Reformers have lodged a draft bill to overhaul the country's pre-internet defamation law

The move by the Scottish Law Commission comes after a three-year intensive investigation in to how to make the rules on what some countries call libel fit for the internet age.

The Commission, a statutory body, recommends the most sweeping reforms in the history of defamation, sweeping away old rules which campaigners say makes Scots vulnerable to be silenced by the rich and powerful.

Backed by The Herald's Freedom of Expression campaign, the

recommends that it should no longer be possible to sue where a defamatory statement is made only to the person who is the subject of it and no-one else – in that case there cannot realistically be any damage to reputation.

The Commission also that where a statement has not caused serious harm to reputation there should be no right to sue. This is to prevent defamation actions being used as a weapon by the rich and powerful to try to silence unwelcome criticism.

And it calls for Scots law should explicitly recognise a defence of publication on a matter of public interest as a defence for investigative journalism.

Lord Pentland, Chairman of the Scottish Law Commission and the Commissioner with lead responsibility for this project, said:

“Defamation law potentially affects everyone and getting it right is crucial for the type of society we want to live in.

"With the phenomenal growth in use of the internet and social media it is possible for everyone to communicate far more easily and more widely than was the case in the past. But faster and easier ways of communicating have thrown up new challenges for the law.

"The absence of editorial controls can sometimes allow reputations to be unfairly tarnished in the eyes of a mass audience.

Our modern law of defamation, therefore, has to strike the right balance between two values that sometimes pull in different directions - the principles of freedom of expression and protection of reputation. Both are fundamental human rights and are of vital importance in a modern democracy. "