Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has welcomed an amendment to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill to extend 100% business rates relief to local newspapers.
The amendment, which will provide local newspapers with the same support as businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, passed by 41 votes to 38.
Last month, Mr McArthur wrote to the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, highlighting the importance of local media as a source of information to the public and to urge the government to consider extending the business rates holiday to local media.
In response, Ms Forbes acknowledged the “Rates relief has been considered, but I do not believe it will provide the same level of support for newspapers as the £3 million investment we are making”.
Following the vote, Mr McArthur said:
“Local newspapers are an integral part of life in rural and island communities, particularly for those who do not rely on social media. By ensuring that information is communicated effectively and in a timely manner, they keep communities connected and suitably informed. Now more than ever, that role has become invaluable.
“Yet, there are grave concerns from those within the industry about whether local newspapers will be able to withstand the economic impact of the crisis. The loss of advertising revenue in recent weeks is incredibly damaging to an industry that depends heavily on this income stream.
“The announcement by the Finance Secretary last week of an additional £3 million investment to support local newspapers was therefore a welcome step forward. However, more than just a short-term boost is required to guarantee the survival of many local newspaper outlets.
“Many businesses in other sectors have benefited from a 100% business rates holiday in recent weeks and extending this relief to local media would not only ensure parity but provide essential financial support. I’m therefore pleased that most of my MSP colleagues agreed with this position and I would urge the government to now bring forward these measures as soon as possible.”