First Minister Alex Salmond today thanked the expert group led by former Solicitor General Lord McCluskey considering how the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson into press practices could be applied in Scotland as it published its report.
The expert group, which was appointed by the First Minister in December, has made a series of recommendations on how a system of self-regulation of the press could be established and recognised in Scotland in a report distributed to all parties this morning.
Mr Salmond said the thorough report from Lord McCluskey and his colleagues was “an important contribution” to the process of implementing Leveson in Scotland, as he indicated the Scottish Government would now consider the report’s findings carefully while continuing the cross-party efforts to reach a suitable way forward in Scotland.
The Scottish Government is committed to cross-party talks on implementing the Leveson recommendations and will continue to work toward a consensus on the way forward in Scotland. The First Minister confirmed today that ministers would report to Parliament after the Easter recess on the progress of these talks.
The First Minister said:
“Lord McCluskey and his group have reported at an opportune time.
“While there is a huge amount of uncertainty and division surrounding how Westminster is going to take forward the Leveson recommendations, I am hopeful that in Scotland all parties in the Parliament can continue to work together to find an acceptable way forward.
“Lord McCluskey’s group has delivered an extremely thorough piece of work looking at how the proposals made by Lord Justice Leveson could be applied in the context of Scots law, including draft legislation. We will now take the time to consider all of their suggestions in full and discuss the proposals with the other political parties and other stakeholders.
“The report is admirably clear. It is for the Parliaments in London and in Scotland to establish a recognition process. It is for the press to bring forward a voluntary regulatory body compliant with Leveson principles. I hope that this is still possible.
“The Scottish Government indicated at the time of Leveson’s report that we wanted to implement his key proposals of a voluntary self-regulatory system set up by the press with statutory underpinning.
“Since Leveson reported, all parties in the Parliament have taken part in a cross-party effort that has seen the leaders hold talks with Hacked Off, the Media Standards Trust and representatives of the press with a commitment to meet with the UK Government after their position becomes clearer.
“These efforts will continue and the Scottish Government will report back to Parliament after Easter on the progress of these talks.
“I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to Lord McCluskey, David Sinclair, Professor Neil Walker, Peter Watson and Ruth Wishart for their efforts in producing this diligent report.”
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: “We agreed with the first minister that this group should look solely at the technicalities of implementing Leveson in Scots law. We did not agree to the Leveson recommendations being re-written or built upon.
“While Lord McCluskey and his fellow panel members are not to be criticised, rather than pursue the original agreed objective they were asked to rework Leveson on a ridiculously short timescale.
“That in itself appears to be bad faith on the first minister’s part. We hope he will take forward the recommendation that Scotland would be best served by having a UK-wide solution.”