Scottish Government against forced press curbs

First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA
First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA
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ALEX Salmond has moved to distance himself from a controversial plan to impose a compulsory regime of press regulation that is underpinned by law.

The First Minister said that a report led by Lord McCluskey to make regulation mandatory in Scotland was “not the view of the government or government ministers”.

The proposed Scottish regime goes further than the measures set out by Lord Justice Leveson, who did not propose a mandatory system following an inquiry into phone hacking.

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But the McCluskey report says a voluntary system, where publishers sign up to a new regulatory system, as laid down by Leveson, will not work.

Mr Salmond today said that he was in favour of “voluntary, self-regulation” of the press as he insisted that the McCluskey plan was “not done and dusted”.

He said: “The McCluskey report is a contribution to the debate. Actually, page two says it’s not the view of the government or government ministers.“

Possible legal challenge

The Scotland on Sunday reported that SNP ministers are understood to be wary of a key recommendation in a report led by Lord McCluskey to make regulation mandatory, a move that goes well beyond Lord Leveson’s call for a voluntary system following the phone hacking scandal.

Lawyers warned that the measures could be open to a challenge from the European Court of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to free speech.

Media lawyer Alistair Bonnington, BBC Scotland’s former head of counsel, said the measures could result in Scottish ministers being summoned before a court.

“It is highly likely the McCluskey proposals are so draconian as to offend against the European Convention’s provisions on free speech,” he said.

He said that if Scotland wanted to adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights, “we can’t pass these proposals into law”.