By Martin Kelly
The SNP is urging all parties in the Scottish Parliament to put party politicking to one side and to drop their hostility to this week’s Leveson talks.
The nationalists have welcomed Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont’s decision to accept the First minister’s invitation to attend cross party talks, despite earlier signals from her party’s culture spokeswoman that they wouldn’t attend.
SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has now called for all parties to rise to the occasion and urged the Lib Dems and Tories to drop their hostility to Thursday’s meeting.
He said: “Lord Justice Leveson is clear that there is a role for Scotland in considering his report, its recommendations and how they can be made to fit in Scotland.
“He accepts that the law in Scotland is different and that he did not have time to look at how his proposals might work in Scotland. That is now the responsibility of all of us in the Scottish Parliament.
“I welcome Labour’s decision to put petty politics to one side and join the talks with the First Minister. Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson must do the same.
“I hope the opposition will come to the talks focussed on how we put in place the right system for the future of the press and address public concerns rather than try to score political points.
“When Lord Justice Leveson made damning criticisms of the behaviour of successive UK Labour and Tory governments and only partially excused the Lib Dems – who he says failed to put the public interest first, devoted too much time to the press and failed to curb the excesses of the media – it is incumbent on all of us in the Scottish Parliament to look at his recommendations seriously, to debate them openly and to ensure that we do put the public interest first and that neither the victims or the public are let down.”
Responding to questions on Sunday’s Politics Show, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont confirmed she would attend Thursday’s talks, saying: “Yes we’ve agreed that we will be part of all-party talks to see how we take forward the recommendations of Leveson.
“And I think the one thing we want to say, the central focus of what we’re doing must be about the interests of those victims and those people who feel that the press has been allowed to behave in a way that has caused them great pain and suffering.”
However, sitting alongside her Labour counterpart, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson insisted she would use the talks in order to ask for the First Minister to remove himself from the process.
Claiming the First Minister was “tainted” in the eyes of the public, she said: “I will use the talks on Thursday to ask Alex Salmond once again to reflect on his behaviour.”
Johann Lamont, along with her UK leader Ed miliband, also agreed that any new system should be self-regulatory, but with statutory underpinning.
She said: “I think that what Leveson offers is an opportunity for the press to self-regulate but with an underpinning which allows people redress in times when they feel they have been badly treated.”
The statutory element creates difficulty for Ms Lamont who has already called for any new regulatory system to be left to London. The required legislation though means that the Scottish Parliament will have to draft its own proposals in order to deal with those aspects of Scots law that will be affected.
Critics of Mr Salmond’s proposals have argued that a separate Scottish system would not be workable, due to English newspapers being sold in Scotland. However it has been pointed out that just such a separate system is already functioning well in Ireland, which also covers English editions.