SO, what are the Scots dailies saying about the Leveson Report on Press standards, published yesterday?
In summary, lots.
Here’s a selection:
The Herald: Front page splash, plus the whole of page six, a column by Alison Rowat and a leader, which makes positive noises about the Press Council of Ireland and goes on to say: “Newspapers across the spectrum, including The Herald, have genuine concerns about legislation proving to be the thin end of a wedge that could be misused by some future government to muzzle free speech.
“There is a real danger that a system of regulation based on statute would eventually morph into state registration of newspapers, the antithesis of a free press.
“Tighter control of newspapers could also have the consequence of boosting the popularity of social media, paradoxically an unregulated platform for unsubstantiated rumour and allegation. The Prime Minister is right to warn that legislation could lead to the Rubicon being crossed.
“Yet, after the catalogue of unacceptable, frequently shameful behaviour (by the few, it must be said) which could never be justified as being in the public interest, reform is urgently required.”
Daily Record: Pages 6 and 7 and a full-page leader (page 8) that talks of its campaigning and investigations – and those of its sister title, the Sunday Mail. It puts in a word too for local journalism and, says its leader: “The Daily Record welcomes [Leveson's] findings. There are areas of his report with which we disagree – for example on the creeping privacy law which allows the rich and famous to shield their activities from the wider public. And there is little in his report to tackle the unregulated free-for-all of gossip and innuendo that is the internet… But overall we support his fundamental call for a new independent Press watchdog which readers can have confidence in.”
Scottish Daily Mail: Front page (albeit concentrating on the possibility of Scotland having its own Press regulatory system underpinned by legislation), plus pages 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, and a leader that begins: “Alex Salmond’s response to Lord Justice Leveson’s controversial recommendations on regulation of the Press bears all the hallmarks of his instinctive conduct on such occasions: grandstanding, making policy on the hoof and attempting to make every aspect of Scottish life different from the rest of the United Kingdom, for its own sake…We have the gravest reservations about some of Sir Brian [Leveson's] recommendations and the views of Mr Salmond. They say they are not proposing statutory regularly but merely a body ‘underpinned’ by statute. This is just playing with words. For the new regulator would depend on recognition from Ofcom, whose chairman is appointed by the Government.”
The Scotsman: Front page splash, plus pages 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, plus a column by Joyce McMillan, and a leader that says: “The resort to legislation is not to be taken lightly. On this issue we believe Prime Minister David Cameron to be right: it would mark, historically and constitutionally, the crossing of a Rubicon. It would create a means by which future resort to statute would be made less difficult. Once legislation starts setting the boundaries and definitions of what the standards of the press should be, on this issue politicians have strong views, and those views, together with an ambition to extend and enforce them; will be difficult to control once such a bridgehead is established.
“It would also sit oddly with the recognition by Lord Leveson himself in his report that ‘all of the press served the country very well for the vast majority of the time,’ holding a privileged and powerful place as a defender of democracy and the public interest. He has also made clear that he does not favour statutory control of newspapers, an assurance both to those who rely on newspapers for news and diversity of comment and opinion that a press may only be considered free if it is not operating under parameters set by politicians.
“One glaring gap in Lord Leveson’s report is a discussion of the explosive growth of online or digital journalism and the mushrooming of websites and blogs. It is for practical reasons very difficult to legislate in this area, but it is on overseas websites – freely accessible here – where some of the most glaring intrusions into the privacy of individuals have taken place. It would be odd, to put it no stronger, to seek a legal underpinning to regulation of the print side of media companies, which would presumably have the same standards for their digital operations but compete with other digital offerings from abroad that have no regulation whatsoever.”
The Scottish Sun: Pages 8, 9, 10 and 11 and a leader which says: “Much of Lord Leveson’s report on the Press makes sense. The Scottish Sun has no quarrel with his call for tighter independent regulation of newspapers. The onus is now on the newspaper industry to come up with robust and muscular proposals for self-regulation that can prove there is no need for the new law recommended by Lord Leveson… Change had to come. Indeed, it already has. The Scottish Sun has acknowledged past mistakes by changing its culture and improving corporate governance. We see no reason why many initiatives, particularly for helping complainants, cannot be introduced immediately….Make no mistake: A new law, backed by Ofcom, the unelected broadcasting regulator, would be this newspaper’s worst nightmare. And it should be your worst nightmare, too. For it would spell the end of a free Press in Scotland.”
Scottish Daily Express: Pages 6 and 7 and a full page (page 18) leader that says: “After the recent scandals at the News of the World in particular, no newspaper should feel happy to defend a status quo that has not worked. Lord Leveson is right when he suggests that ‘what is needed is a genuine independent and effective system of self-regulation’. But where the judge enters very dangerous territory indeed is in his recommendation that a law should be passed by politicians to control the nature of this self-regulation.”
It continues: “[Prime Minister, David Cameron's] challenge to the newspaper industry to devise its own regulatory system that complies fully with the tough principles set out by Lord Leveson, delivers fair play and yet does not require legislation is therefore one we are happy to take up. The task is an urgent one. No properly run newspaper should fear or resist genuinely independent checks and balances. Nor should any properly run newspaper seek to stonewall well-founded complaints or rely on friendly figures in the industry to adjudicate in its favour when sharp practice or worse has been deployed. The Daily Express has always sought to offer swift and full redress in the rare cases when our standards have fallen below those our readers and those we write about are entitled to expect.”