(written for the Bo’ness Journal’s Your Say)
The Scottish Government wants to remove the legal duty to publish notices such as planning applications in local newspapers. This would be a profoundly anti-democratic move on several grounds.
Many people do not yet have access to the internet. Only 60% of Scots have access to broadband and 70% of those aged over 65 have never used the internet.
Even among those who do, the structure of the web and the means of access to the internet can make checking local information a very different experience to browsing a local newspaper.
Newspapers conveniently bring together many diverse sources of information into a form that can be easily read in a wide variety of circumstances. Put simply, it is much more likely that people will see the notices when they are in a newspaper.
But the blow to democracy is greater still. Advertising income is important, and without it, newspapers could close. The local press provides both information and a channel for feedback and accountability. Local democracy would suffer.
The UK Government has already withdrawn a similar proposal and the Scottish Government should do likewise.