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  5. First Minister backs arbitration service for new regulator

First Minster Alex Salmond has voiced his support for the new press regulator to provide a voluntary arbitration service.

Speaking at the inaugural Scottish Newspaper Society conference at Glasgow’s Radisson Blu Hotel yesterday, Mr Salmond said he hoped that an arbitration service would be part of the new Independent Press Standards Organisation after it is launched later this year.

An arbitration service was one of the recommendations in the Leveson Report and the plans for IPSDO contain a pledge to examine an arbitration service with the possibility of a pilot scheme in the future.

The UK newspaper industry is opposed to any compulsory arbitration service which would in any case be unlawful in Scotland under the terms of the 2010 Arbitration Act. Yesterday, Mr Salmond said that a voluntary service would be the best way for individuals to seek redress in a way which would avoid the time and expense involved in formal court proceedings.

Mr Salmond also reminded  the conference that the Scottish Parliament had unanimously supported the UK government’s Royal Charter proposal, and that there was no reason why a single regulator could not continue to operate on both sides of the border should Scotland become an independent country.

Referring to the case of the Watson family from Glasgow, who have campaigned for legislation on defamation of the dead, Mr Salmond said it would be welcome if their case could be highlighted in the editors’ codebook, the guidance which accompanies the editors’ code of conduct.

Mr Salmond also went on to address the issue of VAT on newspapers, for which the UK has an exemption unlike other EU countries such as the Republic of Ireland where papers are significantly more expensive. Should Scotland become an independent country, Mr Salmond said  he expected the VAT exemption to continue to apply.

SNS director John McLellan said: “We were delighted that the First Minster  made the time to address our first conference and  we were very grateful to him for giving a very clear picture of where he stands on the significant issues facing the Scottish Press.”