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Lobby changes ‘pose significant problems for Scottish press’

John McLellan

Changes to the way the lobby system of Parliamentary reporting operates will pose “significant problems” for Scottish newspapers industry leaders.

Boris Johnson’s government recently introduced new arrangements whereby Westminster-based political reporters would need to attend morning and afternoon briefings at 9 Downing Street instead of in the House of Commons as previously.

The move has been criticised by newspapers with smaller parliamentary teams as covering the briefings as well as parliamentary proceedings will mean having to be in two places at once.

Now the Scottish Newspaper Society has joined previous calls from the Society of Editors and the News Media Association in urging Mr Johnson to reconsider.

In the letter to the PM, SNS director John McLellan, pictured, said: “As a former editor of The Scotsman, I know only too well how important Lobby briefings are to Scottish newspapers, but also know how difficult the correspondents’ jobs will become if they have to split their time at the busiest part of the day between the House and Downing Street.

“The Scottish editors understand and appreciate the goal of improving access to advisors and other government staff, but the changes in the afternoon in particular pose significant problems for the members of the Scottish Lobby, most of whom work alone.

“Beyond Fleet Street, with reporters from the Scotsman, Herald, Courier, Press & Journal and Daily Record, the Scottish Press is the best-represented group of publications in the Lobby and they will have to make their way from the Commons to Downing Street, get through the security gate and into Number 9, and then have to dash back across Whitehall to catch whatever business is going on in the House.

“This contrasts with large London-based news organisations and according to the most up-to-date Lobby register there are 90 representatives from the BBC alone, 15 from the Guardian and eight from The Sun.  They are much better placed to adapt to the proposed new arrangements in ways which Scottish Lobby correspondents cannot.”

John called for a “sensible” compromise whereby the morning briefing takes place in Downing Street but the afternoon meeting is held in the Commons as at present.

The new system was announced on 20 December and introduced on 6 January without any discussion with the journalists’ Lobby Committee.