The SNP Scottish Government has been slammed for removing rates relief for the newspaper industry. News brands have been subject to rates relief as part of emergency coronavirus legislation put in place last year.
The end of support would mean Scotland becoming the only country in Europe not to offer coronavirus support for news publishers.
SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes confirmed the move in a letter to the Scottish Newspaper Society.
Local politicians are calling for the decision to be reversed.
In May last year the Scottish Conservatives secured cross-party support to provide relief support for local newspapers at the height of the pandemic, despite SNP MSPs opposing the move.
Borders based regional MSP, Paul Wheelhouse, was one of the MSPs who voted against giving newspapers rates relief.
Responding to the move, John McLellan of the Scottish Newspaper Society said that ‘this creates an immediate crisis for Scottish journalism’.
John Lamont MP said:
“Newspapers, both local and national, remain an important part of our democracy. Right now, they are even so as they convey important public health information.
“It seems peculiar why the SNP Government would want to remove this vital support now. The SNP MSPs really must explain why they want to cut off this lifeline of support to local newspapers.
“It is vital that this decision is reversed, and that government funded public health advertising continues with local newspapers in the Borders. This will ensure people know the Covid-19 rules that they are supposed to be complying with.”
Rachael Hamilton MSP added:
“Newspapers are extremely important for people keeping abreast of local and national news.
“With the ongoing pandemic, people who do not have access to a computer etc. rely on newspapers for updates on the Covid-19 regulations and guidance.
“The decision not to continue rates relief by the SNP is short-sighted, and will accelerate the decline in printed media.
“Scotland risks being the only part of Europe that does not offer Covid-19 relief to its local newspapers.
“I don’t know why SNP MSP, Paul Wheelhouse, doesn’t support the long term viability of small newspapers.”