Writers call on Scottish government to reform defamation
181 writers and campaigners including Ian Rankin, Sara Sheridan, Christopher Brookmyre, Karen Campbell, Christine de Luca, Zoe Wicomb, James Robertson and Zoe Strachan have signed a letter authored by Scottish PEN calling on the Scottish government to introduce a defamation bill in the forthcoming year of the parliamentary session.
The letter, addressed to the First Minister, argues that the law of defamation in Scotland is “out of date, inadequately protecting free expression, and is in urgent need of reform”.
It states: “The protections the law currently extends are woefully insufficient when faced with the ways people across Scotland communicate, source information and reach out to others, especially online.
“To ensure free expression is protected, defamation must be reformed as soon as possible. Recent movements towards reform, including the Scottish government public consultation, which followed an earlier evidence session at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, are to be welcomed. In the face of the clear consensus around the need for reform, the Scottish people need guarantees that this work will be followed by meaningful legislative action.
“Reform is long overdue, but we now have growing consensus as to what needs to change. This includes a serious harm threshold to dissuade trivial cases or those brought solely to silence criticism; a statutory defence of publication on matters of public interest; increased protections for defenders against vexatious legal action; better online protections and a single publication rule to ensure the time period within which a defamation action can be brought does not restart every time a link or post is shared or viewed online.”