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  5. Section 40 “puts independent media at risk” says Scottish Government


Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop

The Scottish Newspaper Society has welcomed the Scottish Government’s opposition to the introduction of Section 40 of the Crime & Courts Act in England and Wales because of the potential damage it could do to Scottish publications.

The Cabinet secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop, today said: “Despite press regulation being devolved,  Scottish local and national media could be impacted by any decision to enact section 40 in England and Wales, and it is my view that the measures consulted on by the UK government would put at risk the viability of much of our independent media, particularly local newspapers, and pose a potential threat to freedom of the press.”

And First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Daily Record: “I think Section 40 goes way, way too far in the wrong direction. We, in Scotland, would not legislate in that way and I certainly hope Section 40 will not be implemented in its current form.”

Under Section 40, any news publisher which fails to sign up to a regulator approved by a government scheme will face paying both sides costs in any legal action against it in the English courts, even if it wins the case. It does not apply in Scotland but the SNS has repeatedly argued that Scottish titles could still be sued in English courts because of digital publication, and that Scottish titles owned by UK-wide publishers would not be immune from the financial impact, estimated by the News Media Association to be in the region of £100m a year across the newspaper industry.

The UK Government is now evaluating the results of a consultation exercise which ended on Tuesday this week.

SNS director John McLellan said: “It is to the Scottish Government’s great credit that it has looked at Section 40 and fully understands the danger to robust, probing journalism the legislation presents, and also the very real financial danger it poses to independent publishers who never had anything to do with the phone-hacking scandal from where the new law stemmed. We are very grateful for the clarity the Scottish Government has brought to this issue.

“I can only hope that UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley takes a similarly enlightened view and asks Parliament to repeal Section 40 forthwith.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson also voiced her opposition earlier this week, saying: “Section 40 threatens [newspapers’] ability to hold power to account – and, worse, it could put local titles out of business altogether. Section 40 is the wrong medicine.”

The full Scottish Government announcement can be read in full here