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Industry demands parity as Scottish journalists miss out on ‘key worker’ status

John McLellan 1Newspaper industry chiefs have demanded Scottish journalists are given the same “key worker” status as their English counterparts.

The Scottish Newspaper Society has called on the Scottish government to categorise journalists in such a way, following culture secretary Oliver Dowden’s announcement in relation to those working in England.

Mr Dowden has confirmed that print journalists and necessary ancillary staff are included as “key workers” in the government’s list of people who are critical to the coronavirus response.

But in Scotland, decisions on who is classed as a key worker are set to be taken at local council level, with potential for different local authorities to come up with varying definitions.

A guide produced for Scottish local authorities by the Scottish government in Holyrood makes no specific reference to journalists.

Now SNS director John McLellan, pictured, has called for clarification on the matter.

He said: “There is the potential for 32 different definitions of key worker across Scotland, which will be complex for Police Scotland to enforce. We hope the Scottish Government will recognise the importance of our communities being able to access vital, trusted information, particularly the elderly and isolated who might not have internet access.

“The UK government has rightly recognised the importance people being able to receive reliable information, both locally and nationally, and that independent news publishers have a key role to play. We have been in discussion with senior civil servants and politicians and we hope the Scottish government will follow suit.

“The vast majority of editorial personnel are now working entirely from home, but without official direction there is a possibility we won’t be able to get our papers into supermarkets and corner shops so people can get a paper with valuable local news along with their groceries.

“We are also speaking to Cosla [Convention of Scottish Local Authorities] to see if they will follow UK guidelines and allow councils to add as local circumstances dictate.”

The SNS has also called for Holyrood to divert cash spent on Facebook and Google advertising to be invested in local media, and facilitate access to immediate interest-free loans for working capital.

John added: “The First Minister has promised more clarity for all businesses later this week and we very much hope this includes recognition of news publishing’s role in the crisis and the contribution it will make in the recovery.”