Northern Isles representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP have written to the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes regarding their concerns about the Scottish Government’s plans to cut business rates relief for press outlets. In an urgent letter, the representatives highlight the vital role local press in particular has played in providing trusted information during the pandemic and the need for further support through the recovery to ensure a diverse media landscape throughout the Highlands and Islands.
Commenting on the letter, Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael said:
“Local press have been some of the most trusted news sources for our communities and we must continue to support them as we recover from the pandemic. It is disappointing that they are being left out of the Scottish Government’s plans even as the financial harm of the pandemic continues to bite.
“If Ministers take seriously the future of our diverse press businesses in the isles and beyond, they should not play games with their support. This is not about one party or one region – we all benefit from strong press organisations.”
Orkney MSP, Liam McArthur said:
“Local newspapers play an invaluable role in keeping island communities well informed and connected all year round, especially for those who don’t use social media. Their importance has come to the fore during the pandemic, with many people reliant upon them as a trusted, timely and easily accessible source of information.
“However, the loss of advertising streams in the last year has hit the industry hard and left many local newspapers in a fragile position. By withdrawing emergency rates relief, the Scottish Government has effectively thrown local newspaper outlets under the bus.
“I would urge Scottish Ministers to think again about the serious damage that this decision will have on news publishers, as well as the wider impact it will have on rural communities, and instead look at how support could be extended.”
Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart said:
“We’re fortunate to have good news reporting in Shetland, giving our communities a shared forum and keeping us informed through challenging times. It is no secret that lockdowns and restrictions have been tough on these businesses – until things return to normal it is right that we keep supporting them as much as we can.
“We have seen some of the greatest benefits of strong local journalism during the pandemic – if Ministers agree in the importance of a strong press I would urge them to change course and extend rates relief.”