Salmond issues invite for Leveson ‘implementation group’ candidates

THE option of the Scottish Press being regulated by an independent body whose existence is underpinned by law has again received support from the First Minister, Alex Salmond.

And he extended an invitation made at First Minister’s Questions last week to the leaders of the other main political parties: last week, he invited them to join him in considering how the Leveson report into Press standards – issued last week – might be implemented; today, he invited them to suggest names of those who might site on an ‘implementation group’.

He was speaking today during a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Leveson.

Whatever type of Press regulatory body is set up, it will require to comply with Scots law.

In a Scottish Government media release, Salmond is quoted, as saying: “Given that Press regulation is the responsibility of this parliament; that there have been victims of press malpractice in Scotland; and that there is a separate legal framework which operates in Scotland, then Lord Justice Leveson’s own view is surely unarguable – that we require to make in Scotland, using the expertise that we have in terms of Scots law, a significant response to his report and recommendations.

“His recommendations require serious, expert and distinctive consideration within Scotland. They cannot just be left to Westminster.”

And in echo of recent pronouncements, he is further quoted, as saying: “Leveson sets out clearly that there is a difference between statutory regulation and statutory underpinning of self-regulation. That principle – in my estimation which provides the essence of his report – seems to me logically sound. It also appears to have substantial public support.

“There are a number of features of the Irish system which look to me very attractive. Does that mean that we in Scotland should follow the Irish [Press Council] model exactly? No it doesn’t, it just means we should look seriously at whether it can be adapted sensibly in a Scottish context.

“It is up to the Press, not the Government, to establish its own regulatory structure. Depending on what the Press decides, that structure could apply to other parts of these islands of the United Kingdom.

“However, the statutory underpinning cannot simply be UK-wide, as perhaps as has been suggested elsewhere. That underpinning must adhere to Scots law. A Scottish solution is required for the underpinning – not necessarily for the organisation – but the underpinning of the self-regulatory body.”

And he is further quoted, as saying: “I have written to my counterparts in this chamber to invite them to talks on Thursday. I welcome their indication that they will accept the invitation.

“I am proposing the establishment of an independent implementation group, chaired by a recent Court of Session judge. I can confirm that all parties here at Holyrood are welcome to suggest non-practising political representatives as potential members of that implementation group.

“The purpose of the group is to meet the challenge, set to us by Leveson, of how to adapt a proposal which was inevitably very much attached to the English legal system into a Scottish legal context.”

And he ends, saying: “I am sufficiently optimistic to believe we can seize an opportunity to take a serious, consensual, cross-party approach here at Holyrood to rise to the challenge laid down by Leveson.

“If we do that, we will do our duty in Scotland to those who suffered from the unacceptable practices of some media organisations. We will fit that balance between the expectations of the public and the essential freedom of the Press.

“And we can ensure that in Scotland the seventh inquiry into Press regulation secures more enduring results than any of its six predecessors.”