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Finance Secretary Kate Forbes urged to assist newspaper publishers delivering crucial news in pandemic

© PAFinance Secretary Kate Forbes after she delivered the Scottish Budget to the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes after she delivered the Scottish Budget to the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes is under pressure to reconsider after axing a support package for newspaper publishers.

News brands had been subject to rates relief as part of emergency coronavirus legislation put in place last year.

Forbes has signalled the support will not continue but said opposition parties could propose its reinstatement as her budget goes through parliament.

While the UK Government continues to use newspaper ads to reinforce key Covid safety messages, the Scottish Government has also not renewed its commitment to use print ads to deliver important public health messages.

The end of support would mean Scotland becoming the only European country not to offer coronavirus support for independent news publishers, despite an extension of support for retail, leisure and hospitality until June.

The Scottish media contributes around £1.2 billion to the economy, with around £770 million coming from newspapers and publishing. Scottish Newspaper Society chief John McLellan said the move created an “immediate crisis” for the industry.

He said: “It is very disappointing, to say the least, that the Scottish Government is singling out news publishing for the withdrawal of emergency business rates relief, a vital financial support agreed by the Scottish Parliament, when the pandemic is far from over.

“This is in sharp contrast with the Northern Ireland Government, which has just extended rates relief for its news publishers.”

The Scottish Government said it has invested £3m through increased advertising during the pandemic.