The Scottish newspaper industry has demanded that the Scottish government drop plans to transfer public notices from newspapers to the internet. The plans would see councils saving around £6 million a year by allowing them to place their advertisements on a new government website.
In submissions to the Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee, representatives of the Scottish newspaper industry argued that the revenue was vital to the industry and that the reasons for keeping such public notice advertising in newspapers should outweigh concerns over the cost to the public purse.
The Scotsman newspaper also claimed that the move was ‘anti-democratic’ and “could damage democracy”, they went on to claim that “the proposals could lead to more secretive, less open government”.
Supporters of the move argue cuts to the public purse are inevitable in this economic downturn and that the government is obliged to seek cost savings in order to ensure vital front line services are maintained.
They have questioned claims that the move will harm democracy given the partisan stance of many Scottish titles and the perception amongst many that balance and factual accuracy sometimes fall victim to political loyalties.
They also point to the success of the decision to move public sector job advertising from newspapers to the internet with the introduction of the myjobscotland.com website.
According to COSLA the website has been “highly successfull” and has led to savings overall of between £3million and £4million per annum, COSLA added that “the benefits realised once the portal is fully rolled out are likely to be greater, and possibly significantly greater, than this.”
In a related move Labour’s culture spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP called for the Scottish Government to use public funds to allow every 18 year-old to receive their favourite newspaper free for a year.
Newsnet Scotland suggests that the Scottish press might care to insist on a higher standard of journalism from their employees in order to arrest the haemorrhaging of readership. They could look to Iain Macwhirter, Joan McAlpine, Robbie Dinwoodie, Murray Ritchie and Kenneth Roy for inspiration.
The decline of the Scottish newspaper industry was revealed recently when the average net circulation figures for December were published; the figures even include free give-aways and are listed below – November figures are in brackets:
Scottish Sun’s 340,237 (351,024)
Daily Record’s 300,892 (308,804)
Sunday Mail 370,558 (375,347)
Scottish News of the World 267,871 (282,015)
Sunday Post 231,695 (236,126)
Scottish Daily Mail 113,771 (117,033)
Scottish Mail on Sunday 100,907 (102,680)
Daily Star of Scotland 81,457 (85,309 )
Scottish Daily Express 67,285 (68,209)
Sunday Times Scotland 63,531 (66,655)
The Herald 55,619 (56,543 )
Scotland on Sunday 52,257 (55,877)
The Scotsman 43,941 (45,225)
Sunday Herald 40,463 (43,002)
Scottish Sunday Express 38,102 (37,882)
Daily Star of Scotland – Sunday 27,665 (27,467)
Scottish Daily Mirror 25,350 (26,217)
Scottish Sunday Mirror 21,898 (22,943)