consider how Leveson report might apply in Scotland

THE journalist, Ruth Wishart, has been named among a five-person ‘expert’ panel, to consider how the Leveson report into Press standards might apply in Scotland.

Wishart is joined by another well-kent name from the Scottish journalism scene: David Sinclair, a former assistant editor at The Herald, plus a former president of the National Union of Journalists, and now head of communications at Victim Support Scotland.

Chairing the group will be former Solicitor General and Senator of the College of Justice, Lord McCluskey, with the other two places taken up by Peter Watson, senior partner of Levy & McRae and Visiting Professor at the School of Law, University of Strathclyde, and Neil Walker, Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh.

How the Press operates in Scotland is a matter devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into Press standards followed allegations of phone hacking, which saw the News of the World newspaper closed down in July last year. His report was published a fortnight ago.

One of the key issues facing the panel is whether an independent, self-regulatory body requires underpinning by statute to ensure its operation.

In a Scottish Government media release, First Minister, Alex Salmond, is quoted, as saying: “Press regulation is a devolved responsibility, there have been victims of Press malpractice in Scotland and Scotland has its own unique legal system.

“It is therefore unarguable that we in Scotland need to make our own response to the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson in his report – particularly on the proposal for statutory underpinning in Scots law of a new, independent self-regulation system for the Press.

“This expert panel will offer advice on the most appropriate way to approach such statutory underpinning in Scotland, bearing in mind our legal system, developments elsewhere in the United Kingdom and experience internationally. What happens thereafter will be a matter for the Parliament.”

He is further quoted, as saying: “What is critically important is that this panel is representative of the broad spectrum of interests that need to be taken into account.

“It is a balanced panel that features experts in Scots law, respected journalists, legal practitioners and someone with a background in supporting those affected by crime and malpractice. This group of experts is independent and non-political and is chaired by a former Court of Session judge.

“I am grateful to each of them for bringing their knowledge, expertise and commitment to this issue and look forward to receiving their recommendations.”

Sinclair has been head of communications at Victims Support Scotland for the last six years. He is a former assistant editor of The Herald, having worked there from 1975 – 2006 and was President of the National Union of Journalists in 1990-91.

Wishart has been a columnist with the Daily Record, columnist and assistant editor of the Sunday Mail, columnist and assistant editor of the Sunday Standard, and senior assistant editor of The Scotsman. Currently, she writes a column for the Society section of The Herald and contributes regularly to The Scotsman. She has also presented radio series for BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 4. With Deborah Orr and Paul Flynn, she recently interviewed a range of journalists, the transcripts of which were used for Enquirer, a play staged by the National Theatre of Scotland while the Leveson Inquiry was taking place.