Developments on libel reform in Scotland

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.

9 January 2018

The Scottish Law Commission (SLC) has published its Report on Defamation, which includes a draft defamation reform bill.

This follows hundreds of campaigners responding to the SLC’s consultations on defamation in 2016 and on a working draft of a defamation reform bill last summer.

The SoA has lobbied in favour of Scottish libel reform for many years, and we are very pleased to hear of this development.

The SLC’s draft bill includes:

  • a defence of publication on a matter of public interest;
  • a serious harm test, meaning that claimants would be required to prove serious harm before a claim can proceed;
  • a single publication rule, so that the time limit for bringing a defamation claim applies from the first publication of a statement and is not reset every time that statement is shared, for example by re-tweeting;
  • a reduction of the time limit for bringing a claim from three years to one year.

Stephanie Mathisen from the Libel Reform Campaign, and policy manager at Sense about Science, said:

“The Libel Reform Campaign welcomes the Scottish Law Commission’s Report on Defamation. In particular, we are pleased to see its recognition of the importance of protecting publication on matters of public interest and the requirement for claimants to prove that serious harm has been caused before a libel claim can proceed. We are delighted the SLC has published a draft bill, opening the way for the Scottish parliament to address Scotland’s outdated libel laws. We know MSPs are anxious to bring the law into the 21st century and hope they will move quickly to debate and pass a bill early in the new year.”

Now that a draft bill is in place, we hope to soon see a debate in Scottish parliament.

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