Scotland's leading court lawyers have been accused of putting "vested interests" ahead of freedom of speech by opposing reforms to Scotland's defamation laws.

The Faculty of Advocates has set itself against core proposals to make it harder for the rich to launch trivial actions to silence their critics - or protect their reputations - in Scotland.

The august body - whose members argue such cases in courts - said it was "firmly opposed" to what it called an English-style threshold of serious harm for such legal cases.

However, its response drew fire from freedom of speech campaign group Scottish Pen, who said such a stance would "only benefit wealthier pursuers at the expense of civil society across the country".

The Faculty's remarks came in a formal response to a consultation from the Scottish Law Commission on overhauling Scottish defamation law in line with reforms in England and Wales.

The Herald - along with Scottish Pen - has been campaigning for exactly the kind of serious harm test already used in England. The Faculty said English reforms had been designed to reduce the number of actions because it was felt there were too many. But it said there were too few in Scotland.

The Faculty said: "There is no statutory level of harm which has to be met to allow a case to be initiated in Scotland, and the Faculty said this had not created any particular difficulty or caused trifling claims to be raised."

Scottish Pen responded: "We are disheartened by the Faculty of Advocates’ submission to the Scottish Law Commission that seeks to encourage defamation actions in order to contribute “to the economic growth of the nation”, regardless of the impact of out-of-date and inadequate laws that currently govern defamation in Scotland. "Encouraging defamation actions as a way to stimulate growth threatens to create a financial imperative towards limiting freedom of expression. This will only benefit wealthier pursuers at the expense of civil society across the country."