Leaders: Devolved regulation of internet worth considering

Victims of 'revenge porn', Hazel Higgleton (left) and Hannah Thompson. Picture: PA
Victims of 'revenge porn', Hazel Higgleton (left) and Hannah Thompson. Picture: PA
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THE Scottish Government’s announcement that it is actively exploring the creation of a new law to tackle the growth of so-called revenge pornography is to be welcomed.

Already, plans are being made in England and Wales to criminalise the posting or distribution online of explicit photos or videos of ex-partners. It is only right that Scotland should keep step with this change in the law.

Revenge pornography can have devastating effects on victims, and those found guilty of the act should expect serious punishment.

The Scottish Government said yesterday that existing laws could be used to prosecute offenders, but the fact that new legislation is in the pipeline is recognition that a bespoke law is required.

The truth is that the Scottish Government has not always been entirely sure-footed when it comes to matters involving the internet.

For that, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill must take some responsibility. But whatever Mr MacAskill’s failings, matters have been made no easier by the fact that the policing of online activity is something of a grey area in the current Scottish constitutional settlement.

Regulation of the internet is reserved to Westminster but many of the illegal acts committed online are matters for our devolved justice department.

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that politicians are a little behind the curve when it comes to crimes involving the internet. Nobody could have seen, back when the Scottish devolution blueprint was being drawn up in 1997, just how integral the internet would become to our lives.

And with its many benefits, the internet has brought problems. There is understandable concern about access to increasingly extreme pornography, and the impact that may have on young people, in particular. Police Scotland has devoted increased resources to tackling online grooming of children by paedophiles. There have been devastating cases of suicide among young victims of cyber-bullying and online blackmail. And there is legitimate concern about the access enjoyed by police and security forces to our e-mails and social network profiles.

The internet is much more than a plaything; it’s where many people live substantial parts of their lives. And, with that in mind, law enforcement requires to be fit for purpose.

Greater clarity on responsibility for the internet may be a suitable topic for discussion by Lord Smith’s commission on further devolution. Handing full responsibility for the regulation of online activity to the Scottish Parliament may be worth considering.

Police report that an ever- increasing part of their work relates to online crime. With internet access all but ubiquitous, there is no reason to believe that won’t continue to be the case.

Our politicians must ensure our laws are appropriate for the way life is actually lived.

Can they fix it? No they can’t

THEY lurk under sinks or in the corners of sheds: sharp-edged boxes that concertina open to reveal shoals of grey nails and ancient rawlplugs.

The household toolbox is a magnificent thing, with its drill bits that don’t fit and its 76 Ikea Allen keys, and that hammer that nearly took your thumb off last Christmas. It’s a first-aid kit for the home.

But it seems fewer of us have any need for such things these days.

Home Retail – owner of the Homebase chain – announced yesterday that it is to close a ­quarter of its 323 branches over the next three years, blaming pressure in part on the rise of a generation less skilled in do-it-yourself projects.

According to the company’s chief executive, John Walden, people are now more likely to hire a tradesman than attempt a spot of DIY. How times have changed.

Not so very long ago, a wave of television programmes turned DIY into a mass national pastime. People spoke of little other than what they would be doing with MDF next Saturday; they fitted downlights and they compared decking. Now it seems those days are gone.

This is regrettable, because DIY should be a rite of passage.

Every person should know the satisfaction of fixing a wonky bookcase or fitting a plug to a dodgy toaster.

All of us should know the thrill of eventually hitting a nail that doesn’t bend.

Are we never again to experience a blackened thumbnail? Or a lightly hacksawed pinkie? We hope not.

Take up your toolboxes, Scotland. That floorboard on the landing isn’t going to sort itself.