Press regulation doomed by media backlash to proposals

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SCOTTISH ministers rejected radical plans to regulate the press in Scotland because they were afraid of the media backlash, a member of the panel which proposed them said yesterday.

Journalist Ruth Wishart, who sat on the review panel alongside retired judge Lord McCluskey, told The Scotsman conference on Scottish media that the critical reaction to their proposals had doomed them.

Last month, the McCluskey panel recommended that Scotland’s press should be subjected to statutory controls underpinned by law.

Ms Wishart yesterday said that she had been “gobsmacked” by the criticism that the report received from sections of the press, saying it had called specifically for the press itself to propose an independent body to regulate its activities.

After publication, Scottish ministers confirmed they were not planning to adopt the McCluskey plans. Asked why, Ms Wishart replied yesterday: “The reason for the scurrying away from Lord McCluskey is because when the criticism rained down upon it then no politician would want to attach themselves to a set of unpopular ideas.”

She also defended the McLuskey proposals. “All it did was to ask the press to set up its own rules and regulations to which it should adhere. I don’t think journalists are deserving of special treatment.”

However, she was challenged by former editor of The Scotsman, Magnus Linklater, who also addressed the conference, and said he had been told by Lord McCluskey that only those newspapers that “created mischief” had anything to fear from the reforms. “In my mind, creating mischief is what newspapers do,” he said.