Highland MSP in plea for local newspaper support measures

Lochaber Times display fot the week. Abrightside Photography. F14Autismweek2noJP
The Lochaber Times office in Fort William.

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Scottish Conservatives’ shadow finance secretary, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron, has urged his SNP counterpart Kate Forbes to work with the UK Government to ensure action is taken to help the country’s regional media organisations survive the coronavirus pandemic.

He said a 100 per cent rates holiday was essential and that the Scottish Government should direct more advertising towards newspapers.

Mr Cameron added ministers are spending considerable sums on public health messages but most of that is online to companies which are based overseas.

He also suggested investing in a similar scheme to the Danish government, which has introduced a fund for media organisations during the crisis.

A similar initiative by the Scottish Government, he said, could be replicated for around £25 million.

A trusted media loan scheme has also been floated, which established titles could sign up to.

As well as providing a vital public service, news publishing supports around 4,000 jobs in Scotland.

‘It would be regrettable if newspapers, having played such a critical role during this health and economic emergency, were allowed to collapse immediately afterwards,’ he said.

Ms Forbes commented: ‘Local newspapers play such a vital role in communities and Highland papers like the Lochaber Times do an exceptional job of reporting on news of local and national interest. It is clearly a challenging time for them, as it is for so many small businesses.

‘The Scottish Government has introduced a number of ways to support local newspapers – including designating reporters and printers ‘essential workers’ to allow them to continue working.’

But she questioned the Conservatives’ stance on this issue, saying the Tories were simultaneously calling for increased support in multiple sectors and asking for greater support in sectors that already have support.

‘At the same time, our funding allocation from the UK Government is based on the Barnett Formula which is population based and doesn’t cover the full cost of the need by any stretch of the imagination,’ Ms Forbes added.