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Scotland’s regional media must be supported by the state to ensure their survival now and after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Scottish Conservatives.
The vital role played by the country’s trusted traditional press was clearer than ever, said the party.
Shadow finance secretary Donald Cameron has urged SNP counterpart Kate Forbes to work with the UK Government on the issue.
Mr Cameron said a 100 per cent rates holiday was essential and called for the Scottish Government to direct more advertising towards newspapers.
Considerable sums are being spent on public health messages, but much goes to online to companies based overseas, he claimed.
As well as providing a vital public service, news publishing supports around 4,000 jobs in Scotland.
Mr Cameron, who has an office in Oban, said: ‘We are seeing throughout the coronavirus crisis just how vital newspapers and broadcast media are.
‘In my own region of the Highlands and Islands, the local newspapers, websites and radio have always played a valued part in the life of our communities, and they are continuing to do so during this crisis when up-to-date local information is indispensable.’
‘They also play a crucial role in holding both the Scottish and UK governments to account, and in carrying vitally important public health messages. But these are also publications who, in some cases, are a month away from collapse.
‘We simply cannot allow this industry to disappear, and the Scottish Government needs to step in and ensure these publications are supported.
‘It should be providing support in the form of a rates holiday, and channelling more of its considerable advertising budget in the direction of the local press.
‘It would be extremely regrettable if newspapers, having played such a critical role during this health and economic emergency, were allowed to collapse immediately afterwards.
‘We know papers have been struggling for years, but this could be a chance to finally boost their resources and ensure they can continue operating for generations to come.’