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  5. Scottish Government’s “remarkable” response to public interest journalism proposals

The Scottish Government has today (June 24, 2022) responded to the recommendations of the Public Interest Journalism Working Group, submitted in November 2020.

In his official response ,Cabinet Secretary Angus Robertson recognises the importance of “a thriving, free, and independent public interest journalism sector as a bedrock of a well-functioning democracy” and the details can be found here.

The working group was established by the Scottish Government in the midst of the pandemic lockdown as a result of negotiations with the SNS to secure the future of trusted, independent journalism, and was drawn from the full spectrum of non-broadcast journalism in Scotland including community publishers and the National Union of Journalists.

The group’s recommendations, which included the establishment of a Scottish Public Interest Journalism Institute, can be found here

Reacting to the Scottish Government’s response, SNS director John McLellan said, “While the SNS welcomes the commitment from cabinet secretary Angus Robertson to convene a further discussion about the establishment of a Scottish Public Interest Journalism Institute, we find it remarkable that the only firm official commitment to the working group’s proposals, in which civil servants were fully involved from the outset, is to hold another meeting.

“The detailed recommendations took over a year to produce and were designed to help all parts of the Scottish non-broadcast journalism spectrum, not just SNS members, while maintaining independence from government and we are surprised the Scottish Government has been unable to find the minimal resources needed to get the ball rolling.
“We recognise the need to ensure the complete independence of journalism from government, but all the SNS sought was for the Scottish Government to invest public money fairly in a way which supported Scottish jobs and ensured the public continued to receive reliable information, but instead it seems content to channel valuable resources to foreign-owned tech giants which do nothing to support the Scottish economy.

“We will, however, continue to engage with ministers and civil servants, and despite increasingly difficult trading conditions due to rising costs, our members will continue to serve readers with trusted, quality news as they have always done.”