By a Newsnet reporter
The future of the Scotsman newspaper has been cast in doubt following the announcement that Editor in Chief John McLellan has been placed on leave and his role at the paper axed.
In a shock email announcement, staff at the paper were informed by owners Johnston Press of the move which also saw the axing of two other senior roles at the Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News.
A memo issued by Johnston Press’s managing director for Scotland, Andrew Richardson, who took up the post in February, confirmed the editor-in-chief post at The Scotsman Publications Ltd “will cease to exist”.
The memo continued: “The editors of each title will report directly to the managing director of the Scottish Publishing Unit. John McLellan has been placed on leave and is in consultation with the company. Further announcements on the editorship of The Scotsman will be made in due course.”
It is understood that Ian Stewart, editor of Scotland on Sunday, will now also carry out the role of acting editor of The Scotsman.
Some staff were reported to have walked out in protest after Mr McLellan gave what was described as a rousing impromptu speech as news of his departure was circulated.
Also cut by the owners are the roles of a managing director for Angus County Press and Divisional Newspaper sales director.
In a statement, the NUJ chapel at The Scotsman Publications Ltd, said: “Following an emergency chapel meeting, the joint chapel of The Scotsman Publications would like to register – in the strongest possible terms – our anger and disbelief at the appalling manner in which our editor-in-chief has been treated by the management of Johnston Press.
“John McLellan is an internationally-respected journalist and editor who is held in the highest esteem by his staff – if not by his bosses.
“He has given tirelessly to this company over the years in the belief that, whatever strictures may be placed upon us, we should always produce the best possible product for our readers – a belief he has instilled in each and every member of his staff.”
On twitter, commentators expressed shock at the announcement:
Andrew Neil, former editor of The Sunday Times said: “Why has the excellent John McLellan been removed as editor of The Scotsman?”
Some questioned whether the paper could now survive. Magnus Linklater, former editor of The Scotsman and The Scottish Times tweeted: “Tragedy that The Scotsman has lost John McLellan as Editor — best they’ve had in a decade. Can it survive?”
Former Herald political editor Douglas Fraser, who is now BBC Scotland’s business and economy editor said: “Journalists at The Scotsman titles: “anger, disbelief at appalling manner” of John McLellan’s axing as editor. Cost-cutting “contemptible”
The newspaper, criticised for a vehemently anti-independence stance, has struggled recently and circulation figures hit an all-time low in February this year falling to below 38,000 to 37268.
Sister paper Scotland on Sunday hasn’t fared much better with figures released in March showing a massive 16.2% drop from 53,371 to 44,709.
McLellan, who remains ‘in negotiations’ with Johnston Press, had been with Scotsman Publications since 1994, taking two stints at editing the Edinburgh Evening News and one at Scotland on Sunday. He replaced Mike Gilson as editor at The Scotsman in 2009, before taking the role as Editor-in-chief.
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