Opposition party leaders have united in calling on the Scottish Government to support Scotland’s newspapers.
They urged Holyrood ministers to back the press during the coronavirus pandemic as publishers fight to bring the news to cities, towns and villages.
Regional press titles West Highland Free Press and the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press have temporarily ceased production because of the crisis and there are fears for other small publishers’ longstanding titles.
The Scottish Government has classed journalists who are reporting on the coronavirus crisis as key workers, with Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop describing access to reliable information is a “key part” of society.
However, ministers have rejected a Scottish Newspaper Society plea to advertise through Scottish papers instead of foreign-owned digital giants, and for a suspension of business rates.
The UK Government is spending £30 million on an advertising campaign to support the press and yesterday opposition leaders said Scottish ministers must go further in their support of the newspaper industry, which employs around 4,000 people north of the border.
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “The temporary closure of some of our most-loved and most-respected titles is particularly worrying and sad. Newspapers are facing a challenge of unprecedented severity.
“The Scottish Government must provide greater support for newspapers, particularly given their importance to a well-functioning democracy.”
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “A healthy media is crucial to holding power to account, and in times of crisis that is more important than ever.
“The Scottish Government should urgently examine ways in which it can offer financial support to newspapers.
“This could include making funds available for councils to advertise in local papers.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called for the 100% business rates holiday to be extended to local media.
Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “As speculation, conspiracy theories and rumour thrives on social media, the scrutiny role of the press is needed more than ever.”
The Scottish Government said: “We greatly value this industry and its contribution in the face of these deeply challenging times, and would encourage everyone to support newspapers where they can. We are in discussion with the industry as we continue to explore how best to support businesses.”
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