Labour MSPs have demanded that the SNP drop its proposals to allow local councils to put public notices online only, instead of in newspapers.
Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie, who convenes Holyrood’s Cross Party Group on Culture & Media, rang the alarm bells on this issue some months ago, flagging up the damage that could be caused by the switch to internet advertising.
“I raised and campaigned on this issue because papers like the Falkirk Herald and Bo’ness Journal are essential to Scotland’s democratic and cultural life. This is not just about local newspapers’ balance sheets,” said Cathy. “It is about democracy and accountability. People would be excluded by a switch to internet only advertising. There’s a world of difference between reading a notice in a newspaper and having to hunt for an announcement or advert on the web.
“According to a report from Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Select Committee, the change could cost local newspapers up to £10 million in lost revenue. Many people would lose out if the loss of revenue undermined the vital link that papers provide between the people and communities and their elected representatives.
“This proposal from the Finance Secretary John Swinney is undemocratic and could mean changes being introduced without proper scrutiny. I hope that MSPs from all parties will support us in this week’s debate. If the Scottish Government don’t drop their plan to allow councils to put public notices online they will take vital revenue away from an industry which is already facing significant challenges and could force some papers to close. If the Scottish Government are truly committed to supporting the newspaper industry, then they must abandon these damaging plans.”