Scotland politics

Leveson Inquiry: Scottish expert group to examine report

Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Alex Salmond will hold talks
Image caption Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Alex Salmond held talks in Holyrood

An expert group is to be set up in Scotland to study the recommendations contained in the Leveson Report into press ethics.

It follows a meeting between First Minister Alex Salmond and opposition leaders on how revamped press regulation might operate.

The Lib Dems said the meeting had been a first step, while the Tories said they were reserving judgement.

In Scotland regulation of the press is a matter for Holyrood.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said after the meeting: "The expert group will look at all options and I'm pleased a UK-wide solution is on the table.

"Liberal Democrats want self-regulation of the press underpinned by law to provide for quick, simple and cheap redress for victims. Today is the first step on the road to achieving that goal."

Legal underpinning

The Labour leader, Johann Lamont, and Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, have also previously said a UK-wide approach should not be ruled out.

After the meeting, Ms Davidson said the Scottish Conservatives would decide whether to support the proposals within the next 24 hours.

She added: "Today's all-party talks were very constructive but the expert panel proposed by the first minister raises several questions and we need to fully consider the implications before we can endorse the process."

The Greens' Patrick Harvie called for all possible options to be explored.

He said: "The suggestion of an expert group is very sensible and I would urge it to explore all possible options, including what Scottish legislation would be needed to underpin any new arrangements."

The first minister said: "Leveson, for understandable reasons as an English judge, outlined the view that some of his central recommendations may not be applicable in the Scottish context, so we require expert advice on how any statutory underpinning would be enabled in Scotland should it be decided that this was the best way forward.

"The expert group will be led by a current or former judge, and all parties that sign up to its formation can suggest potential additional members to provide their expert analysis."

Mr Salmond added that he expected the group to meet sooner rather than later with the aim of reporting within about three months.

Ombudsman system

BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor said the leaders had agreed to hear from the press, victims and the UK government. One option attracting support is that Holyrood might provide a legal underpinning for the Scottish aspects of a UK regulatory system.

On Leveson, Mr Salmond has previously said he believed Scotland should consider adopting an ombudsman-style system of press regulation, similar to the Republic of Ireland.

MSPs also debated the Leveson report on Tuesday.

Opposition leaders had voiced objection to Mr Salmond chairing the meeting because his name had been mentioned in Lord Justice Leveson's 2,000-page report.

In the report, the judge concluded that the first minister could not be criticised for his role in lobbying for the BSkyB takeover.

During his evidence to the nine-month long inquiry, Mr Salmond was quizzed about his contact with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and his willingness to lobby the former culture minister Jeremy Hunt over the planned takeover by Mr Murdoch's News Corporation.

However, the judge's report said that, had the first minister been successful in persuading UK ministers, his actions would have rendered any final deal "unlawful".

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