Press regulation in Scotland

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Options include extending Royal Charter to Scotland with measures on defamation of the recently deceased

The ways in which a draft Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press could work for Scotland have been set out by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee on the regulation of the press, Ms Hyslop said that discussions continue with the UK Government on the possibility of a Royal Charter extending to Scotland, and with other parties in Parliament on the appropriate way forward. 

She presented draft amendments to the Royal Charter that would properly define the roles of the UK and Scottish Parliaments and ensure the Charter respected the role of the Scottish Parliament and the devolution of press regulation. Under the Charter as currently drafted, the Scottish Parliament would have no say in any amendments to the Charter or its dissolution.

Amendments could also be included to ensure that appropriate respect and sensitivity was paid to the recently deceased where the only public interest in them was in the manner of their death, and their near relations. Following the Committee meeting, the Culture Secretary met Mrs Margaret Watson, who had earlier given evidence on that issue.

Ms Hyslop said:

“We’re currently considering our approach to the Leveson recommendations as part of a cross party process.  This has included discussions with the UK Government on how any Royal Charter could reflect Scotland’s interests. 

“Our discussions with the UK Government have confirmed that the draft Royal Charter is capable of extension to Scotland with a relatively small number of largely technical amendments.

“This morning, we heard moving evidence from Margaret Watson – just as we did when she and her husband James appeared at the Leveson Inquiry – on the issue of defamation of the recently deceased.

“With the agreement of the other party leaders we have raised with the UK Government the question of whether the minimum requirements set out in the Charter for a recognised Regulatory Body’s Standards Code could provide a remedy for this issue, and if the Code could make reference to ensuring appropriate respect in dealing with those who are recently deceased – where the only public interest in them is because of the circumstances of their death, and their near relations.”