LAWYERS have called for ­Scotland's defamation laws to be overhauled for the age of Twitter and Facebook.

The Faculty of Advocates believes the rise of the internet - and especially social media --means rules being introduced in England and Wales may have to be replicated north of the Border.

The body, which represents the country's most senior lawyers, yesterday included defamation reform in its recommended to-do list for the Scottish Law Commission, the statutory group which reviews legislation.

Its recommendations come after the independence referendum debate provoked often brutal exchanges on Twitter and Facebook, including insulting and inaccurate references to politicians and campaigners, However, the Faculty's real drive is that it may be too easy to sue for defamation in Scotland, not too hard.

Senior legal figures believe that protections to publishers already provided by Westminster's 2013 Defamation Act end at the Border - and could lead to "libel tourism" that would see social media sites pursued in Scotland because they are protected in England.

Roddy Dunlop, QC, of Axiom Advocates, a leading litigator and expert in media law, stressed that the English and Welsh law was designed to protect platforms, such as social media sites, that provide freedom of speech.

Mr Dunlop said: "It is arguably rather odd to find the protections end at Carlisle. When a broadcast sets off from London, it is pro-tected, but as soon as it enters Scottish airspace protections are lost.

"The differences in law have created difficulties for broadcasters and publishers; I query whether or not we should countenance this. I am all for Scots law as a different legal system. But in an area where social media is so important these days, should we have two entirely different regimes? Or should there not be a public aim in marrying the two up?"

The Faculty is not talking about concerns of crime on social media, which is when people threaten each other. Police have seen substantial rises in such complaints in recent years with Scottish Chief Constable Stephen House recently saying Twitter was the "new graffiti", as youngsters vent their views on the internet rather than on "the walls of bike sheds".

Such offences, such as threats made to politicians such as Alex Salmond or celebrities like JK Rowling, are dealt with by criminal courts. Instead, lawyers are focusing their reform calls on defamation cases, where people must sue in civil courts to protect their reputation.

The Westminster law - much of which came into effect earlier this year - came after London itself became a world capital for libel tourism. The late Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky sued America's Forbes magazines in London for suggesting he and a colleague were "criminals on an outrageous scale" back in Moscow.

The new English and Welsh law, among other things, states that "substantial harm" must be done to somebody's reputation before they can carry out a civil action for damages for something defamatory published about them, including on social media. There is no such limitation in Scotland.

Mr Dunlop stressed that social media platform providers can and do remove offensive or defamatory statements when they are brought to their attention. Civil actions against Twitter users - such as that by Lord McAlpine in England when he was wrongly identified as a paedophile in 2012 - remain rare.

However, TripAdvisor - whose members rate hotels - this year won a Scottish case against the owners of a Kinlochleven bed and breakfast who demanded to know the identity of people who posted what they said was a fictional and damaging review on the site.

The Scottish Government said it had no plans to reconsider ­Defamation law but that the matter was "under review".