By Martin Kelly
First Minister Alex Salmond has written to all other party leaders in the Scottish Parliament inviting them to cross-party talks next Thursday to discuss how best to take forward the recommendations of the Leveson report in Scotland.
Press regulation is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Mr Salmond’s written invitation follows publication of the report last Thursday.

In the report Lord Leveson recommended a statutory system of regulation to replace the old Press Complaints Commission.  The report followed an extensive inquiry into the UK press following allegations of phone hacking and claims of inappropriate press intrusion into the lives of ordinary people as well as celebrities.

Commenting, the First Minister said:

“I believe it is important that we achieve a cross-party consensus in Scotland on the best way forward in implementing Lord Justice Leveson’s findings, and that is why I am asking the other party leaders to meet for talks.

“It is clear that we must have a system of regulation for the print media here in Scotland which has the support of the industry, but which also, most importantly, commands the confidence of the wider public who have been rightly angered at recent episodes concerning phone-hacking, blagging and other potentially illegal activity.

“MSPs will have an opportunity to debate the Leveson findings at Holyrood on Tuesday. That debate has been deliberately framed without a motion, to reflect the desire for cross-party agreement. It will be an opportunity to hear what all members have to say and an opportunity for Scotland’s Parliament to display the kind of consensus that has so far been lacking on this issue at Westminster.

“I have already made clear that I believe the Irish model of press regulation has much to commend it and much that we could learn from. That does not mean that we should necessarily follow the Irish system exactly, but we should look seriously at whether it can be adapted sensibly for Scotland’s needs. I believe it is clear that the case for a Scottish solution to these important issues is unarguable.”

Earlier this week the Scottish Greens said they welcomed the prospect of cross-party talks about a distinctly Scottish response to the Leveson proposals on regulation of the press.

Commenting on Thursday, Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow and Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said:

"Scotland has a proud tradition of journalism but the industry's self-regulation has clearly failed and we can't duck the issue any longer. It would be quite bizarre for a pro-independence Government to leave this to Westminster. The Leveson report demands action to restore public trust and I believe the Scottish Parliament should use its powers in this area.

"However, the First Minister would be wrong to rule out statutory regulation before talks take place. This is a real opportunity to ensure that regulation is truly independent from corporate control, and protects essential freedoms, roots out bad journalism and properly protects people's privacy."

However Johann Lamont has already signalled her desire for the Scottish Parliament to leave the setting up of a new press regulatory system to Westminster, to cover the whole of the UK.

Speaking on Thursday, the Scottish Labour leader expressed fears that Mr Salmond saw Leveson as “A chance for him to exercise control over the Scottish press on an unprecedented scale.”

The proposal put forward by the First Minister is for a body created out-with the control of politicians.  Mr Salmond has already suggested that the Irish regulatory system might be a good model for any new Scottish press regulatory body.

In his letter, the First Minister wrote:

At yesterday's First Minister's Question Time I said that I would seek the views of the other parties about the recommendations of the Leveson report given the importance of achieving cross-party agreement on the best way forward.

While it is regrettable that the UK Government did not make the report available to party leaders in the Scottish Parliament on the same basis as in the Westminster Parliament, which might have enabled a statement yesterday, there may nevertheless be merit in having a little more time to reflect upon the report before taking matters forward.  I am therefore inviting you to meet me on the afternoon of Thursday, 6 December to discuss these matters further.  That will also give us the opportunity to reflect on the views of the whole Parliament expressed in the debate on Tuesday, 4 December.

My office will be in touch with you to make the detailed arrangements.

This weekend it was reported that a majority of MPs and peers were in favour of statutory regulation of the press.  The claim was made by Lord Fowler of Sutton Coldfield, the former Tory chairman, said that there was “a majority for Leveson” in both Houses of Parliament.

Currently the two UK coalition parties are split on the extent to which Leveson’s recommendations should be implemented.  Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg clashed on Thursday with both men issuing contradictory statements in the House of Commons.

Cameron favours self-regulation, however Labour and the Lib Dems are pressing for full implementation of Lord Leveson’s recommendations.  If there are members of his own party favouring Lord Leveson’s recommendations then Mr Cameron may find himself vulnerable.

A petition, launched on Friday by Gerry McCann, father of missing Madeleine, and Christopher Jefferies, the landlord wrongly arrested for the murder of Joanna Yeates, calling for a new press watchdog backed by law has already attracted more than 56,000 signatures.


# cadgers 2012-12-02 06:53
"However Johann Lamont has already signalled her desire for the Scottish Parliament to leave the setting up of a new press regulatory system to Westminster, to cover the whole of the UK."

Does this woman actually do any work to earn her msp salary? Apart from toadying to westminster that is.
# an Olaindeach 2012-12-02 09:36
That is the strange thing about the present devolution - if Scotland diverges from England, unionists ask 'why different?', if Scotland doesn't diverge, unionists ask 'why devolution?'

To my knowledge Scottish law has always been separate from English law. Wouldn't a press regulatory system not by definition be either English or Scottish?
# Shagpile 2012-12-02 09:54
She is probably afraid that Scottish newspapers would no longer be able to get away with the slurs, innuendo, defamations and lies published on a daily basis around the independence debate.

It would therefor be incompatible with the London based editorial control of BBC Scotland for example.

She's got "joined-up" in mind..... Joined at the hip with Cameron.
# Koenig 2012-12-02 13:24
If they ever got back in power it would be like the last time. No imagination. No ambition. Hand everything over to Westminster.
# Breeks 2012-12-02 09:37
Restoring public trust in the press is going to be quite a challenge.

