Defamation reform will strike a ‘fairer balance’, says Society


The Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood in Edinburgh.

By Democrat reporter

Overdue proposals to reform Scottish defamation law will strike a better balance between freedom of expression and the protection of an individual’s reputation, the Society of Editors has said.

Responding to a consultation on the Scottish government’s Defamation and Malicious Publications (Scotland) Bill, the Society said that the proposals would bring Scotland more in line with long sought-after defamation law in England and Wales and would, finally, end the anomaly in Scots Law where a statement need not be communicated to a third party to be defamatory.

Further amendments are, however, urgently required to ensure that the law reflects the modern day and is not used by companies [or Councils and other bodies] to attempt to stifle legitimate discussion and criticism of its services the Society warned.

Cllr Jonathan McColl and Bill Heaney

It said: “The 2013 reforms in England and Wales have gone someway to reversing the chilling effect that previous libel laws had on freedom of expression and legitimate debate and the Society hopes that the updating of laws in Scotland will have the same effect.”

Bill Heaney, editor of The Democrat, said: “This is good news for people like me who feel they have been defamed while fighting against West Dunbartonshire Council’s decision to ban and boycott us for publishing legitimate discussion and criticism of their services.

“The Council leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, has smeared me by accusing me of assaulting two women while going about my work as a journalist, which is completely untrue.

“And very damaging to my professional reputation which I have built up over 60 years in newspapers and other media.

“SNP politicians have also boycotted The Democrat because they feel the Democrat has been critical of policy decisions taken by the Council. “

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