Scotland politics

Alex Salmond 'ready' for press reform after Leveson

Alex Salmond has told BBC Scotland that he is ready to introduce reformed scrutiny of the press - if it is recommended by Lord Justice Leveson.

The judge's report into media ethics is due to be published on Thursday.

The first minister said he was against state regulation but would like to see an enhanced press council, based on the system operating in Ireland.

Under that set up, an ombudsman could pursue complaints on behalf of aggrieved individuals who lacked funds.

Newspapers could also use any apology issued to the council as part mitigation against later defamation actions.

For the past year, Lord Justice Leveson has been examining the press and others in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

Control of broadcasting in Scotland is reserved to Westminster but regulation of the print media is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.

In an interview with BBC Scotland's political editor, Brian Taylor, Mr Salmond said: "A lot of fears have been raised that Lord Leveson is going to recommend state regulation of the press, and I don't think he will incidentally, and I can't see there's going to be a currency of support for that in Scotland, we value our free press far too much.

"On the other hand if he said 'oh laissez faire, alls for the best, the best of all possible worlds', I don't think he is going to do that incidentally, then that also would be inadequate because clearly the current voluntary system is broken."

Debate due

The first minister went on to say that he favoured a press regulation system like the one that had been introduced in Ireland.

He explained: "It seems to be a happy compromise between, on the one hand the over-regulators, and on the other hand those who believe in 'laissez faire'.

"The Irish press council system, or at least something like it, would seem to be at least an area where we can talk about and bring about a distinctively Scottish solution that protects absolutely the freedom of the press but still allows people, particularly people without the means to carry forward a defamation action, proper redress."

The Scottish cabinet has agreed to hold a debate in the Scottish Parliament next week to discuss the findings of the Leveson Inquiry.

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