It has been nearly 20 years since Scotland last reviewed its defamation laws. During that time, the growth of the internet has radically changed journalism and public discourse, but the law has failed to keep pace.

In 2013, Westminster introduced a new Defamation Act with measures to tackle libel tourism and corporate libel bullying. It also included overdue legislation governing online publications, and introduced a public interest defence into statute. In England and Wales, citizens now have more freedom to debate the issues that matter to ordinary people.

HeraldScotland: Herald Freedom of Speech campaignUnfortunately, MSPs have never been given the chance to address this area of law. Citizen campaigners and investigative journalists in Scotland can still face defamation threats from wealthy individuals and companies who do not care to be criticised, and there is now a risk that libel tourists will start bringing cases to Edinburgh.

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A modern and open nation like Scotland deserves a defamation law that is fit for purpose in the 21st century: one that acknowledges the existence of the Internet, and enables journalists and authors to conduct a robust debate on matters of public interest. We welcome the Scottish Law Commission's plans to review the law, which should be undertaken with urgency, and we call on the political parties of Scotland to commit to updating the law in the next parliament.

Ian Rankin,

James Kelman,

On behalf of Scottish PEN,

The Writers' Museum, Lady Stair's Close,

Lawnmarket, Edinburgh.

 

The full list of 115 signatories: Mark Leggatt, Sara Sheridan, Jim Burnside, Roderick Watson, Anne Connolly, Les Wilson, Martin Chick, Fiona Montgomery, Colin Will, Dennis Smith, Tom Hubbard, Thomas Legendre, Etta Dunn, Colin Donati, Kona Macphee, Gerda Stevenson, Fiona Cameron, Ricky Brown, Diana Hendry, Chris Powici, Mukul Dahal, Aonghas MacNeacail, Karina Williamson, Sarah McIntosh, Greg Michaelson, Leslie Stevenson, Ian Crockatt, Andrew Murray Scott, Christine De Luca, Dr Martin Jaffa, Carole Jones, Ron Butlin, Dr M Relich (Chair of the Writers for Peace Committee, Scottish PEN), Jim Aitken, Chris Brookmyre, Ruary Mackenzie Dodds, Paddy Bort, Carl MacDougall, Neal Ascherson, Jo Clifford, Pippa Little, Anne Stokes, Jennifer Williams, Elizabeth Rimmer, Chrys Salt MBE, Andrew Sclater, Vicki Feaver, Kay Goodall, Juliet Conlin, Margaret Ryan, Dr Margaret A Mackay, Suzanne Egerton, Brian Girvin, Jane Archer, Chiew-Siah Tei, Regi Claire, Prof. Richard H. Roberts, Val McDermid, John Burnett, Claudia Daventry, Magi Gibson, Fiona Graham (Vice-President of Scottish PEN), Robin Lloyd-Jones, Ann MacKinnon, A C Clarke, Dorothy-Grace Elder, Margaret Elphinstone, Iain Galbraith, David McDonald, Alan McCombes, Drew Campbell (President of Scottish PEN), Dr M Relich, Liz Niven, Jean Rafferty (Chair of Writers in Prison Committee of Scottish PEN), Brian Holton, Beth Junor, Andrew Murray, Scott Joy Hendry, Stephanie Green, Mark O. Goodwin, Jules Horne, Peter Kerr, Robyn Marsack, Meaghan Delahunt, Neil Mac Neil, Nik Williams, Maureen Myant, Brian Johnstone, Margery Palmer McCulloch, Harry D. Watson, Colm Lyons, Ron Ferguson, David Manderson, David Harrower, Helena Nelson, Meg Bateman, Jim Aitken, Joan Lingard, Iain Maloney, Colin Manlove, Mairi Hedderwick, Aimee Chalmers, Zoe Wicomb, Alan Bissett, Lesley Glaister, Adrian Turpin (director of Wigtown Book Festival), Dr Jonathan Hope, Professor Nigel Fabb, Ian Rankin, James Kelman

MORE: The Herald's Freedom of Speech Campaign