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Industry bosses demand firmer pledge on public interest news institute

John McLellan 1An industry body has shared its disappointment at government bosses’ lack of “firm commitment” to a series of proposals aimed at helping journalism.

The Scottish Newspaper Society says it is “surprised” the Scottish Government has not gone further in acting on the recommendations of a review into the future of journalism in Scotland.

HTFP reported last week how the Holyrood Government had confirmed plans to create an institute for public interest news.

While the move has been welcomed by the SNS, the organisation shared its surprise that the Scottish National Party-led administration had been “unable to find the minimal resources needed to get the ball rolling”.

SNS director John McLellan, pictured, said: “While the SNS welcomes the commitment from cabinet secretary Angus Robertson to convene a further discussion about the establishment of a Scottish Public Interest Journalism Institute, we find it remarkable that the only firm official commitment to the working group’s proposals, in which civil servants were fully involved from the outset, is to hold another meeting.

“The detailed recommendations took over a year to produce and were designed to help all parts of the Scottish non-broadcast journalism spectrum, not just SNS members, while maintaining independence from government and we are surprised the Scottish Government has been unable to find the minimal resources needed to get the ball rolling.”

The launch the of the institute was one of a number of recommendations made in the review by the Holyrood-commissioned Public Interest Journalism Working Group, of which John was a member.

One recommendation was that the Scottish Government should invest no less than 25pc of its central advertising and marketing budget with public interest news providers.

In responses, the Scottish Government said it was “unable to commit to investing a percentage of its central advertising budget with public interest news publishers”.

John added: “We recognise the need to ensure the complete independence of journalism from government, but all the SNS sought was for the Scottish Government to invest public money fairly in a way which supported Scottish jobs and ensured the public continued to receive reliable information, but instead it seems content to channel valuable resources to foreign-owned tech giants which do nothing to support the Scottish economy.

“We will, however, continue to engage with ministers and civil servants, and despite increasingly difficult trading conditions due to rising costs, our members will continue to serve readers with trusted, quality news as they have always done.”