John has been placed on leave and is now in consultations with the company over his future.
The news, which triggered a walkout by National Union of Journalists’ members, emerged in a statement issued by Andrew Richardson, managing director of JP’s Scottish publishing unit.
It said that the role of editor in chief of The Scotsman Publications Ltd will cease to exist with the editors of each title reporting directly to him.
The statement added: “John McLellan has been placed on leave and is in consultation with the company. Further announcements on the editorship of The Scotsman will be made in due course.”
Andrew said the changes were “part of the overall objective of creating a flatter, more efficient management structure.”
Members of the paper’s NUJ chapel later walked out following a mass meeting where members expressed their anger and concern at the way the dismissal was handled.
They also drafted a series of questions for management, seeking assurances on other cost-cutting or restructuring plans. The management has since contacted Scottish organiser Paul Holleran offering to meet early next week to discuss the situation.
Said Paul: “The chapel are obviously angry and concerned, John was well respected as an editor and people want some answers about the company plans and long term commitment to the titles.
“I get the impression management want to reassure staff but this has massively disconcerted all the journalists across Johnston Press in Scotland. We want to retain the good industrial relations with the company the union has enjoyed in recent years but need assurances on how future cuts are going to be handled.”
Other changes announced yesterday will see the scrapping of the roles of managing director, Angus County Press Ltd, and divisional newspaper sales director.
The holders of both those posts have also been placed on leave and managers currently reporting to them will now report directly to Andrew.
John’s departure brings to an end a long career at Scotsman Publications which has seen him fill a number of senior roles.
He originally joined the company, then part of Thomson Regional Newspapers, in 1994 and had two spells editing the Evening News with a stint as editor of Scotland on Sunday in between.
He became editor of The Scotsman in February 2009 after Mike Gilson left the paper.
Shortly afterwards he was made editor-in-chief of all three titles, overseeing a merger of the editorial and production departments of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.
His departure means The Scotsman will now be getting its 11th editor in the past 17 years.
Previous holders of the post in that period were: Andrew Jaspan (1994-1995), James Seaton (1995-1997), Martin Clarke (1997-1998), Alan Ruddock (1998-2000), Tim Luckhurst (2000), Rebecca Hardy (2000-2001), Iain Martin (2001-2004), John McGurk (2004-2006) and Mike Gilson (2006-2009).