We've seen the Unionists frothing at the mouth over Alex Salond's close contacts with Rupert Murdoch, only for their insinuations to fall apart.

Time will tell whether they're so lusty to look into the closer than healthy contacts and influence between the press and Labour. A subject of extra special importance in the context of anti Salmond and anti Independence bias. I'm guessing they might lack some enthusiasm.

Lamonts "Lets let Westminster do it" isn't going to wash. Control of the Press is a devolved responsibility which supine Scottish Labour would apparently hand back to Westminster in a heartbeat.
# Jim Johnston 2012-12-02 10:50
I'm sure I've heard Lamont, Davidson and Rennie telling the SG to "use the powers they have" on several matters.
Is that no longer their war cry when straightening out the anti-Independence press ? Or anything else for that matter, that deviates in any way from Westminster dictat.

Holyrood "oposition" practices offer absolutely nothing to Scottish democracy. They are a disgrace.
# Davy 2012-12-02 10:52
I would not be surprised to see the unionist parties pull out of the crossparty talks at the first opportinuity under some madeup excuse.

Its their nature.
# Breeks 2012-12-02 11:37
I agree Davy, - but let them.

I think Alex Salmond has wrong footed them already, just like he did with the single question referendum.

At the moment the FM has Scottish Labour invited to discuss the probity of the press, has the issue confined to a Scottish context where he has power to act, and he's done so on grounds where the Unionists can hardly refuse to take part (but want to), but hardly dare walk out either (but want to).

Mr Salmond offers them Hobson's choice yet again, but while they bluster and gripe, Mr Salmond has a cross party initiative to address the issues of the press regulation....

I was about to say I'm very glad Mr Salmond is on our side, but the truth is I'm extremely glad to be on his.
# proudscot 2012-12-02 12:02
Quoting Davy:
I would not be surprised to see the unionist parties pull out of the crossparty talks at the first opportinuity under some madeup excuse.

Its their nature.

They already have a "made up excuse" ready, in Lamont's scurrilous claim that the First Minister is not the "proper person" to lead such an inquiry, given his alleged "track record" of dealing with Murdoch.
# Ready to Start 2012-12-02 12:10
The British press has had plenty of chances to get their house in order.

The Tories ignored the Calcutt review and Labour ignored the findings of Operation Motorman so Westminster has failed to take responsibility and the British unionist press is allowed to print what it likes often with little or no reference to the truth.

Due to the different laws of defamation in Scotland we need the Scottish Parliament to regulate the press which has no difficulty with separate jurisdictions when it comes to getting round English Court judgements in Scotland.
# Edulis 2012-12-02 12:19
I have just heard a replay of Willie Rennie's piece to camera, reacting to the Levenson Report. How does this guy get away with a complete fabrication of what the report actually says?

Also why did Alex Salmond's press people allow a situation where Lamont and Davidson are allowed to comment on his piece and not the other way around?

We need to act tough with the BBC.
# bringiton 2012-12-02 16:45
Since the media in Scotland is almost universally anti SNP,anti Independence,an ti anything which sounds Scottish and not "British",then the SG have nothing to lose in seeking to improve standards in the press within our borders.
No doubt there will be a lot of headlines accusing the Scottish Government of this and that but so what.
Their readership are used to this diet of negativity from them so will have little impact.
I think AS has got the "opposition" on a skewer with this one...damned if they do and damned if they don't.
# Mr Angry 2012-12-02 16:51
This response from the three unionist parties is deeply depressing. Do they not see how it makes them look?

Listening to Radio Scotland this morning, we had a Labour blogger commenting that the offer of cross party talks was just "grandstanding" on behalf of our First Minister. When will the Unionist parties do something to hold up Scotland or offer alternatives or postive solutions to our problems rather than constantly carp from the sidelines.

They (especially Labour) forget, they lost the last election and it is time for them to act like a proper opposition and not a lot of spoilt brats.
# KOF 2012-12-02 17:23
A related topic.

I was reading the following article on the BBC News(Scotland) website.

The FM was quoted as saying, "I would not, under virtually any circumstances I could see, support state regulation of the press. I think our press is far too valuable for that." I listened to the video in the article, I listened to it again. Nope, I couldn't find where the FM said this. Have my ears gone wonky?
Either it is a quote from the interview which they didn't include in the video, or.... something else? Since it was the only quote in the written article, then you'd think it would have made it in to the video too.
part 1 of 2.
# KOF 2012-12-02 17:46
part 2.

The interviewer was Brian Taylor. I had a look at his other article.
"But he told me in an interview that he is utterly against state regulation."
Did he? Utterly?
Can someone else have a look at these, please? Are my ears wonky?
# Iaincraig 2012-12-02 18:33
Uhmm! Why?

The London stooges have no intention of treating the report with any seriousness. They will will adopt the toady position and regurgitate what thier London Masters tell them, despite the victims appeals to have them get on and legislate.

The three stooges are also being disingenuous as Scotland has a uhmm 'separate' legal system and has to legislate regardless of what the cesspitians of Westmidden think.
# Teri 2012-12-02 19:16
I think the three stooges may be afraid that if they take part in cross party leaders' talks their ignorance will show up very clearly. They are utterly bereft of ideas and policies and I think they would be at a loss to debate such a report in a credible manner. It's easier for them to toe the Westminster line as their own poor ablities can remain hidden that way. Unfortunately, the london Labour MPs show the same lack of ideas when Miliband said they felt the Leveson report should be implemented in full without having read it. Anyone with any sense knows the devil is in the detail and each of the 2000 pages deserve thorough scrutiny. Pitfalls there will be and it's only a fool who would jump in with two feet before studying that detail.

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