From: The Scottish Government

4 December, 2012
First Minister invites cross-party suggestions on press group

Necessary for Scottish Parliament to act on self-regulation criteria – FM

First Minister Alex Salmond today invited the main opposition parties to suggest suitable candidates to sit on the implementation group that he has proposed be set up to determine how self-regulation of the press can be recognised in Scots law following the Leveson report.

Speaking at Holyrood, the First Minister said that whatever type of voluntary self-regulation model was devised by the press in the wake of Leveson, it was necessary for the Scottish Parliament to set the criteria by which any new body could be underpinned in Scots law.

Mr Salmond called for political consensus on the way forward as he invited the main opposition party leaders to suggest non-politicians they believed should be invited to examine how Leveson’s report could be best addressed in the Scottish context.

In doing so he pointed out that, because press regulation is devolved, it is impossible to have a solution that would apply to the Scottish press without due consideration of the implications on the legal system in Scotland.

First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“Given that press regulation is the responsibility of this parliament; that there have been victims of press malpractice in Scotland; and that there is a separate legal framework which operates in Scotland, then Lord Justice Leveson’s own view is surely unarguable – that we require to make in Scotland, using the expertise that we have in terms of Scots law, a significant response to his report and recommendations.

“His recommendations require serious, expert and distinctive consideration within Scotland. They cannot just be left to Westminster.

“Leveson sets out clearly that there is a difference between statutory regulation and statutory underpinning of self-regulation. That principle – in my estimation which provides the essence of his report – seems to me logically sound. It also appears to have substantial public support.

“There are a number of features of the Irish system which look to me very attractive. Does that mean that we in Scotland should follow the Irish model exactly? No it doesn’t, it just means we should look seriously at whether it can be adapted sensibly in a Scottish context.”

The First Minister continued:

“It is up to the press, not the Government, to establish its own regulatory structure. Depending on what the press decides, that structure could apply to other parts of these islands of the United Kingdom.

“However, the statutory underpinning cannot simply be UK-wide, as perhaps as has been suggested elsewhere. That underpinning must adhere to Scots law. A Scottish solution is required for the underpinning – not necessarily for the organisation – but the underpinning of the self regulatory body.”

The First Minister added:

“I have written to my counterparts in this chamber to invite them to talks on Thursday. I welcome their indication that they will accept the invitation.

“I am proposing the establishment of an independent implementation group, chaired by a recent Court of Session judge. I can confirm that all parties here at Holyrood are welcome to suggest non-practising political representatives as potential members of that implementation group.

“The purpose of the group is to meet the challenge, set to us by Leveson, of how to adapt a proposal which was inevitably very much attached to the English legal system into a Scottish legal context.

Mr Salmond concluded:

“I am sufficiently optimistic to believe we can seize an opportunity to take a serious, consensual, cross-party approach here at Holyrood to rise to the challenge laid down by Leveson.

“If we do that, we will do our duty in Scotland to those who suffered from the unacceptable practices of some media organisations. We will fit that balance between the expectations of the public and the essential freedom of the press.

“And we can ensure that in Scotland the seventh inquiry into press regulation secures more enduring results than any of its six predecessors.”

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness?

Such was the picture I always had of Autumn, a time for the leaves turning, but alas , all has changed – according to Westminster diktat.  In this first week of December , with snow on the ground, the English Chancellor is ready to present the Autumn Statement, like all else he has touched, too late to benefit anyone .  Sorry, the use of the word benefit will also bite the lexiconal dust – to coin a phrase!  I suppose we should call it the Winter of our Discontent Statement.



The Southern Drift

I was somewhat surprised to hear the Labour MSP John Park is leaving the Scottish Parliament, and going to work in London in the Trade Union movement.  I always had a reasonable opinion of Mr Park, so mild disappointment.

This of course follows the drift south of  Margaret Curran and Cathie Jamieson for Labour, and David Mundell for the  Tories, who preferred the green leather benches to Edinburgh’s chairs – with desks.  One need not waste much sympathy on Mr Mundell, the lonely Tory, who may have had hopes of some Ministerial advance in a future Tory administration which will emerge south of the border.  His first preference has been taken by a Liberal, as the Tories sought to legitimise the ruling of Scotland by appointing a coalition member.   That’s his gas at a wee peep.

Other southern refugees that spring to mind, Liberal Jim Wallace, now Baron Wallace of Tankerness, (can’t figure out the difference between Lords and Barons) appointed as something or other in the House of Lords, enabling him to pontificate on Scottish affairs at our expense.  We also have Lord Jack McConnell and Lord George Foulkes in that retirement chamber, joining Baroness Helen Liddell – and Lord Mike Watson – the man who didn’t like the curtains at Prestonfield House.  There are many others, too numerous to mention.

When I consider this merry band of willing ex pats, the following lines from The Lairdie’s Prayer  spring to mind:

“And should the Gaels return, and I am forced to flee,

Let me be down in London town, nearer my God to Thee,

Nearer my God to Thee.

Oh Lord Thou kens me well,

Though my name’s MacPhee, I’ll try to be

As English as yourself.”

I suppose you could say they are all keeping their options open; those in the House of Commons will either have to stand in an English seat, or return to a political life in Scotland, no doubt finding that politics has moved on from their day.  The English can pick up the tab for the miscellaneous members of their House of Lords;  I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.  To quote another well known Scottish phrase: “If ye maun flee wi’ the craws, ye maun be shot wi’ the craws.”


Idle thoughts

Revealing to see a BBC Scotland  News report of Nicola Sturgeon’s speech on independence this week;  rather baffled to hear the commentator reporting a Tory MSP’s comments on it, rather than what Nicola was actually saying.   Or perhaps not baffled at all.

Virgin keeps sending me invitations to use their system rather than Sky’s, even quoting how much I can save – up to £129.75 in the first year!  Wow!  Not having Sky saves even more.

The term Ministry of Defence is a misnomer;  what is the purpose of two massive aircraft carriers costing billions, when we still have airfields enough to defend the country?  The cutting up on the tarmac of the replacements for Nimrod was an assault on the defence of the realm.

Ministry of Offence is a more appropriate expression.

The Westminster Government has appointed 13 committees to look at all the aspects of Scottish independence in the two years up to the Referendum.  Despite having a very expensive Scotland Office, encompassing Michael Moore, a Liberal, Baron Wallace of Tankerness and David Mundell, there is no role for the aforesaid Office.   They must think that they are too busy to be involved, but it would be quite nice to know what they are doing;  we do remember when Jim Murphy was in that sinecure he spent his time campaigning against the SNP – at our expense.

I was puzzled, and still am, by Johann Lament’s claim that we spent £800 million on Chinese steel for the new Forth Crossing – never retracted or corrected – the  true figure is  £80 million.  As far as I knew there were no steel factories in Scotland, but perhaps I am mistaken;  Ms Lamont must think they exist  –  do they?